Wednesday, April 29, 2009

fucking with me cause I'm a teenager, with a little bit of gold and a pager


Matteo returned to Italia, for reasons not too far away from that thing called love. Manu took his room. He is from Naples and reminds me of this daily. He is a peach. His English is comically brilliant and just as comically crude. His pronounciation of words like blowjob will forever make me smile, "blujub". The important thing is that he is always up for a laugh. Always.

Here is a Manu experience:

We went out to Apollo on Monday. Again. What separates this occasion from the rest is that I was fairly wasted. You can say whatever you want, €3 mojitos are always a good idea. Even if the mint has gone off. Always.

So it was just Fanny, Marco, Manu and I,
Enchanted flatmates, saviors of Barcelona,
Breaking moves on the dance floor of Eden.

The general consensus was that we had a good night. We left early because Manu wanted to go home. We waited for the number N6, our nightbus. I ended up drunkenly trying to pitch my current feature idea to a random Dutch girl. She wasn't impressed, she kept trying to exploit holes in the plot. I think it'll be a box-office smash. She will rue the day.

We got off the bus. Manu seemed to have a renewed source of energy. He was dancing around as if it were a Christmas production of the Nutcracker. Then he ran over a car. I have witnessed this type of behaviour before, back in 2005:

It was a sad, sad night. The boys of Bath were all leaving for university the next day. We knew we would be making new friends. No longer would it be us against the world, we would have to make new allies. Tension filled the air. Tears were nearby, perhaps only two streets away. We needed to do something fraternal, something we could cherish, something we could tell these new friends at university that would give us an early advantage as a cool kid. I think I speak for everyone that night when I say we weren't disappointed. Thank you Paul Webb. We had all agreed to have our picture taken running over a parked police car. A grand idea, I think you will agree. No sooner had the first of us laid a tennis shoe over the car, when a riot van came storming round the corner. Webby had a split second to make a choice, to give himself up, or to run? Obviously run. He was apprehended via various rugby tackles and spent the night in a cell. He wasn't raped. He might have had a cheeky wank though. His sister bailed him out in the morning and I believe he went straight to work. Mr and Mrs Webb are still unaware.

Anyway. Back to life, back to reality. Back to Manu.

I said something to the boy like "probably not a good idea", although to be fair I was a waste and I probably didn't say anything at all. I like to believe that even when intoxicated, I am mature. He did not heed the warning I may or may not have given him. Manu ran over another car. Then one police man came across the street and said something. I smiled at him and swayed a bit. Another policeman appeared from another direction. Another policeman crawled down from a tree above. By the end of it all there were about six policeman surrounding us, twelve if you account for my double vision. They started asking us questions. In Spanish. It soon became clear, yet again, that I am still terrible at this language. The officer spoke to me in English. Normally I wouldn't patronize a police officer, that is never a good idea. But I was waste city. He said "Empty your pockets and put your things in the car", I said "On the car, I think you'll find that you mean on the car". He gave me a much more aggressive search than was necessary. And broke my home-made wallet that I have managed to make last almost three months. After checking the car for damage, searching us, reporting our ID's back to base, there was not much they could do, so they let us go home. We were outside our front door the whole time. We live opposite the police station. I love Manu, but thats not exactly rocket science, nay, thats not even Pythagorus theory. It took us a few seconds to realise the police had accidentally walked off, still in possession of our IDs. Now they looked like the dickheads. Good.

Living across the road from la policia is a bit weird. I do feel a bit safer, slightly more secure, I guess. I know that if there is ever a murderer in our flat, I can just run out to the balcony and shout across the road, which I think is positive. But smoking weed in your own living room? Well the paranoia gets kicked up an extra notch, maybe even 30%. So I keep those joints to a minimum.

Friday, April 24, 2009


N.I.E. - Numero de Intentidad de Extranjero - Basically a certificate that has a unique number on it and your name too.

