Monday, 7 February 2011

Clannish Herding

The scene: our family’s daily outing to the shore on an Isle of Arran holiday.  The Kildonan coast is a vast empty strand of chre red sand and we are the only encampment on it.  Windbreaker and deckchairs, spades and buckets, flasks and sandwiches.  All for that great old Scottish tradition, the seaside dook and the post-glacial swims ‘chittery bites’.  The only family, yet when another descends through the dunes, they establish themselves within quiet talking distance.  So this human magnetism, this herding or clanning that we experience in Argentine campgrounds is not a particularly Latino trait, only they have raised it to an art form.

We’re established in a ‘walk-in’ area alongside another cycling couple and a backpackers tent.  The Sunday day campers have all left, extinguished their parillas, taken their appetising savouries of cooked meat and packed their deckchairs.  The dogs have cleaned all the bones away, ripped apart the overflowing bins.  The site is near empty, the choice of pitches great.  Yet they manage to erect two tents within our guy line range.  Most odd.

A wooden fence protects us from the road; however, this structure is not a substantial enough barrier to say to another car-owner, ‘Keep Out’.  He has removed a spar, driven in, parked up and replaced and repaired the defence.  Most odd.

Father has arrived early, he’s the advance party.  He’s snagged a concrete table and parilla, kindled up a bag of carbon, the coals already glowing ready for the rest of the family.  They arrive, a car stuffed with beef and multiple generations.  The load is disgorged to full volume of Spanish rap, a bass beat that is now in direct competition with a speaker set pumping out the local radio station.  It is playing a tradition of accordion tracks and adverts for local businesses; a discordant clash of tastes.  We are strategically positioned between the two, yet nobody bats an eye, makes any comment.  I just can’t see a Dutch-run campground staying silent.

We retreat in front of this onslaught, retreat to the inevitably-named San Martin to sit in a Sunday silence of heavy shade and deep tranquillity to search for and catch a WiFi hotspot.

Later we return; our rapping neighbours are playing handball, which seems to involve trying to hit our tent at least once in each phase of play.  Once might be construed as an accident, twice a possible mistake; three times is ignorance.  Eventually the car is loaded and the ignition key turned.  Nothing.  The rapping has flattened the battery.  There is a god, after all.  Only a Fiat 127 with six incumbents is easily bump-started.  The leave, leaving the noise to the accordions that have been outgunned all afternoon.  They too, when their time comes, require a push.  It seems like a traditional part of the Sunday afternoon down at the local Municipal Campground.  Not too dissimilar to that dook and chittery bite.