Lost in Translation

Online blog of life in Barcelona for a English guy making a life for himself out here and trying desperately to have a good time, become fluent in Spanish, and most of all - not be constantly mistaken for a tourist!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Crap TV

I made the mistake the other night of turning on the TV back at the flat.
After flicking through a dozen channels (which were all showing adverts on a loop) I came across the Spanish version of Strictly Come Dancing called Mira Quién Baila (Look who’s dancing). Obviously I’ve no idea who the Spanish celebs are, but it didn't matter as I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the professionals and the amateurs! Not because the amateurs were so good, but because the whole thing was so crap! This may surprise some people now but believe it or not, I’m no Angela Rippon (although I was once mistaken for Rosemary Ford), so I’m not in a position to criticise anyone’s ballroom performance, but these people were all seriously rubbish! Once they'd done their little turns, the panel of experts (one of which was a guy who must’ve weighed at least 30 stone, so I’ve no idea what qualified him to give an opinion) gave their views as normal, but then it all went really strange. The female presenter was passed a box of chocolates from off screen, which she opened and started to coo over as if the Milk Tray Man had just burst in, and then some other people came on to pass more chocolates around the audience. I then noticed that the word “publicidad” had popped up in the corner of the screen, so figured this must be how programs are financed in Spain – by blatant plugging of random products in the middle of programs! (If this catches on in England, we'll no doubt have Bruce Forsyth plugging Tena Ladys!!) Suddenly, the reason for the 30 stone panel-member became clear (obviously, he’d been doing this program a long time and eaten a lot of chocolate!) Clearly, not much money must’ve been made on these particular chocolates because we then went to a proper break (presumably to bring in some serious advertising revenue), so I went to the toilet, casually made a brew and sat down and waited for the program to come back on. And waited… And waited… Few more adverts… Must be coming back soon… Few more adverts… (This has been going on for nearly 15 minutes now…) …still waiting. I thought maybe I’d sat on the remote and turned the channel over by accident, but no, this seems to be a fairly normal length ad break over here!

The TV over here really is awful to the point of being unwatchable. It’s frustrating but I have to at least try to watch a bit of TV each day to learn the language from it. I saw a talk show yesterday that was saying how something like 87% of all motoring offences in Spain are committed by men. The audience were nearly all women so there was loads of cheering, until the presenter said that the other 13% have all been committed by just one woman! (I’m sure that’s not realistically possible so maybe I miss heard the percentages, but it definitely wasn’t far off those figures). They then brought out this little old lady called Rosario who was in her late 60’s at least and looked like all she was missing was her mop and bucket, who is apparently the cause of this crimewave. The presenter then read out some of the highlights of her driving record and she just nodded and agreed with them all!! I lost the plot of what was going on after this, but they then took a “surprise” call from (I think) Rosario’s son who confessed that the offences where all his and that his mother was taking the blame for him to save his skin! Mental!!

Then of course, there's the Soap Operas (Telenovelas). If you thought Eldorado and Crossroads were bad, wait until you see these things! The highlight of the one I watched was a scene where an actor with a heavy moustache walked on, clearly tripped up quite severely, and then carried on with his lines as if nothing had happened!! The acting is truly awful but no-one seems to mind at all and it's all part of the fun. Presumably, they’re under a tight budget and only have limited time to churn out each episode, so quality has long since been forgotten!

Right, I'm off now to find out if Manuela's second cousin twice removed really is pregnant by the local Paella shop owners son!!!

