dimarts, 8 abril de 2014

Non too subtle metaphor of the day

Tenim un conill a casa. Hem apres que si li dones una gavia ampla i comoda, i li poses menjar i aigua fresca, ja pots deixar la porta oberta - el conill mira lo que hi ha per fora i torna a entrar sense cap problema.
Crec que si li tanquessem en una gavia mal-feta sense donar-li res a canvi, només insults i cops de pal, l'historia seria diferent i el conill aquest només estaria somniant el dia que pugues trencar la gavia per a escapar.
We have a pet rabbit now. We have learnt that as long as you have a large comfortable clean hutch, with plenty of food and water, you can leave the door open - the rabbit will have a little sniff outside but is happy to live in its hutch.
If, on the other hand, we stuffed it in a hutch unsuitable for its requirements and instead of fulfilling its needs, we just offered it insults or beat it with a stick, we'd be in a completely different relationship and there'd be no way of keeping that rabbit for long.

dilluns, 7 abril de 2014

The Expert

Does life ever seem like this to you?

(on the Youtube page, just below the video you can choose subtitles from a range of different languages if English isn't your strong point)

dimarts, 11 març de 2014

A doubly tragic tale - 11th March 2004 #11M

10 years ago today, on Thursday 11th March 2004, 191 people died in a "terrorist" attack on a train in Madrid. A small group of radical Islamists, connected in some way to Al Qaeda, left rucksacks loaded with explosives on a packed commuter train, and then presumably got off (not for them the Paradise and Virgins promised for freedom fighters apparently).
And basically that's all that matters, that 191 people's lives were wasted and hundreds of families destroyed forever - all for nothing.
As I think this is the main point of today's commemoration and I have nothing further to add, I wasn't going to blog about it today - but reading many comments and interviews with families of the victims, I have realised that many people outside of Spain do not know the other aspect to this story which has filled Spanish news on and off ever since that dreadful day....

Background: for some still surprising reason to me,  the Spanish government had previously abandoned its traditional role as a meeting point for cultures and religions, and thrown its hat in with Blair and Bush when they decided to invade Iraq in the search for pink unicorns, or was it weapons of mass destruction? This decision was very controversial and led to demonstrations of millions of Spaniards (and Catalans) demanding Spain keep out of that war. 
So, when the train bombs went off - just three days before Spanish general elections (14/3/2004) - there were two major ways it could influence the vote (a vote which the governing party, Aznar's right wing People's Party, was tipped to win):
1. If the Basque terrorists ETA had placed the bombs on the train, it would mean a huge pro-govt vote as they were/are firm believers in a strong fight against terrorism etc. The backlash against the Basques would have swept the PP back into power easily.
2. If the bombs were the work of Al Qaeda, as a kind of crazy (you kill our innocent citizens, we kill yours) response to Spain going to war against an Arab country, it would have proven millions of people right, and the PP would have been swept our of power for being in some way responsible for this revenge attack.

The bombs went off early Thursday morning and all through out the morning and afternoon, the government stated that they were pretty sure it was the work of ETA. Later on in the day, though, news came through that the Islamic nutters were claiming responsibility for the massacre. Many Basque experts said they'd been in touch with people in the know regarding ETA, and ETA were not involved. This news seeped through into the media, but not the big papers or the state TV. On Friday huge marches were held in many Spanish cities as a mark of outrage/respect/sympathy, but throughout the day, mouth to mouth, via internet etc, it was becoming clear that everyone believed it to be the work of the Al Qaeda group. So, the demonstration slogans quickly became a case of "we want to know the truth" as the government refused to even acknowledge this option - counting down the hours to election day (Sunday) and hoping they could keep the ETA option open. I think ETA even sent a press release denying anything to do with it (they are a terrorist group but apparently even they were shocked by this huge-scale massacre of innocents). Other clues started to appear, the kind of explosives used, ETA and Al Qaeda's usual way of operating, cassettes etc, all pointing towards the Al Qaeda link. However, President Aznar in person phoned the top national diaries to tell them it was definitely ETA and make sure Saturday's headlines indicated this and only this. Many papers still ignored the Al Qaeda option.

Saturday came and thanks to internet everyone knew the govt were just feeding us a bunch of nonsense, and more importantly, we knew why. People started sending phone messages to each other to organise spontaneous demonstrations once more outside the PP offices in all major cities. This was illegal as it is forbidden to hold any kind of political event on the day before elections here (it's called "the day for quite thought and contemplation"). But far too many people were outraged, not just at the 191 dead, but how the govt were blatantly using them for their own needs, and lying to the country, and the PP offices were virtually under siege until the early hours of Sunday with people screaming for the truth, and for the lies to stop. The lies swung the vote.
Sunday's elections confirmed what we all thought, a huge transfer of votes to the opposition, the socialist party who surprisingly won the elections and continued in power for 7 or 8 years.

