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.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

nico the chef

Nico is a twenty-four year old boy from Naples, the older brother of Manu's best friend. But his face has fourteen written all over it. He cooks good food, with vegetables and everything. His English is much better than what I have found to be the usual level for an Italian. Sadly, he has left us now and has moved onto Cadiz.

The first time I properly spent some time with Nico, we got quite deep. No Mark, not with penises, with words. He told me how his ex-girlfriend changed his life, how she opened his eyes to the world. He told me how he wants to move to a less fortunate country and help out. It didn't take me long to realise that Nico was a good guy, and that I was a bit jealous of his ambition. It took Nico two days in Barcelona to find a job and I am on four months and counting.

One time we went to a house party. Having a good time. As usual the rumours quickly spread that the police were on the way to put a halt to the joy. At this point Nico was talking to an intoxicated Mexican hussy. Next thing I know we are all being hustled out of the flat. Nico is staying behind. Just days earlier Nico was saying how much he was craving some sexy times. I kind of expected him to stay there and do some damage. What I hadn't expected was for Marco to avert my attention to the balcony, when we were on the street below. In full view of anyone who cared to look up, was the Mexican girl leaning over the balcony, groaning, out of view was Nico pulling the strings. Got to love Nico.

Friday, June 5, 2009


When you have little money in your bank and no steady income forthcoming, going on holiday isn't usually the best idea. Never one to conform, I went on a little holiday.

We left Les Glories on Monday night at three in the am. Before that we got drunk, which makes bag packing a lot more interesting. We caught a taxi to the train station, I performed my usual taxi driver spiel: trying to talk football in Spanish. Trying.

Then it went like this: coach, plane, arrival in Sevilla, hangover, spending an hour looking for the hostel in 35 degrees heat, taking a light nap in the Granada University courtyard, getting sun burnt at 8am in the morning, still being hungover, finding the hostel, sleeping till 7pm.

We awoke and ambled around Sevilla trying to locate a super market. Our feet pattered along the wonky Mediterranean streets, was I still a bit drunk? Still? Maybe. I used this walking time to try and teach Manu and Marco some English slang, one that particularly stuck was "skeet skeet", for those of you not in the know, it means to ejaculate. After some pronunciation corrections and asking about eight people for directions we found a supermarket and bought some supplies/vodka, one of Marco's skills is that he always seems to know his way back, something I never seem capable of and so we returned to the hostel with Marco leading the way. Everytime Manu cooks pasta he is convinced it is going to be some life changing experience for me, that somehow "real Italian pasta" is going to change my life. "Real Italian pasta" actually means tomato puree and pasta, chapter one in the single male cookbook.

I rifled through my suitcase, and this is where I realised that perhaps being drunk whilst you pack your suitcase isn't such a brilliant idea afterall. Definitely didn't need four pairs of shoes, definitely needed more underwear.

We played some table football and played some vodka. Went out drunk, got drunker, and returned to the hostel and fell asleep.

The next day we took in some of the sights/food. One place we dined at for breakfast (in the photo above) was very Spanish, they wrote the bill on the counter in chalk and laughed at Manu when he asked for a glass of water. The first thing I drank that day was beer, and it would turn out that was the same beverage I would be drinking for the rest of the day. What a surprise.

I won't try and remember the names of historic places, that will bore you and I. We went to some fantastic gardens, literally beautiful. There was a labyrinth, Islamic architecture, fountains, and a few hot tourists. After that we wandered around the old town.

A key mistake we made whilst booking this trip, was failing to realize it would take us out of Barcelona during the Champions League final. Schoolboy error. Instead of a sea of Barca shirts in Plaza Espanya, we would have to make do with an Irish bar serving Fosters. Joy. During the not so memorable final we conversed with several locals, I didn't understand much, so I just kept saying "Steven Gerrard? El mejor jugador del mundo", which must have been a bit boring for them but at least it allowed me to feel like part of the conversation. After the game we went to some clubs.

The first club felt like a cheaper version of those 2 Slags in Greece type reality TV shows, it was a foam party. Not to be enjoyed.
The second club was where it got interesting. A couple of American girls were at the club, girls we had been previously chatting with at the Irish pub. Manu fancied one of them and was asking me for English words to use in his seduction act. After noticing the crucifix around her neck, I was considering what would be the best/most offensive move. Then we bumped into the hostel receptionist and chatted with her for a bit. By the time I had thought of a line for Manu, I turned back to see him trying his hardest to make the Spice Girls song "2 Become 1" an actuality. To say "he was kissing" the hostel receptionist does not do him justice, to say "he almost swallowed her nose at one point" would be far closer to the truth. Me and Marco walked home together at five in the morning, Manu had long since disappeared. Long since.

