Francisco’s early morning theft of an Italian wedding gown in its own bag from the back of a car starts the entire story. The bridal ensemble included three parts:  a short sheath dress, a tulle overskirt, a delicate shawl.

The word moda is the same in Italian as in Spanish, but the thief recognizes that he has Italian couture on his hands. This stolen wedding dress will occupy him and 3 couples for the next 24 hours.

Extract from Madrugada in One Dress, One Day.

“This model [Renault 5 ]was like a gift asking to be opened: quick and easy. Grimacing, breathing hard, he [Francisco, aka Calif] began grabbing any objects worth stealing.

Bruised apples and mushy black plums, duty-free premium whisky as well as fluorescent green rain ponchos were rapidly rejected. In the glove compartment, a pair of sunglasses brought a grin to his chapped pale lips. This inventory wasn’t great but equalled half his debt. Unlocked canvas luggage made for quick work. Within three minutes it was already clear: no cash, no cameras, no electronics, no jewelry. Only well-folded men’s casual shirts, vivid cotton-knit sweaters and gently scuffed loafers tucked into shoe bags. Cursing through clenched teeth, Francisco stopped short when he spied the white plastic suit carrier marked CASA di MODA. It shone at that sepia-toned hour.

Italian!  Armani? Francisco exhaled the name. Although the thief looked like a sewer rat, with stringy chin-length hair and cruddy fingernails, he changed shirts regularly and never used supermarket colonia, only designer copy stuff  with slight misspellings on the label (Calvin Klien, Acua de Parna, Maximo Dutti, Eau Savage). …”


COCO, the Caged Bird Sings

One of the characters who ends up with part of the bridal garment is José-María aka Pepe, an alcoholic tailor running a souvenir shop with his long-suffering wife, Alfonsa.

OLÉ  and adios to the wedding dress

Pepe appreciated the fine white shawl belonging to the beautiful bridal ensemble but cut it up to make his trademark capotes, or miniature matador capes.  Remember the traje de luces of the bullfighter includes a strikingly colourful, decorated cape.

In this extract from One Dress, One Day, José (Pepe) talks to Coco. His wife’s pet, Coco the budgie, is in his care during her absence. Alfonsa has gone to visit her sister. The entire story of the stolen wedding gown takes place in one day. This paragraph comes from the wee hours of the morning (Las altas horas de la madrugada) as Pepe contemplates the birdcage.

Inside the kitchen of Pepe and Alfonsa’s apartment, above his boutique Recuerdos Pepe…

 “Coco, she is a fine Christian woman. I swear, wouldn’t kill a fly. Ni una mosca. Te lo juro.” He spoke as if the bird actually replied. “But she whines. Then her silences. ¡ Dios ! What’s worse?”

Pepe leaned his bony vertebrae against the fridge door, staring at the daintily cloaked cage, expecting an answer from that damned budgie. Not a peep. “Oh God, please, not dead!” He worried so lifted the fringed cover off then preceded to fold it. Coco puffed up a bit and pecked at sparsely scattered seeds. Shakily, gingerly, Pepe hurried to pour new grains and water into the tiny dishes attached to the bars. He sighed as the bird chirped, realizing how lonely life would be without dour Doña Alfonsa. He missed her more than he ever expected and had scarcely slept. He knew she wouldn’t leave him but understood for the first time how much that would hurt. …

Santa Eulalia and Sant Jordi


Fin de semana: Santa Eulàlia

¡Este fin de semana en Barcelona hay una gran fiesta por Santa Eulàlia, copatrona de Barcelona, la cultura popular de raíz tradicional sale a la calle para celebrar la Fiesta Mayor de Invierno. Gigantes y gigantas, dragones, diablos, bailes tradicionales, el Àliga, la ‘gegantona’ Laia, ‘castells’… El viernes por la noche tiene lugar una nueva sesión del ciclo de conciertos Las Noches de Invierno, que dan visibilidad a las propuestas emergentes más atractivas del panorama actual.

February has Saint Eulalia while April has Sant Jordi (George) so we are now in between celebrating Barcelona’s co-patron saints. 

Saint Eulalia (Aulaire, Aulazia, Olalla, Eulària) (c. 290–12 February 303), was a 13-year-old virgin who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona during the reign of Diocletian.  There is some dispute as to whether she is the same person as Saint Eulalia of Mérida whose story is similar. Of course, anyone familiar with saint’s martyrdoms will recognize similarities. Two to three saints’ stories often meld together over time, as is the case with Saint Catherine (Sienna, Alexandria)>

For refusing to recant her Christianity, the Romans subjected her to thirteen tortures including:

  • Putting her into a barrel with knives (or glass) stuck into it and rolling it down a street (according to tradition, the one now called Baixada de Santa Eulalia “Saint Eulalia’s descent”).
  • Cutting off her breasts
  • Crucifixion on an x-shaped cross. She is depicted with this cross, the instrument of her martyrdom.
  • Finally, decapitation.

