Friday, 28 December 2007

Christmas in Barcelona 2007

Its the end of the month and also of course the end of the year, so ultimately it's that time of year to dust off all those tacky tinsle trinkets, its christmas.

For the second year in a row, I am off to Barcelona to spend Christmas with my good friend Michelle, but first i must get there, and thats where the fun begins. It's The usual case, up early, taxi to airport, check in, go through security and fly away. Today is slightly different, everything follows it's usual plan up until I have to go through security, whereupon I find that everyone has arrived here at the same time and the queue is somewhat large. The queue itself snakes all around the shopping area right upto the crossover corridor to terminal 3. From start to finally exiting security takes over an hours and a half, and just as I emerge my flight had been called to gate and so I must continue forth, on the way purchasing a tiny bottle of water, phew.

It's just a pity that the orderly queue is not an Olympic sport, for we British would be world beaters, even if it was a disorderly freestyle queueing event. No one appeared to be stressed, and as with all events, Olympic standard have to be maintained, and so there are invigilators patroling this event as it happens, armed with clipboards ensuring that all is right and proper. All the while informing prospective flyers that they may need to leave this queue and perform an individual event, that being, the rush to gate your flight is about to board manouver. Marks out of ten 7.98.

The flight itself went without any major hiccups and arrived in Barcelona to a more condusive atmosphere than Manchester (sun was shining). Of course smooth sailing/flying must have its odd bit of turbulance, despite seeing Mr Bill Tidy (cartoonist of note) on the same plane as me, carousel was to have something of a Logan's Run kinda feel about it. It managed to break all records for the longest wait. Good job we are from England, land of the orderly queue. My bags finally arrived later at a magnificent 35 minutes. I finally emerged to an equally patient Michelle, and so off to do a quick food shopping excursion then onto a fixing of her wood burning stove.

Shopping for me is usually a routine trot around the supermarket, picking up all the usual items i usually get as quickly as possible and then beat a hasty retreat out of there. But here in Spain it is oh so opposite, firstly I have no idea where anything is, and secondly quite a lot of the items are somewhat different from back home. So it's quite an eye opener as to what you can find. For those who have watched the original Dawn Of The Dead, remember the supermarket sequence, I am one of the undead, wandering around aimlessly staring at the myriad of items. One thing stood out for me, or rather it was led down, vacuum packed piglets. You could imagine them being displayed in the Tate as some kind of Damien Hurst-esque exhibit. So with a trolly well filled and our bellies awaiting to be filled by the trolly contents, payments must be made and an escape performed, with a multipack of delicious Jammon to take home with me securely jammed under my arm.

Time to put on my red shoes and dance the blues, or rather a white coverall and help fix the flue for Michelle's wood burner needed repair. Damned thing as so blocked with carbon I felt like I was digging for coal. Lots of huffing and puffing punctuated the dismantleing and remantleing (is this a word?) of flue tubing, and a great success was obtained by the lighting of a fresh fire and the instant heat obtained.

So with the repair work done my attention was turned to stockpilling the logs for combustion. Many trips up and down the steps, avoiding the odd land mine (dog poo), and a more the adaquate pile became piled. Time to relax, beer food and Playstation.

This became the routine for the next few days, punctuated with a few dog walks in the local park, and a quick and rather dissapointing trip into the village of Masquefa.

Michelle had been informed by the local post office that she had parcels to retrieve, and so asked if they would be open on christmas eve to come and collect them, the reply to this was in the affirmative, ans so off we trotted on christmas eve to hunt down sprouts that brussle and parcels to pick up.

All over the world there are many constants, and here we happen upon one of them, the postal service. Not only do they not deliver, but remain closed when previously informed they would be open.

So this constant is the official who said one thing but meant another. Thus trapping wanted presents inside the office of post. For a brief moment I thought I saw a flash of Hulk green pass over Michelles eyes, as anger and frustration caused her to go rather quiet, then seething transformed into ranting, breaking the quiet storm brewing inside her.

