Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chance Encounter

I don’t believe in coincidences as a rule, but what happened last Sunday made me wonder.

I was attracted by the title of a book in the window of an upmarket souvenir shop: ‘Un sueño de Barro and Piedra’. The cover had a reproduction of a painting of a road leading into a village of red-roofed houses.

In the store, a woman was bustling among cheeses and wine and figurines. The book stood on a rack of photo guides to Zamora. I thought I’d better make sure I could read it, with some help from a dictionary.

It was a collection of short essays by Herminio Ramos Perez, born in a nearby village in 1925. An introduction described his career after his move to Zamora, where he became a respected teacher, writer and expert on ceramics and local history. He was elected as a councillor, and nicknamed ‘El Maestro’. An informer who reported his left-wing views to the school authorities cost him his job in the 70s, a serious setback because he had eight children.

At 6.5 Euros, with excellent line drawings of Zamora’s main buildings by the cover artist, it seemed a bargain. The shop-owner finished a phone call as I browsed among postcards and some boxes of biscuits baked by nuns in a local convent.

It was as I turned to leave that the owner became excited, calling out, ‘Eh! El Maestro! El Maestro!’ She pointed to a little old man in a suit, who was making his way slowly down the street, hesitating with each step and feeling the ground with a walking stick. I saw he resembled a small statue I’d seen someone drawing. I soon caught him up.

Somehow inspired, I stuttered in Spanish that I was a volunteer teacher. Would he sign the book I’d just bought? I could understand some of his reply. Corrales was near his own village, he said, and even told me how many hectares had been under wine cultivation in the past. He was sad to hear there are now only 57 children in the village school. He apologised for his poor eyesight and insisted on returning to the shop, where the owner’s son helped him up the step. He wrote a shaky inscription in the book.

After I told Olga about it next day, I could just about make out what she muttered in Spanish to a colleague: ‘Huh! How come I never met Hemingway in the street when leaving a bookshop in England?’


Debralondon said...

How amazing! I love those moments of serendipity in life.

Sheila Cornelius said...

I was walking on air all day. That's it - serendipity.

ireneintheworld said...

hemmingway! great stuff shiela. x

Sheila Cornelius said...

Irene! Nice to hear from you! Yes, it ws a great day for me. I carry the book around with me now, feeling a special connection with the author. (I´m a great admirer of writers, as you probably know)