I did resist the temptation to make the first line “normally in crayon” but this post will flirt with taxi driver/Daily Mail journalist territory. What provoked this has been a number of incidents over the last few weeks that provoked “best rated” in the Daily Mail type outbursts from me.
I have made it clear in the previous entries that I adore this city but I have never sugar-coated the fact that the thieves, pickpockets and bawbags that are everywhere are a huge blight on the city. What is really annoying is the fact that you only need to be here a couple of days before you develop the ability to spot them at a thousand paces.
Which begs the question, how can a man who has developed his crime investigation skills from watching CSI and Taggart have this ability while men who have been trained and indeed are paid money to do it seem oblivious to their presence. (Before anyone starts I know it’s not really like that but you were warned I was going to get a bit “just past the lights on the left, mate” in this post)
Over the last few weeks there have been a number of incidents that have made the yoghurt knitting socialist in me ashamed. I live around a 5 minute walk from Pl Espanya, a hugely popular tourist attraction where you find the new Arenas shopping centre, the Magic Fountains and every week there is normally some conference or other all of which bring thousands of cash laden tourists into the area. I’d say at least a couple of times a month, when walking with the dog in the streets around the Plaza I’ll see discarded wallets and handbags after the weasels have emptied their contents. So, this evidence suggests that robbers could possibly be working in the area….
Let me detail the activities of the police in the last three weeks. First up, at around 11pm on a Saturday night my wife and I were taking a late night snort and snack in La Choza, a basic but popular cafe a couple of minutes from Pl Espanya. As a result of the popularity they had set up a few extra tables on the terrace to cater for people who fancied a late night bite, no rowdy drunks, just people having a drink on a pleasant saturday night. Next thing a police van turns up, around 6 members of the Guardia Urbana (Local police) get out and they spend the next 30 minutes counting tables, talking to the owner, checking paperwork and finally issuing a 1000 euro plus fine to the bar owner. They then spent the following thirty minutes doing the same thing to the other bars in the area.
11 pm to midnight, Saturday night, in an area popular with tourists I can totally understand why checking the number and position of tables outside bars is a priority.
The other night I left the flat with the dog for his evening stroll. I bumped into one of my neighbours who has two smashing wee Jack Russell terriers. She told me that an hour earlier she’d been stopped by the police and as she didn’t have her dogs paperwork on her, as a result she was fined 40 euro per dog. This on a night, and at a time when the Magic Fountain display was taking place 5 minutes walk away. That got me somewhat irked but I wandered off to the park regardless. When I got there I saw that the other dog owners were having what looked like a union meeting in the centre of the dog park. I found out that an hour earlier there had been a police van parked at the back of the Arenas shopping centre and the crack team of police inside had spent the hour checking dog owners ID, issuing fines to people for having their dogs off leash inside the main park.
At this point I did go into full on RADGE MENTAL mode. I do understand that police work does involve dealing with some mundane issues but for f**k sake, on a night where there are a load of tourists in the area, and where there be tourists there be robbers, checking the paperwork of dogs cannot possibly be the highest priority.
Anyway, let me put this post back into some kind of positive context, it is time to repeat my “Don’t be a wee fanny” mantra. Barcelona is a truly fantastic city, and yes it does have a robber problem but let’s be honest this is hardly news to any of you. To be safe in this city you don’t need to be an ex Navy Seal Ninja warrior, simply staying aware of your surroundings, not wandering down streets you wouldn’t go near in your own home town and not carrying or displaying too much in the way of valuables will be enough.
Do those simple things you’ll have a fantastic visit and if you all do that then the police can spend their time catching the real criminals…
I am now off to find a support group for “Yoghurt Knitters With Taxi Driver Tendencies”