More Scary Shops

Film, Observatory

I think you learn more walking around the streets of a strange city than you do in its museums. I decided to plough deeper into the Barcelona backstreets today; a city ordnance prevents shops from opening on Sundays, so they built a mall on the water beyond city limits, and it’s predictably horrible, a summary of everything that’s wrong with the West, bland chain stores punctuated with McDonalds and Starbucks.

But the good thing is, the city is still filled with independent shops, although some displays take explaining. Here’s a local toy store, most of its window taken up with handcrafted dolls and skateboards, the rest with Kalashnikovs and pistols that fire rubber pellets.

When you find a shop that sells knives, you’d usually assume it was a kitchen store. This one gives the game away by including a hand grenade in the display. The rest of the window was filled with giant axes, cleavers and the kind of breadknives mercenaries stick down their combat trousers in bad movies.

I wish I could explain why this phone booth was completely covered in stamps, whether it was some strange tradition or perhaps a mad stamp collector has suffered a fit.

Finally another bakery – remember the bread shop where all the buns and rolls were sunbathing? How about this one? If you’re buying books and meringues wouldn’t you be happier knowing that they’d been blessed by the Madonna in her meringue grotto?

People are messy, chaotic, naive, strange and generally unpredictable, which is why, for me, mass production and identical consumer outlets don’t have any appeal. My attitude is; buying your clothes in markets and independent shops, never eating in chains or shopping in malls is more time-consuming but helps to define you as individual. There’ll be enough mass-produced stuff you have no choice about in your life anyway.

11 comments on “More Scary Shops”

  1. John Howard says:

    The knives remind me of a school trip, in the sixties, to Brussels, when the chic thing for the yooffs of the time to buy was a flick knife. Something that the older boys definitely did. My highlight of that trip, as a twelve year old, was going to see Goldfinger which in the UK was an A certificate so now way was I going to see it there and feeling so grown up. (Even better it was an English language print with subtitles).

    As for the stamps, do you think they are the modern version of the, ‘put 3 pence in the slot’ phones. Maybe, ‘please leave 3 euros worth of un-franked stamps on the shelf in the booth, and I can put you through caller.’

    Liked the Madonna, all very Gaudi. Or, alternatively, a downmarket version of your mate Joanne Harris’ Chocolat shop window.

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    As an American I am starting to breath a triffle easier after seeing the windows above. They would appear at first glance to surpass anything you’d find in the good ol’ U. S. of Arms, particularly not so openly displayed so any deranged citizen could snatch-grab and run.
    No back to reading about this day’s shooting at a mall in the midwest. “Tally-ho” as they cry just 12 miles or so from where I live.

  3. Alan G says:

    The world does seem to be becoming more violent, or more “get them before they get you” these days. I’ve seen it in Spain and Turkey where friends are perversely proud to show their personal armouries. Scares the Hell out of me.

  4. Lun Esex says:

    As an American youth I relished my semi-annual summer trips in the late ’70′s and early ’80′s to the U.K. to visit family. We’d borrow a family car and head over to the continent with my grandfather and a cousin, aunt, or uncle. What I always found striking was how frequently some town we’d stop in would have a shop selling knives, or a toy shop with loads of plastic guns, like in the photos above. Whether or not this was due to stricter laws in California, where I grew up, it was not something I was familiar with. I was even more boggled on a trip in the late ’80′s to the south of Spain, where every single town had several shops with swords, battle axes, maces, etc. piled in a bin out front, being sold as souvenirs.

    In the States now the only toy guns you’ll find in the shops are brightly colored supersoakers and a few similarly brightly colored Nerf guns. In areas of historically interesting battles you might find replica toy flintlock rifles and pistols, all with very bright, solidly attached orange plugs in their nozzles. (They have these in the gift shops at the ends of the Pirates of the Caribbean rides in Disney parks, too.)

    Of course the reason for the lack of realistic-looking toy guns in the States now is due to the fact that all police have guns, and even children holding a remotely vaguely realistic toy gun will get shot by them. Not to mention the number of armed citizens who’ll do the same. This just leads to the point where people are getting shot for brandishing a cell phone (or a pack of skittles)–because if it’s black and shiny, there’s no longer a chance it’s a toy, so it’s either a gun or a phone. And who wants to take a chance on it only being a phone that someone’s got in their hand?

    This makes me think phone stores should put up signs and train their sales staff to encourage people to buy the white models of phones, because they’re “less likely to be mistaken for a gun.”

  5. snowy says:

    It seems the US gun industry is constantly innovating. There are a range of pistols available in gold leopard skin print, and other colours to suit you outfit/taste or lack thereof.

    I’ll not put a direct link but if anyone happened to put the words ‘no ugly guns’ in a search engine, would find similar. And there is of course the Hello Kitty AK47, (but that’s a spoof.)

    Perhaps the stamps are a cunning ruse, and the Spanish have found an miniature alternative to the ‘colourful’ cards that adorn Londons call boxes.

  6. Alan G says:

    Lun. Last week, here in London, a blind man was tasered from behind by a policeman. The officer apparently mistook his white stick for a samurai sword – beats me how he could have been so specific as to the type of sword, but there we go.

  7. John says:

    A toy AK-47? I’m stunned. What kind of kid wants something like that? Or any of those “toys”? I think I might have an idea. Now that Halloween is upon us there is a horrible photo that is popping up all over the interweb. Dare you look? His gleeful expression is positively nightmare inducing.

  8. Dan Terrell says:

    He’s cute, but … I hope he does not attempt to trick or treat in the USA wearing that. We just now apprehended another for-real, nice-looking, young man, who wanted to blow up a Federal financial building in N.Y. City.

  9. snowy says:

    The samauri sword was reported by the member of the public that called in. But in some areas if a ‘long bladed article’ is involved, odds on it will be either a replica katana or a ‘Jamaican butter knife’ (machete). And the person wielding it will either be mentally ill, under the influence of drugs or both.

    Most officers are only armed with a 36″ long whippy stick not much thicker than a mans thumb, called an ASP.

    An incident involving a machete was caught on a mobile phone video last year, available on the usually streaming sites. ’30 Police Machete’ will take you there.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    That meringue display interests me. Apparently they are selling some sort of confection called Montserrat Rocks – in the boxes. Are they blessed by the virgin of that monastery? I have a photo of the area and the rocks aren’t white. They’re very rugged, though and high. The connection is obviously not with Montserrat Caballe (can’t spell her last name). It doesn’t appear to be like the rock candy available in Britain and elsewhere. Interesting.

  11. Ford says:

    In Westbourne (Bournemouth); one of the off licences used to have a “presentation box”, of what I think was vodka. The main bottle was in the shape of a Kalashnikov; with some smaller bottles in the shape of grenades!!!

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