dissabte, 1 de desembre de 2018

La vida impossible d'un vegetarià a les Terres de l'Ebre

L’historia de la meva vida com a vegetarià (veggie) a les Terres de l’Ebre comença fa una pila d’anys... quan jo vivia a Anglaterra i encara anava a l’escola/institut, pos, no donava gaire importància al menjar (no era el que ara diriem un ‘foodie’) ni m’agradava especialment la carn. Quan vaig anar a l’universitat i tocava cuinar i fer la compra (un dia en parlarem dels estudiants ebrencs que tornen a casa cada setmana per buscar menjar i que els hi renten la roba!), en seguida vaig veure que evitant comprar carn, estalviava un munt de diners. Un plat de pasta bullida sense res, unes pataques amb col, arròs tot sol, coses fetes de soja que substitueixen la carn ..., de sobte vaig trobar una manera de poder sobreviure amb els pocs diners que tenia, i així els podia invertir en els estudis o altres coses (o sigui, en llibres, cinema 3 cops per setmana, concert setmanal, cervesa...). Per tant, passava dies sense tocar la carn, però tampoc era vegetarià ja que de vegades em permetia el luxe de menjar el Maxi-Grill al bar de l’universitat. Costava una lliure per un ou fregit, cansalada fregida, salsitxa fregida, xampis fregits, i una llesca de pa fregit. Boníssim! O algun fish 'n' chips!

 En acabar l’universitat, a l'estiu 1988, em vaig preparar pel famós ‘any sabàtic’ que passaria a les Terres de l’Ebre ensenyant anglès i al setembre 1988 ja era aquí. Els primers dos anys, vaig menjar ‘normal’ – o sigui, menjava de tot; paelles, ternasco, plats de carn i de peix, marisc, de tot el que hi havia. Però era una mena de traca final, perquè la veritat és que els anys menjant poca carn m’havien sentit millor, a més a més del tema diners (ser veggie és un ‘xollo’ si cuines tu), i que a l’universitat havia començat a conscienciar-me sobre la crueltat que patien els animals a les granjes-fàbriques degut a tenir molts amics veggies i haver-ne parlat i llegit tant. I és que a Anglaterra el tema és molt fàcil, des de fa molts anys. Cada bar, restaurant (KFC i MacDonald's tambe), cada botiga, casa d'algù, a tot arreu hi ha opcions per a vegetarians sense haver de lluitar amb ningú. Per tant, encara que sabia que Catalunya no tenia res a veure amb el UK amb aquest teme, a l’estiu 1990 vaig decidir dir prou i em vaig convertir en veggie (no en vegà). I llavors comença el calvari.

Cuinar per un mateix, cap problema. Però, anar a casa d’algú (amics, estudiants) o viure en gent, o sortir a menjar fora, pos, de sobte tot es convertia en un malson. En aquella època els restaurants i bars ebrencs no en tenia ni idea de la cuina vegetarià. Fins i tot, molts no sabien ni lo que era, perquè sovint m’oferien plats de peix o marisc. I evidentment als seus menús i cartes, res de res. Cada cop que surts, és un rotllo d’haver d’anar a parlar en el cambrer o fins i tot amb el cuiner per veure que poden cuinar – si és que volen fer alguna cosa. De vegades, els amics menjaven un plat exquisit, i jo un entrepà de formatge. Quan no, el plat més típic que et poden oferir és una amanida. Però una amanida tant grossa i amb tant de verd com si fos un plat per a alimentar una família de conills. Suposo que pensen “Hmm, aquesta amanida i truita d’un ou, li cobrarem al mateix preu que els entrants i ternasco que estan menjant els companys. Per tant, posem-li 4 kilos d’enciam”. I llavors quan t’arriba aquell plat gegant ple d’enciam, tomates, panís de llauna, ceba, olives, i els companys diuen “Oh, quina enveja tenim” mentre ells ataquen un plat d’arròs negre.... quina gràcia! Si surts en un o dos amics, pos, mira, no sap tant de mal haver de debatre amb el cambrer per aconseguir alguna cosa (habitualment la famosa amanida, seguit per una truita), però quan surts en un grup o vas a una celebració i és un menú fixat, llavors has d’anar al restaurant dies abans per parlar-los i acordar alguna cosa.

