Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The end and the start

There are easier ways to end a term than taking fifty kids into the centre of the city in the rain.

To be fair it wasn't raining when we set off on the long trek downwards towards the ferrocarril which was to take us into the city. Then there was the walk from the stop to the Cathedral square where the fair was situated.

There was a time, a couple of years ago, when I was prepared to be delighted and impressed by this fair – but those days have gone! The fair consists of a number of stalls which sell the raw material for the Belens or nativity scenes that many Catalans (et moi!) put together for the Christmas season.

The basic elements necessary are a model stable containing the three major characters with a selection of animals and the odd angel. Outside the stable the next level of normal characters include shepherds and the three kings. After those, you are only limited by your imagination and budget.

This time of the year gives television companies the opportunity to show those slightly odd folk to take things to the extreme and give over whole rooms in their houses to nativity scenes which take in villages, hundreds of characters, running rivers and water wheels, bakeries, trees, grass and whatever else comes to mind.

My own Belen has various workers bringing geese, eggs, wine, wood and sheep to the young child but the feature which seems to be odd to the point of blasphemy is the inclusion of the caganer or shitting man. This is a squatting figure, trousers down and with a pile of poo under his bottom.

These figures are a Catalan institution and you know that you have arrived in the public imagination when you find that a pottery figure of you as a caganer has been put on sale. The Barça team, politicians, sportspeople and any figures of note are available for inclusion in your particular scene. Many of the stalls were selling quite expensive figures of this type. Hardly the sort of thing that children should be looking at!

Our supervision of the children took the form of sitting in a cafe and drinking coffee (or in my case a glass of red wine) and eating a baguette. It's a hard old life in the modern education system!

By the time had arrived to go on to our next port of call I had visited a book shop and bought another book to add to my growing collection of volumes on Catalan painters. The new purchase is on Sorolla; a painter of naturalistic scenes executed in an expressively painterly style which reminds me of John Singer Sargent. The more sketch like Sorolla is the better I like him. He is a painter worth getting to know better.

The long walk back to school, only partially augmented by public transport, was timed to perfection so that we could go to lunch.

Our school version of a Christmas meal comprised a pasta and meatball soup followed by turkey with cooked pear. Sweet was a selection of turrons washed down by Cava. It is a long way from the school meals that I was used to for a number of years!

The film in the afternoon for the equivalent of Year 9 was a disaster as the projector closed itself down; luckily I remembered that Wednesday was my early leaving afternoon and I left.

Traffic was heavy on the way back home, but my heart wasn't as the glorious realization that I do not have to go back to school until the 10th of January next year began to sink in.

To celebrate, as we went out to buy Christmas presents, I bought a watch. This, of course, is almost a reflex action with me and the house has caches of timepieces in a number of drawers. This one, however has a green strap and lilac face: a striking little number. A good holiday choice. And one has to celebrate the holiday season!
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