Tuesday, September 16, 2003

`Anarchist, Ireland?´- they looked bemused and mentioned hospital

The Jewel In the CrownI was going on about the French sterotype earlier before, well judging by the sudden change in termperment across the border, the spainish one holds up too. Orwell went on about how all questions on serious issues seemed to be answered with ´mananna´ meaning tomorrow, i get that here too. The train conductor didnt seem arsed checking for our tickets and we only had to pay 14 euro for the two of us mid journey. Three trains and twelve hours, but it was worth it. The station was like a prison, if you excuse the hyperbole, you have to present your ticket to get back out out of it. Id used ours for roache material, so we were forced to stand around like tits pointing at bins explaining where our ticket was. Distracted by a young women, the conductors back turned we pulled a legger and headed for the city. Hmmmm....blooody 5 EUR for a fuck off big pizza, the most tortorous 15 minute wait of my life, I was convivnced the waiters were purposely ignoring us scruffy types for the suited tourists and their obnoxious kids, tempted to try some Sangera (hideous spelling mistake) but declined.

While we spent a night looking for one squat in Paris you just stroll around Barcalona and follow the circled A´s and there you are, bound to find a squat. Standing outside the Jaume 1 tube I noticed this neon glow across the street, CGT, in huge fucking letters on top of a building, i dragged short over for a gawk. These official looking types popped out and being me i approached hesitantly with a stupid looking grin. I rambled at them, pointing to the offices ´anarcho-syndicalist´...syndicalist they agreed, not having 15 words of english between them, and me with just ´hola´as my gift in Catalona, pointing at myself `anarchist, ireland´ they looked bemused and mentioned hospital, smiling benignly. I left it at that.

Waiting around the city I came across a kid around the same age in a Shin fein t-shirt, you know the type, Che Guevara type ones that floata round UCD occasionally, bemused by it I approaced and mentioned Ireland. Terry had told me to show siome Catalon Nationalist types the photos i got on the Falls to gauranntee myself a free meal, ones of the Catalon and Irish flags coming together in the unity of struggle shite, think all the photos I got from belfast have disappeared up my cameras arse, but hopefully ill get them back. he seemed happy enough to meet some one from Ireland, what with our rich History and all that. Thank fuck the kid told me September 11th is the day of Catalon Pride, big march and festivities in the town, slept through that then so I did, woken up only occasionly by the buzz of a helicopter over head, these mad out of it looking cops are posed all over the city, reckon its to ward off some sort of attack on federal buildings or some such thing.

We met up with the legandary Iosaf of Indymedia fame, a surprisingly west Brit accent greets you on the pone, and suddenly in five minutes this cord jacketed, sandle wearing type greets you at a tube station. Eccentric is not the word. Really dont know what to make of him, he takes pleasure in pointing at tube maps and explaining the magical qualities of the city. He really does like his maps, he uses them all the time to explain his points, unfortunately we didnt get a grand tour of the historic parts of the city, he only showed us where they were all lined up after the fall of Barcalona in ´38 and shot at the cathedral. We stayed at the Mikabra squat, opened up just a year ago, it seems to be home to those unfortunate types that decided to flee Britain shortly after the release of the Prodigy´s "Music For The Jilted Generation", fuck them and their law, lets go abroad and avoid the Criminal Justice Act, stoned and listening to techno that ceased to develop from 1994 on. Then theres Eric, Eric the german, he greets you half naked with a mad outta it stoned glaze in his eyes, covered in garden muck he explains how they intend to reach out to the community.

' Over there we grow some tomatoes, some chillis, some ganja, some carrots, some ganja and some tamatoes and more ganja...'

You get the idea. And this is the guy that apparently is the brains behind the infoshop venture there. The place thats squatted is a former chemical factory, the owner also owns the flat complexes directly beside it, when he left he used it as a rubbish tip, so it still looks pretty rough, but considering their was about three feet of rubbish, from locals throwing bags out of their flat windows I guess its not an entirely bad job. Whne it rains the flat complexes flooded, the squatters having the ability and tools sorted out the gutters for them, making a large numbe rsupport them. There are others however who dont,a nd actively collect signatures for their eviction. Theres a pub used by local cops at the base of the flats, so the cops fill their heads with shit all the time.

