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!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the shower….!!

Back in January, I made a new year resolution to try to get a bit fitter, so I’ve been going to the gym just across the road from my flat at least 3 times a week since then, and everything’s going well except one odd thing…

In a nutshell, we’ve got a freaky weirdo in the gym! I’ve never had any concrete evidence against him, so I’ve not wanted to do anything about it in case I’m putting 2 and 2 together and making 463, but this guy is always in the gym at the weekends. No matter what time of day I go, he’s there. Now, you might think he’s just a fitness freak, in which case, good on him for his dedication, but sadly the evidence suggests otherwise. The thing is, he’s only ever in the changing rooms. Not once have I seen him anywhere on the gym floor at any point (and it’s only a small gym so you can see everyone exercising from any point on the gym floor) nor in the swimming pool.

Every time I go down to have a shower, he’s there, walking about naked. Now, again you might just think “naked guy in men’s changing rooms – shock horror!”, and you’d be right of course. But, this guy is naked in there for hours on end. We’re talking entire mornings or afternoons spent down there. He seems to just make his way from the showers to the lockers and back again, all the while doing, well, not a lot it has to be said.

Now, I shouldn’t be cruel to anyone’s physical appearance, but I can’t tell the story fully if I don’t say that this guy is extremely unattractive. He’s probably about 35 years old max, and he’s very overweight with matted patches of hair all over his lumpy body, along with a miss-shaped arse that I don’t even want to think about right now, so I’ll crash on with the story…

The showers in my gym are individual cubicles, so they aren’t completely open. The dividing walls are solid and completely non-transparent, but of course there’s the usual 8 inch gap at the bottom like a toilet cubicle. Whenever I’m in the shower on a weekend, you can bet your bottom dollar that seconds after I enter, someone will enter the one next to me. No big deal there, but it’s odd that I’ve never noticed the water start running, and when I stop my shower running and am almost ready to come out, the person next door instantly leaves the cubicle before I have chance to pick up my toiletries etc and leave the cubicle myself. Then as I’m getting dressed by the lockers, the fat guy will be there, striding about naked again. Process of elimination over a few weeks leads me to believe that it’s this guy who’s in the cubicle next to me, but as I say, I’ve had no real evidence, and at the end of the day, he’s not actually doing me any harm.


This Saturday I went to the gym as usual. I did my exercises and went for a shower. I hadn’t seen our chubby friend at all so far, so it hadn’t actually crossed my mind that he might be about on this particular day. But sure enough, as I went into my shower, a few seconds later I heard someone enter the next door cubicle and no water started running. I could see the edge of a foot from the 8 inch gap at the bottom of the dividing wall, and it wasn’t moving at all, which you would expect it to if someone was showering.

Now, in the dividing walls there is a small hole cut out at the point where it joins the main tiled wall (the wall on which the showers themselves are fixed). These holes are for the pipes to run horizontally across from each cubicle to feed the water through, and they are at about stomach height. The holes are about 3 inches square, and as I say, they are against where the dividers meet the main wall, so you would literally have to squeeze your eyeball into the corner of the cubicle to be able to see through to next door….. yep, you know what’s coming don’t you!

The next thing I realised was that I could see the edge of a nose pressed up against the hole!! I nearly died!! What kind of freak goes to these levels to perv on people? This isn’t a cheeky glance at an opportune moment, this is full-on, 100%, bonafide, freaky perving! I wasn’t going to let this go on, so I did the only thing I could do…. I poked him hard in the face with my finger! I wish now that I’d rammed the end of my shampoo bottle through the hole as it would’ve really hurt him, but I think the finger did the trick.

