An education

Forget mortality for a precious while. Too alarming. The current shadow scaring the world needs qualified perspective, and I will leave that to the experts.

Let’s talk about immortality.

What’s in a name?

Most of us during our lives have repeatedly referenced another person’s name. We have memorised it - written it countless times, a surname and sometimes the first name too of somebody we do not know or have little or no knowledge of. But they become a part of who we are, our journey.

Strange, no?

There are stories on so many street corners, should we care to wonder.

My sister and her husband, both dedicated and now recently retired teachers of whom I am sorely proud, are leaving Britain for at least a year and have chosen to breathe in the Priorat. The logic doesn’t need unwrapping. The Catalan classes have already begun. Good people in our village, Marçà, have rented them a house, and so many more good people have welcomed them. The hope is to further their writing, composing and painting.

They will be able to walk to the railway station and, hence, explore Catalonia and Iberia, to imbibe the colours and rhythms that ripple with sense. The winding train line of tunnels and bridges through these challenging lands continues to bring so many positives.

The house they are renting is in Carrer Bonaventura Roig. And as I stood and stared at it and the weld of community, so began the tale....

Carrer Bonaventura Roig is peaceful. It is one of the two highest streets where homes nestle into the northern lee of the little Miloquera peak.

Bonaventura Roig Queralt was a Lleida rail engineer who went on to design and build the funicular railway at Tibidabo in Barcelona, the first of its kind in Spain. He was working on the Zaragoza rail line into a Priorat wine landscape blighted by the phylloxera vine plague. He met and married a woman from Marçà, Maria Soler Barceló, and they lived here in our village and had a family. Maria, sadly, died young, leaving three daughters. Now another street in our village bears the name of one of them.

Rosa Roig i Soler was born in Marçà 130 years ago, the home community she always came back to when she could. Late in her life she reflected on her achievements and two aspects shone out from a few words by this dedicated humanist. “In my classes I always worked for peace.”

Rosa’s mark was, as a pioneering Catalan educationist during a dark age of inequality, to champion feminism, pacifism and schooling that would be open to all, regardless of background. It was to lead to ideological and political persecution under Franco, but she continued to teach.

What is less known is that she was a poet. A private poet, rarely sharing them.

And this is where sentiment takes me to the edge. We feel so fortunate to have found our way here, where the thyme is about to come flower…

Marsà jeu vora els teus peus

Oh muntanya maternal!

No ets pas bella, mes t’estim

Com a la mare el bon fill.

Jo estimo ta roca roja

Tos ametllers exhaurits

tes alzines isolades

i el teu timó ja florit...

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