Solidarity with the Salonika Eight seems to be definitely where its at in Europe, every where we go there is prisoner benefits, in the squat there having a three day open thing on the prison theme. After re-meetign Iosaf in the city, we hopped the trains to get back out to the Makabra. i poked around the info stall looking for someone to interview, I´ve already got interviews with leuven heads, unfortunately nothing from paris, everyone i asked just said they were sitting there drinking their beer, so i guiltlessly stocked up on propaganda, could only find one in English, abou the Isolation units in Spainish jails and political prisoners, got some in french too, but the language seems pretty dense. Watched a video on prison revolt in Greek jails under the Junta, featured reports and eye witness accounts from those involved, a lot of stuff like that is coming out under the Reconciliation process there after fascism.

Talking to Iosaf about Barcalona was interesting. The regional government have declared it to be the city of peace and reconciliation after the 1.3 million people that took to the streets against war there, they´re constructing this huge forum for 2004, inviting the usual delegates of liberal capitalism along to talk the talk, the activist community here seems to be concentrating on subverting what really is an attempt to subvert their own work during the period in the build up to the war in iraq. Talking to Iosaf i get the impression that the antiwar movement here faced pretty much similar problems to that in ireland, that is that after the February 15 type mobilisaiton there was an exhuastion and lack of a clear direction in which to take it, of course in Irealnd there was a direction towards Shannon fence, but here apparently not. Catalon nationalism is a fucking interesting thing. I had no idea about all this regionalism stuff in Spain, yeah, we all know about ETA and Basque regionalsim, apparently Catalon is the same except its expressed more through T shirts and posters, looking around thats real obvious, the streets are packed with nationalist posters of all persausion, the regional government has all these posters up about defining a new way forward. Dan recommended a visit to the Catalon Museum, the parts on the Civil War were pathetic, but then I appreciated the simplicity of the earlier period in giving my brain a dumbed down understanding of the issue of regionalism here which is something I hadnt a clue about.

I now sit in Can Mas Dieu, the jewel in the crown of squats across europe, i can see the Mediteranean and the whole of the city from where i type.

We popped in to talk to Martin Shaw about the bridge action in Evian, and get copies of the videos being used in the trial so the Irish heads involved know whats what. I should interview him, but fuck it I dont think hes too interesting, i loath super activists. But fuck this place is like a palace, part of a convent overlooking Barcalna, with a squat symbol on the roof dominating the city, amazing.

In the quarter where the Mikabra squat is located there stands a giant new flat complex, originally a chimney tower dominated the same area´s skyline, Iosaf says there has been a concious effort to replicate the phallic effect of the chimney in the reconstruction process happening in parts of the city. Most of the people living in the area are being moved out, and temple bar like developments are popping up. This temple bar effect seems to be having a growing effect on the squatting movement in the city. A lot of the squats are attracted to the idea of registering as artistic associations which to an extent legitimise them in the eyes of the authorities, but also rempves their autonomy and to a degree brings them under state control. There are noticeable areas in the city where there are a lot of squats, in many ways these have turned into new cultural quarters, with an influx of tourists. Along with the influx of tourists there comes the Temple Bar effect. All the nice little cheap cafes, clothes shops and galleries gathering to the archetyple Crusty suddenly become rather popular, and suddenly go sky rocketing up wards in price, so the goods on sale begin to echo the property prices. You can even see this in effect, I mean Barcalona is a city of Crustys, never before have i seen so many dreadlocks and dreaded mullets, if European fashion trends are anything to go by, I´d advise you all to start growing your hair so you too can have a dreaded mullet, at least one facial piercing and suitably neo hippy clothes within the next six months.
The squatters meet weekly in an assembly to discuss the issues facing them. The law here´s about as bad as anywhere else, you have to be occupying for 20 years before its yours. Talking to Iosaf was interesting, he described how there was a peace camp down by the regional government buildings, in a square. They spray painted all over it, the cops didnt go near them. For three weeks their agenda was all over the public discourse, but there was some failure to advace beyind it, the whole city responded to the anti-war agenda, but never moved beyond the idea of the anti-war protest. The state simply stood by and let them do their thing until it petered out. Aznar even said in the media that the street protests were just a game, and could be ignored, in a way I guess he identified the fact that sometimes protest can be like going to mass, there was no change in direction to respond to this. The energy and enthuasism that went into the protests burnt itself out after this period. During the war there was apparently an instinctive Barcalona/Catalon reaction against Madrid and Aznar´s backing for Bush, a reaction that in part is due to the regionalism here and also the city´s unique history. This reaction is now being channelled into that Forum 2004 I mentioned earlier on, clever when you think about it. Capture the spirit of the anti-war movement and channel it into something like the Forum that helps solidifies the emerging sense of a re-defination of what it is to be Catalon. This whole regionalism thing in Spain, it confuses the shit out of me.