 Un dels pitjors moments és la Gran Boda Catalana. Aquelles bodes que es feien fa uns anys quan la gent (l’altra gent, jo no) anaven sobrats de diners. Primer has d’anar una setmana abans a explicar al cuiner que ets vegetarià i ell, després de bufar molt, et pregunta que vols. Li podria demanar uns canalons d’espinacs, o un pastis de nous i fruits secs, o uns rovellons plenes de salsa d'espàrrecs, però, al final veus que ell està pensant en la linea amanida + truita + 4 verdures i au. El dia de la boda, tot està calculat, aconsegueixen servir 199 plats de marisc en 3 minuts, però encara tardaran 15 minuts en portar el meu plat d’enciam. Els 10 persones a la taula que no conec, m’expliquen l’enveja que senten i em pregunten per què soc veggie. Jo encara estic menjant el primer kilo de panís i ceba quan ells ja no tenen res al plat i estan cantant. Quan jo acabo, ells ja van pel plat 2, i  així continuem tot el dinar, barrejant la falta d’imaginació del cuiner i la falta de ‘timing’ i de vergonya del restaurant fins que arribem als postres. Llavors el cambrer, “No t’he portat cap perquè ets vegetaria”... i au, a tornar a donar explicacions.... En fi.

Quan els cuiners d’aquí (que han passat 2 o 3 anys estudiant però no els han ensenyat mai que existeixen veggies o gent de certes religions que tenen necessitats de dieta diferents) pensen que saben molt, fan un plat de verdures a la graella, o uns ous remenats en comptes d’una truita. I quan no saben tant, pos, el plat d’enciam i a pasturar. De vegades, tal com he dit, encara estàs intentant fer camí entre tant de verd quan els companys ja van pels postres.

M’he adonat que he començat parlant dels anys 90 usant el passat però he escrit gairebé tot el text fins ara en present. Això és perquè realment no he notat cap avanç en el tema en tots aquests anys. Fins l’any passat quan vaig deixar el tema per perdut, l’historia continuava igual. Vols sortir amb una classe d’alumnes per sopar? Primer, trobem un restaurant que pot fer un plat vegetaria. Una ronda de trucades i a generar rotllos per a tothom. Ara que no ho sóc, igualment em fixo en els menús i l’historia continua igual. Pel que sento dir, hi ha hagut un ‘boom’ de vegàns però a Tortosa i voltants deuen morir de gana si surten a sopar. Potser ara els cuiners tenen algun idea si els hi demanes, però ho dubto. Sovint et pregunten, ‘Que vols que intentem fer-te?” Però el problema és que precisament un dels motius per sortir fora és el de relaxar-te, que t’ho facen uns altres, i no haver de pensar o debatre en el cuiner sobre que podem fer. Si no posen unes opcions a la carta, malament.

Quan era vegetarià, al principi encara sortia a menjar fora, perquè la joventut i ganes de passar-ho bé guanyen la batalla, però poc a poc et vas rendint. Desprès d’uns anys vas deixant-ho córrer, cansat d’explicar a tothom perquè ets vegetarià, i de les bromes fàcils ('Hmm, que bona aquesta paella, segur que no en vols?'), de voltar mitja Tortosa per acabar menjant enciam o no res mateix. També, tot s’ha de dir, el fet que deixaven fumar als bars i restaurants en el passat també em va superar. A més dels danys per la salut, haver de tornar a classe o casa fent pudor a tabac, pos, fatal. Per tant, vaig entrar el nou mil·leni menjant ‘verd’ a casa però gairebé sense sortir mai de casa si no fos per una obligació de la família. I tot això pesa al final, els anys sacrificant una vida ‘normal’ com la que està portant tothom, pos, al final et pot fer mal.

 Vivia (i visc) amb la meva parella i vam tenir el primer fill al 2003. Per tant, a casa vam acabar fent diferents plats també, uns de carn/peix pels xiquets, i alguna cosa a banda per a mi, i això també comença a ser pesat però que hi farem, si és una decisió meva. És pesat però es pot fer. El problema gros continua sent quan vols sortir de casa en família o parella, ara que no fumen als restaurants, el problema torna a ser el mateix. No pots gaudir del fet cultural de compartir un menjar i parlar-ne, o tots dos triar dos plats diferents per comparar ('Mmm, que bona aquesta enciam – n’hi vols provar?' Pos, no). Perds una part molt important de la vida i cultura catalana, de la qual la gastronomia i sobretot poder parlar-ne forma una part important. 

