A Silver Lining

SPN Balcony ClappingSomething good is coming out of this crisis situation and that is the return of a neighbourly proximity and community spirit. Had this been Britain 1940, it would have been called the Blitz Spirit.

Every evening, people hang out of their windows or stand on their balconies to clap and cheer. The ambulance and police vehicles sound their sirens in answer with their occupants clapping out of their windows or alighting onto the roadside to do so.

Block communities have taken it upon themselves to manufacture masks for hospital workers and the police officers – there’s always somebody in a block of flats with a sewing machine.

This kind of interaction started to fade in the 60s, accept for in small villages and had since been steamrolled by internet and social media.

As Spain awoke from post-war paralysis, large cities like expanding Madrid, Barcelona with its textile and motor industry, Ferrol in Galicia with its shipbuilding and Bilbao in the Basque Lands with its metallurgy industry, beckoned irresistibly to the rural population creating an urban proletariat. Droves of country folk from Andalucía and Extremadura poured into these growing cities on the other side of Spain and crowded into flats, if they were lucky; many ended up in shantytowns on the outskirts.

Gone were the summer evenings of pulling a chair out into the village street and chatting with your neighbours – blocks of flats were multi-story prison cells by comparison – you might know your neighbours on the same floor, but nobody sat out on the landings chatting.

The same happened in Britain when whole street communities were rehoused; they left behind bomb-damaged housing to fill high-rise flats.

But now – and let’s hope it is permanent – every evening people go to their windows or onto their balconies to chat across the space between flats belonging to the same development; they chat, sing, joke and even play games. It’s heart warming.

God knows that we had got used to seeing a group of teens sitting together without speaking between themselves, too intent upon chatting with somebody kilometres away via social media… and we rolled our eyes and thought that this was the future… But is it? 

Have we changed for good? Will we ever go back to hugging our friends, kissing on both cheeks somebody we have just been introduced to? Will the balconies once again fall silent and empty?

Time will tell.

(News/Editorial: Spain)


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