diumenge, 28 de juny de 2015


Una nova aventura! La setmana passada vam aconseguir escapar-nos 4 dies a Mallorca per a visitar familia, concretament la germana de la meva dona, el seu parella, i el bebe que acaben de tenir. L'objectiu era precisament aixo, visitar la familia i descansar despres d'un trimestre una mica moguda. I aixi ho vam fer. Vam voltar molt per Palma, vam anar a la platja, vam jugar a Monopoli, i vam fer una visita rapida a Valldemossa.
També vaig aprendre que Menorca queda a l'est de Mallorca, i no pas a l'oest com sempre havia pensat, malgrat viure aqui 25 anys i haver visitat les dos illes. També vam poder confirmar que el tema de la llengua està malament a Mallorca, molta gent no xerra en mallorqui - però a nivell personal, poc a poc, gràcies al cunyat estic millorant la meva comprehensió del que diuen quan ho parlen!
Fotos i musica....
Brian's Big Break finally arrived - a well-deserved 4-day break in Mallorca (or Majorca). We now have family there - the missus' sister, her partner and their new-born kid - so we went to visit them and relax after a hard term (the school year finished here on the 19 June) before starting our "summer courses". So relax we did - 4 days of playing Monopoly, wandering round Palma, checking out the sights, the beach, and a quick visit to the place Chopin (apparently a pianist) described as being the most beautiful place in the world, Valldemossa. Obviously he'd never been to Yorkshire...
By the way, a little knowledge; Mallorca was re-conquered from the Moors by the Catalan king Jaume I donkeys' years ago and as such formed part of the Catalan/Aragon empire, and the language they speak is a kind of Catalan with a few changes, and a tricky accent! The Balearic isles now form an autonomous community within the state of Spain, as does Catalonia.
A few photos, followed up by another song by the best group from Mallorca.

dilluns, 15 de juny de 2015

More story-telling ... The Princess Bride

Mentre parlem de contes... l'altre dia vaig fer allò que fa tothom, comprar DVDs de pel·licules que em fascinaven de més jove, amb l'esperança que als nostres xiquets també els agradaran. Un dels quals era el Princess Bride, of course. Quina joia! Per casualitat fa només 2 mesos també vaig llegir el llibre, el qual és molt molt bo! I evidentment, qui pot oblidar la música?
I sí, als xiquets els ha encantat, ho han mirat 3 cops i juguen a dir "My name is Iñigo Montoya..."
Speaking of stories... the other day I did what every middle-aged parent does: buy DVDs of films I loved as a youngster (or teenager), hoping our kids would also love them. One of the bunch is The Princess Bride, a hilarious but romantic fairy tale unlike anything I'd seen at that time. Obviously since then, this kind of gentle satire has been copied but The Princess Bride was one of the first to do this, I think, and has stood the test of time. By chance, I also say the book second-hand in Barcelona on our recent trip there and devoured it in no time. It's also great! And, who could forget the music? All in all, a triplet of great entertainment!
And yes, the kids do love it. They've seen it 3 times and now play at saying "My name is Iñigo Montoya..."


diumenge, 14 de juny de 2015

Tell us a story...

Quan no estem enfeinats salvant lo món, de vegades pensem en com guanyar-nos les garrofes i tirar endavant l'economia de la casa. Per exemple, usant l'internet per a promocionar l'activitat de Sílvia com a rondallaire amb contes en anglès.

... and when we're not saving the world or just prevaricating about the bush, we do actually try and keep the bread on the table. For example, using our cost-free (in financial terms) social networks to try and promote Sílvia's story-telling activities.
By the way, this activity isn't as easy as it looks, writing/adapting tales for the English level a typical 7-year-old Catalan child might understand, introducing key words and expressions you want them to practise, preparing the material, rehearsing....

