Dancing the Gay Gordons in Granollers

Burns Night is on January 25th and celebrated all over the world, including in Granollers!

Robert Burns, the Scottish national poet, was born on this day in 1759 and lived his short life of 37 years with gusto. He wrote poetry, much of it radical and passionate.  He was a farmer, a radical, a supporter of the French revolution, lover of women, collector of traditional songs and he had a wonderful sense of humour.

Each year on this day thousands if not millions of people all over the world have a special dinner which more or less follows a set pattern.

We had the same group of people as last year with the additional of lovely Lydia who is 3 months old and my friend Cristina from Barcelona who read the Selkirk Grace in perfect Scots

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.


 We ate cock a leekie soup thanks to Tiffany, vegetarian haggis flown in from Scotland, neeps and tatties minus the neeps because I could not find a single turnip in Catalunya, and then Cranachan, the raspbery, oats, cream and whisky pudding that is traditional on this night.

We had songs, poems and even a burst of dancing the Gay Gordons.
This video is not of the Gay Gordons dance but as I was searching I found a dance group called the Gay Gordons and I love it. I have a big soft spot for gay men dancing after so many years of learning ballroom and tango and line dancing with them in London.  Great kilts!

Anyway, we had a perfect night,  not only remembering Burns but also introducing him to a wider world.  And seeing Lydia dancing in her Scottish dress – bought last year in Inverary – was a delight.

And here is our Catalan translation by Pep Mogas of one of Robert Burns most famous songs

El meu amor és rosa roja
Que s’obre al juny de nou
El meu amor és melodia
D’un cant dolç que em commou

Com més formosa ets, amor
més enamorat em fas
T’estimaré aixi, fins que
eixuts siguin els mars

Fins que eixuts siguin els mars, amor
I el sol no fongui els rocs
T’estimaré aixi, amor
Mentre em bategui el cor

Que et vagi bé unic amor
Que et vagi bé molt temps
Jo tornaré de nou llavors
deu mil milles faré

Sunday morning in Granollers

Church Square. 
Ferrer Cafe

  • I sit outside. Its not too cold even though it’s nearly the end of November. A man and a young girl come out through the sliding doors. She looks like him with thin spindly legs, straight hair and a quiet serious face.  Another little girl comes running out after them, the little sister, about 5 years old with a tartan scarf and curly brown hair.  The man grabs her arm roughly and pushes her back inside.  She resists and he pushes her harder, her arm is twisted up awkwardly,  ‘go and stand with your mother‘ he says in Catalan.  A few moments later they are all standing outside in the dappled sunshine. Three of them are grouped together and the little girl is playing with the leaves under the tree.  The parents talk a little and the man tenderly does up the zip of his elder daughters jacket but his face remains stern and unsmiling. The corners of his mouth seem to be pulled down by gravity.  The little girl is a few feet away exploring the world and humming to herself.  She is full of life but not noisy or bad. The group of three start to move off and the mother calls over her shoulder, ‘Maria, come on‘.  Obligingly and merrily scuffing her feet in the leaves she runs to catch them up.  Noone smiles or waits for her or offers her a hand.
  • The uniform of Granollers women of a certain age in winter is black trousers and shoes and a brown jacket, a black handbag and well coiffed hair usually tinted slightly red. Younger ones exchange the brown jacket for a black one.  If I continue to work on constructing a Catalan female character to perform (she is called Pepa) then I need to sort out my costume. I have a black coat but its not puffy enough and I have black trousers but they are not that crinkly sort of drip-dry fabric that you could buy in M&S
  • There is a large circle of children sitting in the middle of the square. They appear to be in an organised group but I can’t see who is in charge. Is it a sunday school activity while the adults are in mass? After a while they start playing ball and several times it bounces into the cafe tables or bashes up into the trees making the leaves fall off.  I find this annoying but no-one else seems to notice. 
  • So many things that children do are quite irritating to adults.  Or is it just British adults? Or is it just me?   Unless it is your own child of course.  The ball bangs about, the children, mostly boys, scream and yell. Another boy waiting for his parents who are inside the cafe races up and down past me on his scooter. Outside the church a boy plays with something that looks like a belt and when you flick it in the air it makes a loud noise like a banger. The first father wanted to control his own daughter and  I have a desire to tell the boys to play ball further away. Perhaps we are affected by gender…. would the father have dragged his son back into the cafe in that way?  And would I  look on kindly at girls playing ball in the square?
  • Actually there are a few girls in the group.  All about 10 years old I would imagine. One girl in a pixie hat stands alone.  My eye is drawn to her but everyone else ignores her. Noone throws her the ball and neither does she run to catch it. When they all sit down again in little huddles she sits on the church steps by herself.  She looks perfectly normal to me, nothing to mark her out but still she is isolated.  Later when the adults organise the group again into a large circle she is sitting there and smiling.  I think she is more comfortable when the group is controlled. 
  • Now mass has finished.  Crowds of people flowed out onto the square. The crowd of children has moved on  in a large group.  The girl with the pixie hat is sitting on the church steps not speaking with anyone.  An older couple  join her and a little boy.  At first they seem like a family but as they move off down the street,  they all separate.  The boy is chubby and full of himself, shouting out to his friends as he passes. The couple now I see them better are too young to be her parents. They must be Sunday school teachers or perhaps it is a meeting of the scouts which includes girls here.   Pixiehat passes close by with heavy steps and a very sad face. Alone in a crowd. Always hard but even more so in this country where the group is all important.
  • The square has emptied but there are still about 7 children with scooters. They are all boys. There are also two older boys with identical black sweatshirts with a green, yellow and red logo.  They are practising jumping off the church steps and spinning the scooter 360 degrees mid jump. It is quite amazing.  And a 360 degree flat spin. And a jump onto and off the wooden benches. This dexterity and flair and determination to master the move is something wonderful to watch. Imagine if they applied this power to changing the world!
  • As I leave the square I am horrified to see the whole group of children return from another direction. It is some kind of organised walkabout and still the girl in the pixie hat is walking at the back alone. Organised torture for a Sunday morning. 

