First, let me apologise to my (almost) ten’s of followers for my absence during the last two months. Psychocartography can be exhausting, especially for someone as lazy and easily distracted as me. Lets just say there have been things that needed my attention, (Mad Men isn’t going to watch itself) and foreign travel was involved. A bit.
At the outset, I hinted that Barcelona and I had a special connection. This map tells the tale of one day in my city of dreams.
Two days into my new life, I was feeling a bit bored and lonely. I was staying with my friend Sinhendra the Buddhist. I’ve known him since I was 18, when he was Al from Newton Abbott and I can talk to him about anything, but he’d been living in Spain for ten years and had a life. My life was in Devon and I missed Bounder (I now recognise this as a clear case of Stockhausen Syndrome). So I did what I always do when I’m alone and life is making me lonely; I go downtown. When I’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know, downtown. But I wasn’t just being all Petula Clarky; I was on a mission.
Al had his people and I needed to find mine. I remembered seeing a flyer for a creative writing group, when I was last in Barcelona and determined I would track them down and become their leader. All I could recall was seeing the flyer in the El Born area, near a cathedral called Santa Maria of the Sea. A quick google confirmed that such a place existed, and I set off for my date with destiny. Two hours later, after a charming, but circular walk I was back at base and decided to take the tube*.
After being conveyed along a line to very near where I wanted to be, I emerged from underground into what I can only describe as a massive demonstration against The Cuts.
Though my Spanish is officially Pre-Beginner, I was able to understand the purpose of the demo from the large banners featuring scissors, crossed out. I felt exhilarated. I wanted to shout ‘I am English, we have Cuts too!’ Instead I grinned at a group of old men, did a thumbs up and shouted ‘Brava!’. I realised, upon seeing their bemused expressions, that they weren’t protesters, but a group of old men standing outside a bar. To their credit, they returned my thumbs up. I walked a little way with the demonstrators, making noises from no particular language, but (I think) conveying support and joi de vivre.
After breaking away from my comrades, I searched the alleys of El Born in vain for the flyer I’d seen less than a year previously. My quest for belonging was floundering and I stopped at a little bar in a shady square, by the cathedral, to gather my thoughts. I don’t know if it was the towering edifice of Santa Maria of the Sea, a sense of solidarity with my Iberian brothers and sisters, or the vino tinto, but I thought I’d give Catholicism a try.
I entered the cathedral with solemnity. I sat in a pew and looked heavenward. I asked for guidance (not out loud). The setting was certainly impressive, and if any great truth had decided to reveal itself to me then this was the time. But after at least five minutes; nothing. I felt calm and a bit chilly. As I looked around I noticed candles placed at each of the little capellas honouring different saints. So I bought a candle and placed it at the capella of ‘The Heart of Maria’. This one featured a statue of a sad-looking Maria, attended by some rather grubby cherubs. I felt a bit better, but as I walked towards the exit I passed a capella for a much better saint. Purissima Conceptione* was really gold and shiny, surrounded by dainty angels and stars. I wanted to retrieve my candle and place it at her altar, but I sensed this would be bad form. Being a Catholic was hard; and not for me.
To be continued….
*I LOVE the tube map. It makes total sense; a list of places on a line. I never get lost on the tube, and if it had a few pictures it would be cartography perfection.
** At the time, I translated this as ‘pure thought’, which made it all the more exciting. But on reflection, I think it’s probably something to do with the virgin birth.