dissabte, 13 de juny de 2015

Still busy .... #BandOnTheRun

As I was saying, still busy! I have a mental list (does that sound right?) of fascinating blog posts I'd like to write but can't seem to get my head around starting them..... 
...this week, we're coming up to the end of the school year. Work-wise that means more work preparing reports, helping kids get ready for their official Cambridge University English exams in June/July, organizing our "summer courses" (July), and organizing the 2015-16 course. Family-wise, it means our oldest son is about to finish primary/junior school and move up to the Big Kids' School in September. The year a kid has their 12th birthday is the year they step up to secondary education. Apart from fragile emotions (where did those 12 years go?!), this also means end-of-school festivals and parties, plus the beaurocracy of paperwork to register him at the new school.
On the "campaign" front, it's also been one of those weeks. Started out last Saturday with a Town Cycling morning out that I was involved in organizing. One of the objectives of the outing was to gather local cyclists' ideas so as to write an article for a local newspaper, and a letter to be sent to the council. Guess who had to write them? Plus, spreading the news about these activities on social networks...
On the "save the river Ebro" front, we have been invited to defend our position before the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament on the 22nd. I cannot go, for work reasons, but am involved in most of the coordination of the trip and lobbying over the internet, arranging private meetings beforehand, passing on information to MEPs and so on. Also had to translate an important document we want the Parliament to have as well as a more simple leaflet which we hope explains our situation clearly.
On the "Catalan independence" campaign, some of the things will remain unsaid here, but I did go to the local indy group's meeting to explain my proposal of inviting an "expert in internet activism" to Tortosa to set up a workshop on how to use our time on the net most efficiently for our objectives.
At the back of my mind, I also have to organize things for our 3-day break in Mallorca next weekend to visit the sister-in-law and our 4-month-old nephew.
For no reason other than the fact that I was amazed when a 16-year-old student told me yesterday that he went (with his folks) to France last week just to see Paul McCartney, here´s Band on the Run: 

diumenge, 31 de maig de 2015

Busy bee #WorkingForALiving

De vegades em pregunto perquè no tinc temps per a mirar la tele o esciure un post al blog. I després recordo que gestiono o ajudo a gestionar:
Sometimes wonder why I no longer have time to watch the telly or write a post on my blog. Then I remember I run, or help to run:

5 Email accounts
4 Facebook accounts/Pages
5 Twitter accounts
3 Youtube accounts
4 Blogs

Thank God for technology, eh!

dilluns, 27 d’abril de 2015


Finally giving in to public demand, here's a few lines on Tortosa - where I live - for my international followers!
Basically, this is not the typical place where English migrants end up. No English supermarkets, no Marmite, no John Smiths beer, no groups of "Brits" gathered round SKY TV channels in noisy bars watching Premier League teams. Nor is it the other extreme, the dream-home for the English-man "gone local" who spends his time caring for chickens and olive groves before playing his guitar out on the verandah on a moonlit night. No, it's just a normal town with normal people.

Wikipedia says it all, but basically; a reasonably-sized town in the south of Catalonia with a population of about 35,000 inhabitants.The main feature is the river Ebro, which winds its way through town on its way to the Mediterranean.
It is the main town in this area, though, and, as such, has a plethora of shops, services, and public bodies, making it a pretty important place. It has its old part, with Renaissance period buildings and a castle built originally by the Moors. At different moments in history it has been an important town in Catalonia, and the trilogy of Moors, Jews, and Christians have all left their mark on the town's history and culture. However, its days of splendour are long gone as all the real action in Catalonia happens up near Barcelona or further north, and the economic crisis has also taken its toll. Most youngsters have to leave to find work or if they want to go to university. There is very little industry, and most of the local economy is probably based on the above-mentioned service industries as well as agriculture (which isn't exactly blooming) and a sort of green-sustainable-tourism thanks to its location. In more recent history, Tortosa was the focal point for the tragic Battle of the Ebro which more or less culminated Franco's coup back in the 1930s' Spanish Civil War. The town was bombed out of recognition and thousands of lives were futily lost in months of trench warfare.

We are only a 30-minute drive from the El Port mountain chain - with peaks higher than any mountain in Great Britain - or 30 minutes from the spectacular Ebro Delta with amazing wildlife, unique landscapes, and miles of beaches.
Tortosa suits me - big enough to have a fair share of things to do, near enough to Barcelona in case I ever want to see The City, but small enough to more or less know everyone and live a peaceful small-town life.
Maybe a few photos will give a clearer idea....

And the afore-mentioned Ebro Delta looks like this...

diumenge, 26 d’abril de 2015

A couple of songs by Faerground Accidents

Un altra troballa gràcies als misteris de Twitter. Suposo que hi ha milers de grups nous sortint a Anglaterra, però per casualitats que no acabes d'entendre - perquè tu has seguit tal, o has parlat de tal - de sobte un dia et trobes amb un grup de Sheffield per Twitter i escoltes les seves cançons i penses, wow! Vivim en un món on la sort té molt a veure, si el grup x cau al twitter del nou George Martin en comptes de Brian Cutts, ves a saber com acabaria ... mentre esperen aquest cop de sort, només els queda l'opció de continuar fent allò que els agrada i juga a totes les opcions de publicitat que poden trobar.... 
Another pretty amazing group I've found thanks to the whims and quirks of Twitter. There are probably thousands of new groups out there just waiting to be discovered but by chance this is one of the few to fall into my lap. Maybe I followed someone who follows them, or entered a key word related to this group, or whatever... but somehow I ended up finding this twitter account and listening to their music. A crazy mix of great music and black humour lyrics, just up my street. I think only a northern-England group could pull this off! Who knows where destiny takes us - if the same tweets sent out into the dark reach the twitter-feed of the new George Martin, the sky's the limit. If they reach mine, well, I just hope my followers enjoy them as much as I do - and I'd encourage the band to stick at it, doing what they enjoy and playing the social network publicity show for all it's worth. 

