September, month of 'La Vuelta'

La Vuelta, (Eng. the return) is a big event in Spain, just as its equivalent in France, la Rentrée. After two months when most people have been one month on holiday and the other rather more relaxed than usual, the return to 'normal' activity is at first quite a big uphill climb. At least it isn't quite as sudden as the French rentrée, where everything starts on September 1st. Yes, workers go back to factories, offices and teachers to schools.

But Spain is still, usually, too hot for the kids to cope with classes until the middle of the month, so the first ten days or so are times for staff meetings and preparing lessons. Then the primary schools begin to start back about the 10th, mornings only during September (and June)! The junior high schools return in the second half of September and the high schools a few days later, to be followed at the beginning of October by university students. Nevertheless, for those unfortunate enough to have failed the end of year exams, there may be another opportunity to do 'retakes' in the first week of September and get another chance at going on up a grade. That will have meant a measly sort of summer, too! For the others, the rest of September, indeed most of the period up to Christmas, will be spent remembering what on earth we learnt in the last school year, which ended to all extents and purposes at the end of May.

Meanwhile, at administrative offices all over the country, the staff are back at their desks (well, occasionally) and queues form as people suddenly have a hundred and one things to catch up with administratively. Mind you, things have moved on light years in the past three or four as more and more can be done by internet. Soon the administrators will be able to spend the whole day in the local cafeteria!

Traffic in the cities has been light during August, but suddenly it's all snarled up again - particularly once the school busses start their runs right in the morning rush hour.

Despite the fact that it's still hot, most towns close the open air swimming pools on the dot of 31st August. This is partly because actually most people are too busy anyway to go for a swim, but also in many places around the major cities this is the time of the 'Fiestas'. Drunks racing the bulls first thing in the morning, are not too compatible with pools. It's bad enough rescuing them from the bulls, without pulling them out of the water too!

Apart from bull running, most Spaniards are actually armchair sprotsmen and this is where football comes in. August is becoming more and more important for special competitions, but the League getsunderway early in September and conversations are quite serious in the bars. Unlike other sport-watching nations, Spaniards really take every move seriously, discussing tactics and play sequences. Four national sports dailies testify to the level of interest. And along with the game it self is the other game: pools. Spain is addicted to ticket gambling, be it football pools or a variety of lotteries, and this contributes considerable sums to the government surplus allowing taxes to be cut at a time when such is going out of fashion in other European lands.


For many churches life is rather similar. It is quite hard to maintain services over the summer when most of the congregation are away - or in the Spanish equivalent of hibernation shut away behind closed shutters attempting to keep the heat out. Now they gradually re-emerge and a new programme begins, usually sufficiently full so as to make it impossible to be fully committed to church life and have meaningful contact with outsiders -if they wanted to. But it can also be a busy time for those active churches, especially the leaders, who had campaigns over the summer. Discipleship groups and other activities aim to integrate new contacts into the church fellowship.

And finally, the other Vuelta!

In addition to football, the principal spectator sport in September is the cycling Tour of Spain, appropriately called 'La Vuelta'. Like the more famous French edition, this is a 20 day gruelling endurance test (with one day off), reminding anyone who didn't remember, that Spain is one of Europe's most mountainous lands, on average even higher than Switzerland. More here