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THE CULTURAL TIGHTROPE

Not just the HEAT

You have to contend with more than just the heat if, like me, you are condemned to spend your entire summer at home in the Catalan capital. Living in a residential area of central Barcelona, I know that when the summer rolls round, it’s time to get out of the big city and head for either a northern country, the coast or the mountains in order to avoid the heat.

However, having this year been unable to beat a retreat for various reasons, it was time to face the music. And I use the term wisely, the new phenomenon of tourists’ music blaring out of their rented apartments from early evening until all hours of the morning now accompanying one of the more traditional features of a summer in central Barcelona, that of having to listen to other people’s TV sets — usually broadcasting chat shows with attention-starved ’celebrities’ screaming at each other — during the daytime. And this during a period when if you don’t have air-conditioning — I don’t — you’re forced to have your windows wide open 24 hours a day.

I say the latter feature is typical of central Barcelona in the summer, but in fact whenever I’ve holidayed on campsites in Catalonia during the summer I’ve also found that families are quite happy to have duelling TVs blaring out from their chalet porches, as if they have simply upped sticks and moved their city home to a place by the sea or in the mountains, seemingly oblivious to the natural environment of rivers and trees or beaches and sea water around them. So, listening to blaring TVs and other people’s music is actually a feature of summer in general here rather than just in central Barcelona.

But it was the former problem that became the big issue for me this summer. And I know I’m not alone in this, as Barcelona City Council now has a website where you can, theoretically at least, check whether your neighbour is renting out their apartment illegally, i.e. without a licence, and lodge a complaint to get them closed down. The reason I use the word ’theoretically’ is that, as the third straight week of partying ensued — albeit with different sets of tourists each time — I visited the aforementioned website to try and complain about the noise and it requires that you put in the exact address of the residence in question. Even though I tried to enter my neighbour’s address to see if they had a licence to rent out to tourists, the search facility did not appear to work, and didn’t even have the relevant address listed on the website, as if the flat didn’t actually exist. All very frustrating. I twice picked up the phone to call the police to complain, before thinking better of it, deciding that I didn’t want to be discussing all this with a uniformed officer at 3am; I would rather just put a pillow over my head and hope the tourists disappeared tomorrow (they didn’t). My conclusion? Do my utmost to ensure that in late July and early August I am never again forced to bear the noise pollution and heat of central Barcelona.

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