Ramón Lamote, a living representation of the city he inhabits, aged sixty-one, gives private lessons in a local dialect, Terra Chá, and augments his income by taking on commissions to draw dreams. He is a keen observer of the life that goes on around him, unfailingly polite and ever willing to lend a helping hand. On a visit to a large important house in the city centre, he comes across a book that warns of the imminent arrival of a dragon-like creature called a Noticer, which awakens every 696 years, and he hurries to inform the Lord Mayor (though getting in to see him requires all his ingenuity). On another occasion, a fat woman is blocking the stairs, and Ramón Lamote is unable to find a way past her to make it to his lesson on time. He is invited to give a lecture on a kind of domestic animal and chooses the Endomodelph, an egg-laying mammal that sings and whistles through its behind. An enormous pipe appears one day in front of his house, which seems to serve no purpose until the local children come up with a use for it, which quickly catches on. After his lessons, the teacher and drawer of dreams likes to visit the local railway station and to play at guessing people’s destinations. And in July he places an advertisement in the newspaper for the first ever Cloud Race, with marmolubles for prizes, an idea that draws the Lord Mayor’s attention and soon has everybody talking about it. In The Things of Ramón Lamote, a modern classic of Galician literature and one of the first works in Galician to win the Spanish National Book Award, we are invited to witness the sublime and ordinary, the comic and absurd features of life in a provincial city.


Mr Ramón Lamote had a Terra Chá class on the third floor of house number nine on Montes Street, and that was where he would go every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from five to six in the afternoon. He would leave the café at twenty to five, having played a game of dominoes, and walk along the pavement at a leisurely pace because he knew ten or fifteen minutes were enough for him to reach his destination.

It was Thursday, and Lamote hurried along a little more than usual because he was afraid it might rain, given the sky’s appearance. If the water caught him, he would wet his feet and inevitably have to spend the night with watery eyes and a runny nose.

He turned on to Montes Street and reached the entrance to number nine just as the clouds began to exude the rain they had been holding.

Once under shelter, he let out a long sigh and couldn’t help thinking of the adventure that would be the return journey, although he was sure they would lend him an umbrella in his pupil’s house. An old umbrella with holes that was kept there for just such occasions.

He headed with resignation towards the stairs, but had to stop just as he had a foot in the air to move on to the first step. A fat woman with lots of jewellery was sitting there, gazing at him with an astonished expression.

We all know Lamote is an educated man, and so he said:

“Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon,” replied the woman, barely moving her lips.

Our man scratched his left ear gently and had a quick look at his watch.

“Seems the weather’s turned,” he said.

“Yes, it’s raining.”

“It certainly is…”

And they both fell quiet. First they looked at each other, then they ran their gaze over the hallway in opposite directions until meeting back at the beginning.

“I,” said Lamote, “give Terra Chá classes here, on the third floor of this house…”

“That’s good. I also have a brother-in-law who gives Physics classes. Perhaps you know him, his name is Don Euloxio Pina…”

“I’m not sure I do… Euloxio Pina…? No… I think not…”

“He married my sister Elvira seven years ago and they have a five-year-old daughter, a pretty thing, to be sure, though she’s very spoilt, what with all the attention they give her, being an only child…”

“Yes, we all know about only children…”

And Lamote fell silent because he didn’t like talking badly about only children, in part because he was one himself.

“Do you earn a lot by giving Terra Chá classes?”

“Not a lot, to tell the truth.”

“Then how do you get enough to eat every day?”

“In fact, I’m also a drawer of dreams and so, what with one thing and another…”

Lamote glanced back at his watch and saw it was time to be starting his class.

“My class is at five,” he said a little shyly, “and this house doesn’t have a lift, the only way to reach the third floor is by going up the stairs, these stairs…”

The woman opened her eyes a little and stretched her legs out even more.

“The lift is a very practical invention, yes siree, very practical indeed. Don’t you think?”

