La Vanguardia today has a nostalgic look at the decline of the portera - the apartment block door men and women. 40 years ago there were 11,000 of them, today the numbers are down by 75%. Electronic security systems and the advent of working mothers have been the main causes.
Many blocks, like our old one, now only have live-out porteras who work mornings, Monday to Friday. Our new block, altogether grander, has the magnificent Jose who works 8-8 on weekdays, with the traditional long break for lunch and siesta between 2-5pm when he pops into his flat on our premises.
Smartly suited while on duty, Jose handles all the deliveries, takes all the rubbish out, polishes the handle of the big front door (literally), sorts the post, helps take the shopping up and liaises with the many live-in chicas (maids) and visiting workmen. A committed Barca fan, he also leaves his copy of the Sport newspaper for all to read when he has finished with it. At weekends he is replaced by another portera, as are the others on the street, who seems to be very second division and possibly not unaquainted with the joys of alcohol.
We wouldn't do without Jose. But it has to be said that for an awful lot of the day he has very little to do and plenty of time to read La Vanguardia and Sport.
One day no doubt the flat owners of the building will look at their community service bill and wonder whether Jose might do fewer hours or even have the security part of his job done by the closed circuit TV system which is already in place. But let's hope that doesn't happen for a while.