Days later, the bombers blew themselves up when the police eventually found where they were staked out. After a long drawn-out investigation and court case, judges were able to confirm that they had been the only ones involved and that it was an Islamic thing, nothing to do with ETA.
Aznar and many right-wing journalists, however, even today still insinuate that maybe ETA secretly led the Islamists into doing this, and that maybe, just maybe, there was even somebody else involved, maybe the only ones who could have benefitted through this disaster - 3 days before an election...

So, as I said, a catastrophe for those involved and all Spain, but also an incredible story of how a government can put their own thirst for power above any respect for those who suffered that day.
Here is an excellent article in English by a Catalan journalist on these events.

divendres, 14 febrer de 2014

dijous, 13 febrer de 2014

Price Tag - Barcelona Messengers #choirs

Bé, un cop acabat el concurs del Oh Happy Day, encara que tradicionalment no he sigut gaire fan dels cors de gospel, hem seguit alguns dels grups que més ens va agradar durant el programa. De fet, gràcies al programa hem vist que no tot és musica d'esglesia, i els xiquets van guadir aprenent noves cançons i cantants de l'historia recent - cançons que anaven des de Video Killed the Radio Star fins al Rossinyol!
Un dels grups que ens va agradar més, per casualitat és l'unic (a banda dels Flumine) que ha vingut a cantar a les Terres de l'Ebre, Els Barcelona Messengers. A nadal els vam anar a vore a Ulldecona i vam gaudir d'un concert excel·lent.

As you may or may not remember, before Christmas we were following one of these TV show/competitions to find the "best" choir in Catalonia. Our local group put on a good show but unfortunately got eliminated in an early round - but we kept watching the show week in week out. I've never been much of a fan of gospel or church music but these were choirs for the modern age, churning out pop, rock, folk songs and doing a bl**dy good job of it. Anyway, we really liked this group and actually got to see them sing live in a local concert over the Christmas holidays ...

dimarts, 11 febrer de 2014

Excerpt from a Teenage Opera

Legend has it that you are allowed to break the Golden Rule of "Don't re-post the same old songs on your blog" when it's your birthday. So, happy birthday to me and today I'll repeat one of my fave tunes. I don't have just one favourite song, but there are a few which go round and round my "top 20" for different reasons - usually a mixture of bringing back great memories plus having everything I like in a decent ditty (in this case, simple understandable lyrics, great chorus to hum along to, trumpets, violins, children's choirs, a certain touch of strangeness and/or originality ...).
 So here goes ...

divendres, 7 febrer de 2014

Bohemian Rhapsody - The Muppets

Bloguear o treballar, aquesta és la pregunta. En fí, poc temps per bloguear ultimament, això de tornar a treballar té els seus pros i contres. Entre classes, traduccions, i altres temes - estudiant sobre el cargol poma, posant la meva gra de sorra en "el process", llegint una bona novel·la, gaudint de bona musica, barallant-nos en els petits de la casa,  i visitant metges continuament, pos, una mica de tranqulitat per escriure les entrades que vull fer (tinc almenys 20 temes apuntats!), pos, no ho trobo. Però no passa res.
Vinga, una mica de musica maestro :)
To blog or to work, that seems to be the question. All this "return to work" lark has its pros and contras, one of the downsides is that suddenly your days become a rat-race. Not that it's just work filling up my time of course (I didn't choose my life/job here to be stuck in a 9-5 stress bucket), but between teaching and translating, and living - theatre (more later), writing about apple snails (more later), being with the family, a good book (more later), searching out great music, seeing one doctor after another, and "investing" time doing nothing really productive on the internet - I'm finding it hard to find the "quiet hours" in a day which I need to write a half-decent post (and I've got a least 20 written down in a "to blog" list!). But, that's life folks.
So, music maestro.

divendres, 24 gener de 2014

Pantalons curts i genolls pelats - Els Pets

Ok, one more track by The Farts / Els Pets. This one speaks about childhood memories. Seeing they were born in 1963, we're talking about the early 70s here....

