El metro

en castellano más abajo

Paula was not too displeased about having to commute regularly now, unlike most of her co-workers. She was even more pleased about being able to afford it, and not to having to decide any more whether to spend two hours walking, one in the bus or half one in the tubes.

Now the office was an hour away by tube, which according to conversations with other people in the building was more or less the average that most of them were spending under ground every day, twice a day, first to come to work and then to return home.

And what she liked the most, although it was not happening too often, was to be able to listen to good music, courtesy of musicians who simply got there and played here.
Whenever she heard one, Paula made herself comfortable against the wall, if it was not too dirty, discreetly so that nobody, especially the musician in question, would realise that she was listening attentively; she closed her eyes and enjoyed the mixture of sounds, music, hurried steps, quiet steps, the PA system announcing something useful or reminding not to leave baggage unattended, the background music, the train approaching on the tracks in the other direction, the sound of doors being opened, the PA system, “Mind The Gap”, the background music, the crowd getting out of the train, “Mind The Gap”, the crowd changing platforms, the sound of the doors closing, the PA system again, and the background music constantly, and Paula remembered Joaquín Sabina, who had begun his musical career singing songs of Joan Manuel Serrat with a guitar in the London Underground.
Then her train would come, and this time the din muted the singer-songwriter little by little until they could not be heard any more, and Paula carefully put a pound coin in the artist’s hat to then run to the nearest train door, before it got closed it down, and she she went going away with the din, leaving the music behind.


A Paula no le disgustaba del todo tener que desplazarse siempre en metro, a diferencia de a casi todos sus compañeros de trabajo. Más le gustaba poder pagárselo, y no tener ya que decidir más si pasarse dos horas caminando, una en el bus o media en el metro.

Ahora la oficina estaba a una hora en metro, lo cual según conversaciones con la gente de su edificio era más o menos la media que se pasaba toda la gente bajo tierra cada día, dos veces al día, primero para llegar al trabajo y luego para volver a casa.

Y lo que más le gustaba, aunque no pasaba demasiado a menudo, era escuchar buena música cortesía de músicos que simplemente se ponían allí a tocar. Cada vez que oía uno, Paula se acomodaba contra la pared, si no estaba demasiado sucia, discretamente para que nadie, especialmente el músico en cuestión, se diera cuenta de que estaba escuchando atentamente, cerraba los ojos y disfrutaba de la mezcla de sonidos, música, pasos apresurados, pasos quedos, la megafonía anunciando algo útil o recordando no dejar el equipaje desatendido, la música de fondo, el tren que se acercaba en las vías de la otra dirección, el estruendo de puertas que se abrían, la megafonía recordando el hueco, la música de fondo, la muchedumbre saliendo del tren, cambiando de andén, el estruendo de las puertas cerrándose, la megafonía otra vez, y la música de fondo constante, y Paula se acordaba de Joaquín Sabina, que había empezado su carrera musical cantando con una guitarra canciones de Joan Manuel Serrat en el metro de Londres. Luego llegaba su tren, y esta vez el estruendo acallaba poco a poco a los cantautores hasta que no se les oía más, y Paula ponía con cuidado una moneda de libra en el sombrero del artista para luego correr hacia la puerta más cercana del tren, antes de que se cerrara, y ella se iba con el estruendo dejando la música atrás.


She was not paying enough attention to detail, the assistant manager had said. And that in the five years he had spent in that restaurant as an assistant manager, he had learnt to know when a waitress had some prospect of a career or no prospect, and unfortunately Paula didn’t had one; not after two warnings anyway. What career it was, Paula wondered, in a working place where the furthest any one could get would be an assistant manager and then general manager, and where both jobs seemed to be reserved for native English speakers.
She had arranged to meet with Lisa that evening. Lisa had casual jobs too, but it was far easier to see her than it was to see any of her other friends who were still working in coffee shops, even if they were assistant managers, as Maria now said she was.
Lisa took Paula to a place with live music. She was a Londoner, Paula thought, so she would not all the coolest places with the best music. As they entered, Paula saw the “barmaid wanted” poster outside. “Request an application form at the bar”, said the poster. Paula offered to buy the drinks on the first round.
“Can I have two half pints of cider and a job application form please?”

After squatting

original en castellano abajo

Paula and his friend thought that the cook was exploiting them a little, that that thing about to allow them to stay in “his” squat only if they were cleaning the rooms was not too equitable plan. They met with the Poles and decided to search for another place to live.
The difference was that the Poles were going to stay only a few weeks more and Paula and another boy they were going for a few months. So when the Poles found a room that they were going to have to share between them all, sharing two boys one of the beds, it was time for Paula to find a room that his friend could occupy.
At work she thought that she could not cope with everything and asked for a week off. The new manager offered two and she felt she may well need two weeks to find two rooms.

Paula had sensed, when she had to find a room for herself, that it was more difficult for a boy to find somewhere. But now she would learn just how much more difficult.
At the beginning they aimed for two rooms in the same house, so they could live together and sharing meals. They bought the renting newspaper and phoned the first few numbers. For some strange reason it took them five calls to get an answer. The first four did not answer (what is the point of paying for an advert if you are not going to pick up the phone?). Most adverts said “No DSS” and Paula had no idea what this meant, but it didn’t seem to be affecting the first conversation. The person who answered the phone gave them an address and they got on the bus, checking the A-Z map all the time.
“It should be this stop.”
“Well, we missed it.”
“Let’s get off now on the next one then! Quick!”

They got off, un-walked what the bus had over-gone and found the street. Now they only had to find the number. They located the even numbers, which was what they needed, and admired the beauty of the terraced houses, all the pretty same. Paula looked at his friend smiling, but he looked serious.
“I don’t know how you feel. But this being only the first house we’re seeing, I am already fed up.”
“I feel exactly the same. We’d better like it, because I really want this to be the last one we have to visit.”
Far from fact. The pretty terraced houses disappeared right before the number they were after. There, behind the last terraced house, laid a run-down modern-but-ruined derelict slum, with a number. They double-checked. It was theirs. They looked at each other, then rang the bell.

“Oh, come in, welcome. This is our house.” (I have not come to see your house, I have come to see my prospect room.)

The woman guided them through a narrow, smelly corridor. The smell of typically London/indian food. Then they were in a kitchen. The family kitchen. There was a husband on a sofa who waved a brief hello. They were hesitant to follow the woman any further but she motioned them to follow her through the door she was now opening. They followed her and they were in an empty room. There was just a bare bed and an empty wardrobe. One of the rooms to let. She went through another room and showed them a similar room, only this one was slightly smaller.

“Come, sit down,” she said as she sat down on the bare mattress and patted on it to indicate where she wanted them to sit. They sat down out of politeness but none of them had any intention to take on these rooms. She talked about the price, the bills and how lovely it was to have them both there, and were they only friends? Paula’s English had not been good enough to politely cut her short and now it would not be good enough for a polite answer either:

“So you will enter our rooms from your kitchen?”
“Yes… Yes, there is no key.”

C. wondered why it had even been necessary for Paula to ask that. They made very little conversation before emptily promising to call back with a definite answer.

“No way I was going to live there! With them having full access to our rooms unnoticed?”
“You know what?”
“That was the only advert, in all today’s paper, for two rooms in the same house.”
“For our budget.”
“For our budget.”
“It doesn’t seem very possible to find two affordable rooms in the same house at the same time.”
“I am not that bad in the hostel for girls where I am now.”
“I suggest we look for a room just for you and then I’ll think about moving out.”

Paula took on talking to landlords as her English was slightly better and spent all the time that the job in the office allowed her phoning landlords and visiting houses. C. didn’t like any of them. After two weeks, Paula was still phoning the numbers advertised in the cheapest rooms section of the loot paper.
” Well, when ‘Well, when you can movethen? ” asked the second-last landlord.
” As soon as we see the room, but it is not for me. It is for a boy who does not know much English to speak with you on the phone.”
” Ah. Ah. Sorry. Don’t want guys.”
” Sorry? ”
” You should have said. I thought it was for you. But the fact is that I do not want guys, they are too dirty. ”

With every call Paula felt that her soul was falling down to her feet. She had already thrown the towel when she decided to do another round of calls, to all the numbers where there had not even been an answer in the previous rounds. C. remained seated on the grass while Paula was returning once again to the telephone box. They were both exhausted.

