Moving the goalposts

(Translation below)

A couple of weeks ago in The Scratch Olympics I wrote about how sad it was that the Valencian city council was closing or blocking access to sports fields and areas of disused land that people were using for relaxation, while the multi-million-euro white elephants the Town Hall had built in a promotional frenzy now lay dead and deteriorating.

One of the groups I’d spoken about in The Scratch Olympics was a gathering of Latinos who used a disused section of road as a volleyball court. In their parsimonious wisdom the council had placed enormous concrete blocks across the road, effectively blocking access and moving on the people who had used the patch of waste land as a weekend sports ground. But you can’t keep folks down, and on my regular bike ride around the city this evening I saw a great example of simply ‘moving the goalposts’.

Within a ball’s throw of the City of Arts and Sciences, the flagship of Valencian architecture and tourism, now known by the acronym CACSA but more honestly labelled by its former abbreviation of CAC  is the huerto, the market gardens that used to supply much of the city’s vegetables, but are now used more for private consumption. There were also a number of small factories at one time, now not much more than the odd half demolished wall and patch of rubble-strewn wasteland.

A modest stroll from CAC is a tarmacked area that would probably at one time have done service as a car park for a small factory. This isn’t particularly difficult to divine, given that it still as the ghost of white lines marking car parking bays, and half-a-dozen larger yellow-lined ones to accommodate lorries. Of the building there is nothing, other than a dog-leg length of wall about two metres high and fifteen long. The shorter right-hand wall would seem to have done service as a kitchen in a past incarnation because a three-metre length has at one time been covered in white ceramic tiles, most of which are either missing now or heavily graffitied. Sticking out from this wall is a waist-high section about half-a-metre deep, also tiled, so we can assume it was a work surface of some description.

At around eight-thirty this evening, with a (thankfully) cool breeze wafting the patches of weeds surrounding the car park, I watched a fast and furious game of four-a-side volleyball, the two teams differentiated by the way that uniform-less teams have done for generations – one team played stripped to the waist while the other kept their T-shirts on. Whereas there had only been room for one net on the disused road, here there were two, both with courts carefully outlined. Along one section of the wall was the breeze-block and plank bleachers, probably brought from the last spot, and on it sat a mixed group of males and females and all sorts of ages, barracking and cheering their respective teams.

On the kitchen worktop, four ladies in pinnies hustled between two two-ring Calor gas burners with great pans of something steaming away, and a plank-topped trestle table where the ingredients were being prepared. An old chest freezer, its rusted top covered with a length of plastic table cloth, tied around with string to keep it in place, made grace as a table, and an assortment of leprositic old chairs and empty plastic crates made up the seating. Three ten-litre cool boxes made a perfectly acceptable bar.

A dumpy lady from the ‘kitchen’ waddled over to the referee with a packet held in her hands, a paper cone with a fork sticking out. She handed the fork to the ref and he took a stab at the cone’s contents, sampled it and handed the fork to a compadre at his side, who did the same. Whatever it was obviously passed muster because the cook waddled back to the kitchen with a smile.

The game kept on, even as the evening started to fade, and I wandered off on my bike wearing a smile, happy in the knowledge that someone had given the finger to Rita Barberá and her misery-guts cronies at the Town Hall, and had simply got on with enjoying themselves in these trying times. And I suspect that if the gaping hole in the fence that allows them access is wired up they’ll simply move on somewhere else…and somewhere else….and somewhere else.

(Translation: No, not prohibiting someone from peeing on your spaghetti, Mexican Spanish for ‘Prohibited, walking on the grass,’ a sign put up to stop some kids playing volleyball, so they blocked the street and played there.)

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, Derek Workman, and Spain Uncovered. Articles and books can also be found at Digital Paparazzi.

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