The antidote to upheaval and uncertainty
Most of you will know that the last month has been an eventful one in Catalonia, where I live. Here is not the place to go into the political rights and wrongs of it (although I will happily do so in a private conversation if you’d like to send me an e-mail)*. But what I would like to do is talk a little about what it’s like to live and work amid such upheaval and uncertainty.
Despite what’s been going on, I don’t want to overdramatise. Catalonia is not (and I hope won’t become) a war zone. There are much more dangerous places in the world to live and many, many people who have much more difficult lives than mine. But watching what has happened here over the last few weeks has probably taught me more than my entire history degree. Seeing at first hand how situations develop, views harden and apparently logical courses of action become impossible clearly illustrates how any number of barely imaginable things in history must have happened.
It’s exhausting too. There is fear of what might happen. There are emotional highs and lows. And this is where work helps. I’ve been fortunate enough to be busy over the past few weeks and there’s nothing like having plenty of translation to do to help you disconnect from events, from the radio, from Facebook and from all other distractions, however “important” they may seem.
What I haven’t felt like doing much of lately is marketing. I had some plans for this autumn, but it has just seemed like the wrong time. If I try to sell myself to businesses in Catalonia, they have probably got other things on their mind, and I’ve found it difficult to imagine how potential Spanish clients would take an approach from someone in Catalonia at the moment. We might be in different countries next week, and in some areas feelings are running high.
From existing clients, I’ve had no problems at all, no matter where they are based. For this I am grateful, particularly considering that anyone who wishes to can easily find out my views on Catalan independence from my personal Facebook profile. I realise that revealing how I feel a risk in business terms, and that some would say that discretion would be a better policy. But we are all human. With my 17 years living here and what I have seen in recent weeks, I have absolutely no doubt about how I feel and what I would like the outcome of all this to be. I spent too long, while working as a journalist, feeling that I had to be politically neutral in times when all I wanted to do was oppose everything Margaret Thatcher did and stood for. I won’t be making that mistake again, and if one or two clients are foolish enough to judge me on my opinions rather than my work, so be it. There will be others, as a bizarre twist of events last Friday demonstrated.
The week after the Catalan independence referendum, I responded to a call for volunteers to translate an appeal for support from the Catalan fire service into different languages. In many places in Catalonia, firefighters had helped protect voters from some of the worst police brutality and they wanted to tell their story to the world. I was happy to help and I did the English translation of On Friday, the Catalan translator who had organised the volunteers contacted me, saying one of his clients needed a regular translator into English. I was delighted that he had thought of me. But when his client wrote to me I was also more than a little surprised: she is from southern Spain, an area where there are plenty of people firmly opposed to the Catalan cause. By helping Catalan firefighters, I had managed to win myself a very Spanish client. Interesting times have a way of keeping you guessing.
*I was asked, by my former employers at the East Anglian Daily Times in Ipswich, UK, to write them an article about the day of the Catalan referendum on 1 October. You can read it here.