9N in Granollers

It was a grey day but for many people in Granollers it was a happy and exciting one.
There were long queues at the voting centres and families and friends all came together to vote in the non-referendum, not quite a consultation, but definitely a democratic well-organised chance to make your opinion known. Two questions : Do you want Catalunya to become a state? and Do you want this State to be independent?

The Catalan government announced that 2,305,290 votes were cast overall. 80.8% of cast votes supported Yes-Yes or Si-Si.

Of course I was interested in how many dogs came along to take part in this important day.

No figures were announced for that but I loved how they were included as a matter of course!

The Bombing of Granollers

On May 31st 1938 five planes from the Italian airforce, governed at that time by a fascist dictator friendly to Franco, flew from Mallorca and up to Granollers.

At 9.05am they dropped their bombs over the city centre. Several hundred people were killed and many many more were injured. Buildings in the centre of the city were destroyed including the medieval market the Porxada.  At that time of day there were a lot of people out and about – going to work, going to school, shopping. Due to the civil war there was food rationing and people had to queue for hours to get milk and bread and other necessities.

Imagine a busy morning in Granollers, the streets full of life and bustle, the sounds of conversations in the milk queue, the normal comings and goings of a Tuesday morning.  Most of the people were women and children – many men were away at war.  The swifts are calling just as they do now, flying high around the church spire and dipping and swooping over the rooftops.

Then the planes flew over. For one minute, one long minute, there was the sound of explosions, buildings crashing, people screaming.  The planes then turned and flew back to their base in Mallorca and Granollers was left in devastation.

When I walk into town every day I see the signs on the ground marking where each bomb fell. They are very close to our home.Image

We have a letter written a few days after the bombing from a father to his son who was down at the Ebre in the Republican Army fighting Franco’s troups. There follows an explanation rather than a translation – I don’t understand all that is in the letters and can’t read all the writing. I just give you the general gist in English below.



Granollers 5 of June 1938

Dear Son, You can’t imagine how happy we were to have the visit from Torres (a soldier friend)  and to hear that you are well

Here there is no cinema, or dances, all seems like a desert, everybody staying at home. On top of the bank they have put a siren which has sounded twice, once at 2am and the other at 1.30 yesterday which felt like we had death coming over us.

The day of the bombing Mama, Marti (the younger son) and auntie went to sleep at Can Jep, we made a refuge under the bed Marti said it’s a triumph and auntie said that if they kill her it’s all the same.

You know that they are saying there are more than 300 dead, countless wounded it was such bad luck that there were four queues of people, one waiting for the milk, another at the marineta, another for fish and the other for the beans (faves). We were inside the bank we didn’t know where we could go. The savings bank had a lot of dead because a bomb feel right in front of it and there were many people waiting outside for the newspaper. It was the time for taking the children to school . There were so many dead, Can Rusquelles, Can Margarit, Can Juan Puig, and many others.  Buildings – many were destroyed. Belenguera, Can Mariam, where the Tapies of the bank lived,…..the area around the Porxada pretty much obliterated, Can Font and three more houses, the mill at Cal Illa, the abatoir there and five more houses destroyed, the house of the widow Montana of Santa Elisabet, Cal Eglesias of the Placa de les Olles and Can Rubira………(and more and more)

(next part written by the son Marti. I wondered if the writing down of all the homes and people destroyed was too much and he had to ask Marti to continue?)

‘luckily we had nothing happen to us….. because I was tired and Mother called me late I went to get the milk from (another place)’

It is very raw reading a first hand account of the bombing. And then to remember it all happened again the following year before Franco’s troups finally entered Granollers on 28th January 1939.  From then on until the restoration of democracy there was to be no public remembrance of this terrible day of death and destruction. Everyone had to keep silent about the trauma and the loss. I can’t imagine the day when Franco’s army arrived – how did people cope with the ongoing trauma of the bombing and then to have to squash down those feelings and memories, keeping them safe only in the deepest privacy of their hearts and homes.  And then many years later, how would you find ways to express and heal all that went before?

