Saturday, February 20, 2010


if you are thinking of flexing a trip to Barcelona and what to do some shit, heres some shit: charcelona tips

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

one last adventure

Partly inspired by Nico's Jack Kerouac/Christopher McCandless-esque adventuring and partly by my urge to do something semi-exciting before I left Spain, I decided to visit Cadaqués and more importantly a beach called Platja de Sant Luis, in the natural park of Cap de Creus. I had read about this 'hidden beach' and was enchanted by the prospect of swimming in the "clear blue water", the "clothing optional" was going to do little to deter me.

The night before I looked into what needed to be done to get this show on the road. I had to wake up at five am and catch the metro to the train station, to catch a six o' clock train. This is no easy feat when you are used to going to bed at six in the morning (yes I am a midnight raver, yes a disco dancer).

So I packed my bag the night before. Lunch, suncream, and a towel. Oh, and a big old bottle of water, but we'll come back to that, it's not important yet.

I set my alarm and woke up, which is positive, its unusual for me to nail that combination.

I was actually going to do this. Well I almost wasn't. But for whatever reason I did. I grabbed my bag, took a swig of my fresh orange juice (not from concentrate) and jumped on the metro.

Two stops later I arrived at Passeig de Gracia, from here I slumped myself on the renfe train service to Figueres. I tried hard to sleep on this train, cradling a backpack in my arms. However, when I am sleepy I find it terribly difficult to establish whether I have been drifting in and out of sleep or just been sleepily awake, so I really don't know the truth. Only the old Spanish man sitting down from me will ever know the answer. I should have asked him. Towards the end of the train ride the sun started rising over all these small Mediterranean towns that we passed and it looked like the kind of stuff that postcards are made out of.

I arrived at Figueres with blurry visuals in front of me, stumbling out of the station I asked a local 'hombre' for directions to the bus station. It was right in front of us. I have gotten used to this sort of thing over the years.

Then I went to the bus station and bought an 'ida y vuelta' (return ticket) to Cadaqués.

Again I tried to sleep on the bus, but this time I am fairly sure that nothing of the sort happened. Instead I looked out the windows, here are some of the things I saw:

On two occasions (within a five minute span), I saw the scariest over-sized children's slides I have ever seen. The first was a massive gorilla with a slide coming out of its chest, like some kind of deformed and flaccid King Kong. The second was an over-sized scary clown slide, it was so freaky that I have successfully erased what it actually looked like from my mind. They were both about thirteen feet tall and should never have existed, they are definitely the source of all nightmares in the local area.

Then we went through a town that I can only compare to Venice. That is because half the roads were made with water and half the cars were made of boats. Apparently it looks much nicer from above, but I was in the thick of it, on the streets and it looked a bit weird. We were driving on a road through the town but when you looked out of either window all the other roads were made of water and had boats docking outside the houses. The water roads/canals eventually link up to the ocean. The town is called Empuriabrava.

For a long time in the distance, on top of a mountain, I could see an observatory that is used for looking at the stars. I am a big fan of looking at stars and was quite eager to go up there and check it out, I didn't, because it was day time. The observatory was blanketed in mist and it looked good. Then we ascended the mountain and my vertigo was put to the test, which was not very enjoyable.

Eventually we arrived in Cadaqués. My destination was only a forty-five minitue hike away.

Cadaqués is a beautiful little town by the sea, it houses a peachy church and some expensive restaurants. Perhaps its biggest draw is that it is only a miles walk from Port Lligat, most famous for Casa Dali. A house where Salvidor Dali resided for more than fifty odd years.

I doubt you will be surprised to hear that before setting out on this mission, I didn't take the time to write down directions or print out a map. I had a brief glance at a googlemap and thought that would be sufficient. Needless to say it wasn't.

Walking out of the car park/bus drop-off point it dawned on me that I was lost.
How would I get there? To this mystical beach? In my mind I opened up google maps and imagined myself as an all-seeing satellite, that was a waste of time, I couldn't envisage anything. So instead, I went to the nearest big road I could find and saw a sign pointing to Cap De Creus. Surely this was the way.

This road was made for cars. It didn't take that long for me to realise the error of my ways. It was probably around the time I saw it leading over a bit of a mountain that I decided to turn back to town. I devised a new plan, a better plan, a safer plan. I would walk along the coast until I hit the beach. A foolish plan.

After about forty minutes I realised that following the cost was a silly idea, it had already taken me around one cape and there seemed to about three more or so, which would take a lifetime. So I thought I would cut across over to Port Lligat, only that I ended up back in Cadaqués. I knew it was about time I looked at a map. So I found one. After that I was a bit more confident. I set off for Port Lligat.

I got there fairly easily. On my way I passed a fat little church and a couple of dog walkers. I couldn't see Dali's house and saw little reason to waste more time, so after a brief 360 I carried on my way. At this point I think I should point out that I had now looked at three separate maps, none of which detailed the position of the beach I was after. Whilst this added to the mystery, it wasn't helping with the quest. So I carried on walking.

Paranoia set-in. Where the fuck was I? This road is heading in the opposite direction of the water. I turned around, I saw one of the dog walkers I had passed by the church about twenty minutes ago. Am I really as slow as her aging dog? That's not very good at all. I got over my speed issues and forced out my best Spanish. She pointed me in some direction and said something about stairs, the rest was inaudible. I went off in said direction. I decided to prove that I was healthy so I sped up, about two hundred metres later I came to a fork in the road. I turned around and gestured the two roads to the female dog walker behind me (who for the record I had made considerable distance on). She pointed me down the right road and I continued.

