Saturday, 12 May 2012

Clivias and a farmer’s emblem

One of the most memorable of the many picturesque places we visited in Catalonia was the medieval village of Peratallada, about half way or some 20 kilometres towards the coast from Girona, the capital of the province where we stayed. We had lunch there at El Borinot restaurant and the ‘Bumblebee’, as the Catalan title translates, certainly was a place to remember.

Orange bush lilies (Clivia miniata) led our way to the restaurant at the end of a side street. We sat outside at a long table the restaurador arranged for our group in front of the place and were served an excellent lunch consisting of local specialties.

When leaving the place we stopped to admire the old stone building. Its handsome facade was decorated with an emblem and some text carved in stone above the windows indicating that it was built in 1594. My friends daughter and her Spanish partner had already continued towards the main square but luckily my friend speaks Spanish, too, so she asked the owner about the history of the place.

The gentleman told the house was one of the oldest buildings in the village and had been in his family for several generations, probably six if I remember correctly – my Catalan skills are even more non-existing than those of my Castellano although I may understand something thanks to my basic knowledge of French. He was visibly pleased by someone’s interest in the historic building, which attracted even the old lady of the house to step outside to explain about the emblem.

The symbol carved in stone was clearly designed to bring good luck to a farmer. There is an ox in the middle with the sun above and soil underneath, as the old lady told us. I can’t decipher much of the Latin inscription accompanying it but it probably refers to the strength given by the sun and the earth to provide the farm’s livelihood.

However, the text above the other window is explicit: Labor improbe omnia vincit, ‘Hard work conquers all’. This is a belief also our ancestors – and even I in a more modest scale only a few decades ago – had to rely on but it sometimes seems the truth in it has gone with the wind since then.

The few extra sentences with a ‘stranger’ were handsomely rewarded: both parties left the scene most contented. This time my lack of language skills served as an excuse to be silent but it felt as though there were some hope for me. I may have finally reached the age when I might be able to forget about my modesty and shyness and start talking to someone without any actual reason once in a while. Hooray to that!

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