Saturday, July 30, 2011

Things I Saw in Barcelona

Ok, we've only been here not a wet day. The word not was meant to be in brackets but I can't find the bracket sign on the Spanish keyboard. Well it's Barcelona, what do you expect? The home of the throngs of Spanish students who hang around the suburbs of Galway in packs every summer and  say 'th' for 's' and are much more touchy feely than Irish teens and prefer drinking Nestle Ice Tea to going bush drinking with hip flasks of vodka.
But seriously, I'd seen the postcards, I'd Googled it, and Galway does have a Tapas bar, so I did have some idea. I was thinking about my first ever awareness that there was a country called Spain. It was at about age 8 when I started collecting stamps. We got ones with Espana written on them, and a man's head. It was, of course, Franco. So disappointing. I liked the stamps with Magyar on them and wonderful pictures of all sorts of great things that seemed to be going on in Hungary.
Franco is dead now so to get back to Barcelona... it's the same anywhere really: no matter what you see in picture or movie form, it's different when you're there. Yes, I've seen a good few of the wow factor places so far, and I've had numerous platters of tapas, good Rioja and some fancy aperitif. But I saw things that make it a journey rather than a holiday. A woman hanging clothes over the balcony on some back street, a child getting slapped by a mother who was a slapper in more ways than one. An ancient couple holding hands on the dusty afternoon pavement, sat in a city park and ate water melon, that sort of thing.

Yesterday we went on the cable car over to Montjuic, if that's how you spell it. There were three people ahead of us in the queue, two men and a woman. One of the men smoked a pipe, let's say, more in an annoying leftover hippy way than in a very British Gentleman way. They were Spanish, not surprising considering I'm in Spain I suppose, and he started playing music out loud from his phone and singing along to it in a very annoying, cannot sing sort of way. But come on, I'm on holidays, who cares.
The couple he was with would have been your average ageing hippy kind of couple, what drew attention to them was that the bloke was on a wheelchair and was in a really bad way. No speech, skin and bones, muscular spasms - just about hanging on in there if you ask me. His head rolled, his legs tangled and his arms went everywhere. She seemed to be getting through to him though, and you could see she was pure mad about him - kissing him, holding his hand, the usual carry on of any couple I suppose.
Damn it was a journey getting on to that cable car. First the half hour queue, then the lift up to it, then another long wait and eventually in we all got - or at least attempted to get.  Yer man's wheelchair wouldn't fit into the cablecar. In, out, front ways, side ways, not a hope. So his missus and the other guy, I decided the other guy was his brother, lifted him out of the chair and carried him on to the cable car. Then they held him up to the window and you gotta believe it, but when that man smiled and made noises that we all understood to be the same feeling of elation that we all got trundling across the bay on a cable car, you could have cut the air with the emotion on board.
When we got to the top the three of them said bye to all of us and waved as they went back down on the cable car. Myself and herself headed towards the nearest bar and we said nothing, because after all, we're two lesbians, and if one of us gets emotional the other will get even more emotional instead of just saying 'ah would ya ever get a grip on yerself'.  So I said nothing, but I thought to myself 'and there I was this morning, the mother of sorrows because I don't have the figure of a model'. I have to say, I didn't feel sorry for the guy at all, I felt uplifted because he demonstrated that life is great no matter what shape you're in, as long as you go out there and live it.
So we drank white wine and walked through the cactus garden and I felt a connection with the guy on the cable car because if anyone had asked either of us at that moment why we were doing what we were doing, we could both quote the great Bill Clinton and say: 'I did it because I could!'

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