Time was passing, where were these stairs? I began to wonder if she had said stairs at all. After all, I had horribly failed my AS-Level Spanish listening (surprisingly, I failed everything but one speaking test, but thats not really important).

I decided to revert back to Plan A. Walk along the coast. I felt that I was much closer at this point and as long as I could get on the coast, it shouldn't be too long or too difficult to find my destination.

So in true Nico fashion, I found an unused path off the side of the road and followed it down. I hit the coast. It was rocky, but beautiful. I paused for a moment and took it all in; the water, the plants, and the small beach where a woman was putting on her pants. I ventured down that way, obviously not to lay down sexual groundwork, but because it was the only place I could go.

We crossed paths, she was with her boyfriend. I casually gave them an "hola", they gave me a smiley one back.

I continued on my way. Shortly after continuing, I came to a place where I could no longer go forward. Unless I wanted to dive in and swim the rest of the way, which I did not.

Defeated again by geography, I headed back towards the small beach where I had previously seen the couple. They had no idea about the location of the beach either, but were deeply impressed with my linguistics. I rained verbs on those guys. And adjectives. They were from Barcelona, it turned out we lived about five minutes away from each other. Eventually they pointed me in the direction of the road. After she complemented me on my Spanish, I made a massive grammatical mistake and left them to it.

Suddenly I found myself ascending some stairs, actually quite a lot of stairs made of stones. Could these be the stairs mentioned by the dog walker? Did she actually mention stairs anyway? Did she even have a dog? I stopped and pondered for a moment. I continued the climb. Even if she had mentioned the stairs, and these were them, I had no idea what she actually said about them, she could have said to avoid them, maybe the were poisonous. I sped up.

I hit the road. Jack. And later on, I came back.

I carried on down the road for a short while, until I came to another trail on my right. Adventure beckoned me in, like one of those children into the gingerbread house. No sooner had I entered, then I made an assessment. I was in an arid climate. Don't snakes live in arid climates? Is this a good idea? I had no phone on me and if I was poisoned by a snake then it wasn't going to be a positive thing by any means. But I was pretty sure I knew what Tom Sawyer would do. So I marched on. My legs were constantly being gouged by some Spanish bramble type bush, and every time I heard the noise of my legs brushing against the plants I was sure it was an evil snake speaking to me in Slytherin.

I walked past these empty little stone huts and thought about how nice it would be to homeless and stumble across this place. I followed the path through a patch of cactus and thought about how Nico would probably be able to make lunch out of one. The cactus were a massive and a real deep green, with flowers in bloom. I finally hit the coast again.

I looked down. I was literally metres away from the couple I had met earlier, they were now sat eating. Again, I felt the fool. Where previously, I could not see a path down to my location, I could now obviously see one up to it. Oh well. Perseverance.

I took a swig of my water. The night before I had filled an empty milk bottle with water and stored it in the fridge over night. I had failed to properly rinse out the bottle. What this meant that I was drinking milky water that tasted really bad. So good at preparation. So good.

After walking around the coast for another decent chunk of time I knew I had to sit down and admire my surroundings. It was gorgeous and apparently unlike any other region in Spain (says Juan). Hearing some rustling in a bush, I thought it best to carry on.

After some more chance encounters with vertigo, it wasn't long before I could see the beach of dreams sitting quaintly below the cliff edge I was perched on. There was no sign stating the beaches name, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was the place. The abundance of mature naked people was enough confirmation for me.

The sky was free of clouds and there was a naked pensioner slowly gliding through the blue water. The Mediterranean tide was gently rocking up against this pebbly cove. I stopped and appreciated the view from up high, then I assesed my options for a descent.

It seemed simple, walk across the clifftop a bit more and climb down. Everything was going well until I was confronted by a canine mercenary. I don't know much about dogs, I have no idea what breed this dog was, and although it looked a lot closer to a poodle than a rottweiler, it was the most malicious beast I've laid my eyes on for a while. I tried to advance but he was wise to my tactics. He started barking at me, so I just stood there, clueless. I looked down at the beach, surely the owner was going to come and retrieve their dog? I waited, nobody came.

The dog was barking a lot louder now and everybody down on the beach was looking up at me. I was disturbing the peace. I looked down at them, with my eyes screaming "come and get your fucking dog". Still nobody came.

I decided to wait for the right moment and make a move. That moment came when the devil dog walked up the cliff a bit and out of my sight. No sooner had I moved forward than I turned to see the beast hurtling down towards me with bad intentions. Fuck. I am generally not good in high pressure situations, so in my fearful state, I turned and faced him. Man vs Dog. He wasn't slowing down, so I did the only thing I could think of and held out my backpack as if it was some kind of weapon. I don't know what he thought my bag was capable of, but it was obviously something pretty crazy. The dog came to a halt and snarled at me. I sketchily made my way down to the beach, backwards.

After reverse-stumbling down to the beach, I passed a sign. The Spanish equivalent of "Private Property. Do not cross." That would explain the dog then. I had just entered a beach through private property and if I had been munched by a dog, it probably would have been legal. Take the road next time yeah? Yeah.

