Crimes against humanity – the bombing of Barcelona

On 31st May 1938 Granollers was bombed by Italian fighter planes who were supporting Franco’s forces in the Civil War. I want to write about that nearer the anniversary but today I saw some news I thought was interesting.
A court in Barcelona has ordered that there should be an investigation into crimes against humanity when civilian areas of Barcelona were bombed earlier that year, also by Italian forces. Because of the 1977 law of amnesty that guarantees members of Franco’s regime immunity from prosecution there have been no opportunities to challenge whose who committed crimes in the Civil War.  But because the bombing of Barcelona (and Granollers) was done by foreign troops(although clearly with the approval of Franco)  it is possible to slip past this legal muffler of truth. Here is an article in Spanish with a lot more information.

There is always the question – is it better to move on and let tragic sleeping or dead dogs lie? Or is it important to open up old wounds so that they can be cleansed and heal?

It is all so recent. Living memory. People who were victims of the bombing are still alive. And those who bombed – many of them too are still alive.  Although quite old. But does that make them innocent?  Personally I have always thought it important to get things out into the open – but it also depends on whether is is done with the intention of healing and moving on or of punishment. It’s such a big question and one I expect that will be discussed here a lot while the process unfolds.


Catalan study week. Day 2.

I walked into Granollers centre and bought two newspapers to read in Catalan. One is El Nou which is the local paper for the Valles Oriental and the other is El Periódico which is a daily newspaper based in Barcelona and which publishes two editions, one in Spanish and one in Catalan

This week I will write about the Catalan language.
Not especially about the words or grammar but more about the history, political and cultural.
You cannot live in Catalunya without becoming aware of some of the issues around language that are particular to this land. It is a complicated subject and I am certainly no expert but I thought it could be interesting to try and describe what I have noticed.
History and culture and politics are interwoven. Of course you can just go and learn the language and start speaking it from day 1.  Or you can decide that Castellano is so much ‘more useful’ and ignore the existance of Catalan completely.
But you will notice certain things that make you wonder…….’what is this about?’  ‘why does this happen?’
Almost every Catalan speaker is fluent in two languages – Catalan and Castellano. But it doesn’t take long to notice that some people don’t like speaking Castellano.
I have even met a few who refuse to speak it.
As a foreigner I also find that many people stop speaking Catalan and change to Castellano when I join them. They seem to expect that someone from outside will prefer it.  They are pleased and surprised when I answer in Catalan, as if I am doing something wonderful in just saying Bon Dia rather than Buenos Dias.
But Catalan is spoken by more than 7 million people. That is more than all the speakers of Danish.
Why is it not more recognised?
Sometimes I ask for ‘cafe amb llet’ in a bar and they correct me ‘cafe con leche?’
What is that about?
Catalan is the official language of this region but there are many situations where you cannot speak it – you have to switch to Castellano or not be understood. For example the mobile phone companies offer their services in Castellano and you have to request a Catalan speaker, then wait for days to be dealt with, or perhaps they never get back to you!
The language of the legal system is Castellano – official documents from the courts are not written in Catalan.
What can it be like to feel your native language is not used universally in your homeland?
If the language of the law is Castellano surely that suggests the law is not on your side?
A bit of history
Many people know about the repression of the Catalan language in the times of Franco’s dictatorship. Today in the newspaper I was reading about a new book which documents the history of this  and which proves beyond doubt that there was an official policy after 1939 to suppress use and development of the language. It was against the law to speak publicly in Catalan. That means everywhere. Suddenly children who had been taught in Catalan had to use Castellano. They might be able to speak in some schools in their own language but it was dangerous to do so. There were some schools that continued to teach in Catalan but everyone knew that when the inspectors came to call, all written material in Catalan must be removed and replaced with the Castellano version. All books published, all radio programmes, all films, all TV in the later years, all newspapers, all everything, only in Castellano.
Think what this does to your sense of identity, pushed underground to a secret and powerful but forbidden place. Imagine how it would be to have your natural means of self expression not only forbidden but insulted and humiliated.
I read this here
If a citizen was heard speaking Catalan in a public space, he was addressed with phrases like ‘Speak in the Christian tongue’ or ‘Let’s see when you stop barking’. Public signs with offensive sentences like ‘Prohibited to spit and speak in Catalan’ could be read.
And a bit more
But it goes back even further than Franco
Historically there have been many attempts to squash the language.
In 1714 King Philip of Spain banned its official use and replaced it with Castilian spanish. In the 19th century there was a renaissance of Catalan language and culture but again between 1923 and 1930 the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera banned the use of all languages except Castilian.
Catalan was restored again in the 2nd Republic in 1931 only to be stamped on again by Franco 8 years later.