Intercambio news

Had my first official intercambio language exchange last night, and after all the talk I’d heard about them being a thinly veiled disguise for a blind date, I was a bit concerned what would happen. Anyway, it seems I managed to find the one local who is genuinely interested in perfecting his English, so it was really cool in the end. He was a bit of an expert at these things and has done loads of exchanges in the past, so his English was truly excellent. He’d learnt it from Americans so his accent was incredibly strong, and he found it difficult to understand my common-as-muck northern English accent at first. His approach to the session was very official and proper, and he was very strict about splitting the time precisely between English and Spanish, but I’m glad I followed his lead in this because it forced me to make more of an effort to finish all my sentences in full, in Spanish and without resorting to throwing in English words unless I was in a complete dead-end. I’d warned him that my Spanish is bit ropey (which is true) but I think he took me at my word and was expecting it to be little better than Hola and Qué tal, so when we switched over into the Spanish hour, I immediately floored him with a knock-out blow of basic, but well formed sentences without even trying that hard. I surprised myself even!! He made a point of saying how pleasantly surprised he was, and that out of all the intercambios he’d done with English people, my Spanish was the best he’d come across!! I was amazed by this and thought he was joking, but he was deadly serious, so I immediately felt miles better! I’m still reluctant to class myself as anything above lower/intermediate, but it seems that I have some kind of “twin track” ability in that when I can talk in a relaxed and quiet setting, where I don’t feel pressured, and with someone who speaks nice and slowly, then my level is right at the top end of intermediate (almost advanced even!) and my sentences are well constructed, but when I’m out in the street with all the traffic noise, in a busy cafe, or trying to join in with the banter in the office, that’s when I get shot down in flames and understand nothing and can’t even put a simple sentence together either. Qué tonto!!! It’s confusing because I would’ve thought that the background noise and speed problems would only affect my ability to understand the other person, but it also seems to cause problems with my ability to speak well myself. Barcelona doesn’t know the meaning of the word quiet, so I’m just going to have to concentrate my efforts on doing more intercambios like this until I gradually drag my level up to the point where I can start to follow conversations in more varied settings. Either that or I’m going to have to bag myself a librarian to talk to so I can take advantage of the quiet surroundings!

We've arranged to meet again next week, so hopefully, they'll be more improvements then.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Fireworks and Castles in the sky!

OK, for the first time on this blog, I’m now in “real-time” with my posts and the dates shown are accurate. If you haven’t fell asleep since the beginning, you’ll remember that I had a few posts written down before I decided tonight to start an official blog and so I kind of pasted them in retrospectively. Anyway, we’re officially in business now. On with the update then, it’s a good one today!

It’s the La Mercé holiday weekend in Barcelona this weekend, and it’s been absolutely amazing. There’s loads going on around the city, so I’ve only seen a small portion of it, but I reckon I've got two of the best bits under my belt. Last night I went out with a friend to the “Correfoc” (“run” with “fire” in Catalan) which I was told was a firework display. “Oh, that’ll be nice” I thought, ”We’ll be scoffing on our toffee apples, lighting the fuse and retiring to a safe distance to watch the show then!” Or so I believed! When we arrived, and the show got underway with loads of noise from the drummers (not those “tinny” sounding drums like you might hear at the Changing of the Guard, but rather drums that you can feel vibrating in your chest because they are so loud and deep), I wondered why my friend and her mates were all putting on their hooded tops and pulling them tight over their heads. In England, there are only two reasons to do this… either we were going mugging old ladies, or we were planning to get ourselves thrown out of a Shopping Centre for looking like the type of people who probably would mug old ladies! But no, eventually my friend told me with a huge “knowing” smile on her face, that it was to protect them from the “Chispas”!! (the sparks). I was of course dressed appropriately… (not), in a t-shirt!! This wasn’t going to be like a firework display back home where the fireworks are sent into the sky and the crowd point happily, but rather, where the people in the parade come down the street literally “spraying” the firework sparks over the excited crowds while the brave amongst us dance in the shower of sparks!! It sounds incredible, and probably highly illegal in England, but this was all part of the official celebrations. There wasn’t a trouble-maker or rogue teenager in sight trying to spoil things like would no doubt happen back home. The people in the parade make their way down the narrow streets holding sticks with Catherine wheels attached to the top that spin around and cover the area in sparks. And of course, they don’t pay you the common courtesy of holding these sticks straight up and walking slowly, oh no, they dance around and wiggle them about in every direction making sure that no-one escapes the effects! It's brilliant! Anyway, the parade continued and, although I was covered like everyone else all over by the sparks, only two actually got me and did any slight harm – one in my hair which burnt my scalp for a second or two, and another on my knuckle which has left a tiny burn – a small price to pay though! As well as the guys with these sticks, there are large caricatures of dragons and the devil etc with more fireworks lodged in their mouths. These giant “dolls” are mounted on wheels and pushed along, and moved from side to side as they go, again showering the crowds. Unbelievable, but loads of fun! If I’d been dressed properly, I’d have definitely had a dance in the spray, but I had to settle for clutching onto my friend and trying to look brave while being (slightly) scared! Hehe. All this excitement went on for a while, before we headed off, relatively unharmed and fully charged-up for a great meal. The crowds were so big that it took a while to get anywhere and also to find a restaurant which could seat us all. Barcelona has restaurants, cafes and bars absolutely EVERYWHERE, so to struggle like this really does show just how many people were out enjoying La Mercé. Anyway, more about the night in general now….