Upon entering the beach I received a few strange glances (and rightly so, I suppose). It would have been easy for me to be embarrassed by the spectacle I had created and disappear off to one of the sides of the beach, but I went and sat right in the middle of the beach. Power to the people and all that jazz.

I sat peacefully, ate my packed lunch and drank my milky water. Things were quietening down and I was receiving less dodgy looks from the bronzed collective. I sensually massaged suncream into my chest and then slept for a while.

I awoke in a mini-sweat, it was about that time. You know the time. Time for a swim. I needed to cool down.

I hopped across the hot pebbles into the sea. With one foot in the ocean, I began slipping around, these stones were a mossy bunch. I lost the battle with gravity and friction, but luckily by that point was in deep enough to be able to swim without looking like a complete fool. That was still to come.

The water was much clearer than that of Barcelona miles down south. I had the water all to myself, so I just swam and thought about nothing. Suddenly I had a massive urge to be completely naked. It dawned on me that I had never been skinny dipping in the daylight or whilst sober. I slipped out of my little shorts and felt liberated. After a while some other people entered the water, with snorkels. What do do? I tried to stay out of their sight, but after a while I wanted to get back on dry land. This meant putting back on my shorts. This was complicated.

I put one foot through and struggled for a long while, splashing around, looking like the fool that I often seem to be. This went on for a while. People on the beach started to look slightly concerned either it looked like I was drowning or trying to sly out an aquatic poo. Finally I was back in my shorts and order was restored. I went back to my towel.

A short time passed until I realised something political was going down. To my right, everybody was wearing their bathing suits and to my left, nudity reined supreme. I had to choose a side. To stay with the conformity of the right or bask in the freedom of the left. What would Obama do? Obviously get naked, but then knowing Obama, he no doubt has a horse's penis. What to do? All the other young people were clothed.

Lying on my back, I pulled down my shorts, slightly. My white cheeks lay against the towel whilst my shorts just covered my dignity. I was in two minds. I was lost. I remained in this physical purgatory for the best part of half an hour. Then when everyone seemed to be turned the other way, I whipped those bad boys off. Free.

I sunbathed on my front for a while, then did a rotation. Reading Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War by Che Guevara, I felt so much more in tune with my guerilla brethren than I had only the day before whilst reading the book eating a Big Mac. I fell asleep and my cheeks got some rouge. Whilst the strangeness of going to a nudist beach alone, as a twenty-three year old male, is not lost on me, I was also strangely proud of the feat.

It came to four o'clock in the afternoon and I knew I would have to start making my way back to Cadaqués soon, if the length of my first journey was anything to go by. I packed my bag and said goodbye to the beach in my head.

The journey back was less than an hour and much easier.

I went to the supermarket and bought a litre of lemon sorbet, I killed about half of it waiting for the bus back. Then I felt a bit sick. The journey back was much less frantic than the one I had begun over twelve hours earlier.

I arrived back at home and fell asleep.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

and so the penny drops

This is my last week of what has been a seven month stint, and so I will attempt to make this my penultimate post. I want to write a final, deep, thought-provoking blog post (something about those last four words grouped together doesn't seem right), but fear not, this is not that post.

No, this post is actually about someone we have already met.

Nico the chef.

You might remember him as the lad who did some shagging on a balcony. Last time we spoke he was heading off to Cadiz. Well yesterday he came back and he has already gone again. This time his face was full of facial hair and his skin darker than the night sky. But he left me with some stories, I told him to write them down, but he doesn't fancy himself as much of a writer, so I'll just do it for him. I am certain I don't know the majority of the places he went to by name, but I'll try my hardest to know what I'm talking about. And all of this information was gathered from conversations in Spanish, so some details are a bit hazy. Here is a re-cap of his interesting journey.

When our friend arrived in Cadiz he spent his first three nights in a hostel. Now I don't know if what I am about to write happened at this moment in Cadiz or later on, but for the purpose of the story it fits better at this point. All I know is that it definitely happened in Cadiz.

Nico cried. Loneliness was the cause. He told me he felt so lonely that he could not help but cry. When he told me that I felt sad and we did a little hug.

After three nights in the hostel, Nico spent a night on the beach with some homeless people. Drinking beer and playing the guitar. In what would prove a smart move, the next day he went back to the hostel. That night a new friend sleeping on the beach had his backpack stolen from under his sleeping nose. That would be Nico's last night in paid accommodation, the following morning Nico found his friends bag and the majority of its contents down an alleyway. A few nights on the beach passed by, asleep and cradling his backpack.

During one of those typically burning hot days in Cadiz he had a chance encounter with a disabled man, this is more or less how it went:

"Hey Boy come over here"
Nico went over to this gent sat in the wheelchair and offered his help. After a while the man who turns out to be slightly crazy offered Nico a bed for fifteen euros a night. Nico was not going to pay for a bed, so instead he offered Nico a bed in exchange for some help. For three days Nico took this paraplegic from one bar to the next and they had some fun. It turns out this man used to be a famous flamenco dancer, was in even in a film, and I'm sure after the tragic loss of his leg's functionality he became a one-man waste mission. How sad.