I woke up in my hostel bunk with the usual parched mouth and light headache, I reached down for the communal bottle of water and saw Manu sleeping in the bed opposite me. He was not dead or lost. Of course. Being a lover of gossip, I got the low-down. In Manu's own English words; "I did skeet skeet on her face". Brilliant. After watching me laugh for a long time, he looked over to me and said "What? It's normal for me". I find it really funny that Manu shagged the receptionist from the hostel, probably because she looked like a chipmunk. What was even funnier was having the same receptionist checking us out of the hostel that very day.

That was pretty much all that happened in Sevilla. In trying to get to Granada we managed to catch about four buses (one of which, was called c4, a name shared with a common explosive, I couldn't help thinking Keanu Reeves was sure to come along and pap some lead into the driver, I waited patiently but he never made it). When we finally got to a station that had services to Granada, it took us about twenty minutes to realise that we were standing in the train station and not the bus station. The bus station was on the other side of town, so we settled. The only food in sight was overpriced and we had time to kill. So I ventured off into the streets for some edibles. I wanted to buy something Spanish, honestly I would have loved some takeaway tapas, but they don't do that here, so I swallowed my pride and settled for Burger King. If it helps I did feel guilty about that. I rocked back at the train station with the spoils, three extra value meal deals. Marco was fair game, but Manu wasn't, which meant I had to murder two double cheeseburgers, rank.

During the train ride from Sevilla to Granada we did what most men in their early twenties would do, we compiled our all-time football dream teams. I got heavily mocked for the inclusion of Robbie Fowler, but he has scored the quickest hat-trick in premiership history, fuck maradona, and his world cups. After the tears we slept.

We arrived in Granada and trekked through the concrete jungle. It took me too long to realize that the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range stood on the horizon, overlooking the city. Its a strange feeling lugging around 15kgs in 35 degree heat and looking up at snow peaked mountains. The guy who's flat we were staying in was not back from university yet. So we went for some tapas. This is were I found out something amazing, something beautiful, something life-changing:

At many taperias in Granada, you don't have to pay for the tapas. They come free with the drinks. Imagine that, pay a euro for a beer and get a free ham and cheese toastie. With snacking being my number one recreational pastime, I was in my element.

We went back and met the guys who would be giving us a bed for the next few days. Mattia, a young long-haired Italian, and Paco, a slightly tubby Andalucian guy with a cheeky grin. They talked in Spanish, I did some casual nodding. I've almost perfected it. But sometimes nodding is the wrong thing to do, so I'm also getting good at judging Spanish speaker's reactions to my nods early on, and being able to turn a positive nod into a negative shake, before its too late.
I do wish I could speak Spanish better, it would make a lot of things easier, and not just nodding. For example, when me and Marco were going to get some cash from the ATM, he just stopped and rubbed his elbow on a nearby drainpipe. I wanted to ask him why he did that, but I didn't have the words, so instead I've wasted hours thinking about it. Was it a signal to another Italian across the road? Was he rubbing the paint onto his skin? Is that why most Italians look so tanned? Or did a bird drop knowledge on him?

That night we went to a really shit club called Kapital, this is where I realized that I cannot handle the power of the strobe. I haven't seen a strobe light in England since my last school disco, they weren't special then and unlike denim jackets, they aren't good now either.

