Light at the end of the Tunnel

Last week I had a bad cold and stayed in bed for a few days.

Then on Saturday night I couldn’t resist going to Barcelona as planned, to see my friend Cristina and to watch the show Fira at the Ateneu de Nou Barris.

I wrapped up warm and we went in the car. It was my first trip out since getting sick.

The show  was good. Not brilliant but fine. I have seen more circus performances and clowns and acrobats since I have lived here than ever before in my whole life put together.  One of the women acrobats was quite amazing – her balance was perfect and her centre so strong she seemed to fly through the air, defying gravity.  I allowed myself a very brief fantasy that I could have done this if I had kept up with gymnastics and ballet when I was young.  The theatre was hot and I was sweaty and thirsty so  when the performance  finished so we stayed on for drinks in the large bar IMG_3999 There were lots of people. It was great to be back in Barcelona surrounded by a bit of night life.  The Ateneu of Nou Barris is quite a trendy place and we even saw David Fernandez,  the member for Parliament for CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular)  a left wing independent party.

There were two DJs playing music and when they started putting on tracks from the 1960’s I suddenly had a huge burst of energy and started not only dancing but singing the songs.  It is amazing how one day you can be too ill to go downstairs to make a cup of tea and then 24 hours later a blast of energy from ‘who knows where’ courses through your body, almost lifting you off the ground with its power.

That in itself is amazing but for me what was wonderful was that I seemed to have sweated out or expelled along with the virus, my usual shyness and self consciousness.

I felt fine and I danced and sang without feeling silly at all. Something has shifted.  A good feeling.

So with this new healthier energy what am I doing?

The house has been decorated for Christmas. This is the first time I have done this here and it has made a big difference to how I feel at home. I love the lights of the Christmas tree and race downstairs every morning to switch them on. We needed light and here it is!

I have booked a Spanish lesson on the website Italki for Thursday afternoon. I want to improve my Spanish as well as Catalan so this is my first step in doing this.

I am going to do a blogging course in January.  After five years of doing it alone I want to get help.IMG_4090

And lastly a little story of supermarkets in Catalunya.

I went to Lidls today in search of mince pies (there were none) and faced my usual frustration at the cash desk.  It is not the custom here to help you pack your bags or even to wait until you have done it.  All my shopping was piling up quickly, waiting to be packed but the cashier wanted me to pay straight away. I know what would happen next – she would serve the other people in the queue and I would end up flustered and stressed trying to grab my things while they were trying to do the same.

So I said “No. I need to pack first then pay”

She said ” No. First you pay and then you can pack”

We were both smiling and it was friendly but we both spoke firmly.

I said “No. First we can pack my bags –  it will be quicker if you help me – and then I will pay”

And then she just started to pack my bags. There was no problem. No stress of an argument.   She wasn’t in a bad mood with me or even irritated.  I wondered at my own determination but also noticed that I had spoken firmly but without judgement or annoyance.  She could have said no and I would have left it there.

She thanked me at the end and I thanked her.

That is just one tiny fragment of my day but it seems that recently this sort of thing is happening more and more.  I think perhaps I am speaking out more freely, and saying more honestly what I think and feel.  I always wanted to do that but until now it took an enormous effort to get past the old blocks. That’s why I say, something has shifted and I think it might just be that some of those blocks have been moved out of the way.   When I don’t have to push past blocks I can say things so much more kindly and gently.

And if I have finally learned how to do that – then maybe there is hope for us all!



The White Dove of Peace

When I was in Cornwall this summer I was about to throw away some plaster moulds that I hadn’t used for years and that were slowly disintegrating in the garden.

Then I asked in the builders merchants if I could buy white cement and to my surprise they said yes. There were a few years when it wasn’t available and at that time I gave up making things in concrete because although I had some lovely limestone sands I could only buy normal grey cement which results in a grey sculpture.

I had several bags of sand in the garage which also had been sitting there for years and they were constantly in danger of me throwing them away in a fit of decluttering.

But instead I did something creative and here is the result

When I opened the mould, to my relief it came away as easily as an egg shell and my new white dove flew free 

Now she is here in Granollers, popping up all over the place and making new friends

I am still sanding away at her to get the really fine smooth finish that feels like marble….. but it takes time and can be done little by little.

Glasgow School of Art

We were exploring a cemetery with family graves up on a hill above Glasgow  near the Gallowgate when we saw the smoke. 
In the town centre.
‘I hope its not my house’ said my sister

Later we drove into town to do some shopping on Sauchiehall Street and discovered that the Glasgow School of Art was on fire.

It is a stunning building, a centre piece of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and a working building where many people I know did their art degrees. I visited it over 12 years ago and took the tour around the famous library. I always remember seeing students using beautiful Mackintosh chairs to stand on while hanging works on a wall.  I wasnt a museum but somewhere living and vibrant but also a work of art in its own right.

It seems the fire started in the basement and that the building is mostly saved. But the damage inside must be massive. A couple of hours later when we passed again it was still burning and the firemen were still on ladders soaking it from giant hoses.  I don’t think the library has survived.

A Walk around Ciutadella the ancient capital of Menorca

Menorca in general and Ciutadella in particular show Catalunya at its best. Actually we were in the Catalan countries/ Paisos Catalans rather than Catalunya but does it make a difference?  To me not much.
We were given the use of a flat in Ciutadella and were able to spend the evenings wandering around the old town

Ciutadella is at the western end of the island and we arrived here on the Balnearia ferry. You can also arrive at the other main city of Maó which is where we left from a week later, with Transmediteranea.

Ciutadella was the old capital of the island but the power has since moved east to Maó. A long fairly straight road joins these two towns which are about 45km apart.

Old stones hug you with their warm safe reassuring strength

Arched colonades call you to explore some more

Warm soft colours – everywhere you turn

Walking the narrow streets takes you into another world. I love curved corners

There is a ronda encircling the old town – this square of the two fat ladies is a good orientation point

 On the ronda a lot of the less touristy shops are found. There isn’t really much traffic on the road either!

 I bought my new avarcas here. Tried on three pairs and then….

 when you find the right pair they slip on like Cinderella’s slipper and you never want to take them off!

  An ancient olive tree in the centre of town – cars are banned from the old streets

The sculpture is by Nuria Roman The Awakening

 The Menorcan food is fabulous. The famous Ensaimada has pork fat in it but we still brought a box home

 I couldn’t stop drinking in the colours. Can’t wait to get back to art class and try to create them myself

 We did our main exploration of the town on our last day but I need to go back and wander some more

 Perhaps with a paintbox and paper instead of a camera

 Perhaps these stories of Menorca will tempt you to go there yourself – tell me when and I will come too!

Hidden gems in Clot

When I go to Barcelona to meet my friend Cristina we meet in Clot. The train from Granollers stops there before it reaches Passeig de Gracia and it is easier for her to get to from home. We have been able to explore a different part of Barcelona.  It is a bustling place – full of cafes and little independent shops but there is a peaceful atmosphere that makes it less tiring than meeting up always in the centre of the city.

I needed to buy some paint brushes for my art class so it was good to find this small corner shop selling lots of things like plaster figures, decorating materials and paint brushes and easels

 Rent rises and high city taxes have been making many of these small businesses close down

 Every week there are fewer of these emblematic Barcelona shops. Such a horrible thought that one day it could be a city just like any other with only chains and multi-nationals.

I got my brushes – we need big ones to make the base for these pictures – drawn with a stick on top of very thick white paint. Then when it is dry we painted on top.