After Cadiz he ventured for a bit more through the province of Andalucia, seeing a side much different from that which I had seen three months ago. We both saw Granada and Sevilla, but when he went he slept in the streets, in school yards, and under bridges. He walked in symmetry with people who have been homeless for six years, with the children of prostitutes, and people with even less luck than that. I slept in a hostel, ate fine food and watched football.

Towards the end of Andalucia he met a girl. For the moment her name eludes me. They traveled to Portugal and saw plenty of the country, finally staying at her house in Coimbra. One time she was so upset with him that she locked him out for four days. For four days he lived and slept in the same clothes and did not shower, until she finally opened up on the fifth day.

Nico went back down south towards Almería. Here he stayed in a place that was completely self-sufficient, powered by the sun. A North-German family exchanged accommodation and food for labour. Although it took some time, Nico managed to describe to me how the family would cook their food reflecting the sunlight with a mirror and using magnification devices to heat it. They grew there own vegetables and had their own water supply, it sounded a bit like Al Gore's wet dream, I mock it now, but I too was impressed on hearing of their habits, perhaps what impressed me most though was how passionately Nico spoke about these things.

Then Nico did something stupid. He spent a day walking through the Almerian desert on his own. Nico took a bottle of water, the bottle broke and leaked all over his clothes in his bag. This resulted in Nico wringing out his clothes into his mouth as his only supply of hydration. A whole day through the desert with nothing to drink, not good.

I can't remember if a girl picked him up in a car or he made t all the way by foot, but I know eventually he ended up in Carboneras at a nudist colony on the beach. For three days he lived without clothes and without inhibitions, living in clay homes, far from anyone else. The people ranged from thirty until fifty years old.

Following the nudist colony Nico spent some time with an eighty-two year old shamanic woman. Healthier than him, she awoke every morning for her rituals and was a master of all things herbal. She ate cactus.

Then Nico ventured into the wilderness and found himself spending a night in a cave. The cave was right on the coast, with a beautiful sea view. He moved on.

He spent a month on a farm. With more Germans, these being from the south. There were tarantulas and he was left in serious pain after a chance encounter with a scorpion. On the farm he shepherded goats on the mountains high. He made his own staff. The goats had names, some German and some English. One called 'White Goat' was particularly fond of Nico. Nico left the farm with bracelets of friendship and a homemade didgeridoo.

Finally he had to make it from Almería to Barcelona. To come and collect a suitcase from me.

A fifty year-old Moroccan pervert picked him up. Nico proceeded to drive the over 500 miles, twelve hours through the night without sleep. The Moroccan tried putting his hand on Nico's thigh a few times, on the third and final time Nico got out of the car on the motorway outside Barcelona. He then walked into Barcelona and arrived at seven in the morning.

Nico is not a poor boy. He is from a bourgeoisie family, before coming to Spain he saved over two thousand euros, and that money remains in his bank still. He won't tell his family how he traveled, he can't tell them about the people he met, because they will disown him.

Nico learned plenty of things from playing the guitar and the harmonica to making houses out of clay and rock, not to mention plenty of new culinary skills. He met people from all walks of life, from all over the world, he lived cut-off from society, he spent days by himself, but the only time he cried from loneliness was one of the few times he was actually in a city. He has always professed to me that he was not made for the city, he was built for the country.

Nico has ambitions to live a self sufficient, minimalistic lifestyle that I can only admire. He wants to travel the world and take something useful from every corner. When he is ready he wants to settle and build an igloo from sand, cement and rock. I think that is lovely.

Plenty of us say we go 'traveling', but we sleep in hostels and surround ourselves with people just like us. What Nico has done and it seems will keep doing is something I can only dream I had the courage to do. He truly immerses himself and is not afraid to do so. He is willing to speak to anybody like a friend and his smile remains forever.

He arrived here in Barcelona just yesterday and after a tour of my neighborhood, we made some simple food and talked about things we deem important. Once we had realised our mutual admiration for Leonard Cohen, we just sat and listened to words for a while.

This afternoon we had the final meal. He left for the port. To catch a ferry. He might go to France he might go to Rome, nothing is certain. My only hope is that it was not the last meal we share together.

Nico the Chef has transformed into Nico the Vagabond.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

hustle hustle hustle.

Some people live to work. Their jobs are their everything. Consumed by their professional ambition.

Not I, oh no not I.

Quite the opposite, working has seldom seemed appealing. Still, tis a poor excuse for remaining “sans job” for five months. I tried a few things but nothing stuck. I went to recruitment agencies. I wore my horrible leather shoes and my only shirt. They saw right through me.

I had a trial shift that I thought went fairly well. Fuck that bar. It was supposed to be a typical English bar, but I didn’t believe their lies for one moment. They told me I had to brush my hair and that my trousers were too low, I wanted to tell them no, I wanted to stand my ground. In the end I put a brush through my hair and pulled my trousers up. But to no avail. They said I was too young. Twenty-two is too young for a barman? Like you need a fucking PHD. Fuck off. I think they were scared of me, what I could have brung to the table, I would have changed that shit up like Bill Gates in the eighties. Their table would have been seeing some knights of the round action. But instead all they have is a coffee table without any legs, just a slab lying on the floor.

After such fruitless attempts, I put a job on hold. I had enough financial muscle to chill for a while. A choice that saw me become tighter with the pennies, it wasn’t a big deal, I was writing a script, wasn’t that like a job anyway? Who knows maybe I would get head-hunted?

