Sunday, 30 December 2012


On the 21st June 1969, I was sitting in the only bar in Frigiliana which had a television set and where everyone had congregated to watch the historic landing on the moon.
 At 3 0'clock in the morning half of those who were sitting there waiting for something exciting to happen had fallen asleep with the boredom of the programme. Diagrams had been shown, scientists no one understood had talked for hours about spaceships and rockets, and the only person benefiting from the occasion was Antonio, the bar owner, who hadn’t stopped serving black coffees and cognacs to keep everyone awake.
 Then, from outside, came the familiar clip clopping sound of a mule cloming up the steep cobbled street to the bar. It was Paco with his beast of burden on the way to his vineyards up on the Southern slope of the mountain. Paco, if not over bright, was a hard worker who trekked up there once a week and stayed for several days minding his crops.
 He tied the mule's rope to the bars of a window and came into the bar, straw hat askew on his balding head, his huge teeth protruding beyond the lower lip, his gums receding, his fingers and hands ingrained with the dark earth he had been working all his life.
 He stared bewildered at his fellow workers sitting there in the comparative darkness.
 'Que pasa ? Why aren’t you all on your way to your fields or in bed with your fat ugly wives ?'
he grumbled at everyone.
 'The moon,' came the reply from a few tired voices.
 'The moon ?' Paco repeated, then, after a long pause, 'What of the moon ?'
 'The moon is on television,' Antonio said pouring him an anis seco and hot chocolate.
 Paco stared at the television high up in a corner of the bar. There was a picture of a space ship door opening and a man in a rubber suit and helmet coming slowly down the steps.
 'Ahora ! Ahora ! Ahora !' the commentator shouted with great excitement. 'Now, now it’s happening. Now the first man ever is landing on the moon !'
Puzzled, Paco looked from the television screen to the audience to Antonio.'
'Children's television at this hour of the morning ?'
'The first man ever to land on the moon is doing so right now' Antonio informed him. 'It’s a major historic moment. Sit down and watch.'
 'A man on the moon ! It’s a film hombre !'
 'No Paco' Antonio said patiently, 'That man there, coming down the steps, is a real astronaut.  He was sent up there by rocket with two others. It’s happening right now.'
 Paco was unsettled
 'What’s he going to do up there ?'
 Antonio shrugged his shoulders unsure of the answer.
 'Well, what is he going to do up there ?'
 'He’s dancing,' someone in front of the set shouted, and the tension was relieved by laughter.
 The mule snorted outside.
 'A man on the moon ...' Paco muttered to himself. He drank his chocolate and downed the anis seco. He left the bar, went out into the roadway and looked up at the offending moon.
He untied the rope and led his mule on up the steep cobbled street.
Antonio picked up the empty glass and cup and put them in the sink. Then the clip clopping of the mule was heard coming down again.
'How is he going to get back, your man on the moon ?'  Paco, standing in the doorway, was truly concerned.
 'It’s very complicated' Antonio said. 'They have retro rockets which return the spaceship to earth'
 'But when ? The moon will be gone soon.'
 'It will only be going as far as we are concerned. It will only be going down behind the hills Paco. It will still be somewhere.'
 Paco’s brow creased with the pain of difficult thought.
 'What’s his name, the man on the moon ?'
 'I don’t know,' Antonio was getting  irritated, 'Some Americano.'
 'Does his mother know ?'
 'Does his mother know what ?'
 'Does his mother know that he’s up there ?'
 'Well of course she knows. The whole world knows ! What difference does it make ?'
 'Antonio,'  Paco said quietly, straightening up, 'I have been working in the campo since I was a niño. I know the moon, I have had conversations with the moon, I know what it does and what it does not do, but she might not understand.'
 'His mother ?'
 'Yes, his mother Antonio. His mother might not understand. When the moon has gone she may be afraid that he has gone with it. When it gets smaller, when there is only half of it, or a quarter of it, she might be afraid he could fall off. Would your mother understands it if you said you were going to the moon ?'
Antonio sighed deeply. 'These people know what they are doing.'
'I hope so,' Paco said turning away. 'I hope so.'
And when he was a little distance up the street, he stopped and shouted back.' I hope he had the sense to take a parachute !' 

Paco's mule
Antonio's bar

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog. Judy Browder told me about it. I have two blogs. One is photo based on Nature with little commentary.

    Twoeye Workshop:

    The other is FowlPlay about my life with chickens. I hope you check them out.