I moved back to the UK some years ago, but the time spent in Spain, and in particular, the years spent en el pueblo, still influence my thoughts. Today, for example is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a fact I would never have paid any attention to before living in a Catholic country, but which today has prompted me to feel nostalgic.
When we signed the papers on the house in the village it was early autumn, although we continued to dither between Madrid and the country for quite a while after that. So we were still not really on top of the intricacies of rural life as that first year wound down towards las fiestas de navidad. Continue reading “maculate”
We are now officially well into the Year of the Pig. And, frankly, if the Year of the Dog was a bitch, this year has already been a pig of a year.
Back when I lived in Spain, pigs loomed large in my life. So here I’m just going to gather together some old blog posts that have featured pigs and pig products, boars and other related issues, and also re-post a few relevant images, starting with this little pig who went to market and half startled the life out of me as he nestled in among the reconstituted crab sticks. Continue reading “year of the pig”
Despite the glorious flowers still to be found in window boxes and tubs around the town, summer is officially over: the days have been getting shorter and Thursday was the Autumn Equinox.
I think all the local churches have either had their harvest festival or have it scheduled for tomorrow and the thought of harvest has reminded me once more of Spain. We didn’t pay much attention to the garden but even untended trees produce blossom and fruit as the year turns. Continue reading “autumn memories”
As I’ve said before on the blog (of pigs and poetry), I’ve had in mind for years now to write a poem about la matanza, but have never actually witnessed a pig slaughter. I’d just about psyched myself up to do so this year, but when the time came, the neighbour and his helpers only hobbled the pigs with ropes and then drove them away squealing.
Even this tile – given me recently by a fellow poet who hoped, I think, that it would inspire me to finish the piece I took in to the writers’ group for commentary back in December – isn’t a lot of help as it doesn’t seem to show the actual killing.
I was reminded of the fact I was prepared to witness a slaughter in order to be able to write about it when I was reading during my coffee break this morning. Continue reading “seeing for yourself”
I took a new poem-in-progress into the writers’ group on Tuesday. Its title is La Matanza – the Spanish word for slaughter or massacre.
It’s a piece that I’ve been intending to write ever since we bought the house in the village and were told the guy couldn’t come to prune the trees on the long December puente as he’d be busy with la matanza.
In most parts of Spain, a cada cerdo le llega su San Martín – pigs get what’s coming to them on November 11th – but it seems that in our village it’s more traditional for the pig slaughter to take place on the feast of la Inmaculada.
That juxtaposition of the innocence and virginal white of the immaculate conception with the sheer red-blooded traditional country ritual of pig slaughter seems to be crying out for a poem to be written. Continue reading “of pigs and poetry”
I’ve mentioned before that there’s an old guy who keeps cerdos on the plot of land alongside the olivar. Just two pigs, each year: one for each of his daughters. I’ve started taking the windfalls across for them when I walk down to the village.
When the guy isn’t there, I leave the bag by the chair where he sits each day, morning and evening, watching the pigs get fat. Sometimes one of the other viejos del pueblo joins him and they put the world to rights while the old burro grazes patiently, tethered to an olive tree. Continue reading “harvest”
When the white clouds lifted, they left behind
a hint of snow along the mountain ridge. The sky
is blue as any summer’s day and I walk to the village
in unbroken sunshine. On the way back, a neighbour
eases his donkey from amble to pause and greets me.
He wants some windfall apples “pa’ el guarro”. I agree,
but would so much prefer to let the patient burro
mumble fruit from my palm, not help to fatten
the squealing pig for Martinmas.
(First draft – which means I’ve only rewritten it half a dozen times and juggled the line breaks back and forth and to and fro, but haven’t added in additional material or stepped back from it very far.) Continue reading “winter approaches”