a wee warning

No pisar la arena. No tocar la escultura

I went to a modern art exhibition last week and was much taken with this sign that was placed underneath one of the sculptures, a strange mixed-media contraption standing on sand.

In the same way, the first time I went to the Retiro in Madrid and saw the signs saying No pisar el cesped I did a double take. I imagined there were probably public toilets in Spanish parks, so why did they think I’d be tempted to go on the grass? It would have made more sense if it had said “don’t let your dog piss (or otherwise) on the grass”, but that seemed not to bother them in the least.

(I still believe that the barrio of Madrid called Lavapiés is so named because the amount of dog shit on the streets means you’ll need to wash your feet, and that las monjas descalzas in the capital are extraordinarily irresponsible and should wear sturdy pisamierdas instead of going barefoot. After all, cleanliness is supposed to be next to godliness.)

Then there was the time I was at my clase de baile de salón – yes, ballroom dancing was popular in my younger days! – and the good-looking young man who was clasping me expertly round the waist suddenly looked guiltily downwards and exclaimed apologetically “¡Ay! ¡Te pisé!” The image this conjured might have made me wet myself laughing, but all he meant was that he’d trodden on my inexpert toes.

modern sculpture

The other verb in the warning sign at the exhibition is tocar, which is fairly unambiguous, and possibly unnecessary with a sculpture such as the one in the picture, which really doesn’t call out to be touched.

I do wonder, though, if music stores here in Spain put up signs saying no tocar los instrumentos or, perhaps, no tocar ‘Escalera al Cielo’.

And that last thought has had me looking for a translation into Spanish of the words to ‘Stairway’. The version at that link isn’t all bad, though it’s not perfect.

I particularly like the way the line, “WOE OH OH OH OH OH” has been converted to “¡GUO, OH, OH, OH, OH!”

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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