It was pure chance that the Referendum results were being announced as Spain celebrated San Juan with fireworks, but lying in bed hearing one then the other you could be forgiven in feeling that the declarations and explosions went hand in hand in announcing a new order.
Waking up on June 24th, a bank holiday in Spain was surreal. We kept looking at each other and asking what just happened then David Cameron resigned and we felt our country go into limbo.
We decided to go cycling. It is a great way to clear your mind, feel local and be close to the community. We cycle this way a lot, right down the coast from Sitges to Tarragona, keeping as near to the sea as is possible, around Marinas, along Passeos and often pushing our bikes across sand if there is no other path.
We had forgotten it was a bank holiday so everywhere was so busy, whole generations spreading feasts and families in every available space. Enjoying carefree strolls surrounded by beauty and sun that as a Brit you never take for granted.
After dodging more than cycling we ducked into a beachside patisserie for breakfast. As we sat in the sunshine we could hear the words referendum, brexit, out, peppering the conversations around us. I then had to take a phone call in English which quickly identified us to our fellow patrons.
A man approached us to ask if we were English….he then told us we were a brave brave country and high fived us to a cheer from a lot of the customers. Quite frankly we were stunned!! We hadn’t processed the results ourselves and we certainly hadn’t expected that reaction!
The TV channels were broadcasting news bulletins of Hoteliers and Travel agents very worried that the 12 million Brits that go to Spain every year were going to dry up. The Mayors and Politicians were making rash promises that they would never let that happen.
Would tourist money talk and keep the doors open?
The cycling was clearing my head and I tried to drink in everything around me. Having lived here for 4 years and hoping for at least another 25 I had lost the urgency to see it all and do it all but what if my time was running out?
I’m often among crowds here and the sound of a foreign tongue all around me is music to my ears. I try to understand it, I love the cadence of the sounds and the passion and volume with which it is spoken. But as I lay on the beach, I felt left out for the first time. I longed to understand every word so that I felt I belonged. For the first time ever I felt foreign…nothing had changed here but the results of the night before were in my mind and changing me.
Later in the afternoon after cycling 40 sunny kilometres we stumbled into a beach bar right on the beach. It was an oasis of a place and 3 cocktails later I loved it even more.
Again the congratulations and positivity we hadn’t expected…but then it came to me, this is Catalonia not Spain, of course they love referendums, independence and the little man fighting back!!
The results were serving their needs not ours.
For the first time we met some other English people and began sharing our feelings. One couple had voted in, the other out, of course representative of the election results. A bit of post alcohol passion was stirred between them and the locals looked on indulgently.
We sat listening and thinking about the day and what it might herald. Looking out over the twinkling blue sea and the busy beach with a glass of Cava in my hand it was easy to hope that this would be mined forever. Only time will tell.