… Basically, my friend from my office invited me out to enjoy, not just the Correfoc, but also a meal with her friends, who are an incredibly international collection of Germans, Catalans, a French guy, his German girlfriend, an Italian, a Basque, oh yes, and me… the only English guy there! They were all lovely, and the entire night was handled in a mixture of languages but was about 95% Spanish. I was of course very worried about all this, as it was my first real situation where I was going to have to rely on my Spanish in order to have a good time. I know I can get away with a bit of English in the office with most of my colleagues if I’m struggling, but my friend doesn’t speak any, and I wasn’t about to insist that all her friends switch languages for me! Also, I was very conscious of the fact that she had been kind enough to invite me in the first place, and I was going to make every effort to make sure that she was glad she did invite me, and not just because she thought I’m the new guy in a strange town etc and might need taking under her wing. Anyway, everybody was amazing and the night went incredibly well. I spoke Spanish loads (although of course, it was my usual collection of loosely connected nouns and adjectives with a liberal smattering of badly constructed verbs accompanied by various hand gestures and facial contortions!) The important thing was that I spoke loads (even when the pressure was on when the entire table of 13 people was listening just to me!), I got my point across reasonably well (I think), and my friend looked like she was really pleased I came along. I feel like I’ve learnt loads – nothing I could put down on paper, but just extra confidence and ability to understand what people are saying to me much more. After the meal, a couple of the group headed off, but we more than made up for that by having a few new members join us in a bar nearby where we took over an entire section of the bar. Luckily, during La Mercé, the Metro runs throughout the night, as we couldn’t get a taxi due to the crowds, and so got the Metro home (I suppose we could’ve easily walked though) and got in at about 4am I think (having gone out at 7pm). The Spanish approach to drinking seems to have rubbed-off on me though, as I was happily merry but nowhere near as drunk as I would’ve been on a similar night in Manchester (not that nights like this exist in Manchester!)

The fun weekend continued today, as I had told my flatmate that I really wanted to see the Castelleros (human tower builders) at the big show in Placa Sant Jaume and was happy to go even if it meant going on my own. Anyway, he kindly arranged for us to go together with his partner, so even more Spanish was called for, as my flatmate is encouraging me to speak in Spanish with him (despite his excellent English). We’ve sort of fell into a kind of Spanglish around the house, where we flick-flack between the two depending on how important the subject matter is. For example, basic chit-chat is normally in either language with the emphasis on Spanish, but anything important where I don’t want to misunderstand is handled in English, hence English was used the other day when he was showing me how to use the washing machine (crucial stuff!), and also what the arrangements were for the weekly visit from our cleaner! He wants to improve his English further, so it seems we’ve already slipped into a perfect balance of the two. Also, we already seem to have a sixth-sense for knowing when the other is tired, and therefore when we need to take up the slack and speak in his/my language to take the strain off his/my braincells.