They answered. Paula was too tired to keep the norms of education.

“Hello. It says in your ad that you have a room for 50 pounds a week.”
“Does it include invoices?”
“Good. Is it a single room?”
“And it is not for me. It is for a boy. Agree? ”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
” Well. If you want we can go right now to see it.”

The room was in Stoke Newington. They were tired and Paula made a mistake on having noted down the house number.
” Here it is. Number four. ”
It took them two rings and ten minutes to answer the door. Paula had no longer any energy to even get angry.
When the door finally opened there appeared in the threshold a man with a black coat, an almost top hat, also black, black trousers, a white shirt and corkscrews on both sides of his face.
“We are coming about the room.”
There was no response. The guy with the corkscrews was looking to C. through Paula.
“Are you not renting a room here? ”
It seemed to Paula that the guy with the corkscrews kept on ignoring he when he denied with his head almost imperceptibly. Then he closed the door and they remained amazed in the street.
“It may well be number fourteen and you forgot to write the number one. ”
” It may.”
It had taken them almost an hour to get there so a few steps more, five houses further down the street wasn’t too much of a waste of time, especially putting the day in perspective.

In number fourteen they were waited by a woman of brown curls with an accent that sounded Andalusian to Paula, who radiated in the hope to be able to speak in Spanish:
” Where are you from? ”
” Israel. ”
” Ah. We are Spanish. ”

The lady showed them a room that felt like freezing to Paula, with a sink, a microwave and refrigerator inside, in addition to the bed and a television set, and looked at her friend begging him with her eyes to please like it.
” There is heating, ” the lady said. ” I know that it is necessary, because this room is very cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. ” (at least the lady is sincere, thought Paula). ” But I do not put the heating on to cheat the people who comes to see it ” (which is to be welcomed, thought Paula); I prefer to leave it off if nobody lives inside (very ecological, thought Paula).

They signed a contract in a wrinkled / crumpled paper with a pen of red ink, and Paula was grateful to heavens that the search had ended.

” It is a cavern, Paula. ”
” This is what you can pay for fifty a week. ”
“And tomorrow, back to work. I wish I did not have to return but the two weeks of vacation that I asked for to help you look for a home end today.’

In the two weeks Paula had been off from work, the owner of the pub where she worked had fired the manager and hired a new one. It is not possible to say that the new boss of the bar was waiting for Paula with his arms opened on the following day. / not that the head of the bar were waiting for Paula with arms open the next day.

” Have they not told you?’
” Who? ”
” The Polish boys from the kitchen. ”
” No, what did they have to say to me? ”
” You do not work here any more. There is no work. Take this envelope, it is the salary of your last week.”

Paula was glad that she had at least her friend to tell it to him. And for having that job in the office. To C. was allowed ten free minutes to speak with Paula.
” And this face? ”
” I have just been sacked.”
“Come work here! They are looking for a waitress; one just left today. ”
It was the second time Paula changed jobs in London; there would be more changes and some equally of percussion caps/primers.


Paula y su amigo pensaron que el cocinero les estaba un poco explotando, que lo de dejarles quedarse en “su” okupa solo si iban limpiando las habitaciones era un plan no demasiado equitativo. Se reunieron con los polacos y decidieron entre todos buscarse otra casa para vivir.
La diferencia era que los polacos se iban a quedar solo unas semanas más y Paula y el otro chico iban para meses. Así que cuando los polacos encontraron una habitación que iban a tener que compartir entre todos, compartiendo los dos chicos una de las camas, fue momento para Paula de encontrar una habitación que pudiera ocupar su amigo.
En el trabajo pensó que no podía con todo y pidió dos semanas de vacaciones. Apenas les dio tiempo en esas dos semanas a encontrar habitación, pero lo consiguió. No sabía Paula lo difícil que era para un chico encontrar una habitación de alquiler.
“Bien, cuando te puedes mudar entonces?” le preguntó el único casero que contestó el teléfono a la primera.
“En cuanto veamos la habitación, pero no es para mi. Es para un chico que no sabe tanto inglés como para hablar con usted por teléfono.”
“Ah. Lo siento. No quiero chicos.”
“Tenías que haberlo dicho antes. He pensado que era para ti. Pero es que no quiero chicos, son demasiado sucios.”

Con cada llamada a Paula se le caía el alma a los pies. Había tirado ya la toalla cuando decidió hacer otra ronda de llamadas, a todos los teléfonos donde ni habían contestado en las anteriores rondas. C. se quedó sentado en la hierva mientras Paula volvía una vez más a la cabina de teléfono. Estaban los dos agotados.

Contestaron. Paula estaba demasiado cansada para guardar las normas de educación.

“Hola. Dice en su anuncio que son 50 libras a la semana. Incluye facturas? Bien. Es habitación individual? Y no es para mi. Es para un chico. Conforme?”
“Si, si, si bien por supuesto.”
“Bien. Si quiere podemos ir ahora mismo a verla.”

La habitación estaba en Stoke Newington. Estaban cansados y Paula se confundió al anotar el número de la calle.
“Aquí está. Número cuatro.”
Tardaron en contestar al timbre dos timbrazos y diez minutos. Paula ya no tenía fuerzas ni para enfadarse. Cuando la puerta se abrió por fin, en el umbral apareció un hombre con gabardina negra, sombrero casi de copa también negro, pantalón negro, camisa blanca y tirabuzones a ambos lados de la cara.
“Venimos por lo de la habitación.”
No hubo respuesta. El de los tirabuzones miraba a C. a través de Paula.
“No alquila una habitación aquí?”
A Paula le pareció que el de los tirabuzones le seguía ignorando cuando negó con la cabeza casi imperceptiblemente. Luego cerró la puerta y se quedaron pasmados en la calle.
“Igual es catorce y se te ha olvidado el uno.”
les había llevado casi una hora llegar allí así que nos cuantos pasos más, cinco casas más abajo no era demasiada pérdida de tiempo, sobre todo poniendo el día en perspectiva.

En el número catorce les estaba esperando una mujer de rizos morenos cuyo acento le sonó andaluz a Paula, que radió en esperanza de poder hablar en castellano:
“De donde es usted?”
“De Israel.”
“Ah. Nosotros somos españoles.”

La señora les enseñó una habitación que a Paula le pareció heladora, con una fregadera, un microondas y una nevera dentro, además de la cama y un aparato de television dentro, y miró a su amigo implorandole con los ojos que por favor le gustara.
“Hay calefacción,” dijo la señora. “Sé que es necesaria, porque esta habitación es muy fria en invierno y demasiado caliente en verano.” (al menos la señora es sincera). “Pero no pongo la calefacción para engañar a la gente que viene a verla” (lo cual es de agradecer) prefiero dejarla apagada si no vive nadie dentro (muy ecológica).

Firmaron un contrato en un papel arrugado, con un bolígrafo de tinta roja, y Paula agradeció al cielo que la búsqueda hubiera terminado.

“Es un antro, Paula.”
“Es lo que te puedes pagar por cincuenta a la semana.”
“Y mañana vuelta al curro. Ojala no tuviera que volver pero las dos semanas de vacaciones que pedí para ayudarte a ti a buscar casa terminan hoy.”

no se puede decir que el jefe del bar estuviera esperando a Paula con los brazos abiertos al día siguiente.

“No te han dicho?”
“Los chicos polacos de la cocina.”
“No, qué me tenían que decir?”
“Ya no trabajas aquí. No hay trabajo. Toma este sobre, es el sueldo de tu última semana.”

Paula se alegró de que al menos le quedara su amigo para contárselo. Y de tener aquel trabajo en la oficina. A C. le permitieron diez minutos libres para hablar con Paula.

“Y esa cara?”
“Acaban de echarme.”
“Pues vente aquí! Están buscando una camarera que acaba de marcharse hoy.”
Fue el segundo cambio de trabajo de Paula en Londres; volverían más y algunos igual de fulminantes.

