Provisional routine

The big change will be that the Sant Antoni neighbourhood market will be where it always was, that the provisional market will disappear and that everything will go back to where it was before 2009.

© Laura Borràs Dalmau

My huge, thirty-six and a half week belly with twins went to the opening of the provisional market of Sant Antoni in October 2009. The Ronda had always been a nightmare of smoke and noise until that day. Three days later I would give birth in the heights of the city. When I returned home, with a deflated belly and two tiny, rosy girls, my father-in-law bravely strove to find an alternative to drop us off on the doorstep with everything we were carrying. Once at home, I was grateful that the location of the provisional market muffled the hustle and bustle of the street; that the smell of petrol gave way to that of fish, animal blood and vegetable debris. In a post-partum state, everything that brings you closer to the earth, to the visceral, to the origin, is soothing.

That’s probably why every time they say the market in front on my house is provisional, something stirs deep within me, as if my children were to be taken away when the works are completed.

In our house we had long forgotten that our routine was provisional. The big change for us will be that the neighbourhood market will be where it always was; that everything will go back to where it was before. We will no longer see the clothes market from the balcony. We won’t pass the food stalls on the way to school. Everything will return to the square, which for over five years has been a cloud of dust with the creaking noise of the long-necked cranes. And then nothing will be provisional.

How can I not be dizzy? I don’t know what the route to school, the morning coffee or Lola’s stall will be like in little more than a year’s time. I don’t know how many changes all of us who take pleasure in our Monday to Friday routine will make; we have pampered it and we know how to find its soft underbelly. How will we feel after the euphoria of novelty has faded? What will we miss from these five long years? When I think about my daughters, the dizziness becomes physical and a gap opens up beneath my very feet. Will they remember the provisional market in a few years’ time? Or will their brand new memory adopt the new market, which is actually the old market, as the only one? Will I have to remind them of the marquee I see now from my window, just as my mother reminds me that I spent the first month of my life in Sant Andreu, a stone’s throw from Fabra i Coats, before going to live in Premià? The provisional market will be my Fabra i Coats, I think, and now I fall into the dark, bottomless pit of memory.

What do I remember from before I was five? When I was five, my sister was born and I have hardly any memories of being an only child. My mother made me the ones I do have with photos and words. From time to time she reviews them for me, because they become blurry in my mind. That’s what mothers do. You walk down the street and you bump into someone else and, like a flesh and blood encyclopaedia, your mother recites your biography and restores the links which connect you to that person. Your mother’s eyes, full of ones and zeros, tell you that you have no choice.

So, when I finish writing about this importants topic –which makes my breathing falter, because speaking about Sant Antoni when I’ve lived here for five years almost seems like betrayal – I’ll go down and take some photos of the marquee. Later, I’ll go and pick up the girls from school, we’ll come home through the market, and I’ll help them to create a definitive, lasting memory of a routine that they don’t know has a sell-by date. Soon they’ll learn the meaning of the word provisional. And when the time comes, I’ll play the role of mummy encyclopaedia and I’ll retrace the memories of our provisional routine of five long years in a neighbourhood which is definitive for us.

Tina Vallès


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