Ode to Barcelona
Ahh now where do I begin?
I remember the days I used to just take cash out of any hole in the wall, cash machine, ATM. How boring! Where’s the challenge, the gamble, the risk, the thrill? It never used to be an adventure, I just took my money and plodded on under the grey skies. You have made my life so much more thrilling. I stroll streets I’d have never stumbled upon if that box that dispenses money just worked. Will I get money or won’t I? It sparks whole new conversations and pushes my boundaries of having to rely on those around me to lend me a few quid. Thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone and stop being the self-sufficient version of me.
Thank you for reminding me about the art of conversation. Why be to the point when you can circle a subject for hours, never quite coming to any clear conclusion. My thinking has become abstract, just like you and your works of art that adorn you. Why think in clear lines when it’s far more fun to watch your thoughts do a loop-the-loop, flying high through the clouds, the pretty mountains and floating off into the sea. Once upon a time my thoughts were as straight as Roman roads, the M4, the Reading to Paddington line, not any more. Why be a lateral thinker when life’s so much more fun letting your train of thought sparkle and simmer, like a catherine wheel on an autumn night. Someone’s turned the volume up too. Words spill out with such passion and energy and at a much louder frequency than I am used to. A conversation wouldn’t be the same anymore without so much gesticulation.
Once upon a time I turned a street corner and wasn’t met with hoards of people in high vis jackets wielding placards and tooting on whistles. A sea of neon warriors taking over the streets, giving the police a reason to take their frontrow seats, control the crowds whilst leaning back on their car bonnets enjoying a cigarette or two. The only protest I’d ever been engulfed in was in the Indian capital, December 2012 in New Delhi… God bless Jyoti Singh Pandey. Now it’s a weekly occurrence. Sticks with flames and determined faces, fighting by using your feet not sat from your armchairs screaming at #bbcqt and firing off the odd tweet. I hide my blue eyes and cut glass accent as it’s a dead giveaway that I am in fact a guiri, an immigrant. But you don’t really seem to mind and you’re always kind to me. I miss the nightly tambourine battle cry in the build up to your illegal vote for independence. I used to stare at the moon from my tiny balcony and watch your Catalonia flags hang proudly from every building, listening to the collective voice of your people.
I scoff at the days when I’d eaten dinner and washed up before 8pm. Oh and lunchtimes when I’d be halfway through my packaged sandwich at 12.30. I know I sometimes have to gnaw on my own hands because by 2.30pm I’m wondering if it’s ok to eat yet, but that’s alright I’m on your time now. I used to eat to survive, but I’ve learnt that eating has very little to do with survival, it’s a time to socialise and kick back. Why eat quickly when you can savour every mouthful and then enjoy a good coffee after, chat awhile and ponder life.
I have to confess your shop opening times are still a mystery to me. 11-2pm, 4-9pm, I think is the vague rule but I can never be sure. Sundays are a law unto themselves as I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to open but sometimes you do. Never do I wake up on a Saturday morning and dash out of the house to beat the crowds and trawl the world-class but homogenous clothes shops I’ve grown-up with. I could guarantee I’d get an outfit, a fashionable one but chances are I’d look around and see slightly off reflections in so many female forms. Your cobbled narrow streets are filled with a myriad of affordable boutiques with emerging designers, vintage shops and the downright bizarre. How am I supposed to look the same as everyone else?
Do you know something Barcelona, I used to think it was convenient being able to buy all the food I needed for the week from an oversized store. I’d be in and out within the hour, plastic bags over-spilling with exactly what I needed and I’d be home in time to have my dinner cooked and on the table before night really fell. If I need cheese now, I go to the cheese shop, for meat I venture to the butchers with its giant hunks of flesh hanging from hooks on the ceiling. Your vegetables and fruit have the cheek to go off after a day or two. You can get chemicals now you know Barcelona, that prevent the inevitable rot and decay. Don’t worry you’ll learn that you can prevent your food’s decline. Keep an apple for a month if you like and it will still look pristine, perfectly polished in its shiny, waxy skin. It doesn’t taste of all that much but it looks exactly like an apple should look.
My love of paperwork and bureaucracy was inevitable. I praise your initiative in dreaming up whole new industries and keeping neighbourhoods alive, simply by making what should be a simple online form into an epic adventure. Haha it’s brilliant the way in which you keep us on our toes by changing the processes on a regular basis, adding more twists and turns, documents needed and levels to complete. I’d never have met the lovely fearless lady who emulated such passion for the process that she growled with pride each time she turned an unwitting newby away. Three separate visits across 6 weeks I ventured to your NIE office and begged you to be seen. If I’d known it was as simple as bringing a charismatic Spanish colleague so you could giggle at my expense, I’d have done it on trip one, I’m not proud. You showed me the joy of receiving a simple number, that I now treasure in my purse as if it was a euromillions winning ticket! The simple number that is key to doing anything in your beautiful city. Unless of course you drag around a smiley local to wink at the life-weary gate-masters that shuffle papers with such pride.
I was in such a rush before, I got things done to the minute I’d said I’d do them. I was so silly, why do things today when you can do them mañana.