I didn’t get headhunted, I didn’t even get head-considered-for-hunting. I Just wandered around like Bambi in a concrete forest without any hunters in it. Then when it became clear that I would soon have to leave my flat, I had to make a decision. Should I stay or should I go? Should I stay or should I go now? I should stay, summer in Barcelona or summer in Bath? Not particularly tricky. I decided to give the whole job thing another whirl. So I sent my “Hi, I’m a young, life-loving, friendly guy” CV to every hostel in Barcelona. Its amazing how many hostels didn’t reply, Juan responded. Juan is now my boss.

At the hostel I don’t make much money, but I can live for free and usually get away with walking up past noon.

I went one further and got a second job. I know, slow down there, two jobs? Bit Erin Brokovich no? Well, its okay, the second job is four hours a day in a market research call-centre and is more flexible than those Chinese eight year olds at last years Olympics. So flexible in fact that I haven’t been in for eight days or so. Chances are, if you are reading this, I have already interviewed you or at least left five missed calls from a withheld number on your phone, I am deeply sorry. But wouldn’t you rather all cold callers were people you know, up for a friendly chat, before finding out how anti-Russia you really are, then subsequently thinking less of you? Of course you prefer that.

So now I have two jobs.

A typical call centre day goes something like this.

I arrive at work fifteen minutes late, no one notices, because no one really cares. I turn on my computer and do quick catch-ups with fellow employees, “how many surveys have you made today?”, “isn’t this job shit?”, and more often than not “oh sorry, I thought you spoke English”. Then I logon to the software. I pretend to make ten calls, but put them in the system as ‘no answer’, ‘fax number’, ‘answer machine’, and then make a few fake rejection calls to top it off. Then I get my mobile out and find the place in my phonebook I reached at the end of yesterdays shift. Phone a friend. Do the survey then a catch up. Most of the day carries on like this for a while, survey and a catch up. But sometimes I phone real people, but the more I do this, the less I want to.

I’ve phoned old women, who have suffered falls the day before. Getting them to agree finally to surveys, only to find out that they fall outside the target
Sometimes the job gets to boring and facebook just isn’t what it used to be. Try and make yourself sneeze whilst the phone is ringing, then try and make yourself not sneeze when they pick up, it’s very entertaining.

After four hours or so its time to leave the office. Back to the hostel.

The hostel I manage (yes that is how it will be going on my CV, manager), is small, only eight rooms in total. Set in three flats, inside a fourteen flat building, I don’t really know if you could officially call it a hostel. Each flat has its own kitchen, bathroom, lounge. And the hostel is nicely situated a few minutes walk from the centre of Gracia, which is a great new neighbourhood to be living in.
So living in the hostel I have come across a few characters.

The first one is the fat bitch from Australia. I have nothing positive to say about her physical side or her mental one. Maybe she would have nice eyes, if it didn’t look the back of her skull was trying to suck them onto the other side of her head. Obviously I only make fun of people’s physical features if I know for sure they are complete twats or if they are really close friends. This girl was definitely not the latter.

First signs of dark evil? I was checking her and her noticeably more amicable friend into their room, the first thing she says? “Bunk beds?” in a tone that makes you want to help her eyes get top the back of her head with the aid of something big and blunt. Hold back. But seriously, what did she think this was going to be the fucking Ritz? No quite clearly the pictures online show you that this is most certainly not the Ritz.

Her friend says “I don’t mind which bunk” you know the way every decent person says it, then the next person says me neither, then they flip a coin for it. Not the fat bitch, she’s straight in there, “Really, okay then I guess I’ll have the bottom bunk”, the Italian is obviously quite taken aback, “What? well we can just sort it out in a minute”, fat bitch replies “Well if you don’t mind I’ll just take the bottom bunk”. This is the kind of person who doesn’t give their seat up to a blind man on the bus, this is quite simply; devil spawn.

Exhibit 2: Showing her the kitchen, “Is this all we get for breakfast?”, shut up bitch you should be eating breakfast anyway.

Finally, possibly the best bit of evidence of her being related to some other-world type demon, the key incident. Its about 1.30am Wedensday night casual. The buzzer on the door goes. I answer it to see her standing there looking guilty, “Slight problem”, I wanted to reply “yeah bitch, your face”, I didn’t. So it turns out that she had thought our building was further up the street and she had used our key on another door. The strangest part being that the key actually opened another front door on the street, the less strange part being it was stuck in the lock and they couldn’t get it out. I strolled over to the scene of the crime. Surveyed the situation, went back and got my tool kit, I felt like such a personal masculine victory would have taken place if I’d managed to get the key out, I failed in my attempts. So there we were the three of us, forced to spend time together. This is also the point where I found out that the Italian girl had told fat bitch that this was not the door to our building, that our building was further down the street, but devil spawn wouldn’t listen, she just had to fuck my night up. Next step call up a locksmith, I told them they could wait upstairs whilst I dealt with the locksmith.

Locksmith arrives. There is no way to get the key out. The key has broken the lock inside. We have to pay to replace the lock on the front door as well as keys for their whole building, or do a runner and keep our mouths shut. The Christian side of me wanted to stay and do things properly, but lets be honest, I’m not really a Christian, I’m an aethiest and we run. So the locksmith snapped off part of the key and we did a runner.