The squat

original en castellano abajo

Paula made friends with the boys of the kitchen immediately, even hough they were Polish and could speak English even less than herself. They did not have too many opportunities to speak, but Paula was going down to the kitchen whenever she could because, apart from needing things of it that nobody was going to bring upstairs for her, apart from the kitchen porter boys, and she believed that they were already exploited enough without any need of her ‘help’, there, in the kitchen, not only did she not have the obligation to smile, but she could relax in such a way all the way to make jokes and laugh at the jokes about her. Every time she went down to the kitchen, she climbed back into the bar with a smile, but a true smile.

Two Polish boys were the first friends she took to the hostel-for-women that now she was considering to be her house. They became so good friends that in more than one occasion they spoke to him in Polish:
“Sorry, I have not realized. The fact is that I cannot believe it, that we should be so close friends without you speaking in Polish. But But what’s wrong? ”
” I am worried. A friend is visiting, approximately for six months, and does not know very much English. I want to look for a place to live with him and I do not know where to begin.
It was so difficult for me. And nevertheless I realized that it is much more difficult for a boy. ”
” Why do not you say to him to come to our house? ”
” Do you have room? ”
” Yes, in abundance. We are three in a house of four or five rooms, but only we use one. ”
” And that? ”
” You will see, come. ”
” You are not saying everything to her. It is a squat ”
” Good. I will go one day to see it and then I decide. ”
” Why you do not come today! ”
Paula had not arranged to meet with anybody that night. It was not the free day of anyone of her friends, and she would end at about midnight anyway. With a little luck, it would take about half an hour to reach the house of the Polish and another half hour to get back to hers.

They took Paula on streets along which she had never walked before and she realized that, to return to her house, she would have to go through the bar first because they were going just in the opposite direction. She withdrew this thought off her head even though she would have to go to her office work at nine in the morning, then return to the bar at three o’clock in the afternoon, again to leave at midnight.

They needed to cross a main street and Paula simply looked to both sides and began to cross. One of the Polish guys stopped her:
“I may only do a thing

“Perhaps there is only one thing that I can do legally in this country and I’m going to do it: cross the street by the zebra crossing.”

Paula saw that the crossing was to several meters and then they would have to return, but if it made them especially happy use it even though it would mean that to do a detour, she did not feel with authority to take that away from them.

When they arrived at the house, she wanted to read a small but clear piece of paper that was stuck to the door. “ Section 6 ″, it had for a title.
Paula only could go so far as to read that and the last line, which was something like a justification for that piece of paper was not signed and a warning that it had the same legal value although it was not signed. this Alone scared Paula , gave her a bit of fear but she was with this pair of boys that she was already considering to be her friends and she felt safe.

The house was smelling a little of damp and seemed old, very old. As all the English houses Paula had seen, had carpeting throughout it,, including the stairs. In the end they came to a room that had a light on and Paula was a witness of a scene who till then had imagined only thanks to unpleasant novels: three mattresses on the floor, together with magazines generally untidy things, clothes included, although most of it was in another three luggage bags distributed randomly around the room, and, on the mattresses, blankets and pillows also apparently placed there by chance. One of the mattresses had a brunette girl that was nothing like these so fair-haired Poles. They introduced them and they all sat down on the floor- there were no chairs or any kind of furniture, on the on the other hand. The light was coming from a table lamp that also looked like it had been left there on the floor by chance.
They introduced the girls and explained to Paula the history of the of the squat to Paula. It had been found by the chef, who was English and knew how these things were. This house had been offered to the kitchen boys on the condition that they would find someone else and between all of them, they would make sure that someone would always stay at home, at any time and all times, 24 hours a day. Between the two boys, they could cover the hours of the night, when the bar was not open, and the girl was covering the hours of the day, because she was working during the night. The three of them had come to London just to work during the summer, so at least it was not the whole of their lives that would be their life in the squat, then the chef would have it for his family, and meanwhile they were saving a weekly rent and could take more to their country to be able to continue their studies without having to work during the course. In return they only had to keep the house the twenty-four hours of the day 24 and clean the rooms that they were occupying; that’s why they were managing with just one – and because it was feeling more safe – and the bathroom only.

Paula felt more and more laziness to go back home so late at night and less and less fear of the condition of the house, so when he urged her so stay overnight she did not make them repeat it. In fact she stayed for the two weeks remaining before her friend would come and she did not bother to look for a house for him.

When Paula’s friend arrived, it seemed only natural that he would set up home in that same room with every one else. He could barely babble in English, but with Paula there, and every one’s good will, that seemed enough.
He became a good support for the Polish girl as she guarded the squat during the day time, while Paula and the boys were working. One day a drunken homeless came round demanding entry to the squat.
“But it is our home!”
“I will come back!”
They had got into alert mode immediately and the whole little episode became the epic tale of the following week. The girl had been immensely grateful for C.’s presence there. But most of the time he just sat there, listening, smoking. There were few moments when most of them were all together, but there were some. In those occasions, he would just retreat himself from the whole scene and look to his rolling cigarettes.
“Maybe he should have learnt English before coming here”, said one of the Poles.
“Look who’s talking!”, said Paula smiling. They all laughed.

The trouble was when the chef found out that were actually five people living in the house and not three as had been previously arranged t live in the house which he considered to be “his” squat. As soon as he found out about the new circumstances he spoke with Paula and demanded that they clean a room that had not been cleaned already or find another place to stay.


Paula se hizo amiga de los chicos de la cocina en seguida, aunque fueran polacos y hablaran menos inglés que ella. No tenían muchas oportunidades de hablar, pero Paula bajaba siempre que podía a la cocina porque, aparte de necesitar cosas de ella que nadie tenía por qué proporcionarle, aparte de los pinches de cocina, y ella creía que ya estaban bastante explotados sin necesidad de su ‘ayuda’, allí no solo no tenía la obligación de sonreír, sino que podía relajarse de tal forma hasta hacer bromas y reírse de las que le gastaran. Cada vez que bajaba a la cocina, subía de nuevo al bar con una sonrisa, pero de las de verdad.
Los dos chicos polacos fueron los primeros amigos a los que llevó a la residencia que ahora consideraba su casa. Se hicieron tan amigos que en más de una ocasión le hablaron en polaco:
“Perdona, no me he dado cuenta. Es que no puedo creérmelo, que seamos amigos sin que hables polaco. Pero que te pasa?”
“Ando preocupada. Viene un amigo de visita, de visita unos seis meses, y no sabe mucho inglés. Me siento obligada a buscarle un sitio donde vivir y no se ni por donde empezar. Fue tan difícil para mi. Y aún así me di cuenta de que es mucho más difícil para un chico.”
“Por qué no le dices que venga a nuestra casa?”
“Tenéis sitio?”
“Sí, de sobra. Estamos tres en una casa de cuatro o cinco habitaciones, pero solo usamos una.”
“Y eso?”
“Ya la veras.”
“No le estás diciendo todo. Es una okupa.”
“Bueno. Voy un día a verla y luego decido.”
“Por qué no vienes hoy!”
Paula no había quedado con nadie. No era el día libre de nadie, y ella terminaría a eso de media noche de todas formas. Con un poco de suerte, tardaría media hora en llegar a la casa de los polacos y otra media hora en volverse a la suya.

Llevaron a Paula por calles por las que nunca había caminado y se dio cuenta de que, para volver a su casa, tendría que pasar por el bar primero porque iban justo en dirección contraria. Retiró ese pensamiento de su cabeza porque al menos al día siguiente no trabajaba de nuevo hasta las tres de la tarde, de nuevo para salir a media noche.

Necesitaron cruzar una calle medio principal y Paula simplemente miró a ambos lados y comenzó a cruzar. Uno de los chicos polacos la detuvo:
“Quizás solo haya una cosa que puedo hacer legal en este país y la voy a hacer: cruzar la calle por el paso de cebra.”
Paula se dio cuenta de que el paso estaba a varios metros y luego tendrían que volver, pero si les hacia ilusión usarlo aunque eso significara dar un rodeo, no se sintió ella con autoridad para quitársela.

Cuando llegaron a la casa, ella quiso leer un papel pequeño pero claro que había pegado en la puerta. “Section 6”, tenía por título. Paula solo pudo llegar a leer eso y la última línea, que era algo así como una justificación de que el papel no estuviera firmado y una advertencia de que tenía el mismo valor judicial aunque no estuviera firmado. A Paula esto solo le dio un poco de miedo pero estaba con este par de chicos a los que ya consideraba sus amigos y se sintió segura.