dissabte, 25 d’abril de 2015

Ups and downs of Sheffield life - Live for the moment #TheSherlocks

No sóc d'aquells anglesos que marxen del país però al lloc on aterran volen veure la televisió anglesa, comprar productes anglesos, tenir més interes en les eleccions angleosos que els d'aqui etc. Si estic en un lloc (com a Catalunya), prefereixo pensar en la vida aquí. Per això, durant anys i panys he evitat, o simplement no-buscat, estar gaire informat del que passa al Regne Unit, però ultimament gràcies a les xarxes socials, m'hi he posat una mica més al dia. Principalment sobre noticies locals dels llocs on vaig cada estiu per visitar familia etc. No m'importa gaire si les anglesos volen a Cameron o Miliband, però si que m'importen noticies com aquesta que he trobat gràcies a Twitter....

... a la ciutat de Sheffield, s'ha fet en els ultims anys, i decàdes, molts canvis sobretot en la part comercial. Com a gairebé tot arreu, el centre de la ciutat perd el seu interes mentre la gent prefereix anar a comprar als nous centres comercials a les afores on pots menjar McDonalds, comprar als Marks & Spencer's o anar al cine (com a tots els centres comercials del món, vaja). No obstant aixo, hi ha rincons de Sheffield on petites botigues independents i originals s'han aguantat i encara funcionen. Són unes petits joies per a la gent que les usa, on pots comprar i xerrar una estona, i encara gaudir de ser una mena de "common person" com diria Jarvis Cocker. Concretament hi ha una que ens encanta, una botiga super-petita, un laberint eclectic ple de petites sales amb llibres, revistes, i discos de música que no trobaries a cap lloc més de la ciutat. Es diu Rare & Racy. Pos, resulta que l'ajuntament de Sheffield ha donat el OK als propietaris dels edificis on es troba aquesta botiga i algunes més del mateix estil, per a tumbar-les :( Aqui teniu un bon article al The Guardian, i es pot seguir la campanya per a salvar-les al Twitter de @SaveDevStreet

Bé, no tot son noticies dolentes. Gràcies als misteris de Twitter, no sé com, vaig trobar aquest nou grup de Sheffield dels que estic segur que en sentirem parlar...
I'm not the typical English person who goes to live abroad and spends his days watching the BBC, reading the Daily Mail, buying English products or showing more interest in the UK general elections than the local news of his place of residence. If I'm here, I'm here and this is my life. I wouldn't say I've made an attempt to avoid English news and contacts over the years, but I have definitely not sought them out... however, thanks to the ease of social networks, over the last few years I have begun to show an interest in local affairs of my birthplace, especially as there are places we go back to every year. I do find it useful to know what's going on in Whitby, to encourage Barnsley record shops to stay open, or to follow Sheffield artists etc.... 
so I was shocked to read this news the other day. Sheffield city centre, like most English cities, is struggling to stay alive when everybody prefers to go to out-of-town commercial centres where you have all the big name shops and entertainment you can find in any other centre. The only way the city centres can stay alive is by offering something different, original independent one-off shops and cafes for the few of us who don't want to spend every day in McDonalds or HMV. The area of Sheffield around Devonshire Street is one such place- an oasis of eclectic offerings to make anyone's day. However, a couple of weeks ago I heard that Rare & Racy, the most amazing record (and more) shop, was going to be knocked down with the OK of the Sheffield City Hall - as well as some other cool shops. The full news story is here in The Guardian.

