Sunday morning street cafe
By Parson Thru
A Sunday morning street cafe close to where I live.
The accordionist on the corner calls to mind a romantic image, fed to generations by skilful film-makers. Sparrows bicker on the ground, making occasional forays to chirp for scraps from table edges and chair backs. The accordionist places his begging-cup a little further out into the path of passers-by.
Unusual weather, approaching mid-June. Everyone wears a jacket – some carry umbrellas. Mine’s in my bag. People joke dryly that it’s been warmer in Stockholm than in Madrid.
“Phlegmatic” sums up the mood aptly, considering the amount of phlegm still in circulation. Cue violent cough behind the counter. My own lungs are sore and congested. Cue cough.
Some blame the pollen and traffic pollution, though the rain is meant to reduce that. It’s chilly.
Yet somehow it still feels better here. My head aches with news-stories from home about the influence of international gangsters. When wealth, status and their trappings are elevated above all else, it’s not too surprising. The vicarious prestige of private yachts, fast cars and mansions obscures the engineered demise of anything carrying the prefix “public”.
The Church still holds sway here, of course, though less than in the past. When I ask about the set-piece festivals and processions, most tell me these are at the heart of Spanish tradition – so woven is Catholicism into the Reconquista. A universal brand of popular politics likes to claim the traditions of Church, flag, nation. Spanish politics are no different.
But people here are tired of corruption. Few are mourning the demise of the Partido Popular’s president in a procedural coup just over a week ago. Let’s see what the recently rehabilitated leader of the PSOE socialists can pull out of the hat. He has no overall majority.
Control. There’s been a lot of talk about that recently.
Whose control of what? The stranglehold that wealth has over media? That’s certainly control. Social control is as old as civilisation itself. Temples, priests and ceremony. Classical theatre. The awe-inspiring space and acoustics of Gothic churches and Islamic mosques. The surround-sound impact of the great Baroque cathedral organs and music commissioned from composers such as Bach. Greatness of God? The means to awe and subdue?
Jingoism! Empire! Enrichment of the already rich. Ceremony, set-pieces, pomp and circumstance!
Enter moving pictures, sound. Enter alternative reality. Mass hypnotism. Enter television.
Enter oligarchic wealth and control. When they own the media, they no longer feel the need to own God, though it never does any harm.
Jesus, how did I get into this? I should be planning lessons and meeting friends.
The accordionist has just finished a cigarette break. He’s dispensing banter to passing church-goers. They might feel more generous on their way back, if the performing penitents on the church steps don’t get there first.
The sparrows have yielded the floor to wagging tails, yaps and growls between the tables. The camarera has taken my empty plate. All that's left of the coffee is a cold froth.
It’s time to move on.