La casa olía algo a humedad y parecía vieja, muy vieja. Como todas las casas inglesas, tenía moqueta por toda ella, incluídas las escaleras. Al final llegaron a una habitación que tenía la luz encendida y Paula fue testigo de una escena que hasta entonces solo se había imaginado gracias a películas desagradables: tres colchones en el suelo, junto con revistas y cosas generalmente desordenadas, ropa incluída, aunque la mayoría estaba en otras tres maletas distribuidas aleatoriamente por la habitación, y, sobre los colchones, mantas y almohadas también aparentemente puestas ahí de forma aleatoria. En uno de los colchones había una chica morena que no se parecía en nada a estos polacos tan rubios. Las presentaron y se sentaron todos en el suelo – no había sillas ni ninguna clase de muebles, por otra parte. La luz la daba una lampara de mesa que estaba también aleatoriamente en el suelo.
Les presentaron a las chicas y le explicaron a Paula la historia de la okupa. La había encontrado el jefe de cocina, que era inglés y sabía como iban estas cosas. Les había ofrecido esta casa a los pinches con la condición de que encontraran a alguien más y entre todos, se quedara siempre alguien en la casa, en todo momento, las veinticuatro horas del día. Entre ellos dos podían cubrir las horas de la noche, cuando no estaba abierto el bar, y la chica cubría las horas del día porque trabajaba durante la noche. Los tres habían llegado a Londres solo para trabajar durante el verano, con lo que no se les iba la vida en la okupa, luego el jefe de cocina la tendría para su familia, y mientras tanto ellos se ahorraban una renta y podían llevar más a su país para poder seguir con sus estudios sin tener que trabajar durante el curso. A cambio solo tenían que guardar la casa las veinticuatro horas del día y limpiar las habitaciones que ocuparan; por eso se arreglaban con una – y por que se sentía más seguro – y el baño solamente.
Paula sintió cada vez más pereza de volver a su casa tan de noche como era y menos miedo por las condiciones de la casa, así que cuando le insistieron quedamente para que se quedara a dormir no se lo hizo repetir. De hecho se quedó durante las dos semanas que quedaban para que llegara su amigo y no se molestó en buscarle una casa.
Lo malo fue cuando se enteró el jefe de cocina de que efectivamente estaban viviendo cinco personas y no tres en la que consideraba “su” okupa. En cuanto se enteró de las nuevas circunstancias habló con Paula y le exigió que limpiara una habitación de las que quedaban por limpiar o le buscara otro sitio a su amigo.

London Fair Trade

en castellano
Paula met Lisa on her first weekend working in Tumi. Lisa was English born in London – a proper Londoner. She taught Spanish in college and this made Paula envious, as this was one thing she was sure she could do. Lisa was going out with a Spanish boy who had studied journalism, he was writing for magazines both in English and in English.
By now Paula had had various Spanish friends, but they had all gone back to Spain now. Or were in the process of leaving. Paula thought Lisa would be the one friend that would stay in London for the rest of her life, one of those very rare people who were not in London just for a few months for a little stage of their lives.
Lisa was also some one Paula could talk to about fair trade and where the shop where she was working two days a week would stand. It was new for her to work in a place that stood for fair trade, but where only herself and now Lisa would understand and stand for fair trade and its principles.

It was Lisa that told Paula that she stood better chances of finding the magazine for Fede in Swiss Cottage Library.

Las únicas tiendas de comercio justo que encontró Paula aparte de aquella en Camden eran las de Oxfam. La tienda de Oxfam no se parecía en nada a la tienda garaje ni a la que había montado ella con Luna. A Paula le recordaba a los pasillos del colegio, con posters grandes – pero no tan grandes como los que habían puesto en el garaje – con niños negros sonriendo mirando a la cámara, y con un pie de foto explicando por qué estaban tan contentos – invariablemente, porque alguna organización del primer mundo les había mandado materiales para su supervivencia y bienestar –. además nada de lo que allí se vendía se parecía a lo que se vendía en las tiendas que había conocido. Cada paquete de café contenía granos parecían venir de un montón de países diferentes, y no solo había molido o sin moler, también parecía que se habían inventado varias formas de tostar el café, y de molerlo también. A Paula le mareaba tanta variedad. Y el azúcar que había, aunque marron, también estaba formada por cubos de cristal. Solo las mermeladas tenían una pinta similar. Y gracias a las mermeladas se enteró Paula de que había un país en África que se llamaba Swazilandia. Paula compró la mermeladas de piña y se marchó.
No muy lejos de su casa había una tienda de Oxfam y aunque Paula no entraba todos los días, se familiarizó con el hombre que vendía el Big Issue, el periódico de los sin techo. Se lo compró una vez que le quedó una libra del salario de la semana anterior y el hombre le habló muy amable, y desde entonces siempre le saludaba. Aunque a Paula le parecía que lo que decían se parecía más a lo que contaban las monjas del colegio, que lo que ella misma había estado transmitiendo en la tienda del garaje, y en la suya propia, se ofreció voluntaria en aquella tienda tan pija donde las voluntarias hablaban en perfecto inglés pero demasiado rápidamente, o sobre demasiados temas en los que Paula no estaba interesada como para seguir su conversación.
Empezó a ir los martes y miércoles unas cuatro horas cada día y enseguida la pusieron en la trastienda, probablemente porque su inglés no era lo suficientemente bueno como para hablar a toda la variedad de clientes que visitaban la tienda de caridad. Así que se pasaba las cuatro horas también sin hablar – menos mal que para entonces ya tenía el trabajo en el bar, donde el jefe, cuando se enteró de sus actividades de voluntariado, no hacia más que decir comentarios sobre la inutilidad de hacer trabajo que no fuera remunerado.

Esto a Paula le daba lo mismo; lo que no veía tan bien era que la ropa a la que ella ponía precio y bajaba a la tienda, solo permanecía allí dos o tres semanas. Ella había pensado que se vendería toda, aunque no había pensado que, lo mismo que a ella no le gustaba casi nada de lo que había, y teniendo en cuenta que lo que allí se vendía había sido donado por gente que si le hubiera gustado no lo habría donado, lo mismo no tenía por qué gustarle a mucha gente más. Y, por otra parte, se recibía ropa nueva cada día, así que en algún sitio había que meter la nueva y la vieja, y allí no había más espacio de almacén que el que veía Paula. Así que era lógico que tuvieran que llevar la ropa donada y no vendida a alguna parte.

Paula fue invitada a una sesión de información para nuevos voluntarios y allí se podría haber enterado de que el café era la mercancía legal que movía más dinero en los mercados internacionales, solo después del petroleo, si esa información no se la hubiera traído aprendida de casa, y donde se enteró de que la ropa a la que ella ponía precio como si de una cadena de ensamblaje se tratara, se llevaba a un almacén enorme si se quedaba en las tiendas tres semanas sin venderse. Allí, le dijeron, se vendía a precios irrisorios, una libra cada prenda, precios así. Y en aquel almacén permanecía solo una o dos semanas más y de allí, se echaba a algo que llamaban en inglés rellenado de terreno, que era el equivalente en castellano a tirar a la basura.

