This article is taken from Stand 230, 19(2) June - July 2021.

Barbara Bridger It was in Barcelona
Early evening, late summer and the light was just softening. I stepped out of my hotel and there she was, sitting in the dust, with her back against a wall. An ancient Madonna draped in a faded, striped cloth that wound across her shoulders and over her head, before swaddling the child.

It was in Barcelona and our hotel was on the wrong side of an invisible line that separated tourist friendly zone from no go area. The regularity of the comings and goings in the early hours and the pornography on the bedside table eventually proved conclusive and we admitted that our hotel was doubling as a brothel. It was cheap, so we stayed, but we knew our limitations. The old woman was on my way into the tourist zone, so I had to pass her.

As I got closer, I noticed she was swaying gently and humming to herself and the child. He was under a year old and she was probably his grandmother. The hair visible under her wrap was streaked with grey and her sun-baked skin had a surface that looked much like the battered, time marked walls behind her.   

Both she and the child had their heads back and their eyes closed. The child was fast asleep and the woman appeared to be resting. The similarity of their pose emphasized the difference in their age. Here was an illustration of life’s inevitable passage from milk-blessed sleep to troubled rest.

I was making these comparisons, when the old ...
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