A Walk Through Barcelona

Film, Observatory

I thought it would make a change to stroll around Barcelona (taking care to avoid all the Gaudi buildings) as I went on my hunt for a key shop in the old town. What I got was rather less expected. I did find probably the best knife and scissor shop ever.

Everywhere you go, ephemeral modern art can be seen on streets, in parks, and in less obvious places. This lady had decorated the basket of her bicycle.

But there are signs of the credit crisis even here, in the wealthy Catalan part of Spain, with rough sleepers bedded down inside ATM foyers and a mass protest outside the town hall against a plan to privatise parks and public spaces. Here, a Channel 8 reporter attempts to be heard above thousands of whistles, blown so that the sitting council can hear them in the debating chamber and take note.

The poster announced La Merce (sorry, no accent button for the ‘e’), Barcelona’s celebration of its patron Saint, which tales the form of castellers, or human castles (sometimes immense), giants, dragons, demons and lots of fire-running. Every district has giants and fires.

The last thing you expect to see during a walk in the park is a dozen tango couples dancing through a lake of fire, but in the Cuitadella Parc at midnight there were shadow sand shows, acrobats, spacemen, dragons, bands and groups of children being entertained under trees by teachers – all after midnight. The couples waltzed and poured liquid fire over each others heads in spectacular displays of elegance. Each event had a narrative and thousands attended, young and very old, under the stars with sherries and a very strong smell of hash.

6 comments on “A Walk Through Barcelona”

  1. Peter Mark Simonson says:

    hi christopher,

    Years back I used to work for Serpents Tail and currently I’m writing a history of camden radicalism from 60’s onwards. There’s no longer Compendium or anything like it but i want to end the piece on the community of writers such as Mark Billingham that live around the outskirts of CT. Do you still line in NW5? sorry for hijacking the comments, Barcelona wonderful place and book by Alexei Sayle, please reply if you want via may email above (secret), Many thanks in advance,
    PPeter Simonson

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Nice, interesting, but are you sure that was a lady who decorated her bicycle? It looks like the Pothole Gardener’s M.O. to me and he was in Europe recently.

  3. Anne Fernie says:

    I used to decorate my bike like that but people kept nicking or destroying the flowers! The scissor collage made me nostalgically think of my vote for best window display at Adam Dharra Khel (about 50km out of Peshawar) in the mid 90s where the whole window was a beautiful geometric design comprising handguns and haschish. I wanted to take a photo but was warned it was NOT a good idea…….

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    Annie – nice to know. I lived in Kabul in the 60s and was in and out of Peshawar several times a year. Loved the change and the curries.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    There’s someone a few blocks away who grows flowers in the basket of a bicycle she’s fastened outside her yard. I look forward to the new planting every year.
    The description you give of the celebration is really strange. Is it possible you were standing a little too close to the hash smokers? It just sounds like a night totally removed from normalcy, how marvelous!

  6. Alan Morgan says:

    Reread Orwell and Laurie Lee, not to see what has changed so much as what might not. It’s probably possible to see the dried paint of the past more easily as an outsider than one who grows up amongst it.

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