Friday, 9 June 2017

Day of election surprises, obsequies and city culture

This morning I woke up to discover Britain has a hung parliament. Although the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn didn't overwhelm the Tories, neither was it routed by a landslide as predicted by many wishful thinking pollsters, pundits and disgracefully biassed BBC reporters, and panel game comedians. Serves them right. They all humiliated themselves by showing how much they haven't listened properly to what was happening at the grass roots, especially among young voters. Despite his double rejection by the Parlimentary Labour Party, his patient listening and dialoguing with potential voters has regained support for a economical credible set of policies, which are more representative of pre-Blairite British socialism. Shame on all of them too. Labour has a modest man with moral integrity in charge, who has ignored every attempt at character assassination and isn't a self promoting egomaniac. Such a pity he's not at the helm right now, but he has re-introduced hope into political discourse when it was most needed.

It's not enough however to be nearly, but the challenge of building majority support, despite the lies of the right wing British press, can continue until the next electoral opportunity arrives. The Tories can cling to a slender majority with the support of the even more right wing Democratic Unionist Party, founded by Ian Paisley. It still espouses policies worthy of American fundamentalists. Whether this marriage of convenience is viable or sustainable remains to be seen. It casts another shadow of uncertainty over forthcoming brexit negotiations. How long before we wake up from this bizarre nightmare?

I spent most of the morning preparing a Sunday sermon, editing and uploading photos, finalising the liturgy for this afternoon's funeral. For some reason I can't fathom, I felt apprehensive about doing this. There's nothing new I haven't done before. I know and have driven the route to Velez-Malaga's  'La Esperanza crematorium before. I've prepared and taken services there before. I kept checking things before leaving, and came to the conclusion that I was nervous about omitting something or getting it wrong. Perhaps it's down to the experience of my first contact with the funeral director. 

I explained in my best Spanish that I had been asked to take this funeral by my colleague Doreen. It wasn't that he didn't understand my language, but rather didn't understand who I was and why I was contacting him about this funeral which as far as he was concerned was taken care of. It turned out that he spoke enough English for us to untangle things, but I still didn't understand why he referred to Doreen as 'Roy'. Moreover, neither did she when I asked her. My best guess if that he has 'Roy' as the reference name attached to that particular contact number on his phone. I'm used to muddling through in all sorts of odd situations, but 'unknown unknowns' can rattle the cage of my confidence.

I arrived at 'La Esperanza', short for Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza, with a good half hour to spare, checked in with the staff, and was shown the chapel. It was the one I used before, big enough for a congregation of a hundred, and all the wherewithall to celebrate a Requiem Mass, ready prepared in the sacristy. I wonder how many funerals here are in the setting of a Mass nowadays, compared to the turn of the century? The attendant who looked after me said that only four people had come for a viewing of the body earlier in the day, and wondered if that was the expected number, I explained that people were arriving from UK flights earlier in the day.

There were thirteen mourners for the service, just family and close friends, so they packed into the row of three pews nearest the coffin. The attendant looked after the recorded music, which meant he spent the service at a low cupboard door behind the altar, to control the CD player. Could he not find the remote control device? I wondered. Normally, I guess the officiating priest would stand up there and deejay for himself. The service proceeded as simply and quietly as intended with no surprises, thankfully. The family was appreciative, but with a lot of catching up to do with those who'd just arrived, there was nothing more to ask of me, so I took my leave of them, and returned to Malaga, feeling pleased that I'd spoken only Spanish with the crematorium staff throughout, and had been understood.

After supper, as the sun was setting, I walked through the big noisy road tunnel under the Alcazaba Palace into the Old Town. It lands you close to the historic Plaza del la Merced, whose trees were alight with reddish pink blossom, a delight to behold. The inside edges of the square were lined with matching booths, backs to the road, populated by book sellers and publishing houses. Malaga's Feria del Libro is happening from the 2nd to the 11th of June. In the middle of the Plaza there's a pavilion hosting a children's play and reading area, such as I've seen on the beach at Vinaros. There's another pavilion equipped for literary lectures and discussion. 

In the nearby back streets beyond the Mercado de la Merced, I found a church dedicated to Sta Cruz and St Philip Nerii, founder of the 16th century religious community of the Oratorian Fathers. Also the Iglesia del dos Martires, San Ciriaco y Sta Paula, young Christian converts said to have been martyred in Malaga under the third century persecution of Diocletian. Of them, nothing is known for sure but their names. They are honoured as patron saints of the city. Returning to La Malagueta I walked towards the sea front, along Clle Marquesa de Lario, the heartland of the city's luxury retail outlets, always busy with people strolling, meeting and greeting, hustling, day and night. It's a wonderfully convivial sort of place, all year round.

Walking then along the Parque del Paseo, I heard the sound of voices emanating from loudspeakers at the open air auditorium in the middle. A couple of hundred people were seated therein, and were being addressed by an erudite young man in smart casual clothes. He was accompanied by a screen with a Powerpoint display, and although he spoke quickly, I was able to gather that he was talking about consumer branding and marketing, and how these things work to capture our attention, sell us what we didn't know we needed earning fortunes for digital marketeers. Altogether very interesting, but too near bed time for me to want to stay and learn more. I don't know what sort of enterprise put on this kind of educational event, but I do know that are number of Malaga university buildings are on the edge of the Old Town nearest to here. It's lovely to be within walking distance of a lively city centre, full of people having a good time, that's not plagued by drunken louts and uncollected litter.

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