For the more superstitious inhabitants of the Basque village of El Regato, the beginning of the Spanish civil war was portended not so much by Francisco Franco's coup as by the onset of a sudden turmoil in the heavens.

"People were saying the war is starting because all the stars in the sky are rushing around," says Herminio Martínez, who, even as a six-year-old then, was beginning to grow sceptical. "I would look up in the sky but I couldn't see the stars rushing around."

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