Sunday, August 25, 2013

Divided by Three

The Germans have announced the official birth, that is to say, the bureaucratic approval, of a third gender, which is to be called intersex - a term used to describe people whose genetic variations confer both male and female physical attributes. So far, we are divided here in Spain between H and M, which isn't (as I thought when I complete a form in triplicate recently) 'Hembra' and 'Macho' but rather 'Hombre' and 'Mujer'. 'M', it turns out, is neither 'Masculine' nor 'Man' and you should be careful where you leave your cross. This may all be a plan to confuse us, but more likely it's just a quirk of the language. There are, at least, the two sexes or genders in Spain, which is enough to put the English off learning the language, since we pretty much manage with just the one, and that just on Saturday nights after a curry.
In German, the language is artfully divided between masculine, feminine and a third gender, which I'm told is neutral ('der', 'die' and 'das'). The Romans had the same thing going with Latin, and I was often beaten as a child for overlooking this useful fact, and it will not surprise me to learn that, despite Putin's best intentions, the Russians have a trinity of sexes as well. No doubt some local expert in tourism can confirm this for me.
The new third sex of the Germans is the official recognition of those people who, at the moment of their birth, having looked anxiously down their little bodies and not having much liked what they found there. They are born of a sex, yet they belong to another. Thus, now in Germany, there are three sexes. That is not such extreme news: Mojacar during its bohemian golden years had at least seven.
Now Bradley Manning, the soldier who revealed all of the military secrets of the Pentagon, has announced through his lawyer that he would like to change his name to Chelsey, in the unfounded hope that he will receive hormone replacement therapy during his lengthy stay at the Guantanamo prison to help him with the repeated sex on offer there. One shouldn't joke.
Curiously, despite their known freedom in these matters, the Spanish have said that there is no plan to follow the Germans into the vagaries of a third gender. The Church probably have a poor opinion on the subject as well.
Interestingly enough, there is a small group of saints who could represent this new collective. Two very accepted by the gay community are St. Sergius and St. Bacchus - for historical reasons that we won't go into here - and many times gay marriages take place under the protection of these two. Another is San Sebastian. Another still, celebrated by the Catholic gays, and it might be better to sit down to read this, is San Agustín de Hipona, in English, Saint Augustine of Hippo: bishop, doctor and the Patron Saint of Mojácar.
For lesbians, things are more difficult. I thought I had found an appropriate one when I happened upon 'lesbians from Santo Domingo' in the Google, but it turned out to be an advertisement by some followers of Sappho living in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, further research eventually produced Saint Brigit for the girls...  
All very interesting, but this isn't about homosexuality, but the trauma of being caught in the wrong body. Perhaps Saint Wilgefortis, known in Spanish as La Santa Liberada, is the most suitable: a woman who grew a full black beard so as not to marry a Sicilian. It is possible that she merely needed the same therapy as Chelsea Manning, but to keep everything simple, they crucified her instead. 
But, no doubt, Spain is right. Otherwise they would be obliged to fill the calendar with saints who suffered not only from their faith but also from their other more carnal 'rare feelings'. The chaos of still more festive days in the calender would be unimaginable since each fiesta  lasts anything up to a week, and frankly, there are no available dates left...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Agosto, Santos y Música

At the moment, I write a few articles in Spanish for a couple of local newspapers - Actualidad Almanzora and El Indálico - here's one from this week's El Indálico:

