- I sit outside. Its not too cold even though it’s nearly the end of November. A man and a young girl come out through the sliding doors. She looks like him with thin spindly legs, straight hair and a quiet serious face. Another little girl comes running out after them, the little sister, about 5 years old with a tartan scarf and curly brown hair. The man grabs her arm roughly and pushes her back inside. She resists and he pushes her harder, her arm is twisted up awkwardly, ‘go and stand with your mother‘ he says in Catalan. A few moments later they are all standing outside in the dappled sunshine. Three of them are grouped together and the little girl is playing with the leaves under the tree. The parents talk a little and the man tenderly does up the zip of his elder daughters jacket but his face remains stern and unsmiling. The corners of his mouth seem to be pulled down by gravity. The little girl is a few feet away exploring the world and humming to herself. She is full of life but not noisy or bad. The group of three start to move off and the mother calls over her shoulder, ‘Maria, come on‘. Obligingly and merrily scuffing her feet in the leaves she runs to catch them up. Noone smiles or waits for her or offers her a hand.
- The uniform of Granollers women of a certain age in winter is black trousers and shoes and a brown jacket, a black handbag and well coiffed hair usually tinted slightly red. Younger ones exchange the brown jacket for a black one. If I continue to work on constructing a Catalan female character to perform (she is called Pepa) then I need to sort out my costume. I have a black coat but its not puffy enough and I have black trousers but they are not that crinkly sort of drip-dry fabric that you could buy in M&S
- There is a large circle of children sitting in the middle of the square. They appear to be in an organised group but I can’t see who is in charge. Is it a sunday school activity while the adults are in mass? After a while they start playing ball and several times it bounces into the cafe tables or bashes up into the trees making the leaves fall off. I find this annoying but no-one else seems to notice.
- So many things that children do are quite irritating to adults. Or is it just British adults? Or is it just me? Unless it is your own child of course. The ball bangs about, the children, mostly boys, scream and yell. Another boy waiting for his parents who are inside the cafe races up and down past me on his scooter. Outside the church a boy plays with something that looks like a belt and when you flick it in the air it makes a loud noise like a banger. The first father wanted to control his own daughter and I have a desire to tell the boys to play ball further away. Perhaps we are affected by gender…. would the father have dragged his son back into the cafe in that way? And would I look on kindly at girls playing ball in the square?
- Actually there are a few girls in the group. All about 10 years old I would imagine. One girl in a pixie hat stands alone. My eye is drawn to her but everyone else ignores her. Noone throws her the ball and neither does she run to catch it. When they all sit down again in little huddles she sits on the church steps by herself. She looks perfectly normal to me, nothing to mark her out but still she is isolated. Later when the adults organise the group again into a large circle she is sitting there and smiling. I think she is more comfortable when the group is controlled.
- Now mass has finished. Crowds of people flowed out onto the square. The crowd of children has moved on in a large group. The girl with the pixie hat is sitting on the church steps not speaking with anyone. An older couple join her and a little boy. At first they seem like a family but as they move off down the street, they all separate. The boy is chubby and full of himself, shouting out to his friends as he passes. The couple now I see them better are too young to be her parents. They must be Sunday school teachers or perhaps it is a meeting of the scouts which includes girls here. Pixiehat passes close by with heavy steps and a very sad face. Alone in a crowd. Always hard but even more so in this country where the group is all important.
- The square has emptied but there are still about 7 children with scooters. They are all boys. There are also two older boys with identical black sweatshirts with a green, yellow and red logo. They are practising jumping off the church steps and spinning the scooter 360 degrees mid jump. It is quite amazing. And a 360 degree flat spin. And a jump onto and off the wooden benches. This dexterity and flair and determination to master the move is something wonderful to watch. Imagine if they applied this power to changing the world!
- As I leave the square I am horrified to see the whole group of children return from another direction. It is some kind of organised walkabout and still the girl in the pixie hat is walking at the back alone. Organised torture for a Sunday morning.