Paula volvió a casa ese día con algo más ilusión que de costumbre, aunque siempre volvía ilusionada pensando que quizás tendría alguna carta de familiares o amigos. Fue a ver a Aisha y se la encontró con un libro. Paula no veía un libro desde que se había marchado de casa; no se trajo ninguno porque no era artículo de superviviencia y no había podido sobrecargar las maletas.
“donde has conseguido eso?” ninguna de las dos tenían dinero para comprar libros
“en la biblioteca. Te lo dejan. Gratis.”
“Sí, gratis! Durante tres semanas. Mira, en la primera página ponen la fecha hasta cuando puedes tenerlo. He terminado de leerlo, si quieres te lo dejo.”
Paula lo aceptó pero quiso también tener acceso a libros que poder leer.
“En la primera página está la dirección, y está abierta todos los días menos el miércoles. Vete, te gustará. Y además es muy útil. Hay anuncios de todo tipo, gente vendiendo cosas, dando clases. Igual podrías poner un anuncio para dar clases de inglés.”
“Vale. Mañana trabajo por la tarde, puedo ir por la mañana.”
“Además tú tienes suerte. En Swahili no hay nada, pero hay muchos libros en castellano.”
“En castellano?”
Paula no daba crédito. Al día siguiente que tuvo libre por la mañana, comprobó la dirección que daba el libro en el A-Z, salió a la calle y comenzó a caminar. La calle donde vivía Paula estaba en cuesta; todas las calles estaban en cuesta, pero esta además tenía un carril bici en cada lado. Claudia siempre se había preguntado donde llevaría un carril tan definido, pues había un bordillo alto que separaba el carril bici del resto de la carretera. Hoy tuvo ocasión de seguir el carril al menos hasta la biblioteca, pues el camino que la llevaba hasta allí coincidía con el carril bici. Paula se imaginó en una bici, en un carril tan seguro, subiendo lentamente, bajando a velocidad.
Cuando llegó a la biblioteca, todo lo que le había contado Aisha se quedó más bien corto. Aunque luego supo que también había bibliotecas diminutas, también las conoció aún más grandes, y ahora se maravilló de lo grandes que hacían las bibliotecas en este país. Preguntó en recepción qué tenía que hacer para poder tomar libros prestados, y le dieron un montón de formularios para rellenar. Los rellenó todos y mientras le confeccionaban la tarjeta de lectora, se dio una vuelta por las estanterías. Shakespeare, Dickens … todos los clásicos que recordaba del colegio, incluso algún Russeau y Galdós traducidos al inglés. Al ver autores españoles se acordó de lo que dijo Aisha de libros en castellano. La estanterías con el cartel de “Spanish” era pequeña comparada con la de Gujarati o Bengali, y además estaba dominada por cursos de español en cintas, pero dio la vuelta y allí vio los libros. Otra pequeña desilusión – muchos eran traducciones de libros extranjeros traducidos al castellano, como Ana Karenina, Crimen y Castigo… y otros había de autores sudamericanos pero a Paula estos le resultaban difíciles de entender por las diferentes normas de gramática y puntuación que parecían utilizar los autores de por allá. Y por fin vio las joyas. Unamuno, Galdós. La mayoría de las obras no las conocía pero eso les daba como más valor. Le habían dicho que podía tomar prestados siete libros cada vez pero se dosificó. En los siguientes meses Paula se leería la mayor parte de todos los libros clásicos que leyó durante su vida.

En la biblioteca también tenían revistas y Paula se acordó del encargo de Fede.

follow the 73

Paula tried yet the last one of the Spanish restaurants she saw in the neighbourhood. It was a huge establishment. The whole building; not just the ground floor with the rest of the building occupied by living space. This public house had four floors dedicated to the business. Bar on the ground floor, a restaurant on the first floor, and dance floors beyond that.
“I’m sorry, but no, we do not have any vacancies at the moment. How are you doing otherwise?”
Paula was not used to being asked questions about her life. She had not been asked any questions at all by pub managers, actually. A week gone through a complete lack of conversation makes even the most reserved person want to talk to strangers.
“I am OK. I would love to change houses too, but that is not something I will contemplate without having a job first.”
“Are you checking out the Loot?”
“What is that?”
“How long have you been in London? Not long, have you?”
“No, just arrived a few days ago.”
“Right. I see you have an A to Z. Next thing to get used to is the Loot. It is a newspaper you buy in small shops that sell magazines and papers. It comes out a few times a week and has listings of rooms to let and some jobs too.”
Paula made a mental note.

“For now though, have you checked out La Finca?”
“No. What is it?”
“It is a Spanish pub, similar to this one. You should ask there. There may have vacancies there.”
“Where is it?”
“In Stoke Newington.”
Paula’s face must have shown that the name said nothing to her.
“Ok, just get on the seventy three. You get it just outside here. Just ask the conductor to let you off in Stoke Newington, there is only one stop on the main road though. You will not miss it.”
“Ok. Thanks for all.”
“Not a problem.”
Paula got out of the restaurant and headed to the bus stop. Then she realised the bus ride would cost one pound. She did not have a pound. She decided to walk on the direction of the bus route.

Separate Plans

original en castellano, más abajo

‘So you are going away to London, Jose says to us. ‘
‘ Yes. ‘
‘For how long? ‘
‘ I do not know. At first four or five years. ‘
‘ But are you crazy? ‘
‘ No, why do you ask? ‘
‘ Because the people normally go away for three or six months, and then they may remain, one or two years, but to go away like that, four or five years? ‘
‘ It looks like I have already spent far too much time trying to find work without result. In the decent few ones which they have called me to an interview, I always had too little experience for them. But none was taking me on so you tell me how I am going to gain experience. If I’m not good enough for this job market, I’m looking for another one’
‘ But if you have just left the shop. ‘
‘ I mean before opening up the shop. When we opened it, it was because I was fed up of looking for a job, it was degrading. And I do not want to return to that. ‘
‘ And what are you going to do? ‘
‘ The idea is to go and to gain some experience in these years, then to be able to offer it here. At least there they have said to me that it is much easier to find work. ‘
‘ Can I place an order with you? ‘
‘ Sure. Then the question is whether I can fulfill it, but in principle, just ask. ‘
‘ There is a magazine called ‘ Ethical Consumer ‘. Could you bring us copies? ‘
‘ At first I will look for it. And which is the idea? ‘
‘ We would like to make something similar. ‘
‘ All right, I will try to look for it but I do not promise you anything. ‘
‘ All right. ‘
‘ And apart from copying magazines, which are your plans? ‘
‘ Apart from practising plagiarism here and there, we bring oil of Palestine. ‘
‘ Some volunteers are saying that we should not, because there is already oil in abundance in Andalusia, and what need is to bring from that far. before that I remain without knowing what to say, because although it is necessary to support those people, it is also not a question of taking the market share off from those of here. ‘
‘ Only that are not of here. The oil can be a Spanish but the company proprietor of it is Italian. ‘
‘ Spanish oil and Italian benefits. So it does not matter to you. And it is much better. To begin, they value it so much, which they do not value here, that they pack it in crystal bottle, and not in plastic, as they do here. ‘
‘ But this way you make dearer the product. ‘
‘ Boy, that is so clear. ‘
Fede was not one for giving so many explanations not as patiently as Jose.


“Así que te vas a Londres, me ha dicho Jose.”
“Por cuánto tiempo?”
“No lo sé. En principio cuatro o cinco años.”
“Pero estás loca?”
“No, por qué lo preguntas?”
“Porque la gente normalmente se va para tres o seis meses, y luego se queda uno, o dos años, pero irte así, cuatro o cinco años, de entrada?”
“Mira ya he pasado demasiado tiempo intentando encontrar trabajo sin resultado. En los pocos decentes a los que me han llamado a una entrevista, siempre faltaba la experiencia. Pero ninguno me cogia así que ya me diras como voy a ganar experiencia.”
“Pero si acabas de dejar la tienda.”
“Me refiero a antes de poner la tienda. Cuando la puse fue porque estaba harta de lo de buscar, era degradante. Y no quiero volver a eso.”
“Y qué vas a hacer?”
“La idea es ir y ganar algo de experiencia en esos años, para luego poder ofrecerla aquí. Al menos allí me han dicho que es mucho más fácil encontrar trabajo.”
“Te puedo hacer un encargo?”
“Claro. Luego está que pueda, pero en principio, tú pide.”
“Hay una revista llamada ‘Ethical Consumer’. Nos podrías mandar ejemplares?”
“En principio la buscaré. Y cuál es la idea?”
“Nos gustaría hacer algo similar.”
“Vale, la intentaré buscar pero no te prometo nada.”
“Y aparte de copiar revistas, cuales son vuestros planes?”
“Aparte de plagiar a diestro y siniestro, traemos aceite de Palestina.”
“Andan algunas voluntarias diciendo que no deberíamos traer, porque ya hay aceite de sobra en Andalucía, y que a ver qué necesidad hay de traerlo de tan lejos. Yo ante eso me quedo sin saber qué decir, porque aunque hay que apoyar a aquella gente, tampoco es cuestión de quitar mercado a los de aquí.”
“Solo que no son de aquí. El aceite puede ser español pero la empresa dueña de él es italiana.”
“Aceite español y beneficios italianos. Así que te da igual. Y es mucho mejor. Para empezar, lo valoran tanto, cosa que no lo valoran los de aquí, que lo envasan en botella de cristal, y no en plástico, como los de aquí.”
“Pero así encareces el producto.”
“Anda, pues claro.”
Fede no era de dar tantas explicaciones ni tan pacientemente como Jose.

