This morning, I took a turn around Cerdanyola with the idea of photographing some of the graffiti and posters I often see around the town. I got some half-decent shots around ‘el Barrio’ which is the part of the town made up of tower-blocks and little more. It’s an area which has been improved recently but it’s still clearly a poverty-stricken area.
Well, after getting a few decent shots in el Barrio, I moved on and spotted a decent shot of some police cars parked by the Policia Local station. I’d just taken my first shot (which was pretty crappy) when I looked up to see a policeman approaching with an angry/police look on his silly face. Now, I grew up living on and visiting various military installations and one thing I was always taught was: call the police ‘Officer’ because they like that. I used to be able to show my little ID card to Royal Marines guards and that was that. Let me tell you that being 27 in Cerdanyola del Vallès is not the same as being 12 in Dartmouth.
So this police officer decided that I should accompany him back to the police station because I was taking photos of the police cars outside it. He asked me what was my motive for photographing the squad cars and all I could say was “Nada… interes… arte?”. They obviously thought I was some kind of potential Etarra (as if they wouldn’t drive past photographing the police station if they really wanted to do a recce). I showed him the photo I’d taken (which was, incidentally, rubbish: I’d only had time for one shot) and he said “What exactly were you trying to photograph here?”. I felt like saying, “Look, I know it’s a shit photo… let’s just leave it at that”… instead I muttered something about the lights on their cars. I probably looked like the worst kind of antisistema/ultraizquierda/ETA suspect they’d ever seen.
Anyway, I had to present my ID card which the desk sergeant was asked to check. And I didn’t show up on the computer, something which obviously made them more suspicious of me. I explained to the desk sergeant (the ‘good cop’) that there are often problems with my name, because in Catalonia they never understand foreign naming conventions. My name is technically Thomas R—— C—— Clarke and I’ve been identified with various combinations of the four names over the last five and a half years. This causes constant hassle with local authorities but La Caixa have always dealt with it very well.
Eventually, they found me on the computer (I told them to check my address) and they didn’t seem very happy as they just handed me my Targeta de Residència and turned away. I said sorry again and went on my way. Later, I saw a Mossos car and I was so conscious of being questioned that I actually turned by camera off and turned away. All because I took a shit photo of some policia local cars.