Elca seriu

These are the old steps at the back of the farmhouse, or ‘caserio’.  They are a reminder of a life now gone from this region: the steps down from the upper storey of the house to the lower part where the animals lived, with their feed in the manger pictured in an earlier blog post.  The name of the house in Valenciano is El Caseriu (el caserio in Castellano – or Spanish – ‘the farmhouse’).  As mentioned earlier, a building worker was charged with the task of fixing ceramic lettering to the facade of the house and not understanding any Valenciano, he put the space in the wrong place, so it reads Elca seriu.

I just knew this had to be an amusing mistake!

At the international school where I now work, most of the lessons are in English but there are several lessons delivered in Spanish (such as Spanish language, which is best done in that way) and the regional separatism of Spain also requires that children learn whatever pointless regional dialect is politically favoured – just to show that nobody likes centralism imposed from the clowns in Madrid.  It is like the imposition of Welsh language traffic signs all over a principality where everyone speaks English and watches English television and Hollywood films, and for a split second in every day stops for one proud moment and admires a traffic sign in Welsh that nobody understands, and says, “Ah, that’s my culture.”

So, as reported in the English press with great glee last year, a Welsh sign went up in a lorry park which said: “Gone to lunch, please leave a message.”  It was an email from the Welsh translation office of the council sent in response to a request from the roadsign department, asking for a Welsh translation of the words LORRY PARK.  They duly printed the words on the email that was returned to them.

I went to see a teacher responsible for the obligatory Valenciano lessons and I explained the amusing mistake in the sign on my rabit house.  She laughed. “Of course, I know it is just a mistake, I said, but does Elca seriu have a meaning?”

“Oh yes,” she replied.  “It would mean, ‘This is becoming serious’…”

Well, some might say, “So what?”  But if you have been following the rabit’s piligriminage for a while, I think you might say something different.  A journey that begins with a completely uncertain future, continues through various trials, then enters a period of hope and promise of a new life, and finally comes to rest in a solid old traditional farmhouse called ‘This is becoming serious’ – recently vacated by people who stuck a cheap paper Taoist symbol of the I Ching hexagrams above the door…

Well, I don’t know about you, but that is a pretty astonishing confirmation to me that I’ve hit the exact spot I was meant to arrive in when I left Canterbury in July to begin these wanderings.

The whole I Ching nonsense thrown down as a cheeky gauntlet by Reb on the CP&S blog – just a few days before I found the house – and to which I responded with a few touche remarks about hexagram 23 and the Fool in the tarot pack, added an extra comic touch to this timing.  I only went to see the house last Saturday.  I laughed aloud when I saw the I Ching hexagrams above the door (thinking, “That’s coming down for a start!”)

I wondered a couple of weeks ago, as I finally arrived here in Spain to start my teaching job in the Benidrome” (as I have begun to call it in my own rabit piligriminage language), whether this blogue would continue once the journey finished.  Already, once before in France in August, I thought the blogue should finish once my Santiago piligriminage path was completed…  But it seemed to continue with a momentum of its own.  Readers wanted it to coninue too.  So I kept the blogue going.

Now I am in Elca seriu.  I am moving into the house on Saturday, and there is no phone.  No Internet connection.  No way to blogue from there.  But there is a donkey field.  A field on which there are already two imagined future donkeys.  This is what it looks like. It is the field on which the donkey shelter will be built, as the next stage in this journey, this piligriminage.  Before leaving Canterbury in July, I had no idea of teaching in Spain in September and no plan to live in a farmhouse with donkeys, yet it all seems very simple and entirely natural now.  Plus, so far, everything has been gift.

I do not think I have put any real effort into leaving behind all the immense and complicated problems I had faced.  It has all been given to me.  Generous people I did not know have aided my journey.  Good friends have given me space to recover from the nightmares of recent times.  A strange conjunction of events has meant that an imminent school inspection suddenly required management in a school to seek out a committed PSHE and Citizenship teacher who could also teach A-level Drama.   And this journey has taken me from darkness into light: from mad, bureaucratically crippled, over-policed England which is now a ‘surveillance state’, to a modern Spain where the state largely serves the needs of the citizen rather than polices them; they had enough of that under Franco, from 1939 to 1975!

And the symbol for this journey, more than anything else, has been the humble donkey.  The lovely Dalie and her companion Rosie.  The days on the road with Dalie.  The solid quiet, gentle intelligence, together with the obvious self-care that is ever present in a donkey, was a lesson to me that I could have not found anywhere else.  Donkeys look after themselves and they will not stand for any nonsense.  That is how they get their reputation for stubbornness, I suppose.  Try to make a donkey go where it is unsafe to go, or do what a donkey thinks is too risky, or just plain unnecessary from the donkey’s point of view (!) and everything comes suddenly to a halt.  The National Union of Teachers should launch a study programme based on donkey psychology and begin once again to represent teachers’ interests against the idiots in government (and their quangos) who want to push the profession beyond the sensible road surface it always walked on.  It is time we learned from donkeys.

Computer says no?  Sorry: donkey says forget the computer and get a life.  Elca seriu.


About Gareth Thomas

After a mixed career as an aircraft technician, London fringe theatre playwright, Franciscan friar, and secondary school teacher, I find myself dividing my time mostly between looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca and preparing a legal case against the corrupt management of my monstrous last employer - the Elians group - for unfair dismissal. I like to hear the wind in the pine trees. I do not like struggling to get a duvet into a duvet cover. My musical tastes are extinct and I have mostly given up cycle racing.
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5 Responses to Elca seriu

  1. Toad says:

    Make the most of it. I am told there are no donkeys in heaven. So live as long as possible. Down here.

  2. Toad says:

    Goddamit, Rabit,
    I have read the story twice carefully now, and am still unsure whether “Elca Seriu” is intentional or not. I’m not even sure if you are sure.
    Reb would know. But she’s in Monforte de Lema, or somewhere.

  3. Frere Rabit says:

    ‘Elca seriu’ is a complete mistake: it should have been ‘El caseriu’, but the space just happened to go in the wrong place.

    This very evening, to satisfy the rabit’s need for an internet connection, a man from Telefonica bolted a small satellite dish to the wall above the house name, and ‘Elca seriu’ (once known as El Caseriu’) for the first time in its long rustic history became connected to the world wide web. Getting serious.

  4. Toad says:

    Elca Seriu got me thinking – of new meanings made by word breaks. I doubt you remember The Crazy gang? Flanagan and Allen? Another of them was called Nosmo King. He got his name from the ‘No Smoking’ signs on train compartments.

    Or you might try a sign saying The Urgy, or if you were considering a sideline career as a therapist, well no..

    On a less serious topic, was the satellite dish and all the works expensive?

  5. Frere Rabit says:

    The satellite dish was installed at the landlord’s expense, so I don’t have the exact installation cost to hand, but I believe it was in the region of 280 Euros. The monthly charge is 32 Euros (+IVA) but note that is only Internet; if I also had a landline on the same satellite phone connection the monthly rental for that line would be extra. The company who did the installation is Wipzona Broadband and IP Telephony: contact@wipzona.es or see website, http://www.wipzona.es

    The order was put in on Tuesday and the satellite was installed and configured by Friday. Try getting that done in England these days, then reconsider Cardinal Kaspar’s remarks about Britain being a ‘third world’ country. On most counts, compared with modern Spain, it is!

    Hope this helps.

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