Vermut and Kisses

Last night there was a big jazz band playing at the Casino and about a 100 people came to dance Swing and Lindy Hop.  As you might know, I am learning Swing in Barcelona but I don’t have much chance to practise so I was quite excited.  Granollers swinging at last.
And the best thing is that my friend Montse Marti is going to start teaching classes here in Granollers. After Easter I will be going there and am very happy that Pep is going to come too!
For more information go to Bigpotters Swing on Faceboook.

This is a Virtual Vermut so here is a sign I saw in Barcelona last Monday when I went up for my Swing class.

Vins Cava Vermut i Petons!    Wine Cava Vermouth and Kisses!

This tiny bar with the sign is in the Barri Gotic and is owned by a  Scottish lady called Katherine who has a cheese shop and decided to expand into the the space next door to create a simple bar with wine and cheese.   After many many years of living in Barcelona, she still has a beautiful rich Scottish accent. And of course she speaks Catalan and Spanish as well.

Sometimes I take Bonnie for walks around the town, looking for old buildings and signs of Granollers history. This was an old  liqueur factory, now derelict.  I like this style of sign writing; there is a lot of it in Granollers.  It’s in Spanish as you can see from Montaña which would be written as Montanya in Catalan.
An Arab woman happened to be passing by when I took the photo.  I read in the local paper today that while the last ten years have seen a huge increase in the number of immigrants here in Valles Oriental, in the last year there has been a decrease.   This is due to the fact that people who came from Latin America are now returning home. Work is hard to come by here and in Latin America there is a strengthening economy.   Over 18% of the population of Granollers are from other countries originally.  By immigrants I mean all people who are not of Spanish nationality, including me!

Two other stories from the week
1/ Ant invasion
The ants have come back. We have tried everything but they are winning. Sometimes they withdraw to build up strength and numbers for the next campaign. But they never really go away.
We cleaned out the cupboards yet again

We spread cinnamon around all the entry points

We hung bay leaves as apparently they don’t like the smell

We squished with our fingers the scouts that they send out in advance of the main army
And of course we have tried to negotiate and ask them to go away.
They are fascinating creatures – if you get down close and watch them it becomes very hard to do them harm.

2/ Drawings

Pep did a clown performance and helped present prizes at a drawing competition for the local cancer charity. Before Christmas children had done drawings of…..guess what?  Yes, caganers,  the Catalan addition to all Nativity scenes. So we wandered around looking at about one hundred depictions of little red capped men – shitting!    I am sure the children had a great time!

So that’s it for this week. Happy March to you all!

Taking your dog to live abroad

I took Bonnie for our normal walk this morning. We don’t always go to the same place but 4 or 5 times a week we go to the Park by the river.
First we crossed over the little square Jacint Verdaguer where there are nice large beds of sand around the tree trunks, used by many dogs as their local toilet.
(Just in case you are not a dog person and are beginning to breathe rapidly and get all worked up about dog shit, I will add now that although some people do not ‘pick up’ the vast majority do, including me!)
There is a colony of pigeons that live in the trees that circle the fountain and today, like most days, they were eating some food left by a neighbour

We went along narrow streets until we arrived at the green space near the river.
I wondered where the swallows are now – of course it is far too early for them to arrive but when they do, this is the place I watch them flying and feeding.

There is a lot of human rubbish all around this zone and I have to defocus otherwise I would be walking every day in a steaming tizzy.
I have a plan to work one day a month clearing up this path – it doesn’t look too bad here – but it is!

I’ve got the bags and just need to contact the council to ask them where I can leave them when they are full. I am attracted to the idea of being ‘that crazy British woman who picks up rubbish’

We passed the vegetable plots and the wild and chaotic yard where Lola the Border Collie lives. She wasn’t there today so we couldn’t do our normal greeting from afar – HOLA GUAPAAAAA!  QUE TAL?  WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF in response.

People do stare at me – I have a secret exhibitionist trying to get out, I think.

We said hello to the little dog who lives on a balcony in one of the flats that look out over the river. Many people here have dogs that spend their days on the balconies, barking at every passing dog. I feel sorry for them but try to cope with it by shouting hello when we pass.

In the park there are always lots of dog walkers and this is one of our favourite places. I don’t usually throw balls and Bonnie just gets on with her newly discovered addiction to sniffing around on the path. She never used to do this in Cornwall – she was too busy running and playing with friends and balls. But now she seems very happy with her head down, checking out who has passed by and whatever other secret messages dogs leave in their pee trails.

This all set me thinking about how we both have adapted to our new environment. We lived in a beautiful paradise in Cornwall, beaches, fields, woods, peace and fresh air. Now we live in a polluted and noisy industrial city, surrounded by rubbish and graffiti, with few green areas to walk in unless we go further afield

But we both seem to have learned to get on with enjoying life. I look at the flowers and the birds and enjoy the view of the distant mountains. She gets very excited by all the new and strange smells and obviously loves the way every day brings more news from the doggy world

This is the funny face  she makes when she is sniffing for scents – her mouth hangs open slightly

At least once a week we can go to the beach or the hills and get more into wild nature.  We have the Pyranees and the Mediterranean on our doorstep.  Granollers is not our perfect dream place to live but in general it is fine.  I worried about all this before bringing Bonnie to live here but like all dogs she lives in the present moment and I don’t think she spends any time dreaming of Cornwall and our past life. She also adores Pep and so long as we are all together and there are new things to explore, she is happy.  Me too!