A dove supposedly flew up from her neck following her decapitation. This is one point of similarity with the story of Eulalia of Mérida, in which a dove flew from the girl’s mouth at the moment of her death. In addition, Eulalia of Mérida’s tortures are sometimes enumerated among the Barcelona martyrs, and the two were similar in age and year of death.

Eulalia is remembered with statues and street names throughout Barcelona. Originally interred in the church of Santa Maria de les Arenes (St. Mary of the Sands; now changed to ‘of the Sea’,  (St. Mary of the Sea). It was hidden in 713 when the Moors invaded. Recovered in 878, it was relocated to a sarcophagus in the crypt of the newly built cathedral dedicated to Santa Eulalia (1339).  The festival of Saint Eulalia is held in Barcelona for a week around her feast or name day on February 12.

The Christian knight, protector of Barcelona

Sant Jordi, the Catalan equivalent of Saint George, is a very popular figure in Catalonia. He is the Patron Saint of the region, and Catalonia even have a Saint George Day – El Día de Sant Jordi, on April 23rd (Saint George’s name day in the Catholic church).
If you visit the Barrio Gótico of Barcelona especially one figure dominates in paintings, sculptures, alcoves and fountains.  It is a knight with his sword high in the air fighting an enormous dragon. The knight is of course Saint George, in the Catalan version,Sant Jordi.

On this day, tradition has the girls giving a book to the boys who give roses to the girls in return.

The rose motif stems from the myth, since after Saint George killed the dragon, a rose came up where the dragon’s blood was spilled. Giving books is more modern and highlights International Book Day. (Note that  both Shakespeare and Cervantes died on April 23rd, both in 1616. This odd trivia fact was highlighted during the 400-th anniversaries of their death celebrated around the world three years ago.

Saint George, the most famous Christian dragonslayer, holds tremendous power in many European centres besides Barcelona. In fact, he is the patron saint of 15 European countries.

Desfile, or Procession, in Semana Santa

One Dress, One Day takes you to 1990, to Barcelona and to SEMANA SANTA (Holy Week) in Spain. 

The ancient Greek tradition stresses time over place. Aristotle prescribed 24 hours. Famous tragedies like Antigone and Electra follow this rule, more or less.  As the title suggests, One Dress, One Day divides into the components of a Spanish day: madrugada, manana, mediodia, siesta, tarde, anochecer, noche, altas horas de la madrugada, amenacer. 

The one day of this tale falls within Holy Week, the Lenten period before Easter. The Semana Santa, or Holy Week, must be experienced in Spain. The heavy, pervasive mourning resounds in the various processions of the penitents who parade their religious symbol (usually a Madonna statuette) or Paschal scene as a float.  Some bear crosses and walk barefoot in rough robes.  Many wear hoods.  It is an impressive sight for believers or non-believers.  Inma, one of the characters in One Dress, One Day, finds herself watching a late night procession.

“Theirs was an old cofradia, El Santísimo nombre de Jesús, with a well-worn white silk banner held high by the leader and hung throughout Holy Week in the plaza mayor, too. Several nazareños marched barefoot on the cold damp pavement or cobblestones; some shuffled along in shackles. The burliest brown friars bore unhewn wooden crosses on their backs. All had taken a vow of silence inside the nearby chapel before beginning their march.”

The drum often marks time for processions. Sometimes a trumpet and a small brass section complete the corps.  Mournful, haunting, the sound at night evokes the pain of the Passion. Yet, many Spanish churches hold Lenten concerts of classical music, usually religious like Stabat Mater, to prepare those awaiting the Resurrection.

Pepe prays.

In One Dress, One Day, José (Pepe) craves a drink. 

“Despite the hour, he got up to brew his first espresso of the day. As he rinsed and wiped the heavy aluminum cafetera, Pepe poured his feelings out to the bird. Groggy, he still enjoyed a drag, but always without a drink. He had to stay sober because there were too many times that he could not remember what had happened. Alfonsa did remember, though.

The famous AA prayer hung painted on a plate in the narrow hallway between the bedroom and bathroom.”

The Serenity Prayer is the common name for a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Niebuhr first wrote the prayer for a Massachussets sermon as early as 1934 and first published it in 1951 in a US magazine column. The prayer spread through Niebuhr’s sermons and church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous.

The prayer has appeared in many versions. The most well-known form is a late version, as it includes a reference to grace not found before 1951.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


Another version: O God and Heavenly Father,
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The earliest recorded reference to the prayer is a diary entry from 1932 by Winnifred Crane Wygal, a pupil and collaborator of Niebuhr. Wygal was a longtime YWCA official and all early recorded usages were from women involved in volunteer or educational activities connected to the YWCA. 

The earliest printed reference, in 1936, mentions that during a speech, a Miss Mildred Pinkerton “quotes the prayer,” as if to indicate it was already in a circulation known to the reporter, or that Pinkerton relayed it as a quote, without mentioning its authorship

NOTE: The prayer has also been falsely attributed to a variety of other authors.

