February 29, 2008

Hand signal

We were trying to siesta at about two this afternoon when my mobile bleeped, announcing an incoming text. This intrigued me for a second or two, since the only person who ever texts me is R, save people replying to my texts. But I haven't sent any for some while, so who could it be? The excitement abated when I realised it must be Vodaphone advertising something, which outcome I predicted to R, before picking up the mobile from my bedside cabinet and revealing that it was, indeed, a promotion from Vodaphone.

"Did you know it wasn't from me?" asked R. I did, I said. So R - having recently discovered that there are different ringtones for incoming calls depending on whether or not the number is in my address book - asked if that was how I knew. "Was it because of the tone?"

"No", I said. "I knew it wasn't you texting me because your hand was in mine."

February 28, 2008

Stone me

If, instead of heading south from Angües, you go north towards the Sierra de Guara, you're more likely to see birds of prey than storks - kestrels, eagles, vultures, sometimes even sitting on a telepone pole beside the road, sometimes circling, not far above, their cloak-like wings astretch. I was once standing on a hill in Abiego, admiring an olive grove below, when I saw the shadow of an eagle sweep over the olive trees: it seemed enormous and practically on top of me, and for a second, until it left the grove behind, I almost expected to be carried off, like Sinbad by the roc.

I have never seen one, and quite likely never will, but in the Sierra and in the Pyrenees beyond them, there still survive a few pairs of Lammergeier, the bearded vulture or quebrantahuesos, shatterbones. These pick up smaller creatures and drop them onto rocks to break them open and gain access to their flesh. It's how Aeschylus is supposed to have died: not by being grabbed and thrown to his death, but by having a tortoise dropped onto his head from a great height, by a bearded vulture who mistook his bald pate for a stone.

February 27, 2008

Hasta la vista

In the flat above the shop there's an old man, Mateo, who often comes round to talk to R about this and that. His home village, some thirty-five kilometres south-east of Huesca, is Pertusa: we drove past it the other day, travelling to the Civil War museum at Robres, through Angües, Bespén and then turning before Pertusa to go through Sesa and Grañén. The road goes up into the hills and R must have had a fantastic view from the passenger seat: the Somontano plain with Pertusa right below us, and above the village but below us still, the circling storks who make their homes in the churches and the water towers across the province in the spring.

I should have liked to stop and watch the storks myself, and enjoy the view: but I will never enjoy it now. A few days after our trip, R was talking to Mateo. She said we had been to his village and enjoyed the view from the adjacent hillside road. Did we know, he asked, what role the hill had played in the life of the village? When there was a dog that they didn't want, the villagers would take it to the top of that hill, and throw it to its death.