The word 'saeta' literally means 'arrow' or 'dart', but it is also a crucial component of the processions which characterize Holy Week in Spain. A saeta is a flamenco lament directed at Our Lady as she endures the capture, humiliation and execution of her son, Jesus. In major cities it is usually sung by a recognized vocalist from the world of popular music, and with local connections. The sound is harsh and lyrical at the same time, and you can hear flamenco's Indian and Arab roots. It's not to everyone's taste, but Holy Week would not be complete without it. This example is from Málaga, and the singer who is from the city, is Diana Navarra.
On my iPad I have an app called Flightradar24, which tracks aircraft movements around the world. I keep the map area focused around Frigiliana and Málaga, so that if I am in a particularly nerdy frame of mind I can see where planes flying over us have come from. Looking at the general flow of traffic earlier and again just now, there is a steady stream f flights coming down from the north, out over the sea and then turning for their final approach and landing from the south. Just as the swifts and martins began arriving a few weeks ago, so the start of Holy Week, and the beginning of Easter school holidays brings tourists and holiday makers in droves. Since the collapse of the construction industry in 2008 this is the major contributor to the economic wellbeing of the Costas. If it turns out to be a good year, hotels, holiday apartments, bars and restaurants will be booming from now until the end of September, not to mention shops, coach tours, car hire and leisure parks.
As if in recognition of the importance of making a good impression, and following a pretty dismal March, yesterday dawned bright, sunny and warm; no clouds, no wind, no rain - and that is how the ten-day forecast says it's going to remain.
I shall play my own part. This morning a pair of lightweight chinos and a short-sleeved shirt came out of the wardrobe. Soon, with a bit of luck, shorts will replace chinos, and shoes and socks will give way to sandals.
Yesterday saw elections to the Junta de Andalucía. The results are now known and locally the biggest impact on the voting pattern has been the relative success of two new parties, Podemos and C's, who took 18% of the votes, mainly from Partido Popular and Partido Andalucista; the socialist vote represented by PSOE and Izquierda Únida was virtually unchanged.
Interestingly, PP and PA are the current ruling coalition in the village, so I wonder if this tells us anything about the likely outcome of the local elections in May.
Of course the local result yesterday means nothing in itself; it is the result for the whole of Andalucía that counts. There were three parties with seats in the retiring Junta, PSOE, PP and IU. The new Junta now has five. Podemos and C's have both won seats. Indeed, out of a total of 109 seats, these two parties hold 24. PSOE and IU have 52 seats jointly which deprives them of their previous ability to govern in coalition, whilst PP are the main losers and hold 33 seats having lost 17. So a coalition is required. My hunch is that it will be three-way, PSOE, Podemos and IU, although the first two would have a workable majority on their own.
The other significant party over recent months, UPyD (Union, Progress and Democracy) failed to reach the 5% threshold and so once again did not win a seat. Their very strong focus on being the 'clean', anti-corruption party appears to have cut no ice.
Two things are noteworthy today. It is the Spring Equinox, officially the first day of Spring, though you wouldn't guess it from the weather, and it's also my youngest granddaughter's ninth birthday. She is now the delighted owner of a selfie stick. I know because she posted her first selfie-stick selfie on Mummy's FaceBook page. I first became aware of these devices in the hands of Japanese tourists who brought with them the disconcerting habit of 'doing the village' with gaze fixed on their camera floating ahead of and slightly above them. I've often wondered whether, as they trawl through the skipload of photos back at home, they have the faintest idea where they were taken.
On Thursday we celebrated our wedding anniversary by heading off to Málaga for the night. We had previously booked to spend a couple of nights at the Parador in the small town of Chinchón about 30km from Madrid, a five hour drive away. Then on Monday I saw the weather forecast for the whole of Spain; low temperatures and heavy rain until the middle of next week. We cancelled and decided to go to Málaga instead. The forecast was not wrong. Even in Málaga it was miserable, but we found a 'marisquería' (restaurant specialising in fish and seafood), just across the road from our hotel. Opposite was the invitingly named Bar Gin Tonic, so that was a good place for a pre-dinner drink. The only difficulty was deciding which combination of around fifty gins and a dozen or so tonics to choose. That's my kind of problem so it was no hardship.
We had intended to make our way back to the bus station on Friday morning by way of the large central market where we could find some fish for our evening meal, but the weather was so miserable that we just got a taxi straight to the bus station and came home early.
Tomorrow is another important day in this part of Spain. The country is divided into seventeen 'autonomous communities', the largest and one of the poorest being Andalucía. It is governed by the Junta de Andalucía, and tomorrow is election day. We expats don't have a vote in Junta elections, so I find myself an interested observer from the sidelines. It promises to be an interesting election this time round, with a number of new parties, so it seems wise to wait for the results and then comment on here.
I had an appointment at the local hospital this morning to get the results of an echocardiogram. That goes all the way back to July of last year when I had what I described as a 'funny do', but which our daughter who was staying with us at the time, said I should see my doctor about. And so began a long drawn out process of being checked at the village health centre, then referred to the Internal Medicine Dept of the district hospital. A series of tests followed and threw up evidence of a mini stroke. Anticoagulant drugs were prescribed to reduce the risk of further clotting, but then an ECG showed a marked irregularity in the heart rhythm. So that called for an ultrasound scan of my heart. What with going to England for Christmas, that didn't happen till the end of January. Then my godson's wedding - also in England - had to be accommodated, so it was only today that I got to hear the results. Even then there was a delay. My appointment was at 10.30 but the specialist had been delayed up on the ward, so I didn't get in to see her until 11.35. That's about par in my UK experience, but quite exceptional here; you can normally rely on being seen within ten to fifteen minutes of your appointment time.
Anyway, five minutes later I was back outside with the news that my heart is fine; I just have an irregular heartbeat which she is not worried about. No more tests, no treatment necessary, no more appointments. I think a glass of something might be called for this evening.
Now that carnival is behind us we have to wait for April to bring us Holy Week. In the meantime it's a case of plodding our way through March. The temperatures are up and down; some days it feels like spring, others it's like winter again. Some migratory birds are starting to arrive but not yet in substantial numbers. Restaurants which had closed at the end of November are starting to reopen but on restricted hours. It's all a bit up in the air.
On the domestic front we had to get a guy in to fix the dishwasher, but he seems to have done more harm than good, so tomorrow I have to wait in for a new machine to be delivered and installed. Then on Wednesday it's off to the hospital for an appointment with my specialist to get the results of my echocardiogram and learn what, if anything, happens next. Oh, and I'm only 54 hits short of 10,000 on this blog. There's something to look forward to.