Nuevo grupo

original en castellano, más abajo

After the shop, Luna and Paula signed up, together with Jose and Josu, for the group of Fede and Mentxu. They did not have an enormous store but in Fede and Mentxu’s house could keep sufficient quantities as to go to fairs and to sell and to give talks and to raise awareness. Luna and Paula would always remember how cold they were in some of those fairs that January, and how Mentxu always made sure there was always enough warm coffe, and all those talks to explain to people that fair trade coffee was not expensive, but good and well paid. And they understood that the people with few resources could not buy these products, which were costing double that of bargain sales of the supermarkets, but for them the difference was more than clear.

A new fair trade group formed in the city but Paula knew soon that she would not be a part of it, at least in the long run. Paula kept on learning in the months that continued at the end of the shop with this group, but she was already imagining herself / looking beyond the sea.

Después de la tienda, Luna y Paula se apuntaron, junto con Jose y Josu, al grupo de Fede y Mentxu. No tenían un almacén enorme pero en la casa de fede y mentxu cabían suficientes cantidades como para ir a ferias y vender y dar charlas y concienciar. Luna y Paula recordarían siempre el frío que pasaron en algunas ferias aquel enero, y de que Mentxu se encargaba de que no faltara el café calentito, y de las charlas a la gente para que entendieran que el café de comercio justo no era caro, sino que era bueno y pagado justamente. Y entendían que la gente con pocos recursos no pudiera tomar de estos productos, que costaban el doble que los baratos de los supermercados, pero para ellas estaba más que clara la diferencia.

Se formó un grupo nuevo de comercio justo en la ciudad pero Paula supo pronto que ella no formaría parte de él, al menos no por mucho tiempo. Siguió aprendiendo Paula en los meses que siguieron al cierre de la tienda con este grupo, pero ella ya se imaginaba/estaba mirando más allá del mar.


This is a quick translation into English.
original en castellano, más abajo

Paula did not have to tell Luna what had been decided in that meeting because Jose told her at home. On the following day Luna arrived at the shop with red eyes and Paula felt guilty because she had not cried so much. But Luna brought another news.

“Jose is also leaving Fair Trade. Paula had to cover her mouth so that at least only her eyes would be wide open.

The same day on which they would close the shop, Jose would go unemployed, again. Only now Jose and Luna had to pay the mortgage of the attic in which they lived. Finally Paula could close her eyes and kept them thus a little long while. When she reopened them to meet Luna’s, at least there was no longer so much pain in them.

“We have cried much, but when you do not feel supported, it is the correct decision.”
“And now that you are going to do? With the mortgage, and that.”
“ At the moment we have unemployment support.”
“I am really sorry, Luna. To get you into this only for it all to go down the drain so soon. In less than three months.”
“Come one, we thought that it was going to last less than a month!”
Finally they both laughed, but they could not change the subject. They sat down as usual, one next to the till and the other nearer to the door, with a book each.

“So we leave Fair Trade.” Luna raised her eyes from the book that she was not really reading either.
“Well I imagine that we will go to volunteers somewhere else. Or we will set up something else. At the moment and with what I have on my plate, I will need a rest, when we close this.”
“There is Luis.”
“And there will be many more too. We hope. For that reason there is no problem. But I have got a little quite traumatised.
“I wanted to imagine the end of this history. But I did not want it to arrive this soon.”
Jose and Josu arrived at closing time. No were no longer staying until so late in the garage cellar.
“Have I got news for you”, said Jose as a hello. “I have been offered a job with the Andalusian importer of Fair Trade, and another one in a similar organization here, this one as well as Fair Trade, has programs of support for the homeless repairing furniture.”
Paula had heard about Emaus. At least somebody had the job problem solved.

“So, how is the job search going.”
“It goes. Badly.”
“Same here. I am looking for photography courses.”
“Same here, secretary courses, but I do not believe I am going to go for any of them. I might as well move to London.
Luna, Josu and Jose turned to look at Paula.
“Well, you already knew that I had always wanted to go. With the shop, it was a parked dream, and I thought it would be for good then, but now that no longer I have anything, I still have London.”
“And that you are going to do in London?”
“Survive without having to depend on my parents. You have already left your parent’s house, I have not yet. [I have been speaking with the friend of a friend who has lived there for a few months. She says that, having arrived without having anything, is easily work in coffees or restaurants and with that arrive to rent a room. Which cannot be said of here.
“And what about you, are you moving to Andalusia?
“No, I stay here. I begin next week that comes. And Josu too.”
“Paula turned to look at Josu.”
“Well, cool. I am glad for you. So now we have all indeed left the garage.” They all smiled, Josu with his ever present grin and his zapatista neckerchief.

Paula no tuvo que contarle a Luna lo que se había decidido en aquella reunión porque se lo contó Jose en casa. Al día siguiente Luna llegó a la tienda con los ojos rojos y Paula se sintió culpable porque ella no había llorado tanto. Pero Luna traía otra noticia.

Jose también deja el comercio justo.

Paula tuvo que taparse la boca para que solo se le abrieran desmesuradamente los ojos.

El mismo día en que ellas cerrarían la tienda, Jose se quedaría en paro, otra vez. Solo que ahora Jose y Luna tenían que pagar la hipoteca de la boardilla en la que vivían. Por fin Paula pudo cerrar los ojos y los mantuvo así un momento largo. Cuando volvió a abrirlos y se encontró con los de Luna, al menos ya no había tanto dolor en ellos.

Hemos llorado mucho, pero cuando no te sientes arropado, es la decisión correcta.
Y ahora que vais a hacer? Con la hipoteca, y eso.
De momento tendremos el paro.
Ya lo siento, Luna. Meterte en esto para que luego se vaya al garete. En menos de tres meses.
Venga, que pensábamos que iba a durar menos de un mes.
Por fin rieron las dos, pero no pudieron cambiar de tema. Se sentaron como de costumbre, una junto a la caja y otra más cerca de la puerta, con un libro cada una.

Así que dejamos el comercio justo.
Paula levantó la vista del libro que tampoco ella estaba leyendo.
Hombre imagino que nos iremos de voluntarios a otro sitio. O formaremos otro. De momento con lo que hay, yo necesitare un descanso, cuando cerremos esto.
Está Luis.
Y estarán muchos más también. Esperemos. Por eso no hay problema. Pero yo me he quedado un poco bastante traumatizada.
Yo quería imaginarme el final de esta historia. Pero no que llegase tan pronto.

A la hora de cerrar llegaron Jose y Josu. Ya no se quedaban hasta las tantas en el garaje sótano.

– Noticias traigo – dijo después de saludar -. me han ofrecido trabajo en la importadora de comercio justo andaluza y también en una organización parecida, pero que tiene además de comercio justo, programas de apoyo a sin techo con reparación de muebles.

Paula había oído hablar de Emaus. Al menos alguien tenía la papeleta resuelta.

Que, como va la búsqueda de curro
Pues va. Mal.
Yo también. Estoy buscando cursos de fotografía.
Yo de secretaria, pero no creo que vaya a hacer ninguno. Igual me voy a Londres.

Luna, Josu y Jose se volvieron a mirar a Paula.
– bueno ya sabíais que siempre había querido ir. Con lo de la tienda, era un sueño aparcado, en ese momento pensé que para siempre, pero ahora que ya no tengo nada, me queda Londres.

Y que vas a hacer en Londres?
Sobrevivir sin tener que depender de mis padres. Vosotros ya os habéis ido de casa, yo aún no. estuve hablando con la amiga de una amiga que ha vivido allí unos meses. Dice que, llegando sin tener nada, se encuentra fácilmente trabajo en cafés o restaurantes y con eso llega para alquilar una habitación. Lo cual no se puede decir de aquí.
Y tu que tal, no te iras a Andalucía, no?
No, me quedo aquí. Empiezo la semana que viene. Y Josu también.
Paula se volvió a mirar a Josu.
Vaya, que guay. Me alegro por ti. Así que ahora sí que todos dejamos el garaje.
Sonrieron todos, Josu con su mueca y su pañuelo zapatista de siempre.