The crush of people at the Placa was something I wasn’t prepared for. It was cheek to cheek and it took us a while just to get the last 20 yards into the actual square where we could see anything. The Castelleros (which I think is the correct name, although I think it’s Castellets in Catalan, but again I’m not sure) were out of this world. The basic outline is that a base layer of team members assembles itself on top of which more members climb, and depending on the type of Castell they are building, they follow a different (highly precise and well practiced) routine that’s like a visual geometry lesson in the street. More and more Castelleros climb up and the layers thin out after the first (usually two) thick layers and then the thinner “tower” part starts to go up. The people at the bottom are obviously huge guys, but the further up you go, the slimmer they have to be for obvious reasons. Nothing prepares you for the sight of a small child (probably no more than 7 or 8 years old) climbing to the top of this tower that’s often 8 people high!!! They then raise their arm to officially complete the Castell and the crowd goes mental! Then they slide down really fast. One of the first Castells was built directly infront of the balcony of the mayor’s office, and was a tower where it’s just one person on top of one other person and so on. How they keep their balance with no-one else to counterbalance them on each layer, I don’t know, but they did it, and the child at the top was then pulled over onto the balcony to massive applause!! The next towers were the really big ones, with a huge base and then a central column of 3 people on each layer to create the counterbalance. Only one collapsed while we were there, and luckily no one was hurt. About 2 months ago though, a 12 year old girl died of spinal column injuries when a tower collapsed. It really is THAT dangerous, and often the Castelleros know when a tower isn’t going up properly, and they abandon it and regroup for another attempt (which still gets huge applause – presumably for being so brave in the first place!) This happened just once today.

After the Castells, we went for a meal which was great, and again the chat was 95% Spanish. After that, we went to the cinema to watch an English film with Spanish subtitles. I can’t understand spoken Spanish in movies as it’s too fast and usually it’s colloquial Spanish, but luckily for me, my flatmate prefers to watch with the original voices and then just read the subtitles.

So, all in all, it’s been a fantastic and memorable weekend, and it’s not even over yet because it’s a public holiday on Monday (and I get Spanish holidays while I’m here!) so tomorrow’s agenda is fairly clear but the main highlight is that I have an intercambio language exchange planned (the half-English half-spanish get-togethers with local strangers in order to both improve your languages). I’m not sure if it will definitely go ahead, as I believe my willing victim has got some kind of family issue at the moment, so I’m wondering if he’ll cancel. If he does, I won’t be too worried as I’ve already spoken more Spanish this weekend than I could’ve ever hoped. Don’t get me wrong, my Spanish isn’t noticeably any better because of it, but it’s all a confidence thing and just the practice in itself is enough to be classed as a huge improvement.

I’m off to bed now, to recharge my batteries and mull over whether I want to become a Casteller!!! (I think the answer will be no! hehe)

The fog clears a little

So, week number one is work is over and done with, and despite the horrendousness of my Spanish, I can’t say I’ve not enjoyed it. It’s a lovely city (completely bonkers of course, but lovely too in equal measures). My mood has lifted since my last post (when I sounded like I was about to top myself! Hehe). My colleagues are all fabulous, my flatmate is the best I could’ve wished for, the flat itself is beautiful. I could go on, but the point I’m making is that I’m now back in the land of the living and feeling much better generally.

Regarding my Spanish, I’ve decided to put myself in little situations where I need to use it for real with strangers, and this seems to be baring fruit. This morning, I decided it was high-time I introduced myself to our “Portera” at my apartment block, as she’s always in her little room next to the lift (probably guarding the place with an old machine gun left over from the Civil War) and while I always say Hola, I never actually stop to chat. Anyway, she seems to have appreciated it and I made sure I showed the appropriate respect for an elderly Spanish lady by using all my ultra-polite “usted” verb formations. She also seems to have a thing about lace and spends all day in that little room running up something new and lacey on her antique Singer sewing machine while watching Mexican Telenovelas on the TV. Oh, and that’s another thing about Spain - the TV. It’s shit. Enough said.

Also in my quest for Spanish enlightenment, I went to the Chemist (which is about 2 and a half steps outside my front door) for something for my cough. I explained how it feels and he understood, so I was happy again. I more or less understood all his instructions on how to take the medicine, but I figured it didn’t matter if I missed one or two of the finer points as, what harm can you come to with a cough medicine?

2 hours later….

I’m now typing this while having my stomach pumped at the local hospital….! Nah, I’m kidding. The medicine is fine. It tastes like the stinking sweat from a shotputter’s crotch but, don’t all the best medicines??? Let just hope it works because I’m bored with coughing, even if it is only in sudden patches from time to time.