The next day for the early evening we trotted up a hill to Mirador de Sant Nicolás. By the time we reached the summit I was an advertisement for sweat, but it was a peachy view. We were stood outside a church, staring across a small valley at Alhambra. There were hippies hand-making really impressive jewelrey and selling chilled beer, and tramps playing guitars in some Spanish fashion. It was pleasant.
Later that night we went to a botellon. Botellon. In barcelona this means going to a friends house and drinking on the cheap, or sometimes at the beach, the biggest one I've been to was probably around four hundred people. The one in Granada was in a massive carpark and was easily over two thousand people, it was mental and reeked of piss. We were joined by four Italian girls, two named Valeria and two named Valentina, I kid you not.
At said botellon, Manu and Mattia approached me and said "¿hacemos una vuelta?", in English "shall we go for a little walk?". Looking back on it I should have picked up on the idea that it might be something more than just "a little walk", them being Italians and all. Don't worry, it wasn't an initiation, I didn't whack any body. Neither was it I, who was to be whacked. Actually, it was a proposition. Would I like to shag one of the two Valentinas? Excuse me what? It turns out she hadn't fornicated for a while and saw me as a solution to the problem. I let my beta-male shine through and gracefully declined. No thankyou, I would be okay. Is that normal? I remember in primary school getting your friends to ask girls out for you, but when you throw sex into the equation, it gets a little bit weird, even if it does save a lot of time. Then Manu asked me if I would like to shag any of the Italian girls. If I was taken aback before, at this latest question I was steadily in reverse. Again I declined, clearly I am a bit too much of a prude. After later finding out their political beliefs lay with Berlusconi, I was more than sure I had made the best decision.

Granada passed by slowly, we went to more euro clubs where everybody looks the same and dances like a twat.

We spent a day at the beach. I got laughed at for rocking spf 30. Cancer isn't funny though is it? Pricks.

The nice thing about staying with people that live in a city is that they can show you the real side of the city. Like where to get the best kebabs.

On our last night we got into Paco's car. He pulled his car aerial out from his glove compartment and screwed it onto the roof, all with one hand, whilst driving with the other one. I don't know how safe that is, but I was fairly impressed nonetheless. He took us upto another viewpoint and we all ate our dinner in the darkness staring down at the illuminated city, particularly Alahambra and the slightly less impressive town Cathedral. They ate kebabs. I opted for a bocadillo, I have no idea what was in it, but it tasted lush. We shared some beers and practiced Spanish swearwords. Light bonding you might say. There were a few other couples nearby in their cars, obviously it was a romantic spot. All being boys, I kind of expected a gay orgy, it never materialised.

The following day me and Marco left for Cadiz. Manu remained in Granada because he didn't want to spend ten more euros or something. I got slightly sunburned in the bus. Is that even allowed? Its definitely not fair. Later that day I discovered that the aftersun product I had been using all week, contained shards of glitter. I had put that on my face every night before we went out. Lovely, I'd looked like I'd been shagging tinkerbell all week.

On arrival in Cadiz we met Dave, a friend made the previous summer in a Croatian campsite. Dave was kind enough to put us up. But Dave is kind. That might be the first adjective I would use to describe him if quizzed, closely followed by cool, smart and casual (tm). Walking from the bus terminal to Dave's flat, we managed to pretty much see the whole city, which left us with little much to do for the rest of the day. So we did the tour again. This time Dave added exciting bits of information. Cadiz has something to do with Christopher Columbus, an Eternal Flame, was conquered by the Romans, and is home to the beach where Haley Berry looks all kinds of sexy in James Bond. We saw homeless people fighting with beer bottles and chairs on the beach. It was memorable.

We sampled a few bars. They were saturated with American's, a few of whom, it looked like knew all about saturation. We were having a pleasant drink, trying to engage Marco in the English conversation, when suddenly a plump little yank came and stood at our table. Her name was Ashton, yes like Aston Kutcher. Is Ashton a unisex name? (It certainly felt weird at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight it seems now that it might be okay). She simply came over "because I thought y'all looked interesting", you have to hand it to Americans, they might be loud, overweight and annoying, but they don't lack confidence. She went on to impress us with the fact that she was staying with a family in town, and she even got her on key! She could come and go as and when she pleased, then she got her key out to compete the show-and-tell. She was from Georgia, I don't know if I have to say much else. We also saw another American guy rapping along to Jay-Z's Me and My Girlfriend, in an attempt to impress a girl. I thought that when he started bopping his shoulders and rapping about burberry swimwear, he'd sealed the deal, but no, she wasn't lapping it.

The following days were chill, beach basicamente. Marco left a day earlier than me, because in typical Charlie fashion I had booked the wrong day to fly out on. When my time came to leave, I hugged Dave goodbye and boarded the bus to Sevilla. Once in Sevilla I had no idea what I was doing, it actually took me an hour and a half to find the bus for the airport, which once I was on I bumped into some Italian girls I knew, Isabella and Simona, by accident. I smuggled some suntan lotion through security. We flew home.

Home being Barcelona.