When I think of Catalonia what immediately comes to mind is the word ‘home’. I see the wide view across rows of vineyards, the mountains of the Penedès in the distance, the tops of Montserrat further away, only able to be seen in winter when the leaves on the bare trees allow it. That, from our back terrace.
I have to think about our house too. A narrow but tall and modern ‘adossat’ terrace that has been ours to enjoy (and pay off back to the bank) for the last eleven years. The nighttime light from the old church tower across the street still angles in across our lowly bed. Its bells still ring every fifteen minutes to remind me I rise and sleep in Europe, not Australia, England or Japan.
I am also compelled to recall the splendours of the food here. Discovering the joy in simple ‘pa amb tomàquet’ and the savoury wonder of salt cod, ‘suquet’ seafood stew or the earthy richness of ‘calçot’ green onions cooked on a wood fire.
In Catalonia too, I found the pleasure of chewing the sweet, scant flesh on rabbit bones and diving into a bowl of snails ‘a la llauna’ hot from a tin tray, freshly out of the oven. We still drink the co-op white wine from Covides (an unfortunate name in these times.) Good, cheap stuff pressed from Xarel·lo, Macabeu and Parellada grapes.
Of course, Catalonia is so much more than just that. It’s where we’ve worked. I’ve written, taught and travelled thousands of kilometres to do these things. It’s an hour-long seat on RENFE trains, it’s driving the hills up and down the single-lane N340 running past Vallirana.
Equally, this place has sustained us and drained us; given so much but also taken so much energy and expense. It’s where our son went to school and learnt to use two languages. Catalan is his second language and as he makes his way as an independent young adult he still uses it every day in his work and study, I’m immensely happy to say.
Catalonia gave him superb teachers all through primary and secondary school. Every one of them were caring and dedicated women, apart from a handful of young men and they too were the exact kinds of male anyone could hope for as role models for him.
As well, my thoughts can’t go much further than to the selfless people who work with such heart and humanity in the public health system here. I owe a great deal to them all and so does my wife.
And there’s always The Big Smoke, the capital that brings tourists from everywhere. I was first one myself almost 25 years ago and now as a local I love to busy myself in the crowds on the streets. Every part of Barcelona is a gift, even the least attractive corners.
My Catalonia continues to spur the imagination. (I once had the idea of a book of photos of every rambla in every town where they could be found across the land).
Now, in my more optimistic times, I see somewhere I’d never want to leave. As it is, I don’t want to live anywhere else. Here is as good as it gets.