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Snogging with the                                              Anarchists

Nick Gerrard – 
Originally from Birmingham but now living in Olomouc where he writes/edits and in between looking after his son Joe, helps edit and design JULit-zine.
Nick has been at one time or another a Chef, activist, union organiser, punk rocker, teacher,
traveler and Eco-lodge owner in Malawi and Czech.

He has been widely published in a variety of Literary magazines.

Nick has three books published, all are available on:



Down easy street, you flout, reaching for angels in the trees.

You bow to the dripping chickens on the outside wall of the Los Caracoles rotisserie.  You ride on down tiny winding Carrers, carried along on a waft of wood smoke escaping the Anarchist pizzeria. You sail past the giggling Barrio Chino transvestites to your loft space to chill before hitting the martini bar; and then an exhibition, with champagne and canapés, before dancing uptown to touring black Dj’s trip-hop. And on the way to chrome apartments with card keys, in chauffeured sharp cars with guys with beards and drainpipes who run app start-up companies, you stop off at the chocolate croissant shop; and with warm chocolate dribbling from the corner of your mouth, and white powder on the edges of your nostrils, you take a mouth of floppy hipster cock.


I come to rest outside a corner café, still with pot-shot marks from the civil war in the crumbling façade. I drink cafe solo and check twitter.

Sorry to say but from tomorrow the offices will close. Our stock has crashed and the receivers have taken over. Thanks for all your efforts Dolores. Best of luck. Matt.

What the fuck, that scummy arsehole.

What the fuck am I gonna do now? Shit, the mortgage!


Over the next few weeks, I scour the city looking for the power-skirt HR jobs that were everywhere two years ago. Now, nothing. The offices are gone. Whole new chrome and silver blocks locked up and abandoned; the vibe and loot have vamoosed.

Eventually, I manage to find a waitress job in a cool gastro cafe in Graca, purely because of my looks, if I’m honest. I had worked in bars when I left school, to help my mum muddle through before the bottle took her completely; I was useless at it.

I try and take lunch in Gaudi’s parc, on a bench that looks out over the once blossoming city. I read ‘No one belongs here more than you’ and cry into a soggy avocado and prawn bocadillo. I ride my motorbike back through the streets in the early morning as the bi-lingual water-men spray the filth and heat of just one day away, again. I park, steal some bread off a step, as always, and climb up to my safe haven.


-Another beer?

-Just a coffee. Café amb llet.

-What you reading?

-Lluis Xirinacs.

-Never heard of him, any good?

-Never heard of him? He’s very good. A very important Catalan writer. It’s about his life: writer, composer, went to prison for his beliefs; a true Catalan.

-Sounds interesting.

It doesn’t really, but he is cute.

-I recommend him. He writes with love and passion. I’ll lend you the book after I’ve finished it.

-Great. I look forward to it.

Damn cute!

I smile, turn away with a tray and flick my hair. I glance back; see if he is checking my arse, he is, so I wiggle it just a little more as I weave in between chairs back to the bar.

This is not my first glimpse of him; I’ve served him a few times before; tanned with a short quiff, and smartly dressed in drainpipes and loafers. Seems a bit trendy, money trendy that is, but like I say, damn good-looking and I can over-look the jumper tied around his neck.


After more flirting at the café, he eventually invites me to go for a few drinks after work, and I play it cool, I don’t jump his bones straight off, which makes a change; in fact he never really hints at all towards the bedroom, which is why he intrigues me I think.

I know he is a bit of a snob, well a lot of a snob, but I am attracted to him and he wants to treat me, shallow I know. He lends me the book, which is as boring as hell, but that’s not the point.  A bit too religious for my liking, a bit too serious. Banging on about Catalan this, Catalan that. Get over yourself!

I dress for the theatre after a meal on a rooftop, shake my booty in a split frock after in a snobby club. We sip Martinis overlooking the waterfront; all his treat. Which is what I need right now. We kiss and I let his hands inside the split skirt.


He invites me to his family Finca for the weekend. We all drape nets under the Almond trees and batter the branches with long sticks. The place is gorgeous; an idyllic painting of life outside the city; a hilly piece of dry land laden with sagging trees and bushes, with an ancient stone farmhouse with cool thick walls.