Genuine precursors

EPICETUS, a Greek philosopher, wrote:

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions—in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing.”

SOLOMON IBN GABIROL, an 11th-century Jewish philosopher wrote:

And they said: At the head of all understanding – is realizing what is and what cannot be, and the consoling of what is not in our power to change.

The philosopher WW. BARTLEY juxtaposes Niebuhr’s prayer with a Mother Goose rhyme (1695) expressing a similar sentiment:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.
Spurious attributions

Use by twelve-step recovery programs

The prayer became more widely known after being brought to the attention of AA in 1941 by an early member, who came upon it in a “routine New York Herald Tribune obit.” AA’s staff liked the prayer and had it printed in modified form and handed around. It has been part of the group’s personality ever since. Grapevine, The International Journal of Alcoholics Anonymous, identified Niebuhr as the author (January 1950, pp. 6–7), and the AA web site continues to identify Niebuhr as the author.

A slightly different version of the prayer has been adopted by twelve-step groups:

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

It can be said by anyone of any denomination, almost any faith. The character Pepe has a copy hanging on a wall in his home.

Dios mío, concédeme


para aceptar las cosas que no puedo cambiar;


Para canbiar aquellas cosas que puedo ;

Y sabiduría

Para reconocer la diferencia

Lenten Acts

Lent, or Cuaresma, culminating in Semana Santa

The religious tradition of depriving one’s self of meat and possibly other favourite things (sweets, alcohol, sexual intercourse) extends across time and borders. Christians may prepare for Easter through Lent thus heightening their awareness of their faith and sacrifice.

Cuaresma is the Spanish term for the 40-day period ushered in as carnival (mardigras) ends, in other words, on Ash Wednesday, the day after ‘fat Tuesday’. 

One Dress, One Day evokes this spiritual act of preparation for Easter.

Reminder: this entire story takes place within 24 hours during Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Barcelona in 1990.

In the extract that follows, we experience the arrival of Uno, the blind lottery ticket seller, in his Asturian village farm.

“Nieves began bustling about the roomy kitchen with whatever leftovers could be found.  Plates, glasses, cutlery clattered as Nieves scurried and Mother barked orders. There was little variety in the menu because officially it was Lent; however, these were tough times, too. After the thick mustard-color cloth went down on the broad round table, Nieves laid out a crusty loaf, a ball of typical Cabrales cheese and a reheated fabada made of well-stewed fava beans.”

In terms of other appetites among other characters, there seem to be siesta changes in urban Barcelona. Inma, the pouty barmaid, notices differences in her love life with the two-timing politician Gustavo Rubio.

“The jangling phone jolted her back to reality.  It was Him, capital H.  He was coming early that afternoon.  Siestas during the Holy Week were starting earlier and growing longer.  Inma remained standing so as not to wrinkle the iridescent creation.”

Para Tomar or Drinking in Local Colour

No sangría, sidra

Sidra, por favor

If you asked for the name of a favourite Spanish drink, the first answer would be sangria.  However, sidra, cider in English, remains a popular regional beverage in Asturias, a province of northern Spain. 

The traditional light apple cider, fermented and packaged like champagne gives this regional classic a certain nobility.  Traditionally, perhaps now folklorically, sidra is poured from on high, a glowing fountainlike flow created by holding the bottle up and the glass low. This cider’s alcohol content is similar to beer’s. Light and now available in a non-alcoholic version, Asturian sidra should be sold everywhere, yet it remains limited to Spain, some Hispanic marketplaces, and Spanish specialty stores.

One renowned brand uses the gaitero as name and image. Again, many consider Spain to be a land of white villages, gypsies and sangria; whereas the northern provinces (Gallicia and Asturias) resemble Scotland more than anything else.  Many residents have a Celtic air about them.  This influence appears in Gallego and Asturiana music  so the bagpipe player (gaitero) suits sidra perfectly. The old-fashioned image appearing here gives you some local colour.

Given the cool damp climate, Asturians do not shy away from a drink to warm up or to mark an occasion. Besides fine Spanish sherry or brandy, Asturias possesses is Anis de Asturias. Every self-respecting local must have on hand one long tall shiny bottle for guests.  If not drunk often enough, the mouth of the bottle accumulates sugar. In a region known for gastronomy and hospitality, you do not see this phenomenon often.

In One Dress, One Day, there is a reference to one character’s family  cider business, but the regional anise liquor plays a more important role when the farm family of Uno, Nieves and Mother reunites and takes a celebratory sip.  In fact, later, Uno, the blind son and lottery ticket-seller, recalls the licora.

Uno decided to break the news as gently as possible to Mother only after she got up. That nip of licora had really put her to sleep.  He could easily justify buying the four extra loaves in gratitude for the driver’s bringing them news.  Right then, Uno felt not so much fear but more a sense of purpose, of belonging with Nieves, Mother, and the farm, even the province. He thanked the driver again and headed back upstairs on tiptoe.”

To be continued…


SALUD or to your health!