I instantly came out of my shower and banged on his door, but he refused to come out… total silence! I kept banging, and asking “Qué coño crees que estás haciendo??” (What the f..k do you think you’re doing?) but still no response. I’d more or less finished my shower by the point the nose had appeared, but I just had to rinse my conditioner out, so I quickly stuck my head back under my shower, so I’d be done and ready to confront him fully. As soon as he sensed that I’d gone back in my cubicle… he was off like a whippet! (Albeit a very overweight and ugly whippet!). He ran as fast as he could (ie, not very fast) around the corner, and we clearly made eye contact as I was shouting at him, but he kept on going and went around the corner towards the swimming pool. I regret now that I didn’t just follow him. He was still starkers at this point, whereas I had the advantage of a towel around me, so I could’ve backed him out all the way to the public pool where he couldn’t really have gone any further, but I just started laughing at this point, and another guy who was just drying himself, asked me what was going on, so I suddenly found myself distracted busily explaining to him what had just happened.

Our freaky fat friend couldn’t come back into the main changing rooms and escape that way, because he would’ve had to have passed me, so I just carried on getting dressed and then made my way out. At reception, I explained to the girl on duty what had happened (which pushed my Spanish skills to the limit!) and she was stoney-faced in horror through most of it, although I couldn’t help laughing so she eventually cracked up a bit herself. She took it seriously though, and after my clear description of the “offender” she said “well, there aren’t many fat guys here so leave it with me and I’ll watch for him leaving and have a word”.

I went home at that point. As it was a hot day, I had my balcony doors open back at the flat, and I just happened to glance out about 30 minutes later and saw the fatman waddling sheepishly down the street out of the gym.

I was due to go back this morning, but I overslept so I’ll go tomorrow and if the girl is on duty, I’ll ask her what came of it. I’ve tried to think if I’ve over-reacted at all, but I really don’t think I have (your opinions are welcome in the comments section below! jeje). But to literally have your eye pressed up against the showers to watch someone, is extremely wrong, and the fact that with all the previous weeks evidence, this is clearly something that this guy does on a very regular basis. How many others is he spying on? Have they noticed? I just think it’s all a bit yukky, and I want him to be banned from the gym, and hopefully humiliated a bit in the process.

If only I’d followed him through to the pool, it could’ve been hilarious! It was already like a cross between a Carry On film and Porkies, but that would’ve really sealed his fate! Ah well, you live and learn…

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Knob Wars!

In a galaxy far far away….. or more precisely, in the flat directly below me, there appears to be trouble abrewing in our usual peaceful and tranquil lives. First the background… The flat I'm talking about has been empty for a while, and was bought by a doctor recently who has been completely renovating it from scratch since about January. The new owner knocked on my door way back in the new year and asked to come in. I didn’t have a clue who he was at the time, and the fact that he appeared to have one of his “heavies” with him, kind of put me off inviting them in for a cup of tea and a chat. (I’ve heard all the warnings about letting strangers in. I’ve watched Crimewatch, so I know the score! You think they’re coming to read your meter, and they leave 10 minutes later wheeling a widescreen TV out of the door while you look on helplessly in a pool of blood!) Anyway, after pulling a few strange looks and producing some very fine Spanish on my part including a not very polite “Qué coño quieres?” (What the hell do you want?), I finally got the message about who he was, that the “minder” was actually none other than his architect, and that they were wanting to come in, not to rob me and leave me for dead, but rather to take a quick glance at the positions of my interior walls. Slightly more plausible, maybe?? Certainly better than “Would you like to see my puppies?” that's for sure! Anyway, I figured that there was no way any potential murderers could’ve made it this far as they would’ve had to have passed our Portera lady, and at this time of day, I knew she’d have been on duty (lovely lady, but turns into a rabid rottweiler if crossed!), so I decided to take a chance and let them in. It was a fuss about nothing in the end, and after the quick glance at the walls and a few pleasantries, they were off. I checked the TV and it was still there, and I didn’t have any stab wounds, so we were all alright.

A few days after that, the noise from the works kicked in. Walls coming down directly below us, jackhammers on the go all through the day, it’s been unbelievable at times, and it’s the one reason why I’m thankful I’ve got a job that keeps me out of the house during the day. It seems they’re coming to the end of the worst of it now, as I peeped in the other day when the workmen had left the door open, and it appears that they’re finally making good progress and getting almost to the decorating stage.

