A year to the day, the 24th August 2012, I was in Spain, riding the Camino , and had reached the town of Sarria, more of a dirty modern city really. It was the only disappointing destination of the Camino.
My accommodation, allegedly 3 star, the Hotel Alfonso IX was at once forgettable yet memorable – it was a depressing, dark and dingy multi-storey “box” that had seen in the past 4 or even 5 stars. Secondly it was obviously THE place to stay in Sarria. Around 6 pm a white stretched limousine pulled up and out stepped a stylish middle aged woman, predictably with cigarette in mouth, and a male companion looking like a disheveled Luciano Pavarotti also smoking, but a cigar. Lest you jump to the wrong conclusion, remember that the real Pavarotti had died from pancreatic carcinoma a few years previously!
Imagine my surprise when, about 30 minutes later, drifting through what were very thin walls, came the sound of a voice, singing. A tenor, then in answer, the soprano! For the next 45 minutes I was treated to the equivalent of high quality “Muzak”… As they trilled and tra-la-la-ed up and down their scales. Of course it was possible that they were in reality having mad passionate sex with the sound system on high. But the next morning I did verify their singing as there was a flyer advertising a concert of operatic bel canto delights in the Sarria town hall the previous evening. Moreover both singers were in the foyer, each smoking and autographing a photo of themselves, for the impressed bellboy! Bellboys in Spain and especially in Sarria, were obviously classically educated.
As I am now learning the Recorder, I wonder, if I returned to the Alfonso IX, would I stand a chance with the bellboy? I would even tolerate a cigarette in my mouth if that would add to the attraction! However smoking a cigarette and playing the Recorder at the same time would require sucking and blowing simultaneously, a feat I suspect even my teacher could not manage, despite her years of practice and on the double reed what’s more.
If, in my wildest dreams, the bellboy was swept off his feet, by this smoking Recorder player, we would settle down in Spain together and open a pub, named obviously “The Weed and Whistle”.
But the name of the hotel provoked my curiosity. Who was this effeminate sounding Alfonso, of which there had been at least 9? Well he was the King of Leon born in 1171 died 1230, and certainly not a fairy, for he fathered 21 children by 5 wives and in addition sired some 15 “bastards”. By my reckoning, his wives and offspring would have occupied every single room of the modern Hotel Alfonso IX, especially the Bridal Suite. Imagine the noise through those thin walls!
One of his daughters married into the Ponce de Leon family, but they were “without issue”- An utterly predictable outcome , when the groom has the family name of “ponce”.
Finally, Alfonso is said to have been called the “Baboso” or “Slobberer” because he was subject to fits of rage during which he foamed at the mouth.
So here I sit in flight on an Emirates Boeing 777 to Frankfurt on the 24th August 2013. A new bike awaits me in Dresden. My Recorder in my luggage, practicing sucking and blowing as I listen to a concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra, (in deference to my music teacher).
Addendum: after an hour of experimentation (seated in 11F Business Class) and thanks in part to my anatomical training, I think I have the answer – gentle blowing through the mouth, tonguing the Recorder at the same time, whilst just as gently, drawing in through the nose. The down side is that this manouvre can only be successful if I draw gently on the cigarette inserted up one nostril and block the other with a cotton ball, simultaneously with the Recorder in my mouth. There is a niggling doubt that unless the Bellboy is visually impaired, it may not achieve the desired outcome…..The woman in seat 11E has just activated the call button and requested she change seats.