We converged, more by chance and less by design, at Ryans Beach in Barceloneta once again. It was a pleasant evening with a soothing sun. We sat on the terrace drinking pints and bemoaning our different fates. Too much work, too little work, unemployed and so on. Comfortable, languid and bored.
The peace shattered in a second however, when a fight erupted between an African and a Moroccan on the lane separating Ryans Beach Bar from the terrace.
I refer to ethnic identities here, because when you belong to the criminal world (as these two gentlemen did) in Barcelona, ethnic identity defines you, what you do, how you operate and who you answer to. ‘Pakistani’ refers to any young man from the Indian subcontinent – on Barceloneta beach, Pakistanis patrol the beach with plastic bags offering you water, beer, fanta (in a loud voice) and marijuana and hashish (in a quieter voice). The African boys- consist of various loosely connected gangs of young men from countries like Senegal and Nigeria, who practically live at the Cubes. They specialise in selling marijuana and cocaine and bag snatching. In the evenings they sometimes get their drums out and spend hours dancing to African rhythms. The Moroccans used to specialise in bag snatching, mugging and dealing various drugs, but their presence on the beach has been waning. Perhaps an under radar turf war is being waged.
One tall sinewy African man. One furious looking Moroccan. The terrace was captivated. The Moroccan paused to take his knapsack and shirt of. ‘Hit him now! Kick hi
m when he’s taking the shirt of!’ Did I yell that? Surely I didn’t yell that? The advice fell on deaf ears anyway. The African man was a firm follower of the Marquess of Queensberry by the looks of it, all fair play and gentleman punches.
The Moroccan set aside his bag and clothes and got a few punches in before going down. Instead of ending the fight there, he was then allowed to get back up! What kind of street fighting was this? Bloody Marquess of Queensberry! Up came the Moroccan, ripped off the African’s shirt, then his T-shirt, going hell-for-leather. ‘Poke him in the eye!’ came the yell from the terrace. Not me this time. Our entire table had got up to have a better look by now, leaving me to guard the bags. No celebrity has ever received more rapt attention. ‘Poke him in the eye!’ the shout was repeated. He didn’t poke him in the eye, but he walloped him one on the jaw. The Moroccan tried to get up for the second time, got pushed back down and this time he stayed down. Friends of both fighters came to pull them away from the scene before the police arrived. The fight had gone on for a good 10 minutes by now, but there was no sign of the police.
Mark picked up the discarded clothes, bags and phone from the fight. He approached the African dude first to offer him his stuff back. He took all the stuff apart from the phone. Mark keeps the phone and so gets another claim to fame. He becomes one of the few people to hustle a hustler, preach to a preacher, pimp a ……you get the picture.
Two minutes later the Mossos (One of Barcelona’s police forces) pulls up on the promenade in front of the terrace. Two burly officers get out, march up to the man building sand sculptures and bust him for having lamps inside the sculpture. Open flames are a risk to public safety man!