After a morning of battering, we all sit outside at a huge table with white linen laid crisply over it. Tabarded overweight women drizzle oil from on high from thick green bottles, their bingo-wings flapping the steam from plonked racks of lamb. Long crimson peppers pop on the grill: wheels of bread are ripped, orange butter scooped; dusty cava, majestic cognac, wise reds, unruly leaves mixed with dandelion heads. I don’t like his family much, all a bit toffee-nosed, but I really enjoy the luxury of it all, and at least they are a family.

His father, a prominent Doctor and businessman stands and toasts.

-Mira, you see all this beautiful food? It is Catalan food! Not Spanish, Catalan. You see the faces around this table? They are Catalan faces! This land rolling before your very eyes, this is Catalan land, the finest land in the world!

Yeah, yeah, I get it, Catalan!

I knock back a brandy.

We eat gloriously for a few hours; I chat about mundane stuff, telling the women what they want to hear…babies…yeah, family? Of course…Young people today…yadda yadda… playing down my work problems, money worries, I lie a lot. I laugh at the right moments, and nod and smile when I disagree. I drink long, but carefully.


We two stroll together when the others sleep.

-It’s lovely here.

-As my father would say, behold the Catalan beauty.

-He is a bit mad about the whole Catalan thing, don’t you think?

-He is proud, I am too. I love Catalonia, I am sorry to see it being destroyed.

-I love Catalonia too, and being Spanish, but you know…

-That is another thing, another discussion for another day.

We snog on a knoll with a view. And finally I let him screw me; face pushed against a derelict Catalan wall; Catalan knickers around my tanned Catalan ankles.


My savings get eaten away. The waitress wages barely cover my living expenses. The still rich tip badly. Eventually, the bar lets me go. Like I say, I wasn’t much of a waitress.

I take a job in a local disco in Barrio Chino; not one of the trendy cool bars that charge a fortune to listen to Manu Chau because he is actually sitting in the VIP suite. This is for the less well-off, the hawkers and drug dealers, Arabs and back-packers, unemployed and low wagers. I work all bloody night, work with abuse, knife fights; I stand in a constant piddle of filth. We snort heavily cut speed in the cubicles, to keep going. After closing time in the early morning, I go for a few wines and breakfast, sharing the moaning about our shit lives. Then home, and try to sleep.


Eventually, the bailiffs come, I manage to grab some belongings; luckily I have minimalist tastes. And I have never been one for hoarding mementoes’. My fucking alcoholic mother left few photos, and most of the furniture was gone well before she was.


I move into a friend’s flat, down the darker narrower side streets further away from the turning chickens on the rotisserie.


My friend Lola is an artist, a good artist, and also beautiful, with deep almond skin and a dirty blonde bob. She never has to dress up to look good, she throws something on; a tight bundle of bohemian tinder-sticks. She goes to the top of the Ramblas and sits and waits. And a stubby pot-bellied man always comes along. The ‘art-lover’ stays the night on the stained mattress on un-shiny wooden floors, and takes a painting in the morning, and leaves a little money for groceries, and art.

I learn to paint.

My flat has gone but not the debt. The interest alone is more than I earn or paint for. I ignore it, and try and do the best I can, hoping something will come along. I keep seeing Milan, he is my connection to the old life, to the good life, I once had. He is a bit boring and conservative and luckily I don’t see him that often, but when I do, I get treated nicely.


Me and Lola, who’s always been a bit of an Anarchist, start going to shared space events, I need some kind of social life. Lefty students’ squats; dis-used, derelict buildings. Street theatre shows, free gigs, cheap thrills and beer for local youth pushed out of their own city’s cultural life; a place for migrants who were never invited. A gathering for the disaffected and down-trodden, and lost. 

I had grown up in the crummy back-streets. I had known the winos and the druggies, the working girls and the immigrants. I knew them and hated it all. I had planned my way out, and now I was right back down there with them.


But things have changed, I see a change. These spaces were once the realm of the unwashed, the arty leftie types. The very people I would have twirled my vintage skirt away from and sniggered at from behind my small-batch single-origin bean Latte. But now, lesbians in wellies giggle with single mums; bearded owners of thrift shops chat with job-less car factory workers, scooter riding graphic designers smoke a spliff with a family escaping a war. And for once I see not the badass side of the underbelly. I get to see and meet, good people, friendly people, people who are trying to do something to help themselves; let’s be honest they have to. I meet people who have lost everything, no work, no home, no family. And when I hear their stories, I cry my eyes out and get them another plate of veggie stew. 


