We’re still in Barcelona you see. But we could be anywhere in Catalonia or Aragon. And we’re still with the scatological. Caga Tió is a log. A log with special powers. He’s a poo log, who excretes presents. Children must look after him well before Christmas, feeding him with dried beans, bread or orange peel. But when the festival arrives, they must beat him, hard, until he produces their presents. Whilst beating him they might sing this song:
We’re leaving Christmas behind now. In Barcelona, and Spain generally, things are just hotting up. Tonight, the Three Kings will progress into town, and tomorrow, extended families will get together to exchange presents, in memory of those Wise Men who toiled over field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star to bring gifts to the infant Jesus. (Well. It’s Covid Time. No more than 10 in a family group this year)
I only planned to tell you about the tenth day of Christmas, but Susan of London Senior took the view that I’d started, so I ought to finish too. So here we go: it’s a little rude, but don’t blame me …
If you visit Catalonia at Christmas time and take a look at any crib scene, there at the back, somewhere behind the infant Jesus will be a figurine – a caganer – squatting down doing A Big Job, a Number Two: choose your own euphemism. The message seems to be that we are all sisters and brothers under the skin: mighty or humble, rich or poor, old or young, we all have the same kinds of body – and bodily functions, so get over yourself and don’t give yourself airs and graces. All are Equal in the Sight of God.
These photos were taken a few years ago. The roll call of Those in Charge seems to have changed a bit – can you spot Gordon Brown here? But you’ll see someone you recognise, I’m sure.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
It was in Berlin that I first really discovered a love of Street Art. Maybe it’s because I got some background understanding by going out for the afternoon with Dave, of Alternative Berlin Tours. I learnt the difference between graffiti, street art, stickers and transfers, and something of the political anger and activism that can inform so much of it: particularly near the former Berlin Wall. This has now been re-invented as The East Side Gallery and I don’t show anything of that here because many of its images are so well known. Here are some examples we saw in Dave’s company, or exploring later on our own.
Having done Street Art Module One in Berlin, I was ready a year or so later to do Module Two in Valencia, It was here that I met an irrepressible type who peoples doorways and random bits of street furniture, painted by David de Limón.
And it was here too, as we once had in Seville, that we encountered street artists doing their day – or occasionally night – job.
Here are a few more:
And here’s one just for Past Squares …
And we’ll have a whistle-stop tour of Spain and view a few more:
Maybe this is my favourite image of all, a bit of fun created from damaged plasterwork in Seville:
Although – hang on – no. My real favourite has got to be in Manor House Gardens, Hither Green, because the artist appears to have designed this image with my granddaughter in mind.
With thanks to Patti for providing us with a chance to wander city streets this week in quest of images that amuse, provoke and stimulate us. It’s the perfect moment to join the Photographing Public Art Challenge too. As well as Monday Mural. All this and Past Squares and Monday Window too … This is taking multi-tasking to a new level.
The header image comes from the top floor of an apartment block in Málaga.
The next town along from Premià is Vilassar de Mar. Emily says it has a hippie, arty vibe, and it’s certainly a pretty little town. Look what took our eye though. Alongside a tree trunk was this: part of a Town Trail for Tinies? We don’t know. We found no others.
When we visited, it had just finished its week long Festa Major, for which the symbol was – a tree.
Still, I suggest you join us for a vermouth in the oldest vermuteria in town, Espinaler, before going for a quiet stroll.
Our first foray from Premià was to Argentona. Nope, we’d never heard of it either. But we found out that Gaudi’s contemporary Josep Puig i Cadafalch had built a house here, and that seemed reason enough to visit. Reader, it was closed for renovations, and this is about all we could see:
Were we dismayed? only a bit. An International Ceramics Fair was in town, and we had fun tagging along, watching the potter in the featured photo, visiting the museum, taking in the sights in this ancient town, and finally, having lunch at an Uruguayan restaurant. Here’s a small gallery, which even features an ancient gnarled tree that really didn’t appreciate attempts to square it off.
We’re going to end our trip to Premià de Mar where we began, in a bar. But this isn’t just any bar. This is Bar del Mig, in the main town square, and the venue of choice for many in the town for a morning coffee, a lunchtime meal or a convivial evening of tapas and a drink.
Bar del Mig? That’s a funny name isn’t it? Well, it refers to the fact that the Cami del Mig runs through all the coastal towns hereabouts, as it has since Roman times, south of the Via Augusta, as a -er- miggle way between that and the sea.
We might be leaving Premià , but there are lots of places, lots of trees to visit yet. We’ll call in at other local towns in the area before heading off back to the ferry from Santander via Aragon, the Basque country, and Cantabria. Gosh, if the thought’s making you thirsty, and we haven’t time to go back to the bar, best have a quick swig from a tree-shaded water fountain before we set off.
Today we have two trees that are pushing the boundaries. The first isn’t a tree at all: but this huge cactus near Emily and Miquel’s house clearly thinks it’s a tree.
And this little palm tree sapling, down near the beach at Premià de Mar surely won’t make it though to maturity, as it’s relying on the goodwill of a host tree that’s unlikely to want to have it around for long.
I told you about the railway line in Premià de Mar the other day. Nowadays, a number of underpasses beneath the road and railway link the town to its beaches. And quite a few of them are painted with scenes of the town, and with life above and below the surface of the ocean.
Palm trees march along portions of the shoreline, so let’s begin with an image of one from an underpass:
And here’s the main square, with the parish church of Sant Cristofol.
There’s more street art, some of it more interesting, in the streets above. I’ll save those for later.
The barri antic – old town centre – of Premià de Mar is terraced by rows of what were once fishermen’s cottages, mainly dating from the 18th century, and known as lescases decós. Their inhabitants divided their time between two occupations – fishing – and market gardening in their long narrow back gardens. The featured image shows a typical street, with awnings stretched across to shelter passers-by from the summer heat.
There aren’t many trees, so these days the town council has placed some in tubs along the pedestrianised streets.
With not many trees about, some residents cram their windows with cooling plants:
Although one careful resident has thoughtfully left a cat-sized gap at the bottom of his plant-friendly window.
The railway line linking Barcelona to Mataró, 34 miles up the coast, was opened in 1847. The line divorced every town on its route, including Premià de Mar, from the seashore by hugging the coast. Nowadays a busy main road also runs alongside.
But the railway brought advantages too, by bringing raw materials (coal from England for the gasworks!) to agricultural and manufacturing industries, and by taking produce (fruit and vegetables, textiles) to their markets further afield.
Still, those early trains were regarded with deep suspicion, as evil and malevolent. Early travellers took no chances. They would make their wills before embarking on their journey. Market gardeners were convinced the smoke from the engines would harm the crops and they would become bankrupt. And steam engines require axle grease. Where could that fat come from? Weren’t there reports of babies and children going missing in Barcelona? Hmm?
Nowadays, this is the scene from the goods yard, now known as Descarroga beach – ‘decarrogar‘ is ‘to unload‘ in Catalan. The train line still exists, but silent electric rolling stock dependably transports commuters, but no freight, to and from Barcelona.