Only an afternoon coffee, croissant and Star Trek pilot DVD could put a dent into this raging torrent. For this office of post is the same office of post in many countries, unreliable, untrustworthy and unbelievable.

Christmas day passed without a hitch, only without any sprouting brussels. These had to be replaced by asparagus and artichokes (a poor substitute, but mighty tasty). Michelle prepared a most wonderful array of foods, combining a tradition English with a twist of Spanish, all gobbled down with a nice Riocha (10 years), and on the TV we had Tinman (new reworking of the Wizard of Oz). Rest of the day was spent digesting this grand feast, allowing room for a couple of mince pies with custard, with plenty of beer and much Playstation.

Here in Spain, Boxing day is for the family, a day were ALL the family get together and eat. As was last year I was invited to accompany Michelle to Gabi's sisters to enjoy such a family getting together. After a brief gathering outside, drinking small bottles of Damm, we all transfered ourselves to the kitchen table, arming ourselves with cocktail sticks we began the onslaught of as many types of fish you could shake your cocktail stick at. This year my favorite being the baby squid in spicy tomato sauce.

Following this we gathered ourselves in the living room and sat in an orderly fashion around 2 tables and consume soup, meat in sauce and a final course of Bingo. Unfortunately my Spanish still has not improved, so conversations were brief and pigeon in form, but I was made very welcome and will strive to improve for hopefully a next time.

It was then back to Michelle's for beer and more playstation.

The day following Boxing Day was to be my last day, and a small errand had to be performed on the way to the airport. This was to rescue the trapped presents from the office of post. My Spanish is poor at best, but I got what Michelle was saying to the person behind the counter, it was rather heated but yet she kept her cool. Fortunately all was resolved and we were able to go our merry way, with letters galore we were off the the airport, for me to fly home.

Here endeth my Christmas trip to Barcelona 2007

Sunday, 23 December 2007

A night out in Accrington

Christmas is approaching fast and its time for the obligatory works christmas party, and our place of exploitation is no exception, only that it consists of hiking around as many pubs as possible, not being able to hear each other, jostling for position at the bar and then having to down whatever drink you have as those who succeeded in getting serverd first are wanting to move on. Sounds like fun? not for me.

So an alternative was decided and Accrington was the location, one pub in particular, and that particular pub was the Calder. This being a Thursday night a promotion was in force, beer was £1 a pint, oh yes. So me and 3 of my Polish workmates (Kasia, Adam and Magda) took to this promotion with gusto. Laugh we did a plenty and beer drink a plenty more. Time ticked away to an inevitable conclusion, it was hometime, taxi, planty of water, a good nights sleep for an evening well spent.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Cornwall December 2007

December started in the same way that November ended, in Cornwall. An end of the year visit had been planned for some time, to spend nearly a week in sedate surroundings before the chaos of Christmas descends upon us all.

Unfortunately the weather was not what you would say, conducive to long walks around the coast, taking in breathtaking vistas along the way. In fact the weather was bloody awful from start to finish. Windy rain, and Rainy wind every day. A few brief respites allowed us to venture forth and brave the beach, foam and all. Mango the dog had not one whim of care, just as long as she was able to run headlong into the sea and await the inevitable stones you would throw for her to retireve.

The promise of mince pies, mulled wine and art dragged us from our shelter to brave the elements and view a local arts collective. Many rooms of many styles and concepts, some of which were still wet, as Willow found out several times. The obligatory hmmms, oohs and ahhh's were uttered from room to room, but on returning to the car the also obligatory argument arose 'call that art' - Kirsty.

A night in the pub in aid of Chapel Porths fire damaged cafe got me and Pla out of the house one evening. Old friends were met, beer drunk and raffle tickets bought, and to my surprise i actually won something. A sand filled plastic paper weight, which somewhat resembled an eye, mostly due to the fact that an old penny was also cast into the plastic precious thing. Hurrah for me.

And so i left behind the following, a rain soaked Cornwall, a crushing defeat at connect 4 froma 6 year old Willow, Freya being a present and Willow an ofstead inspector (don't ask) in the local school christmas production, Kisrty still busting dams in the local stream and Pla, just being.