Since I originally met the new owner back in January, I’ve bumped into him a few more times in my gym across the road. The first time I saw him, I went over to apologise for being so frosty when we’d first met, and I put it down to my bad Spanish and me not having understood what he wanted. He was very nice about it and laughed it off, and we chatted a while. He asked if the noise was a problem, so I answered honestly that, while it was horrific, it wasn’t so bad for me as for those who are at home all day. He was very apologetic, so it’s hard to be rough on someone when they’re doing their best and you know that the noise is unavoidable. I’ve renovated a house myself (well, I supervised while other’s did the work! Jeje) so I know what a hassle it is for everybody, and you just have to get on with it and shut up moaning. They still haven’t moved in yet, but it can’t be far off, so maybe they’ll throw a party for all the neighbours…. Except for one!!...

…And that brings me to the point of the story. One of our lovely neighbours today decided to stick an anonymous note on the door of the new guy’s flat saying that “this doorknob does not respect the aesthetics of the building!!” plus various other stupid comments that I can’t remember now. OK, the doorknob isn’t as shiny as perhaps most of the others in the building are, but come on, the guy’s just bought the friggin flat. They aren’t cheap in this area so he’s clearly paid a lot of money for it, and it’s obvious that he’s working hard to do it up to an extremely high standard. As if it matters for the moment that his doorknob is a bit tarnished??? I reckon the anonymous complainer is someone who’s tired of the noise and wants to pick on something just to be a Victor Meldrew type neighbour. My flatmate has mentioned a couple of times that the people in this block are either completely adorable, or total shits – there’s no inbetween.

I went back down a floor earlier with my camera to take a pic of the offending note (as it was really quite in-yer-face!) but someone had beat me to it and ripped it off, so I assume the new guy has come round to check on the renovation and has taken it down. When I see him next, I’ll have to ask him what the score is about it. Either that, or I’ll march over, demanding to talk to him about “the lack of shine on his substandard knob”!! jejeje

I must admit, after reading the note though, I took a more than glancing look at the knob on my door! Luckily, it’s pretty shiny so I’m confident we’re not going to be the target for the next hate campaign!!!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Recently, on Falcon's Crest...

It’s been a nice long weekend thanks to the public holiday here today, and I’ve spent much of it being a “good tourist” and visiting a few places that have caught my eye for one reason or another. I just can’t do whistle-stop tourism though, I’ve learnt, and the thought of literally running from one tourist hotspot to another, thankfully isn’t a problem given that I have Barcelona on tap 24/7 whenever I want it. While I was in Madrid recently, I was queuing outside the Reina Sofia art museum and a group of girls in front of me had a cast-iron itinerary that left not one second open to chance. They’d literally split their time into hour-long slots with various sights given an appropriate amount of viewing time before shooting off to the next one. Just the sight of this sheet of paper over their shoulder made me feel a bit sick I have to say. Even though I only had a short time in Madrid myself, I was happy to stroll out of the Museum later and casually drift wherever the breeze took me (which not surprisingly was in the direction of a shady tree in the rather stunning Retiro park nearby with a good book).