Any European who wants to legally work in Spain needs a NIE. So it was essential I get one as soon as possible. Realistically speaking it takes about an hour to sort out. It took me 63 days to do this. That is not good. I'm pretty sure it took less time for Frodo to trek all the way to Mordor and back, not to mention having to deal with the deadliest of evils and going through some major character development. In 63 days the only evil I've had to battle is my bank account, and the major character progression has been learning to stay away from the prostitutes on la Rambla, which I'm still getting the hang of. At this rate I'll be lucky to have a job before I retire.

To be fair I've had plenty of distractions. Visitors, the beach, walking around, and of course I've been really busy eating three meals a day, every day. In all honesty I have no decent excuse. It just became something I kept putting off (like that guy in North Korea, Kim Lapsang-Souchong blowing up the world). My main antagonist in this quest was having to wake up early, the office opens at 9am and closes at 2pm, thats a small window of opportunity for a fellow like me.

Another problem was the internet.
Now I love the internet, I can't imagine having to pay for things like pornography or classified CIA documents (more often than not, the same thing). But sometimes when you are looking for some simple information it can be ridiculous.

I was trying to find out what was needed to get this NIE, and I must have consulted about 10 different websites. All completely contradicting themselves. Some sites offered a printable version of the form so I could be ahead of the game, the problem? Each site had a different form. One site said I needed to go to one side of Barcelona in the morning, another told me a different office in the afternoon, then there the ones that said things about the police station, but they kept saying different police stations. Turns out it was a police station, in the morning. But what to bring? Oh, what to bring. Passports, photocopies of passports, photocopies of photocopies, driving licenses, bank statements, dna, children, cakes? Just a passport and a photocopy as it turns out.

So on this day, I awoke at 6.30. Completely unnecessary. The office opened at 9am, I have no idea why I awoke at this time. Was I nervous? Not particularly when I woke up, but whilst lying in bed for 2 hours awake before leaving, I had time to think. "What if I get lost?" "What if I really can't understand what they are saying (I get this all the time)?" "What if they laugh at my passport photo?"

Anyway I nervously arrived at Barceloneta, I practically counted the steps to the police station. Then counted the steps back to the photocopy shop i accidentally walked past.

So this is me. When I know that I have to speak Spanish, I get a little bit nervous, little bit excited. I never know whats going to happen, it could be amazing, it could be shockerama. And then. The photocopy place happened. I was excited this time, the girl was fairly hot and all the signs were good. I gave her a mug of my verbal tea. She just nodded, took my passport, photocopied it and rang it up on the till. At the time I was not impressed, I wanted at least a bit of a response, just "hola" and a smile would have sufficed. However, in retrospect I can understand. She works in a photocopy shop where the most money she ever rings up on the till is fifteen eurocents, that must be a bit depressing.

I went back to the police station and began the waiting game. There was a police officer manning the queue. If there was ever a reason why the police are referred to as pigs, by street thugs such as you and I, this officer was it. I don't mean to be rude, if anything he was a bit cute and cuddly, but his neck fat was bigger than his face and he looked like he belonged on a barbecue.

Then I went through all the bureaucratic procedures, filled everything out, paid my ten euros at the bank, and returned to the police station for my certificate. There is no point lying, by the end of it I was basically on the same MDMA from bestival 2007. I was extremely happy. The clerk behind the desk looked genuinely happy for me too, and him smiling made me feel happier still. I was so happy that on my way out I squeezed Piggy McPig on the shoulder and said "gracias", he looked at me with contempt. He was not impressed. No one touches Piggy McPig. His glare took me from bestival MDMA to cheap pills in an instant. Oh well, I was super high for a few seconds and it was lovely.

Now I can apply for jobs...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

i'm a taurus, not an old man

So. About a month ago when I was in Valencia, I went to a bullfight. I know what you're thinking. "Charlie, you are about as right wing as Nemo the fish. You obviously weren't going to enjoy this". But every once in a while, one must dip their wick into the candle of culture and this seemed like an opportunity to do just that (although I am fairly sure getting chased around by a cow was pioneered on a farm in Yorkshire somewhere).

