Soap, toothbrushes and art school: surprises from the homeless of Barcelona

16 Feb

Last weekend, I met a homeless Indian man in Barcelona. He was bedded down with several other street companions in an ATM cubicle on Parallel. He thanked us for the food and jumpers in heavily accented but perfect English. He was from Delhi.

Another night we came across an attractive lady with a very cultured English accent who had attended art school in London. The streets are also full of middle aged working and middle class people, who have lost their homes to repossession. They’re desperately trying to maintain their dignity, and are often shy and slow to ask for things, only coming forward when it’s offered.

We were out as part of the efforts of Esperanca, a group started by some like-minded women who make sandwiches and soup for the homeless, and distribute it to them once or twice a week.

The group started in October, and has grown to 176 members with two groups who cover the Raval and the area around Estacio del Nord. Volunteers cook soup, make sandwiches and buy or donate warm clothing. Along these walks, we’ve discovered a few things:

  1. Having nothing doesn’t make people greedy: People frequently decline our offers of food or clothes. They’ve got a jumper and just eaten a sandwich. It’s enough for them.
  2. They share: Volunteers once watched a man take his cup of soup over to sleeping friend and hand it to  him. He didn’t come back and ask for another for himself, but was thrilled when they offered him another.
  3. Soap and other toiletries are in high demand: Faces light up when you ask them if they’d like a bar of soap or a tooth brush and some toothpaste.
  4. There are other groups of friends doing this in the city. Food for smile is one such group (mostly Spanish speaking) who go out distributing food five days a week.
  5. Walking around the city for a couple of hours is a surprisingly social activity and a great way to catch up with old friends or meet new friends. A little recovery vino at the end of the walk also helps.

The beauty of Esperanca is its emphasis on action. There were no meetings held, no committees formed, no over-thinking of the situation. A few women made some sandwiches, loaded up the granny trolleys and went out on to the streets.

If you’d like to get involved, there are many things you can do:

  1. Donate clothes: Any old warm clothes, socks, gloves, hats and jackets (all for men). Any unwanted blankets or sleeping bags.
  2. The next time you’re buying something at a clothing store or Decathlon, add in a pair of man size gloves or socks (1.50 – 2 Euros) to your shopping lot. It’s a donation with a small price and a big impact.
  3. Donate or better still make the food for one night. It costs around 10 Euros to make almost 27-30 little sandwiches, and around 5 Euros to make the soup.
  4. If you can’t afford to donate money how about helping with your time? The walks all last about 2 hours starting at 20:00 and are currently on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Newcomers are most welcome.
Esperanca

Two Esperanca groups enjoying an after walk drink together

the homeless of barcelona

Cycling: An inner dialogue

8 Feb

Hmm, doesn’t feel that heavy coming down the stairs. I must be growing stronger.

Hold it away from the tights. Maybe blue suede shoes weren’t such a good idea. Damn it’s heavy now. Last landing, hold on….and down.

(Wheezing)

Tights: undamaged. Tyres: still fat. Adjust clothes. Awkward wrestle through the heavy swing door onto the street. Right, you’re in the outside world now. Try to look like it’s easy.

Ha, it is easy! Not scary at all.

Please! Who do they think they are. Stupid racing bikes. I can catch up.

Jeeze where did they go?

Oh my thighs hurt. Slow. Slow. No need to cycle so fast. We’ve got a long way to go.

Which way should I go? Shit, I never know which is a one way street.

Oh no! Oh no! It’s a freaking one-way street.

Now I’m one of those jerks who cycle on the pavement. I’m so sorry!

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

Aghh slow people. Get out of the way! Where is my bell?!!

No bell. Shout a warning. Shout what? TO LATE!!!!!!!!!

Sorry!

Oh no, kids. DO NOT KNOCK OVER A KID. YOU WILL GET LYNCHED.

Oh god my thighs hurt! I can’t do this. I have to get off. I can walk the rest of the way.

Other people walk with bikes right? When they’re walking with pedestrian friends…..

No! Stay on the bike. Just across the road. Slow and steady.

Slowly, slowly. Stay on the bike!

There’s the cafe, OH THANK YOU SWEET JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

cycling-propaganda-posters-L-W6ssox
Poster by Melody Stone.

4th Day of Happiness: A generous flatmate

30 Jan

Already slipping on this one, but I’m fighting back. My fourth day of happiness is thanks to my wee flatmate who donated his shoes to a homeless man he hasn’t event met.

