Sunday, 10 April 2011

Solitude, squats and spliffs

As most of my friends will verify, I am a naturally early riser. At the end of long evenings and late nights my eyes, lids swollen with sleep, become narrow slits and I involuntarily fade into incommunicative absent-mindedess. On the other hand, I naturally wake up relatively early and, incapable of lazy morning snoozes, am usually impatient to get going. Life as an early riser is a lot more difficult in a land where everyone else seems to run to a different time; it has made impromptu catnaps and general drowsiness a fact of life. On a recent weekend in Granada my particularly stubborn body clock and dubious sleeping arrangments ensured that, despite two boozy nights, I was able to explore the city in the tranquil solitude of the early morning (relatively speaking).

Albeit dry-mouthed and heavy-headed, ambling alone around the streets of Granada as they were slowly waking up was the ideal way to see the city. It showed me a completely different side to the city. A few people were out for a leisurely stroll, newspaper under arm or bag of groceries in hand, waitors weaved idly between the neatly laid tables of empty restaurants, waiting for the lunchtime influx, and shopkeepers shuffled around in their doorways chatting to eachother. The plazas, that a few hours previously had been throbbing with the boisterous activity of late-night drinking, were serene and calm, now occupied by the older generation (the abuelos, as they are known in Spain). All well-turned out in suit trousers and shirt, perhaps puffing a cigar or pipe, they had congregated on the benches to resume the casual chit-chat from the morning before.

There were, however, a few tell-tale signs of the lurid revels of the night before. As I passed one plaza a slightly dishevelled looking Italian caught my eye: a lone survivor from the night-time fesitivites. Swaying uneasily, he was engaged in animated conversation with the abuelos, who, wary to keep their distance from his enthusiastic gesticulations, were either nodding patiently or tutting between their teeth disapprovingly.

I have long since realised that forsaking sleep in favour of the fiesta is a a feature of Spanish nightlife. In Granada in particular, days and nights seem to blur into one long spliff-a-licious, booze-heavy continuum. On the Friday night I stumbled into one such neverending party. Judging by the laundry hung on the roof terrace and the assorted heaps of bedding, the tumbledown building also served as a squat. The three floors were heaving with the fervent buzz and slightly disorientated confusion of people who have been enjoying a non-stop party. Energetic gaggles bounced in sync to a clapped rhythm, singing spontaneously to the strum of a guitar, famished drinkers devoured slices of free pizza dished out from the makeshift kitchen (unfortunately located alonside the only toilet) and those woozy from days of endless indulgence draped themselves over motheaten sofas, spilling over the collapsed arm rests. Add into the mileu a plethora of abandoned dogs that, gladly adopted by the resident party goers, weaved easily through the forest of wobbly legs, tails thumping enthusiastically.

During the night one particular character stood out from the chaos. His face was framed by a thick mat of dreadlocks, accentuating the high-arched curve of his cheekbones, and a patchy beard revealed an elongated jawline. Wearing a simple threadbare shirt and brown hareem pants, it was his eyes that set him apart from the crowd. He had painted elaborate decorations around the sockets: when you looked at him the glimmer of his eyes was lost amongst the vibrant streaks of blues, reds and greens. That night, he seemed to occupy every corner of the squat at once. Rather than shuffling awkwardly through the multitudes, mumbling muffled ´perdonas´, he crouched down low and darted nimbly through the crowd, expertly traversing the squat. At one moment he was perched on the arm of a sofa, spliff in one hand, can of Alhambra in the other, and a few minutes later he was frantically strumming a makeshift bass in the midst of an impromptu jam session. Despite such relentless activity, he showed no sign whatsoever of tiring. As I prepared to leave, resigned to the fact that I lack the Spanish staying-power, he was smiling giddily amongst a gabbling huddle of rastas, half-submerged by clouds of cigarette smoke.

On route to the exit, my eyes slid over an apparently empty corner of sofa, occupied only by the faded black case of a guitar. It wasn´t until I tripped over a pair of legs protuding from beneath it that I realised there was a body sunk deep into the sofa. Half swallowed by the well-worn sofa, with his arms stretched around the neck of the guitar in an affectionate embrace, a man was sleeping soundly, almost invisible behind the guitar.

His figure was some consolation that even Spaniards succumb to sleep eventually.

No comments:

Post a Comment