Long summer holidays in Catalonia, 12 weeks off school, sun and heat. Dirty fingernails and scraggly hair. Climbing peach trees. Skinny dipping in small pools. Afternoon snack for the kids - bread soaked in red wine and sugar, and a piece of quince cheese. Back out playing football till late. Watching the farmers coming back to town at dusk. Meat and toast for supper, then back out to play hide and seek in the coolness of the night. Sundays meant mass - clean cothes and a good dose of cologne. Maybe when we look back, we only remember the good times - but what times they were! Shorts and grazed knees (the title of the song).
And a nostalgic video.

dijous, 23 gener de 2014

Jo vull ser rei - Els Pets

By popular demand, more stuff by The Farts (Els Pets). This 1994 track is called "I want to be the King". If you know a little about Spanish and Catalan history, it should come as no surprise to find that most Catalans are not fans of the present Spanish monarchy - put back into power by Franco as his successor. Back when this song was written it was still difficult, a virtual taboo, to criticise or laugh at the royal family, but the young Els Pets were adventurous and risk-takers.
Basically the lyrics explain how nice it must be to be King, skiing, speed boats, motorbikes - and your bodyguard even starts it up for you... If we are all equal before the law, why can't I have a go at being King?

dimarts, 21 gener de 2014

Bombolles - Els Pets

Another cool album from 2013, which we got at Christmas and are listening to a lot now - L'Area Petita by Catalan group Els Pets (literally means 'the farts'). Here's the first single, Bombolles.

diumenge, 19 gener de 2014

Miles Kane again :)

No puc dir quin ha sigut el "LP de l'any 2013" perquè evidentment no els hi he sentit tots. Tampoc puc dir quin és el "LP de l'any 2013 dels LPs que tinc", perquè alguns possibles candidats només els vaig rebre al  desembre, o a Reis, i encara no els tinc controlats - per exemple, Els Pets, Billy Bragg, Arctic Monkeys ...
No, lo que puc dir és "El LP del 2013 que he escoltat més i que m'ha agradat més ara per ara". I és "Dont forget who you are" del Miles Kane.
So, can't really say which is the "Best album of 2013", as I've only got half a dozen of them. Can't even decide which is the "Best 2013 album in Brian's collection" as I only got some of them at Christmas and still haven't given them enough time and attention. Examples of recently-acquired stuff  include, Billy Bragg, Els Pets, Arctic Monkeys. So no, I'll announce the "2013 album I've listened to most and liked best so far".
It's Don't Forget Who You Are by Miles Kane.

dissabte, 18 gener de 2014

Keep the customer satisfied - si vols! #Tortosa #Amposta #PetitsDetalls

Bé, ben passat i arxivat ja l'esperitu nadalenc, puc tornar a queixar-me? En pocs mesos a 3 o 4 actes o situacions ens hem quedat decebuts o emprenyats amb l'organització d'un acte public o d'una empresa que hauria de saber-ne més. Si ho poso tot aqui, dormiré més tranquil!

1. Al final d'agost vam gaudir de les Festes locals de Tortosa, molt divertides, pero Deu-n'hi-do els problemes de puntualitat dels actes, cosa més fort encara quan es tratava d'actes on havia d'anar o volia anar les xiquetes de 8 anys que feien de "pubilleta". Per exemple, tan costa organitzar un corre-foc? Crec que va començar amb 40 minuts de retard! Els balls de cada nit també, una mitjana de mig hora de retard.

2. Al novembre vam patir un problema surreal. Vam anar a Amposta a una fira de playmobils amb unes diorames molt xules. Vam anar en divendres perque era dificil anar el dissabte. Al cartell, deia l'horari i el fet de que hi hauria diversos punts de venda. Pos, resulta que el divendres només n'hi havia un punt de venda allì, però el més surreal és que els organitzadors no els deixaven vendre! Els havien dit que no podien vendre fins dissabte quan hauria arribat els altres venedors! Jo vaig insistir que els meus xiquets (i jo) haviem vingut expressament amb molta il·lusió i només voliem comprar 2 figures, ja que el dissabte no podriem tornar a venir. Però, no. Fins i tot el representant de l'organització aquella tarda se'ns va fotre, dient que "no passa res, home, demà pots baixar en un moment que tampoc és tan lluny Tortosa." (evidentment, baixar a Amposta, aparcar, comprar un playmobil, i tornar a pujar, seria una hora de temps + el gasolina;  que se sap aquell home en quant valoro jo una hora del meu temps?!). En fi, encara esperem resposta al mail que vam enviar a l'ajuntament queixant-nos.

