During the construction of Los Castaños – eighteen months of fearful nail-biting punctuated by occasional outbursts of joyful anticipation – we at last reached a stage where security became an issue – in short, things were being nicked.
The builders advised me to find somewhere to store the more valuable items that would soon be arriving, of more value than the nightly bag of cement that was purloined by persons known. The carpentry, the windows and doors, were due to arrive any day as were all manner of other more expensive but equally portable stuff.
As the church was (still is actually) next door with a handy room that was virtually empty, I approached the elderly priest to ask for permission to use said room for a short period. It seemed unkind to mention the transgressions of his parishioners that were making this necessary. Why upset the old boy, I thought.
He readily agreed. Startled by his compliance with a heathen, I asked how much rent he would like. Not necessary he said. A contribution to the parish at the end of the room-use-period would be fine.
Building continued and the space in the church was extremely useful; nothing more was stolen. The day came when we had our own lockable doors all around the building, so I prepared to return the key.
We asked the three matrons who go to church how much money would be appropriate. The notion of giving money to the priest horrified them so much that, in unison, they jabbed their thumbs at their mouths. The implications were obvious.
So what can we give to the parish to show our appreciation.
Candlesticks, they said.
Amongst the tat and treasures in an antique shop in nearby Ronda, we unearthed a pair of marvellous candlesticks. Out of a monastery, we were told. Really? How did that happen. Were they hot? Never mind. They were beautiful. Next Sunday, when the priest arrived to say mass, I met him on the steps of the church, keys and candlesticks proudly in hand and fully prepared to bask in his holy approval.
A look of sadness came over his ancient features. He gazed at the magnificent candlesticks and muttered:
“Pa la casa …. aunque sean piedras.”
Which could be taken two ways – he could have been saying that every little bit helps or, which I think more likely, he was expressing his disgust and disappointment. But, as you can see in the picture, they are still there – not flogged on to pay for communion wine.