Today was a cool day because I made my first proper friend. I met with an English guy in a similar situation as me. We compared notes and chatted about how clever we both are for having been brave enough to move to Spain etc. hehe. It was great to have someone to talk to who knows the score, so I’m sure he’ll be someone I see more often, assuming he wants to etc.

Not a bad day by all accounts!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Miserable of Barcelona

OK, first full week in the office is well underway and faced with constant Spanish from my colleagues (my choice remember, as I know I have to learn) and I’m beyond knackered! It’s SO tiring having to think deeply before every word leaves your mouth, and even more frustrating when what comes out is just the biggest pile of shit ever. I’m wondering if I’ll ever get the hang of this, as the number of occasions just today even when people have said simple things to me, and I’ve not been able to come up with a vaguely proper reply is enough to make me want to tell them to switch to English full-time. I hate the feeling of uselessness when this happens, and I can’t seem to just brush it off as being “part of the learning process”.

The last couple of nights I’ve come home exhausted, and just wanted to sleep. My flatmate has been fantastic and is very supportive, but I still feel new around here and would happily swap everything to get some familiarity back around me again – my own house, my pets etc. I know it’s just the frustration talking but, there you go. I've also got an annoying cough that comes and goes, which is making me even more miserable.

Food-wise too, I’m not hungry most of the time, so although I’m having a decent lunch, I’m not eating anything when I come home in the evenings. Even when I am hungry, I can’t just stroll around the supermarket and buy ingredients unless I know what the end product will be and have it in my mind, and as all the ingredients on offer are unfamiliar (well, most are) it’s hard to even begin. I find myself putting crap in my basket just so there’s at least some food in the house, but it’s nothing that’s ever going to feel the heat of a frying pan.

Not going to say much more except I feel like crap, and hope it all improves soon.

Anyone for a G&T?

First weekend in Barcelona, and I’ve had a great time. Mainly because my closest friend from back home has been over to bring the rest of my luggage and to stay for the weekend. Our mission was to try out the local nightlife, which I think we had a fair go at! The gay night scene is big in Barcelona, and my flat is very close to all the action, so we headed off with a list of recommended bars ready to see what we could see. The first thing about a night out in Barcelona is that you of course don’t actually do the “going out” bit until virtually the next day, so we only got the night underway properly at about midnight, which was cool as the bars were nicely busy (apparently, coming out at 8 or 9pm like we would in the UK would mean you’ll only have yourselves and a barman for company!) We tried one called Dietrich first which was cool, followed by one called Átame (which translates as “Tie me up” which was a worry at first, but was just a regular bar). We do have to be careful though, as there are some bars that cater for the “niche” markets and, although I won’t mention here what I saw on their websites, it’s not your average Saturday night entertainment (Brucie would have a fit!). Anyway, the bars we went to were great, and we got talking to some people, one of whom (an English girl) was clearly on drugs for something, and if she wasn’t, she should’ve been. She kept us entertained for a while though, so I suppose that what it’s all about. Then a couple of German guys latched onto us, and we spent a while chatting with them. Still no Spanish contact at this point, so no one to practice on. Although, walking past a hotel bar, we did get accosted by a girl trying to convince us to go in, despite the fact that we’d have been the only people in there, so of course we politely refused (in my best Spanish!). But... practice is practice! Hehe

After a working day, and my friend having flown in on an early flight, we were both tired, so we decided not to push the night too long and so headed home. The following night (Saturday) we would make more of an effort. We went to the same two bars, plus a couple of others, and then went to a club called Arena, which apparently has 3 venues. We opted for the “Arena Classic” because it said it played old favourites and dance classics, but most of the night this meant Spanish music only. Luckily, Spanish pop music is incredibly easy to dance to so, while we didn’t know any of the words, we were still in our element.

