What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
12th August 2021
So This Happened
At 7pm Monday night, Pete and I were at an impasse, arguing about possible ways of escaping the country. Sick of the dark days and apocalyptic storms and floods, tethered by commitments, we tried to find a travel date but couldnâ€™t find a day before October. I felt that given my condition there was little likelihood of me ever travelling again. Something broke and Pete suddenly decided we should go – right now. ‘You’re just sitting there not writing and being miserable. You can afford to get us onto the next BA Business Class flight.’
The first available flight was early the following morning. Check-in opened at 6:00am.
We spent a frantic evening filling out forms and arguing on the phones, trying to get all the clearance codes and pay endless fees to Bozo the Clown’s chosen private companies; his old Bullingdon pals and their banana republic business schemes. It came to a fortune – no wonder nobodyâ€™s flying. Plus I had to get doctorsâ€™ authorisations and permission to carry syringes on a flight, then arrange my return jabs – how do families cope with all this?
The airports turned out to be the easy part. There was no waiting, although a lot of people had set off without all their documentation, so a special line for them had been set up. As always, the European end was smoother and better organised than Heathrow.
Then I was off the plane and into my street.
It’s been two years since I was here. The flat is like Miss Havershamâ€™s wedding table, with more plumbing problems. Oh, and our funky, wiggly stairs with no bannisters (terrifying at the best of times) have suddenly become a death trap. Suddenly I was forced to used atrophied muscles.Â I managed well and walked further than I thought I could, then disaster struck from a most unlikely source. Sand.
When I stepped onto a beach, my tingling, numb feet sought purchase on it, found none and threw me to the ground. With Peteâ€™s strong arm I was eventually able to master a slow drunkenÂ walk but I decided it would be easier if IÂ could swim.Â I felt like the Little Mermaid returning to the sea – but I couldnâ€™t stand up to get back out of the water. I tried to drag myself out but it was impossible to stand up unaided.
Barcelona has plenty of holidaymakers in August, mostly Latino and French but no English, and other nationalities and groups are missing. Many of my favourite restaurants and shops have gone. Signs of economic hardship are everywhere. The city looks the same, just a little shabbier. The endless street cleaning services have vanished, the ladies with palm-leaf brushes and the water-sprayers seem to have gone. Empty buildings mean more graffiti, a tidal wave of day-go trash-talk rising to smother the erudite architecture.Â
But Barcelona is built on the slope of a mountain, and the higher you go the smarter it gets. In Eixample and Gracia and Zona Alta there are no problems – it’s the predominantly British tourist areas that have been allowed to decline. We left Europe, so why should they care about us? Half of our nation opted out, and with a sly nudge from the Tories a few more votes were miraculously found to push it over the line. We left, not because the public wanted it but because a handful of corrupt politicians could make a lot of money.
But such thoughts effervesce and vanish in the light of the all-forgiving sun.