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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

NUNILO Y SUS AMIGOS

Today I found a new walk. It's further than my usual and on it I met no one except a river, a dead frog, a red kite, the Milano Real version, a rock left over from the ice age I presume, some magpies, a centipide, snails, slugs and the general 'season of mists and fruitfulness'. It has been one of those fruitful days where you feel you've done everything. Walked, spent time with a good, kind friend, drank coffee, had a row, walked, stood alone and never felt more invincible as you stared at a castle, went back, cooked, cleaned, ate and drank well, took in some culture and education of your own making, did a weird promotional job while standing in the sun, answered the telephone to a friend not seen for a while, taught, learnt, visited someone new, got some more work that should be agreeable, enjoyed your mosquito bites, arranged to meet for more coffee with another old friend, listened, wept, thought, didn't think, wrote, answered, blew yourself away, helped out on a quiz night in another land, got a twinge of Stendhal Syndrome while staring at a photo, and still I haven't gone to bed.

Nunilo has had to wait as I wasn't able to get to the Instituto de Estudios Altoragoneses until today. Nunilo is that. Not Nunila, although the computer at the Institute only recognised Nunila the feminine. If you are lost at this point let me explain that Nunilo was originally a man I met in a bar dressed as a drunken ass. It was carnival and he was wearing a mask of a donkey and he had to keep removing it to have a swig of his beer. He was so nice to me everytime I met him and was always delighted to see me and thought being a teacher was an honourable thing to do. He would hand out strange calendars every year that he had made and they always bore his name and references to The Communist Party amongst other things. Nunilo wasn't his real name but that's what I called him. It wouldn't be difficult to find out as he was well known in these parts. He was famous for being one of the first people from the town to visit The Soviet Union which he did with great aplomb. He got kicked out of The Bolshoi Ballet for shouting hello in true Aragonese style at a fellow villager he had spotted during the show. As he was dragged away kicking and screaming by the security services he was heard crying 'Soy Communista tambien', 'I'm a Communist too'. He later buried a photo of Begonia, a girl he loved, in the snow in Siberia. Henderson in his usual callous way said that in years to come anthropologists will find the photo and remark, 'you see, Neanderthals did have cameras'.

Well, poor Nunilo died a few years ago in a car crash on a notorious part of the road here. Mariano, a good pal of Henderson's wept buckets at his funeral and many others cried 'no!' when they found out the solemn news. I didn't know until later that Nunilo was a twin who was martyred with her sister in appalling circumstances many centuries ago here in this province. There is a well in the old quarter that has an inscription dedicated to the sisters but I didn't know their story very well until recently. The women at the institute were so friendly and helpful this morning when I turned up on my quest to find out more about these two girls.

From what I understand so far it is more than a myth or legend to get us to hate muslims and that there is, if you investigate further, some anecdotal evidence that the two sisters were born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother and when their father died they took the Christian faith but under Sharia Law this was not permitted. This was during the 9th century when Spain was a Muslim country and to disobey the rules and regulations was a brave or stupid thing to do.
It seems the sisters were decapitated and their remains scattered far and wide ending up in Navarra but also bits came back to Huesca and Adahuesca where they were born. Their Saints' day is the 22 of October which will be an interesting day. Santa Agueda or Agatha whose breasts were cut off is celebrated here with puddings and bread in the shape of her breasts so I wonder what bits we will be served this autumn.

Perhaps I shouldn't get started on religious relics, so I am going to happily retire now with all the literature the Institute kindly lent me and report back later.

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