Today I had a strange experience.
It was a festival day in the village where Gonzalo was born so I found myself full of trepidation and anxiety as we hurtled down the freeway to party at the family ‘country house’ a short 20 minute drive away. As Kaia, his little bulldog, drooled all over my feet (it was hot today), we turned off onto the country roads, passing many portions of the Camino along the way, and I breathed the scent of gum trees and ‘home’ as we drove through the forest. Finally we arrived at the house which is nestled in a really ancient village. We parked in the shade of the grape vines hanging over the pergola which was almost groaning with the weight of the fresh juicy grapes. The enticing aroma of muma’s cooking felt like it was reaching its arms out to drag me inside! Oh my! What a feast had been prepared. It looked like she had been cooking for days.
I am super shy in a crowd at the best of times, and my anxiety was made worse by the fact that apart from Gonzalo, I would be the only English speaker, so I would be expected to be conversing in Spanish. These two things together were not something I was looking forward to, but Gonzalo was excited and wanted me to experience some Galician hospitality, so this is how I ended up having (of course) a fabulous time!
He is a wonderful person and I’ve met some of his family before…all lovely people, but today it was cousins, aunties, nephews etc as well. What can I say, they are Catholic!
Lunch wasn’t quite ready and I was not allowed to help, so we transferred to the village and I felt like I was in a bad European movie or something. There was a bar tent set up where the only drink really was vermouth (apparently a pre-lunch custom), so I did as anyone would do and downed the first glass as if it was medicine but I was brave. I didn’t want to be impolite and you know…. when in Rome etc. Anxiety lifted, I proceeded to meet some more of the family and was entertained by a nasty little brass band who were trying their best but it was not a good sound.
I had another glass of courage and they sounded a little better. I was relaxing. I noted the gypsies selling trashy trinkets and 5 minutes on the blow-up castle thingy, and when the band finished there was a triumphant hoorah and I turned to see the black curtains on the stage behind me dramatically unveiling a Spanish band. Was I now in an episode of Eurovision?
The lead singer was dressed in a tight white T shirt, tight white jeans with rips in the knees, and sneakers. His carefully greased hair did not move as he proceeded to dance and sing like there was nobody watching-obviously practices in front of a mirror! And THEN…. a vision (or apparition, I’m not sure what to call it) appeared from the back of the stage, fluttering her large white butterfly-like sleeves and flicking her bleached, messy hair as she joined him up front. ‘Mutton dressed as lamb’ was also wearing a tight white top and a size too small white jeans. 😳They fell into a rhythmic, obviously many times rehearsed, dance sequence and sang to each other. She looked so bored and he was, well, just so in love with himself really. It was super entertaining to watch the crowd slowly form a circle and dance. I wonder what they put in with the vermouth! “There is always one’ said Gonzalo as the tall bearded young guy began to show off, hoping the girls were watching, as he danced with gusto and such passion. What the heck… he was having a great time and had obviously had just a couple of vermouths. It was a happy atmosphere.
It was time to go and lunch was waiting, so we returned to the house. More family had appeared and there was much kissing and hugging as I was introduced to everyone, and another vermouth was thrust into my hand. I chatted a little with Gonzalo’s hilarious Aunty who told me she is 76 but doesn’t look it, and she was so full of life!
Time to toss the vermouth down the throat, as we were then herded into the dining room and the feast began. I couldn’t eat it all, beautiful traditionally cooked local fish, beef, chicken, baby potatoes and salad. Of course, accompanied by wine!
I sat there with tears in my eyes at one stage, as I looked around and recalled my childhood growing up with this sort of thing at Churchill Island. I come from a very small family, but my parents had a large circle of friends, and often our weekends were spent exactly like this (friends were our family) parents sat around talking, arguing and laughing, drinking vermouth, gin and Pimms No 1 cup. Kids ran free.
I sat there and watched them discussing life, not understanding much at all but it really didn’t matter. I laughed at how they yelled at each other, over each other and about each other. It sometimes sounds aggressive but it’s not. It’s the Spanish way. My parents and their friends did this too. I was thrust back down memory lane as I recalled the many times my parents and their friends sat around aunty jimmy’s kitchen table by the wood fired oven, shelling peas from the garden, eating cheese straws and getting drinks from the drink trolley. We all gathered around the table to share a meal made with fresh produce from the veggie patch and orchard.
This took me by surprise and it was hard to conceal as my eyes were filled with tears. I was overcome with emotion as I felt the closeness of this family, the comfortable familiarity and the genuine affection.
What an experience! What a fabulous afternoon! I am SO SO lucky
ps: no photos because it would have been wrong and intrusive