Warning: this article could be very upsetting to those who believe the virginal state to be perfect or those who believe that they will be presented with a large number of virgins when they meet their maker. In fact, it this blog has little to do with virgins at all and a lot to do with roofing techniques in Spain. The title was chosen to bump up my reader statistics and in particular is an attempt to beat my most popular blog yet which is entitled Prostitutes, oranges and burning babies. A further warning: this article contain disturbing photographs. And a disclaimer: no virgins were deflowered in the preparation of this article.
My late father-in-law, a true gentleman if ever I met one, was a plasterer and roofer. He taught me all that I know about these arcane subjects, though solely based on English practice. How he would have coped with Spanish plaster I do not know – probably dismissed it as “foreign tack”. There are two types: rapido and controlado. The Spanish, with the exception of Speedy Gonzales and their behaviour behind the wheel of a car, are not generally associated with rapidity, yet their rapid plaster sets like greased lightning. Even the controlled stuff sets in five minutes or less. And their roofs! They are really something else.
Many years ago I bought some farmland together with a ramshackle house built of flint. The house needed complete renovation and Henry, my father-in-law, travelled all the way to Suffolk to help me re-roof the place. It was quite a big job and I learned a lot from doing it. Sadly, a few years later, during one of the big storms, a large tree fell on the house and the roof that we had painstakingly restored had to be ripped off and redone – this time by professionals.
That roof was covered in Suffolk pantiles which were more or less regular in size; they sat on wooden battens, then on roofing felt then on the rafters. In Spain the rafters were traditionally covered in a woven matrix of cane, then a layer of plaster and finally the tiles. Nowadays the plaster and cane is replaced with a layer of concrete, but it is the tiles that I want to talk about and it’s here that we meet the virgins. These tiles are used all over the Mediterranean area, they are roughly half-circular in cross section and about half a metre long, narrowing along their length. A suitable mould for making these clay tiles could therefore be the human thigh.
A well-laid roof looks great and characterises the villages of Spain. They are made from alternate lines of tiles, one line forming the caps, the other the gutters. The gutters are laid open side up and narrow end down, the caps are the opposite. Sounds simple enough, but there are two problems: firstly, how to end the rising edges of the roof and secondly, those virgins had very varied and odd thighs.
I won’t go into the bodge that is used at the ends of the roof, if you are interested have a close look at the photo of my roof, it’s the virgins that I am interested in here. Clearly their thighs varied in width, length, girth and taper. What’s worse some of them were clearly distorted, either by the uncomfortable process of being the mould, an accident of birth or some dramatic accident in the fields (see examples). Or perhaps they wriggled when the cold clay was applied or when the tile maker removed it. Or, more simply, the tileman dropped the moulded clay on its journey to the furnace since the virgins were not baked with the tile (that certainly would have caused a shortage of virgins). Maybe the tilemakers became overexcited when removing the slippery moulded clay. Who knows?. Just look at the photos if you can bear it.
But were virgins really used in making clay tiles or is the whole thing a fabrication by the overactive brains of the tile layers? I have conducted a simple experiment using myself as a subject. Now, I am not a virgin and that admission may invalidate the whole thing. Nevertheless, I have endeavoured to fit traditional tiles to my own thighs (see photo). The results are quite shocking. If virgins were used then they certainly possessed very long thighs. Since Spanish ladies of the past were generally short, the long thigh could only be achieved by a shortened calf. Gosh, those ladies must have had a strange gait.