Sunday, May 20, 2007

Montrondo again; thanks Antonio. Ulpiano and the potatoes

Planting potatoes in Montrondo

Hi again

Today is the anniversary of Eladio’s father, Antonio, who died 2 years ago today. The family has introduced the tradition of holding a memorial mass for him each year in his adopted home village of Montrondo and so yesterday the family were once again reunited in his name.

Eladio, my Father and I set off early in the morning for the 4 hour drive in pretty sunny weather with just the odd cloud on the horizon. The girls had stayed behind to study as the exam period is approaching. The reunion was to be mainly of the older generation of the family.

We were the last to arrive and parked our car next to the village common known as “El Campo”. We walked up the small street called “Eladio Calzada” after Eladio’s grandfather who had been the mayor of Montrondo, to the family house to find all of Eladio’s brothers and sisters with their partners and of course his mother, Ernestina. From the younger generation the only representatives were Mario, Roberto (soon to be married), Marta and her football player and gym teacher husband, Fernando, but commonly known as “Ministro”.

At around 12.45 the church bells started to peel and we set off on the short walk to the village church, that place that was once again to reunite the family. Montrondo was at its best with the late Spring blossom and nature flowering. The poppies were at their reddest and the lilac at its most fragnant. Some of the locals were planting the new potatoes and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of Guzman doing just so with his shire horse. The picture was just so bucolic.

And of course, just before entering the church, we wandered into the cemetery. If any of you have seen Pedro Almodóvar’s film “Volver”, you will understand what it looks like. In Spanish villages the tradition has been to invest in your grave in life and families are buried together generation upon generation. In the case of Virginia, Primo told me that in her grave there were 3 or 4 levels for her and the people in her immediate family who lived before her. Somehow today that tradition is being a lot less adhered to and probably Eladio’s generation will not continue with this timeless custom. Marta said she would prefer for her ashes to be scattered freely on the mountains of Montrondo.

Marisa, Yoli and Eladio at the door of the church
The mass was very short and the congregation mostly made up of our family members as there are so few inhabitants today in the village. Afterwards we made our way to the family home and then on foot and by car to the next village Murias de Paredes where we had booked a table for lunch at a lovely country inn called “El Holandés Errante” or the “Wandering Dutchman” because it is owned by a Dutchman, Hans and his wife.

Lunch was held on two tables and consisted, at least in the first course, of typical local fare, such as cecina (cured beef) which actually was probably the best I have ever tried. I was happy to sit next to my oldest niece Marta who lives in Ponferrada and whom, unfortunately, I get to see a lot less often since she has married. It was great to catch up on each others news and to see her so radiant and with a lot less headaches.

Around the table at lunch in Murias
The afternoon was spent walking and chatting, for the women at least as the male members of the family took the opportunity to cut the grass which had grown to enormous proportions this Spring.

Soon it was time to leave as we had a 4 hour drive to get home but before saying goodbye we went to buy some potatoes and eggs from one of the village inhabitants, “Ulpiano” who lives in El Campo. Ulpiano who went to school with Eladio has never left the village and has continued to live and work just as his parents did before him, tending his cows, hens, raising rabbits and growing potatoes and all in exactly the same way as 100 years ago. Modern life doesn’t seem to have affected one iota his way of living, at least outwardly.

So visiting his small farm was quite an occasion, at least for my father who later remarked he had not been standing between hens since my mother raised them when I was a child back in Ruskington!

The pictures talk for themselves. Here you will see Ulpiano preparing the eggs and potatoes for us to take back to Madrid, Eladio holding the box of potatoes, Andrés helping Upiano and the rest of us standing around enjoying the scene. One very clear symbol from the past is Ulpiano’s footwear. Notice he is wearing clogs (madreñas). They also look as if they were made 100 years ago!

Eladio and Pili

Eladio with the potatoes

General view

Andrés helping Ulpiano
So with the boot full of potatoes and eggs, we said goodbye to everyone and set off back home to Madrid. A good day was had by all and it is very much thanks to Antonio, my cantankerous but affectionate and well meaning father-in-law. Keep smiling up there Antonio as I know you will have loved seeing us all together in your beloved Montrondo today.

Today will be a quiet family day, just the 5 of us. And the highlight will be the lovely barbecue my husband will make for us for lunch with a little bit of help from his wife; me, of course.

Hope you all have a great week.

All the best

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