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BJ's brooms

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Post Wed Dec 05, 2018 6:55 pm
stewartwillsher User avatar

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BJ = Baby Jesus; brooms are like witches besoms.
Our neighbour Jesus (Susi) has a son called Jesus; yes very common here for offspring to share a parent's name, so the son is referred to, only between wife and I, as Baby Jesus; pathetic geriatric humourous naming so we know who we are talking about, and we shorten that to BJ.
So why is he flogging brooms.
Answer is that he can make a few euros providing an essential piece of equipment to nutcases wishing to participate in Escobazos.
The raw materials are all around us and for little effort and a bit of a small production line, he and his mates, lads in their twenties, in one of his dad's outbuildings he can make and flog a broom for ten euros, and does so, possibly a hundred or more, each year.
This WAFFLE will have you disbelieving it, but is all true!
Read on ...

Drift back in time a century or more ....
Suppose you are tending your flock of sheep or goats up on a hillside on the Sierra de Gredos, late autumn, and you are expected to attend mass for the celebration of the Holy Immaculate Conception next morning.
You have to get down to the village, walking or on horseback, and then scrub up smart for the service.
Now, one of the things those chaps up there did to make themselves useful whilst just watching the flock was to make brooms for the coming year.
Traditional brooms were made from, er, broom which is a sort of shrub that grows on mountainsides.
The sticky up bits are cut, bound together with a straight branch in the centre as a long handle, a bit like a witch's besom or old fashioned broomstick, not dissimilar to Harry Potter's flying machine.
What to do with the old ones every year was solved, because the blokes needed to see where they were going, coming down the mountain, much of the journey on narrow dodgy tracks, and only the moon (if there was one) for light, so they set fire to them and held them high to light their way.

Fast forward to the present day ....
The mass is on 8th of December, so on the night before, there is a token procession to celebrate the journey down to the village.
Now, how that evolved into the fiesta in Jarandilla called Escobazos, is a bit of a guess, but it did.
Now, every year, until health and safety or some regulation stops it, the village is nearly burnt down each year on the 7th December.

Not every year do we brave the crazy flames, but will try to attend the bonfires and have a good piss-up and nosh with friends in the village, weather permitting.
This year promises to be dry-ish, so wearing non-inflammable old clobber head to foot, in we go on foot, but at the time the real scary stuff had just about finished.

I'll describe the time-line for the evening of Escobazos, which roughly translates to "brooming"; an escoba being a broom.
In the days leading up to the event, the local general stores have piles of overalls, scarves, hats, gloves and other clothing, all in materials that will withstand the flames, for sale.
Also, enterprising chaps (like BJ) will make escobas to sell, made in the traditional way, from broom.

Evening of 7th Dec:
As it gets dark at between six and seven, the empty main square (no one leaves their car anywhere near) is a crazy sight with mainly young kids and some even still in push chairs, each holding a broom, a couple of foot long, which their elders light and encourage them to wave around and hit anyone or anything they can.
They are taught to keep their strikes below knee height of the target, and quickly understand why, if their mates start aiming higher.
This is a sort of apprenticeship for what is to come when they grow up and move to the next stage.
So, the kiddywinkies will be withdrawn from the centre and replaced by the silly pre-teens who light their brooms, about a metre long. at say about seven o'clock.
They will act the idiots until the teens turn up with brooms up to about a metre and a half long and whack the younger ones who then scarper, then hit each other with them well on fire, for as long as they burn.
Now the serious and scary part of the evening commences as at about eight the big lads, who have put a bit of an effort into constructing what can no longer really be described as a broom.
These are a couple of metres or more which when well alight have flames higher than me.
All those experienced or well advised, will be wearing a coverall industrial type outer garment, many showing the company name from which they borrowed them, or old non-inflammable togs.
At this point I will explain that the bars round the old town centre will have their decor covered with polythene sheeting and will be serving only through windows with no customers going inside, tramping in with their charred boots and overalls, etc.
The square will be a bit obscured by smoke and flame and the underside of propertied having their balconies scorched, so all windows closed and occupants watching from safely inside.
We are not done yet, as there is one class of escoba left to be deployed; this is controlled, if that is the right word, by nutcases and can be more than three metres long and a girth of over half a metre, cannot be raised like a broom and usually need a couple of chaps to haul them around the square.
When well alight, they clear the square of all but the most hardy.
The flames from these monsters lick the sides of buildings but are no real threat to others in the street as long as they can dodge out of the way as they pass.
Swiping anyone with these is still said to be lucky - eh?
Throughout the levels of escobas and bashing, the policia local (local cops) have an interesting and very pragmatic role; firstly to calm any over-exuberance that is bordering on aggression, then to advise anybody (usually innocent visitors) in appropriate attire to run away, but they also, with their uniform issue ankle high boots, stamp out any bits that have broken off the brooms and are still alight and a danger; good, eh?

