Sunday tapas

When I’m in Barcelona we often go and have a Sunday lunchtime beer on a bar terrace near Park Güell, ethnic Andalusian with scatterings of La Mancha and the Maghreb. The other day there was a new guy, well-dressed, which is uncommon here, and reading El país, which is even less usual. I’ve never heard a word of Catalan spoken in the bar, but he ordered his beer and olives in Catalan, as is his perfect right. Half an hour later, and it’s time to pay.
–That’ll be €4.95 please.
–Here’s five. The five centimes are for you.
The barman, already equipped with a fine red heart-attack complexion, doesn’t take this munificence well and returns a couple of minutes later.
–We made a mistake. It’s €5.95.
The guy pays and leaves behind the whole dish of olives, worth €4 according to this new scheme of things. I and the hardfaced lady on the table behind him eye each other up. “Fancy a couple of olives,” I jest, but she doesn’t reply and takes the whole dish, whereupon a swarm of friends descend on her. It’s that kind of bar.

One of the regulars is an tall thin spotless-denimed Algerian–cool as a cucumber, eyes like a ferret–who has a quiet beer at the bar with a compatriot, strolls over to Güell to rob a tourist (we’ve seen him at work), and then strolls back past and goes home for lunch. I used to stay in a flat in Carme in the Raval which was haunted by another creature of habit. Every night between four and five from the entrance of Malnom, an alley opposite, would emerge the sounds of a struggle followed by someone running away and drunken northern European female screams and weeping–“HELP, LAD-RON!” I don’t know if the mugger switched to a day shift or retired or what, but it suddenly stopped.

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  1. Not for that one, no.

    My mate, a Northern European lass, got robbed there or thereabouts in the Autumn of 2005. She was staggering home drunk at about 4 in the morning.

    It really shook her up, so much so that it badly affected her job. What use is a coke dealer who’s scared to go out after dark?

    Eventually she was forced to go back to teaching English

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