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Spanish Secrets: For Whom The Bell Tolls

Craig Briggs pays heartfelt tribute to a Galician neighbour and friend, Jesus Angel Rodrigues Fuentes, the "ordinary'' but very special man who taught him all he knows about the proper care of grape vines. Jesus passed away in the house in which he was born in 1965.

Many small villages in Galicia feature an ancient centre of the Catholic faith. Our village, Canabal, is no exception.

Although the church is centuries old, it remains in regular use today. Its main purpose is the consecration of Sunday morning Mass. The village congregation are called to prayer, at exactly 10.30am, by the melodic tolling of its two bells.

Another purpose is to inform villagers that the soul of one of their number has departed. A single ring, from the higher pitched of the two bells, echoes throughout the village. Twenty seconds later a single dull clang from the other follows. This alternation of tone continues for two minutes or so.

This unique and eerie sound signals a period of personal contemplation by each member of the village community. A time of reflection for someone’s sad loss and one’s own frail mortality.

Today the bells toll for Jesus Angel Rodriguez Puentes 1965 – 2005.

On this day our neighbour and friend Mellie, sits in darkness. A loving mother is suffering the unimaginable sorrow and anguish of the loss of her son.

He passed away in the house where he was born, surrounded by his family.

His wife Cinda, is stricken with grief.

Their eldest son Brice, now 15, will have to shoulder responsibility beyond his years.

Their beautiful 10 year old daughter Anna is quiet and reflective.

And their youngest son, also named Jesus and only 5 years old, seems unaware of the tragedy that has befallen him and his family.

Jesus Angel Rodriguez Puentes will live on in the memories of all those who met him, of which I was one fortunate enough to do so.

In a world of communication satellites and mobile technology, it was Jesus, a humble excavator driver, who made it possible for Melanie and me to talk with family and friends in England.

Having moved into our new home in the village and reaching a stalemate with the Spanish national telephone provider regarding the erection of four telegraph poles, Jesus arrived at our house one evening with a contractor who could, and did, undertake this work. Within a week of his intervention we were once again connected with the rest of the world.

I am an Englishman from the industrial heart of northern England, Jesus was the one who gave me all my worldly knowledge of grape vines and wine making. Knowledge gained throughout his life he freely and willingly passed on to me.

History will not remember Jesus, a family man from a remote area of northern Spain. That privilege is reserved for the powerful, the rich, the famous, and worst of all the infamous.

He will however remain in the memories of all those who knew him, until that day the bells toll for us.


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