Outsiders

Wherever I go I tend to notice those people who seem different or who exist a little on the outside of the cultural norm. A few days ago I began to realise there is a little group of people here in Granollers who I consider ‘friends’ although I don’t know them at all

  • The little old lady who wheels her shopping trolley in front of her like a battle shield. She talks to herself but also stops to chat with the woman in Carrer Tarafa who has the parrot.  There is a luggage label attached to her trolley. It says ‘My name is Isabel and this is my address.’  One day when I was feeling especially alien and alone I followed her a little on her journey through town.  She walked in circles and doubled back on herself regularly until at some point she stopped to ferret around in a rubbish container and I walked past and left her in peace.
  •  There is a large wild man who sells little packets of tissues at the traffic lights on the road to the hospital. He looks like that character in Harry Potter, I can’t remember his name but he is dark and fat and played by the actor who used to be in Softly Softly.  Our Granollers wild man is always very polite and I suppose enough people buy his tissues to make it worth his while. I have never ever seen him anywhere else.
  • Almost every day I see a man cycling through town who looks very out of place in this centre of conformity. He wears what looks like a woman’s coat which is slightly too small for him leaving his arms sticking out like brittle sticks. He is bald and has earrings and his white jeans are very tight. I often see him in the health food store. If we were in Penzance he wouldn’t look odd but here he is clearly an eccentric. When I asked other people if they knew who he was, no-one even recognised my description. Perhaps he is invisible?
  • Someone I almost know because we have spoken and we usually greet each other in passing is the slim woman with pink hair who feeds the local wild cats. I suppose she recognises me because I also look different and usually am accompanied by at least one dog. There are several places she puts down food and water for the urban cats. Since I arrived in Granollers there seem to be fewer cats around in the streets – I wish I thought this was a good thing but I wonder where they have gone.

The last person who I regularly notice and try to smile at is not really an outsider like the others. She wears normal clothes and has a job looking after an old rich man who lives (and perhaps owns) the flats opposite. She is often to be seen in our little square walking his small toy dog. What draws my attention is her totally unsmiling and unhappy face. She appears to be Latin American and I imagine that she feels far from home and family. One day I will work up the courage to speak to her.

All these people give me a feeling that it is difficult to describe. They sort of make me feel at home.

Saturday night much needed Vermut

As Fly Lady says, ‘you are not behind, just start from where you are’   So……

I’ve just had a friend to stay with me here in Granollers who I haven’t seen for two, or is it three years?  We had one of those wonderful weeks where there is plenty of time to catch up with everything but not in one great gulp.  We let the conversation meander between memories of when we were 6 and first met, to recent life changes, to current concerns, to music, back to families, stories from when we were teenagers, drugs, books and poems, kittens and dogs and everything else in between.

I’ll try to do the same thing now with you, letting the subjects rise and fall in their own rhythm.

Diet
I gave up my fasting diet for the week and ate and drank solidly throughout. It was lovely but now I’ll be returning with pleasure to the 5/2 diet where for 2 days a week you reduce your calories and feel hungry for a change. I’m pushing myself to get fully into kilos and grams and let go of pounds and ounces in more ways than one!

The Foot
Every morning this week I cycled to The Mútua for physiotherapy on my foot.
The journey up through France and north to Scotland then back down again caused a repetitive strain tendinitis in my left ankle.
I now know that this is a common injury and could have been avoided if I had rested more.   It didn’t start hurting until it was too late and by then I still had to drive and walk so compounded the problem.  For two months now it has been hard to walk, not helped by my impatience to take Bonnie out so that as soon it gets better I overdo it again.
I am having Laser and Ultrasound and Tens daily. It’s a sort of DIY system in the clinic where you clean the equipment and get your own ice-packs thus freeing up the staff to spend more time chatting with each other at reception

Art at Last
My friend Christine and I went to an art class in Granollers this week. It is amazing and is exactly what I have been looking for since I arrived but before I could only find classes for children.
We practised mixing colours in acryic paints which was like a meditation and totally absorbing

 I’ve always ended up before with mud brown and now I know why.
For days afterwards we were ‘seeing’ colours all around us. Look at this street corner in Granollers

Did you know that Malva is the Spanish word for Mauve?   And the Malvinas?

