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.

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.”

Barcelona Street – Week 5 — Transient Eye

Thanks again to the Transient Eye for the reminders of location, location, location. Barcelona! My novellario ONE DRESS, ONE DAY takes place in 1990. Half of these photos reveal a more modern Barcelona with pedestrians clutching cell phones (mobiles). What a difference a day or 28 years makes!  The fifth and final week of street photography experiments, this week shot with the Leica M7 and 50mm lens(es) on Ilford Delta 400 and processed in DD-X 1+4. Next week a write up on the different techniques that were used over the five weeks and the conclusions…

via Barcelona Street – Week 5 — Transient Eye

Inma’s Shrine Includes Famous Almodovar Poster

Inma’s appartment was like a doll’s house. Amazing how her aspirations could be seen in every nook and cranny.  Of course her lover, Rubio, did not pay attention to much beyond her bed and butt.  A quick glance around her humble abode reveals…

“In the south corner, above the old-fashioned radiator, there was a shrine to each of her idols or goals.  Half a wall was filled with celebrity clippings and classic or blockbuster movie posters including a tough John Travolta and angelic Olivia Newton John embracing in Grease; the loud, colorful images from Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios. Another corner held miscellaneous memorabilia of old Hollywood, including the Casa Blanca classic frame of Bogart and Bergman, plus a laughing Marilyn on her fishnet haunches in Bus Stop. Sloppily painted ceramic souvenirs lined a simple shelf above her bed:  an orange burro whose side baskets served as toothpick holders, a terra cotta bonbon dish Saludos desde Granada and a miniature Asturian clog inscribed Para mi madrina on one side and Oviedo on the front.  This last clunky thing she treasured as a gift from her sister’s twin boys for whom she was both aunt and godmother. Her library included El Feng Shui para todos, Cantos nuevos by Lorca, something by Castaneda and a warped abridged Spanish-English dictionary from her school days.”

How much do your surroundings tell about you?  How deep into your dwelling can a visitor dig?

In method acting, an actress would want to know what is in her character’s handbag so as to prepare for the role.

What would be in Inma’s medicine cabinet or pantry?  These details speak volumes.


Scratch and sniff with the imagination

The Mediterranean seasons smell strong.  Salt, wild orange, fresh lemon, food, garbage, diesel,…

The warmth seems to unlock these aromas which unlock deepseated memories or emotions. Sometimes fleeting and barely noticed. Uno, the ticketseller in One Dress, One Day, enjoys a sensorial moment.

“Uno enjoyed the change of seasons when sunshine toasted his face or when the faint scent of orange blossoms caught him unexpectedly. Several noble orange trees still stood along the boulevards within parks or small squares inside the city core. Nobody Inked20180427_063746pot mauve_LIbothered to pick the over-ripe, bitter fruit, so the smell of squashed oranges added to his anticipation of warmer days.”