Agosto, Santos y Música

De alguna manera, agosto es el mes donde finalmente amanece en nosotros la convicción de que el calor ha durado demasiado tiempo, de que hemos sido maltratados y molestados por demasiado turismo - con sus colas, caravanas, ruidos y descuidos-, donde las noches han sido demasiado largas y donde todos los profesionales a los que necesitamos consultar por alguna razón apremiante – abogados, doctores o políticos – han cerrado sus oficinas y abandonado nuestro entorno para irse a algún lugar de vacaciones pagadas con nuestras pelas: como las Seychelles, Miami o la República Dominicana.
En agosto, muchos de nuestros vecinos cosmopolitas vuelven a Gran Bretaña o a Alemania para ver a sus familias, para escapar del calor (estamos en 'Alerta Naranja' hoy) y para tomar una jarra decente de cerveza. Así que no hay nadie conocido con quien podamos hablar excepto los propietarios de los restaurantes y bares, quienes están de todos modos demasiados ocupados para parar y hablar con nosotros.
Agosto es un buen mes para quedarse en casa. Flotar en la piscina y enviar a los jóvenes a hacer la compra. Leer, ver la tele. Nadar otra vez.
En Mojácar, el temible mes de agosto termina con su fiesta popular. El santo local, en nuestro caso San Agustín (patrón de la sangría, los edificios feos y los pelotones de bici), se celebra con una bebiendo, bailando y con mucha pólvora, como en todos los pueblos de España. 
La duración de las fiestas españolas se extiende según el tamaño y la riqueza de la ciudad a varios días o incluso más. Almería ciudad solía tener una bacanal que duraba diez días (con todo esencialmente cerrado, sus abogados todos en Nueva York de compra o esquiando en Nueva Zelanda, y los oriundos y visitantes vestidos de traje de flamenco y dedicados a comer gambas y pasarlo bien). Ahora, con la crisis actual, se ha reducido la fiesta a tan sólo nueve días. Naturalmente, todo el mundo está histérico por esto, aunque al menos las corridas de toros, los grandes conciertos y un montón de fuegos artificiales permanecen todavía.
Aquí en Mojácar, hasta este año, nuestras fiestas sólo han durado cuatro días, alrededor de la fiesta patronal del santo, cuyo día es el 28 de agosto. Ahora, con los tiempos evidentemente mejor, tendremos cinco días de fiesta. No habrá corridas de toros, pero mucha música por supuesto, y un montón de cosas que explotarán en los cielos a altas horas de la madrugaba. Noches hasta altas horas y música a todo volumen. Bailando en la Plaza. No duermes mucho esa semana...
Pero lo bueno es que, justo después de que se retire para guardar el último cordel de banderitas de papel,  el día siguiente, agosto se despide y entramos en septiembre, el mejor mes del año.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Almería Con Gas

We had gone to Almería to visit a friend with a horse-ranch. Loli keeps other creatures as well, sometimes breeding them, including donkeys, coatimundis, ostriches and whatever this is. After an enjoyable visit playing with the livestock (in the extreme heat of the Almería sun), we turned for home. The car wouldn't start at first, but I was insistent. What was the alternative? Walk?
Eventually we moved off. There's no air in the SEAT, the button has broken. The little electric window control chose the moment to fall from its place in the door to a more comfortable post somewhere inside the door, so we took off with just the passenger window open. The car began to judder and lurch somewhere outside Retamar as I remembered in a rare burst of clarity that, back at the BP station, I had lovingly put twenty euros of unleaded petrol into our old diesel.
Bugger. The car eventually shuddered to a halt on the side of a fast but sparsely used road. How nice that the first four cars to pass were from Tráfico. They helped me put up a warning triangle, squeeze into a fluorescent red pajama top and to find a place down the road with telephone coverage. What was my insurance company? Something beginning with the letter V I thought, or possibly Z. They left me to it. After a call, I discovered the insurance people began with a G, for Seguros Generali. Splendid people, if a trifle slow. They fixed us up with a tow-truck and, three hours later, we were back home, having taken the trip in the cab of a friendly grua with air-conditioning.
It could have been worse. The Mojácar mechanic asked me with a knowing smile: 'trying to speed up the car with sin plomo?' and pumped the offending petrol out of the motor into a handy tank he has. Didn't charge me anything either for the job. Once again the car returned to its normal state of slavish efficiency and the fellow at the petrol station fixed the window controls while we filled the tank.
The bird? That's a peachick.