I went up to their room, to give them a new key and to discuss what had happened. Its around 2.30am, I get their and those bitches are asleep, I give them the replacement keys and spawn says “We are asleep. Lets sort it out in the morning”. Obviously avoided me completely for the next four days. I managed to bump into them on their way to the train station, that was when I knew she had to be the offspring of Satan because her face was burning red from the shame.

Then there was the Italian boys. I would have assumed they were gay, standard. If I wasn’t woken up every morning at 8am with one of them standing at the door with a new girl, every morning. He was a really nice guy and gave me a free haircut in return for giving him clean sheets every couple of days. I feel sorry for his friend who had to wait whilst he was banging out these girls in their private twin.

Then there was the Romanian couple who liked to get Johnny Blaze. Their first night here and one of them creeps into the office “you want to smoke something with us?”, something? Like what? Weed? Meth? Banana peel? Hash, as it turns out. What followed was me sat with two people talking Romanian, getting high and thinking “hmm isn’t this strange?”. I’m not exactly at my peak of how much Mary Jane I can handle so when he lit up a second one, well before the first one was even finished, I started to get the impression I was in for a long night. Luckily we just smoked those two joints, otherwise I don’t know whether I would have woken up for the check-in the next morning…

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

fin de les glories

So I lived in Les Glories for some months. To be exact from the 24th of February until the 2nd of July.
Some months.

I lived with some peeps. In no particular order these are they: Marco, Emanuelle, Matteo, Odile, Fanny, Sabrina. Other people were around at various times, but that was the core unit. If we were in Saving Private Ryan, I would undoubtedly be Tom Hanks, and they would be my battalion that all got killed trying to save Matt Damon. Luckily I am much more attractive than Tom Hanks, and perhaps more luckily Matt Damon isn't in our friendship circle. But you get the point, under normal circumstances we may not have been friends, but send us to fire guns in Normandy or share a flat in Barcelona, and we form unbreakable bonds, only to be shot in the back by the Germans.

Sabrina. She was Austrian and I have subconsciously jumped straight from the Nazis to her. Sorry, but what do you expect? Isn't that what they are most famous for? Being bezzies with Hitler? Anyway, she wasn't a Nazi, even if her room was always really clean and her hair was straight. No, Sabrina was actually really nice. We never got glenn close, she was always working down by the beach at the Ritz and I was always consumed with being unemployed, our paths only ever crossing in the kitchen. A casual glance over the hob or our hands meeting at the same carton of milk in the fridge. We seldom shared time together alone, we had little in common. I often felt sorry for her, she was the only one of us who actually had a job, actually had to go to work, and she slept right next door to the dinning room. Next door is not the ideal sleeping place when you have ten Italians over for dinner and they start talking heatedly about different types of Mozzarella, every night. All of her friends that came to stay were like Sabrina herself, proper, polite, and went to bed early.

The most important thing that Sabrina taught me is that in Austria they make good chocolate. Particularly chocolate with wafer inside. She gave me calories like my name was Oprah in the nineties.

Matteo was a proper Alpha-Male Italian. What does that mean? He cooked well and had little time to take on board the opinions of women. "What Odile? You want me to clean this pan? I'll be honest love, I'm more likely to defecate in this pan before I clean it".
When I imagine Matteo in my head he is bald, he isn't actually bald, only in my head. I don't really know why, sometimes I just remember people different to how they actually are.
In our flat, there wasn't a lock on the bathroom door. Matteo was never afraid to come in while you were having a shower and urinate, I never got used to that.

A Matteo story that stands out happened at the dinner table. It was in the early days when I couldn't understand Spanish, let alone Italian. We were having one of those dinner parties we often had; me and the Italian guys with a bunch of Italian girls. It sounds really good, but its not very good when everyone is speaking a language you can't speak, all night, pretty gash to be honest. Anyway, we were eating chicken that night. The chicken came out of the oven all golden brown, destination known: stomach. It proper looked like something that would come out of Jamie Oliver's oven on a sunday. Matteo carved open the chicken and what do you know? Everything was still on the inside. I was served a nice piece of lung.
Turns out that was the first time Matteo had cooked a whole chicken, he happened to forget about the bits inside. Other than that incident, his culinary skills were always top notch, but he's going to have to pull something really special out of the oven if he wants me to forget about that one.

Marco was the beta to Matteo's alpha. Tall and skinny, he rocked lime green polo shirts in a way that only an Italian could. Due to Matteo's dominance in the kitchen Marco was always resigned to washing up, I kinda of felt bad about this, so occasionally I secretly washed his dishes, like a fairy godbrother if you will. Once Matteo returned to Italy in April, Marco was slightly lost for a period of time, the balance was disrupted.
The most sociable member of the flat, every night there was some kind of event up his sleeve, a dinner, a club, or another bottellon at the beach. Every time he invited me and for this I am very grateful. Marco's social life soon became my own and this is the main reason my Spanish speaking skills improved, if at all. I am also grateful that Marco refused to speak English with me, even when he had to repeat sentences six times.

Marco was constantly on the hunt for a girlfriend and this desperate attitude resulted in him becoming best friends with every girl in town. Which is more or less not what he wanted, but oh well.