It was unplanned a bit like 'nam, we were wandering around Valencia in the ridiculous heat, between ice creams, and we stumbled upon the plaza de torros. It was cheap and we were bored. In 'nam, with this kind of approach you end up sleeping with a boy that looks like a girl and in Spain, you see a bull getting killed.

I'd like to say I enjoyed myself a bit, but I didn't. It's not the worst thing in the world, but its right up there with midget porn.

We were sat right in the eye of the sun, literally the sun was staring at us. Personally I think it is rude to stare. But what can you say to the sun? Technically it controls the universe, so it probably doesn't care about me getting burnt.
Of course we were half an hour early, so I used the time to increase my chance of skin cancer and watch the old people struggling to get to their seats.

Old people in Spain. I think these people look much older than English old people. As usual I have a theory on this. It's because there is more sunlight in Spain, their wrinkles cast deeper shadows and are therefore more prominent. I noticed the other day in lidl that old people cough a lot here, and that they don't really bother covering their mouths, even in the supermarket. Twats. Whilst choosing bread, chorizo and activia yoghurts, I witnessed three separate coughing fits, by three separate perpetrators. Its probably all that smoking, or maybe there was an asbestos leak in lidl. Or both.
Then I was approached by one of these veterans. She was obviously suffering from some disease, and I'm not just referencing the fact that she was speaking in catalan, this broad was crazy. Not crazy good, like Fatal Attraction, although on second thought that would have been worse. As soon as she started speaking to me, I looked around for a security guard or someone who was getting paid. No one. I finally figured out what she was saying, she wanted to know the date her cheese went off. I told her. She asked again. I told her again. She said something else. I kicked her. No, but I wanted to. Once she got the point that my Spanish was limited, she started saying something like "Seven languages for the humans, one for the dwarfs, and one for the elves. One world language to rule them all.", again that's a lie, but she definitely said something about the world and she looked a bit like a goblin. Whilst at the checkout, I'm sure she was slagging me off to her mate. When leaving I cursed her with arthritis from Mordor.

So. The bullfight. You can guess what happened. They killed some bulls. I could probe deeper, perhaps consider the underlying issues of bullfighting etcetera, but I'd rather talk about how they were dressed. These men didn't belong in a ring, they belonged in Ghetto on Tottenham Court Road. To say they looked gay does no justice to their attire. Tight outfits complete with shiny diamante looking accessories glistening in the sun, waving around pink flags, even Elton would say they were overdoing it. When 'shanking' the bull, they deem this a suitable time to dance around like a fairy. The best part is all these old Spanish men go and cheer them all on, like a beauty pageant with bulls.

After two fights I was growing bored with their outfits, and I was getting slightly irritated by the whole murder thing. Don't get me wrong, I would not take a bullet for my cat and I am not a vegetarian. One of the things I miss most from home is the sainsbury's taste the difference burger range. But when you just taunt an animal for ages, tire it out, gradually stab it some more, finally kill it, then stand absorbing the crowd's applause, well frankly you look like a tosser and its a bit boring. Then expecting me to watch the same thing five times? Not likely.

Then they go on to drag it around the stadium, covering it in sand and making it 100% uneatable. Waste. So I left, secure with both the knowledge that I would only ever go to one of these things again if there was a barbecue after wards, and that my skin was a shade of red not even Dulux could match.

The positive thing that I noticed was that everyone (tourists not included) who attended this pitiful attempt at a sporting event had grey hair. Old people. After speaking to Spanish people my age, I realised this is very much a dying tradition. They told me they are not fans at all, they think it is cruel and inhumane, then we all ate chorizo.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My busiest week by far.

During my time in Spain this week particularly stands out, because I had things to do.

Firstly, I was having my first real visitor to stay. Oliver Davis, gym addict.
Secondly, an old friend of my dad's had invited me to a week of writing workshops/lectures (in English).

Balancing the two would ultimately prove too much for a mere mortal such as myself to handle, but I gave it my best shot.

