Flaming Flowers

Like any decent Spanish city, dinner in Barcelona doesn't kick off until past 9 pm. Either in an attempt to entertain us or due to some perverted psychological experiment (the latter was claimed in the conference summary) the scheduled talks lasted until this time on two of the five days. Friday night therefore found me, worn and beat, taking a meandering route back to the apartment through Barcelona old town.

I had completely lost two out of my three friends. As unfortunate as this was, I was not concerned. Even as midnight approached, the streets were packed with people and well lit. They and I would be perfectly safe and more to the point, both the map and the only key to the apartment were in my possession.

As I headed past the Cathedral, the sound of live music reached my ears from a nearby courtyard. I almost passed by, but it occurred to me that, like moths to a flame, my friends might have been sucked into this madness. It was a good instinct, since we emerged from adjacent streets at the same moment. On the far side of the plaza, musicians playing instruments including a double base and flute, sat on stone steps while before them, Spain danced.

Perhaps this was a form of Spanish Ceilidh, since the steps to each of the jigs that played seemed to be known to the masses. The first involved grasping hands with anyone you could reach and rushing to the centre like a gigantic hokey-cokey. The next involved dancing with your hands above your head while the third required a partner and, more oddly, a flower. These flowers were no ordinary blooms. Held in the couple's leading hands while in ballroom position, they were made of paper and contained a candle. One might deem this combination worrisome and, indeed, it seemed to be a competition as to whose flower would survive the dance. It was similar to an egg and spoon race, but with the exciting possibility of personal combustion.  Half way through the dance, it appeared that it might be a flat out draw with absolutely no winners but the occasional flower-come-flaming-torch lighting the night sky.

Sellers pushed through the crowd offering cans of beer and one guy who declared his name as "Canada" (complete with a badge of the flag of my country of residence) was claiming to be collecting for the musicians. It seemed a dubious story and indeed, we saw him walk off as we left the scene for the night.

On the way back, we stopped for gelaati. I had a scoop of pistachio and one of bubble gum flavour (due to being sucked in by the bright colours). This resulted in a sugar rush that has me greeting the early hours with an alertness I am liable to regret come daybreak.