barcelona

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barcelona: 23-25 may 2018

The Times, May 22, 2018 carries two stories on the role of individual friendships and beliefs in directing nationality and statehood. In the first ‘Madrid extends rule over Catalonia’, Graham Keeley, in Madrid, reports on the extension of direct rule over Catalonia by Spain’s refusal to recognise a cabinet presented by the region’s new president because it includes imprisoned and exiled separatists. Catalonia remains in political limbo with Madrid administering the region. The new Catalan president is apparently in no mood for compromise. However, whilst 52% of Spaniards believed that Catalan separatists were winning the battle for public opinion, 66% thought that he should be sacked for tweets calling Spaniards scavengers, vipers and hyenas. Meanwhile, Rachel Sylvester comments on the opportunity currently open to Jeremy Corbyn to make a decisive change in the looming key vote on the EU withdrawal Bill. ‘Corbyn holds trump card over Brexit’. She observes that if Corbyn fails to take the opportunity to defeat the government he would become responsible for the hard Brexit that is opposed by the vast majority of his supporters. Both leaders face circumstances that involve accepting compromises that imply putting aside close friends and personal urges in order to progress general wellbeing – all the while feeling irritated by what they feel to be over-controlling requirements of the more muscular bodies of Spain in the case of Catalonia and the European Union in the case of Britain.

On the ground, in the micro-state of Gracia, evening, May 22, another set of relationships play out. There are plenty of empty properties, established businesses and newly renovated properties, some of which are not approved of locally and carry graffiti explaining that they are products of gentrification, other new and opulent operations are exempt from this charge – there is plenty of pricy healthy-fare in Gracia, it has implicit left-leaning characteristics. Open an organic, vegan, sulphate free, responsibly sourced wine bar or wholegrain store and you’re ok. The café ‘republic’ houses an edgy crowd, not enough chops for lunch perhaps, and there is a packed, sticky, community meeting in progress around a huge white table in an empty shop space, papers strewn, disagreements hanging in the smoky air. 

Gracia is ‘up the hill’, just slightly. You can longboard, basic, dusty, untreated ply models, down the hill, gradually gathering speed, lazily looping past pedestrians, until you hit the diagonal. There are several busy squares with carparks below. There must have been big excavations at some point. Where do the parking charges go? Above there is shared space with public benches, a children’s play area, an interactive public sculpture and seating to various cafes and outlets to the perimeter. The temperature is perfect for lingering. Everybody is meeting, chatting, chatting more, and more again, eventually drifting on. Pasteis de nata by the hundred.

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