Fanny was exactly five feet tall. Maybe the smallest person in the whole of Europe. At least in the top forty. Apart from sharing her name with female genitalia she had other good qualities. She could speak French, English and Spanish, all very well. Being from from France, meant she liked to cook crepes and load them with nutella, she also liked strawberries and good cheeses. As a result, I was often to be found eating her leftovers.
She smoked more weed than anybody I've socialized with since I was seventeen. At times I felt like the living room was a Snoop Dogg video, just without Snoop Dogg and the hot bitches. She had a boyfriend most of the time and when they split up, was highly upset, I met him once and he was handsome, if not a bit dumb.

After I had all my hair chopped off she said "Come on man, you're not serious? It looks stupid. This is a joke." So I guess we can add honesty to her list of qualities too.

I feel like I've exploited enough of Manu on this blog already, so I'll be quick. A well dressed Alpha Italian, he also liked to drink well, Johnny Walker Black Label and Havana 7. Manu was never letting you forget his Napolitan heritage, although as it turns out, hes actually from one of the neighboring towns. Fake. Lies. Friend. The first day we met he tried to sell me Armani shirts that his friends had stolen from a hijacked train. I have promised I will visit him in Naples. This too could be a lie.
His time in Barcelona was plagued by a love/hate relationship with a girl. I hated her, he loved her. Too much drama, too much hugging things out. We got on like a house on fire, I taught him the Liverpool chants and he taught me songs from Naples. One minute we were singing about Steven Gerrard, the next we were singing about, well I don't know what the words meant, in fact I was generally just humming, but it was fun all the same. He could only make one meal and that was curry chicken. He always bought meat cut fresh from a deli and was possibly the fussiest eater I have ever met. Out of everyone, Manu is probably the person I will see again. Hopefully.

Odile was fun. You could make disgusting jokes and she wouldn't get offended. Living across the hall from her, she would often ask my advice before a night out, which shoes go with this dress? with leggings? just a bra? really?
Odile's biggest flaw is her story telling ability, her stories always started with the climax and went on forever, we have spoken about this and she is working on it.
Her mother is fifty something and dating a twenty-nine year old, brilliant.
She is still a scout.
She drinks to get drunk. I think she lost her phone three times whilst we lived together.

My favorite memory of her? Once when I was making breakfast in the kitchen, she just turned to me and said "Last night I dreamt that Marco, Manu and you, beat me up and raped me. It was horrible". Don't lie Odile you loved it.

And so the days in the trenches of Les Glories are over and Matt Damon has been shot dead.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Its three-thirty am on a Friday night. I am sitting alone on the nitbus heading towards the beach. The only thing keeping me awake is a group of Spanish twenty-somethings (am I now considered a twenty-something too? I hope not), they have taken it upon themselves to sing every track from Queen: The Greatest Hits, at an above average volume. One of these girls can actually sing quite well, but, oh no. She's getting carried away and going all Diana Ross at a wedding, fairly sure she's just made a couple of shout-outs in Catalan. She's lost my vote. Wow, look how hairy her arms are. Definitely lost the vote.

It has been a sombre couple of weeks. My friends are all leaving Barcelona, returning home. Serves me right for only befriending erasmus students. Why they aren't staying to enjoy the summer is beyond me, but whatever, they are all going. Which means a mass of leaving-parties, and I must say I am exhausted from what now seems like a nightly activity. I've already lost, Manu, Marco, Matteo, Odile and more. Who will be shedding tonight's tears? Simona.

Simona originates from some village near Roma. She has a good sense of humour and is a lot closer to beautiful than the average girl. You know that kind of pretty girl who never looks good in a photograph? She is that kind of pretty girl. Like most, she has her defects; she thinks she needs to lose weight and
she dances like a chicken. She has a couple more defects, but I'm beginning to feel a bit mean so I guess I'll leave it at that. I can't remember what she is studying, but she said she wants to be a teacher, which sounds like a decent choice, shaping the future and what not. This is probably the last time I will ever see Simona. Shes been a good friend for the best part of six months, but this is probably the end of that. Out of all my friends who are leaving or have left, beyond the realms of facebook, I will probably only stay in touch with a handful. However you look at it, it is undeniably sad.

Anyhow, I eventually arrive at the beach around four am-ish. We sit on the beach with a mass of other familiar faces, far too many familiar faces to be bothered going around and saying hello to everyone, if they want to chat they are more than welcome to come on over to me. A few do, a few don't. No love lost.
A Portuguese guy sees fit to take all his clothes off (not for the first time might I add) and borrow a girl's dress. Once he is wearing the dress, he poses for photographs. He begins prancing around and purposely lifting the dress to reveal his penis lost in a mound of hair, once again for photographs. This guy is actually rather nice though, I've spoken to him a few times when he has had his clothes on and he is interesting conversation.
I neck a bottle of wine, in what I should consider a worrying amount of time, and we all sit watching the sunrise over the sea. A few couples disappear beyond the rocks for some shagging or just uncomfortable foreplay, I just sit and wonder what I am going to do next. What am I going to do next?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Sonar. In the months prior to the festival, I tried and failed to obtain press accreditation. Something it turns out that never actually works for me. My salvation came in the form of a synth-playing friend. A friend called Kemsley, from my pub-working days gone by. Playing the festival on the Friday night, he offered me a complimentary ticket. Lush.

I knew a few other groups of people going to Sonar and managed to meet up with none of them. After spending many a festival juggling social circles, I simply couldn’t be bothered.

