Sunday, 5 August 2012

If it keeps on raining

There were fiestas in the village yesterday. Every year the municipio, seven small villages which together elect a mayor, holsd fiestas, the site of the celebration falling to each in turn. This year it was turn of our village and so ther plazas were cleared for bouncy castles, foam sprays, a band, a comedian of sorts, an exhibition of old cameras inside the ayuntamientio and one of old cars outside it, then tomato bread and chocolate for all and finally a dinner that was due to start at ten in the evening.

It didn't start at ten in the evening, as the rows of tables were still being laid and the plates filled one item at the time. Periodically people would move into the gaps between the tables to try and claim their places, and each time the catering staff would wave them away, insisting that they weren't yet ready. I lack the patience to wait far beyond the time I have been promised, and this is one of many things which make this, often, a difficult country for me to live in.

What did begin, as close to ten exactly as makes no difference, was flashes of lightning, which hadn't been forecast. Not until the following day. In retrospect, I suppose it was a little closer, when I went out for the dinner just before ten, than it had been when I went out for tomato bread and chocolate some hours before: but for some reason nobody, myself included, thought that anything disastrous was about to happen. There was no rain, nor any sign of any.

Around half past ten, the places were ready. Or, in truth, some of the places were ready, and because some people moved forward to claim them, everybody scurried to make sure they and their friends had a group of chairs together. The catering staff were still putting out the last few sticks of asparagus and being asked to replace the plates of people who were on special diets with plates catering for those diets, but other than that, everything and everybody was ready to begin. At which point, as soon as everybody was comfortable, it started to rain. It rained, and then it became a flood.

First spots, then spatters, then steadily, then in torrents. An English-style drizzle is rare, here, but most other identifiable stages of rain were passed through in a matter more of seconds than of minutes. At first, people who had umbrellas opened them and tried to keep both their bodies and their plates under cover, but once it began to pour, they ran from the plaza into the surrounding houses, most of which have doors that open into a large hallway - so between them they were able to accomodate most of the two hundred people seeking shelter. Many of them took their plates, with their asparagus, vol-au-vent, slice of jamón, tostada and whatever else was it, and their cutlery too.

But I wanted umbrellas, so I ran the hundred metres, maybe less, downhill from the plaza to our house, and picked up two. But by the time I ran back, the route uphill was a river, and running in my sandals, even with my umbrella open, I was wet through. Given that I could have run into a house instead, the umbrellas seemed a stupid waste of time. I was wetter than anybody.

I got inside, but it kept on raining, and raining, and everybody had to just wait, powerless, to see if the rain would stop. They kept expecting it to, with the optimism, alien to me, that Spaniards, at least, always identify in themselves. And even if it didn't stop soon, well, never mind, it would stop in the end and then the fiesta would go on.

But as far as I could see, it was a disaster. I was too wet and fed up to speak, but there was nothing to be said. By the time the torrent had eased off, everything was already ruined.

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