It was coming up to one o’clock in the afternoon. At such a time, even in the narrow streets that wind through the village, the sun casts little shadow.
Here, there is a rather large and expensive house with high walls. I’m told its home to the ‘Countess’, although the translation is hazy. To me, it looks like a castle. The only people I’ve seen coming in and out are the gardener and a man with numerous tattoos, whom my eight-year-old (not really mine) stared at until he’d left our sight and then told me was not a man to be trusted.
There was a drugs raid in this middle class commuter village the other week, and there is a guy who I occasionally see hunting through the bins, but the typical resident here sends their children to piano classes and hires a cleaner to do their household chores. Appearances are important. The houses whose balconies and windows look down onto the pavement are decorated with the yellow and red striped flag of Catalonia, often with the addition of a blue triangle and white star inspired by the Cuban/Puerto Rico flags. Independence is the battle being fought. I’m reminded of the streets of flags in Northern Ireland which made me feel ever so uncomfortable.
I have deviated into politics. Back to the narrow street where, at the hour of one, causing a traffic jam on a one-way street, sat a young girl. She was screaming and waving her clenched fists, in a rather unsociable fashion, without showing respect for the locals. Her face was all knotted together like a wrung out dish cloth, slightly damp.
Further along loitered the eight-year-old. Undoubtedly a contributor to the tantrum but having witness such tantrums many times before and being certain of the righteousness of his own actions, he appeared unfazed. A car manoeuvred around us to make a parallel park. The postman zipped by on his yellow motorbike.
I frowned and sighed, wondering what it is that one is supposed to do in such a situation. A few weeks earlier I would have been highly vexed, but whilst I was frustrated, I counted my blessings that neither child was in any great danger and we had plenty of time before they needed to be back at school.
Reasoning would be my first thought, but reasoning is not plausible when two people can only communicate in simple games, like playing ‘I spy’ in colours and ‘what time is it Mr Wolf’; or with simple instructions, like ‘sit down’; or questions such as ‘Water?’, ‘Bread?’. Plus, there’s no point talking if nobody is listening and being temporarily possessed by a demon, the young girl had no intention of listening to me.
Without a common language, and nothing but a water bottle, distraction wasn’t an easy option either. I admit considering pouring the bottle of water on her to see if it would make any difference. It worked on the Wicked Witch of the West and I was running out of options. Dragging her kicking and screaming down the street was never going to work. The Spanish might be lax about health and safety and child protection compared to the UK, but I already have enough bruises on my legs.
Which is when, like a knight in shining armour, the postman intervened.
Now you might think that it’s a terribly embarrassing situation to be in, requiring the postman persuade the child you’re meant to be walking home with to go home with you. All I can say is children are children, and this one wasn’t even mine and if ever I am in such a situation again then I honestly don’t care who it is who solves the problem.
The magic was this. It started with “¿Qué pasa?”, a typical greeting meaning something along the lines of ‘what’s up’. Negotiations proceeded in Catalan and then from his motorbike his produced ten elastic bands. This amazingly stopped the crying and transformed the sprawled mess of child into something vertical. Persuading her to walk home took longer. He took the keys out of the motorbike and helped her up into the seat, whilst continuing reciting his spell. Her brother, not wanting to be left out, came and squeezed himself onto the seat with her.
Like the audience watching the magician, I didn’t understand more than a handful of words, but that didn’t matter, for after climbing off his motorbike, the children walked home without a fuss.
The village postman – my hero.au-pair