I just hope they see sense and reverse this decision. If not, I expect to see Sir Yorkshire Pudding throwing his full weight behind the campaign to save these shops - a campaign you can follow, for example, on Twitter at @SaveDevStreet
To finish on a brighter note, also thanks to Twitter I have discovered this new group who are surely going to be BIG one day soon...

dissabte, 11 d’abril de 2015

An afternoon near the Roques de Benet mountains

Una setmana santa tranquil·la a casa, descansant i fent coses de casa i de familia - però un dia vam fer una escapada. Una tarde vam anar a Horta de Sant Joan, o més concretament la zona d'El Port amb les muntanyes Roques de Benet, i el camí cap a la Mas de la Franqueta. Molt bonic, com sempre (és un lloc que visitem sovint), aquests dies tot verd i amb els barrancs i rius plens. Vam passejar una estona i vam contemplar les muntanyes cubistes tal com va fer Picasso fa uns anys. Fins i tot vam esperar fins gairebé la nit per a fer 4 fotos dels ultims rajos de sol i uns nuvols molt xulos.
So, a quiet Easter at home doing "family things" but one afternoon we drove up into the local mountains for a stroll with the kids. We went to a place near the town of Horta de Sant Joan where Picasso spent a couple of summers as a youngster and where he apparently "invented" cubism. Looking at the interesting skyline of the town, but above all the "square" mountains of Roques de Benet, he "saw the light" - or so the story goes. We had a grand time and even waited till dusk to get some sunset type photos as the last rays of the sun turned the, normally red, rockfaces golden.

This is one of Picasso's first Cubism paintings and is apparently of factory, and rooftops, in Horta de Sant Joan:

dissabte, 28 de març de 2015

A weekend in Barcelona with Kitty, Daisy & Lewis included

Als 90 vaig anar a Barcelona molts cops, per molts motius – és una ciutat molt interessant que m’encanta. Però des del naixement dels nostres fills i altres factors, hi hem anat molt poc en els últims anys, ja que tenim altres prioritats. A banda de les manifestacions i altres actes de la PDE i a favor de l’independència (als quals intentem no fallar), crec que només hi hem anat 2 cops amb els fills en els últims 10 anys, i sense ells, cap. Però l’altre dia vam decidir fer un cap de setmana de parella (sense xiquets) per a “fer alguna cosa diferent”, cosa poc habitual en mi!

Malgrat tenir una llarga llista d’hostels per a triar, vam decidir quedar-nos en el centre més cèntric possible, a l’Hotel Continental, a les Rambles mateixes! Bàsicament perquè no m’agrada perdre hores comparant i mirant, i aquest era el primer que vaig trobar, i, segon, perquè m’agradava l’idea del buffet i cervesa “gratis” 24 hores al dia, i last but not least, per ser l’hotel on Orwell va quedar durant la guerra civil. L’hotel, una mica car pel nostre pressupost, però un dia és un dia, i molt xulo. Habitacions netes i bones – encara que suposo que no eren de color rosa quan estava Orwell –el buffet excel·lent, i l’ubicació immillorable – a 20 metres del Metro de Plaça Catalunya. 
Vam dinar en un petit restaurant al Carrer Santa Anna, La Lluna. Us ho puc recomanar, menjar bo i normal (res de plats quadrats amb invents revolucionaris), i quantitats adequats, i moltes opcions per a vegetarians. I l’edifici, molt interessant.
Evidentment vam passar una bona estona al FNAC i al Carrer Tallers (botigues de discs), però la part més interessant va ser passar tota la tarda, i diumenge de matí, voltant el barri de Gracia. Quan la Sílvia hi estudiava a Barcelona, hi anàvem molt però ara feia 20 anys que no hi havia anat a passar temps. Infinitat de botigues interessants i petits bars i comerços, una Barcelona molt diferent del que normalment veig quan acompanyem els visitants de família i amics a veure els llocs emblemàtics. Vam trobar moltes llibreries i botigues de discs – pels que voleu llegir en anglès, aneu-hi al Hibernian al Carrer Montseny!

La visita coincidia amb el fet de que acabo de llegir La Plaça del Diamant, per fi, tant en català com en una traducció a l’anglès. Aquest llibre m’ha deixat sense paraules – un altre dia intentaré escriure alguna cosa – és el millor llibre que he llegit en molt de temps! Així que evidentment, hi vam tornar a la plaça per a fer una foto (20 anys desprès d’una altra foto que no trobo) amb la Colometa. Per cert, si això fos a Anglaterra, n’hi hauria souvenirs, botigues, visitor centres, rutes senyalitzades per atreure “turistes literaris”... 

