The Big Flat Flit
‘To flit’ in Scotland means to move house.
I like the winsomeness of the word.
Its sound, its capriciousness, its way of conveying so many things at once.
It invokes a butterfly in full flight mode, flaking out in transit, a fledging fleeing, flailing, flotsam flouncing, flamenco-flaunting for a fleeting moment, full-on flux, failing outright to finally sit still. To flit is to flux, to toowit-toowoo, to flex your muscles, test your tether, flunk out and come up flippant.
It is to flock Elsewhere.
Moving on up
I have spent the last six weeks in the most protracted flat flit known to humanity. (Even the above description refused to get to the point in under 100 words.)
After a year and a half living in Poble Sec, it was time to crawl out from the protective underbelly of Montjuïc and venture forth…Elsewhere.
I cut a beleaguered figure every evening for those six weeks, dragging an outsized suitcase behind me in my right hand, bags stuffed with books, budgie feed, the odd porrón, incense sticks and toilet roll strapped over my shoulders, while out in front pranced Inca, enthralled with her new self-appointed mission as husky-esk guide to the official flitting process from one barrio to the next.
I doubt she knew its full significance. No longer would we be able to claim status as Poble Sec-ers…that downtrodden neighbourhood that most Barcelonans love to diss, dismiss as a hotbed of immigrant activity, not quite the Raval but precariously close to being the next pretender.
We had lost Rosa the pet shop owner, the one who hugged me (and Inca) when I finally got out of hospital, the one who spoke not a word of English but who went out and bought a Spanish/English dictionary with the specific purpose of being able to communicate with my poor mother when she came in to point plaintively at dog food and ask which brand, how much, please help.
We had lost a good friend and neighbour Eva, a Poble Sec-er de toda la vida, who was always on hand to help and offer insights into barrio life, including what the hell that noise was that sounded like metal being browbeaten into life every Saturday afternoon (the butanista banging on his metal drum, announcing the arrival of butane gas cylinders in much the same way as an ice cream van prowls the periphery of the poorest neighbourhoods in Glasgow).
God dammit, we had lost hard-won local knowledge.
Ofwhere to buy the only edible gluten-free bread, the best place to get Canary Island salt-wrinkled potatoes, where to catch a sneak peek at the human castle volunteers limbering up before they took centre stage in their skyward corporal prayer.
Or whisper it, the secret spots, the ones that don’t feature in any published travel guides, where locals leave clandestine messages that give voice to community sentiment. The in-jokes you have to have earned the right to laugh at.
Settling in Sants
But we were moving on.
Poble Sec had played its part, had called itself home for longer than anyone had ever given it credit for. One rented flat had given way to another rented flat, prompting a glut of those well-intentioned questions that only ‘expats’ are ever subjected to: “How long do you plan to stay here for? Wouldn’t you rather buy somewhere? Have you thought what you’ll do if you have kids? When are you intending to move Home?”
For now, fluctuating between Here and There and and contemplating the flocks that fickle overhead was as much as we both could muster. Home is where you say it is. That will do for now.