Tilting at turbines
It’s the best unread seller in Spain (discounting the Bible), and the average volume weighs in at about 2 kilos. Only the endurance reader will begin at page one, and stay with it to the last of its 1,500 pages. As with War and Peace by Tolstoy, it would be nice to be counted amongst the minority who claim to have read Cervantes’ Don Quixote in its entirety. But like most students of Hispanic literature, I could only honestly say that I read just enough to get by in exams.
But now, many years later, I make a fresh start from page one (Kindle version this time, weighing only 171 grams), and within a few hours of negotiating the 16th century Spanish of the early chapters, I chance upon the famous episode of Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Now Don Quixote had got it into his head that the world was in serious need of a chivalric knight at arms, who would mount his trusty steed (Rocinante), clothed in an old suit of armour, a barber’s basin for a helmet, an old sword and lance, and would head off to perform deeds of chivalry, and all in the name of his beloved Dulcinea del Toboso.
Then, one day, he chanced upon a landscape of some 40 windmills and, believing them to be evil giants, he attacked them.The delusional Quixote would not accept his valet Sancho’s realistic observation that they weren’t really giants, but just windmills, and the giants’ arms were merely revolving blades. They were invincible. They couldn’t be defeated by conventional means.
As I mulled over this incident in the life and adventures of Don Quixote, my thoughts turned to the real life struggle our little community is having with the location of wind turbines just outside the boundaries of the village. The headlong rush into green energy has led to many communities like ours mounting a rearguard action to block their arrival.
I won’t rehearse all the arguments of why these 125 metre evil giants should not be built little more than a thousand metres from dwellings, and in full view of dozens of ancient heritage buildings, including an 18th century castle. But having already defeated the proposal once (the process of which took over 2 years) we are now countering a second attempt and, although the omens are currently in our favour, the battle (or even the war) hasn’t yet been won.
So step in Don Quixote. We need a delusional knight, with dented sword and barber’s basin for a helmet. We need a man of chivalric vision, riding his white charger, lance at the ready, to do battle with these evil giants. Or maybe this is the time for a delusional cyclist, kitchen broom and dustbin lid in hand, to go out and meet the foe, and engage him on the battle field. The realists (like Sancho) will tell him he hasn’t got a chance of winning. The foe is invincible and is set to win the day. But even in defeat, Don Quixote was triumphant. He left the battle field with head held high and self esteem intact. He had, in fact, won the day. A chivalric deed had been done. Which makes him one of the most endearing characters in Spanish literature.