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Summer Camp Hypnosis: Pau Casals avenue in Barcelona

We make our way up the avenue—once you have greeted maestro Pau Casals, you have to flap and flail to scare away the boisterous colony of pigeons that resides there. Some neighbour must indulge them, because the colony flocks around in a throng. Flying rats, says my friend of these urban creatures. Pigeons too often draw your attention at the crumbs on the ground, but also have the virtue of raising one’s eyes upwards every once in a while. I notice a detail of the trees that draws much attention at this dense point in Barcelona: what is planted on either side of the avenue are pine trees and orange trees

Pau Casals Avenue in Barcelona reminds one of the Jardinets de Gràcia, the gardens at the top of the Passeig de Gràcia, but smaller. Everything is a little more modest and less busy. The rectangles with lawns, the sculpture, the breadth of the avenue… At the top there hides a surprise, the Turó Parc, a green gift which incredibly lies at less than half a kilometre from one of the busiest roundabouts in Barcelona, Francesc Macià square. Between the Diagonal Avenue at Francesc Macià and the Turó Parc, you will find an avenue that bears the name of astounding cellist Pau Casals, honoured with a sculpture of discrete dimensions and soft shapes set in the lower half of the street, the work of Josep Viladomat.

We leave the Francesc Macià mega-roundabout behind us, where all the possible forms of transport dance a dizzying waltz—besides the most orthodox, there are skateboards, all sorts of bikes, Bicing bike-shares, motorcycles, Segways, electric unicycles… We make our way up the avenue—once you have greeted maestro Pau Casals, you have to flap and flail to scare away the boisterous colony of pigeons that resides there. Some neighbour must indulge them, because the colony flocks around in a throng. Flying rats, says my friend of these urban creatures. Pigeons too often draw your attention at the crumbs on the ground, but also have the virtue of raising one’s eyes upwards every once in a while. I notice a detail of the trees that draws much attention at this dense point in Barcelona: what is planted on either side of the avenue are pine trees and orange trees, and in parallel, buildings of a somewhat neoclassical bouquet and a few premises and businesses of high standing. Some make it more obvious than others that there is gravy here. There are eminent businesses that go unnoticed.

Just by the car park entrance halfway up the avenue, I encounter a group of high school teenagers who are apparently winkling out the last days of what must be some sort of summer camp. I would like to sit down at the bench that is closer to observe them carefully but it is already taken: a man looking at his camera inside and out and testing it in every which way, oblivious to the kids’ games.

—No dodging!— bawls the monitor, pointing out the rules of the game. I guess that it is some kind of game of imitation of gestures and tag, based on the reference of the monitor’s bag lying about four meters away. I just do not understand the rules. I never did go to a summer camp

Although everything suggests that they are high school students, they seem a bit over-aged to be participating in a summer camp. Do teenagers now grow more than before?  An odd feeling begins to worry me, I realize I am no longer one of them, that I no longer belong to their group.

—No dodging!— bawls the monitor, pointing out the rules of the game. I guess that it is some kind of game of imitation of gestures and tag, based on the reference of the monitor’s bag lying about four meters away. I just do not understand the rules. I never did go to a summer camp.

The monitor seems well spry and seems to have authority over the group. I mean they  respond to what she tells them to do. They make up two teams. One player from each group runs towards the bag. One stops the other and the other must repeat the gestures of the first one. They burst out in shouts when one of them beats the other by a hair’s breadth. Or a comic disapproval when someone breaks the rules they have conscientiously learned and that I just cannot latch on to. They are concentrated on the game as if their lives depended on it. They pass a couple of suited gentlemen who look on, smiling, somewhat lazily. Maybe it’s the heat and the contrast of being besuited. Maybe they are also trying to unravel the rules of the game.

—One, two, three, go…!

It’s half past nine in the morning at the end of July and I realize that I could stay there all morning watching them. The kids playing, the man with the camera, rehearsing positions. And me… making a record of infinite time, of a limitless summer into which those teens are diving headlong. Feeling like a notary public who records time past, a nostalgia for what has not been experienced, or for that which will no longer return, however much you wish it to. I feel like a notary public and, at the same time I do not, for a notary public records the act with the mechanical demeanour of cyclical repetition, unappealable. “The laws are such, and such as they are, we can do nothing.” The notary public does not feel the vertigo and the mystery of the passage of time, of the roller that will not stop and that finally has you asking: why me too?

I follow them, hypnotized. The bunch seems to be held together by a magnetic field that, far from repelling, attracts me, like bees to honey. When will they realize that the game must not stop? When will they realize they have stopped playing?

The monitor gathers things and kids and all and they head up to the Turó Parc, amid shoves, antics and a couple who are lagging behind, for it is the time of intimacies and expectation of kisses that will come before the summer camp ends. I follow them, hypnotized. The bunch seems to be held together by a magnetic field that, far from repelling, attracts me, like bees to honey. When will they realize that the game must not stop? When will they realize they have stopped playing? At the top of the avenue, signs indicate the inevitable fork: to the left, Sant Gregori Taumaturg square; to the right, Galvany Market… Who knows if the thaumaturge—the miracle worker—would find an answer. I smile knowing he wouldn’t.

The little square at the entrance to the park is shaped like small amphitheatre without tiered seating. Just a row of benches on either side of the entrance. On the shaded side, three or four shelter from the sun, one lying. If this were France, the square would have the archetypal ostentatious monument dedicated to the dead of one of the great wars. Here there is a monument, but it is more modest, as is the avenue. And the monument, of ostentatious dimensions, is far from bellicose. It is dedicated, again, to Pau Casals. The work of Apel·les Fenosa, there are flutes and the wings of angels and a poem by Espriu that crowns it. The teens have already made their way into the park, and a strange silence has come over the place. It’s as if they had taken their youth, and some of mine, with them.