….some February flowers:A;lmond blossom, lavender in our garden and wild mustard.
Christmas was a lot of fun this year – I’ll tell you about our “ Festive Season”: it begins about the first weekend of December – weather still up to summer temperatures in the high 20s c – with the Fiesta of Santa Bárbara, she of the Castles, Artillery, big Hills and Fireworks, my favourite Saint! ( no change from being a dedicated atheist, but these saints are quite…. seductive, in their own way) We all troop up the hill behind our house in the village heading for her little chapel, half the population at least, accompanied by the Band ( 30 piece brass band, would go down well in Yorkshire!) and our ex-bank manager with a big sack full of rockets and very loud ( deafening) firecrackers. So we all get to the Santa Bárbera chapel at the top of the hill, music, smell of gunpowder, blue smoke, the image of Bárbara still held aloft by 4 local men ( she’s not really very big but I wouldn’t like to shoulder the weight)
and then the Sella choir, about 30 strong, begins to sing the song they sing every year which sort of says, Bárbara, come help us in this time of storms and darkness. Quite good words and the song, although a bit of a repetitive drone, grows on you after a few… years. When the song is done, the band strikes up with the Sella traditional Dancing song, a paso doble, and the girls’ Dance troupe begins to strut their stuff – simple but hard to do when you get home and think, now How did those steps go? As the music gets faster and faster and the girls whirl round more and more and the little ones in the troupe totally forget the steps… it suddenly stops and there’s a massive burst of rockets and fireworks and gunpowder and colour from the slopes of the mountain behind. That’s it, Bárbara goes back inside her chapel for another year, there’s a glass of sweet Moscatel wine for those who want and the whole village troops back down the hill to the plaza and a free glass of thick hot chocolate. Probably my favourite of all the Sella Fiestas – and there are lots to choose from!
The same weekend there was a Fiesta in one of the local villages, Orxeta, and Liz and I had to find time to go down to sample the wine and eat some of the local specialities. It’s a bigger village than Sella and they attract a lot of people and specialist stalls – the man who made Liz’s Dolcaina was there, making the little reeds for the instrument with a sharp knife and pieces of bamboo, good opportunity for Liz to stock up, and there was also a big attraction with Eagles and Owls and Falcons all standing around on their perches looking a bit menacing.
Then we wait a bit, the next weekend I recall, for the concert to celebrate Santa Cecilia who is, as you no doubt know, the patron Saint of Music. There’s always a big concert in the Sella church – last year Liz played in the band but this year her particular instrument was not required, however the concert is always great, with the band, the choir, guest musicians etc and our young conductor and composer Miquel, who is also our music teacher.
Concert was a real treat, including a couple of pieces written by Miquel and a couple more written by his tutor, Oscar Navarro, ( Libertadores ) then we’re invited across the road to the annual musicians’ dinner and party… When Sella musicians get together it’s always a lot of fun and the rhythms vary from trad jazz to the local Moorish March from Fiestas on the coast… Liz and I always enjoy it as the best of all homespun parties. We left early, about 2:00 a.m. But the revelries continued until about 6 in the morning. This year we gave two of our houses over to put up some of the visiting musicians and this was a gesture much appreciated in the village.
But it’s not all fun and frolic: in December we had two big walking groups from Exodus, the travel company, so that was 8 days of doing breakfasts and dinners and sorting out our 5 houses for 14 walkers. Liz’s catering comes in for a lot of praise and we’re sure the food at Casaroc here is one reason why this particular trip gets such good revues among the guests. A visiting friend from my UK teaching years once asked what we do, in the “ slow lane of retirement”… he never knew how close he was to getting punched in the face! We work hard! Then there was the Scottish couple who came for two weeks, through Christmas and the New Year, the 4 Finns who had a house for Christmas and the 19 Spaniards who came up from the coast to party, party, party for 4 days at New Year. However we also had Alice ( my daughter) and Rosie, as well as her partner, Cath, for the full Christmas, which was great. Christmas Eve Liz cooked a wonderful Spanish Fish dish – the tradition round here – and on Christmas day we had a picnic on the beach and played Boules – don’t think I won… It was a good day!
New Year’s Eve this year we decided to go down to the huge marquee they put up all along the main square – it’s really quite impressive – so we booked a table together with two of our clients and a couple of Dutch neighbours who have just moved into the village. The food was rather good ( should be, at €50.00 a head!) and the wine flowed freely and much silliness took place.
At midnight you’re supposed to eat one grape for every peal of the bell, that’s 12 in all… I long ago gave up any pretence of trying to eat 12 grapes in such a short time. But then there’s dancing and EVERYONE in the village is there to celebrate. This year it was particularly cold, but the gas heaters kept us all warm in the marquee – about 250 people in all. Sella really knows how to do a party!
So we entered January fairly exhausted and then had the Sella version of the Three Kings ( Los Reyes Magos ) arriving on the night of the 5th – you have to turn out for that! They arrive with dancing girls, attendants and the full band. I made a film of it but haven’t had time to edit it and put it on the Internet yet. The Kings are allowed into the church ( Santa isn’t, on the 24th) and the children of the village have another , more important, round of presents to take home. Another group of walkers on the 7th Jan – more dinners and breakfasts – and now we have a brief break until the next lot come on the 28th. So, life is hectic, life is fun, life is still a lot of work.
And I suppose the winter Fiesta season really ended last weekend with the day dedicated to Sant Antoni, patron Saint of animals. They make a big log fire in the Plaza, just in front of the church, and Don Guillermo, our rather affable priest, stands on the steps beside the statue of the saint himself ( always depicted with a pig at his feet) and proceeds to bless all the dogs and cats and cockatoos and turtles the children bring in for the benediction. We once took Alf, our little dog, a couple of years before he died. It probably gave him an extra few months of life! But, at the other end of the Plaza, while all the animal blessing is going on, the local butcher is in the process of reducing an entire pig’s carcase ( they’re huge!) to sausages and chops. It doesn’t take long, I can tell you. We now have a big bag of pork in the freezer waiting for the chance to turn it all into a haricot-bean and Pork casserole, one of the local favourite dishes. I’m making it so it could be a disaster! Of course on the day, there are sausages and cooked meat and Sella-style meat sandwiches and wine and beer all of which, of course, you have to sample.
So that’s about it for the winter jollities. Now Spain is struggling through what they always call the “ January Hill” – money all gone, bills still come in, will we all make it up this steep slope? We do OK really, because we always have business in January ( a group of 10 here just now) and we haven’t just had to buy two rounds of presents for a large number of children, but in many families that “ Cuesta de Enero” is a big problem.
Should really mention here the tremendous concert we attended in Alicante’s ADDA theatre a couple of weeks ago, with the Sella band, Choir, Dance troupe, – a really wonderful Sunday out with so much good music, a packed auditorium of over 1000 people and superb performances. Miquel led the orchestra through a dozen pieces including two of his own – the picture below gives an idea of how he felt!
So that’s it – another spot in… 4 months? Katie Wright was right: this Blog thing is right hard to keep up!