On Saturday, we gathered our bags together in the living room of the apartment we’d been staying in for our first week. As we were thanking our hosts, the largest and heaviest of my bags toppled over, causing a loud wail to emit from the toddler onto whom it had fallen.
My God, I thought, I’ve crushed their baby. Christina has given their house keys to criminals [see her blog entry for details], and I’ve murdered their son.
I hadn’t, as it turned out, but it was definitely time to move house.
Our flat is fairly small and ramshackle, but it is perched above a small street in the barrio gótico, the old city that has been the heart of Barcelona since the Middle Ages. In the evenings, we sit with the windows open, listening to the soft babble of voices from the bar on the corner and the tolling of the cathedral bells a few streets away. During the day, we sit with the windows open, listening to the R&B blaring out from the shop that sells trainers in the street below. Still, I suppose they were here first, and nothing can detract from the novelty of living in a maze of medieval alleyways, surrounded by nice little bars and old-man cafés, or of buying our bread from a baker and our food at La Boqueria, Barcelona’s famous market.
Living in the centre of town also gives me plenty of opportunities to pursue my new hobby: observing Barcelona’s unusually attractive bin-ladies. The beauty of Spanish women is a well-documented phenomenon, but their street-sweepers, often blonde bombshells who have clearly made an effort to look their best, really put the English ones to shame. Who are these comely broomsters? And how are the Barcelona waste disposal people recruiting all these good-looking women? Like some bird-watcher or collector of rare butterflies, I have become fascinated by them. I have been trying to get a good photo of one for our readers (there’s a real hottie who empties the bins over by the Jaume 1 Metro station), with Christina’s help. She finds the bin-ladies as interesting a species as I do, and gamely pretends to pose for a photo while I’m actually focussing over her shoulder for a shot of a dolled-up refuse collector. Not many girlfriends would be so open-minded and sensible, although she has made it clear that if I bother the bin-ladies, she will report me to the authorities. Fair enough.
I once had the contents of my handbag analysed (I’m not sure what qualifications you need for that, but it’s nice to know there’s a career out there for everyone). After extracting enough pens to stock a small Paperchase store, notebooks, make-up, bank statements and other miscellany, the bag doctor’s diagnosis was no surprise: I am a hoarder. I’ve never minded being a bit Mary Poppins, until last Friday when my bag got stolen from a bar and with it, my bank card, mobile phone, our NIE papers, the keys to the flat we were staying in and the address. Will did a lot of tutting, which was fair enough I suppose. Did I really need to carry around photocopies of our passports while we were out on the town and under the influence of wine? Well no, but it’s a lesson learned.
So, as well as moving into our new flat on Saturday, I went down to the police station off Las Ramblas to report the incident. As I stood in line with dozens of other grim-faced Brits who’d suffered the same fate, I was cheered by the presence of a translator whose job it is to assist those who don’t speak Catalan or Spanish. He had the jauntiness of an X Factor contestant and when he saw I’d written my mobile phone’s IMEI number on my report form (I’m not sure what this is, but apparently it’s important), he gave a little cry of delight at how excellent this was. There was more entertainment in the waiting room, which had a big TV screen playing Living in America by James Brown. It’s nice to have an upbeat tune to tap your foot to when you’re contemplating what’s been stolen from you.
In other news, I made the mistake of pointing out to Will that Barcelona’s female refuse collectors are very glamorous (one of them wears red lipstick!) Like a low-rent David Bailey, he has taken to photographing them, and I’m acting as a foil: I stand there pretending I’m having my photo taken when in fact, he’s papping the hot bin ladies behind me.
Bruce Springsteen, earlier today.
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