I am still seeing Milan, when he has time; he runs one of his father’s businesses, selling property to foreigners’. He is away a lot, showing them round old properties in the countryside or new flats in towns, or near the sea.

He takes me dancing to the old dance hall, in the afternoon, with cheerful old couples dressed up in mothball suits and fading frocks, and still in love, still trying to cut-a-rug. We dine uptown, served meals on wood, crammed in tightly next to prominent figures, in sharp suits armed with prominent figures in tight dresses.

He is very political, and angry. And he makes me a bit sick going on about the bloody foreigners and the bloody lazy poor people. I put up with it I think because he is something to hang on to, a way back perhaps, to a better life. But I know I have to be careful, not let him take control.


In the end, me and Lola fall out, I can’t make my share of the rent, I lose the shit bar job, and I stole and fucked one of her best arty guys when I was smashed.


A few of my new girlfriends are squatting a building in the old neighbourhood, the thought terrifies me, but I check it out, it isn’t so bad, in fact, it’s better than Lola’s place, and free.


-Why would you move into a squat?

-What other choice do I have?

-I’ve told you, I can pay for an apartment for you.

-And I’ve told you before that is not gonna happen. And besides, it’s really pretty cool.

-Please don’t mention where you live to anyone will you, you know, when we go out?

-To your snobby friends, you mean? To your high and mighty family, you mean?

-Just please don’t.

-You know, fuck you and your pathetic friends and family.

-I’ll see you soon.



Bang! Rush, push, voices, stamping, chaos.

What the fuck! Who the fuck are you?

Grabbed sheets, pulled hair, bare arses.

Grab your shit and get the fuck out!

Slap, smack, kick, flack.

-Yeah, and fuck your mother too!


I share a room in a left for dead 19th-century building, not many left now; some done up, some torn down, many left to rot. Our room must have been an old ballroom at one time; it has a cobwebbed chandelier still hanging from the huge ceilings, and peeling floral wallpaper, and dust and torn cream drapes. I share a room with 7 women, two babies and one child. We partition off the room with patterned cloth blankets, to try and have some sort of privacy; but we are happy to live with each other, the sharing is nice. We share the cleaning duties, and cook together, watch and play with the kids; laugh, comfort and sooth each-others souls. And I talk to people about real things. Real problems. And I hear terrible stories from people who came here for a better life, people who came to escape. People who have lost or gambled everything. But also local people, in more or less the same boat. People who have lost everything; their homes, their jobs, their hope most of all. I realise, they are just like me, and I am just like them. Here, here we try and get some kind of hope back, some kind of dignity, some kind of community. And I think I have come to trust people more, and think about how others feel, more.

We start to cook for everyone living in the building, and also people who come just to eat, who are just hungry.

We take deliveries of veg from nearby stores, and cooperative farms, who donate. We scour the restaurant alleys, collecting what’s thrown out, what’s perfectly fine, and get handed crates of stuff from hung-over smoking chefs in the back alleys.

We play music in the kitchen as we chop aubergines to braise with chickpeas in long stews, and place cheeses and breads from friendly bakers and makers on the long tables decorated with blankets and old shawls.

Everyone sits and eats together, when possible, some pop in just to eat, in-between working, others after a hard day dealing with red-tape, others from scavenging; others as there is nowhere else.

I get involved.

I go to evictions, where we try to plead with Bailiffs. One time, I physically try to stop a young girl being dragged from her bed where she clings to her teddy. I get a black eye and a thick lip, and angry. We take the family and what can be salvaged of their belongings and move them into other empty buildings.

We get involved.

And maybe for the first time in my life, I feel awake. I see things more clearly. I understand more somehow.

We take over more buildings, move more families in. We get plumbers to turn on the power. We get electricians to turn on the energy. We call in favours.

I see a need to help people and in that, I see a way to help myself somehow. I need less shit. I still take a café solo in posing places uptown now and then. I try to look my best with my second-hand underground chic. I steal lipstick and scrounge eye-liner. I still like to get dolled up. I am still me.


I see Milan again, for the last time. His attitude has been getting worse and worse. And I see him for what he is now; a shallow, spoilt, little nationalist. A jumped up little yuppie shit.

I know, I know, I used him for his cash and to keep in touch with what I had lost, but I never got kept by him, I drew the line at being a kept woman, which is what he wanted to do.


We meet in the old Champagneria near the port. I remember it used to be an old bodega with old tins and hanging hams sweating into little upside down umbrellas. My friends and I loved the place, years ago. They only served champagne, pink or white, and Roquefort and bacon bocodillas. And local people used to stop by after work to enjoy the Cava and the belonging. Now it’s full of a younger crowd, with labels and tablets and beards and acquaintances, and a selection of wines and champagnes, and tapas on slates.

-You are doing what?

-We are setting up a centre for refugee children, the kids need somewhere to study, to play, to learn. The old cinema in Graca, you know it? It’s been empty for ages and…

He starts fidgeting and puffing through his nose.

-That is a fucking historical building, part of our Catalan heritage.

-Jesus, chill out man! I know what it is and it’s been fucking left to rot by the fucking Catalan council, that’s how much they care for the Catalan heritage.

-But why not help the Catalan homeless, people need help.

- We do help them, we are the only ones helping them, us, we are the Catalan homeless, the Catalan unemployed, we help ourselves, and we will help anybody who needs a roof or a home or food in their belly. The fucking Catalan government doesn’t help them or us. But people need other things too, they need education and a place to play and...

-Let them get that shit back in their own country; their fathers should be in their own country providing for their kids there like we do here. Why are men here? I’ll tell you why; they are either here to get a free hand-out or are fucking terrorists.

-Terrorists? Are you for real? These are families escaping a war, kids, women, and yes, men.

-And why do they not stay and fight in their countries?

-Not everyone is a fighter.

-Who is to say that they are not sleepers, sneaking in under the cover of refugees?

-Sleepers? Fuck me it’s not a John Le Carrie novel? It’s not 1956 Berlin, they aren’t the fucking KGB, they are refugees, families, escaping a fucking war.

-That’s all the bullshit from the EU and liberal bleeding heart politicians. You believe all that crap? Well, I fucking know better than that.

-You fucking think so?

-Yes, I do fucking think so, I know so. And I’ll tell you one thing I would be a fighter if Catalan was under fire not like those men who ran away. I am a fighter for Catalan, and one day, one day.

-Yeah, a fighter for who? Like your father you mean? He was a fighter for Catalan, wasn’t he? Back in…


-You watch your dirty mouth!

He pushes a few stunned tipplers out the way, I wipe the blood from my mouth and go to the huge open wooden door, lean on a Champagne crate, and shout after him.

-An…and by the way, I think we should start seeing other people.


I come running round the corner, down off the hill. I heard the bang as I sat in the Parc; I saw the flash, and felt the thump up through Gaudi’s bench, deep through my arse.

I come running round the corner to see the flames growing up the sides of the centre. The old cinema has started to give way. A few bodies are lying in the street, other people are bloodied and staggering, some are being comforted, some help; others scream, others shout, others sob.

And blood, singed clothes, burnt torn flesh, and shock behind watery eyes, lost eyes.

I spot a mother, Isobel. I run towards her but she stops me and points desperately at the burning building.

-Dolores, please! My child. Xaawo is inside! Dolores! Please!

I run. Two firemen grab me.

-You can’t go in, it’s too late, it’s too late.

-Fuck you.

I punch and kick, try and wriggle free, with all my might, out of their holds.

I run.

You run, but the heat beats you back. You run but the flames burn your fringes.

You run but get nowhere.

You are dragged back.

-Let me fucking go. I must go in, there’s a child in there, Xaawo is in there, a fucking kid!

Then I see her, under a blanket, I break the grip again and run over and squeeze her close.

-You are safe. Xaawo, you are safe. Your mamma is here to.

-My father is inside.

I carry her over to her mother and stand and look at the blaze reaching its climax. In a last crescendo, it blows; we all stand and watch.


I turn, there’s a big old wall with a little blue tourist sign nearby, pointing the way up Carmel hill, to the escape of Guell. It is eclipsed by a big graffiti stencil. The outline of the Catalan flag with the face of Xirinac in the foreground, and the words underneath in big black letters… 

Act of Sovereignty ! Visca Catalunya! 




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