Published: April 11th 2012April 6th 2012
Romanes eunt domus?
Stwike him Centurion, vewy wuffly
Good Friday was drawing to a close and under a cloudless sky a full moon was to rise from behind the mountains.
Decided to grab a bit to eat and visit the off licence for a bottle of wine to drink with some friends around the pool. Going to have an early night as tomorrow have to be up early as going to the thermals.
On the way out bump into Paul, who works at the hostel. From Barcelona, he is a very friendly guy, long black hair with a piercing through the bridge of his nose.
He informs me that at the bar I call 'The Fire Bar', but is actually called El Rustica, some live traditional music will be playing tonight. He will be there watching.
"Sounds good. See you there".
Meet Anita and we head off for something to eat, a little cafe/bar near the church on the main square.
On paying the bill a most bizarre occurance.
Six chilean men, riding bareback on horses through the village dressed up as Roman Centurians were pulling a man dressed in nothing but a bed sheet by his hands which were bound with rope. They were also whipping him across
his back. Finally came a man dressed in black, who had 'whited up' his face. Death himself.
From the main square sombre music was blasting out across the whole area.
Clearly the depiction of Christs last day on earth.
However, the Centurians helmets were made from cardboard and covered with silver foil that had been painted gold. One of the helmets had seen better days as had fallen apart and was stuck to the Roman/Chilean head with sticky tape.
Christ had a large telephone directory strapped to his back to prevent whip injury. It looked as thick as a London yellow pages and made him look more like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. No beard either. Every depiction of Jesus I have seen in Chile has Jesus with a beard. Maybe this guy had one around the corner but it fell off, the sticky tape qualities not as good as the Centurians?
With the cranky somber music blasting out, and the romans dragging Jesus along towards it, sticky tape and yellow pages and all, I could not help myself.
"Thwoe him to the thwoor" I shouted in my best Michael Palin voice.
I had stepped out from supper onto the
set of the remake of Monty Pythons Life of Brian.
The fire bar and the traditional music would have to wait. This was pure gold.
I grabbed Anita and we headed off to the church in the square. A woman was talking over the sombre music. I think she was saying 'blessed are the cheesemakers' though of course she could have been referring to all other dairy producers. My Spanish is not that good.
As a described before the town square is dominated by a lovely church with steps leading from the grounds up to the front door. Tree lined and fountains. Lovely place to sit and relax it is the focal point of the village. Some graffiti sure,protesting about something but that is normal in Chile. Harks back to the dark days of Pinochet.
Virtually the whole village had turned out to watch the spectacle as well as the curious tourists.
First thing to do was negotiate my way through the street sellers who had kindly placed all their shite on blankets on the paths. The usual suspects from the Curico wine festival were in town, and despite the important message behind what was being re-enacted, they were not
Chilean beat combo
wine, fire, full moon and friends
going to miss an opportunity to sell their handmade shite and tatt and barking puppies. "Handmade in Chile? Handmade in China more like.!"
I was suddenly starting to turn into John Cleese. Let's face it I am as tall as him and he does have the same initials as the Lord Jesus himself.*
By now Brian, sorry JC, had been pulled onto the steps of the church and surrounded by the Romans and Death. A huge bedsheet had been strung up between two trees and a movie was being played on it. Robert Powell in the TV film from the 1970's 'Jesus of Nazareth'. An elderly nun was reading passages out through the loud speaker. Not understanding a word my John Cleese was really taking over now as I looked at the graffiti on the wall.
"what this then? Romanos eunt domus? People called Romanes, they go, the house?"
" it says Romans go home"
If I had had a pot of paint and a paint brush I swear I would have run up and given it to Brian. "now write it out a hundred times and if it's not done by sunrise i'll cut your balls off"
Luckily the shite sellers had not anticipated my desire for red paint and they had none in stock..
Suddenly the nun seemed to float back into the shadows and vanish, seconds later appearing behind us sat on an Ikea chair in the back of a blue Toyota pick up truck. Amazing magic trick. Also in the truck was a portable loudspeaker and blaring out was the tune 'sound of silence' by Simon and Garfunkel. She shouted out something and then we all followed Brian and the Romans out of the square and then formed up behind the Toyota, which I immediately christened the 'Nunz-mobile'
Absolute comedy gold was happening before my eyes, and I was an extra in it. A small part I know but an important part.