3. Problema paregut ens va passar al Nadal Jove a Tortosa - el tipic lloc ple d'activitats per a que els xiquets puguen jugar un mati durant les vacances. Normalment no hi anem mai pero a la nostra filla li havia tocat una entrada gratis i com que el primer dia era diumenge (de 11 a 13.30, 17 a 20.00 segons la pagina web de l'ajuntament), i era un mati que no teniem res que fer, pos, a anar-hi. Deixem de jugar amb els veins, canviem de roba, agafem el cotxe i hi anem - allì ens diuen que no, el primer dia s'obrirà a la tarde només! Missatge enviat als regidor de Tortosa, també espera resposta!

Queixa 4: gent que monta un activitat, i obren un compte twitter o d'email o facebook pero despres no contesten les consultes! Per exemple, hem vist que hi ha una pista de gel a Lleida i hem enviat 2 missatges amb preguntes, però sense resposta.

Queixa 5: una botiga del nivell de Disney - no ens funcionava bé la pagina on-line per fer una comanda abans de nadal. Vam enviar 2 mails demanant ajud. Ens han contestat esta setmana, el 15 de gener!
En fi, que tenen en comú tot aixo (o museus que no tenen pagina web en anglès etc)? Que no cuiden el client.
Looks over shoulder - checks Christmas is well and truly gone, festive spirit no more. Great, so we can go back to Moaning Mood. Here's a few local problems we have experienced recently, but which probably serve as examples for a universal problem - public bodies or private firms who don't look after their (potential) clients:
1. Last August, we were in Tortosa for the local festivities. A great time was had, but the punctuality was incredibly bad! Many activities started 30 or 40 minutes late!

2. In November we went to a toy (Playmobil) fair in a local town. There was supposed to be stalls selling Playmobil stuff but when we got there they told us, as only one seller had turned up the first day, they wouldn't let them start selling until the next day - so as not to be unfair to the other sellers! What?! I complained and said what I thought, and the organiser basically laughed at us and told us to come back the next day. Luckily I had the kids with me otherwise he'd probably be still trying to get a Playmobil octupus out of a part of his body where the sun doesn't shine. The kids did learn a few choice Catalan insults.
Wrote to the local council who were involved in the organisation and still waiting for a reply.

3. Similiar thing. A kids' activity was advertised as starting on the Sunday before Christmas, and running from 11.00 to 13.30 and 17.00 to 20.00. So we got ready and went the first morning only to be told that the first day they'd only open up in the afternoon!
Organised by Tortosa council, so I tweeted the councillor in charge .... still waiting for an answer.

4. Fed up with folk who set up an online contact scheme but don't bother answering. For example, we found out there was a temporary ice rink in a town in Catalonia and sent two messages asking for certain information. Still waiting for an answer.

5. Even King Disney fail here. Experiencing problems with their online shopping webpage before Christmas, we sent two mails asking for help. Got the answer this week - 15th January!
So, the common theme here is "the customer is always right" seems to be an old-fashioned concept for far too many people!

dimecres, 15 gener de 2014

On Ira - Zaz

On the list of Good Things France has given the World, we find at no.4  ..... Zaz!!

dilluns, 13 gener de 2014

13 de gener 1939 #Franco #Tortosa

Avui fa 75 anys que Franco va ocupar Tortosa. Segons  l'excel·lent exposició que vam visitar ahir al Museu de Tortosa, va ser despres de 9 mesos de bombardejos, amb tota la gent fugida a les muntanyes i la ciutat destruida. Mirant les fotos i els numeros, sembla ser que tota la ciutat va quedar afectada i un 15% dels edificis totalment destruides. L'anecdota del video que vam vore és quan expliquen que fins i tot un dels bombardejos més feroços va passar el dia del Divendres Sant - per part de gent que despres rebrien el recolsament de l'esglesia.
La guerra civil encara durari uns mesos més - o per l'incompetencia de Franco o per les ganes de Franco de fer patir al maxim els seus oponents i la gent inocenta, i aixi assegurar un futur amb la gent (que havia sobreviscuda) callada i atemorida.
Poca cosa més puc afegir, a abanda de la tristesa i desconcert que vam sentir en sortir del Museu. La primera cosa que veus és el riu, amb el Monument que Franco hi va posar, encara en peu - 38 anys despres del seu mort.
75 years ago today, 13th January 1939, Franco took Tortosa after a 9-month siege.
 The so-called Spanish Civil War was in fact a military uprising and/or (deliberately?) incompetent coup d'etat. Franco rose up against the democratically elected government of Spain on 17th July 1936 and it dragged on into a civil war which continued until April 1939 with thousands of deaths on each side, and especially of innocent people who didn't even realise they were on anybody's side. Some believe that Franco deliberately fought a slow war so that the deaths and suffering would be drawn out as a reprisal (for what?) and as a lesson which Spaniards would not forget - shown through Franco then enjoying a long dictatorship before dying at home in bed in 1975.