La tienda y final

This is a quick translation into English.
original en castellano, más abajo

The shop was bigger than the shop of the previous year, where Paula had met Josu and then had become a closer friend with Luna. Both refused to put on aprons, that was the privilege they had earned for being forced to be the investors, and nobody could say a word. They did not make leaflets that they would need to give out in the street next to the door of the shop, either. Nevertheless, their shop was a great deal much busier than the shop of the previous year. Which did not mean that all the people who would visit the shop would be buying more, but they were indeed selling much more every day. The new location, more in a passing street than in a high street, was playing an important role. And part of the outreach they had done. They put a request on one of the counters, one of those that asks for people’s signatures, and in moments of calmness they realised that there were people entering the shop only to sign it. Then the internationalists guys, the same ones who allowed them to sell Palestinian handkerchiefs and zapatista bandanas, were ever so grateful that Paula and Luna would give them so many sheets of paper so full of signatures, and Paula and Luna were grateful that they allowed them to have in the shop these sheets of paper that were attracting so many people.

Then Christmas was over and Paula and Luna thought that the season’s consumerism, and with it the gust of selling, would be over with it too. But it was not like that, because then the sales came. People were no longer coming to their shop looking for alternative gifts for their families, nor cheap gifts for their invisible friends. Now they were looking for clothes and sales. But they had no sales.
“And why?”
“Because with the margins with which we work, we hardly cover the rent.” Which had been true in November and December, but at the pace things were going, what would happen in January was so unknown. “And in order to reduce prices further we would have to reduce the price that we pay to the producers. And they are already desperate enough.”
It was not a too orthodox response but the lady was content and did not ask any more.

Then the students came. Documentaries directors wannabes who wanted to make a video about the sales.
“ We have no sales. This is Fair Trade. ”
The lads remained amazed for a moment and then came back on the following day. The reduction in customers visits was already evident in the shop.
“Hi, well, we have thought, and the teacher has given us permission, that we are not going to do a video on the reductions. We are going to do it on Fair Trade. Can we interview you? ”

By the middle of January Paula and Luna were already spending most of the day reading the books that they had on sale because there was no more work. They mainly received the occasionally visit of ambulant sellers.
“Look, I bring to you these very cute earrings and jewels, and now they are discounted, and…” Luna cut him:
“I am sorry but we are going to be able to buy you things only if they come from Fair Trade.”
“What? That do you mean, of, fair trade … ”
“We buy with a series of criteria, on whom produces it, in what conditions … For example, what you are bringing, does a workers co-operative make it? ”
“ Hmm. Not.”
“Then we cannot buy to you anything ”
“ Ah not ”
“ No. ”
And many entered the shop this way when there were no more customers entering. The last one who entered was a gentleman in a suit selling what looked like, from his respective chairs Luna and Paula were sitting on, female underwear.
“How are you?!”, The seller snapped. (“How is that any of your business”, thought Paula) (“That’s none of your bloody business”, thought Luna). Luna and Paula behaved politely on that occasion, as it corresponds to two professional shop assistants and politely refused his merchandise.

Paula and Luna started to talk about the future of the shop. They had been pleasantly surprised by the hordes of people swarming the shop right after Christmas, looking for sales and still buying their clothes even though their price was not reduced. They had expected to be completely alone in their shop after the festive period, and seeing so many people – and sales – well after that was a high. But even that was draining now. Still, they were determined to not let the months that the shop had lasted so far to become a nicely lived dream and make the shop last for as long as possible and thought of ways to boost sales at least for the following months. Paula did not have much imagination but Luna came one day radiant with ideas.
Paula had been looking at the accounts and had come to the conclusion that they had to sell more clothes; Luna had been looking at the clothes and concluded that to sell more clothes, they needed them in European and not American sizes.

The jumpers were all of bright and showy colors. They needed someone with a strong, and or artistic personality to wear them, but this was not the most difficult requirement.The hardest thing for Luna was getting her head into the hole for the neck. The trouble was that her head was not big enough and the wool was not elastic enough to make itself big enough. Luna tried was of the jumpers and took it off quickly before suffocating.

“Look, Paula. I have made a decision. ”
Paula looked at Luna in silence. She liked being able to listen to her without interrupting her and without having to do grunts or croakings or other signs to indicate that she was listening.
‘I am preparing patterns and designs to send them to Bolivia because the jumpers they send us are impossible to sell, even I would not put them on myself either. ”
Paula remembered a conversation that they had had months earlier about patterns, imperialism and cultures, and wished her luck. Before Paula could say anything, Luna recaptured the thread:
‘I know it is their culture. But we are here to sell their products so that the people use them, not so that they them for charity and keep in the closet only to throw them away after a few years of ‘perhaps I’ll wear it one day.’
‘Right, “said Paula. ‘ It is not me who you have to convince. It does not matter to me. It is other people, and more or less we both already know who they are. On the other hand, it could be just easier to bring things through the Andalusian importer. I don’t know why, but their clothes always seems more marketable. Why don’t we buy from them and that way we do not have to send patterns to Bolivia?’
“I want to draw patterns, it makes me happy. ”
“It does not to me. I do not know how to draw patterns and I am not going to learn now. I already spend enough time doing the accounts at home. ”
” OK. ”

They arranged to meet on a Wednesday, which were the usual days for meetings. Also it was a day of football match.
Luna preferred to not go to the meeting. Perhaps she knew by intuition which was going to be the decision and she did not want to be present. Paula presented the accounts before the attentive look of all the volunteers of the committee, including Jose, Ara and the priest. The comparisons with the previous shop, in which Paula had begun his volunteering in Fair Trade, were inevitable.
“… although we have sold much more than the last year’s shop.”
“Is that true? Have they sold more?”
“Yes, much more. ”
Days later, Josu would comment: “whoever asked that, was never, neither in a shop nor in the other one.”

But now they were making the decision of whether to keep on struggling for the shop whose takings had already gone down, although not so much as they had expected before the season’s sales.
“Can you tell to us exactly what you need ”
“After doing accounts, we have seen, that to last at least one more month, we would have to do a big order of clothes to another co-operative organisation that buys big quantities for Fair Trade. Because now people come to the shop looking for clothes, because of the sales. ”
“But this other organisation, they do not only buy from South America ”
“No they don’t. We would have to buy things from Africa and Asia too.
But they bring and manage everything, and we can just place our order with them.”
“And all that with which money?”
“With the takings from Christmas after paying the rent.”
Paula and Luna had not separated anything for their own salaries.
“Well we had agreed that we were going to bring things only from South America.”
That one was the first news that Paula had received about restrictions as to what things that could be bought, but that was the way in which Salva seemed to have decided it. But now the book-keeper was speaking:
“It seems that you are asking us to make a decision. And you, what do you want to do?”
“We want to continue, but in order to continue, it is necessary to spend this money on a big order. We either really go for it, or would rather not go at all. And we do not want to do it without your support so if you do not agree, it would be better to close.”
“Yes. I believe that it is better to close.”
It was Salva that had said he was a priest in a meeting where most were Christians, in his parish. Nobody was going to contradict him.
This was going to be the decision and a bit of Paula’s heart must have got broken because she remained without being able to articulate more than monosyllables. She only managed to articulate a finished phrase when they had already gone out of the shop – garage. Jose and she were travelling together the way that they had in common, surrounded with fans of the football local team who were coming out of the stadium.
“How are you, that do you think.”
“We kind of knew it, that the shop was not going to last for too. But I did not imagine that it would happen so fast.”


