Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Carnival festivities in Galicia

(Written a couple of weeks back, yet only just received photographic evidence.)

Stepping a little out of my comfort zone is one of my new millennial resolutions that I'm attempting to stick to as much as possible. As a naturally rather shy person this tends to be generally daunting yet rewarding.

Anyway, when asked two weeks ago if I'd like to take part in a competition in a carnival I was hesitant, yet came to the conclusion that this was not the sort of chance that came along very often and I ought to go for it. I had few details about the competition apart from the fact that it was an annual event and we would be performing a short sketch in front of a large crowd as part of the local carnival celebrations.

My single chance for a practice came last weekend when I arrived at the sportshall of a nearby village to find a group of around 20 kids, along with miscellaneous parents and neighbours, all preparing frantically for the big event. The theme for our short sketch was the Olympics, in particular Chariots of Fire, the music thereof being our soundtrack. Somehow I was given a rather prominent role, for which little preparation was possible, but much could go wrong.

So, Sunday I arrived in Brion in the early afternoon, the smell of freshly prepared paella greeting me, and the current sunshine warming the patio on which we stood looking over the nearby hills. After a relaxed lunch we went to the back garden where a rabble of kids and adults were dressed up in an array of 1920s sport clothing, handlebar moustaches and greased-back hair being the order of the day for the men, the women wearing white dresses and bonnets.

Suitably made-up and dressed, we made our way to the top of the village to start the procession through the winding streets to the hall, a few hundred meters down the road. I was placed at the head of the procession, Olympic torch in hand, to lead our team to the sports hall at the end of the road. After half an hour of walking we arrived at the hall and had another half an hour of waiting nervously for our turn, the kids getting ever more excited and restless.

As our turn arrived we came in through the back of the hall to see a crowd of some five hundred onlookers crowded into the seats and flowing out onto the courts to watch us. As people took their places I stood back, and with the fire crew looking on with equal measures of concern and confusion I took out a bottle of lighter fluid, doused the Olympic torch and lit it.

As the music started, the atmosphere grew and our group came on. I ran in from the back, flame held aloft jogging around the hall, attempting not to light myself, or the paper banners hanging above me. Having successfully made it round the hall without undue fire damage I arrived at the pepetero (the Olympic flame) and on the first boom of the music I lit it, as in perfect synchrony the rest of the group started to make their balletic performances in slow motion around the hall. We had synchronised swimmers, half submerged in a sheet of blue cloth, held aloft by mustachioed gentlemen, javelin throwers and archers, rowers and tennis players, plus an entire gymnastics team, judges and runners.

Having already done my part at the beginning I was the one lucky enough to watch on as the team performed, and it was really quite a spectacle. Not that I didn't have faith, but somehow with the music playing at full volume and the onlookers silenced by the vision in front of them, the effect was far more than I had imagined.

I still haven't tracked down many photos of me in full regalia, so for now my photo of these chaps will have to do...taken after the event:

A video taken by cellphone from somebody in the crowd has been found though clearly it doesn't do the atmosphere justice (I can be seen running past in the first ten seconds - just watch for the fire). It may, however be enough to put pay to any chance of me being taken seriously ever again!

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