Anyway, yesterday by coincidence we went to Tortosa's local museum to see an excellent exhibition relating to the battle for Tortosa. Photos, objects, and a video of survivor's recollections all gave a very clear idea of this "battle". Basically Franco's troops worked their way up through the Spanish peninsula and eventually arrived to the south of the river Ebro in mid 1938, but did not cross immediately to take Tortosa. Instead both sides dug in while Franco ordered his German and Italian planes (kindly lent by Hitler and Mussolini as a test run for their own future plans) to bomb Tortosa to bits. Most local citizens fled to the mountains, living in caves and make-shift shelters for 9 months while a few republican soldiers tried to hold the fort. The bombs destroyed Tortosa - apparently 75% of buildings were affected with 15% being completely flattened. When Franco finally decided to cross the Ebro, little opposition did he find here. The following short video is a fascinating English news reel from those days.

The war had already dragged on. Apart from Franco's slowness, there had been a lot of fighting around the Ebro further inland. In July 1938 the Republicans had foolishly/bravely crossed the Ebro further upriver which led to the infamous Battle of the Ebro. While they tried to hold their positions in the hills, Franco bombed them to pieces - many conscripts as young as 15 years old as all the older generations had already been called up. The mountains where this battle took place are a 30-minute drive away from Tortosa and offer a tragic picture. A wonderful countryside, but still scattered with bones and shrapnel - you can't imagine that just 75 years ago thousands of people died meaninglessly here. Anyway, Franco won the Battle, and eventually crossed the Ebro in Tortosa in January 1939, before going on to "win" the war in April 1939. The world would soon forget about Spain as that year it had other things on its mind, but Franco's dictatorship led to more hardship, cruelty, repression and deaths all the way up to 1975 - in the heart of Europe. 
Not much else I can add, except the feeling of bewilderment when we come out of the museum and the first thing we see is the monument Franco erected in the middle of the river to celebrate his victory. 2014 and the monument still stands - for more info see my previous rants!
                                                                                Photo in the exhibition.

                                                                Franco's monument - still standing.

diumenge, 12 gener de 2014

Back on the chain-gang - The Pretenders #BackToWork

No sóc massa d’explicar els meus problemes personals aquí al blog, suposo perquè ja sé que tots en tenim i si vinc aquí a l’internet una estona, no és per explicar les meves misèries. Però, avui fem una mitja-excepció, bàsicament perquè he tingut alguna (relativament) bona noticia. Malgrat ser jove, fort i guapo, al final de l’estiu passat em vam diagnosticar un trombosi de vena profunda (TVP) a la cama esquerra. Un mal que te c**** va ser el primer símptoma, seguit per una gradual inflor de la cama. Finalment van descobrir que era un TVP i em van posar el tractament adequat. Com que soc molt, però molt, anti-voler-saber-res-del-cos-humà, no en sabia res d’aquesta malaltia ni les complicacions que podria causar. Per tant, les primeres setmanes quan em van explicar els perills de tenir un trombo a la cama i que podria afectar seriosament altres òrgans del cos, em vaig quedar de pedra i em va costar molt reaccionar! Degut a tot plegat i el mal que em feia, he passat tot un trimestre de baixa de la feina.
Però la noticia avui és que ja hi he tornat aquesta setmana i em trobo (relativament) bé. Encara em fa mal la cama, però es veu que els perills han passat. De fet, em diuen que el dolor pot quedar-se una llarga temporada, però si només és això, cap problema! En fi, ja he fet tres dies de classe, però només unes hores soltes cada dia per anar agafant el ritme poc a poc, i no tornar a necessitar la baixa a la primera de canvi! Però, bé, almenys ara tinc problemes nous en que pensar i puc tornar a cobrar el sou normal :)
I’m not one for normally moaning, or even explaining, my personal problems on this blogpage. I suppose it’s because we’ve all got our own issues to deal with and it’s not for me to inundate the internet with more worries and moans – if/when I come on here, I’d much rather forget about my troubles (and look at someone else’s!).

