From the penetrating light of Terrassa – and difficulty sleeping – to Geneva, then Divonne. From that dry, brilliant yet still cold weather, with sunshades essential and where vitamin D is topped up daily, to rain and more rain, even snow and the sound of teeming water everywhere.
In Terrassa the route of the torrent that once cut through the town has made its own gully, but is today a trickle channelled by concrete. The broad wavy route of the river has been imaginatively adapted as a municipal park with wide pathways that invite citizens as walkers, joggers, cyclists and skate boarders. The path is a noticeable gradient snaking down for over a kilometre, its start is marked by a metal sculpture. This comprises strongly painted red, blue, yellow, orange steel poles topped by a two dimensional disc of the Sun with rays as pointed waves, happy without smiling and a crescent moon, stars and planets. The positions are fixed, but the perspective changes when walking past. In one view the star and crescent moon of Portsmouth is recreated.
The substantial gradient of the path persists for the full length of the park, passing beneath great spreads of London Plane trees, a suspension footbridge, an elegant 19th Century arc’d road bridge and a more recent rigid high level foot crossing. The sun, the pathway and the fresh air provide sufficient challenge for the residents of this town to save themselves annual fees at gymnasia so needed by urban dwellers of Europe’s north. To supplement the pleasures of the path two open air swimming pools, and exercise bars and beams are provided along the route. Children have a panoply of play areas to collect bumps and bruises, laughs and squeals and there are places to sit and rest and bask. There are cafés too.
An old man is determined to complete the full distance of the walk, despite needing a walking stick and limping noticeably. His slow pace on this fresh, warm afternoon suggest that he may be recuperating after a hip operation. A pair of sprightly cheerful women march from top to bottom and all the way back again, barely pausing for breath as they talk along, their conversation decorated with laughter. Amongst the occasional joggers is a Muslim woman, hair covered in full, length running kit.
The walk is not a silent procession. Steps and wheezes of runners, the sticky splishing of cycle tyres, chatter, voices of playing children and birdsong celebrating the sunshine. Amongst the chirping and more melodic song there are the screeches of parakeets as they launch themselves from high branches taking turns to lead off as they swoop between the tops in twos or threes.
By the hospital, a pair of medics in operating theatre white and boots have stepped out for cigarettes in the fresh air. So many contradictory ideas in this private exchange as more staff make their way out of a side door to light up too.
A trio of teenagers sit in a huge bare concrete shelf in full glare talking quietly despite wearing angry black tatty clothes, faces puncture and glinting with steel jewellery under stark dark coloured mops of hair. Inside the O in a stanchion at the lower road bridge, looped up in the curl, someone is reading, face to the sun.