Eighteen of us celebrated the Eucharist of the Last Supper at six this evening, then I went to catch the train to Malaga. I was surprised at the increased number of people waiting on the platform and the queues at the one remaining working ticket machine. As a result I missed one train, and by the time the next one arrived the platform was again full. After a couple of stops the train was so packed it was was almost impossible to take on additional passengers unless someone got off with a destination some way before Malaga Centro.
Coming out of the station subway at the other end the increased density of the crowd on the streets was immediately noticeable, people were compelled to move slowly in every direction and did so with good humour. Being an hour later, there was less good light to take photographs, and only occasionally was I able to get a good line of sight to the processions from the street, where the crowd was ten deep, as opposed to three deep on previous occasions.
In an effort to catch up with the trona of Jesus carrying his own cross in Lario, one the main fashion retail high street destinations, I took a long detour through side streets thronged with slow moving pedestrians and flanked by evening diners sitting outside the abundance of restaurants and bars which characterise the area. Every street was just as crowded.
Mission accomplished, I turned around and made my way back to Alameda Principal and started heading for the RENFE station, realising that I'd need to be careful about the timing of the return journey, as Owain's flight was due in around eleven, and he'd need picking up. The plan for me to rendezvous with him at the airport and return by train had to be abandoned, once I got some idea of the crowds of people travelling to and from town.
The first snag I encountered was a huge crowd at a standstill because of a passing procession. I attempted a detour by following the line of the procession, which had entered the district from a river bridge lower down. As I got to the river bank the procession was still passing. There was a platoon of soldiers accompanying the procession as a guard of honour, and they were juggling with their rifles in formation as they marched. It seemed an odd spectacle, but one which was greeted with appreciative applause from the crowd.
Earlier I'd heard a regiment of soldierly voices singing a hymn of devotion to Mary as they marched with their trono of the Virgin, their dress uniformed officers up front. I was told that it's only since the time of General Franco that the church permitted military units to join the procession.
The second via Crucis trono of the evening crosses the bridge.
I descended steps to the walkway above the dry river bed, passed under the procession crossing the bridge and ascended on the right side to get to the station entrance a short distance away. I was dismayed to see a hundred metre queue of people waiting to be admitted to the escalator by a security guard. I struck me as a sensible move even though I worried about being there a long time and having my departure delayed, but it was only a matter of minutes before we were moving. The platform was expertly packed by security guards directing people traffic. I had missed the ten to ten train I was aiming at, but another pulled in at five past, and took five minutes to pack in all the passengers, like boquerones in a tin.
I stood for the first half of the journey, packed in with scores of others, including several small children being taken home at a sensible time to bed, and a mild mannered labrador. The atmosphere was genial and patient, without a hint of tension, complaint or grumpiness. Spanish people like being close together in large numbers in a way Northern Europeans are less comfortable with. It's one of the things I like about being here, even if it means having to go slower from time to time.
I reached home at five past eleven. Kath and I were quickly on our way to the airport, arriving just as Owain came out of the arrivals gate, so by quarter to midnight were were all together at home, tucking in to a late supper snack and a bottle of wine to celebrate. The photos I took of the evening can be seen here.