“Indeed, madam… The thing is when there isn’t one, we have no choice but to use the stairs, wouldn’t you agree?” insisted Lamote. “Especially when one has to give a Terra Chá class on the third floor at five in the afternoon and it’s already four minutes past five.”

“Does that watch function properly?”

“Yes, madam. It’s a good watch… It’s Swiss.”

“How do you know it’s Swiss?”

“Because it says so here, on the face: Swiss made.”

“That doesn’t mean anything, watches say whatever they want them to say.”

“Actually, I bought the watch in Geneva, on a trip there some years ago…”

“Which means Terra Chá classes are a little more profitable than we thought…”

Ramón Lamote, who we all know is very respectful towards everybody, including fat women sitting on the stairs, decided to adopt a different approach.

“As I explained, they don’t pay all that much… but the little they do pay one cannot earn if one doesn’t go to them or one arrives long after the agreed hour… What would you think of your brother-in-law Euloxio if he was late for his Physics classes?”

“It depends. If he’d got run over by a car or something like that…”

“What if it was because there was a lady on the stairs and he couldn’t go up without stepping on her?”

“My brother-in-law Euloxio is a gentleman and doesn’t go about stepping on ladies. He would take the lift.”

“But there isn’t a lift.”

“My brother-in-law only gives classes where there is a lift, he’s an important teacher.”

Lamote looked back at his watch: five seventeen. He counted up to thirty in his head and made an effort to carry on reasoning:

“Very well then, let us imagine there is a lady sitting in the lift.”

“Ladies don’t sit in lifts, when have you ever seen a lady sitting in a lift…? Besides, if that were the case, he would take the stairs.”

“I imagined as much. And what if there were no stairs?”

The woman opened her eyes wide.

“My dear sir,” she said, “you don’t seem to be a very good teacher, I would go so far as to say you’re not very knowledgeable… Don’t you know it’s obligatory to put stairs in every building?”

“Yes, I know that, the thing is…”

“If you know that, why did you ask me the question?”

Ramón Lamote wasn’t sure how to reply in a correct manner and so he kept quiet. Time was just flying by, and another glance at his watch made him think seriously about the possibility of not being polite on that particular occasion, just this once… He forced his will and succeeded in refraining his impulse.

Meanwhile, the woman had rummaged around in her enormous bag, pulled out a gossip magazine and started reading.

Outside, it carried on raining, it was pouring down by now, and our friend realized, after this delay, they would be unwilling to lend him their umbrella, he would get home with wet feet and spend the night with a runny nose and watery eyes and, as a result, would only be able to draw watery dreams, dreams with rivers and lakes, with frogs and tadpoles… Dreams he wouldn’t be able to sell to Don Nicanor, who, apart from being a building contractor, was rheumatic.

It was four minutes to six when Lamote heard somebody coming down the stairs.

“I wish you’d come sooner, my friend,” he thought.

The new arrival was a short fat man who deposited a foot on each stair with great confidence.

“Maruxa,” he said, “I’ve taken the rent for all four floors and the attic.”

“Good,” she replied while placing the magazine back in her bag and getting up very slowly. “Let’s go then…”

The man noticed Lamote.

“Who’s this?” he asked the woman.

“I don’t know, he says he’s a teacher, but I’m not so sure… If he is, he must be a very bad one… Can you imagine? He said he had a class at five o’clock. See what time it is, and all he’s done is pace up and down the hallway.”

“That is the way of things,” remarked the man, exiting the door and opening an enormous blue umbrella. And off the two of them went.




Illustrated by Xoán Balboa

Translated from Galician by Jonathan Dunne

Additional Info

  • purchase text:

    THE THINGS OF RAMÓN LAMOTE by Paco Martín, the eighteenth title in the series Small Stations Fiction devoted to the best of contemporary fiction in English, is available for purchase through your local or online bookshop

    Barnes & Noble

    Book Depository


    ISBN: 978-954-384-000-7

    Publication Date: 11 November 2019

    Language: English

    Paperback: 112 pages (includes 11 black & white illustrations)

    Dimensions: 203 x 133 mm