UNFRIENDLY and judgemental faces glower down upon the people of Granada from rooftops, columns and sunlit facades. These are the faces of the city Watchers. They have dwelt among the winds and the pigeons since mediaeval times and harbour little love for the mortals who scamper below. They can be vindictive, malevolent, rancorous and resentful. It is best to wander the streets with eyes averted unless you can summon the confidence to confront and challenge. I have spied the Watchers in many European cities – Krakow has a particularly virulent assemblage. Here in Granada they can be glimpsed by the light of the sun; or by the rays of the moon when – with a scraping of stone and a dribbling of dust – they occasionally change position. The city Watchers possess the scrupulous morals of the artisans who fashioned them and the tyrannical ways of the merchants and clergy whose unsoiled hands paid silver for the toil. They are an antiquity, a remnant of a past world that has survived into the present and will continue into the future. They guard and they condemn. And, occasionally, they act with frightful malice . . .
The Watchers haunt high places. To the unobservant, they are little more than inanimate lumps of honeyed stone, skilfully-moulded forms in black iron, or daubs of paint on flaking walls. From their nooks and ledges they uphold the values of Christian Spain and maintain the integrity of their city. When angered, which is often, they are swift to strike and ruthless in their actions. Do not cross the Watchers . . .
Most people live their lives unaware of the Watchers. They are content to suppose that Granada is nothing more than a typical European city with a few old buildings, a congregation of churches and a cathedral. Their eyes fail to see, their ears fail to hear. Granada is a very beautiful place and its architecture is to be appreciated. To the unobservant, the Watchers are invisible . . .
Meanwhile, the Watchers watch as the city revolves through its eternal cycle of daily toil. Church bells toll in a predetermined order; the hands of clocks labour round; shadows creep from one lofty gable to the next. And the Watchers watch . . .
Passing the cathedral, I hear a scraping of stone. I am being watched by St Peter, who has allowed his keys to jangle. Summoning every last drop of courage, I cry: “Are you watching me?” St Peter averts his gaze and utters denials. Three, in fact . . .
Down on the streets the Watchers have spies. On every corner, in every window, in every doorway, the spies with eyes don’t compromise. Some appear menacing, others ludicrous – but they continue their silent and eternal vigil . . .
Don’t cross the Watchers of Granada – or the Watchers of any European city. Retribution is swift and without mercy. Your fate will be silent and unwitnessed. Little evidence that you ever lived and breathed will remain on this earth . . .