But we’ll make a sort of exception today as this problem is coming to an end, and it’s a (relatively) Good News Week – turns out that at the end of the summer I was diagnosed with a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in my left leg. First symptoms were an incredible pain, and in following days a gradual swelling in my leg until I eventually got a decent diagnosis (it’s a long story which I won’t go into) and was able to start the correct treatment. Being afraid of anything related to doctors and hospitals, I always avoid anything to do with human health issues and as such had never heard of DVTs or the possible consequences of having one. When doctors explained, with a serious expression, what could happen – the blood clots can apparently travel round your veins and get to your important internal organs causing serious damage or something worse .... – I was shocked to say the least. Between my brain going into overdrive and the pain in the leg, it took a few weeks to even come back down to earth. 
Anyway, months of treatment and a never-ending list of doctor appointments and tests later, I’ve now got the OK to go back to work. I started back on Wednesday – yeah!! And am feeling relatively OK. The first few days, I only did 3 classes a day so as to get back into the swing of things without overdoing it and ending up off work again! The fact is the danger has passed, but the pain remains – but apparently this could be here for some time, or even forever! But anyway, I’m back at work, so my brain’s got other things than internet and illnesses to think about and I’m getting my full pay once more, so all’s well that ends well – although it hasn’t ended yet, as I have more tests and doctors coming soon!

dimarts, 7 gener de 2014

The Party's Over - Doris Day #BackToNormality

Bé, ja està, s'acaben les festes i demà a treballar i/o anar a l'escola. Tal com deia en posts anteriors, és només el 3r cop en 25 anys que he passat el nadal aquí - i he fet una petita llista de coses dels nadals anglesos que, no diria que enyoro perque m'agrada adaptar-me i acceptar la vida allì on estic, però si que he notat la seva ausencia!
Bé, s'ha confirmat les meves sospites. Igual com al altres mesos de l'any, he dormit poc. Aqui es va a dormir molt tard, i això es nota. He menjat molta xocolate però encara així, mmm, no he menjat Cadburys :( La tele - no és que he tingut gaire temps per mirar-ho, ja que hem anat de dinar en dinar, però tinc l'impressió que la programació televisiva aqui no té la mateixa importancia que a Anglaterra on tothom s'asseu a la mateixa hora per mirar l'episodi especial de Doctor Who o Gent del barri, per exemple. 
Caminar. De dinars grans i molt de festa, a casa mons pares només en fem el 25 i potser el 26 però despres tenim molts de dies on anem a caminar. No vull dir caminar en el sentit d'agafar el cotxe per anar a un lloc i posar-nos botes i roba del Decatlo, sino surtir de la porta de casa i caminar per on volem fins tornar a casa - o parar a un tea-room. La xarxa de camins publics per fer això és molt gran a Anglaterra i algo que aqui noto a faltar.
Una altra cosa que he notat més que mai aquest any, amb els xiquets una mica més grans - i si heu seguit el bloc des de fa temps, sabreu que és una petita obsessió meva - les deures. Deu-n'hi-do la quantitat de deures que ens han donat aquestes festes. Jo no donaria cap.
Coses que no he enyorat gens - el fred d'un nadal anglès o, pitjor, la pluja, vent, fang, i neu de ciutat (tot gris i groc ple de excrements de gossos i contaminació). I les cues per anar de comprar cada dia cada hora.
So, Christmas is well and truly over now. It dragged on till today, as kids have the 7th off school, but tomorrow it's back to school and back to work for yours truly. As I said in an earlier post, it's only the 3rd Christmas I've spent in Catalonia despite living here for 25 years. And the first one I've blogged about.
So , have I missed anything from the English Christmases? Well, I wouldn't say "miss" as I'm easily pleased and adapt myself to virtually anything, but I can remark on a few notable absences ... Cadburys' chocolate. I've eaten vast amounts of chocolate these past two weeks, but no Cadbury's. Decent TV. It's not that I'd have had much time to watch TV as our Catalan Christmas has been a very family-meal orientated one, but that moment when 95% of the country gather round the box to watch the Doctor Who or soap opera Christmas special (or new Sherlock!), well, it doesn't happen the same here.
Sleeping. As predicted, I haven't slept much. Too many late nights - and that's without going out drinking, just chatting, playing games, and ...eating! till late every night.
Walking. I don't mean "get in the car, put on expensive boots, and walking trousers" type walking. I mean, "open t'back door and just set off from public path to public path till you find a tea-room" walking. I like walking like this, no planning, no objectives. But it's difficult to fit into a Catalan day, and even more difficult to fit into a Christmas like the one we've had.
One gripe I do have - and again, regular readers will remember it's one of my pet hates - homework. The amount of homework our kids were given to do over the break was unbelievable. 
And three things I haven't missed - bad weather; the rain, wind, sleet, damp, "town snow" coloured yellow and grey with dog poo and car exhaust fumes. And shopping. And adverts for sofas on TV.

