7 JULY 1950, Page 14

Out in the Street



ft ESCA-A-ADO! " cries a burly woman, who marches down the street in the early morning, on her head a basket of

fish but lately in the sea, in one hand a pair of iron scales. The housewives of Palma, Majorca's capital; come to their doors. A glittering pile is weighed, paid .for. Best to have a plate or a piece of paper, or the fish are just thrust into your hand, and the fish-wife is off and away. "Pesca-a-ado! "

How long is it since there were any street cries in London ? " Sweet Lavender! " at the end of summer, and in winter the cheerful bell of the muffin-man ? Too long ; though I suppose nowadays one would scarcely hear them in the din. We get used to wrapping animal food up in paper or obscuring it decently in a basket, to leaving the last rites to the butcher, the poulterer, the fishmonger ; but in Spain live lambs and kids and rabbits and chickens that are for the pot are swung cheerfully about by their legs. I once was in a tram with a woman who had on her lap a hen she had just bought in the market. The tram gave a lurch ; the hen cackled and laid an egg. Sensation! The woman was congratulated on the admirable fecundity of her most fortunate purchase ; the hen was congratulated, it was stroked, fervent wishes were expressed that it might long be spared to continue exercising its great abilities. It was quite a party. When the hen and her black-clad owner left the tram there were cries of "Ole! "

The shoe-blacks call "Limpia bo-o-tas! " You have only to sit down at a café-table and one or more will approach. I have developed the method of saying that I clean my own shoes, but that I will clean theirs for a peseta. This usually surprises them so much that they go away. But if you really want your shoes cleaned, you will find the Limpia botas a cheerful, well-informed fellow. He will begin by offering to sell you a packet of American cigarettes —or a local imitation. As he is putting pieces of cardboard between your socks and your shoes, he will tell you that to-morrow a large vessel full of tourist Yanquis is due " They are people very rich.

You are not Yanqui Aleman ? 0-oh, Inglis? You, too, are rich ? No ? Ah, the times are bad. The corrida at the 'end of May should be worth seeing. The great Dominguin is coming. if only the bulls are good. You like the bulls ? I have known Ingleses who were great aficionados." Change feet. And the latest, wildest gossip about hydrogen bombs and flying sa ucers—platillos volantes to you. Then: " The heels of the senor's shoes need mending. If he will go to the Calle San Miguel and enquire for Jaime Pons, my cousin, he will do them at a price very economic " A gay bang of the brushes against the box.

Some beggars I have learnt to resist. The gipsy girls usually have an obviously trained baby, who extends a limp and hollow hand when nudged by his temporary owner. I say: "I am much poorer than you, sister ; you give me money." Or else I indicate a priest and suggest that they ask him. This is received with ribald laughter. Just begging, of course, not even attempting to sell any- thing, is not allowed in England. Yet there is something in being free to beg. How delightful to be directed into an unessential industry such as mendicancy! But in England you are sent to a bleak institution smelling of damp oil-cloth, fed on porridge and bread and margarine and cocoa, and taught a useful trade. Better, perhaps, to take a chance, sit on the steps of the cathedral and watch the world go by. And the sun is warm.

The blind beggars are not to be resisted, and there are many. And there is no St. Dunstan's here, no Braille, no training to be a masseur. Some queer stubborn Spanish pride often prevents poor people from going to hospital till it is far too late. But to be blind, never to see the sky—one must give something. I find it, too, difficult to resist small sloe-eyed children ; fortunately they are content with a coin worth half a farthing.

The streets are noisy with bells, high-pitched, excitable motor- horns, clanking groaning trams ; but there are no loud-speaker vans nor automatic drills. There is very little displayed advertisement, though outside cinemas you are told that " The Love that Scorches " has had a prodigious and formidable exit, and will be remaining another week. And bull-fight posters dazzle with black and gold and red—the bull usually much larger, the matador smaller, than life. In the arena, before the fight, you may hear another street- cry: " Agu-a-a! " Strange to us to hear plain water being cried and see it being sold as a precious commodity ; but it is welcome on a hot Sunday afternoon with the sun beating down on the sand.

Cricket is to England what the bull-fight is to Spain—something unique and national, belonging to the long sunlit days of summer. Long, long ago, at Bramall Lane, there was an old man who wandered through the crowd chanting: " George Hirst's toffee, and it is so nice. Buy it once and you'll buy it twice! " I wonder if George Hirst's toffee is still made. I hardly dare believe its virtues are still sung at cricket matches—though in the arenas of Spain there will always be a man crying "Agu-a-a! "

You notice the number of goods that are carried or pushed by boys, men and women ; the number of bicycles and, with some relief, the jobs that are still done by hand and not by machinery ; also the quick response to politeness. If you are polite, people are extraordinarily nice to you. If you .Ask the way, they will not merely give you directions ; they will come with you far enough for a mistake to be impossible. There seem to be a lot of priests and a lot of soldiers ; but the gentlemen who cast bread into the sea, to be eagerly devoured by fish, and then cast hooks baited with bread, which are avoided with contempt, have not declined in numbers. They remind you of the delightful story told by Chuang Tzu: " When Prince Wen Wang was on a tour of inspection in Tsang, he saw an old man fishing. But his fishing was not real fishing, for he did not fish in order to catch fish, but to amuse himself. So Wen Wang wished to employ him in the adminis- tration of the government, but feared that his own ministers, uncles and brothers might object. On the other hand, if he let the old man go, he could not bear to think of the people being deprived of such an influence."