No city is ever silent. At quiet times, they sit and wait; only to burst into momentary flurries of activity at the slightest excuse.
It’s the morning of Christmas Day in Buenos Aires. The rubbish lorry has just departed, having ground its way along Defensa, the clattering of bottles now receding into the distance. The city’s hum, always present, is this morning the white noise of air conditioners preparing for a drippingly hot day.
Last night was different. Whilst in Europe, cities go wild at New Year in the expectation that the next year will be better than the last, here in Buenos Aires it’s the arrival of Christmas that urges Portenos to ignite their celebratory firecrackers and fireworks. It starts at midnight, or minutes before for those with urging children. At first, just the occasional small flash and bang of a firecracker followed by a puff and smell of spent black powder in the air. Then the turn of the local gatherings, with dozens of fireworks lifting from the centre of each street bathing groups of neighbours in blue and silver light. Eventually, the large civic displays take to the air, and the skyline of Buenos Aires is turned from ink to glitter in a thousand explosive orbs.
The displays go on into the night. At 1245 hrs a huge display erupts from San Lorenz, one of San Telmos’ tiniest streets leading below from Defensa. As each rocket explodes another follows, and for four minutes the sky glistens with coloured sparks and showers.
Retiring from the roof, I pull the shutters to muffle the sound of distant explosions that continue across the city. Below in contrast, harmonious voices of a group of families and friends sing folklorique to the accompaniment of a guitar; and the scent of their asado lifts on a sudden breeze.
Today, it's Christmas. Sparrows chirp, and the resident green parakeets fly boisterously across the roofs. Otherwise, there is a gentleness to the start of the day. A shutter lifts, morning sun flashes on a distant window, an early morning cat sprawls out on a warm ledge. I fold the windows back, sip tea, wait for Stephanie to wake, and the day to begin.