Per exemple, ara fa uns anys que a Tortosa fan l’elogiada Ruta de les Tapes. Uns 30 restaurants, però cap opció veggie. Els primers anys vaig prendre la molèstia d’escriure’ls als organitzadors proposant que almenys 2 o 3 ofereixen una opció, però res, em van contestar que això depenia dels restaurants – cosa que dubto ja que l’organització els posa un munt de normes per poder participar-hi, i no els costaria res introduir aquesta norma. I no només per els 4 veggies que vivim a Tortosa; hi ha gent que triaria aquesta opció per gust, per salut, o per religió. Dubto molt, per exemple, que un musulmà puguis fer la Ruta de Tapes a Tortosa, i després tots ens omplim la boca amb la ‘integració’. I els Tasts de Vins; a quants tasts de vins pots anar, quants ofereixen un maridatge per a veggies? L’any passat vaig portar 2 vegans, i jo, un vegetarià, a la fira de cervesa de Tortosa després d’haver confirmat en l’organització de que “Sí, segur, segur que hi haurà alguna cosa per menjar”. Pos, res. I cansa. 

D’anècdotes dels 27 anys de ser veggie, en tinc moltes; aquella amanida veggie ple de tires de cansalada que, quan demanes si t’ho poden canviar, s’ho enduen, treuen la carn i et tornen a portar el mateix. El cambrer que et discuteix sobre si pots menjar tonyina. Les tipiques olives que et posen a l’amanida vegetaria, plens d’anxoves. Aquelles discussions eternes amb els companys de taula pesats sobre diferents bitxos de mar, si realment són animals o no. Escoltar els mateixos arguments cada any; ‘Mentre maten a xiquets en les guerres, no m’amoïnaré pels animals’, ‘Les plantes també tenen sentiments`, ‘Jo també soc vegetaria, però menjo carn en cap de setmana’, ‘No hauries de menjar ous, doncs’, o el classic ‘Hitler també n’era’ ....  També recordo que al principi, principi, potser al 90-91 hi havia un restaurant vegetarià a Tortosa, al barri d’El Temple. Es va tancar gairebé en seguida, i des de llavors res de res. I el 90% dels restaurants actuals, estic segur que continuen sense una opció bona a la seva carta. 

Així que, principalment per motius de cansament, ho vaig deixar córrer a l’any 2017. Guanyes una mena de alleujament, que per fi pots tornar a formar part de la societat, que pots gaudir de la vida cultural-gastronómica en família, que pots participar en la vida social-cultural dels catalans, i que facilites la vida a tu mateix i als del teu voltant. Que he perdut? Salut. Estic més que convençut que l’opció veggie és molt més sà. Diners. Menjar carn i peix, sobretot si busques opcions de qualitat, criats amb uns mínimes condicions de salut/llibertat, i/o produïts localment, és molt car. Medi-ambient. Crec que està prou demostrat que menjar carn no és una opció sostenible per a la població. Malestar intern. La crueltat i patiment dels animals va ser la raó principal per a convertir-me en veggie fa una pila d’anys, i això no ha acabat. L’únic que puc fer per a dormir tranquil·lament ara és pensar que ja he fet el meu gra de sorra durant 27 anys, i a més continuo explicant a tothom el que penso, i si puc (i en trobo - a Tortosa!), comprem carn 'ecològic i lliure'. Per cert, aquí a Terres de l’Ebre, em donen l’argument de la caça. Si no t’agrada veure animals maltractats en granjes,em diuen que la solució és la caça perquè aquells animals caçats han viscut contents i lliures fins que algú els ha pegat un tir. Pos, no em serveix. Primer, no tots els caçadors mostren aquesta actitud tan simpàtica i afectuós per evitar que els animals pateixen. I segon, promoure el fet que la gent pugui gaudir matant, per mi, és un tema que no entenc.