Now to get to the biggest theme of the week. The car.
In brief (which is difficult to do when something is obsessively churning around in your head) I bought a left hand drive Spanish registered car when I was in the UK. We drove home in it which meant that I could rest my ******* ankle.  It is a lovely car but when we went to Sabadell to register ourselves as the new owners, we couldn’t. We don’t have the correct paperwork from the UK dealers.
This is Spain. You need the correct papers and lots of them.  It is all a terrible muddle and errhhhh!
It has driven me crazy these past two weeks.  Very luckily we were able to get it through the ITV which is nothing to do with television but is the Spanish equivalent of the MOT.   You don’t need  to be the owner at the test.  The car is insured but that is it –  we don’t legally own it, there are several outstanding debts on it, we are not able to pay the road tax as we are not the owners…….. and the phone calls to the dealers are no fun.  I’m sure there will be a follow up to this saga….

That’s it for now then. If you are interested in seeing lovely photos of our town then can I invite you to take a look at the Facebook page Aboutgranollers?   I am building up a collection of images about what was called in the Guardian, this nondescript Catalan town.
And a last picture from today’s walk/limp in Montnegre. These are the trees that give us cork – they look so naked and unprotected after their outer bark has been taken. Think of them when you next open a bottle of wine.  But meanwhile, Salut and have a happy weekend wherever you are.

La Mútua

I have joined the private health system.
If you are a regular here you might remember that about a year ago I hurt my hand in the van door. I won’t make you revisit the details of what happened in the underground car park – I still can’t bear to think of it.
It was agony for a few weeks and then gradually healed up but there was always a strange sensation around the wound and even when it stopped hurting I wouldn’t say it was back to normal.
Then about 8 months ago a lump appeared over the finger joint and this has got bigger and more painful as time went on.

Ok, that’s the background and I only tell you the details as an introduction to my experience of health care here in Catalunya.

According to leaflets found in the health centres, every person resident here is entitled to a health card which provides free services at doctors and hospitals and reduced price drugs.

However….although I have been here three years and am empadronated in Granollers (it’s a list of people who officially live in an area) and come from an EU country,  I have never been able to get a health card, the Tarjeta Sanitaria or CAP card.

Everyone in my Catalan class – from Africa, from Morocco, from other parts of Spain – have CAP cards.  My friends from Germany and Australia have CAP cards. But I can’t get one.
Different officials give different reasons for this but in the end it comes down to the fact that I am from the UK.  If I get a form from the National Insurance in Newcastle saying that I receive no benefits from the social security system then I can apply for a card. But this would mean that I had opted out of the Health Service in the UK and as I return home every year and always go to visit my doctor there, and up to recently was being monitored for kidney stones, I don’t want to opt out. I want to go here when I am in Catalunya and there when I am in the UK. I can’t really see the problem.

This is why I didn’t do anything when I damaged my hand last year. I waited for it to get better.  Which it did. Then it got worse again and I found myself here without a doctor to turn to.

We went to the Urgency doctor in the local surgery. After waiting for almost an hour in a very dirty waiting room I saw a doctor who took a quick look and pronounced that I had a lump on my finger and that she couldn’t send me to a specialist as I was only receiving urgent treatment.

I then looked into private health care. Most of the arrangements cost about 200 euros per month.
A friend of a friend very kindly took a look at the finger and thought it might be infected and needed looking at by a doctor.
Finally someone pointed me in the direction of La Mútua – which as its name suggests offers various levels of membership of a mutual organisation providing health care.  Anyone here with a bit of money seems to be a member.     I used to be surprised when friends said casually they were off to see a gynaecologist but now I understand how easy it is here.  For 30 euros a month I can go and see a specialist almost immediately.  I pay each time for a visit or a treatment but it is at a much reduced rate.  The other option was to pay more each month, be a full member and have everything included.

The building of the Mútua towers over a central square in Granollers and inside there is an impressive list of specialities. I was shocked to see how many I could imagine using – ginecologia, urologia, pneumologia, even perhaps in the near future, geriatria!

Today was my first visit. I saw Dr Toro who I chose for his name.   He works in traumatologia and he speaks English. He sent me off to book in for an x-ray and an ultrasound. Because of Easter I can’t go next week but the week after I should be several steps closer to sorting out my lump!

This is not an advertisement for the Mútua – I’ll let you know how it goes and what I think of it after I’ve had the treatment. But it is interesting that here so many people are in private health schemes and accept it as completely normal.