Two Days, Two Funerals

For historic and cultural reasons, much to do with climate, a death in Andalucía is followed very quickly by the funeral, usually the following day. This is particularly the case in villages like ours where everyone is close at hand, and so there is no need to wait upon the arrival of relatives from far afield. So, if there are two funerals in two days then you know pretty certainly that two people have died on consecutive days. On Wednesday evening around quarter to nine, we heard the characteristic hubbub of people following a hearse up the main street to the cemetery. And then on Thursday, at the same time, we heard it again. It’s a sound that is unmistakeable; after the requiem in the church in the old village, everyone falls in behind the hearse and chattering, follows it getting on for a mile to the cemetery in the centre of the new village. It used to be out in the campo when we first got to know Frigiliana, but the new village has expanded around it. At the cemetery the family, and maybe one or two very close friends, go to the niche and wait whilst the coffin is placed to rest, the head stone put into position and cemented in place. Then the family repair to a small room by the cemetery gates and take up their places behind a heavy wooden table. All of the mourners - who in the meantime have been milling around at the cemetery gates, still chatting - file in through a door at one end of the room, offer their sympathies to the assembled family (mi pesamé, if you should ever need to know) and leave by the door at the far end of the room. Everyone then disperses to resume whatever they were doing before the funeral. Why so late in the day, though? Simple; it’s too hot to head for the church before eight o’ clock. The elderly people of this village are a hardy breed; they needed to be to survive the Franco years in an instinctively republican part of Spain. In the winter, they step out into the cold and wind protected only by a jumper or a cardigan; if it is really cold then a woman may put on her dressing gown to hang out the washing. No, winter is not a great problem. It’s summer that is dangerous. We have floor-to-ceiling french doors from our living room and main bedroom, out onto the balcony. We have air-conditioning units in most rooms, and ceiling fans. With all of this, the temperature in the living room never drops below 29 degrees through July and August. At night, we switch on the aircon in our bedroom and close door and windows. Going to bed, we switch off the aircon, but switch ON the ceiling fan, and open the window again. We sleep easily and comfortably in a cool room. Many of the village houses lack these amenities; the internal temperature rises inexorably in summer until it stabilises in the low thirties. In that heat sleep is sweaty and fitful, and the strain on the heart in particular is enormous. Two funerals in two days. It’s a dangerous time, summer.

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