People we meet: the ornithophile matricide

The long, narrow bar connects the folksy-chaotic gypsy street on one side of the block with the folksy-chaotic payo shopping street on the other. People walk through it from one side to the other without greeting the hick Pakistani tenant or any of his clients. Not that he cares in the least: he is off to visit his girlfriend in Madrid, and with the huge wad of banknotes in his back pocket he has purchased a canary-yellow tie. Since they didn’t have ties, or cravats, or fancy garments of any nature in his village, he is taking elementary knotting lessons across the bar from J, retired vendor of contraband cigarettes with shiny suit and shinier hair and a WWII RAF moustache. You’d be better off buying a pajarita, a dickie-bow, comments R, the finch-owner to our right, and wanders off to the toilet. The finch panics and begins to bang around in the cage, and the conversation takes a chilly course.

Finch-man R’s mum has died. Ooh, how they used to beat each other! He wasn’t the same after he came back home. Went to live with some woman, he did, but it didn’t work out. What’s a man to do? So he came back and moved in with his mum, and then he started saying his grandma had left the flat to him, not his mum. Ooh, how they used to beat each other! And now she’s dead. Where would he be without his bird?

R emerges from the toilet, the finch happily recommences gnawing at its cage, and the drunken snoggers at the other end of the bar wonder whether J will need to abandon all notions of racial purity and spoon the Paki from behind in order to arrive at the perfect knot.

(This was on a walk introducing some literary people to the worlds of several mid-century Barcelona charnego novelists. It continues to surprise me that tourists generally prefer walks through the deathly-dull old town to technicolor snaps of real life, which is cheaper, more interesting to the folks back home, and almost completely devoid of the kind of dangers one would meet attempting the same in British or North American ghettos.)

(SAY, I fly for refuge unto the LORD of the day-break, that he may deliver me from the mischief of those things which lie hath created; and from the mischief of the night, when it cometh on; and from the mischief of women blowing on knots; and from the mischief of the envious, when he envieth. And there’s all those damn British atheists saying the Koran is useless.)

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