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Observations on a New Life in Spain

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Sounds of Gracia – part 1

24 August, 2010 (03:35) | Living in Europe | By: admin

I have been recording sounds for so many years now that I sometimes forget all about them. I just recently transferred and named sounds dating back almost 2 years, many of which will inevitably be available to purchase through, but many of which I recorded with the sole intention of blogging. They are all from our time living in Gracia. I was trying to freeze in time some of the quaint sounds of the hood.

For example there is an old fashioned relojeria (watch repair) shop down the street from our place in Gracia which has been in business for over 70 years. This is Ramon, who inherited the business from his father. He has fixed several time pieces for me over the years, so I got him to agree to let me take a photo of him and to record his clocks one day:

Ramon el Relojero

Midday clock chimes at the relojeria
Cuckoo clock

Then there’s the nasty knife sharpener. He rides around the neighborhood blowing what sounds like a pan pipe. The sound is delightful, but beware … he’s a grump and is not easy to approach. If you are a foreigner he automatically overcharges. Even the Catalan women have to barter with him.

(grumpy) knife sharpener on wheels

Knife Man

Delightful pan pipe from the knife sharpener as he trawls the streets for customers. The actual sound of the knives being sharpened is not so interesting so I don’t record that.

Then there’s the butanero (butane man) man who rolls by every day to deliver butane to those who need it. The butanero is nice enough, but his percussive banging of the butane cans to attract business can be annoying. However many older homes in Barcelona are heated by butane, so I don’t expect he’ll be going out of business anytime soon.

El butanero turns the corner, heads down my street banging his wares.

Butane Man Loud


Our first 2 years living in Gracia, because we lived in a bajo, or ground floor apartment and on a street with both inhabitants and retail stores, we would have constant problems with people parking in front of our doorway and either blocking us in or out. It was a never ending source of anger and aggravation. So we filled out a form requesting the city put poles in front of our place, citing our concerns that if there were a fire and someone was parked there, we would be trapped and could perish. In very polite, correct Spanish (we got help from a friend who excels at bureaucratic letters) we asked who would be responsible in the event of a fire. We submitted the request to please put poles outside our door, making it impossible for anyone to park there. After submitting the petition, we waited for a response but none came. After about a year and a half we just presumed that our request was denied, so when one day almost two years later 2 guys showed up to install 4 poles; two in front of our home and 2 in front of our Partners In Rhyme studio next door. We were elated. It took forever, but our voice was heard, put through the system and finally answered. How amazing is that?
Of course, I took photos and recorded the sound of this momentous happening:

1) What a surprise when this man showed up to put poles in front of our Gracia home. However the generator (which I recorded) in this shot is useless. They ended up using our electricity. 2) Breaking the pavement to place poles in 3) The poles laid out, still in boxes 4) Installation of final (4th) pole in front of our Partners in Rhyme headquarters.

Faulty Generator
Faulty Generator Scraped Loud

The beautiful (to us) sound of holes being made to put our new poles in.