Winter, Catalonia, a friend & playwriting

A friend in need called me to Spain. So I went, first to Madrid, then to Catalonia, or more specifically Vilanova i la Geltrú, in the Barcelona province.

The January sun was neon powerful; glittering, stark, mesmerising; the air was cold and tinged with reflected blue; the streets were empty, the cafes in a lull, the atmosphere soft and embracing.

I set to work; help my friend with her emergency issue, then set about finding a comfy chair for my work. I had a mission; write five scenes for my radio play; five interlocking but separable scenes, pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, scenes I could work with on my return to Edinburgh.

It was January, and the sun shone from dawn to dusk. The hours felt long and the air warm. I wrote, bashed at the keyboard, completed 8,000 words, divided into five scenes with names like: Paolo, the Brazilian, Carlotta and Brigid in the kitchen, Maggie states her case, the police arrive, the end and the beginning.

Mind in a whirl, back in time, forward in time, sharp memories, bitter emotions, the bashing of the keyboard, the scent of the Mediterranean on the air, and the pure, still quiet of a seaside Catalonian town in winter. And then the night comes – it came – and blackness was not claustrophobic, it was southward-facing and shrill and pierced with silvery stars.

One day I walked along the cliff path by the railway track to the point where the sea meets the Punta Llarga. I met no one, nobody. My mind was in my radio play and my characters were fighting with each other. I needed the rocks and the azure blue of the sea and the aqua filter of the sky to calm my frazzled nerves. The characters had an idea of where they were going with the story, and I was battling to keep my plotline believable. Time to head to the Vilanova Ramblas and do a bit of people-watching.

Why do people do what they do? The beautiful faces drinking beer and coffee on the Vilanova Ramblas were wells of feeling right there written large. What were they thinking as they strutted and laughed at their cafe tables.

In my play, there are no cafe tables and no beautiful people, just damaged personalities and the living room belonging to Maggie Sinclair, one of my main protagonists. Carlotta, Brigid, Maggie and Adam are creased and wrinkled with inner torment. They hate each other and there is no Mediterranean light, just the smear of overcast northern light. And sadness, always sadness.

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