Monday, 24 February 2020


After some rigorous enquiries, a replacement teacher had been found for Manel Pujol and she was due to be at the law firm to meet him for the first time at 8.30am. In the young woman's mind she would arrive early, dressed smart, ready to make an impression to match. Instead, she was tearing down Diagonal in the centre of Barcelona,  in the middle of rush hour, trying to avoid being hit by a stream of electric scooter riding business-district commuters, frantically checking Google Maps to make sure she wasn't going the wrong way, wishing maybe a little luck would shine down on her from that cloudless blue sky. Maybe number 364 Diagonal wasn't actually, as it appeared to be, an impenetrable ship of a building surrounded by roaring waves of traffic, and a black panelled door would appear before her, opening like a port in a spaceship, and she would be beamed instantly into Mr Pujol's office, just a minute late, and she'd be smugly wondering how many of her nine lives she had intact. But no, her normal, hustle-ability just wasn't kicking in today, and effing Google Maps was directing her to the back of the building, and her mumbled "ffff-fffkkksss-ks" were gaining strength, clenching up into her jaw, her wrists and her calves. All that new age self-help Eckhart Tolle stuff she had been listening to lately, reminding her to "accept each moment as if you had chosen it", was being mentally crumpled and chucked aside, this was no time for mindfulness, she had to find the f***ing office. This was the sort of morning that she could later fashion into a practice of the third conditional. If she had left five minutes earlier, she wouldn't have been late. If she had given more of a fuck, she wouldn't have laid in bed until 7.30. If.... Then she sighted a portly bald-headed gentleman looking at her over his glasses... oh fantastic, it was Captain Mannering reincarnated as the Catalan concierge of Escalera E, 364 Diagonal, Barcelona.

"Que escalera quiere?" he croaked in between nicotine stained dentures.

Flicking through some screenshots for a name, the woman inhaled and announced with a semi-pre-prepared cavewoman-like stammer, "Estoy.... aqui....por Manel..... Pu.... Pu.... Pujol!"

Big sigh. Deep breath. Awkward pause. The concierge persisted with his question: "ESCALERA E?"

She looked at her phone: "Escalera A". Shit, she was at the wrong end of the building. Mumbling, "vale, vale" to herself, she shot back out onto the pavement where crowds of rush-hour robots blocked her path, she jumped free of the pavement, onto the edge of the main road itself and sprinted towards the other end. Time around her seemed to be speeding up, flowing free as a river, contrary to her own tempo which felt like a crumb moving through muddy water. She paused outside Escalera A, cursing the fact that a building could be so, well, bloody big, and yet still be the same number, and then took a moment to remind herself where she was ("no offence, but this is the land of manaña manaña, f'christssake"), and she breathed out a couple of "accept every moments" and counted some hail "manaña manañas", to a rhythm of in-for-four, out-for-four, whilst also trying to accept in that moment, (as though she had chosen it), that she was emitting an unusually hot mustiness which was not quite in keeping with the calm and professional aura she was hoping to project. She pulled her jacket tighter around her and pushed her face into a smile. 

Here it was, and smiling up at the woman from the concierge desk of Escalera A, was a blonde Yvette from 'Allo 'Allo. The concierge took down the woman's details, head bobbing slightly from side to side, fingers typing deftly, eyes firmly fixed on the screen, noting the woman's name and ID number, and then looked up to enquire, head poised on one side, each word very clearly articulated, "De donde eres?" She said it with a curiosity the woman had not felt directed at her in a long time.

 "De... Inglaterra, de Londres,came the woman's bubbly response ("am I proud of that?" she wondered).

"Oh, que maravillosa!" persisted the Yvette-alike, her face gleaming. "Pues, Mr Pujol is late," handing over the plastic security card, "entonces, you can wait upstairs for him, vale?"

Taking the card, the woman gave Yvette her best sing-song, "Gra-ci-as!" as she passed through the security barrier at 364 Diagonal, Escalera A.

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