For his art project last year, titled ‘shelter’, he spent a night sleeping in a door way with a cardboard box and a blanket, and nothing in his pocket apart from his apartment keys. He’s walked a night in that other man’s shoes, so I suppose he knows better than many.

The shoes were taken to the homeless man by a network of friends called Esperança, Hope. More on them tomorrow.

 

Andreu donating his shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#100happydays

Flowery decadence #100happydays

25 Jan

Getting crowded off my tiny desk by a bunch of unruly flowers.

Yes all my paperwork is now stacked on the floor, but it has been a long time since I had flowers in my house. It’s a first in Barcelona and I love them. A lot.

Flower indulgence sm

That crazy sunny day we had this week #100happydays

24 Jan

That mad sun which came blazing out on Wednesday this week. It transformed the Face of Barcelona.
 
Whoever said blue skies are overrated is wrong, wrong, wrong. Blue skies are the business.

 

Barcelona Face by Roy Lichtenstein

 

A perfect bed #100happydays

23 Jan

It’s not very profound, but my happy today was waking up in a perfect bed. The warmth, the clean sheets under my shoulder blades, the cool of the flipped over pillow, the hot water bottle at my feet.

De-licious!

A perfectly warmed bed

Monday 20/01/2014. Pretty darn pleased with the bed.

100 days of happiness

22 Jan

I started the #100happydays challenge to take a photograph of something that makes me happy, every day for a hundred days.

Not sure who is behind the website and what their motives are. Although the site talks about the challenge like it happened before and gives some inspiring but completely made up facts about what happens to those to successfully complete the challenge, there is very little evidence that it existed before January 2014.

Regardless, I like the idea. It’s a nice antidote to the dire lack of sunlight and music festivals in January. And it gives me an excuse to post uplifting phrases next to uplifting photographs. There may even be more terrible uplifting poetry involved.

Yup, this was definitely a good idea.

Day 1: A tea and wine and carrot cake afternoon

What’s not to love? There were some friends involved as well.

Cosmo Cafe Barcelona

A winey Sunday afternoon at Cosmo Cafe, Barcelona. (My challenge had a false start on Friday and then started on Sunday for real….until I forget again.)

Ajuntament de Barcelona launches anti graffiti campaign

19 Jan

 

Or maybe not………

2014-01-19 17.50.19

 

Found on Calle D’Avinyó yesterday.

A morning jog in Barceloneta

15 Jan

Golden blue on the horizon
Golden blue on my eyes
Sublime sunrise on the beach
lights on swimmers and bums alike

Young and shiny and blonde
Old and grimy and grey
Sleep misted, rolling smokes
Share a bench and papers

Past the enticing bakery
sidestepping the gesticulating grocer
Too late to spot the dropped calamari
I land squidgily on my ass.

barceloneta-beach at dawn

Sunday afternoon on a Barcelona rooftop

29 Sep rooftop sunset barcelona

An afternoon spent on a salvaged chair up on the rooftops of Barcelona. Music jarring out through hopelessly inadequate speakers. Last dregs of the vodka washed down with a dubious yellow coloured fruit juice and stolen ice cubes.

Before me, the sun furls and unfurls itself across this blue sky. After the grey concrete framed window of my internal bedroom, this expanse of sky seems obscene in it’s flagrant undulating beauty. As I watch, the quality of light changes from forceful afternoon fire, beaming out in a sanctifying halo from behind pure white clouds, to the the orange, edgy, defiant predecessor of the dark. A dying spirit but a strong one. A fitting one to herald the night in a city like this.

Over the rooftops of unfinished concrete sheds and half-hearted renovations, the love-children of so many heedless cowboy builders, the strains of Madonna’s thrusting music reaches me. Somewhere, a party is created. Maybe even a legendary one. Meanwhile on stranded terraces around, silent, solitary figures move about their business. Tidying. Tending. Furtive members of a private club I’ve discovered too late on the second last day of September. Teetering on the brink of a winter I thought I welcomed, I suddenly rediscover passion for my old lover the sun.

I remember with nostalgia.

Skin, ripened and warm and smelling of sunlight. Sand clinging in tolerated intimacy. Hair stiff with memories of the sea. Muffled chatter and the ocean roaring under a soft evening light. The unthinking way in which I loved and forgot. Recklessly sure of its constant presence. Mistakenly sure. A faint hint of charred meat on the wind.

Endless days are numbered too.

This is the last perfect afternoon of the summer.

rooftop sunset barcelona

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