So it is a history full of challenge and it is a wonderful testimony to the strength and courage of all its users that the language has survived and is flourishing today.  Books, films, TV and radio channels, newspapers, education, official documents, even Google, all in Catalan.
I can understand why there is such an an emotional undercurrent to the language and why the subject generates such powerful feelings.
All these things make me glad to be able to play my small part in the history of this rich and ancient language.  And who wouldn’t fall in love with a language which uses all those wonderful xxxxx’s?

We discover how velcro was invented.

We are staying in a bungalow by the sea at Santa Susanna.

There were lots of burrs on the beach this morning.  Attached to many of them were soft fabric-like materials.  Apparently it was after examining these plants that George de Mestral invented velcro. The name comes from the French words velour and croquet and was used because it looks like velour and uses a hook and loop system sort of like croquet (?)

The burrs we found on the beach have little hooks which attach easily to anything with loops, like soft fabrics or the little hairs between the pads under Blue’s paws!

Today we found some more around the New Park in Granollers and Blue became suddenly lame as they nestled in between her soft pads.  Once removed, she set off at a trot once again!

Unto the Hills I Lift Mine Eyes

When you go up to the Torre on the hill above Granollers you can really see how the town lies in a valley surrounded by mountains. It is a wonderful view and all the high flats, the industrial buildings, the ugly corners become insignificant as your eye is drawn to the outlines of the hills and the expanse of sky.

The torre is old – officially 14th century but some believe it is much older perhaps dating back to the Romans. It is derelict and the council have erected a pathetic little fence around it to ‘stop’ you going in. At some point they have made an attempt to strengthen the walls with some modern bricks. But they have never accepted their responsibility to preserve and protect this ancient monument. Perhaps that is for the best as so often preservation turns into domination and control

The part of the vaulted ceiling that remains is beautiful.  A work of art. The Torre was probably part of a network of towers used for communication from one settlement to the next. Some researchers believe that light signals were used to pass messages across the countryside.
You can see why it was built here as you have an all round view





In one direction lies Granollers and the spreading urban world. Turn around and you can see little vegetable plots and olive trees. Turn further and there is another expanse of green field behind which is another industrial estate. But for now it is hidden, invisible and doesn’t exist.
Only the swifts and the poppies and the sky and the hills

And the sunset

Barcelona – Madrid

The streets are  unusually empty. Where are all the cars and people and dogs?
No mystery – there is a big football match tonight.
It started at 9pm local time – Barcelona is playing Madrid at Nou Camp Barcelona.
Now if you are a big football fan, STOP reading now – there will be nothing to interest you here.
I am writing for those people who like me know very little but have a slight interest.
The matches between Barcelona and Madrid are classics. Like Celtic v Rangers. They are about more than football. You can be a passionate supporter but not really interested in the game.
Barcelona FC is worshipped here in Catalunya. I am Scottish and I remember how important the team was to our sense of identity but here – it is different – it affects more people, it crosses gender and class and age. It also helps that they are so good. They win!
I decided a few weeks ago that as I live here I really must take it all more seriously. And become a fan.
So here is my first idiots guide to the team
1. The slogan ‘Mes que un club’  
What does that mean?  The web site says it means many things – that the club represents the ‘country’ (remember that officially Catalunya is not a country but used to be and wants to be again) It is like an emblem, a vision and a symbol of Catalunya. There are also many thousands of supporters worldwide who feel passionate about the team and so the club is not just for Catalans but for anyone who resonates with their ideals.
The club has a special relationship with UNICEF and wears the logo on their shirts, donating money to the charity and also giving a percentage of income to support international development.They have never advertised any commercial on their shirts which makes them unique in the football world.
2. History
The club founder was Joan Gamper who in 1908 announced he wanted to run it as more than a football club, he wanted it to be pro-Catalan and work to serve the country. Many people became Barça supporters because of its role in defending and supporting democratic rights and freedoms. One famous episode was when in 1951, in Francos time, there was a tram strike and all the supporters who left the stadium after the match refused to take trams home, preferring to walk.
3. The Coach and Team
Now if I am to become a serious supporter I need to know at the very least all the names  but I’m still only a beginner so I’ll admit that I can only recognise the coach Pep Guardiola and also Messi. Guardiola is very attractive, is Catalan and used to play for Barça. He may be leaving soon as his contract runs out next January.  Messi has a wonderful name, is not the one with curly hair and scores goals and more goals and more goals. And I think he’s Argentinian. (I’ve just looked it up and the one with curly hair is Puyol who is Catalan)
4. Interesting Fact
According to Wikipedia the supporters of Barça are called culés, which comes from the Català word cul=arse. It’s thought to have come from the early stadium where supporters sat with their bottoms hanging over the stand.

It is all silent outside. The score at the moment is 4-0 to Barça.  I am writing this instead of watching it on TV because of a father-son standoff about homework. Sometime this season I will go to watch a reall game live – my first football game ever.
Will let you know how it goes.  But now I am waiting for the blaring horns and scarf waving cars to blast the silence of the evening.