C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Guest Post: Uniformly Gorgeous

Contributed by my truckbuddy Tim from England, now resident in Spain:

Tim’s Take on Spain

Uniformly Gorgeous - My Mijas Firemen

By way of a short prologue, I ought to say that this guest post should have been with you for the start of 2014. However, I managed to bracket Christmas and the New Year with visits to the hospital for surgery, which I then followed up with by having bronchitis. I’m not sure if Spain is still the sick-man of Europe, but I sure feel like the sick-man of Spain!

Anyway, although it’s a month late, the arrival of the new year is often symbolised by a baby, and the lovely image below shows our favourite Spanish goalkeeper, Iker Casillas (see my previous post if you missed him), holding his newborn son, Martín, who arrived on the 3rd of January. Needless to say, the Spanish press was full of jokes about Martín being in a safe pair of hands! Felicidades to Iker and mum Sara, and a big Hola to Martín.

Now, back to our subject, the first in an occasional series looking at Spanish men in uniform. Today it’s the turn of the my local firemen who are based in Mijas, one of the pretty white towns, or Pueblos Blancos, famous in Andalucia, and about 14 miles away from my home.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society” – so wrote Samuel Langhorne Clemens, under his pen name of Mark Twain.

“I love a man in uniform, or out of it come to that” – writes Tim Turner below, using his real name.

So let’s get my first guest post of the year off with a bang, or at least some smoke and flames. Here’s the smoke.

And here’s the flames. Who could resist a big red helmet like that?

Welcome to my local firemen, Los Bomberos de Mijas.

Continued after the jump . . .

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I love a man in uniform, or out of it come to that. Well, so, it seems, do the Spanish, though whether for the same reasons is open to debate! This romp through the uniformed boys of the Spanish Military and Emergency Services may provide some answers. And although I will weave in some personal tales of my life here in southern Spain, it’s really all about cute guys in and out of their kit.

So what is it about men in uniform? Why is it seen as desirable in Spain? Let’s look at some background information. Yes, this is the science bit! In any poll taken in Spain regarding public satisfaction with state institutions over the last decade, the military, followed by the police and emergency services, consistently come out top, with a rating of around 82% year on year. Over the last couple of years, the Royal Family has fallen from second place with an average 75% to 4th place now, with approximately 42%. Politicians, never that satisfying, have also fallen and now rank 6th, polling around 32%. Surprisingly, the Church is even lower, with about 25% in 8th position.

Despite the very real pain that is still felt by many after the civil war and Franco’s subsequent dictatorship, despite an attempted military coup as a fledgling democracy sought to end the years of oppression, the Spanish maintain their love affair with a man in uniform. Conscription only ended in 2001, so there remains a middle-aged generation that is generally comfortable with the idea of uniformed service and the look; Spanish men are sufficiently vain to realise that nothing cuts the mustard better than being a young man in a close-fitting uniform. Preferably one that comes with standard issue sunglasses and a sidearm with which to exercise your new-found authority. It is, of course, about machismo, but the wearing of any uniform is also seen as indicating an air of importance and legitimacy, both highly valued in Spanish culture. Unlike many countries where being a soldier or a policeman, say, is considered less than favourably, in Spain it denotes an ‘official’, someone in authority with a secure job, reasonable pay and prospects, and therefore worthy of public respect.

But let’s get back to the Bomberos. Being a fireman anywhere is not all about developing six-packs and muscle tone, important qualities though they are. And being one in the little municipality of Mijas, here on the Costa del Sol, is certainly no exception. Roughly every couple of years there are major fires along the whole of southern Spain. In 2011 a series of fires near Alicante killed two firemen. In September of the same year a major blaze took place in the countryside between Mijas and neighbouring Ojén. The last serious fire locally was on the 30th of August 2012.

I was out with Lulu on our evening walk and as we returned from our favourite spot, the little hill that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, I could see a strange cloud forming above the high ridge behind and beyond our home. Strange because it was pale brown, and seemed to be boiling over and along the ridge. Too early for the sun, setting over Gibraltar away to the west, to tinge the clouds orange and gold. The colour was sickly and the cloud had an unnatural viscosity as it bubbled and grew larger. The campo, the open countryside to the north was on fire.

By the time we got home, fine particles of grey and black ash had begun to fall silently through the warm evening air, a silence now broken by the wail of sirens as the police and fire services began to mobilise. I judged the fire to be a couple of miles at least inland from us, and heading away, to the east. In any event, the major highway which passes north of our community always acts as a fire break. No immediate threat then, but when we got home, Partner and I gathered our valuables together just in case.

Hailing from a land regularly bathed by the ‘warm, wet westerlies’, a phrase much beloved by my geography teachers and used to describe the rain-bearing winds from across the Atlantic, it always comes as a shock to realise that other natural hazards, apart from the wind and the rain, are out to get you.

