We want to cross

For now, farewell Barcelona it seems. If we can cross the border.

We all want to cross – borders, the divide from our home to the outside world, ideally to a calmer moment. We want to cross the threshold, to see the infection rate decline and ultimately fall away.

We hear conflicting news reports, of no domestic new infections from China, of a falling rate of new infections in South Korea and possibly even European countries such as Austria.

David Runciman’s Talking Politics podcast features the latest perspectives from Italy. Many in the regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia wanted the government in Rome to cross beyond its safe, rather conventional approach, by ordering the shut-down of non-essential productive activity, for example in factories.

Here in Catalonia, we get the sense local authorities are determined to stop anyone crossing into, beyond or even within the region, a tricky proposition for us as we need to leave the country. My partner is a French national, I don’t have any formal status whatsoever in Spain and our original reasons for coming here are all now – for the moment at least – redundant.

I speak more French than I do Spanish. Our sisters live in France, so does my nephew. Access to healthcare in France may be easier should we need it. If I urgently need to get back to the UK, I’ll be one country nearer. I don’t have a permanent home anywhere. Both the advantage, and now perhaps the downside, of being a freelancer and footloose. We’re rudderless. We’ll experience the advantages again.

Cherry Blossom
Wonderful cherry blossom

For now, though, I feel we’d be safer seeing this out just across the border, but crossing that border is proving challenging. There’s questions regarding police patrols, what the French government might choose to do with regards incoming traffic in the next 24-hours. My partner will be able to enter no matter what, but will I? We’re being advised there’s no car rental in the city. If we take a train, we can only get within 7km of the border and we are carrying most of our lives’ with us. How would we easily cross?

Taxis direct from Barcelona across the French border might be a possibility, but we’ll only be able to travel separately, and at the moment I want to stay next to him very close. Only one person is allowed per taxi.

I am deeply concerned about the state of affairs in the UK. Some people hint or suggest rather strongly I should return to the UK, not least because my 74-year old father lives there. I feel terrible pressures and conflicting emotions every which way. But my relationship and my partner comes first, I have already made big sacrifices this past year and must put our own safety first for the time being. But none of this is easy, in fact its all nightmarish. I have just been advised I will no longer be able to teach the young students I’ve got to know since January using Skype. I totally understand. But it makes me sad. I’ll never get to say goodbye in person, they were lovely children.

We’ll have to suspend at least for weeks and maybe longer this dream of ours’ settling into a new rhythm in Barcelona. Will it feel like the same city in a few months’ time? Possibly not. It survived the terrible attacks on La Rambla a few years’ ago, and worse. It will come back. I’m not 100 per certain we will. Lets see.

The sting in the tail is the new potential we see and hear out of our windows, the cherry blossom, the birdsong that lasts longer into the lengthening night. On a shop the other day, I walked past the still and silent Parc Turó in Sant Gervasi. Like everyone, I realised how much I’d taken open spaces and parks for granted and how, now it is locked up, I long for the moment I can return to any park. Painting

As I walked along the street, I heard the gentle clatter of knives and forks resting down on china plates as Barcelonins completed their mid-afternoon lunch, no other sounds around. I saw the shutters down on the local Vermout bars, that we never got to check out. The lone apartment in this district with a Spanish flag proudly wrapped around the terrace. One senses in future Catalunya’s politicians will use this moment as an opportunity to call again for independence.

For now, farewell Barcelona it seems. If we can cross the border.

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