Reflets sur l’eau

When we went down to the beach last Saturday to see how much of it had survived last week’s storms, a little old man was sitting on the wooden decking of the walkway drinking beer. We sat next to him and exchanged pleasantries while he finished one can and opened another. Thus emboldened, our Cordovan Canute casually got up and strolled down to the waterline to inspect the froth for worms and other objects of value. And then–WHOOOSSSHHH!!!–along came wave number seven.

We thought at first that he would make it, but he tripped as he turned, fell, and was completely submerged by the Mediterranean as it surged up against the decking. Suddenly everything was quiet, a strange light shone in the sky, and, as an arm parted the waters clutching a beercan called Estrella, we heard a muffled voice cry: ¡Me cago en la puta! The monster eventually emerged from the deep, emptying 13 litres of water (but no worms) out of his jacket sleeves, and we suggested he go home and change. Out of the question. Why? Because his wife would accuse him of having been drinking on the beach again.

The next image on this lightning tour of aquatic Spain is from some Med-facing fields on a walk up the coast. There’s a water deposit just up the hill to the left of the photo (remember that you can click most of the photos on this site) and flow is regulated by an intricate system of pipes and taps. Some other horticulturalists have started investing in computer controlled systems, but this farmer has chosen to install a little shelter with a couple of chairs for the highly paid hydrological consultant from Central Africa who pops in every now and again. No fridge to keep the beer cold, though.

The final picture is of some of the damage caused by flash floods that devastated low-lying factories and already poverty-stricken neighbourhoods in Barcelona in 1962. This disaster prompted PR visits from menacing figures in uniform and dark glasses and provided a powerful impetus for the rerouting and adequate (underground) channelling of storm drainage. Now very few coastal main streets double as occasional water courses, although there’s a lovely example on this walk.

The image used is taken from the terribly addictive British Pathé archive, which has been available online for some months now. Other local highlights include:

  • The orgy of anti-clerical destruction in 1936, including (if I am not mistaken) the looting of Sant Pere Nolasc off Tallers.
  • Republican trenches during the long Civil War standoff to the east of Huesca. No, I can’t see Orwell.
  • Air raids in Barcelona. There’s obviously no comparison in terms of physical damage with what happened in other parts of Europe several years later, but the psychological impact here and elsewhere was huge.
  • Franco’s victory parade through the safer bits of Barcelona. Lots of Christians, lots of Moors.
  • The 1960 Nationalist propagandamentary short, El Camino de la Paz.
  • Deep snow in the harbour and the Plaça Real during the winter of 1963. Bear in mind that almost no dwellings here had any kind of heating at the time.
  • Barça games, including matches against Wolves, Birmingham City and Real.

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  1. The Barrio Chino must be dangerous if even a Fascist dictator with an army equipped with tanks is too frightened to go there.

    I was given the old heave-ho yesterday, so I may start one of these myself.

  2. Although I am very sorry to hear the second bit, I did warn you that Brick Lane was not the place to sell dodgy Iraqi rockets. Apropos of nothing very much really, I once had lunch with a senior Ugandan official who told me that there was a large public market in the Congo just over the border from his country and the Sudan where you could buy tanks, artillery and Eastenders compilation videos. It may be that it is there that a man of your entrepreneurial ability should try next.

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