Another thing I notice over here is the size of the measures given when you drink spirits. A gin and tonic is poured free-hand and the so-called “3 second pour” that I’ve been told is recommended, is definitely not the norm over here. It just keeps on coming!!! It only took a few of these to see us well on our way, so despite the pricey cost of the drink on the face of it, you’re actually getting a bargain when you weigh up how much of the "good stuff" is in there!! We didn’t spend much, and had a great time. I must’ve been fairly drunk even when we arrived at the club because I actually tried to get in through the fire-door! (I must’ve lost my bearings!) Anyway, the guy on the door advised me of my “error”, and therefore that was another mini Spanish lesson thrown in for free. Oh, and I did accidentally stand on the toe of a local club-goer at one point on the dance floor, which I hadn’t noticed until his friend politely tapped me on the shoulder and formally lodged his complaint. I say “formally” because it was delivered in a way as if he wanted a written apology from my solicitor!! I just kept dancing and smiled with a shrug! I think the words “de nada” may have accidentally slipped from my mouth! Whoops. My planned new career as the Cultural Atache from The People's Republic of Lesbania is probably looking a bit shaky!

Ready Steady Cook!

I've now returned from the supermarket with armfulls of incompatible foodstuffs. If Marina can suggest a recipe that can be made from a bag of apples, some yoghurts and a box of teabags, I'd be eternally grateful! The whole shopping experience was, well... an experience I suppose! Still primed and ready to learn, I homed-in on a lady on the meat counter because she was talking in the way only Spanish women can do... that's right, she was shouting at the top of her voice to an elderly customer who was a good 30 yards away at the other end of a very long counter. I figured I could pick up a few choice shopping-related phrases that might help with my next visit, but I think the shutters have been pulled down on my language-absorbtion skills for the day as I wasn't taking in anything unfortunately.

Oh, I have to tell you that I committed a minor felony in the store. On the fruit and veg section, the procedure here seems to be that you have to bag-up whatever you want and weigh it on the scales yourself (I didn't know this beforehand of course, but I eyeballed a fellow happy shopper and learnt by example). Anyway, the scales have about half a million (slight exageration, but only slight) miniscule pictures of the various products available, and it's your task as an innocent shopper to select the correct picture in order to receive a little sticker to put on your bag and be charged the correct price at the checkout. Simple really. The problem is that, in this particular supermarket, it seems a child was in charge of drawing the pictures, so everything is just a different coloured circle. It's like identifying individual M&Ms from a family-sized pack. Well, after about 30 failed attempts to locate the Granny Smiths (and overloaded with little stickers by this point) I just plumped for the cheapest one that looked a bit like an apple. It wasn't the same price as that on the shelf of course, but I was past caring by now. Anyway, I wasn't followed out of the store by the overweight security guard, and there hasn't been a knock at the door so far since, so I guess that means I don't have to consume 8 apples in the next ten minutes in order to destroy the evidence! On a brighter note, tomorrow is Friday which means I only have to work 10am until 2pm. My Spanish colleagues are green with envy at this, but this falls on deaf ears. This is what happens when your UK manager tries to convert an English working week into a Spanish one. My Mondays to Thursdays are fairly normal Spanish type hours, but by Friday, I have a massive surplus of hours to quickly get rid of, hence the early finish. Qué bien!

