Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Tuesday means Meetup!

I run three Meetup groups in Girona but by the far the most successful is Girona Social Meetup - our Tuesday evening meetup has become very popular and the more people who come, the more it attracts because without exception everyone who comes along has an interesting story to tell. Most are a lot younger than in Girona Grapevine which has been going a long time anyway, about 16 years. So I call Girona Grapevine, "my older group". But the joke is on me because I am 74 although I don't feel like it. And this week, Girona Grapevine is attracting one or two younger people from Girona Social Meetup which will be nice. It meets on a Wednesday morning so it is bound to attract people who are retired. And for most who come, English is their first language or they speak it like a native.

These three photos show how Girona Social Meetup has developed over two years. It was rather formal at one stage.

Then we used to meet upstairs in Catalano Taverna in Plaça de la Independencìa but it got rather noisy sometimes, especially if there was football on TV which would tend to start at 8.45pm. After that, during the winter of 2016-17, we met at Jim's Restaurant by Parcde la Devesa. We had our own space with one long table but it got rather noisy. We usually split into a number of conversations and it used to get rather noisy with them all competing against each other! The photo below is in Catalano Taverna.

And then during the summer of this year, we have been meeting outside Lapsus, also in Plaça de la Independencìa. As you can see, we were at the end of the "block" so we could expand quite a bit. Now we meet inside and there is a super space at the back of the bar where we can split between 3 or 4 tables. This works much better than one long table which I don't like very much (on the patio, it was great). And with several tables, I try to persuade people to move around rather than be in a static position all night. Everyone accepts my friendly bullying in good spirits! They say, "Well, you are the Organiser"! Sometimes they use the word, "boss" which is funny. There is a low ceiling with sound treatment so it is not too noisy. And I am always on the lookout for people who may be a little shy. I don't have any photos at the moment, I will take one or two this evening and put one on this blog.

Links for the Meetup groups are

I run a writers' group also

A little more about the politics here.... I think the consensus between all parties was shock at the violence of the Guardia Civil. I mean, it was crazy. Dragging a woman by her hair, smashing doors of polling stations. (I didn't understand the logic of that - if they couldn't get in neither could the voters!!) But, of course, it is now being used as a political weapon as if to justify the independence movement, in particular on TV3 where it is repeated ad-nauseam. In my opinion, it is quite separate. It is not a valid argument to justify an illegal referendum, but that is what is being attempted. In fact, as time passes, the independistas will find their argument hitting the buffers of the European Union which is giving wholehearted support for the Government of Spain (at the same time, criticising the violence).

Today there is a general strike in protest at the violence so I'm not even sure if our regular venue will be open. But I'm determined that our meetup goes ahead so I just sent a message to my members to come anyway and we can decide what to do.

The Catalan Parliament plans to appeal to the European courts (The European Court of Human Rights because of the violence and the EU as mediator) but, of course, they will find short shrift form the legal process if they want mediation there, just as they did in Spain. But the EU will be more difficult to dismiss. Even if the EU does get involved, it will come out firmly on the side of the law. It is a strange cul-de-sac that they will find themselves in. Their only route was defying the law and the only way they can achieve their desired independence is to continue down that path with their rhetoric. To head towards the courts will be fatal. It is a strange situation. The news today is that the move for independence is on hold. But the promise was of a declaration of independence within 48 hours of a "yes" result. There will be many angry people, notably the CUP who are to the extreme left, politically.

On a personal level, I am a little more tranquil because, ironically, despite the actual referendum going ahead, and with a "sí" result, the independence movement will find its path more difficult now. Their best plan was to go ahead and declare independence which is what they had promised and what I was expecting (and it was the reason why I was walking aimlessly around Girona, very depressed on Sunday afternoon, hearing the sporadic cheering and clapping).

The second part of today was a little bit crazy. I had already looked up the train and bus times which were limited because of the strike but I didn't realise how totally comprehensive was the shut-down in Girona until one of my members sent me a message asking if out meeting was still on. I had already decided to go early to the bar but I caught an even earlier train at 3.30pm. I quickly saw for myself how total was the strike. There were lots of young people draped in flags or waving them in the air. I became rather despondent. I walked across town to Plaça de la Independecìa and all the bars and restaurants were closed. I asked around if they would open later, some said yes, others said no. And then I started to get a feeling that maybe we should be joining the strike also. Ostensibly it was a protest against the violence of Sunday but it rapidly became a big independence rally.

I sat at one of the tables at Lapsus to cancel the meetup but couldn't get a signal so I walked around the corner and sat on the steps of the Post Office (a popular meeting place). I got a signal and wrote a message to people who said they were coming. At one point two girls came from different directions screaming and hugged each other flying and my new expensive laptop very nearly went flying too.  It would have been wrecked.

Gradually a large crowd appeared from the direction of the hospital accompanied by a convoy of tractors. I checked with Sarfa when their next bus would be and they told me, 17.15 from the bus station. What they failed to tell me was that it was not stopping at Correos which is where I was. But as the crowd became very large, I started to work that out for myself, the bus would skip Correos because it would have got caught up in the convoy. I rang Sarfa again and told the person that I was at Correos, could the driver look out for me. "Oh no", she said, "it is only stopping at the hospital". (Now you tell me!) That left me with 10 minutes to walk there. I hoped the bus would be running late. I walked rapidly looking behind me at regular intervals. I saw the bus but I was still about 300m short of the stop. I put out my hand and then put my hands together in the form of a prayer! The driver recognised me anyway, he stopped and I jumped on board. If I had missed that bus, I would either have been stuck in Girona for 2 hours or forced to take a taxi.

If I every had any doubts about the collusion by the Mossos d'Esquadra in enabling the referendum to go ahead, they were dispelled today. When two of their cars moved through the crowd, they were applauded. As if to say, "You are our police force now, on our side". I mean to say, just think of that happening in the UK. And so the central Government had to send in the Guardia Civil because they could not depend on the Catalan police to uphold the law. And we all know what happened next. 

When I got home, I arranged a new meetup for the next day.

Near to the end of the day, the King spoke to me. It is exceptional for him to speak on TV apart from at Christmas. He spoke for about 10 minutes at 9pm. He said to people like me, loyal to the country where I live, not to be anxious, that I have the support of the whole democracy of Spain. He also spoke very clearly to the people who set out to destroy the unity and democracy of Spain.

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