This morning was the opening event of the big festival this weekend, an orienteering foot race that the man was planning on entering, but as all of our compasses, we only own about 10, are either in Florida or the basement in Canada, and he had never done this before he wasn't anticipating brilliance. He went off in the morning to register, and ended up in the short course, only about 3 or 4k in the city, and much simpler from an orienteering perspective as it is all in town, and there is a fixed route.
We all got organised to go and cheer him on, I went down with the dog and the kids, and the camera, and my red straw cowboy hat - let me tell you I STAND OUT in the crowd in that - and water...blahblahblah. It turns out that sweet husband's start isn't for an hour and a half, but we stick around to watch the starts of the other folks. Have you even been to an orienteering race? Well, the start is not, um, dramatic. Picture a bunch of people in fairly normal clothing standing around joking in a ragged sort of line in a park with some guy in the background periodically saying, 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds, now and he blows a whistle. At this point every one leans over casually, picks up their map, takes a symbolic step or two forward and stares intently at the map. One or two people hare out of the starting area, and I assume stop around the corner to study. Gradually in dribs and drabs they head off into the distance. These faster runners have a number of targets they have to get to, but they can do it in any order they want, so they need to stand around a route plan a bit...
It looks kinda like this:
Well, more and more people go away, and we are still sitting there...eventually they announce that they are going to start the youths, the man seems to have ended up in this field. At a spry 50 this is a bit of a stretch, but he is game. Then we see the first toddlers start. I am not kidding, a couple with a pair of toddlers are doing the route...I assume a lot of carrying will be involved as this is three to four kilometers. At this point the man decides that maybe we should all do it as a family...looks good to me, so he asks if we can, and sure enough, no problem!
Well, the girls and I are not really dressed for this event, but no problemo, too late to go to the john, which eldest and I both need to do, but that's OK. We're off, I however am a bit of an anchor for the proceedings. You see, I am not really a runner at the best of times. Indeed I am not at all, and I am now wearing sandals, carrying the camera in it's normal case which is banging relentlessly against my hip, I am also dealing with the dog, who is not used to this running thing, and hauling a two liter bottle of water. Shall we say that I am bringing up the rear, but we hit the first four stops and then realise that the next one is actually pretty far away, and I have already walked out there before today and frankly have NO desire to do so again. Eldest who is wearing crocs, needs to use the facilities and is not a keen runner, and I back out. Youngest and the man rabbit off. The man is well equipped for this, you know, he actually has running shoes on, and is carrying the map, and is actually fit enough to complete the course. Youngest has youth and energy on her side, and a basically competitive attitude although she is handicapped by her footwear, last years sandals that were never comfy, and which her toes now hang over the end of. I know, neglectful mother, in my defense we did go on Thursday to the only shoe store in town with kids shoes, and there was nothing there. I also offered to go to a bigger town on Friday with niblet, but she didn't want to.
Eldest and I, after our graceful retirement from the race, head home where we both go to the loo, the dog gets a drink, and I pick up jackets for everyone. Then to the market for some salami and the baker for a couple of baguettes, and down to the course to discover that our incredibly fleet family members have already finished and we weren't there to cheer them on. WOW. Little one is FAST!
They finished 12th out of 42 overall as in men, women and children in their 4k race, and many of the participants, indeed most of them were 16 to 20. The first three people in both the women's and men's categories were in their late teens to early twenties, so if I may say so, this was a very impressive performance on the part of the eight year old. Looking at the times, the man figures he could have won the course, the kids would have beat him if it was a straight race, but the kids weren't very good at reading the map and kept getting lost.
We saw this ENORMOUS bumble bee while we were waiting:
One other strange cultural moment was that as we settled in to eat our sandwiches in the park waiting for the prize giving, everyone was looking at us strangely, and no one else was eating. It was noon. Exactly. It looked like a picnic without the food.
Catalans eat lunch MUCH later.
After we left we went by the placa where there had been a party going on as well. There had been a band that I swear was playing bluegrass music with Catalan lyrics. I heard 'Puff the magic dragon' and that song that goes "I never knew just what it was, and I guess I never will'. The other thing that was going on was the bringing out of the gegants who had been restored....
Tonight and I think tomorrow as well they are going to be parading around the town. They are worn by large men who stand inside under the skirts, you can see the panels where they can see out...There were also two kids dressed like the King and Queen...
The gegants are quite traditional, and their presence in the Catalan tradition was in the past supported by the wealthy merchant classes. The textile industry was, until recently, probably fairly described as the cornerstone of the Catalan economy, and in the past all the different companies would donate costumes for the gegants made of their most sumptuous materials and dressed in the most up to date styles as a form of advertising as well as good will.
There is much more going on tonight, several parades. I don't know how the camera and I will fair in the lower light conditions, we'll have to see.
Pretty interesting so far.