The 31st of May is now a day of remembrance and commemoration in Granollers with a strong emphasis on the need to work for peace and to never forget what happens when humans turn to violence and war.

The Granollers manifesto expresses it like this

El 31 de maig de 1938, Granollers va patir un terrible bombardeig que restà gravat per sempre en el record de les persones que el visqueren, com també en la memòria col·lectiva de la ciutat.
Nosaltres, ciutadans i ciutadanes del món, reunits a Granollers, vila oberta a la pau, no volem que s’oblidin aquests fets. Expressem el nostre compromís ferm de treball per una cultura de pau, transmetent a les noves generacions la preservació de la memòria i la mirada crítica enfront la violència i les guerres. Ens comprometem a no oblidar els fets tràgics que vam viure i a treballar per tal que mai més tornin a produir-se atacs sobre la població civil, ni aquí ni enlloc.
Reivindiquem el paper de les persones, dels pobles i de les ciutats en la construcció de la pau. Volem tenir-hi un paper actiu i ens comprometem a treballar per fer de les nostres ciutats un espai on prevalguin els valors de la convivència, el diàleg, l’educació i la resolució pacífica dels conflictes.


What’s that funny smell?

Last night between 11pm and midnight I noticed a strange smell coming into the house from the patio. It’s not the first time this has happened, usually at night. Once I was taking my dog out to the plaça for her last walk and we had to hurry home because the smell was so strong that I thought one of the nearby chemical factories had broken a leak. We rang the police to report it but heard no more. Yesterday it was strong but not quite so bad as on the other occasion. Strong enough to make us close the doors and windows though and even after only ten minutes of breathing it in I had a metallic taste at the back of my throat.  In the early hours of the morning I woke up with the smell still wafting around my nose. I closed the bedroom door and windows and it stopped. For god’s sake! What is it? It is worrying. Granollers is in a valley with the river Congost running through, slowly making its way down to Barcelona and the sea. Along the river banks are many large factories, some of them petro-chemicals,  and in the past the waters were polluted by industrial waste. Now there is more control and the river again has fish and bird life. People walk and run along the pathes on either side. Usually the air feels fine to breathe but we all know there is pollution you cannot see or feel. I don’t want to sound paranoid but it’s just this funny smell….it comes and it goes Olive tree above Granollers The smell is surely a sign of something going on – but I don’t know what. I have never heard anyone mention it nor seen discussions in the local paper about the need to monitor closely the surrounding factories. What I do know is that there is a chemical alert siren which is regularly tested and you are supposed to know the difference between a drill and the real thing. When it is real you are told to close and seal windows and doors and stay inside.  A few months ago the siren started and as we hadn’t received any notices of a test we raced around closing things down. Then I looked outside and everyone was walking around as normal, ignoring the siren and not falling down dead on the street. So we also just got on with life. But how would we all know if it was serious? There is also the dark fine dust that coats all surfaces in our houses. Every day when I wipe around the bath the cloth picks up a black stain. I have been told that in the past Granollers was so full of factories that it still sits in a cloud of textile particles. Really? I think I will have to look into it. I want to know what the smell means?  Where does it come from?  Who is monitoring the levels of pollutants that are blowing around the town?  And has that dust been analysed and pronounced harmless? If anyone knows more about this or has any suggestions about what I can do to get information then please do let me know. Anything I find out, I will let you know

Sant Jordi – the day for lovers in Granollers

This is one of my favourite Catalan celebrations and definitely my favourite  in Granollers

Sant Jordi RosesI love seeing the book stalls lining the streets and watching so many people buying books or just browsing through them


The roses are not very exciting and there are never any scented ones but it still is good to see so many people walking around with a rose or even with a bunch of them!   Does this mean they have several boyfriends or girlfriends?

ImageThere were sardanas in front of the Ajuntament with a band playing and lots of people joining in the dance

Imagethis year more flags and Catalan independence stalls than ever

ImageThe feeling of Catalan pride and excitement perhaps is especially strong leading up to the possible vote for or against independence


Palm Sunday Granollers

It’s almost Easter.  In Britain this would mean eggs and bunnies and chocolate and Spring. 

