Monday, 11 March 2013

What's in a name?

Spanish is an extremely vivid language in its use of names for places and families. For example, one of my recent opponents in the local tennis league here in Almendralejo is called Antonio Matamoros (Antonio the moorkiller). Somehow, I don't think he''ll feel too comfortable if he ever has to book in to an hotel in Marrakesh.

As for places, the drive from here down to Seville first crosses a river/steam called El Arroyo Matasanos (the healthy-person killer). Its water must once have been poisonous. Meanwhile, a few miles further on is La Cuesta de la Media Fanega, a huge hill that I featured in a poem (first published in The Frogmore Papers) a few years ago as follows:

After the Airport

Driving home, this winter morning
tracks my route with a searchlight sun.
Past holm oaks I reach La Cuesta
de la Media Fanega
- otherwise Half-A-Bushel Hill -
change down, memorise number plates,
breathe in lorry fumes. Locals chose
the name because of what a mule
devoured while getting over it.
I make the top at last, still lost
for what might get me over you.

These days, it's just a decent drop of scenery from the new motorway, but my battered, ancient Peugeot 309 really struggled up that old road!

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