Burns Night in Granollers

This was very different from the Burns night we celebrated in Barcelona a few years ago. It feels so much better celebrating with good friends and being relaxed even though there wasn’t so much room for the Gay Gordons. As I was mugging up on all things Robert Burnsy I also learnt quite a lot that I hadn’t known before.

  • Lots of people all over the world know Auld Lang Syne but have never heard of Robert Burns.
  • In Catalunya they call that song  ‘És L’Hora Dels Adiéus’ 
  • Burns died age 37 only a few days after writing to a cousin pleading for money to pay a bill
  • As with many genius’ he died in poverty but his funeral was attended by thousands
  • The traditional of Burns Suppers was started by his friends after his death and the food is based on his favourite dishes
  • The bawdy poems are available on the internet and some of them are very funny*
  • For 5 people you do need two vegetarian haggis – everyone had second helpings!
  • Cock-a-Leekie soup has prunes in it but you can’t tell when you eat it

This was our menu

  • Cock-a-Leekie Soup
  • Haggis with Neeps and Tatties
  • Cranachan with ginger biscuits instead of shortbread
  • Oatcakes with French cheeses (in honour of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France)
  • Whisky – 10 year 12 year and 18 year

I had bought the haggis and turnips in the UK last week but I wonder if you can get them in Barcelona?  Must look into that for next year when I hope to have my first home grown potatoes.
The whole menu was vegetarian although I read last week that the vegetarian haggis is a mythical creature – they are a carnivorous species!

Here are our lovely MacGuests- thanks so much for getting into the spirit of the evening!

And I’ll finish with a Scottish joke to remind us of the strange link between the Scots and the Catalans who are both the butts of this kind of joke!

A Thoughtful Scottish Husband

Did you hear about the thoughtful Scotsman who was heading out to the pub? He turned to his wee wife before leaving and said, ‘Jackie – put your hat and coat on lassie.’
She replied, ‘Awe Iain that’s nice – are you taking me to the pub with you?’
‘Nah, I’m just switching the central heating off while I’m oot.’

*If you want to see the one I read out then leave me a comment and I’ll print it!

Crimes against humanity – the bombing of Barcelona

On 31st May 1938 Granollers was bombed by Italian fighter planes who were supporting Franco’s forces in the Civil War. I want to write about that nearer the anniversary but today I saw some news I thought was interesting.
A court in Barcelona has ordered that there should be an investigation into crimes against humanity when civilian areas of Barcelona were bombed earlier that year, also by Italian forces. Because of the 1977 law of amnesty that guarantees members of Franco’s regime immunity from prosecution there have been no opportunities to challenge whose who committed crimes in the Civil War.  But because the bombing of Barcelona (and Granollers) was done by foreign troops(although clearly with the approval of Franco)  it is possible to slip past this legal muffler of truth. Here is an article in Spanish with a lot more information.

There is always the question – is it better to move on and let tragic sleeping or dead dogs lie? Or is it important to open up old wounds so that they can be cleansed and heal?

It is all so recent. Living memory. People who were victims of the bombing are still alive. And those who bombed – many of them too are still alive.  Although quite old. But does that make them innocent?  Personally I have always thought it important to get things out into the open – but it also depends on whether is is done with the intention of healing and moving on or of punishment. It’s such a big question and one I expect that will be discussed here a lot while the process unfolds.



I haven’t told you about Swing yet?

It was one of my New Year promises to myself – that this year I would get back dancing and that finally I would find a class in Swing.

Last Monday I rang up Swing Maniacs in Barcelona and found they had only three places left in the beginners classes.
Monday, Thursday or Friday nights. I quickly changed my English classes from Monday to Tuesdays and enrolled.
See you tonight‘ she said. I wasn’t expecting that!
Panic stations.  The class began in about three hours time.  I had to race out with Bonnie. Stuff down some lunch. Choose suitable dance shoes.  Run for the train.  Find my way to Carrer Esglesia in Gracia and gather my courage to walk into yet another new place alone and feeling just a little bit old.

It was the first day of term. Lots of people enrolling. I paid 88 euros for 11 weeks and found my way through a maze of corridors to a dance studio. There were two other single women waiting and when the class began three men arrived. It became obvious that they had danced swing before so it seemed that we three were the only beginners and the men are taxi dancers. What amazing luck! We all swopped partners and for 55 wonderful minutes we learnt the first basic steps of Swing.
Everyone was laughing and smiling. The music is uplifting. I found it easy to learn and to follow.  A wonderful evening!  This year I have such a strong feeling that if I dream of something – I must take action to do it!  Or at least to try.
And today – Sunday – there was Swing in the Porxada in Granollers. It was raining and when we arrived there was no-one dancing but after 20 minutes this was the scene.

Music and smiling and swing has arrived in Granollers.