It is well known that Avenida Diagonal is particularly popular with walkers, dog walkers and runners (at least thirteen in the last 30 seconds). You can tell that today the gyms have not opened and those who cannot do without a daily dose of exercise need to burn some energy. "Do you think gyms are safe?" "I have no idea. If they're open, I go; if they're closed, I go for a run." At ten o'clock in the morning, traffic on the mountain side of the avenue is intense. What did it look like two or three hours ago? On the corner with Muntaner, a lottery salesman: "Take luck into your hands!", "It's raining millions!" "Old school, huh?", "Always!" He looks straight out of the eighties, expansive, talkative, someone whose job it is to inject people with optimism. An exotic being. A wonder.
This week, El Corte Inglés announced it would close its store on Francesc Macià in mid-January. Today it has to drastically reduce the capacity. Only the ground floor and the basement are open. You can go to the supermarket and buy Christmas decorations, cosmetics, purses, jewellery, leather goods, lingerie and parapharmacy. Cecilia lives on Buenos Aires street and does her shopping at the department store every Friday morning. She's in luck, then. Her plans have not been spoiled. Josep Maria has worse luck. He needed a set of towels for his second home: "They won't let me up there, but at least it's kept me busy". He retired three months ago. The loudspeaker system is a real problem, as it blares out special offers on the young fashion floor, which is out of bounds.
That's what happened to three girls who came here wanting to spend. The security guard at the entrance, very diligent, points out the sidewalk in front of them. All the other shops are open: Oysho, Massimo Dutti, Alain Afflelou, Mango, Mango Kids, Zara, Women's Secret, Boss, Hackett... Some premises, in between, are empty.The historic Áncora y Delfín bookshop's spot was taken over by a Le Pain Quotidien. It's gone now. The entrance is gathering dust.
Josep Maria gave me an idea. I go to the Plaça Sant Gregori Taumaturg, the cradle of wealthy families and padded anoraks, to find out what the ban on going away for the weekend is like. "We had a dinner planned in Roses and we had to cancel it," Pedro points out. "The children were really looking forward to going away today. For them it's much better not to be in Barcelona at weekends. It's what really gets us," argues Sandra. "This government doesn't know anything, it improvises everything, and then we all pay for it," is the conclusion of Alberto, carrying a bag of Semon's deli.
Deserted billboards again
Back on the Diagonal, a colourful sign draws a lot of attention. It's the poster for Las brujas, which was supposed to be the week's featured premiere, and was intended to soothe the disaster of the cinema box office. Once again, with cinemas closed, premieres have had to be postponed. Boliche cinema has its shutters down, of course, and they've also taken down the film posters. It's saddening. I'm meeting with Toni Espinosa, the imaginative businessman behind the Girona Cinemas. He is resigned, but discouragement won't get the better of him.
The whole guild knew this could happen again, he argues, and he won't refuse to close his business if it helps fight the virus. "They are trying to save the Christmas season just as they tried to save the summer season. The rest of us pay the collateral damage." He is fed up with the government's mistreatment of the culture: "They go back and forth, they make decisions at the last minute, without consulting us on anything. They don't understand that they are giving wings to another disease, anxiety" He doesn't understand, well, nobody understands, why cultural events are suspended if they have been proven to be safe. "Pernicious mobility? But the bars are closed and there's a curfew!"
I don't want to forget the girl I saw walking down the Diagonal. She's about twenty-five years old, is walking a dog and wears branded clothes and accessories. She talks on the phone: "What a pleasure to go for a walk, I really feel like going to Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya now. It's shit I can't leave this weekend, though. You know what? On Monday someone's coming to see the flat. I hope they will take it, I really want to get out of Barcelona." She meets a lady who must be a domestic worker and takes the dog home. She continues talking on the phone and starts walking towards Passeig de Gràcia. She really feels like it.