I had arranged to meet Ollie at 12.30pm on Sunday. Daylight-saving would be my first test. I was destined to fail. The phone rang, after a moment of contemplating whether I should pick up or not (due to the financial pain inflicted upon accepting foreign calls), I hesitated and pressed that little green button
"Where are you" Ollie demanded,
"In Bed"
"What are you doing there?"
"I'm doing sleep"
"You do know what time it is?"
At this point I check the time on my phone. It reads 11.38am.
"No, you dick. It's 12.30"
After trying to convince Ollie that because he had just come from England, he obviously didn't know the real time. Surely he was jet-lagged. I remembered that pointless daylight-saving thing and conceded defeat. Taking an hour from any man is a sin, but when he has already been cursed with ginger hair, it feels even more like a kick in the teeth.
"I'll be there asap, sorry"

Around two weeks prior to Ollie's arrival, I finally realised that his trip was clashing with my writing lectures. I had known about both things for a long time, but failed to see the schedule conflict. So I dropped some verbs and adjectives regarding the whole writing lectures thing and got him an invitation too. He agreed to attend the first one on Monday with me.

We awoke in some bracket of time around 12pm. The screening of Control with an introduction by the writer would be starting in 30 minutes. Its a shame, because I really wanted to go to that one, I quite like that film. It would have been impossible, what with it taking an hour to get to the actual place. So we decided we would go to a lecture at 7pm entitled From Shorts to Features.

Everything was going to plan, we caught the metro, we caught the train, we laughed, we cried. There was a moment of panic when we almost got off at the wrong station, but we survived and are stronger for it. We arrived in Terrassa (the town where this shindig was going down) and it was raining much more than was necessary.

Exiting the station I was fairly sure I had no idea where we were, Ollie could see right through me. I pulled out the notepad on which i had tried, to the best of my ability, to replicate a google map, freehand. The rain smudged the cheap ink across the pages.
"Shall we ask someone?" Ollie inquired. Still not confident in my Spanish speaking ability, I didn't see this as a viable option.
"Lets... just... look behind the station" I replied, pretending to know what was meant with those words. Maybe we would find a goblin offering us his navigation for a couple of gold coins or perhaps someone had misplaced Aladdin's magic carpet in a skip. To my surprise one of the roads behind the station had a name that I had scribbled down on my homemade map. We marched through the rain triumphantly.

Eventually we found the ESCAC building and although we were wetter than Madonna in the eighties, we were overjoyed. We got to reception and as is common when speaking to all people of Spain, I asked the receptionist if she spoke English.

I have found that usually when the Spanish say "a little bit", its much different to when us English say "un poco", we mean we can say a couple sentences about our family or a holiday we took in France, for three weeks, camping, and if the listener is lucky they will hear about the mode of transport we took. When the Spanish sheepishly say "a little", what they really mean is that whilst they are capable of disscusing abortion, they are not quite comfortable talking about quanttum mechanics. Not just yet anyway.

Well this lady was an exception to the rule, between my broken spanish and her limited English, I managed to obtain some directions.

Standing outside the lecture room, Ollie and I considered eating some pastries we had picked up on our voyage of moisture. What we thought was bacon, turned out to be some disgusting fish. So we chucked them in a bin and crammed kinder bars into our mouths, in an attempt to stifle the ferocity of our breath. We then established a sniffling code in case more kinder bars were needed during the lecture.

The lecture started familiarly enough. A powerpoint presentation read "Hola". Rather quickly it dawned on Ollie and I that we had stumbled into a Spanish lecture, which had something to do with mobile communications. The lecturer said something about facebook, people put their hands up, I put my hand up. Ollie glared at me. The lecturer started asking questions. Me and Ollie looked at each other, this would not do.
"Ollie, lets run away", a statement that would have had such different connotations had it been only a few hours earlier when we were lying in bed together.
"Definitely", the response expected in either situation.
Momentarily, the thought crossed my mind that this would probably be a really good way to improve my Spanish. I don't know if "momentarily" quite sums up the abruptness of this thought, but it will have to do. The lecturer looked down at his notes for a split-second, but that was all we needed. We got out. We were free men. I can't speak for Ollie, but the freedom I felt was similar to one I would associate with this scenario;

