Notes from Barcelona : Episode 2. Creative non-fiction by Shane Cassidy

It starts as a light crackle, quickly building momentum before erupting. Claps, cheers and whistles ring out from our neighbourhood balconies every evening.

It goes like this :

At 8pm, there is applause. Then music comes from a speaker. Each night there’s a surprise. We’ve had The Village People, Pavarotti, Robbie Williams and Spanish rock.

Catalan music is played a lot. That’s always good to help us identify the locals. All we can do is clap along for those ones.

Last Friday evening, they played salsa. There was still heat in the setting sun. People waved their wine glasses in the air. Sandra and I danced.

Our neighbours recorded us on their phones with one hand while offering thumbs up with the other.

“I wonder if that will end up on the internet,” Sandra said later.

“No, I doubt it.”

She agreed but later on the couch I saw her typing ‘couple dancing balcony Barcelona’ into her phone.

When the music stops, a call comes from an unidentified voice in the distance.

“Hey oh!”

“Hey oh,” we all respond.

“Hey oh, hey oh, hey oh!” the voice continues.

“Hey oh, hey oh, hey oh!”

Eventually we get impatient for one of the most anticipated parts of the evening. The balcony quiz.

The rules are simple. The quizmaster rotates each evening to a new balcony and it is their job to prepare questions. The first to shout out the answer wins.

The only prize is the satisfaction of answering correctly, which is always the most enjoyable part of any quiz.

Each evening begins to calm down when the two most senior women bid each other good night.

“Bona nit Maria.”

“Bona nit Peptia.”

They blow us kisses and wave to us all before retreating into their apartments.

We know the faces now. When someone passes on the street below we say things like,

“That’s the woman who lives on the balcony with the cactus.”

On our way home from grocery shopping a few nights ago, we saw a neighbour walking ahead of us.

It felt unusual to see them away from their balcony. Like a child seeing their teacher outside of school. I was thinking about this when I felt the nudge of Sandra’s elbow.

“I know where he lives,” she whispered.

I looked at Sandra’s masked face and plastic gloves and thought about the fine line between familiarity and stalking.


Shane Cassidy is an Irish writer, based in Barcelona. He writes short stories, essays, creative non-fiction and overly elaborate WhatsApp messages.

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