Having finished the first draft of the new Bryant & May novel, I could actually stop thinking about books for a few days and take a break, so I vanished from freezing wet London to sunny Barcelona, and it appears we’re not the only ones fleeing the English Easter, with 1.7 million people fighting to get away from ‘The Beast From The East’, the freezing Siberian wind that is helping to hurl the UK’s spring backwards.
Yet for all the dash and panic to be somewhere else, cities are curiously localised in their congestion. Pass through Leicester Square in London or the Ramblas in Barcelona and you’d be forgiven for thinking the whole world is pushing past you. But tread two streets away from the tourist path in either city and you find yourself alone.
When the Greeks first developed Corfu, they only allowed the hotels to be built on a single two-mile strip, knowing that tourists would be unlikely to stray from their holiday rat-run – and although a certain number of backpackers travel the world, for the majority of holidaymakers this apparently still holds true. (For a true sense of Corfu before the rush, read Gerald Durrell’s charming ‘My Family and Other Animals’.)
We arrived in Barca to relax, only to blow up the power junction outside our flat and consign ourselves to no water or light over Easter weekend.
Luckily, being in an outdoor city has its advantages; although buildings are dark and cool you can go and sit in the park or at the beach with everyone else. We headed for the Museum of Ideas and Innovation, which was full of inventions old and new, from this scary nerve restorer to a drink dispenser that only gives you colas after you’ve burned off the equivalent calories.
Outside the Museum, this chap had found a good way to earn a living; his scooter converts into a knife-grinder, and he offers the services to restaurants and private residences.
Unemployment has hit Spanish youth particularly hard, but it seems that the city is filled with private enterprise, and everyone is looking for a winning idea.
But while private entrepreneurs often work incredibly hard, the banks are still hopeless. It’s virtually impossible to use their facilities with ease when they shut for half the day and every imaginable public holiday. Having caused Europe’s economic crisis in the first place, they’re clearly in no rush to change their own practices. It’s hardly any surprise that the public is so disenchanted.
I’ll be back in Blighty on Tuesday, when I start on the final draft of ‘Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart’, and then begin the first thriller in a newly commissioned series, which I’ll take you through in the coming days.
Meanwhile, ‘Film Freak’ arrives on April 10th, and I’ll be in London doing interviews about it. Four days of reading instead of writing are quite enough, thank you.