|The hamlet of Villalobos|
Last weekend was fiesta time in our little village. For several weeks beforehand, evidence of preparation for the big event was seen, as a dedicated little group of women went around weeding the verges, painting walls and fountains with clean white paint - and choosing the occasional rock at the side of the road to be daubed too. Antonio and his son, David, called round for our financial contribution (25 euros) and left us a programme of events for the fiesta - which included a procession, sandwiches and a dance on the Saturday and a communal lunch, games and more dancing on the Sunday. Sounded like fun.
The village hall/church was the scene of much activity as the patio in front was swept and a large marquee erected and then as last week came, a great number of chairs and tables were brought in and arranged. Our little village was expecting a lot of people it would seem.
Interestingly, since we've lived here, I've been told by almost half of Alcala that they were born, if not all of them in our house, then in the house next door or round the corner in Villalobos! Or their mother or father or cousin was. A huge number of people claiming to be from our tiny hamlet - which is the smallest of the ten or so hamlets of Alcala - and many of them intending to come to the festivities.
So the big day arrived and my mum was as excited to witness it as we were.
|Procession heading out of the church|
|This is the second half of the procession - one half has already passed. The band came in from Mures, a neighbouring village - Villalobos not quite big enough to muster a band itself, though perhaps we should think of starting one....|
|Stunning backdrop to one of the statues|
|David, in the centre, and his family were tireless in their organisation of and involvement in the festivities|
|The man in the centre in the brown suit is the chef of the excellent meal we ate on Sunday|
|Though not a great lover of the procession tradition, I think this is a really lovely image|
The procession reached the top of the village, where our letterboxes and the rubbish bins are kept, then turned around and marched back again.
Once the statues were safely back inside the church at around 6.30, we all gathered outside and the drinking and munching began. We were treated to an endless supply of sandwiches, crisps and lovely cakes, to say nothing of any type of drink. At first, we stood a little on the outskirts of what was going on as families and friends met to greet each other but soon, we were dragged in and introduced to lots and lots of people and made to feel extremely welcome. I had had little conversations with several people since we'd first arrived but somehow failed to recognise them out of their straw hats or pinnies or not surrounded by a flock of sheep or goats, now that they were all dressed up! And now there are people that I won't recognise out of their finery!
That evening, we stayed and danced and chatted until past midnight before we felt we'd had enough. I woke at around 6.30am and could still hear the distant sounds of music. It was 8am before the party ended!
Just a few hours later, at 10am, FR went down to help prepare for the communal meal. When he hadn't come back two hours later, I suspected he might be having rather a fun time! He just about managed to ride Mateo's bike back for around 12.30, full of wine and stories and still laughing at the comical antics of our fellow villagers! One hundred and fifty kilos of pork had been delivered for the meal - that is rather a lot of meat no matter how many folk you expect to attend and I'd been told that often, around 300 turn up. Do the maths...
We were going to eat a dish called 'Secretaria' which is specific to Alcala la Real. The local story is that in the 1920s a group of friends, spending the weekend in the country, discovered that they had forgotten a crucial ingredient for their intended Sunday lunch - the rice. One of the ladies, the secretary of the council - a sensible woman after my own heart - decided not to worry about such details and so made the dish without the rice and everyone enjoyed it so much, they named it 'Secretaria' and local people have been eating it ever since. The recipe can be found here, though despite what it says here, I have never had it made with chicken - it is always made with pork here. (Everything is!) And obviously, a lot was being made today....
|This was taken after we'd already eaten - Antonio was sous-chef. I never asked what happened to the leftovers but I should have done - it would have been worth having a bowl or two in the freezer....|
|Sitting in anticipation before the food starts arriving.|
|Plenty of water, beer, crisps, olives and nuts make their way onto the table...|
|No Mum, no cheese!|
|The noise we made was quite deafening - and there were nowhere near 300 people here|
And then we had crème caramel for dessert...in a pot from the local supermarket - dressed up with a can of squirty cream. No one said the chef did puddings, so this was, in effect, a bonus, remember!
And then the fun and games started just an hour or so later. Firstly, around 10 would-be knights on motorbikes raced up and down the village road, reaching up to collect ribbons from a string hung across between the electricity towers. It was noisy. It went on quite a long time. The only female in the group won it - our neighbour - she of the chainsaw and rather scary disposition. Not surprising really, except she is the thinnest creature I have ever seen in my life and I can only assume that the days when she has smiled at me and been pleasant were the days I was actually seeing her twin sister - there were two of them. One cheerful. One not! Both incredibly thin. Explains a lot.
|Sack racing down a road...I wasn't sure this was a very good idea.|
|Especially when some of the men tried to join in - but no harm done and Ruy came 3rd, Romy 5th.|
|But the men couldn't resist...|
|And they were not quite as careful as the kids...|
|Next up - thwacking pots with a stick!|
|Antonio helping a little girl collect her winnings...such a sweet man.|
|That's my girl!|
|And that's my boy...he smashed it too!|
And then, we waited for the band to arrive from Almeria - a prize-winning group that we'd heard a lot about. And we waited. And waited. By 10pm - four hours late - it was clear the band wasn't coming so someone dashed into Alcala and fetched Isidro and his organ who played on well into the small hours, occasionally shouting - 'Is it too loud? I'm half-deaf so tell me if it's too loud'. No one did and he did a great job and made everyone laugh and dance until they'd had as much fun as they could.
I have to say that Antonio, son David and their tiny little wife and mother, whose name I missed but whom I will call Dolly for a number of reasons, not least her blonde hairstyle, worked tirelessly throughout the whole weekend - they had organised the fiesta and they did a wonderful job.
I wonder if next year they might let me help? That could be fun.....