Dissabte a la nit vam anar de concert ! A més, un concert de peu, com anàvem quan tenia 20 anys ! L’idea del cap de setmana i concert era com un regal per a l’aniversari de la Sílvia i vaig triar un grup que no coneixíem però que era evident que ens agradaria – els Kitty, Daisy, and Lewis. Blues, rock ‘n’roll, soul, amb continus canvis d’instruments i un bon toc d’humor negre, una passada! 2 hores de peu, com en els vells temps, però aquest cop se'm van adormir els peus! En acabar el concert vam comprar el seu disc (en vinil, of course), i vam fer fotos amb tots tres :)

Diumenge vam voltar més i vam acabar en una fira de roba « vintage » dels Susi Sweet Dress i ho vam passar molt bé – la Sílvia va comprar algunes peces, i ens van regalar una cervesa - i desprès no vam dinar ja que ens havíem fartat al buffet-esmorzar de l’hotel. Desprès cap a l’autocar (ja no ens fiem de Renfe) per a tornar a la normalitat.
(Fotos a sota)
Living just a 2-hour trip from Barcelona means I have seen plenty of this magnificent city over the years. Having said that, though, most of my time there was in the 1990s, or specifically pre-kids, pre-mortgage, pre-2003. Since our kids were born, I think we’ve only been twice as a family for “pleasure” – though we have kept going to river Ebro campaigning activities and events related to the independence of Catalonia! But, we now have other (economic) priorities! However, much to my own surprise as well as everyone else’s, I organized a (kid-less) weekend visit there recently as a birthday gift for my wife, Sílvia –a much needed and well-deserved break.
We wanted to get away from the tourist crowds we normally see when we do “the sights”, but still booked a hotel right bang in the centre of the Rambles! The Hotel Continental. Basically because (a) I hate searching and comparing all day on internet and have a tendency to book the first half-decent thing I find, (b) it has a “free” 24-hour buffet and bottomless beer barrel, and (c) Orwell stayed there during the civil war –though I don’t think the bedrooms were pink back then... it was a little over our budget, but carpe diem, as they say. I can recommend it, though – perfect location (20 yards from Plaça Catalunya Metro stop), nice enough rooms, great balconies and seating areas, interesting decor, and the buffet and beer!

We did a bit of shopping in the centre – records, books, looked at musical instruments –and then had lunch at La Lluna restaurant, again slap bang in the centre of Barcelona. A great place, really nice building with excellent staff, and good wholesome “normal” food (none of these fancy inventions on square plates) with decent quantities – plus they had many veggie options. Another recommendation for you there!

We then went to the “inland” part of Barcelona, the Gracia neighbourhood which is like a different town, only two Metro stops away but rarely visited by tourists. It’s well worth it, though, for the excellent small shops and bars and cafes, and “normal life”. We spent ages in second hand and new bookshops and record shops again and just wandering the streets. I also wanted to visit the Plaça del Diamant square (20 years after my last visit) to see the statue of Colometa, the suffering heroine of my favourite Catalan novel (more on that in a later post). Don’t tell anyone I recommend this area of Barcelona as the locals like to keep it tourist free, but believe me you won’t regret it! I’d suggest avoiding the socks and sandals look so as to blend in better...

After that, concert time! Yes, we relived our youth by going to one of those sweaty noisy smelly beer-drenched concert halls where you stand up and get crushed from start to finish (I got pins and needles standing up for 2 hours – hardly a rock’n’roll ailment!). I’d got us tickets to see Kitty, Daisy and Lewis who we’d never heard of, but judging by a couple of music videos I checked out, I knew we’d love them – and we did. Two sisters and a brother, constantly swapping instruments and mics around, gave us some good old-fashioned blues, rock’n’roll and soul with a sound dose of black humour. Afterwards we bought their album (on vinyl of course) on the way out and had our photos taken with the band. A grand time!

Sunday morning consisted of stuffing ourselves with a triple breakfast at the hotel buffet, and then more street-wandering before ending up in a vintage clothes fair where Sílvia purchased a couple of things and I got a free beer. Still full, we skipped lunch, and then caught the coach back to our normal lives.

 Photo of Sílvia taking a photo of the restaurant.
 Blurred photo of Sílvia in the cool restaurant, La Lluna
 Buskers in Gràcia
 Yours truly with Colometa - the main character in my currently fave book
 Hobbit-esque windows
 Second-hand English language book shop in Gràcia

 Groovy band kickin' some ass (does that sound suitable?)

 Sílvia (on the right) with Daisy (on the left)

 Interesting decor in our hotel
 Shops close on Sundays in Barcelona -wandering colourful back streets

 Experts in fashion say this is "vintage clothing"
 More windows in Gràcia

 How many cities have graffiti-pictures of authors? Merce Rodoreda, author of the Plaça del Diamant book I mentioned above.

And the final word, from the band themselves: