the temptations of football, arms, in the cloisters of water-closets and geese

Sinking in: slowly. Which is how the decision whether to attend tomorrow night’s game between Barcelona and Sevilla had to be approached. Ten at night. Seats started at 74, for top and back of the stand; went from there to 86 euros, for goal ends; and thence to 106, shoulder seats. This was an agency, mind you. Officially, there were only singles left. Guessing that the agencies buy bulk and sell at premium. The small print read: to guarantee your seats are together, add 19.90 … to each ticket! While terms and conditions stipulated that no such guarantee could be made.

The chance of a lifetime to see the world’s best footballer, Messi, who has only just succeeded in scoring a goal, for over 300 euros for us. At ten o’clock. In the rain, well, forecasted.

Or, the chance of a lifetime to visit Camp Nou, home of Barca, and buy merch.

Later. And Q. finally made it. Merch won over falling asleep at the top of the stadium, wet, poor, frustrated at the non-appearance of Messi, who is probably going to be held back for the BIG game, Real vs. Barca.

But if we can watch it on TV, hoorah.

Venturing out into the sunshine, the day well aired, a dusty southern light. Our quarter 7 or 8 storey low-rise domiciliary blocks set in a grid, with businesses on the main drags. And the beach bordering one side, the marina another, in a triangle, base to the city. Through secret placa, one with a church, where we looked in. Domes. Statues of Madonna and Son, the latter nailed up, the former in signature floor-length robes. Must’ve tripped.

To the old railway station. Frank Gehry set to do a number on it. Into Santa Maria del Mar, a theme for us, these ladies of the sea, where we entered through the apse a vast volume, no transept, Catalan Gothic style. Q. remarked, If all the air in the world was used up, I’d come here and shut the doors. It was that airy. Beautiful copy of the Montserrat black Madonna.

Up into the Barrio, and stumbling upon Galerie Maeght. I’d just read about the Antoni Tapies foundation up by Gaudi’s house, and here were real Tapies. I’ve snapped the scary eyes of an Antonio Saura, an Antoni Tapies, and a Joan Miro, or two, back to Tapies for some arms.

The books, particularly exhibition catalogues, were really tempting here. Lining the entry-way and side alcove, with a ladder up to reach the high shelves. Nearly bought a numbered print by Tapies, with a big A on it, and some formula involving multiplication and a half. 25 euros. Instead bought catalogues by Tapies and Miro, both with 6 euros written on stickers, which together somehow ended up costing 30 euros. I don’t care; I don’t care.

Back down the way for lunch at Tapeo, our first tapas or tapac experience here. Deep-fried anchovies the winner. Fig salad not bad, salty cheese and redcurrants. Soft-edging the day with a dry white Catalonian wine, recommended by our host, his place new, reviewed in a street mag we picked up. Which, in keeping with long-haul taxi-driver’s info regarding Catalonia’s liberalisation of laws surrounding prostitution, had reviews of escorts at the back. Gabriela could talk dirty, even in English; Eris loved to indulge in foreplay for hours, hours.

Popped in for a squizz at DHUB, Design Hub of Barcelona, at wallpapers. They have never been interesting or even so interesting. A find-a-word wallpaper is a good idea; so is a post-it wallpaper; so is a heat-sensitive wallpaper which when activated by a hair-dryer strips gay clichees down to their knickers. And a shop with gas-cannisters on trolleys which open to be suitcases, with plastic robed Jesuses – see signature robes, above – which when twisted grind pepper or salt. And small plastic plates with rings to fit on your finger, balancing bits of tapeo, finger food literalised.

Escaped the labyrinth of el Gotico via the OTT Palau de la Musica Catalana, thence, where we did not enter at the 12 euros proposed, to visit Barcelona Cathedral, where a lesser entry-fee was charged – the riches of the side-alcoves unaccountable. I’ve snapped two: the Altarpiece of St. Clair and St. Catherine by Miquel Nadal and Pere Garcia de Benevarri, 1451-1458 and the Alterpiece of St. Martin of Tours and St. Ambrose of Milan by Joan Matas, 1415, tempera on wood.

The cloisters were unlike any I’ve seen, a caged garden within, containing a pond and carp, and geese, and greenery, and a fountain, with potable water, and toilets, for men and women. Seems the Catalonians are more liberal with their supply of places of relief. Physical, rather than spiritual.

The museum contained astounding medieval, 13th and 14 century, paintings. One of which told a bizarre story about a hairy man who became a saint. Was it St. Jerome? Another showed Jesus learning to walk, with a kind of wooden tricycle walker, his mum in the background cutting cloth to make him some clothes. The work the museum claimed as exemplary was an extreme pieta, Mary’s mouth lipless, downturned in grief, shadowed almost as if she had a moustache, her face the focus. But on either side of her figures who looked like they’d been added in photoshop, the Bishop of Barcelona, and I can’t recall who the other was but he was tonsured and wore round glasses: three distinct time periods. The Bishop resembled Keanu in Bill and Ted, totally awesomely hanging with Madonna and Son.

We made it as far as Placa Catalunya and stopped for a refill of tapas for Q., caffeine for us. Disappointing espressos made up for by old empire cafe styles, dark wood and red leather, a leadlight illuminated dome in the ceiling, tapas displayed on the bar counter. To El Corte Ingles, a department store, we found largely pretty dowdy fashion-wise. But it did have a supermarket in the basement where we shopped up large. A largesse extending neither to the trees of jambon hanging in bags nor to the brains and other vital organs in plastic boxes.

Our first Metro here went well. Remember hearing tell of its similarity to Berlin’s. With our 5 day passes bought – no problem. Except the weight on the back of shopping.

Amazing what an industry Gaudi is. His name everywhere, at the Diocesan Museum beside the Cathedral, on the screens on the Metro, in signs on newstands, Barcelona’s golden son… like Lionel Messi!