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The young Juan Pujol
The young Juan Pujol

After four years at Valldèmia, I returned to Barcelona to attend a primary school less than half a block away from home, run by the La Salle Brothers. The four of us also received private French lessons three days a week from a teacher from Marseilles, for French in those days was what English is today, the universal language of tourism, diplomacy and business.

Eventually my father decided that my brother and I should attend Mossèn Josep secondary school. But if the truth be told, I soon found both the school and its headmaster extremely tedious. The lessons seemed endless and dull and I attended them most unwillingly.

After three years there I become a hefty fellow of fifteen, with an incipient beard. Soon I was shaving and thought myself every inch a man.

Going out with girls accounted for a fair bit of my time and the rest I devoted to sports, gymnastics and hiking.

One day I had a row with one of my teachers: he had it in for me and I didn’t think much of him. I came home and told my father that I did not want to stay at school any longer.

He took my decision calmly and replied that if I was not going to study any more, I must get a job.

First job

I accepted the challenge and went to work in a hardware shop in the old Carrer Comte d’El Asalto, in the old quarter of Barcelona near the famous promenade or Rambla. As an apprentice, I had to keep the shop clean, run errands and return to their rightful places all those tools which the shop assistants left out on the counters after they had shown them to prospective clients.

Gradually the dreariness of the routine and the hard work involved in having to sweep out such huge premises every day undermined my show of bravado. I gave up my job.

I decided I wanted to read for an arts degree and began to spend hours in my father’s library. In particular, I was fascinated by the origins of words and spent my days perusing book after book. It was during this period that my appendix burst and I was rushed into hospital.

When I had recovered from the operation, I decided not to read for an arts degree after all, but to become a chicken farmer. I made up my mind to enter the Royal Poultry School at Arenys de Mar as soon as I was well enough.

My father died a few months after the birth of the Second Republic in 1931. his death left a great vacuum in the family and the flight of his soul from the world left me oppressed and overwhelmed, my heart gripped by deep sorrow.