So, we are now at about nine-o-clock and there is a sort of agreement that when the procession starts, everyone behaves nicely.
All normal sized brooms are raised and used like the originals were, as a torch, and the big buggers are extinguished or left somewhere safe to burn themselves out.
It usually takes a little while for peace to be restored, but sometime after nine the celebration changes.
Two things happen.
I must first explain that in at least three sites in the town, huge bonfires have been prepared, the main one being about fifteen metres high and structurally comprised of pallets and complete pine trees.
At some invisible signal, these are lit.
Within a few minutes (scary how quick a fire gets hold!) the flames are shooting up to double the height of the material, so possibly thirty metres, and seen for many kilometres around; the town and sky above glowing orange.
Hundreds of folk are gathered close round these fires but invariably this audience increases the distance too the fire when the heat radiates outwards.
Loitering close by, and thankfully rarely needed, are the bomberos (firemen) with their appliances.
So the fires were lit, which formally initiated the procession.
This is doubly impressive, because the horses in the cavalcade, when going close to the flames, are calm and under control; the leader carrying the banner of the religious symbol, a virgin as always, for the occasion.
Secondly is the singing and percussion accompaniment.
There are specific songs and instruments (if they can be classed as such) that make this so evocative.
A bottle that once contained an anis drink, which has diagonal grooves, is what many "play", by scratching a metal implement like a spoon, or even a spanner, across it; crucibles of pestle and mortar made of brass will be whacked to give a metallic sound; simple small drums will be struck to provide a rhythm.
Add to this the cheers and many boots on the stone streets and the shouts of "viva la virgen" (long live the virgin - don't ask!) and the whole town is on a high!
The horses and many in the procession will break up at the end of the formal route and disperse, but for a few hours more, groups will wander round the town, lubricated traditionally by a mix of the local pitarra wine (like we produce from
our vines) and lemonade, in large bottles or the traditional leather bottles, usually on strings hanging round the neck or over a shoulder, and passed around.
Many ground floor garages are given over to barbecues of sizzling pork and much booze; one of which is where we go for warmth and good company.

In the small hours we trudge back the kilometre home; having consumed a quantity and variety of booze, so not driving, and pigged ourselves on meat and bread mainly.
The streets are copiously covered with ash, burnt twigs, broken plastic glasses and smouldering remains of escobas.
The bonfires are reduced to a few inches deep of charred wood.
The singing, laughter, and music does not stop when we do, so I guess there will be sore heads by sunrise!

It will take the best part of a week, unless it rains heavily, for the streets to return to anything like clean, with town hall employees, or unemployed earning their paro (benefit), and good citizens, sweeping and washing down.

Any visitors, experiencing Escobazos, especially for their first time, will go home with a tale to tell, often to disbelieving listeners.
Us locals just take it as our annual crazy attempt at burning the town down; hopefully never to be achieved.
One year the village lost its electricity supply for a few hours when the insulation of some overhead cables melted, but a small price to pay for tradition, eh?

If you think I am making it up, read what is chronicled in the web page linked below, and the link to photo's:

http://www.turismoextremadura.com/viaja ... zos-00001/

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=escob ... 66&bih=622
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Post Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:02 am
stewartwillsher User avatar

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Knew I had these somewhere, and found them; so sharing!
Our first ever attending Escobazos (2005) - neighbours insisted in making sure we were safe.
We thought we were being set up; but lo and behold, when we trudged off to the town square, both en route, and when there, there were loads more kitted out in similar extra terrestrial attire.
It kept the flames harmless and reduced smoke in eyes, mouth, etc.
These days we go to the post nine o'clock bonfire and booze, so not so much clobber needed.
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Post Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:01 am
DKZ5745 User avatar

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That’s just the usual Saturday Night going out wear in Barnsley :eusa-whistle:
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Post Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:48 pm
stewartwillsher User avatar

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DKZ5745 wrote:
That’s just the usual Saturday Night going out wear in Barnsley :eusa-whistle:

Wondered why daughter-in-law's father was in a boiler suit at their wedding when I looked like a penguin. :lol:
They're all Barnsley! :eusa-shhh:
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