June 2017


The photo above was taken from Park Güell above Barcelona. I had to go up on tip-toe to see over a wall, hence the rather poor result, however, everything that exists in the city can be seen here (I’m sure I could have found a better location to take the photo but it was around forty degrees centigrade). I missed the park last time I visited so we made a special effort to get there. Not sure that it was worth the entrance fee (it was free last time), although €4.90 hardly breaks the bank. However, all things Gaudi are worth seeing and this is no exception. It is rather small though and the climb to get there nearly finished us off (the bus was recommended which we scorned).

Having spent a week traipsing around this amazing city something occurred to me: the number of different cultures on display is staggering. There are so many people in our own country that maintain that foreign culture somehow waters down that of our own and yet, there is no sign of that kind of attitude in Barcelona. Quite the opposite. In fact, we found ourselves in the midst of a huge and very vocal demonstration that was aimed against tourists. Us. I was surrounded by people wearing shirts that read ‘Tourists Go Home!’ It was written in English so I guess they were referring to me as I pushed my way through their ranks in my bright shorts and vest holding my Sony HX60 aloft.


The thing is, there appears to be zero hostility towards the vast immigrant population that exists there. Okay, I’m not Spanish and don’t have Facebook friends in Spain that can give me a flavour of the mood on the street (right is an example of flavour on the street) but it just feels very peaceful. The crowd of protesters that I bumbled into even averted their faces away from me to avoid unnecessary confrontation (or to avoid the temptation of punching me in the mouth). I did meet a Spanish friend who lives there and he explained the protest: it is more about tourism slowing creeping into the residential areas of the city and the rise in airbnb. They don’t object to tourism per se, they just want to keep their own residential areas as places separate from the hedonism that often accompanies tourists abroad (I’ll refrain from labelling the English but they rarely make me proud). This doesn’t seem at all unreasonable and nothing like the rampant racism that our right-wing press tries to foment over here.

And, speaking of tolerance, I’ve just watched Jeremy Corbyn deliver a speech full of tolerance and love to the Glastonbury audience. Now, regardless of your politics, can anybody remember a time when a politician got rapturous applause from a music festival. Okay, Nelson Mandela, but he’s the only one. DSC02660

And just for balance, for any Tories that might be reading this (ha ha ha) here is a beautiful blue room. This is also from Park Guell and I don’t remember seeing as vivid a blue since I saw a Dali in the flesh at the Tate. It almost hurt your eyes to look at it and created a wonderful sense of calm and peace. It does make you wonder why, therefore, that right-wing politics adopted this colour to represent their party. You’d think they’d be more attracted to a colour that represented danger. Red…. Oh dear.

But seriously, I couldn’t help but be swept up by Jeremy’s rhetoric (maybe because I grew up in the seventies and we actually thought peace was on the cards then – or complete nuclear annihilation). And call me naive if you like but the idea that young people have become fired up enough to care and chant and even vote, it has to be a sign that the old order is finally in its death throes, doesn’t it? I hope that this movement in mood for the young, this political awakening, grows and thrives. People our age shouldn’t be making decisions about the world; half of us can barely see or remember what day it is. Bring on the youth. I like them, anyway.

DSC02528While on the subject of music, I was loitering around the back (or is it the front? Hard to tell – the fancy bit) of the Sagrada Familia, I noticed that one of the heavenly host was playing a bassoon. Anachronism is one of my favourite things. I do a lot of shakespeare acting (well, one a year) and I have yet to convince a director to allow an iPad of iPhone to creep into the otherwise traditional production. Just to piss off those who think everything is precious and to seriously amuse those who don’t. It’s an argument that I lost on a regular basis. Most – most, not all – tutors and lecturers insisted that absolutely everything had meaning and shouldn’t, even couldn’t, be changed. This is patently absurd to me and I would suggest that it’s patently absurd to any other writers out there. Yes, of course I would prefer that people think that everything I write has deep and carefully thought out meaning, but it doesn’t, some of it is shite. A lot of it is shite. It’s there to amuse, hopefully, or annoy or provoke. But that’s all it is. And I don’t think that just because something was written by some bloke in the sixteenth and seventeenth century makes that any different.

GinWhenever I go away I always try to bring something back. It doesn’t have to be that special or even relevant to the place that I’ve been. However, this time I managed to bring back something that is both special and relevant. At the risk of promoting alcohol abuse, I thought I would share this refreshing little picture. Not only does it make me smile but it also made my wallet smile. Less than €9 a bottle. I sounded like the milkman doing his round as I climbed the steps to the plane. Interestingly, bottled water was going for around €4 for a 500ml bottle. That makes it virtually the same price as gin. Perhaps when our brave new world starts we might have a return to something along the lines of a pricing policy. Remember the days when it was illegal to utterly rip people off simply because they are a captive audience? No? It did happen. And I know there were problems associated with that, mainly economic ones that I’m too thick to follow (or too easily bored) but it did create a fairer society in some respects; although I doubt it would have much impact on the price of water in Barcelona airport.