By Joan Lladregotti
We planned to have a chilled out picnic with friends and family one summer Sunday in Parc Ciutadella.
I went a few hours early to find a shady spot and decorate the area a little. I hung up two Mexican hammocks on the boughs of the tree, having chosen one large enough to easily handle our weight without damaging it. I took my shoes off, got in and relaxed in one hammock, enjoying one of my favourite moments in life, the sunlight shining through the leaves above me. I waited for people to arrive (erm, having just bagged the best spot, of course…!).
Suddenly two horse-mounted police officers approached.
Straight away I figured what they’d say but it still came as a surprise. ”No hammocks allowed on trees in the park.”
Yes, I was surprised because we’d done it before and had no problems.
So I very politely asked where it was stated ‘No Hammocks Allowed’, genuinely thinking maybe there was a notice of some sort that we’d missed, whilst also trying not to express too much annoyance at such a ridiculous rule.
The police officer took great offence at being questioned, asked for my ID and said “I’ll give you a written reply to that question”.
I somewhat regretted my cheeky response as she started writing out the official Parking Ticket for Hammocks which would inevitably bring with it an accompanying fine.
I also thought to myself, “Haven’t you got better things to do, such as catching the numerous thieves blatantly roaming this park every day?” I decided to not to share that particular observation.
At that very moment…
There was a scream to my left. A few people shouting, chasing. A man on a bike trying to pick up speed. One of the chasers managed to knock him off his bike, but fell over in the process, leaving the thief, bag in hand, to get up and run unhindered towards the park exit.
I instinctively started to give chase, an instinct reinforced by years of accumulated anger at seeing such scenes occur every week as I go about my very ordinary daily life.
I’d like to think that I had also decided my passport must be safe in the hands of a rather pissed off police officer, let alone my precious but offending hammocks, on the point of being impounded.
I ran as fast as I could, barefooted, across the grass, the gravel, the flowers, shouting at the thief.
To my surprise, and relief, he was even less fit than me and I was soon pulling him to the ground. I was up for a struggle but he wasn’t fighting back or trying to get away. He was at least equal to me in physique, if not stronger. He could’ve matched me easily. But he actually seemed to be in a state of shock, that anyone had bothered chasing him, let alone catching him. He started pleading with me…
Mmm… not much used to a Barcelona resident at his limit witnessing and intervening in pickpocketing several times a week, though not to this extent every time, I’m glad to say. Tough shit, mate! You should’ve thought about that earlier.
It seemed like an age, though it was probably only a matter of seconds, a minute at most… Two mounted police officers trotted over, one talking on their mobile. Soon after, two plain clothes officers arrived, then two more uniformed officers.
I got up, left the thief to his fate and walked back to my hammocks, satisfied that I’d caught the guy, but not very keen that I was now also the centre of attention. I said nothing to the officers and they were too busy arresting the guy to speak to me.
I got back to the tree and soon caught my senses, realising my stupidity at leaving my precious hammocks unguarded, though lucky that I had no other valuables there. I recovered my breath, tried to make my clothes not look like they’d been dragged through a thicket, and wiped the grass stains off my legs, worrying what my friends would think of my sorry state when they saw me. At this point, I also started reflecting… so many police… yet so easy to steal? So often.
A police van arrived and took the guy away. The victims got their bag back and, after a search in the bushes, a camera that had fallen out. They rather sheepishly thanked me in broken English and walked off.
And my friends started arriving with food and drink, curious as to my bedraggled appearance.
Then, a mounted police officer rode over, leaned down, handed me my passport, and said, slightly timidly, “Eres más rápido que yo. Gracias.” (You’re faster than me. Thanks), pulled the horse round and left.
I didn’t anticipate that. Nor could I muster up any reply. But then I recalled that she had dismounted and been behind me for a while in the chase.
Just another day living in Barcelona, a wonderful afternoon in the park, a tree liberated from the strain of our body weight and my wallet fine free.