Can Mas Dieu was an old Leper colony that was closed down after the discovery of penicilin. unfortunate that. Walking up to it from the metro we had to follow these spraypainted stars which tagged the route, then there it was on the horizon, woods enclosing it, fucking huge the place is. Walking up to it i assumed it was an old convent because a crucifix remains on the roof of the unsquatted part of it. I had hoped for some colourful history on the place being routed during the civil war, alas no church burnings here, just some poor fuckers with a dodgy skin condition. Your man martin seems to be happy enough, sitting perched naked in his room with this amazing view, to which he owes his recovery. Most people there seem to like their nudity buzz. I hadnt realised how few people were involved in the bridge action in Evian, about 15, thats crazy fucking shit to be taking part in, watching the video of the whole thing unfold would totally set me even further against any of these super activist type stunts, hanging yourself off a bridge to stop delegates getting by. Give me a burning barricade any day. They have these huge gardens which are run collectively, parts of the gardens are used by locals. Apparently the main problem there is that they havent enough garden space to facilitate the demand from locals who want to use it. There have been attempts to evict them. Last time there was a three day battle to defend it, which mostly consisted of people hanging from ropes at strategic locations. The cops had no easy access point and tried to burst through the walls. It failed. Its the jewel in teh crown because its the most legitimised of the squats, in that its the friendliest and most open to the public, if the cops can legitimise a move against that, then every squat in Barcalona is at risk.

We were meant to re hook up with Iosaf lastnight in the city centre, dark and mysterious in the centre of some square near the central metro, eleven fifty five sharp, by the time we made it back out to Makebra, packed away our stuff, said our goodbyes to the dogs which snarled bitterly at us for some reason, we couldnt find the square. I blame Iosafs unique writing style, craze and all over the place, think hed blended two words together leaving us lost. I was ment to interview him, but can do it over email. Got a mail from him; apparently he spent the evening blasting out the sex pistols, a catalon instruction tape for kids, techno, jazz and his rants and some other guys in english, all this in a cachophony at the same time, seemingly people liked it. We spent the nite down by the harbour, my bag ripped and i had to sew it, playing tune sthrough my dictaphone attracted the usual mad outta it after club crowd over for the random chats. We had to stay up till seven, so three cans of red bull in hand, smoking like a monkey on crack we were entertained by this coked up film student who faced the sam problem of having to stay concious through out the night to resume filming at six, a film about prostitution. Las Ramblas, the main tourist street was insane, hookers every where, seen an english lager type start on a waiter who called him a cunt in catalon. The waitress explained that Puta was an expression like 'Christ sake' or whatever, apoligising the tourist explained he didnt understand catalon; that was clear as the staff politily called him evry term of abuse I know in Catalon to his face with a wry smile, then burst their shits laughing with the rest of us as himl and his metalica tshirted friend stumbled off for after pub food.

Today could have been tortourous, what is it with the need to prebook tickets on french trains, we were screamed at by an irate conducter demanding ten euro each, wed been in the station for over an hour, some back hole called cerebres with one phone booth, a pharmachy and kids hanging out in the train station as the only exciting place in town.

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Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to antropheatgmail.com

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