Friday, April 26, 2013

Sant Jordi

23 April is the feast day of Sant Jordi, known to English-speakers as Saint George.  Sant Jordi, the one who slew the dragon and saved the princess, is the patron saint of Catalunya.  When Saint George slew the dragon and saved the princess, a red rose grew from where the dragon’s blood spilled.  Thus, since 1456, the day has been celebrated (only in Catalunya; not in the rest of Spain) by men giving red roses to the women they love – wives, mothers, daughters, and friends.   It is the Catalan St. Valentine’s Day.

In 1923 a Barcelona bookseller began a campaign to also celebrate 23 April as the Day of the Book because the deaths of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes happen to coincide on 23 April 1616 and, I guess, he thought it would help his book business.  His efforts were successful and since then, books have been added to the holiday, and it has become the Day of the Book and the Rose.  It is one of the loveliest holidays here in Catalunya, where book and flower stalls draped in Catalan flags are set out on the main promenade of every city, town, and village. 

In 1995, 23 April was adopted by UNESCO as World Book Day upon petition from Catalunya.  It’s starting to catch on, but not many people around the world know about it yet.  For any book lover out there, if you didn’t see anything about World Book Day this week, this might be a good time to start making suggestions to your local bookseller to celebrate the holiday next year.

There are always more book stalls than there are bookshops in town.  That’s because stalls are also run by community groups, charities, political parties, and municipalities.  I stopped at the table run by the local group of sardana dancers to ask about upcoming events.  They were disdainful.  Their group only dances in competitions.  Evidently they are a closed group as they asked me no questions about my interest in dancing, my level of competence, or anything else.  That is one community group that I won’t be supporting.

(If you’re a regular blog reader and think you’ve got déjà vu, let me reassure you.  I’ve taken some of the above from my post on Sant Jordi of two years ago.)


Kids with Catalan Independence flags

Together we will build a new state.  Come with us.

Friday, April 19, 2013

It's In The Details

I kind of liked incorporating a quote into my post last week so I thought I would give that another try and open with one this week.  My topic is details.  But whereas last week’s post was inspired from the two quotes already in my thoughts, this week I had to search to prove what I wanted to say was valid.   I found two quotes related to my subject. 

The first is by Oscar Wilde, one of my favorite writers or, more precisely, one of my favorite characters.  He said, “One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details.  Details are always vulgar.”  Unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.  My thesaurus gives, as an alternative for “detail” “triviality.”  That wasn’t what I had in mind either, although trivial was an improvement on vulgar.

Then I came across a quote I liked better.  This one is by William Feather.  Now, I had never heard of William Feather so I had to look him up.  He was a publisher and a writer.  I was referred to Amazon, couldn’t find any of his books there, but I did find several references to him on the internet, so apparently he was famous for his aphorisms, one of which works for me: “Beware of the man who won’t be bothered with details.”

That’s the problem with looking for a quote to back up what you are trying to say.  It doesn’t always work.  In fact, I agree with Wilde, or at least with my thesaurus; details are often trivial, especially in conversation and even more so if the person speaks very slowly.  On the other hand, sometimes they are important.  They might perk up a boring salad or give meaning to the larger whole¸ whatever that whole might be.

So here I am in Figueres, not the most picturesque of towns.  It does not overlook the sea, there is no river flowing through it, it has no architectural marvels, it is just a plain, functional town with a nice, tree-lined rambla albeit only one block long.  Yet even so, if you look at the details among many nondescript buildings, you can find things to perk up the eye.

Friday, April 12, 2013


“No man ever steps in the same river twice.”  Heraclitus said this sometime around 500 B.C.  Although he said it 2500 years ago, I’m only aware of having read it recently.  He believed that change is central to the universe.  This disturbs me, but it seems to me that he was right.

Benjamin Franklin said, in a 1789 letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, that “nothing is certain but death and taxes.”  Could it be that he didn’t know about Heraclitus and that change was inevitable?  And yet he was right about death.  That is, for as long as there is life, there must be death.  But I suppose that life will not continue forever.  That will also change and this is also disturbing.

We all know on some level that things are always changing, but some of us are more comfortable with that fact than others.  I, for one, am a little frightened of change.  And as for death, I know I am changing daily, getting older every minute.  Eventually some part of me will fail and I will die.  This isn’t morbid; it’s simply the truth.

Is change a good thing?  Not that it matters; it is inevitable.  Still, we can judge it if we want.  Looking around me, I would say that sometimes change is good, and sometimes it isn’t so good.

I see the change in seasons and I always find that good.  By the time you are sick and tired of one, another creeps in.
Field,24 March
Same field, 7 April
But sometimes change doesn’t creep, it crashes, shattering reality as we know it.  As it apparently has for my neighbor’s magnificent cat who recently underwent a deeply radical change.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Father's Day

Father’s Day in Catalunya is celebrated on the feast day of Sant Josep, as I suppose it is in all historically Catholic countries.  This kind of makes sense to me but kind of not.  Joseph wasn’t exactly Jesus’s father.  I guess he was a stepfather.  He was married to Jesus’s mother and he raised the boy.  Doubts aside, Sant Joseph, which falls on 19 March, IS Father’s Day and I celebrated in a limited way by going to visit the fair. 

The Fira de Sant Josep in Figueres is also the Fira del Brunyol.  A brunyol is a kind of donut, but without a hole.  It is dough that is fried and sprinkled with sugar and eaten during the days before Easter.  I have nothing against deep fried dough covered with sugar, but I didn’t buy any brunyols because they were very expensive.  So I amused myself by walking up and down all the aisles and only buying something to take home for my lunch: a spinach pastry from a Palestinian stand and humus from a Berber stand.  The humus was the best I’ve ever had.  Many of the stands had handcrafts, a few had stuff made in China or Guatemala, and off to the side was an antique/collectibles fair.   But the best was the food stands.  Overall it was colorful and tasty.

Berber pastries