Així que, la conclusió: recomanaria als restaurants i bars i cuiners ebrencs d’anar a estudiar i voltar uns mesos a Anglaterra on des de fa dècades el tema està tant normalitzat que la gent no hi pensa. Simplement no cal donar-ho importància allí, és com si una persona menja pa blanc o pa integral, la seva vida no es quedi gens afectat per aquesta decisió. Mentre els restaurants no ho fan, jo no em faria vegetaria aquí perquè és patir per patir. A casa, tot sol, endavant, però la vida és molt més que això. A Barcelona i altres ciutats hipster no ho sé, però aquí baix encara falten molts canvis en aquest aspecte. 

PD: he volgut  posar sobre paper (virtual) tots els entrebancs que he patit; em venia a gust 'vomitar' els 27 anys de problemes i anecdotes, però evidentment estic molt content d'haver viscut com a veggie uns anys i m'ha anat molt bé. He passat bones estones i bones menjades en família i amb alguns amics que ho entenen i ens cuidem mutualment. També reconec que sí, que per fi ara hi ha algun restaurant/cuiner/cambrer que intenta fer alguna cosa avui en dia, o almenys t'escolten quan els ho intentes explicar. Fins i tot a Tortosa capital! Tenen tot el meu respecte!



dijous, 29 de novembre de 2018

The revenge of the DVT

[Català/English post]

Let’s start at the beginning. Summer 2013 I was diagnosed with a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). I wrote about the 6-month experience here (link). Two years later, summer 2015, I suffered a thrombophlebitis or superficial vein thrombosis, which I also blogged about (link). After that the doctors ran a test on me to see if I had a genetic disposition (a mutation of the Factor V Leiden) to thrombosis problems (results said I don’t apparently) and after seeing various experts, the conclusion was the same as back in 2013 – just bad luck (no underlying cause to indicate why I’d had the original DVT problem or if it would recur), and advice to keep wearing the compression stockings, every day, summer and winter. Which I have done. 

