Only three hundred people, mostly women and children leave the fortress of Hondarribia after a siege lasting two months. Over 16,000 canon rounds have been fired and the city is almost destroyed. But those three hundred people walk out, the city does not surrender and the French, all 27,000 men plus two warships are forced to scuttle away. After two months the Spanish army relieves a city that has been defended only by local men, women and children.
This was three hundred and sixty one years ago. However the gratitude of the people of Hondarribia to the people that helped defend the town resulted in a vow to the Virgin of Guadalupe (the patron saint of Hondarribia) to continue to thank her for her intervention during the resistance, siege and ultimate relief of the town. That vow is kept to this day.
We arrived on day one. The first night we saw a single band, last night there were maybe two or three, this evening we lost count.
All marching and preparing, I hesitate to say practicing, because they are march and note perfect for the grand Alarde on 8th September.
Three hundred years ago the defenders arrived playing pipes and drums and carrying what weapons they had from pitchforks to guns.
Today they leave the guns and pitchforks behind but keep the pipes and drums. Each night this week the town is filled with more and more people and more and more bands leading up to the grand finale the Alarde, when the bands march up to the old city and a great feast of celebration begins.
It has been a pleasure and an honour to have unexpectedly been part of these celebrations. Thank you Hondarribia.
Love Gillie x
Today is our 20th wedding anniversary. We met at the Boss’s brother’s wedding. He married an old school friend of mine. She and I met on our first day at boarding school on 16th September 1973… and now we are sisters in law.
The Boss proposed four weeks after we first met. As I was living and working in Sussex and he was living and working in Glasgow that means we had only met three times before he proposed. I knew he would propose that weekend. I told Chrissie, with whom I then shared an office at Sightsavers that I knew he would propose that weekend. She laughed but laughed again on Monday when I told he had and I had accepted.
So twenty years and three children later we are in Australia and have had the most wonderful laid back day. We travelled up to Nimbin;
ate samosas in the park in the craft market and listened the music; drank margaritas at The Balcony
and watched the world wander by; had stupendous burrundi and chips at The Fish Head
and listened to the drummers on the beach; lay on the beach whilst I taught the Boss the little I knew of the southern hemisphere constellations (the Southern Cross and the Keel); watched the fire dancers; wandered back to the market and bought our daughters a present and came back to our apartment for a glass of wine and some good music.
What do I want now? Not a lot. I am going home with a drive to divest myself of more stuff I don’t need or want. I am going home with a desire to do what we want to whilst we can. I am going home with a wish to instill in my children that life only happens once. I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that if my daughters said they wanted to buy a bakkie (hello my SA friends 🙂 ) and just cruise around until they ran out of money or decided what they wanted to do with their lives then I would be happy with that. We only have one shot at this life, why should it be something that other people think it should be?
Today is a perfectly ordinary day other than the fact it is the day when I celebrate my first half century on this planet. I hope for many more years to come but I am grateful for those that I have already had. I am a very fortunate and happy lady. Some of the wonderful things I have experienced:
- seeing something I have planted and nutured grow and bloom
- meeting my three daughters for the first time
- crying in despair and wiping my eyes and realising I can still laugh and smile
- the smell of a warm, slightly damp dog
- a family, oddly shaped, but a family nonetheless
- opening my stocking and knowing that Father Christmas had been in my room whilst I slept
- the gentle touch of my husband
- a wonderful roof over my head
- the chance to live in another culture
- the burning passion to set things right
- an education
- friendships of all shapes and sizes
- glamour when I was just old enough to understand and young enough not to care
- freedom of expression
- Caithness and Sutherland
- belief in tomorrow
- big blowsey garden parties that go on forever and where children sleep where they fall
- seeing dreams, both large and small, come to fruition
- being a stay at home mummy
- writing a book
- summers in North Dakota
I could go on and on, but you get my drift. My life is not necessarily what I expected but it is all the richer for that. In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway bet ten dollars that he could write a complete story in just six words. He wrote: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” He won the bet. An American online magazine asked its readers to write their lifestory in six words. You will find mine at the bottom of the page here.
So to celebrate those fifty wonderful years I have invited 14 friends to dinner on Saturday. As it is my birthday I shall not be cooking, the food will be provided by the supremely talented Andy at Papaya. However, I do need to decorate the table and so forth and fully intend to do so without buying a single thing.
The before, I have started to put a few of the glass jars out but most of them are soaking to get them all nice and sparkly!
I can’t show you the after as I haven’t done it yet! However I am thinking garden flowers and greenery in the various sized glass jars.
We have lots of 2 and 3 candles silver candlelabras but I am prefering glass jars and bottles with candles and tea lights. The lavendar is still doing beautifully so that is going to feature heavily and I have decided to starch the damask napkins so that I can be creative with the folding (more flowers there I think too). I have plenty of empty tin cans of various sizes from small to vast and ribbon and flowers will be going on there as well. Chair covers are in the wash but I am not hugely fond of them, they are too dark. Not sure I can rustle up 16 made to measure covers in 2 days so am going to have to think a bit there.
We have plenty of crockery and cutlery. However, a recent rash of slippery fingers has reduced our large glassware somewhat so that i have had to buy. Ebay has been a godsend. Crystal glasses go for very little. I have stuck to a shape and mixed and matched. Wonderful bargains and beautiful glasses that will give pleasure for years to come (so long as the slippery fingers don’t get them).
On of our new glasses, full of course, next to my favourite Inuit bear.
After photograph on Saturday. This is my dry run for Christmas. No buy parties.