But signs of Easter start in Granollers with the appearance of stalls selling yellow decorations made from dried palm leaves. They are treated in some mysterious way to make them more yellow and then woven into shapes.  They are called palmons and palmes – the long ones are palmons and the smaller woven ones are palmes


Boys get the long ones and girls the woven intricate ones


They are hung out on the balconies, to protect the house and for good luck as part of a Christian ceremony to show you are part of the ancient tribe who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem.  On the Sunday before Easter, the palmons and palmes are carried by the children to church and afterwards the families meet up in the streets to take photos.

Because we have come away to Menorca, yet again I have missed this part of the ceremony but I did see the stalls selling the palms in Granollers market on the Thursday before. We have photographs of the family in the 1960’s posing in Jacint Verdaguer square with three beautifully turned out children wearing dresses and suits, the boys with sleeked back hair and angelic faces, holding their palms.

Open Night

At the end of March they had an Open Night in Granollers.  Signs everywhere told you that you could eat, sleep and shop all for 14 euros. I still don’t understand exactly what this meant – there were lots of things in the shops priced both higher and lower than 14 euros and surely a glass of cava and a tapa would be cheaper on other days?

I walked into the town centre to see what was happening. Normally the shops close at 9pm but this night they were to remain open until midnight. There was a lot of music blaring out from loudspeakers, every square had a stage and something happening, or if not, then a lot of people standing around waiting for something to happen


In the Porxada there was a large stage and big white balloons announcing it was Open Night. Underneath people were having their photos taken on a red sofa


A group of women walked around in wedding dresses – I didn’t know if they were theatre people hired to perform around the town or perhaps just women from a bridal shop doing a bit of promotion

There were a lot of adults and children and dogs everywhere and many queues for the popular restaurants


Young people sat and chatted on the steps eating pizza


I had the feeling that most people were wandering aimlessly rather like me. This suddenly helped me understand why I so often find these events strangely empty. I was thinking about Golowan and how it feels in Penzance those special days in June during the mid summer festival. There is a wildness and joy about it. But here the people seemed exactly as usual while events happened around them.  I think it is because so many of these festivals are organised by the city council. Or by the shopkeepers. The general population are not involved in creating, designing, organising, participating in them. They are mere spectators – or consumers. Granollers is a town of commerce. Everything is designed to help the businesses sell more stuff. Anything which is not going to result in selling more stuff is frowned on.  Sometimes I feel I have walked into The Stepford Wives.  To be fair I do know lots of people in Penzance and that livens it up for me while here I was amongst strangers.  For local people it is a good chance to meet and chat. And everything looked very pretty.

This building in the Porxada for example


When the day of Sant Jordi arrives it is obvious that the stalls are just promoting the selling of more books and roses. There is very little space for individual creativity or originality. We’ll see that soon – on April 23rd. I still enjoy that day though.

This was my favourite street – it looked lovely but there were hardly any people down here


As I walked home I saw these posters written by one of the more lefty political parties


It was true – once you walked out of the centre of town there was no sign of Open Night. It was all designed to bring people into the commercial shopping centre and persuade them to spend money.

Memories of Past Splendour

It is a dull grey morning in Granollers and after a mild winter and a few sunny months it is a shock to return to winter.

There is a north wind from the mountains and the tables outside cafes are deserted except for determined smokers.

I always look up now.  Many of the buildings are boring at street level but one floor up there is a feast of detail.

The building at the beginning of the pedestrian street is called  Casa Miquel Blanxart i Estapé and is one example of early 20th C modernism in Granollers.

Today looking up I saw clearly the silhouettes of three women on the front walls. Their arms are outstretched and it looks like they have birds sitting on their hands.

Casa Miquel Blanxart i Estapé

Are they always visible or was it a trick of the light on this damp dull day?  It looks like there were originally sculptures there or were they designs painted directly on the walls?  I don’t know but it was interesting to see how they had left their imprint.Image