divendres, 3 gener de 2014

Catalonia and the #IndyRef question 9/11/2014 - Suffragette City

Una entrada curta per actualitzar el tema del referendum pels no-catalans ... un referendum que es farà? Suposo que lo logic és que el govern espanyol dirà que no, i ho portaran als tribunals. Sortirem la gent al carrer en massa i Artur Mas haurà de tornar a convocar eleccions. Amb els resultats que esperem, el nou Parlament declararà l'independencia, demanarà l'intervenció inmediata de les entitats internacionals i convocarà un referendum per confirmar la declaració ... no trobeu?
Just before Christmas, another Big Step was taken in Catalonia's march to freedom - well, march to a referendum. Four political parties (including the present governing one) which form 2/3 of the Parliament, came together to call the Independence Referendum for 9th November 2014. They also agreed on the question(s):
Do you think Catalonia should become a State? If so, do you think it should be an Independent State.

Presumably the first option is for those who believe some kind of federation with Spain is still possible. For those who want the full independence option, the campaign is known as the "yes yes" campaign as you'd need a double "yes" to win.
As predicted in my previous posts, Spain has already said that this referendum will NOT be allowed as it's anti-constitutional - so it's the old "ancient Laws" against "the will of the people" conflict again. As many people say, if we only followed laws without ever changing or adapting them, black people still wouldn't be allowed on buses in the USA and women wouldn't be voting.
Watch this space ...!

dimecres, 1 gener de 2014

Catalan and English traditions at Christmas-time (part 3)

Tercer part de la fascinant trilologia sobre nadals i altres festes a Anglaterra o Catalunya.

Ahir, dia 31, era el dia del “Home dels nassos”, un costum que jo només coneixia a Catalunya – fins ahir, quan 3 persones diferents del nort d’Anglaterra em van dir que els seus iaios o pares també els contava l’historia fa anys. Hmmm, haurem d’investigar.

Bé, ja us vaig dir en el post anterior, passat l’u de gener, els anglesos tornen a la normalidad. A la feina i a l’escola. No hi ha celebració el dia 6 de gener, però si que deuen haver serveis religioses ja que la llegenda ens diu que és el dia que els reis mags van arribar a Belen. La tradició dicta que no s’ha de desmuntar l’arbre ni treure els decorats de nadal fins aquest dia – però la majoria de gent ho fa el mateix dia que tornen a treballar o a classe.
So, part 3 of the fascinating “Christmas and other traditions in Catalonia and England” series of blogposts. In the previous “New year” post, I forgot to mention the story of “the nose man” – on the 31st of December, Catalan kids are told to look out for a man who “has as many noses as days in this year” .... get it?! Here he is – but you can also see him (or her) by looking in a mirror. I thought this was a specific Catalan thing but Lo and Behold, yesterday (through the magic of internet social networks) three different people from the north of England said that their parents or grandparents had told them the same story!
So, if there are any “international” followers reading this:
1.       Do you tell this story to kids in your country/region?
2.       And specifically for any English folk – is it just a northern thing? Was it a typical tale in the past (question for the older readers!) which has now been forgotten or pushed aside by the magic of electronic games and the cynicism of the 21st century?

Right, having made it past New Year, Catalans now get ready for the next big event – the 5th/6th January. As the Bible and Charlton Heston explain, the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem with their gifts on the night of the 5th January. So, Catalans and Spaniards usually take this as their Big Present-giving Day. Many kids get their presents from the Wise Men, and not Father Christmas. 20 years ago, 100% of gifts came this way, but now (thanks to Hollywood and shops out to make more money) traditions have “evolved” and many kids get presents on both the 25th December and the 5th January.
On the evening of the 5th, the Wise Men (know literally here as the “Three Magic Kings”) roll up and parade through town on camels (or tractor-pulled floats, depending on their budget), followed by hundreds of masked helpers playing music, putting on a show (think Disney parade), and carrying gifts. People actually know the names of the Wise Men – Balthazar, Meclhior and Caspar. Apparently two are white or Asian, and one black, due to their countries of origin but I can never remember which is which. Kids throng the streets to see the parade and then rush home to find that the Wise Men have already been to their houses and left them gifts – if they’ve been good. If they’ve been naughty, they get a piece of coal! The Wise Men have a lot of work on and don’t get to some houses till the early hours of the 6th – for example, in our house, where our kids find their presents (or coal) on the morning of the 6th. The 6th January is a public holiday with – you guessed it – a huge family meal. Following that, things start to open up again in the 7th and schools on the 8th (allowing the kids an extra day to play – poor creatures, having waited through all the Christmas holidays, they only get their presents 2 days before school!).

dimarts, 31 desembre de 2013

Marvellous - Lightning Seeds #HappyNewYear

Gradually realising that 1999 is no longer The Song to play on New Years' Eve, so here's a better party track ...

dilluns, 30 desembre de 2013

Christmas and New Year and so on, Catalonia/England (2) - with a bit of Prince

Més reflexions desordenades sobre aquests dies de festa ... el dia de nadal, el 26 de desembre és diu Boxing Day a Anglaterra, suposadament perquè era el dia que els rics donaven una caixa (a box) amb un regal als servents i/o als pobres. Tal com he dit en el post anterior, és típic aquell dia anar de visites a la família, o anar al pub. També hi ha gent que prefereix una llarga caminada per a gastar les calories del dia 25.

