Friday, 6 November 2009

Week 6

You don’t see elderly people out and about that much in Britain unless you spend a lot of time on buses, in churches or shopping at Bodgers of Ilford. But old people are everywhere in Barcelona and in other parts of Spain as I discovered last week when I visited Rioja, in the north of the country. Its capital, Logroño, was swarming with good-time grannies and granddads out on the town quaffing wine and eating tapas with their children and grandchildren. And Barcelona’s streets and squares are home to benches-full of old folk watching the world go by through wise eyes and waving their sticks furiously as they make a point about something or other.

But it’s Barceloneta beach where they feel most at home: so at home, in fact, that they walk around practically starkers. On Wednesday morning, Will and I went for a run along the beach and we must have seen 20 old men wandering around in the tiniest swimming trunks imaginable: some of them were out for a swim, others were jogging or doing lunges, but most of them were just hanging out at the outdoor cafes, being very noisy, playing card games and drinking beer. This was at 9 o’clock in the morning. Will and I have just returned to the beach to try and photograph these scantily-clad octogenarians but sadly we were too late for them – they were probably on lunch or having a siesta – so you’ll have to make do with this fully-clothed old man’s club. The old ladies, too, are a source of inspiration and are snazzy dressers as demonstrated by this golden-shoed stylista (pictured).

It doesn’t feel very Christmassy here yet. It’s 6 November and I bet that back home in London, every shop you walk into has Jingle Bells blaring out at a hundred decibels and that shop workers are being forced to wear Santa hats against their will. I have seen none of this yet, but in a nod to all things festive, I have this week exchanged emails with a PR person named Natividad (Nativity) and met a man called Jesus.  

Those trainers are to die for!!!

    The first rule of Old Man Club is: you have to be an old man.
(Warning: the last word of this entry is a strong swearword.)

Last Saturday morning in the Plaça Carles Pi I Sunyer, the members of a local brass band were warming their instruments up in the fresh autumn air. Shoppers from the Portal del Angel stopped to look as they trilled up and down their scales. Some old ladies erupted into giggles when a tuba parped flatulently in their direction, the tuba-player waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
     But behind the band, a dull, aggressive music emanated from the Carrer dels Capellans. It was coming from Tommy Gun Sneakers, where the men in the shop had turned up their stereo to cut over the musicians. They weren’t happy that, for once, there was a sound louder than their stereo to be heard in the square. I don’t know what song it was; some American hip-hop, I think. To be honest, it sounded like a ringtone. The guys in the shop were doing their best to drown out the jolly, home-made music of the band, and draw attention to their display of Nike trainers. They were also standing in the street, jeering and gesticulating at the musicians.
    In the 1950s and 60s, while the rest of the world was undergoing a musical revolution, Spain remained under strict muscial censorship – even Cliff Richard was considered too risqué for Franco’s far-right regime. Back then, music-for-fun had to shut up in favour of music-for-your-own-good. Now, music-for-fun is blared over by music-for-money.
   After about fifteen minutes of my ruminating on the evils of American cultural imperialism and the like, I saw a young woman lean into the doorway of Tommy Gun Sneakers.

        “Shhh! Pajeros!” (“Shut it, wankers!”), she shouts.

And they did. So you can ruminate all you like, but if you want a pajero to shut up, you tell him.

    Incidentally, the fact that pajero is Spanish for ‘wanker’ is the reason that you’ll find it difficult to buy a Mitsubishi Pajero in the Spanish-speaking world. I love it when companies do that. Apparently the Honda Jazz was originally named the Honda Fitta, until it was discovered that, across Scandinavia, fitta is a popular slang word. It means ‘cunt’. 

Fans of last week's entry on specific shops will enjoy this, the globe shop.

There are drinking fountains all over Barcelona. You can drink from them, or just take a picture.


  1. Discovered this blog as I prepare for my upcoming vacation to Barcelona in a week or so. I laughed so loudly that I disturbed my downstairs neighbor in my bldg here in Boston. You are clever and entertaining. Thanks for the tips about the pickpockets too. Best wishes for a fabulous year in Barcelona.
    Adeu! Andrea from Boston

  2. Thank you Andrea. We're glad you like the blog and enjoy your trip to Barcelona! It really is a great city.