Friday, 18 December 2009

Week 12

Christina:
It’s Friday night and I’m waiting outside a bar in the Sant Pere area of Barcelona, nervously picking at my nail varnish. A man is pacing up and down on the pavement beside me. He looks like he’s waiting for someone, I tell myself. I eventually muster the courage to approach him.

Me: “Hola. Eres Jordi?”

Him: “Si. Christina?”

   It’s okay, I’m not having an affair; Will is by my side and Jordi is the organiser of the Barcelona English/Spanish Language Exchange Group, which Will and I are attending for the first time. The idea is that you go to a bar and chat to people you don’t know in an effort to improve your Spanish or English. Will and I deliberately sit at opposite ends of the table so that we don’t end up discussing utility bills, and I spend most of the evening talking to two lovely ladies from Barcelona.
   Topics of conversation include having a good moan about our respective city’s transport systems. It’s reassuring to find that wherever you’re from in the world, tutting about delayed trains, lack of information and exorbitant ticket prices can keep a conversation going for ages. Personally, I don’t know what they’ve got to complain about. In Barcelona it costs 70p for a single journey, anywhere on the network. 70p! That’s 1950s London prices! And you’re allowed to drink on the trains here; one station, Glories (it’s on the red line), even has a bar next to the ticket machines.
   I also chat to a sweet and eccentric Catalan man who tells me he loves 1970s British TV sitcoms like George & Mildred. His English accent is so good that I become suspicious he’s an undercover, er … English person. Undercover for what, exactly, I don’t know. But I’m a Londoner and it’s my duty to be deeply cynical; that’s what years of travelling on the London Underground does for you. 




Our Christmas tree, which I (Will) found in a bin. Observe how it is in 
danger of being crushed by a falling Christmas card 


Will:
The postal colour in Spain, as in France, is yellow. I enjoy the sight of a postman (or postwoman) anywhere I go, and the posties of Barcelona are no exception. They are often to be seen taking the tube with their trolleys full of post, but the area around our flat is particularly good ground for spying a postie or two, because we’re within a few minutes’ walk of the central post office on Via Laietana, the city’s main conurbation of carteros. From my observations, Barcelona’s female posties may not be as pulchritudinous as the street-sweepers (see my post for Week 2 for details), but they are punctual and well turned-out.
     I feel a duty to continue sending post, despite the fact that it is obviously stupid and outdated and irrelevant, because when society collapses and the internet explodes and we’re all clubbing each other to death with our own femurs, we may need them. Possibly. Although they may be on strike.
    Anyway, el correo is not the first species to arouse my interest of a morning. Many of the old buildings here (including the one we live in) have never been fitted for gas, central heating not being common. Instead, people use bottled butane, which is delivered by men with hand-trolleys. The butano-men make their rounds between 8 and 10 am, walking around the streets and shouting “butano!”. If you need a bottle, you shout down to them and they bring it up to your flat; one bottle will last a flat like ours two months, and I think they cost 11 Euro. The best thing about the butano-men is that each one has a different, distinctive way of shouting butano!, just as birds or squirrels or monkeys might use a distinctive cry to establish their identities. Our spare bottle ran out this week, so I am currently evaluating the cries of the butano-men who pass our flat in the mornings (there are four), and on Monday I will shout Sí! Sí! Butano, aqui! to the one I deem best. It’s a bit like the singing contests on TV at home, only it’s not a horrendous waste of everyone’s time and it won’t poison music for ever.

The Butano! Network Chart:
1. But-tan-noey! – Unidentified Butano Man A
2. Butaerno! – Unidentified Butano Man B
3. Peutahno! – Another Unidentified Butano Man
4. Beu-tar-noy! – Unidentified Butano Man With a Limp



There is a special pasta shape eaten here at Christmas, and large, illuminated pasta shells have been placed around the city to remind people which shape to buy


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