In front of the 'nunz-mobile' was the obligatory police vehicle with its red lights flashing.(chile police cars have red lights rather than our blue)
Now I was a young boy at Sunday School in Southampton when I last studied the crucifixion of Christ, but I cannot ever remember reading that when he was lead through the streets he had a police escort, a nun in the nunz-mobile playing a hit tune from the 1960's, and Romans wearing helmets held together with sticky tape. Oh, and no beard. By now the whole film was whizzing through my head. Would we get the 'stoning of the old man' sketch for daring to say Jehovah, or the 'Welease Woderick and no Thpencer Twacy' classic. Time would tell.
Off we went around the village. The streets had been lined with candles, hundreds of them. On the side of the mountain a huge cross of candles was burning brightly. The full moon lighting our way as we followed the procession.
Our first stop was by the hut where I had started my horse trekking last week.
The romans were now really enjoying themselves and hamming it up for the crowd, which numbered about 100.
They whipped the telephone directory with gusto, drank water and then sprayed it from their mouths over poor Brian.
"crucifixion? , out the door, line on the left, one cross each " I said.
And with that I had guessed the scene right. From behind the tour hut a cross was produced and handed to Brian to carry.
Some more whipping and we were off again.
By now some guests from the hostel had joined us. Andrea and her husband Aki, a very very funny Japonese guy who speaks English just like how I imagined a Japonese person to. They met 40 years ago in Napal and apart from raising two children in Sydney, have been on the road ever since. Reckon they have visited almost every country in the world.
I commented to them we're we're in the remake of Life of Brian, to howls of laughter from Aki, who was trying to remember what this event reminded him of but could not put his finger on it.
So on we walked. By now I was hoping, ney praying we would do the Juniper bush scene, where Brain disturbs a wonderful Terry Jones in the desert and Brian tries to convince the crowd he is not the messiah.
I was not disappointed. The nun clearly had that scene in mind to at the next stop. On the edge of the village, a little bit deserty, we stopped by some bushes for some more whipping.
The crowd gathered round, a hushed anticipation, flash cameras and video machines poised
The nun read a passage. Not having a good knowledge of religious Spanish I could not quite make out what she said but I think it was:
" I am not the Messiah, honestly"
"only the true messiah would deny his devinity"
"ok then, I AM the Messiah"
"He IS the Messiah" I shouted.
The next stop a man from the crowd stepped out to help Brian carry the cross.
My urge to shout out 'RUN' was overwhelming. It would have made day if Brian had legged it and we then nailed up the good samaritan ( yes I know the Samaritan story is in a different part of the bible but bear with me).
I moved into the crowd, stated at Brian and with my eyes urged him to peg it.
But despite my strange eye movements and mind tranferance powers he chose to ignore them.
We marched on.
Brian had strayed from my imaginary script,this was clearly going to go on for hours and despite my attempts at direction through the power of thought I gave up and went down the pub shouting, in my best Mrs Nellie Goosecreature voice "He's NOT the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"
I met Andrea and Agi later. To my utter disappointment the nun did not play 'Always look on the bright side of life' when they tied Brian to the cross. Glad I left. Fucking Judean Peoples Front. Splitters.
Sat down for a glass of wine at El Rustica to enjoy the music that was to start shortly. My chair collapsed from under me and I went arse over tit. Twice in one week! . This is getting ridiculous. Andrea was telling me that there is some sort of Inca legend that the magnatism in the earth around Pisco Elqui is very powerful, it being on several mystical lay lines, a bit like Glastonbury, but a lot warmer.
If that is true then I must have had some sort of metallic object shoved into me without my knowledge recently because arse over tit twice in three days is more than a coincidence.
The music was fantastic. It started late because one of the main players was also a Roman guard and was still whipping and abusing Brian somewhere in the village.
Guitars,double bass, flute, mandolin type instrument, pipes and song. A rollocking good two hours of traditional song. Wonderful. Wine, song and friends under a full moon. I just hope they don't leave Brian nailed up all night.
* That joke kindly reproduced with kind permission of Mel Smith, Rowan Atkinson and the 'Not The Nine O'clock News Team'