I’ve kind of screwed-up my blog I have to admit, and time has ticked by so fast since my last entry that I’ve spent a few weeks thinking about how the hell I can start again without it seeming like a massive jolt caused by nearly 3 spacious months of potential blog entries that never made it into being. Do I frantically write-up everything based on my failing memory, or do I somehow skip the missing chunk of time? The whole point of blogs is that they are published “in the moment” and don’t hang around like some old politician waiting to retire (or die, whichever comes first) so he can suddenly feel free to slag-off in his memoirs everyone he’s ever known. The thought of such a jolt has put me off sitting down and writing something, so the problem has just got worse, and my blog has grown into the proverbial gorilla in the corner of the room that everyone knows is sat there gorping at us, but we’re all desperately trying to ignore. Well, I’ve now decided (again, because yes, I’ve been down this route before) that there’s no point waiting and moaning, so I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to come back from the dead as it were, is to do it in the style that Bobby did in Dallas. Let’s face it, nobody questioned anything in the 80’s, did they? We were all far too busy wearing giant shoulderpads and breakdancing, so I’m hoping the same logic will apply now to my blog. Yep, the last 3 months have all been nothing but a dream and I’ve now reappeared in the shower as if nothing as happened! Pretty nifty, eh? The episodes of “the show” where I had a fab weekend in Valencia for Las Fallas (apologies to TimG for not writing that one up!), and the marvellous time I had in Madrid, along with all the other great things I’ve done in the interim, were all just a figment of Pam’s overactive imagination. Either that, or she’d been drinking some of Sue Ellen’s “special” fruit juice again! If my blog ever slips again in the future (which it surely will), I reckon the next time I’ve got the perfect soap opera based solution to explain things… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju8YH6ewoqQ

Hello?? Can you put me through to Aaron Spelling, please?? (Like I said, nobody questioned anything in the 80’s!!) jeje.

Anyway, after all that, I feel better now, so it’s back to Barcelona and the here-and-now.

Mid way through last week, I made my mind up that the long weekend would be predominantly spent doing two of my favourite daytime activities – firstly, strolling around Barcelona and secondly, flaking out in the sun with a good book. I’m pleased to say I’ve managed to succeed on both scores.

I’d set my alarm nice and early for 9am Saturday morning (so naturally I didn’t get up until gone 11am, but hey, it’s Saturday). My vague plan to go to the gym for an hour before heading out to “be a tourist” had suddenly (and rather conveniently) become the first casualty of my weekend plan, so I sacked that off and just lazily got ready to head straight out. After seeing the film Perfume at the cinema last year, and recently watching it again on DVD, I wanted to check out one of the locations that they used, as much of the film was shot around Barcelona. The scenes where they are playing hide and seek in the maze and the twins are abducted were filmed at the Laberinto de Horta, which is not too far from here. So, that was my plan for today then - go to the Laberinto with my camera and practice taking some photos. Ah yes, that’s another thing that I’ve been moaning about a lot lately – the quality of my photos. In a word, they’re shit. Having a nice place to experiment seemed like the right way forward, so I set off, camera at the ready.

When I arrived at Horta, I was immediately pleased to see how tranquil and tourist-free it was. Crowds annoy me even at the best of times, so I didn’t want to get frustrated by them and end up heading home earlier than I should. First job – have an ice cream. Mission accomplished there and even had a pleasant chat with the old woman on the kiosk. Over at the actual entrance to the park-proper, I strolled past the security lodge with my MP3 turned on and didn’t hear the man calling me back at first. Turns out that you have to pay to get in! At €2.05 per person though, it’s pretty reasonable. But why the 5 cents? I asked the guy why they’d come up with such an odd price, but he just laughed and said he had no idea, but was sick of having to have stacks of small change for all the people paying with whole Euros.

Inside the park, it was absolutely stunning, so I immediately reached for my camera to take some snaps. Just my luck, my camera snagged and refused to fully open the lens. After fiddling with it for ages and trying to get it to come back to life, I had to give up, and so I continued my tour of the gardens a bit miffed that I couldn’t do the one thing I’d wanted to do originally which was practice taking some pics. I even tried as a last resort to get just a couple of pics with my camera-phone, but for some reason that also decided it wasn’t going to work either! Great.

