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The old men in the square…

Men playing cards on SamosYou see them in almost every village square throughout the lands of the Mediterranean – a disparate group of old weather-beaten men seated around a rickety table, stained with the fingerprints of their fathers and grandfathers, playing cards and smoking, sipping on dark, foreboding-looking drinks in small shot glasses, and arguing vociferously about who knows what and often, who knows why.

It happens here too, of course, but behind the peeling paint of doors that have seen better days, in the Working Men’s Clubs of Great Britain, those once proud institutions that were formerly the preserve of men who worked.

You see, we just don’t have the weather for sitting around outside passing the time of day. Even in the height of summer – and today is a perfect example here in Yorkshire – the heavens could open at any moment (they just did!) and send everyone running for cover.

Garachico, TenerifeIf you watch these groups – and it can be quiet fascinating – the hierarchy soon becomes apparent. There’s the loud one, acting as if he’s in charge, who shouts the odds and keeps everyone in their place. But he’s just the ‘sergeant’. Look for the quiet man, exuding an air of confidence, if not quiet menace. It’s his sly nods and seemingly insignificant gestures that his sergeant reacts to. It’s he who decides who plays and who doesn’t.

Then there are the ‘players’, the others who are simply happy with their lot and just glad to be part of this early evening clique. And behind them stand the young hopefuls, those who long to be asked to sit amid this august group, biding their time until a chair becomes vacant, and they can then move forward and reach the hallowed table. Not that the ‘young hopefuls’ are all young. Many are in their sixties but the benign climate and healthy diet of many Mediterranean countries, mean that they may be waiting for several years to come.

From the Aegean island of Samos (above) to Tenerife in the Canaries (right) and Castile Leon in Spain (below), this age-old ritual is enacted every evening throughout the warmer climes. Blithe and untroubled, these relaxed men sit round playing cards, passing the time of day without a care in the world – until, of course, their wives call them home!  

Pedraza, Castile, Spain

Posted: 08/07/2011 17:17:52 by | with 1 comments
Filed under: Canary islands, Greece, opinions, slow, Spain


Comments
Steve J
Lovely article... and I find they're always more amiable than they appear at first glance!
19/07/2011 13:17:23

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