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.
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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.

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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.

 

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

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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

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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

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Boys get the long ones and girls the woven intricate ones

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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

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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

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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

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Young people sat and chatted on the steps eating pizza

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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

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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

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

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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.

Street Cleaning

It is easy to see the bad things about a city like Granollers but how depressing to concentrate on them rather than enjoy the good and the beautiful. That’s why I decided to try and write mostly about the positive things in this blog.

However  ( I was clearly leading up to this) I can’t avoid talking about the rubbish problem.

I am out walking every day and tend to go to the parks, along the river and up to the Tower, all places where other people feel free to toss their rubbish, whether it is large like a sofa, polluting like old cans of paint, or small like coke cans or cigarette packets.

What I find both depressing and fascinating is that here in Granollers there is ample provision of places to put your rubbish. There is a large recyling centre close to the centre for plastics and paper and glass and large objects and paints etc.

There are hundreds of litter bins. Our little square has three all in the space of a few metres

ImageEvery street corner has large containers which are emptied regularly

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Recently we walked through the Park Lledoner when the wild flowers were at their best. But all along the path there were papers and plastics and bottles and cans.

People make a big fuss about dog shit but frankly who cares?  It is organic and will disappear.  Plastic and metal will be around for the rest of our lives. Unless someone else picks it up.  People here assume that someone else will come and clean the streets. And usually they do. The workers from the council. Or me!

I gathered up as much as my plastic bag would hold

ImageI tried to do it with love rather than cursing the people who dropped the stuff. Who could do this except someone who is unwell in mind or spirit?  Often the worse piles are right beside the bins. Bags of rubbish that are left underneath.  Is this some angry statement of ‘noone cares about me so I won’t care about them’?

Some people stopped and thanked me for doing it.  Perhaps if more of us began to clean the parks and paths then we could change this strange behaviour?  Come on people of Granollers!  Do you really want a British woman to be cleaning up all your messes? The little square near our house is cleaned every morning and yet when I go there with Bonnie at night – it is covered in rubbish again

ImageOn the positive side thank you the Granollers council for providing so many bins and for organising the cleaning services which are always out on the streets tidying up after the sad minority who can’t walk a few metres to find a bin.

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Granollers Market

Let’s move to another part of the market where there are no cages.

Right down at the end of the main shopping street we arrive at Plaça Corona

ImageI don’t always make it as far as this but today we did the whole stretch. The crowds begin to thin out down here. There are plenty of cafes with space for tables and chairs outside while in the town centre the stalls take over the whole street.

Back in the Porxada there are fruit and vegetable stalls under the shade of the old market

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ImageAnd summer vegetables for escalibada

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El Jardinet

This is a flower shop on our street at Carrer de Joan Prim, 101. They are very friendly and helpful and I am welcome whether I am spending a few euros or a lot more.

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The owners husband is British so she speaks English and she understood when I moaned about the lack of choice in flowers in Catalunya compared to the UK.   For me there are not enough ‘normal’ flowers like roses or anemones or sweet william.  The shops are more used to people buying bouquets for special occasions rather than wanting several cheaper bunches for vases in the house.

However, this shop is my favourite place when I decide to get flowers.

And I really like their idea of having quotations on the blackboard to help you when you need to write a card

Sometimes a flower is worth more than a thousand wordsImage

Swing Time

I have dreamt of learning to dance Swing ever since I arrived in Catalunya. There are plenty of classes in Barcelona and earlier this year I went up there every week to do a beginners class of Lindy Hop. But what I really wanted was to dance in Granollers. I knew there were dancers here but they also were always travelling to the big city. It seemed noone wanted to start classes here.

And then….my friend Montse decided to take the plunge and open a school of Swing here at the Roca Umbert Arts Centre. She and her dance partner Miquel teach classes there on Mondays and Wednesdays. See them on stage at the EcoGra on my previous post

Last Spring they did a few events, dancing in the street and handing out leaflets,  and soon there were enough people signed up to run not one but several classes. We are lucky that there is also a successful and thriving swing scene in nearby La Garriga and with the added bonus of a jazz band to play live occasionally, we were off!

More information is available at the Facebook page of Big Potters Swing.Image

The name comes from a play on words Gran=Big and Ollers=Pots. Granollers=Big Potters