After a while, I left the park and jumped back on the Metro heading straight through town and out of the other side slightly to the Palau Reial gardens near the University. These gardens are nothing to write home about (although nice enough) but I just wanted somewhere that I knew would be quiet so I could flake out in the sun and read my book. The book I’m currently knee-deep in is actually one written by a friend I know here in Barcelona. He’s a Cuban dissident (already sounds glamorous, eh?) and has basically written a book all about his experiences trying to escape from Cuban back around 1990. Joking aside, it contains lots of insights into Cuban life that fascinate me, so I’m loving reading it. It’s desperately sad in places, and even more so given that I know the person who all this has happened to. There are plenty of obscure Spanish words that I struggle with, so it can be a pain to read it when I’ve not got my computer handy but I know enough to follow it even if I miss the odd intricate part slightly. Ironically enough, the book has only been published in French so far, as my friend escaped from Cuba and ended up living in Belguim for about 13 years before coming to Barcelona. The copy I’ve got is his original Spanish pdf document version, as the book isn’t available in Spain, otherwise I’d be plugging it heavily here.

After here, I headed home to get showered and cleaned up ready to go back to where I’d bought my camera from just 4 months ago, in the hope that they’d replace it there and then. The guy on the service desk was polite enough, but he pissed me right off by taking one look at the extended (and jammed) zoom, and telling me “está torcido!” (it’s twisted) and that I’ve obviously knocked it at some point. One thing I’m sure of though, is that this camera has been well looked after, and there is no way it’s been knocked at any time. He just shrugged and still claimed it was still knocked despite the fact that I made him hold it up and see that there wasn’t a hint of it being off-centre. The upshot though was that it was still broken and the procedure is to take it to a place over near Sagrada Familia for them to fix it under the guarantee. Apparently, with a fair wind, they could have it back to me within a month. A month!!!! Christ tonight!!!

Anyway, I headed home extremely miffed (stopping for dinner on the way – pissed off or not, I still like to eat!). A bit of drama on the way home was that I saw a guy crash his motorbike. It was awful, but luckily he was more or less OK and immediately got on his feet. The bike made one hell of a noise as it slid down the road, and he was lucky that no cars were following directly behind or he’d have been run over for sure.

I got home and went to show my flatmate the camera evidence, and guess what!! It worked perfectly! The lens immediately retracted smoothly and without any problem at all! I couldn’t believe it but was very pleased. So far, it’s continued working fine, so I’m hoping that my luck holds out and it was just perhaps a bit of dust that’s worked its way loose again. I felt like going straight back to the shop and showing the snotty guy just how "torcido" my camera wasn't!! Knowing my luck though, it would've immediately jammed in his presence! jeje

Sunday morning, I managed to actually get up on time, so I went to the gym. This is always an eye-opening experience given the incredible spread of people that are members of this particular gym. We’ve got’em all! The usual musclemen who stand there staring at their own ever-expanding arms after every tiny bit of exercise, along with the skinny and semi-unfit types like me who go because they know they should, but aren’t entirely sure why! There are also some great characters in this particular gym too. My favourites are two old ladies who spend more time exercising their jaws while chatting than any other muscle they might have! There are two machines directly facing eachother – one for working your inside thighs and the other for the outside – and these two old dears spend most of their time on these, barely moving their legs at all and instead just gassing away to eachother! It’s all the funnier because one of them dresses in a J-Lo style terry-toweling tracksuit with giant gold earrings and tons of make-up. If she ever broke a sweat (which is unlikely) her entire face would just slip right off! There’s also a old man who comes to the gym in brogue style shiny leather shoes, socks pulled up to his knees, a pair of tight shorts, and an Air Force type shirt buttoned firmly up to the neck. What is he thinking?? Ah well, it gives me something to giggle at. I’m sure there are plenty of people pointing at me and finding something to laugh at. It all makes the world go around at the end of the day.

After the gym, I went to Horta again, in the hope of getting some pictures this time, and I wasn’t disappointed thankfully. The sun was shining and I had a lovely afternoon. I can’t describe it in words very well, so you’ll have to take a look at my lovely new Flickr webpage photo album that I’ve set up. Check it out here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pepino_esp/sets/72157600304804399/

The park is only relatively small, but I strolled around the park for a couple of hours taking as many pics as possible. I’m happy enough with the results. Much better than my usual standard, that’s for sure!

Well, I better wrap up now as it’s late and if I don’t finish this post tonight, I’ll never finish it!

Be good!