Back in the 90’s there was this classic surfer advert from Guinness. A close up of the face of a man, lasting just that bit too long, a barely noticeable twitch of his mouth, a voice over. He waits… It’s what he does….
If I were to make a documentary about the village, I’d use that idea as the very first shot.
Instead of the surfer, it would be the fish monger.
…He Beeps…It’s what he does…
He keeps his finger on his horn for a good half a minute.
Unless you’ve experienced it, you’d have no idea how the sound of a horn can reach a stage of unhearable, where your brain tells you it cannot possibly continue. Because there are unspoken social laws for this kind of thing. Yet the fish monger defies all.
…And I tell you what… Tic followed toc followed tic followed toc…
The next shot would be of the villagers coming out of their houses to gather in front of his van.
Villager O is first.
If you were to meet Villager O you’d think of asking her to adopt you as her grandchild.
Except at the fish monger’s. Because she is convinced the fish monger is out to rip her off. However much he tries to convince her this isn’t the case in the slightest, however many words of consolation he offers her, with added shrugs of shoulders and submissive body language, villager O will only ever treat him with contempt.
I always take my seat on the stone bench, a few metres away from them, watching this village opera unfold in front of me.
There is always something wrong with the fish. Villager O will claim there isn’t enough choice. It doesn’t look fresh. Hasn’t he got any sardines? What do you mean there weren’t any on the market? What is he, a fish monger or a baker?
Another villager or two might get served while she makes up her mind which fish she wants.
After that interlude it continues.
Ok, give me some of that fish, but only half a kilo. Half I said, not more. No. No you need to cut it into smaller pieces. No. Not that small.
Eventually he weighs the fish and tells her the price. And all hell breaks loose. It always does. I will write in a later blogpost about swearing in Galego, but for now I’ll freely translate the linguistical onslaught the fishmonger faces.
”You dim witted little moron whose mum was a whore, you’re out of your mind. You are ripping me off.”
”No, honestly O, this is the price, look at the scales, look.”
“I cannot believe you’re doing this to an old woman, I cannot believe it. Ripping me off. He is ripping me off. Look at her! She had more! You’ve charged her less!”
He might show her on the scales that the other person’s fish weighs less, but she’d remain undeterred and will always tell him a price 2 euro’s lower than the actual price.
More often than not she’ll get away with it.
While I sit there observing it all it always dawns on me how documentary like these snippets of village life still are to me, the faces, the intensity, the normality. I savor these moments. How lucky I am to have been able to blend in.
But these things take time.
And just like they say at the end of the Guinness advert…
Good things come to those who wait.