As today is All Souls' Day, I thought I'd visit the local municipal cemetery. It's outside Garrucha on the Mojácar side, a kilometre along a road in which the first building is the Lidl supermarket, and I needed to buy a few things anyway. It's on top of a ridge overlooking the inland plain enclosed by whitewashed walls, with ample parking, two chapels of repose for vigils before burial and a tree shaded forecourt, neatly laid out. At its centre is a life sized marble statue of a man reaching up to heaven, emerging from the stone base, almost out of it in fact, but shackled to it.
The inscription on the base says 'Garrucha a sus defuntos'. It's a tribute from the town to all its dead citizens, just as in town, there are separate marble statutes erected in tribute to the hard working women and the fishermen of the town. Symbolic I imagine, of the human spirit emerging from mortal confinement and rising to eternity. Several towns in the region seem to go in for generic tributes to its citizens of this kind. Does it reflect the local abundance of marble and talented sculptors I wonder?
Inside the walls, family tombs predominate. Few are large and ostentatious, and most are arranged in neat straight rows like terraced streets, neat, clean, marble clad, many with modern looking portals, an indication of investment by the living in accommodation for the dead. There are several rows which are plain walls for burials of the kind that predominate in other more urban cemeteries. Here however, even some sections of plain wall have been purchased and reserved for family use. As ever, the necropolis reflects social order, but what is interesting here is number of family tombs, illustrating the value still placed on family in a still close knit seaside community.
Cemetery 'streets' are named after saints, and in each were scattered a number of white plastic chairs, for the use of visitors wanting just to side outside a family tomb to remember and reflect, and maybe to greet passing friends and neighbours. Everywhere, tombs were decorated with flowers and lit candles, and in the area of burial walls, groups of people worked at tidying up, flower arranging and chatting together. Visiting the dead is a convivial activity, and I noticed people greeting each other warmly and cheerfully. Nothing sombre about El dia del Defuntos here.
Maybe having cemeteries enclosed like this encourages meetings. Unlike the vast open spaces of northerly public cemeteries and crematoria with their gardens of remembrance, in which visitors can so easily get lost, and are so spread out that it's not easy to socialise in such an environment. Some find peace and consolation through solitude, but others through solidarity and kindness in fellowship. Spanish people enjoy doing things together in numbers, like Italians, more so that people do the other side of the Alps.
Back home for lunch, and after lunch the third and final episode of a BBC Radio 4 spy thriller serialised this week, called 'The Good Listener'. It was set inside GCHQ in Cheltenham, during a very serious cyber attack, and painted an interestingly plausible picture of fast moving dramatic events, and posing some challenging moral issues for reflection. It's been good enough to keep me wide awake in siesta time, and comes at a time when cyber warfare is in the spotlight through Parliamentary debate. Talk about 'Play for Today'! Or was it really a kind of covert propaganda designed to get the audience to feel comfortable with existence in a surveillance state? The concern is real enough and with us now.
Just after the play finished, I saw the announcement on Facebook of the election of Joanna Penberthy as the 129 Bishop of St David's, one of the most ancient episcopal sees in the British Isles. It's not just good that Wales has a woman as a bishop for the first time, but that her experience of ministry is so rich and varied, having started as a deaconess, then being ordained Deacon and Priest, serving in ministry as a non stipendiary cleric, as an adult educator, and then finally a parochial incumbent, a much broader spread of engagements than the average Oxbridge educated career cleric. So glad for Archbishop Barry that one of his last acts before he retires in the new year will be her consecration. This is a new start for the ministry of the Church in Wales he has worked for patiently over many years.