I arrived at the hotel to collect my ticket and do a catch up. Kemo introduced me to his gang; Ben, Lauren and Karen. I managed to wrangle a lift to the festival with them, which in turn meant a sneaky backstage entrance and a sneaky backstage pass.

The backstage pass means free beer from a fridge all night. Which for me, is all it needs to mean.

In the dressing room, I felt fairly uncomfortable. Not really knowing what to do or say, I wobbled around for a bit, and after making sure nobody was looking, did some light snacking from the food spread.

Kemo et al were scheduled to go on stage in a short time, so I pocketed some beers and we left the dressing room.

They went on stage, and we advanced towards the lighting controls area. We had a good view of the action from there. We being Karen, Lauren and I. I took a few photos and tried/failed to join in with some dance routine the girls had conjured up. When the gig finished we ran and caught the end of the Grace Jones, not before losing the female half of our party to a real life horse.

After Grace, we went back to the dressing room. Kemo introduced me to some friends of his, a band called Heartbreak and they were nice. Then we saw them play their set, which was more than enjoyable, we also caught a bit of Buraka Som Sistema.

Lights. I cannot help but remember an insane amount of bright lights at this festival. Was it necessary? I don’t know. Maybe.

Bumper cars. They were fun.

I ran off solo to catch the beginning of the Crookers set. Now I know that “Day ‘N Night” is the most played out song since Jack Johnson found a ukulele, but I am a sucker for fidget-house. Smash some pills down me and prop me in front of one of their sets and there is no way I am not going to have a good time. I bopped around for about twenty minutes, on my own, doing my own thing, looking like that weird guy you always see dancing on his own in the corner of a club. I only managed to stay for a couple of tracks before I got a text from my lost friends and hustled over to Erol Alkan.

We retired back to the dressing room for more chitchat. Being slightly upset at missing Late of the Pier I saw fit to say “hola” to the long haired one as we crossed paths, that went a little way to repairing my upsetness (I am aware that “upsetness” isn’t actually a word, but it fits really well) at missing their slot. Someone later said that they had walked off after two songs or something anyway because the sound wasn’t very good. I bet they would have played the whole set if I was there, definitely.

Then it was time to leave.

As we were bundling into a taxi, Crookers pulled up in a taxi adjacent to ours. As they got out, I saw this as a great opportunity to try out my Italian. “Wå Fra, como estai?” Regional slang only spoken in Napoli, if they knew what that meant perhaps they thought I was a well-travelled vagabond at best, more likely than not they just thought I was a bit weird. We shook hands and I felt like a bit of a dick the next morning. But that’s okay, as soon as they start making music with Kanye West I will get my high horse and no longer think they are good.

We arrived back at the hotel and said our goodbyes. I nervously squeezed through the ticket barriers to catch the metro, because I’m too cheap to pay seventy euro cents.

The following day was largely spent doing a lounge-off at the beach. Everybody won. Lauren and Kemo got sweaty five euro massages from Asian women probably owned by the mafia or Burger King. We made sandwiches and Lauren ate some lard. Magic times.

Again we met later that night on a terrace for dinner and some sange-cava. For the most part the topics of conversation were music based, an arena where I can usually hold my own, rather well. Not this time. Names were being thrown about and half the time I wasn’t sure if they were discussing bands or just saying random words, it wouldn’t have mattered either way, I was out of my depth. I let my concentration wander to a house party across the road and stared at their balcony. There was a man and a woman sat outside talking to each other, obviously I had no idea what they were saying. So I scripted it in my head instead. We’ll call the woman Ramira and the man David.

The best years of David’s life are behind him. He can’t hack it in the fast lane anymore, he needs to slow down, needs to think about knocking someone up. Step up Ramira, eight years his junior, a viable candidate. They both sit on Ikea fold up chairs on the balcony.

David: Ramira, you look lovely tonight. Like a really shiny bottle.

Ramira: David, your words are kind. But you are notorious for your playboy lifestyle. I can’t get
involved with a man like you.

David: I’m a changed man. I have a bible and everything.

Ramira turns to gaze at the world beyond the balcony. David puts his hand on her thigh. Ramira quickly gets up, scowls at David and storms inside. David is left alone with his thoughts.

That only took about ninety seconds in my head, if that. We were at the dinner table for a much larger amount of time.

One of that evening’s main problems was that I didn’t actually have a ticket. Pablo to the rescue. On our way to Sonar we had the taxi stop at the sound man Pablo’s dwelling spot and pick up his pass. I promised it would get back to him after he told me he collects them. Kemo said he’s been on the road for like ten years, he should probably think about recycling them. The pass had a photo on it, and although we had completely different hair and skin tones, I thought the fact that he was wearing sunglasses in the photo could only be a good thing. It wouldn’t matter, nobody even checked, I could have been Chinese. Maybe I will be next time, that’ll be really hard though.

By the time we finally arrived, I had missed Animal Collective, another one of the bands I had really wanted to see. We watched a bit of Orbital, none of us were really feeling it. We went to some office and convinced a woman to give us backstage passes for that evening aswell. Then we drank the free beer and discussed all things topical.

Things get hazy from then on, later that evening I spent about six hours in a hotel room and got mocked for not knowing about some lady disease called “the beast”.

Another beach day followed as did the goodbyes. An enjoyable weekend.

I like English people.