La tienda era más grande que la del año anterior, donde Paula había conocido a Josu y luego se había hecho más amiga de Luna. Ambas se negaron a ponerse delantales, para eso se habían visto obligadas a ser las inversoras, y nadie pudo decir esta boca es mía. Tampoco hicieron panfletos que hubiera que dar en la calle, junto a la puerta de la tienda. Aún así, entraba mucha más gente que a la tienda del año anterior. Lo que no significaba que toda la gente que entrara comprase más, pero sí que se vendiera mucho más por día. La nueva situación, en una calle más de paso que comercial, jugaba un papel importante. Y parte del marketing que habían hecho. Pusieron una petición en uno de los mostradores, de esas en las que se pide la firma de la gente, y en momentos de tranquilidad se dieron cuenta de que había gente que entraba en la tienda solamente para firmarla. Luego los chicos internacionalistas, los mismos que les dejaban vender pañuelos palestinos y bandanas zapatistas, les estaban agradecidísimos de que les pasasen tantos folios tan llenos de firmas, y ellas agradecidas de que les dejasen tener en la tienda esos folios que tanta gente atraían.
Luego la navidad terminó y con ella, Paula y Luna pensaron que terminaría también el consumismo, y con él la racha de ventas. Pero no fue así, porque luego llegaron las rebajas. La gente ya no entraba en la tienda buscando regalos alternativos para su familia ni baratos para sus amigos invisibles. Ahora buscaban ropa y en rebajas. Pero ellas no tenían rebajas.
“Y por qué?”
“Porque con los margenes con los que trabajamos apenas cubrimos la renta” Lo cual había sido cierto en noviembre y diciembre, pero al paso que iban no se sabia lo que pasaría en enero. “Y para poner rebajas tendríamos que rebajar el precio que pagamos a los productores. Y bastante mal están ya.”
No era una respuesta demasiado ortodoxa pero la señora se conformó y no preguntó más.

Luego vinieron los estudiantes. Aspirantes a directores de documentales que querían hacer un video sobre las rebajas.
“Nosotras no tenemos rebajas. Esto es comercio justo.”
Los chavales se quedaron pasmados un momento y vinieron al día siguiente. Ya se notaba la bajada de visitas de clientela en la tienda.
“Que, hemos pensado, y nos ha dado permiso la profesora, que no vamos a hacer un video sobre las rebajas. Lo vamos a hacer sobre comercio justo. Nos dejáis que os entrevistemos?”

Para mediados de enero Paula y Luna ya se pasaban la mayor parte del día leyendo los libros que tenían a la venta porque no había más trabajo. De vez en cuando entraban vendedores ambulantes de mercancía

“Mira os traigo estos pendientes de pedrería monismos, y ahora vienen con descuento, y …” Luna le cortó:
“Lo siento pero solo te vamos a poder comprar cosas si son de comercio justo.”
“Que? Que quieres decir, de, comercio justo…”
“Compramos con una serie de criterios, sobre quien lo produce, en que condiciones … Por ejemplo, lo que traes, lo hace una cooperativa de trabajadores?”
“Hmm. No.”
“Pues no te podemos comprar nada”
“Ah no?”
Y así entraron bastantes en la tienda cuando ya no entraban clientes. El último que entró fue un señor con traje vendiendo lo que les pareció, desde sus respectivas sillas a Luna y a Paula, ropa interior femenina.
“Como estáis?!” Les espetó el vendedor. Luna y Paula se comportaron en aquella ocasión educadamente como corresponde a dos profesionales del comercio y buena presencia, pero sus mentes pensaron al unisono:
“Y a ti que te importa, como estamos.”

Paula estaba más que agradecida por los meses que había durado la tienda pero Luna estaba decidida a que no acabara ahí. Luna llegó radiante a la tienda que compartía con Paula. Habían estado mirando las cuentas y la ropa esos días y habían llegado a la conclusión de que tenían que vender más ropa, y para vender más ropa, la necesitaban a medidas europeas y no americanas.

Los jerséis eran todos de colores vivos y vistosos. Hacia falta alguien con personalidad fuerte o de artista para ponerse esto, pero este no era el requerimiento más difícil. Lo más difícil era meter la cabeza por el cuello. Lo malo era que no bastaba la cabeza para dar el cuello de sí lo suficiente. Luna se puso uno de los jerséis y prefirió quitárselo rápidamente antes de ahogarse.

“Mira Paula. He tomado una decisión.”
Paula miró a Luna en silencio. Le gustaba poder escucharla sin interrumpirle y sin tener que hacer signos ni gruñidos que indicaran que estaba escuchando.
“Estoy preparando patrones y diseños para enviarlos a Bolivia porque los jerseys que nos mandan son imposibles de vender, yo tampoco me los pondría.”
Paula se acordó de una conversación que habían tenido meses antes sobre patrones y culturas y le deseó suerte. Antes de que pudiera seguir, Luna retomó el hilo:
“Ya sé que es su cultura. Pero estamos aquí para vender sus productos y que la gente los use, no para que los compre por caridad y los guarde en el armario a la espera de ser tirados después de un par de años de “quizás me lo ponga”.”
“A ver,” dijo Paula. “No es a mí a quien tienes que convencer. A mí me da igual. A otra gente no, y más o menos ya sabemos quienes son. Por otro lado, igual es más fácil traer cosas a través de la importadora andaluza. No sé por qué pero su ropa siempre parece más vendible. Se lo compramos a ellos y así no tenemos que andar con patrones a Bolivia?”
“A mí me hace ilusión hacer patrones.”
“A mí no, no se hacer patrones y no voy a aprender ahora. Ya paso bastante tiempo haciendo las cuentas en casa.”
“Eso es verdad.”

Se citaron para un miércoles, que eran los días normales de reuniones. También era día de partido.
Luna no quiso ir a la reunión. Quizás intuía cual iba a ser la decisión y no quiso estar presente. Paula presentó las cuentas ante la mirada atenta de todos los voluntarios de la junta, incluídos Jose, Ara y el cura. Las comparaciones con la anterior tienda, en la que había empezado Paula su voluntariado en el comercio justo, fueron inevitables.
“… aunque hayamos vendido mucho más que la tienda del año pasado.”
“Es verdad eso? Han vendido más?”
“Sí, mucho más.”
Días más tarde, Josu comentaría: “quien preguntó eso, no ha estado nunca ni en una tienda ni en otra.”
Pero ahora estaban tomando la decisión de si seguir luchando por la tienda que ya había bajado en ventas, aunque no tanto como habían esperado antes de las rebajas.
“Nos podéis decir exactamente qué necesitáis?”
“Pues después de hacer cuentas, hemos mirado, que para aguantar al menos un mes más, tendríamos que hacer un pedido grande de ropa a la otra cooperativa que compra grandes cantidades por comercio justo. Porque ahora la gente va a la tienda a por ropa, porque son las rebajas.”
“Pero esa otra organización no solo compran a Sudamérica”
“No, tendríamos que comprar también cosas de África y de Asia. Pero ellos lo traen todo, y nosotras le podemos hacer un pedido.”
“Y todo eso con que dinero?”
“Con lo que hemos sacado en navidad y que ha sobrado después de pagar la renta.”
Paula y luna no habían separado nada para su propio sueldo.
“Bueno nosotros habíamos quedado en que íbamos a traer cosas solo de Sudamérica”
Esa era la la primera noticia que tenía Paula sobre restricciones en cuanto a cosas que se podían comprar, pero así parecía haberlo decidido Salva. Pero ahora hablaba el contable:
“Parece que nos estáis pidiendo que tomemos una decisión. Y vosotras, que queréis hacer?”
“Nosotras queremos seguir, pero para seguir, hace falta gastar ese dinero en un pedido grande. O vamos a por todas o no vamos. y no queremos hacerlo sin vuestro apoyo así que si no estáis de acuerdo, mejor cerrar.”
“Pues sí. Yo creo que mejor cerrar.”
El que lo había dicho era Salva y era el cura en una reunión donde la mayoría eran cristianos, en su parroquia. Nadie le iba a llevar la contraria. Esa iba a ser la decisión y a Paula se le debió de partir un trocito de corazón porque se quedó sin poder articular más que monosílabos. Solo consiguió articular una frase completa cuando ya habían salido de la tienda-garaje. Jose y ella caminaban juntos el camino que tenían en común, rodeados de aficionados al fútbol que salían del estadio.
“Qué tal, qué piensas.”
“Intuíamos, o sabíamos, que la tienda no iba a durar mucho tiempo. Pero no imaginé que pasaría tan rápido.”