Monday, June 1, 2009

Local News

It's been a big weekend here, and I can't find the energy to analyse the stupidity, vapidity or banality of anyone in particular, so I shall describe what's going on for the benefit of those who aren't familiar with the region (which is almost everybody, as far as I can tell.)

As I have mentioned before, we have the best handball team in the world, and yesterday they won the Champions' League final against Kiel, who had a five goal advantage from the first leg, and were four goals up in this match with twenty minutes to go. Suddenly our front line started to function properly, the goalkeeper started stopping everything and in 15 minutes the whole thing was turned on its head and the Germans were left looking as though they'd just been mugged by a little old lady with a walking frame. The atmosphere at the ground (I had to watch it on TV but you get the idea), was tremendous, and so it was in the main square later where everyone goes to jump in the fountain to express their joy.

Handball is not played in any English-speaking nation as far as I know, but it's very big in much of Europe and some other places. Our trainer is from Kyrgyzstan, and the first team includes two Cubans, three Slovenians, three Frenchmen, a Rumanian, a Croat, a Belorusan, an Icelander, a Swede and a Dane. We have also had a number of Russians, an Egyptian and a hunchbacked Algerian whose throw was like Ivan Lendl's serve. All of this has been brought about by one man and his chequebook, the same chequebook that is trying to get our airport working, so it's a bit stretched at the moment, even though he has deeper pockets than most of us.

Today is also the official holiday of the autonomous region. Why it needs one I don't know, since it celebrates nothing and commemorates nothing, but they all have them, and a day off is a day off. It coincided this year with Pentecost (Whitsun to you heathens) which is the Festival of the Rocío down in Huelva. Very big, full of gypsies from all over with ornate waggons made up for the occasion. It's also a local festival here, The Virgin of Alarcos.

Alarcos is an abandoned mediaeval walled city on a hill a few miles out of town, site of an important and disastrous battle with the Moors in 1095. The castle and city are still being excavated but the shrine has been used since the area was reconquered in the 13th C, and the Virgin is a figure that is brought on Whit Sunday from the city along the old path up to the shrine, on the shoulders of around 20 bearers, and accompanied by a couple of thousand people, and a few horses. The people then stay on the hill and get drunk. They were still there this morning when Mrs Hickory and I walked out there. There is Mass in the shrine, then the Virgin is paraded around the esplanade by a brass band and another set of bearers, and then the liquid part of lunch can begin.

There are open air bars called 'chiringuitos', bouncy castles and shooting galleries, and stalls selling traditional-looking clothes and cuddly toys. They all seemed to be South American Indians doing the selling this year.

Your humble blogging hedgehog no longer does all-day parties, so we only went for the exercise, then returned for a cold beer and a frugal lunch, of the kind that doesn't give you a headache.

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