I am sitting on a balcony in Barcelona enjoying some morning sunshine on my skin. I am not sunbathing per se but I am not taking any effort to cover up my body. I have a pair of running shorts on and a pair of glasses, and a laptop I guess. Living in Scotland as I do my torso rarely gets a chance to produce some vitamin D so it is getting that chance as a side effect of my writing on the terrace. We are here for five days, staying with a long-time friend and I hope that my psoriasis will find it hard to cope in this Mediterranean climate.
It is not quiet here. Barcelona is a very popular place to be for both tourists and locals and they live in confined spaces at least so it seems to me. Whilst the buildings aren’t particularly high, they are eight stories here on the outskirts of the city and I suspect slowly getting higher. There is a building site across the road from this apartment block, another set of flats is being built. How high is it going? At the current stage it is hard to guess, but the yellow crane that stands above it is significantly higher than all the buildings surrounding it so there is potential for greatness.
The crane is moving about a lot at the moment, and it seems wide enough to actually reach over and pluck me off this balcony. The lifting cables are vibrating directly across from me at the moment falling down to street level seven stories below to pick something up off the pavement. And here it is, a pile of what looks like twenty sheets of plasterboard, grey on top, green edged on the side and wood like underneath though it is far from clear that this the wood of a pallet. It is gone now, into what is the shell of the building though to be honest I can’t see from here, the cables have moved into the centre of the crane and descended.
Cranes are a puzzle to me. How does something so big get here? How does it get put up? How are those counterweights lifted into position? I assume it comes in pieces but doesn’t that mean you need another crane to construct it? There is no driver that I can see, so I assume it is remotely operated. The crane is actually one of the quieter elements around me, all I hear are the electric motors altering the cables and the odd clunk of cables hitting each other.
The street I am on is full of shops underneath the blocks of flats. The street always seems to have traffic on it which provides a background hum though perhaps it is the more immediate sounds of buses accelerating and motorbikes thumping around that I can hear from there. I am not sure. There is a maid behind cleaning up after the family making various noises. She was in yesterday so I was surprised to see her here when I padded out of the bathroom. There are hardly any sounds from wildlife here, though I think a sparrow just passed by chirping. Apparently there are geckoes here hidden amongst the balcony’s shrubbery though they wouldn’t make any noise anyway.
I didn’t sleep too well last night. Maybe it was the shift in time zones (yes it is only an hour difference). Maybe it was no really sleeping much the night before (it was a 4am start to the airport). Maybe it was the heat of three people in the room (though May temperatures are far from the highs of Summer). Maybe it was the beautiful white wine we had with the Black Rice risotto for dinner last night (a Catalan speciality darkened by squid ink). Possibly all these things. I guess there are always people around me at the moment. I stayed up late after everybody else was asleep but being in the centre of the flat doesn’t feel very private to me. I was alone but the possibility of people suddenly appearing hangs in the air. I don’t really relax. Tonight perhaps I will put on a thicker jumper (or put both of the ones I brought on) and try the balcony.
We are not here for long so perhaps the question of whether I will adapt to my new surroundings is mute. I find it hard to let the sounds I hear wash over me and not feed into my anxiety but on the other hand there are new experiences to be had and people to reconnect with.
The standard expectation of being able to sit outside is worth a great deal to me. The access to good tasting local fresh fruit like a box (as in 30cm x 60cm x 20cm box) of cherries or mangoes is worth a lot too (okay the mangoes come from Mexico). The chance to eat very different dishes than I usually do (outside with a beer too) means a lot too. Being with people is always a challenge for me, but then combine that with a new environment in which communication is difficult, and I have to wonder what I am doing here. But as I look around me at the lemon tree, the oleander, lavender and jasmine in flower, there really isn’t much to argue against. Creating new memories and learning new things is what is really important to me; that is what I think living is. For that I can cope with a bit of anxiety for a while.