I have a spray assignment round the corner. It's a shop with 4 roller shutters. They're friendly people who let me do my thing. The general plan is to their liking, so there I go. With my creaking metal ladder, my spray cans and my thermos with English tea. Outside opening hours of course, that's the only time that the shutters are down. Early in the morning until 9, and between 13.30 and 16.30 ( I love the Catalans and their strange dinner habits), and after 20 at night. Before 7.30. the morning there is no natural light, nor after closing time. That I found out when I got up one morning at 5 and thought myself a hero. I could not even distinguish the yellow from the blue cans.
I have been working 3 weeks on the project and got to know all my neighbours. Many of them have a fixed routine. Between so and so late they pass by, or sit down on the bench in front of the shop. With or without dogs, children or shopping bags. Young, old, limping, on bike, in wheelchair, holding hands. Many couples in Barcelona walk holding hands, you knew that? Especially the older generation, that is so sweet.
They compliment, comment, ask, sometimes concerned about 'gilipollas' who might spray their stupid letters over my artwork. Other shop owners, before so typically Catalan-style timid, open up their smiles and talk to me. The progress of the painting is widely being discussed in the neighbourhood.
'Look, she's painting a boy,' says someone on the bench.
'That's not a boy, that's a girl!'
'But yesterday it was a boy, and ugly!'
A couple passes by. 'That parakeet is my favorite,' she says. 'The face is also beautiful but that parakeet is my favorite.' 'She used to have a parakeet,' he explains to me, and she nods happily.
A scruffy collector of metal waste stops his shopping cart, to tell me my art is worth good money. 'You should contact BBC news, they'll connect you to the whole world for well payed asignments.' He drills his bloodshot eyes deeply into mine. 'You should come with me to my computer. Only i have the code to BBC news.' I might as well not.
One of the neighbours in the stairway of my apartment looks up into the eyes of that gigantic face.
'She speaks to me,' he says. 'Some message only meant for me.'
Every night two old ladies come to chat on the bench. They're still both full of fire and liveliness, although the youngest is already in her seventies. They are dressed up nicely, lipstick and all. The older lady doesn't care about putting her teeth in, though. During these painting days she has told me all about her life. When she came to live in Catalunya, about the daughter that died, what she does and does not drink.
'Do you know how old I am? 96!' Well, that certainly doesn't show. When she gets up to go home she offers me a private look in her bag. False teeth. 'They're uncomfortable,' she says and grins broadly.