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Monday, March 26, 2007

Wives of ...

The local produce market yesterday was not its usual self. Granny went up quite late for her - blame clock change - guests - early rainstorms; by the time she got there the sun was blazing and the place seething with people, almost all locals and most of them nowhere near the vegetable stall. It is true that once a month or so, alternative jollities afflict the market - dog shows, baby shows, threshing demonstration with mules, things like that. Granny made up the baby show, but now she comes to think of it, there was a baby show or sorts this time: only the babies in question were donkeys; Along with their mothers. Which was all very sweet and very nice.

The baby donkeys did what baby donkeys do, suckled from their mothers, then strayed a bit and had to be summoned back. But noone paid much attention to them. Much more interesting was the band of handsome young men, in local costume, playing and singing local Canarian music, music of which it can only be said; you've heard one piece, you've heard them all. Not that in mattered in the least to the crew of local abuelas - grandmothers to you - who were dancing to it very merrily. They looked pretty much the same abuelas Granny saw as Can Can dancers in the carnival procession, or sees, every few weeks or so, as the local woman's team, dressed in identical track suits and baseball caps and heading for a Canarian bowl's tournament. Most of them are pepperpot shaped, most have short dyed hair - few women go openly grey here - and all are energetically jolly; especially energetically in this case, their hair, spectacles, their rings and earrings glinting and bopping with them.

The young men with their drums, banjos, accordians, processed round the market from stall to stall, stopping at this one and that for more music, more dances; the pepperpot ladies seemed tireless. Granny absented herself briefly to do her shopping. When she returned the dancing had stopped at last. The band played standing in a semi-circle; the abuelas stood opposite. The band's singing as always varied between unison and solos; only this time thinner, smaller voices also took their turn; some of the abuelas were adding verses of their own. Now Granny is fairly up on Spanish obscenities, but when it comes to bawdiness, her command is limited. Even so she barely needed the raucous cackles breaking out at the end of every verse to realise that what was going on here was very bawdy indeed. Her Spanish mightn't have been up to most of the punchlines; it was up to picking up the 'culos' (bums) the 'piernas' (legs), the 'entrar' and 'passar' (does not need translating) the 'suegras' (mothers-in-law) and 'yernos' (sons-in-law) that were being bandied about. Even if it hadn't been, the gestures by musicians and abuelas, both, made things quite clear; young musicians flirting with ageing abuelas, ageing abuelas flirted with young musicians, each musician, each abuela attempting to be more outrageous than the last. By the look of it, any of these Canarian Wives of Bath would have been happy to take any of the musicians - even the one with Eric Morcambe glasses and a slightly peaked version of the local men's trilby - behind the stalls for a quick one. Though Granny doesn't know about the musicians - some of the abuelas might even have been their own - they too were enjoying themselves, for sure.

'Do you understand?' asked a woman next to Granny, 'Bastante' she said. 'Es para adultos,' - the woman nodded and grinned. 'What did it all have to do with donkeys?' Granny wondered. A fertility ritual to encourage their next mating? Most likely not.

Granny, unfortunately, does not take a camera with her when she goes to buy vegetables. She did go back with one later, but all the abuelas and the band had gone. The donkeys were still present but when she tried to photograph them she found the batteries in her camera were dead. If she dared be suggestive - but how could she compete with the abuelas? - she's not even going to try - might it have been telling her something? Most likely not.

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