Saturday, July 13, 2013

Celtic shenanigans in Ortigueira

It's 7.40pm and I'm in Ortigueira, an iconic place for those who believe - wrongly - that Galicia is more Celtic than anywhere else in Continental Europe, bar Brittany. For it's here that the annual festival of Celtic folk music is held. I've been looking for my ginger-haired, one-eyed, Anglo-Irish friend John 'Dixie' Dix but he's nowhere to be found. I know from the girl in the tourist office that he successfully blagged a press pass out of her two days ago but she hasn't seen him today. I'm supposed to sleep in his mobile home but if I don't bump him before 11, I'll push off back home.

The town is full to overflowing with young folk, all dressed in one variant or another of what we used to call hippy attire. I stand out sharply in my normal shirt and trousers. Some of the young women, who've arrived in 3s and 4s, look about 12 but surely can't be. And many of the young men have distinctly odd haircuts, by my lights at least. Most often one or more pigtails hanging down from a head which has been shaved at the sides. The supermarket entrances are crammed with people who are bent on exhausting their beer stocks before the evening's concert begins at 10pm. But none of them are drunk or vomiting in the street, for this is where Spanish youth shows that is has no real idea of how to enjoy itself. It's the same with the peñas after the bullfights in Pontevedra - absolutely useless at starting a fight. The naughtiest they get is to take a piss in the side streets. Some say this is because they all still live with their parents and so can't afford to besmirch their own doorsteps and maybe that's true but all the young people here in Ortigueira have come from far and wide. So many of them are toting tents, groundsheets and sleeping bags it makes the town look like a gathering point for a junior camino de Santiago.

There's a pharmacy on the main street which is right out of the 18th century. The first thing you notice is that you have to talk to the pharmacist through a wooden partition, rather as if you were in Confession and someone had taken out the grill between you and the priest. The second thing you notice is there's no one behind the partition and you could, if you wanted, leap over the counter and take the entire stock. Then you notice that the products are piled so higgledy-piggledy on the shelves that stock control must be impossible. Then you notice that, instead of a modern system of stock movement from shelf to counter, there's a ladder someone must climb up to get the products on the higher shelves. And so it is that the ancient pharmacist - when he finally appears after my third shout, buttoning up his white coat - has to hazard the ladder to get my item. Or not, as he climbs awkwardly down and says he won't have it until tomorrow. As he shuffles off, you realise there's something of the Quasimodo about him. A fascinating encounter. But just as well there are 3 other pharmacies in this (small) town.

I passed through 2 police controls on the way from Ferrol to Ortigueira but was not stopped, essentially because I do my utmost to stay within what appear to be the speed limits. This is not as easy as it sounds thanks to the tricks played by the guardians of the law. One of which today was the one I was caught in 5 or 6 years ago, at exactly the same spot. Here the police have removed both the End of 50 sign and the 70 sign several kilometres out of a village where the limit is 50. So when, travelling along forested roads, you accelerate in the belief the speed limit is now 70 or 80, they stop you and tell you the village's 50 limit is still in force. A perfect scam, which must generate them thousands a week. Maybe the guy who got me hasn't moved from the spot in 6 years, especially if he's on commission.

Anyway, here's a foto of Ortigueira. Or, rather, there would be if my SD card worked or if I'd brought the camera cable. So, tomorrow then.

And here's what massed Galician bagpipes sound like. Ditto.

But, finally and in compensation, here's what a goring looks like, at least during the insanity which is the morning bull-run in Pamplona this week.


Perry said...

The Iberian Toro de Lidia breed is rather ancient in comparison with modern cattle.

They've been doing what they're doing for centuries. Quick or dead.

Also, a morsel for your delectation.

Colin Davies said...

Thanks, Perry. But don't like cheese . . .