First day nerves

Oh my God, how crazy is it being here! I love it but I’m absolutely exhausted! OK, my heads in bits but I want to get this down in writing soon in case I start to forget things, so here goes…First, the flat. I’ve totally landed on my feet with it as it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s in an old building in Eixample near to the Hospital. Actually, that’s one down side as we have the intermittent sound of ambulances (presumably rushing to casualty the constant stream of tourists who’ve made the mistake of trying to cross the streets of the never-ending grid system!). The interior is gorgeous though, and I have plenty of extras to help make it super-comfortable for me – aircon, balcony, humongous wardrobes, comfy bed, satellite TV etc). My flatmate is lovely, and is keen to improve his English even though it’s near word-perfect (some people make me sick! hehe) so we spent last night chatting in mainly English. Tonight we’ll split the language chores a bit more 50/50, as I desperately need the practice with someone patient.My first day in the office has left me worn out! I had a lovely welcome (I handed out posh chocolates that I’d brought from home for them, and they oooed and arrrr’d, which was nice). I wasn’t ready for how hard it is to deal in a foreign language full-time from a standing-start! Everyone kind of quickly realised that the “stand around the new guy and listen to how funny he speaks” approach, probably wasn’t going to tempt my brain into constructing the most impressive sentences possible, so we all kind of broke up and little conversations sprang up bit with individuals etc which was much better. When I returned from lunch, one of the girls was alone in the office, so I closed in on her like a velociraptor and we sat down together and had a really good chat about anything and everything, so I’d say that was my highlight of the day. Of course, my half of the conversation was made up of half-finished sentences and random verb constructions never before seen in the Spanish-speaking world, but she was really patient and we both got our points across more or less, which is all I could wish for at this stage. Hardest thing so far by a mile, is simply being outside of my language comfort zone, and therefore not being able to reply with quick answers. People would say something that I kind of understood, and I could potentially have given a perfect answer to, if only I could gather the Spanish words in my mind in time. But no, instead it was blank looks all round, a feeling of total inadequacy inside me, and lots of bueno…pues… etc etc. (Even more than what could be considered normal!). Nothing prepares you for the feeling of total uselessness when your mouth opens….. but nothing remotely suitable comes out! I don’t know if I’m the type of person who feels the pain more, but it’s absolute torture, so I guess I must be. hehe. Tonight has been declared a shopping night, so I’m off to the supermarket now to try to work my way through all the different product brands etc and actually come home with some ingredients that can actually make a meal of some kind. More shortly….

It's a boy!

Hey, I'm here! Arrived this morning (Wednesday 13th September) and came straight to my new apartment. Met my landlady briefly before she had to shoot-off back to London (where she lives most of the year). Also met my flatmate, and all my worries have evaporated. He's really considerate and friendly, and is keen that I feel at home etc. He's moved around a bit himself and seems to appreciate just how much a few kind gestures can go when you're new somewhere. Can't write more yet as I'm heading out now, but will do a proper update asap.

All packed up and nearly ready to go...

Well, at last the bags are packed, the pets have been distributed amongst various unsuspecting family members, and everything else is organised (kind of) and I’m all ready for my big move to Barcelona on Wednesday morning. Just thought I’d better squeeze this post in now, as by tomorrow, I’ll probably be in the middle of a “what the hell am I doing?” kind of nervous breakdown and therefore might not get time to write! heheI’ve got a busy first few days planned when I arrive. Meeting my flatmate is my first priority. I hope he’s sociable and likes all my mildly-psychotic (but extremely loveable) little quirks around the house. I’ll be hitting the ground running by going straight into work on Thursday and all my colleagues are under strict instructions that they should talk to me in Spanish, and not let me get away with any slacking on the language front (despite the fact that some of them speak beautiful English). That’ll be a laugh, as I’ve already been chatting with them in advance of my arrival and, although they’re all desperately polite, I’m getting the impression that my spoken Spanish level seems to be somewhere between “mildly incomprehensible but acceptable” and “hysterically funny”. I’ve checked on the DELE websites and these levels don’t seem to exist on the official list. Very strange. Then on Friday, normality returns for the weekend as my friend arrives for a visit (he’s bringing the other half of my luggage, hence the quickness of his arrival). We’ll be checking out the nightlife and so I hope to have a few recommendations of fun places to go (or maybe avoid) by early next week. I recall the first time I was in BCN, and I ignored the warning in the guidebooks that says quite clearly “don’t even dream of going out before midnight!” and I remember thinking that the famous nightlife that I’d heard was world-class was actually a giant con. Won’t be making that mistake this time! JRight, I’m off to dig-out my old tapes of Eldorado now, so I can brush up on my Spanish culture! (Any Brits reading will know that the dismally-bad, failed BBC soap-opera set on the Spanish Costas is quite simply the most accurate portrayal of authentic Spanish life ever made…… not! Hehehe)More later in the week….

So what's a blog when it's at home?

OK, so I've decided to join the rest of the known world and get myself a blog. As I'm here in Spain for at least the next 6 months, it's probably a good idea if I get some thoughts written down. I've already been here just over a week, so I have some diary entries already prepared, so I'll post them again as if they're new and hopefully it will keep things neat and the only thing wrong will be the date of the post will be a week or so out. Anyway, here goes nothing....