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We were at Club Nautique again last Saturday for their Muleta Regatta, but it turned out to be much more than that, it was a celebration of tradition.  This was a day of races in boats that worked this river for centuries, bringing goods from the sea up into the heart of Northern Spain. These are the traditional working costumes of the Sirgadoors, the men who pulled the Muletas up river.

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The Muletas are the original boats that worked the river.  They were moved along with oars made from  timber which have handles carved into one end and flats carved on the other.  If you look closely at the boats you will see there are posts on the gunwales these are what the oars are tied to so they can be rowed.

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We were treated to a demonstration of Muleta towing. As you can see this was hard work even with the Muleta being rowed, but men had to do it as in some places along the river the path was so narrow only men could walk. Their ancestors used Concha horns to let other river users know they were either towing up river or rowing down, there are places along the Ebre between the mountains where these horns must have echoed loud and clear for several kilometers.

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People often forget that for many many years the Rio Ebre was a major trading artery. If you take a look on every high point along it’s route you can find the ruins of Templer castles like the one at Miravet. Eventually the Templars became rich enough to tempt Popes and Kings to take it from them.  However, the people who actually generated this wealth were the Sirgadoors, who as they dragged the cargo boats up the Ebre against the fierce flow, paid taxes to these Knights for safe passage.

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It also used to flood quite regularly, but today the river has been tamed. Dams and weirs have been built with hydro and nuclear power stations along its banks.  Where it flows past Club Nautique there are quiet back eddies where the fishermen sit watching their lines waiting for the catfish or carp dreaming of the big one. On the bank Club Nautique sets out its tables and chairs so we can enjoy the summer and watch the young people training and making preparations for their regattas.

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We arrived to find the club a hive of activity, boats being made ready, people picking their tables whilst others were chatting to friends. looking up the road we could see people sitting on the river wall watching the events unfold. I managed to find a table at the top of the slope leading down to the hard, from here we could see everything which was perfect. As we looked around we could see there were chairs set out on the hard over looking the pontoon. These were ready for the arrival of the Carnival Prince and Princess, and the band which accompanied them. This band is made up of young people and they really can play.

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They arrived walking down the street wearing their traditional dress and followed by the band playing and took their places on the hard with the young band seated behind them. This was a relaxed event and everyone settled down to enjoy themselves.  The band played at the beginning of each race to send the boats on their way down river to the bridge where they turned then raced back again.

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Then we settled down to watch the races.  The boats set off from the club and had to row down to the bridge turn and row back against the flow.  They had a really hard job of it but everyone  enjoyed themselves.  Here are the start of the races and some of the boats.

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They ended the regatta with watermelons  being thrown into the river and the youngsters swimming for them.

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The ambulance actually had a customer he had hurt his wrist and all the police had to do was watch and enjoy, such a nice day.

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As always at this club people enjoy themselves. It is a club that is family orientated with activities for all ages.  There is a football area, a small swimming pool besides the sailing.  Looking after us all this weekend were these tired but happy people.

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Oh and this young man was still working after the event and yes that is a happy smile on his face, wonderful.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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I have been sitting here watching an advertisement for the Salvation Army.  These people are the quiet heroes of towns and cities all over Britain.  They open cafes for the lonely and homeless to meet have a hot meal, drink or both.  Then there are the shelters, here they try to assist people give them advice or help get them off the street and into a job if they can.   They go out into the community trying to help not just sitting on the end of a phone asking for money.

So why is this organisation which was first founded in the East End of London and been active since 1865 so forgotten? Since 1865 The Salvation Army has spread its wings to become Gods Army, with its own uniform and as far as its members are concerned  they are the ‘regulars’!

With such dedication for the welfare of others you will find it’s Officers and Soldiers on duty every day of the year, no closed signs here, no whingeing just a helping hand, held out to those who need it most.  Their three ‘S’s’ slogan can be listed like this” first soup, second soap and thirdly salvation, along with the listening ear of kindness.

Therefore why oh why in these times and days does such an organisation have to ask for help from us? help that we should be readily giving, even if its only 2 pounds a month – as the work they do is in this country, for our people, in the here and now.  There is an old saying “Charity begins at home”  every year I put money into the collection boxes of the Salvation Army, every year I watch them parade on Remembrance Day.

So come on people show a little love and compassion, when you are passing the Army in the high street  and listening to the carols being sung, or like us singing along  give a little even if its pennies everything helps to help others.

Merry Christmas everybody and in Tiny Tim’s words “God bless us every one!”

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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