Hombres y Mujeres
Barrio rivalry isn’t the only mechanism of village discord. The eternal struggle between the sexes provides some good sport and forms the basis of regular and very interesting village gossip. The distaste one barrio feels for the other isn’t dependent on age unlike the conflict between man and woman where it is fundamental to the see-saw of emotions which fuel the struggle.
The more senior couples, those who regard the application of decongestant chest rub a scandalous act find avoidance to be the best recipe for togetherness. Most mature Alquerian wives believe their men to be totally unreliable at best and all a complete waste of rations.
The men are shooed into the streets every morning before the daily house scouring begins. Most men scuttle to their secret places to think. Alfonso Delgado in the security of the mirador remembers his days with the Ejército Popular during the Civil War. Alone in a hostile environment, living off his wits, danger around every corner, much like being married he muses. Some just wander through the olive groves counting the leaves and watching the world go by. Others walk the high sierra to the north of Alqueria. An uninhabited semi wilderness, just a vast expanse with very little in the way of humanity, rather like Rodriquez’s wife.
As the older men try desperately to avoid their womenfolk so the younger ones actively pursue theirs starting the whole ridiculous farce over again.
There was once a naive charm to the courtship ritual. Traditionally the courter would climb to the cliff-top overlooking Alqueria and having regained his breath call to the courtee in the Village below. The echoes from the cliff-face gave an eerie and surreal quality to the proceedings. The courter then climbs back down into the Village and the arms of his intended. This tradition isn’t used much anymore as Alquerian girls of today can’t be relied on to wait. Often, after the climb down the exhausted beau has found his intended being attended to by another who wasn’t silly enough to climb the ruddy cliff in the first place. This has been the cause of many a fist fight and many a young lady scuttling off home, guilt ridden but fulfilled.
Those of working age should be too busy keeping hearth and kin together but somehow find the time to join in the fun. Partners change regularly amidst brawling husbands and screaming wives.
Perhaps the wedding service should be altered to read ‘Love, honour and obey at least until someone with a bigger car turns up.’