Però, pel que veig a les noticies, l’activitat més habitual avui en dia a Anglaterra és anar a les rebaixes! Cues enormes de gent pegant-se entre ells per a aconseguir una ganga. El tema de les botigues i les rebaixes està totalment liberalitzat a Anglaterra. Poden començar les rebaixes quan volen – algunes botigues comencen el dia 24. I els dies que obren també – durant l’any, la majoria de grans botigues sempre obren en diumenge – i al meu poble, l’any passat vaig vore que per primer cop van obrir el supermercat el dia de nadal.

Passat el 26, hi ha una pausa en la festa – per a continuar comprant – fins la nit del 31, quan, o surts als pubs a beure i cantar, o et quedes a casa mirant una tonteria a la tele i potser fent una copeta d’alguna cosa més forta. Però, per molta gent, no és la festa que era fa anys, i molta gent no fa res. A casa de mons pares, fa anys ja que fem algun joc o mirem la TV, però anem a dormir abans de les 12.

Un altra cosa que és evident és que aquí a Catalunya preneu el tema dels menjars molt més en serio – lo menjar sempre ha  de ser perfecte, i amb un cert grau de formalitat que a Anglaterra no tenim. Allí, els records de nadal normalment es basen en el nadal que vam menjar entrepans perquè el gall d’indi no s’havia descongelat. O l’any que vam cremar les verdures etc. També, típicament portem tots el típic sueter de nadal o els barrets de papa noel o banyes de ren.

Quan els anglesos surten al pub, normalment marxen de casa (a peu, perquè això si que tenen clar, no agafen el cotxe si han de beure – en general) en mini-falda, i samarreta de maniga curta etc per no haver de vigilar l’abric tota la nit. Veig que els catalans es vesteixen més apropriadament per les temperatures de l’hivern!

I ja està, no hi ha cap celebració el dia de reis. Un cop entrat l’any nou, la gent comença a tornar al treball i els xiquets al cole, normalment el dia 3 o 4.
So, making the most of the post-Xmas, pre-New Year lull, here’s another blog post. As I said previously, Catalans typically have great meals on the 24th, 25th and 26th , with different members of the family – usually with extended family, aunts, in-laws, you name it .... one big difference I’ve noticed is that although everyone has a really good time, the meals are much more formal affairs than the ones I’m used to back in England. Formal, in that the food has to be perfect and is planned and prepared for days in advance. No “frozen turkey” or “burnt sprouts” jokes here to remember Christmases-past. People tend to take the whole thing more seriously making sure the food and drinks are spot on perfect – and there’s no cracker jokes, reindeer hats, Christmas sweaters, or drunken grannies either :(
Oh, I’ve also found out that Catalans celebrate Boxing Day (St Stephen’s Day), but the Spaniards don’t – one more reason for independence!

I’ve also noticed that in England, even in sub-zero temperatures, people wander the streets from pub to pub in mini-skirts or short sleeved t-shirts. Catalans don’t. They dress appropriately for the winter temperatures.
In the middle of the Christmas week, the Catalans celebrate their version of “April Fools’ Day”, on the 28th. This was the day that, according to the Bible, Herod ordered all the infants to be slaughtered so as to make sure he’d do away with Baby Jesus. Apparently many parents used their wit and different tricks to hide their babies, and this is the origin of this day being a day to play tricks on each other.

Next on the calendar:  New Years’ Eve – this is a big event in Catalonia, celebrated once more with lots of food and drink. The English also drink plenty at major festivities but in my experience they’re happy to accompany the drink with a sandwich or a few cocktail sausages – Catalans aren’t. Food is first. Anyway, people either go out to restaurants or organised events, or hold grand meals at home – usually eating up till midnight at which time they eat 12 grapes, one with each chime of the midnight bells. Eating all 12 while the clock chimes 12, means good luck for the coming year. The party then usually continues until late, or early depending how you look at it.
Last but not least in this trilogy of posts will be coming soon – watch this space! Meanwhile, Happy New Year!!