As the evening wore on, the fire grew in both intensity and size. The wind had changed direction and picked up speed. The fire was now heading west and coming back past us. Partner has cousins who live up and over the ridge, barely 3 miles as the crow flies, but around 12 miles by a tortuous single track road. Just after midnight they rang to say they were being evacuated and could they stay the night with their 2 dogs. As they left their community the fire was crossing the only safe road out, scary!

None of us got much sleep, and by 2 am the sky above the ridge was so bright, we thought we too would soon be evacuated. This was the scene around then.

Fortunately, and thanks to the unseen, tireless work of the Bomberos and others throughout the night, the fire was slowly being bought under control. At first light we were startled by the thunderous roar of an aircraft directly overhead, closely followed by others. Five water bombers, supported by seven helicopters, were being used to combat several fierce hotspots up on the ridge. As I took Lulu for her morning walk, I could see some apartments at the top of the ridge ablaze, with the water bombers flying low over the buildings one after the other, whilst the helicopters darted hither and thither at even lower altitudes!

Two apartments were destroyed and the fire got within half a mile of our house, through a tunnel under the highway – some fire break! Here’s that very spot being ‘bombed’, not a time to be out driving!

There was a lot of damage to property and literally thousands of trees were lost on the campo, but fortunately only one fatality this time. Previous fires have cost the lives of many, including firemen, both here in Mijas and throughout Spain. Most of the fires are started deliberately. The Bomberos deserve our utmost respect as well as our admiring glances. No wonder our friend with the big helmet looks so tired!

These photos are courtesy of the 2014 Mijas Firemen’s calendar, here’s a video of its making. Oh to be the make-up artist for this shoot! And the scene with the big hose and the foam, well, I needed a lie down after I saw it! My thanks to Lolo Duran who made it. The calendar has been a great success and the Bomberos have donated the proceeds to an Alzheimer’s charity.

Fortunately Partner’s cousin’s home was safe when they returned later in the day, although slightly singed around the edges! And the countryside, though apparently devastated, will show green shoots through the grey ash within the year, whilst the olive and cork-oak trees usually survive, though burnt and blackened.

The pines bear the brunt of the damage, for they literally explode in the fires. They will be replaced by less flammable species in the years to come through local and provincial government funded re-planting schemes.

Life is certainly never dull for my firemen, but although they may look like gods, they are still very Spanish when it comes to driving. This accident happened last year, a fire engine sandwich! I bet they got some stick for that!

Whilst they have some large appliances, most of the fire engines are, like their crews, small but perfectly formed. This is because they designed to negotiate the tiny streets that abound in Mijas. And of course, they are a lot easier to handle off-road in the campo. It’s just the main roads they can’t handle!

This is Lulu’s favourite photo, the handsome fire-house dog has found a cute puppy with a big chopper. Lulu, you’re a retriever, go fetch!

Curiously enough I had an encounter with the Bomberos only the day before I sent this post to Russ for proofing. That morning I had put Lulu’s vegetables on the hob ring to cook. I then completely forgot about them as my PC died and I became engrossed elsewhere in sorting it out. Later, Partner comes into the kitchen and finds carbonised beans welded to the pan! There were two black clouds in the kitchen, when I re-appeared, one over the pan and one over Partner, so I swiftly left to take Lulu out for her walk.

Just outside the community I could see a fire engine parked up by some apartments that are still under construction. The early morning rain had got in and short-circuited the electrics which had then caught fire. Acrid smoke was pouring from the unglazed windows and two brawny firemen were going in with breathing apparatus strapped on. The crew chief – El Jefe – was shorter, but his close fitting black t-shirt showed he was well-muscled, and together with his heavy five-o’clock shadow and dark brown eyes, gave him an air of implicit authority. He could have been ‘Mr November’ in the calendar, as dark and sombre as the month. The same brown eyes said, “I know what you’re thinking” when he returned my gaze; I really must stop my jaw dropping in these situations!

I felt somewhat chastened, as the fire engine could just as easily have been outside our own house tending to a burning ring and subsequent kitchen fire! On the brighter side, it was nice to see that their driving skills have not improved. As Lulu and I returned from our walk, the firemen were leaving and the truck was turning in the road. It managed to get entangled with the only tree around, ripping off a large branch as it departed – how Spanish!

Given the content of this post I had no problems selecting our musical finale. Here’s the man with his own black uniform, a song full of delicious double-entendres (or perhaps it’s me!) and a Tijuana sound to give it that Hispanic touch – 'Ring of Fire'. Take it away, Mr Cash.

Next time we could visit Cordoba, or do some more uniforms – any preferences?

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails