Roses and Saint George.
A couple of weeks ago they celebrated the day of the patron saint of Catalonia, Saint Jordi
. My apologies to all Star Trek aficionados but Jordi is just plain old George in Catalan and over here it’s as common as muck as names go. So, like the English, the Catalans got themselves a Rambo saint who earned his crust in days of yore, wandering the land saving maidens by lopping the heads off of presumptuous dragons.
The traditional way of celebrating this day is curiously similar to our Saint Valentine’s day. However, the etiquette of wooing your loved one is somewhat more specific than sending him or her an anonymous piece of Hallmark schlock. Basically, the guy buys the girl a rose and the girl buys the guy a book. So, come the end of April the streets of Barcelona are lined with bookstands and gypsy florists touting their wares. It’s kind of nice actually.
The tradition is believed to come from the fact that any young bachelor worth his salt would naturally be a scholar and as such would always appreciate another book as ballast for his ample library. Seeing that girlies weren’t supposed to study in olden days, a book would be seen as untoward. No, the only proper gift for a young lady back then was a pretty piece of horticulture and seeing that the rose is the symbol of old Saint George, it couldn’t have been easier for the lads. The average young beau didn’t even have to rack his brains trying to think of which flower to choose. A rose is a rose is a rose.
At first this trade off seems a little unfair and sexist. I mean lets face it, a book costs a hell of a lot more than a rose and you actually have to put a bit of thought into buying a book for someone. Whereas even the most forgetful guy could probably get away with rescuing a rose from a dumpster the next day and giving it a quick makeover. On the other hand, if a girl wanted to drop a heavy hint to her boyfriend, a book would offer an irresistable opportunity. For example, wouldn’t it worry you a little if your girlfriend gave you one of the following titles for Saint Jordi’s day?:Surviving InfidelityWhen your Lover is a LiarWhy Men Won’t Commit The Advantages of CastrationThe Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to do more Parenting and HouseworkRoses and Marketing
Speaking of Roses, I have a bone to pick with the guys who sell roses from bar to bar at night in the Gothic Quarter. They should really brush up on their marketing technique because their current selling method is wrong, wrong, wrong. It goes something like this:
Rose seller comes up to the café table where you and your girlfriend are sitting.
Rose seller sticks roses in your face and says ‘Rose for Lady?’ ‘Rose for Lady?’
When you politely decline, he says ‘Very cheap!’ ‘Very cheap!’.
Now Ladies and Gentlemen, what has Rose Seller done wrong here? Anyone? Yes you guessed it. By saying ‘Very Cheap!’
, Rose Seller seems to expect you to say ‘Well, seeing as they’re so filthy cheap, I will happily purchase one for my girlfriend who is sitting right in front of us watching me trying impress her by being a cheapskate miser’?
I think not.
Instead of saying ‘Very cheap!’
as a backup pitch, maybe they should try ‘Very beautiful rose, beautiful like the beautiful Lady’
. Now if the guy says no, it aaaalmost sounds like he’s saying that his girlfriend isn’t beautiful. Much better. Now he feels obliged to fork out some cash so as not to look bad. What these rose sellers need is a training course in sales techniques. I’d offer to give it myself but I don’t speak Urdu.Rosetta Stoned.
About a year ago I was at a party, partaking of some happy herbs with a bunch of Serbian musicians. One of the group was a girl named Rosetta who had always scared me a bit. She dressed like Frida Kahlo, wasn’t too prone to smiling and on the few occasions that she did choose to speak, didn’t mince her words one bit. However, on this particular evening the leafy substance that we had both enjoyed served as a conversational lubricant and we ended up nattering together like a pair of old fishwives.
Still waters certainly run deep. Rosetta turned out to be a fascinating individual and I’ll always remember one of the stories she told me that night, which I still consider to be one of my favourite nuggets of wisdom. It went something like this:
(Rosetta speaking Spanish with a heavy Serbian accent)My great-grandmother she was the greatest woman that I ever know. She lived very long and had many husbands. Until she was one hundred years old, she had completely clear mind and told me many things back then, when I was a little girl. One thing that she told me that I will always remember is that the third husband is best husband. When you first marry, she told me, you are young and your head is full of romantic things and you think that happiness is forever. So of course, this does not last. I was lucky and my first husband he die very young and leave me in peace. For my second husband, I make typical mistake. I have bad memories of first husband so I find a man who is completely opposite. This is not good because I am reacting to first marriage and, of course, second husband is also bad as first husband but in completely opposite way. But I am lucky again and second husband goes to God in only few years. Now when I look for third husband, it was different. I have experience of two husbands completely opposite and I know what I like and what I do not like. I am widow two times and I am not shy. I know who I am. I find man who loves me and respect me. A man who does not control me but doesn’t want me to be boss either. Then I find such a man and we were happy together for many years. So remember Rosetta, she told me, when you are a women, it is good idea to marry at least three times.
Curiously, this trajectory of relationships fairly accurately described my own experience. My first two serious girlfriends were indeed completely opposite in personality. CS is my third long-term girlfriend and we’ve been together for eight years now and going strong. I’ve told many friends this story and quite a few of them concur. Although it obviously doesn’t count for everyone’s experiences, there is definitely a pattern there that rings a bell with a lot of people.Blood and Roses
I read somewhere that there are more cases of people catching tetanus from thorns, and especially rose thorns, than from rusty nails. Well there goes another childhood myth.