The photo poster in the window of the bar is as faded and familiar as the black and white image it displays. There on a stone bench sits the owner of the bar in his youth. He is playing a small Spanish guitar in the company of a much older man who is sitting to his right, Salvador Dalí.
Inside, the Café de La Habana has changed little since I first came here over twenty years ago. Tealights on the low wooden tables, rickety chairs, and, in one corner, a little cube of stage adorned with a single microphone stand.
At 11 o’clock sharp the owner appears carrying the guitar that he once played for Dalí. Both he and his instrument are old now, but together they continue to offer songs of protest and of love, songs sung in Catalan, Spanish, French and English. Borders are crossed, the edges of time blur. I am held in the present day only by the absence of cigarette smoke, by an unsilenced mobile phone, and then by the words of a song.
In Ancient Greece, a foreigner without citizen rights in his or her city-state of residence was called a metic. The English word is formal and uncommon, but the French métèque acquired the tone of our ‘mongrel’ and became a derogatory term for Mediterranean immigrants regarded as having impure origins and shifty-looking features. It seems that we have learned little in the almost fifty years since Georges Moustaki composed Le Métèque, proudly proclaiming himself to be a cultural mongrel and inviting us to think again about what we see. Here I am, he says, that man with the ugly mug of a wandering Jew, of a Greek shepherd; that man with the hands of a petty thief; that vagabond among you, offering this song of love.