Somewhere in middle America, a black male (Kendal) is sentenced to 14 years for a murder he has not committed. A couple years of hardship pass by, culminating in the death of his only child at the hands of avian flu. He isn't even allowed to go to the funeral. All seems lost, then out of nowhere, a 20-something hot-shot lawyer (Lindsey) takes on his case pro-bono. After her early doubt, she soon realises his innocence and their relationship develops with only bars seperating their love. Finally Lindsey realises her father is actually the murderer and she has to choose between her white-hood wearing father and her chocolate lover. After a successful re-trial, Kendal is free.

I felt like Kendal. I know that seems a bit over the top, but I was really scared.

I emailed my dad's pal, relaying my troubles of the day and saying I would try again tomorrow. I left out the story of Kendal.
On the way home we bought a litre of smirnoff, because I thought the chances were that we would be going out. I managed to break that bottle at the train station. One whole litre swimming on the floor by the ticket gates. Not for the first time in my life, I felt like a right dick. Sorry Ollie.

We bought another bottle of vodka.
After much umming and ahhing, me and Ollie decided to go to the same club I have previously written about (the one with the naked band). We made this decision at about 12am, so I mixed some coke and vodka and we managed to get on the last metro. Needless to say my days as a bartender have long since passed and there was far too much vodka in this mix. Gross.

We arrived met Marco and some Italian chicks, and waited in a queue for a long time. Then I felt the first tremor pass, a few ripples later and I looked back, Ollie had turned into a slightly sexy girl but with serious eyebrow issues. My gaze stretched further back, actually Ollie had not had a super-rapid sex change, but had been distanced from me by the force of the crowd. I told him to make a power move. He did not make said power move. It felt a bit like one of those Second World War movies where a father and son are seperated by the crowd, without the whole holocaust subplot. Then 'ruck of the year' broke out. Had it not been for the clothes on my body and the lack of an erection, I would have definitely been raping the person in front of me. She gave me a look that quite blatuntly accused me of orchestrating the whole event, just for this moment. I looked back at her, offering a feeble "I'm not actually a rapist" smile. I could tell she wasn't buying it.

As it turned out 'ruck of the year' lead to no-one else being allowed in the club. So we went home. I felt a bit like I had let Ollie down, but truth be told I was kind of glad to be able to get some sleep before the next workshop event.

I could go on about the whole week in Terrassa, but that would be boring. To cut a long story short it gave me an invaluable insight into a side of the industry I have little experience with. I was able to quiz sriptwriters old and new. Of course when I was talking to these people I was concentrating much more on what they were saying, rather than what I was, which I'm fairly sure lead to me saying a few things that didn't make sense. I prefer not to think about that though. It also taught me that I need to network. Networking is like a competition of who can spread their name the fastest and leave a long lasting impression, yes a bit like a vicious STD. So, I need to becoming the AIDs of the networking game. At the moment I am much more like parkinsons, not contagious and not very interesting.

A special mention is definitely needed for the food. It was the best food I've had for ages. On the first day I was cautious and had one plate. By the end of the week, I was simply put; abusing the system.

My dad's pal asked his friend (a feature director), if he could get me running work in London, he said yes. Thats good news. During this particular director's lecture he dabbled in on-set beef, citing an example of being on the toilet and hearing two crew members slagging him off. After his lecture I saw him going into a cubicle. I stood by the sink where I was joined by another tutor, he asked my opinion of the talk. I was tempted to badmouth the director, then when he emerged from the cubicle have a joke with him about it, thus forming an unbreakable comic bond with a famous director, quickly becoming his protégé and taking over the world. After quickly playing the whole scene out in my head, and realising how difficult it would be to successfully pull off, I settled for "yeah, really interesting".

Ollie and I again tried and failed to go out in the evening. Even when we found a bar, we realised that is was likely to be six euros for a beer and decided to walk home in the rain.

It was a good week. I like Barcelona.