This is the town hall (on the left) and the Civic Centre (entrance by the right-hand chimney).
The painting is in watercolour, 2004.
The painting is in watercolour, 2004.
I just got back from Can Ponac which is the place for old-folks and that is one of the three locations that was intended for the vote. But I found a large group of people which, first of all, I thought were not able to get in. I knew that the police had come earlier but, in fact, they had come to cut the internet connection on which they depended. This seemed strange to me, why did they not simply check peoples' ID and count ballot papers at the end of the day? This was a weak link!
The mayor made an announcement on a barely audible hand-held loud-hailer. After a while, some people drifted away and I followed them. I fancied a coffee and there were tables serving hot dogs and drink. The atmosphere was relaxed and festive despite the frustration of not being able to vote. Maybe they hoped something would change during the day. I came back home to write up my blog but I will go back later.
I spoke to one or two people, two of whom I know quite well. One works in reception at the Town Hall, so I wondered if she had seen my email about the posters which so offended me. The message, like a mantra, from them was the same..... The referendum was totally legal, they have the basic human right to self-determination. The central governing party, the PP, are "francistas", the grandchildren of Franco. In other words they are the same. Extreme right. I asked one guy what party he would like to see in power in Madrid. He said, "none of them".
All my conversations on the subject are friendly and respectful, I may feel strongly on the subject myself but I hold back in order to maintain good relations.
But I get very depressed at the vast difference between the two sides. It is not like Brexit where people had different opinions, it is a total disagreement over the rules of engagement. That is the best way I can think about it. It is not about whether people want a referendum or not, it is about whether they consider it legal or not. That goes very deep. They see a basic human right of self-determination being denied. Sometimes the phrase, "self-expression" is used. Hey, that's OK. They can express as much as they like but, despite their deep belief to the contrary, they do not have the right to vote on independence. The same with Germany, Italy.....
I have just seen pictures of the Guardia Civil violently hitting people in the street and I am very shocked. There are reports on TV3 that they are using rubber bullets. I feel abandoned by both sides. The independistas who want to create a new republic which will float somewhere to the west of Portugal with no EU membership and no trade deals with the rest of the world and these riot police whose brains are conditioned by dealing with violent extremists, not the nice, polite people of Catalunya. I wrote earlier, they genuinely believe that they have a right to vote. I respect that even if I think they are wrong.
These pictures will circle the globe and will pour gasoline on a fire which is many times more intense than the court judgements of the Tribunal Constitucional. Such is the modern world. Many people will jump on the band-waggon tomorrow. I am scared. Last year, I learnt that my passport will no longer be an EU passport, simply a UK passport. And now the place where I have made my new home is going.... I have no idea where.
I am going back to the town hall now. The railway station is right next-door so I will then take a train to Girona to see what is happening there. I will write more here later!
They got their vote! When I went back, people were inside Can Ponac voting. This guy was very happy to have his photo taken but I promised to pixelate the three guys who were helping. But I don't think they were too worried.
They managed to re-connect the internet which they use to verify peoples' IDs. Later I saw two Mossos, the Catalan police but they were making no attempt to stop the voting. I think this was happening a lot, that the Mossos, if not supporting the vote were certainly taking a passive role.
They celebrated with a meal!
I walked aimlessly around Girona for an hour then went to the station for the train back to Celrà. On the platform I met a guy who I have got to know in Celrà, together with his young female carer. He had a stroke and is more or less confined to a wheelchair. His speech is very difficult to follow but he can read and use his hands. No one came with a ramp to help him onto the train but fortunately, when it arrived, it was one of the more modern versions with wheelchair access. Joan got up from the chair and I dragged him to a seat inside, his carer brought the wheelchair onto the train and sat in it for the short journey to our village.
When we arrived, Joan stayed in the chair and we dragged him onto the platform. I felt a muscle in my side twinging but it was soon OK. We went together to Can Ponc where he wanted to vote. When we arrived, the crowd parted for him to be wheeled down to the entrance and everyone burst into applause. I guess it was for my noble work in dragging him off the train (joking of course). I found it rather patronising, as though he had overcome great hardship to get there (maybe you think I am heartless but I write this story with a smile and I often stop to talk to him). When I used to push my mum around in a wheelchair after her stroke, we used to get sickly smiles from people passing by, "There, there... does she take sugar?" Fortunately the stroke didn't dim her mischievous sense of humour so we used to joke about it. Except that she couldn't talk.
I left rapidly and in passing I saw the mayor and he said, "Hello Steve". I replied back, "Hello Dani", but I confess it was rather cool because I blamed him for the offensive posters outside the Town Hall. I felt guilty about that afterwards. Maybe he didn't get to see my email. Normally our relationship is very cordial but, at the time, I was feeling very depressed about how things were going. And his party, CUP, was a chief protagonist.