Tuesday, 27 March 2007

The Fire

Colour supplement 1930

I kept meaning to ask someone about the tunnel.

One evening on the way downstairs with the rubbish, my flat is on the 7th floor (no lift) (no fire escape), there was a distinct and slightly worrying smell of burning. Neighbours' doors were all closed and intact but out in the street smoke was gathering above the park. Where was it coming from? The trees (a local pyromaniac was always setting fire to the trees)? An out-of-control campfire built by the homeless who sometimes spent the night in the park ?

The tunnel.

Smoke was billowing from the tunnel. I´m not in the habit of carrying a purse to take down the rubbish and you have to pay to call the Fire Brigade so I went into the old Bodega opposite the park to ask to call from there. "Certainly not." said the owner. "I'm not wasting my good money on that lot in the Council" (parks are municipal property). Not quite the respectful attitude one would desire.

I hint that an accumulated gas explosion might affect the wine barrels, not to say her, but she still refused. I turned to leave. "Anyway, it´s just that old air raid shelter from the Civil War."

I turn back. "An air raid shelter?"

"Yes. From when they bombed Barcelona in the Civil War"

"They bombed Barcelona?"

She was beginning to get irritated.

"Yes, one of the old air raid shelters. It´s not worth anything. There were lots round here."

Now most people know about Guernika. But Barcelona?

Two or three solitary men along the bar are nodding in agreement. Civic duty forgotten, I try to get more information. People, even now, are often reluctant to talk about the Civil War. They are just starting to put street names to the 'lots round here': "There was one in Rosal." "Yes and another under the square." "All over Barcelona, they were." when we hear the fire-engines approaching (presumably summoned by some more respectful neighbour) and all go outside.

The fire was just accumulated rubbish and old clothes set alight, intentionally or not, in the entrance to the tunnel and was soon extinguished. But conversation had been diverted from the war and the owner of the Bodega had decided it was time to close.

I´m left with desire to find out more

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