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Spain (Continued)

(Text as at 26/09/2007 20:41:17)

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The rest of the holiday was fairly routine, though blighted by the troubles I was having with the car. We got our bearings in the end, but only made it by car as far as Torre del Mar, which is only a few miles away on the coast. Mind you, we parked at the end of the world, and enjoyed a rather second-rate and extortionately expensive meal on the sea-front.

We still had the most difficult trip to the supermarket in the history of mankind on account of the one-way system interacting with the road-works which meant that all the normal routes were blocked. Previously I’d missed a turning, which by a complete accident had enabled us to get there without much trouble. The second time took an hour, as I didn’t miss the turning, but was directed to a variety of dead-ends and loops, as well as making outright blunders due to absent signposting, which included a journey over a local mountain and another trip to Torre. At least the place was still open when we got there.

On our last day we eventually found the tram we’d been hunting for all week, which links Torre to Velez-Malaga, and Julie and I enjoyed a leisurely trip there and back. Julie engineered a minor hiccup by trying to provide the “exact change”, which turned out to be half what was expected. We had a very pleasant seafood lunch at a reasonable price in an air-conditioned restaurant. They are supposed to cook sardines on the beach, but it was too hot. In any case, though we saw some fires being set up on beached boats, there was no sign of any cooking on them. Maybe they were being set up for the evening.

There was one final driving drama on the way home. We’d been assured that returning the car was simple and would take 5 minutes. We didn’t believe this, of course, but it would have been within our estimated 15 minutes if we hadn’t sailed past the sign to the right car-park and ended up in the wrong one. As can be imagined, getting out of that was far from simple, but was eventually achieved against all the odds. A get-out-of jail card was purchased from some helpful attendants, and the lady on the exit was eventually persuaded that it was indeed a valid ticket, and off we went for another try. Thankfully, this went virtually hitch-free, apart from a failed attempt at parking in an impossible berth (some rival tourist had pinched ours), but I was rescued by a professional parker from the car-hire company who had the authority to choose an achievable slot. We’d less than an hour to catch the flight, but all went well as we were eventually bumped up to the front of the queue and on our way.

Of course, when we got to Luton, we initially queued for the wrong car-park shuttle-service, missed the bus, and had to wait 40 minutes for the next one. But, all things considered, we got off lightly – no fatalities, accidents, missed planes or even food poisoning. We couldn’t find any respectable-looking restaurants in Velez-Malaga, so we mostly lived of salads.

Having arrived safely in Luton, Julie decided not to trust that I’d immediately shake off all my driving re-wiring, and did the driving home, dropping the girls off on the way and only mounting the curb once.

Returning to the holiday itself, probably the most interesting day was a visit to the local historical attractions – the castle, and the church and museum of Santa Maria La Mayor on the castle mount. The museum was dedicated to extolling the wonders of the Holy Week celebrations at Velez-Malaga. These appeared to be extraordinarily lavish, but to the Protestant eye show many of the excesses of Catholicism. The processions are organised by 18 brotherhoods, each of which maintains its own holy site throughout the town, but more interestingly wear distinctive outfits in the celebrations. It is difficult for a north-European not to see these outfits as horribly threatening, as they look just like those worn at the autos de fe at the height of the Spanish Inquisition. (Note: I’ve tried to find a website that shows these, but have failed; I remember the get-up from history lessons at school, but maybe I’ve misremembered).


There was a similar statue to this inside the church …

… The church of Santa Maria La Mayor.


Quite why anyone would want to wear a mask with such a sinister appearance and such connotations (not to mention their use by the Ku Klux Klan) at a religious celebration passes understanding to the Protestant mind, but there must be an explanation, as it’s not a minority enthusiasm, but a large proportion of the population must be involved. There were two audio-visual presentations in the museum, together with a more detailed touch-screen explanation of the brotherhoods for those with a good command of Spanish. The showing, for which there was an English-language version, that described the history of the Holy-week events pointed out the decision of the Council of Trent to accentuate all the aspects of Catholicism that the Protestants were protesting about – including (what I hope was a mistranslation) “Our Lady’s divinity”. That is, it accentuated the visible and artistic as against the written word, and community above the individual.

It seems that the masks are worn by “penitents”. If so, this seems to be a bunch of confusion. There’s no need for penitence for general sins – it’s repentance not penitence that’s required. The old mistranslation in the Vulgate – “do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” - is the root of all this muddle. Incidentally, another, more entertaining, mistranslation in the Vulgate is that Moses “had horns”, when he came down from the mount, rather than that his “face shone”, but at least this only deceived Michelangelo and a few other artists.

If doing penance is an act that gains spiritual merit, then being hooded makes sense, along the lines of avoiding Pharisaical public display. But it isn’t. And repentance, or even penance for specific sins, has to be public, or have a public aspect, and it’s the public side that makes it hard. So, I think would say the Protestants, but not the Catholics.

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12/08/2007 10:17:46 6465 Spain (Continued)

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26/09/2007 20:41:17 362 (Spain (Continued)) Spain

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