Found a cheap pensión in Malaga – go to stroke a small black cat in the lobby, but am stopped by a middle aged malagueño. ‘He doesn’t like to be touched. He’s crazy in the head (loco en la cabeza)’ [with international whirling single finger next to head]. The man, who might be as mad as the cat, goes on to explain his theory of human-animal relations. Sifting rapid and unfamiliar Spanish (I was later told by an Andalucían ‘we chew our words’, mangling the terminations), it is as follows:
21.03.12. Peaceful to wait at Campillos station, a mile or so out of town down a track, whose length is disguised by the effect its straightness produces, in the afternoon sun. Hundreds of sparrows very busy in negotiations between bare trees lining the tracks. The view to the right is agricultural, oddly-peaked hills and fields in various stages of cultivation, variously parched different browns. To the left the Sierra begins, imposing lumps of what looks like grit stone.
Left with four hours to kill in Bobadilla, after missing a connecting train. I ask the man behind the desk what there is to do, and his companion replies, shaking his head: ‘there is very little’ (hay pocas cosas). The ticket man corrects him, as befits the authority of his station: No. No hay nada. (‘there is nothing’). He is not quite right – an abandoned soap and olive oil factory is pleasingly gothic-industrial in its ruination.
31. 03.12. Recuerdos de la semana pasada/Memories of the last week:
Un viejo cantaba Flamenco a una chica guapa en el bar ‘Embrujado’. Ella se puso turbada.
Parading up the hill away from the church into Campillos old town for a Semana Santa warm up, brass band at our backs. Even this small town contains five such bands, each with their own club house and favoured bar. Ours, by luck, is La Coronación – hasta la muerte!
1. 04. 12. Domingo de Los Ramos (Palm Sunday), processions in Campillos and Cabra. In the latter, on tour with La Coronación, a Campillos band contracted to play for a Cabra Cofradía (devotional float used in Semana Santa processions). There are, it turns out, two main ways of carrying one (at least in Andalucía), the importance of method becoming evident only upon seeing one and realising quite how heavy they must be, built as they are of wood and metal, with ornamentation in silver and gold.
In Cabra, as in all Córdoba province, the Sevillian approach is taken: the biggest men carry the Cofradía on thick back parts of their necks, supported by sack cloths. They are obscured underneath the float by a black cloth, and have to work a good deal harder than those carrying the Cofradía on their shoulders, the style in Málaga and Granada provinces. Hidden from view apart from their feet, these men lug the Cofradía through increasingly narrow streets to the rhythm of the band. Their size is belied by the practiced dance-step their feet betray beneath the drapes, moving forwards for, say, five–ten minutes at a time before resting for as long again. Owing to the many pauses, the physical condition of the people carrying the Cofradía give the whole thing a stop-start rhythm, with peaks of motion and excitement alternating with the buying of snacks and searching for bathrooms in nearby bars.
Each time they heft the thing onto their backs the people immediately around them applaud the effort, and with good reason: the parade becomes something of an endurance test for everyone involved, lasting, all told, from 7pm until 1pm, a full six hours. I remember also the palpable release of tension as the Cofradía eased through the church’s portal, only just wide enough for it.