When it’s cold in Barcelona, it’s biting on the outskirts. In winter, Barcelona goes out a lot to keep warm, just like in summer when they go out for the hurricane of air-conditioning through the doors of El Corte Inglés, or the one they used to love while looking at the windows of Modelo, the tailors that used to be at the start of La Rambla. In El Corte Inglés, FNAC... all the places with escalators, you can also get cooler if you see what the hipsters are buying. There could be two or three degrees difference between the centre of Barcelona (in its favour) and the neighbourhoods around it, but three degrees can make a huge difference - just ask Diana Ross.

Cold in the morning is not the same as cold in the evening. There is day cold and night cold, just like there is day fishing and night fishing. On cold nights we're attracted to the light, just like the fish that gather round the lanterns on the boats and give the fishermen an easy catch. Someone who can tell you all about it is Joan Coscubiela, who, when another kind of democracy was possible, was a CCOO union lawyer for the construction sector, which is another kind of trawling. These days he finds solace running marathons and became a Catalan MP while the struggle for power fluttered around other lights. Maybe Diogenes used a lamp to look for an honest man because most people aren't very bright. This is why night-time cold is coldly cynical. It knows it's the real thing, while daytime cold was never more than nippy. It is a cold that knows very well it will have the city to itself, as everyone scurries home all wrapped up, as Triana sang in Desnuda la mañana.

 

THE SNEEZE AS A SLOGAN

Cold in the morning is a social question, it's all about the class struggle. The workers share it, huddled under the shelter while they wait for the bus. That's the difference between the aristocracy and the working class: some have tax shelters and others have bus shelters.. The cold of someone going to work in Carrefour is a cold of rubbed hands and misty breath, as if they had smoked a Cohiba cigar and wanted to be rich. And the cold of someone who is already rich has a non-recyclable coolness made of the artificial snow laid out for them like a carpet when they arrive. In winter, workers on strike (now they say in dispute) sneeze louder, rather than shout slogans. But to tell the truth, cold is not what it used to be and neither is unemployment. These days instead of freezing they say feels like 0ºC, and instead of being unemployed, feels like a job.

The only ecosystem not affected by climate change is politics. There it is getting colder which explains why, in so many places, we have leaders that are like stalactites with a lot of drips hanging off them.

In Barcelona this winter the cold has taken its gloves off but it still has a scarf. People have opted to put their hands in their pockets as they don't have anything else to stuff in them. As there is no way to combat the cold outdoors, we are given to understand that it causes indifference and maybe that's why you see everyone walking around with their shoulders hunched. The cold on Pelai Street is different from the cold on Tallers Street, even though there is only a few metres between them. In one you have night-time cold day and night - perhaps that’s why it seems like Christmas in that street all year round. In the other there is a daytime cold, with the light (and crowds) of a Benidorm beach,

 

THE FOUR FACES OF WINTER BY PEÑARROYA

Before we had graphic novels and characters always appeared with their eyes wide open and scratching their chin, comic strip artists used to study people a lot so they could draw them. In an old DDT annual, Peñarroya (who could put lines on a face better than anyone) drew the four faces of winter as follows: the face of someone who gets in bed and discovers it is completely frozen; the face of someone putting a shoe on a foot with chilblains; the face of someone who suspects the hot water bottle stopper is in properly, and the face of someone who realises that indeed it wasn’t. 

But all this is in relation to our friendly cold in Barcelona, the damp cold of a city wrapped up in itself, searching in the crimes of a noir novel for what it hides in its own closet. (There is also a kind of sub-zero crime literature, which is found in Nordic novels and which is why its authors have names like Jo Nesbø, with a scarf on the last letter of the surname). The truth is we have the real cold in front of us, battering and freezing alive refugees who are looking for a place where none of that can happen to them. It seems that everything is happening at the gates of Europe but it's inside us, down to the bone. The cold outside always gets into us in the end.

 

Javier Pérez Andújar (Sant Adrià de Besòs, Spain, 1965). Writer. His books include Catalanes todos. Las 15 visitas de Franco a Cataluña (La Tempestad, 2002), Paseos con mi madre (Tusquets, 2011) and Diccionario enciclopédico de la vieja escuela (Tusquets, 2016). In 2014, he received the Ciutat de Barcelona award. In 2016, he made the opening speech of La Mercè festival. 

Autor: 
Javier Pérez Andújar