But, a month ago, October 2018, I was diagnosed with another DVT in the same leg! A similar process, extreme pain in my lower leg, swelling, a bit redder and warmer than the other leg... when the GP saw it (30 October), he recommended going to the hospital Emergency department straight away for tests to rule out (or not) the possibility of it being a new DVT. Six hours later, blood tests and an ultrasound scan done on my leg, it turned out I’d got a DVT again (and in more than one vein from what I understand). So we then relived the 2013 moment – serious doctors telling me seriously not to worry, they’d get me through this etc, but for God’s sake, don’t move around! Go straight home, bed rest and don’t move for several days. Plus those anti-coagulant injections and some Sintrom pills (the equivalent of Warfarin in the UK I think). So I spent a couple of panic-stricken weeks at home, lying still except for the need to carry out specific bodily functions or eat something, and just getting up to go back to the hospital to have my blood tested and Sintrom dosage adapted accordingly. I won’t be seeing the ‘expert’ until December when I have an appointment with either the hematologist (blood consultant) or vascular doctor (vein consultant), so until then I don’t really know what’s next. Keep taking the pills of course. 
As to what I should do now, 4 weeks into the problem, I’m combining intuition, experience from 5 years ago, and Google research (I know, I know!). Because one of the main problems or worries now is, what should I be doing. The Emergency Ward doctor told me the first day to stay still, at least a week, maybe two.... but now four weeks have gone by and I still won’t be seeing the specialist until week seven. So, following my research, I think (but I’d love to ask a doctor!) I should be trying for a balance of rest, and not doing anything daft, but gradually moving about a bit as probably the worst moment has passed. As I said in a previous post, the worst moment actually lasts a few weeks and it’s when the blood clot can break free and travel around your veins and block your lungs and cause serious damage or, speaking clearly, kill you. I think/pray that risk is now reduced substantially after 4 weeks on the pills, which is more or less what Google’s telling me. But still, those nights when you lay awake paying attention to every single twinge, ache, pain, even trapped wind, thinking ‘Is this it? Do I need to get off to the hospital NOW? What about the kids? Where are my shoes? etc’ until you eventually drop off to sleep and wake up the next morning realizing you’re fine....
So, I’ve been off work for a month and will probably be off till Christmas I imagine. I can, and have decided it’s best to, move around the house and garden now, going out from time to time (for example, round the supermarket), and just lie down for an hour at a time to ease the pain. When I get up, I do light things around the house, but can only sit down for short periods as that’s the most painful moment. In a couple of weeks I’ll see the consultant and hopefully get a clearer picture of where I am and what I should be doing, and, more importantly, find out if they have any idea why this “one-off” problem has happened again despite my precautions (not sitting down for long periods, feet exercises, liquids galore, expensive stockings, reasonable fit and healthy, anti-coagulant injections before flights).
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Començarem al principi. A l’estiu del 2013 em van diagnosticar un trombosi de vena profunda (TVP), el qual em va tenir patint fins gener 2014, i de la qual vaig escriure aquí (link). Dos anys després, a l’estiu 2015 vaig patir un tromboflebitis a la mateixa cama, probablement a causa de la TVP anterior (link). Vaig tornar a fer la ronda de metges. Em van fer una prova per assegurar que no tenia cap problema genètic (com una mutació del Factor V Leiden). Vaig rebre el OK i un ‘No pateixes’, i em van recomanar portar mitjons de compressió tot l’any, estiu i hivern, dia sí, dia també. Amb això pensava que ja estava tot arreglat...
 però... sorpresa, ara a l’octubre 2018 han tornat a trobar un TVP a la mateixa cama. 
Vaig començar a notar un dolor agut, vaig anar al metge de capçalera, i em va dir que donat els precedents, millor anar a urgències a fer les proves per descartar que fos un TVP. Sis hores d’urgències desprès, i, sorpresa, les proves (una de sang, i l’ecografia de la cama) donaven positiu. Llavors va passar el mateix que el 2013, cares serioses dels metges, paraules recomfortants, i consells de sobretot no moure’s en absolut durant uns dies o setmanes, donat que (com vaig explicar el primer cop) el coàgul que està tapant la vena pot començar a ‘flotar’ dins de la vena fins arribar a tapar l’entrada al pulmó i l’historia acabaria molt malament. Et donen les típiques injeccions per fer la sang menys coaguladora (¿), i les pastilles famoses Sintrom. Llavors, quieto a casa, menys els dies que has d’anar a l’hospital per fer el control del Sintrom – que és el dia quan decideixen si tenen la dosi ben calculada o no, i t’ho van ajustant. De moment fa 4 setmanes que estic de baixa i crec que arribarà fins nadal. D’aquí uns dies toca visita amb l’especialista, o l’hematòleg o el vascular.
Crec que ja ho he explicat en posts anteriors, per mi el pitjor d’això és no saber que passa, no saber fins a quan hi ha perill, fins a quin punt no t’has de moure, o sí que has de moure. Surts de l’hospital amb instruccions de no moure’s en absolut. Però llavors no veuré el metge fins que hagin passat 6 setmanes. Mentrestant, que? He d’estar 6 setmanes enganxat al llit tremolant de temor? O pots fer alguna cosa? I aquest perill de tapar-te un pulmó, com ho notaria, que passarà? Si em moc la cama és possible que jo mateix posi en moviment el coàgul?
Amb una mica d’intuició, i els records de fa 5 anys, i una buscada per Google, he deduït que a partir d’un parell de setmanes has de buscar un equilibri i començar a moure una mica però evitar segons quines accions o postures... diuen que hi ha perill de que el coàgul es mou durant unes 4 setmanes. Faig molt de llit/sofa encara, però ara, a 4 setmanes, m’aixeco cada horeta, em moc dins de casa o al jardí, i minimitzo les estones de cadira que és quan em fa més mal. Però clar, això que diuen de que tens aquesta cosa a dins i es pot moure i et pot matar, pos, cada nit quan no pots dormir (o sigui, cada nit!) comences a analitzar cada sensació, cada petita molèstia o punxada... he estat molt a prop de sortir corrents cap a urgències diverses nits, però al final he esperat i ha passat, ja que evidentment són les petites sensacions ‘normals’ d’un cos. Però com que no sé com se sent tenir un coàgul tapant-me el pulmó fins que passi, pos, jo, a la deriva. En fi, ja tinc moltes ganes de parlar en l’expert per fer-li mil preguntes, saber que puc (no) fer ara, i sobretot si tenen alguna explicació del perquè m’ha tornat a passar.
....



dimarts, 28 de novembre de 2017

Poesia / Poems

Més coses que han passat en aquests dos anys. Al gener 2017, la Sílvia va guanyar el XIX Ramon Ferrando Adell de Poesia 2016, del poble de Jesús (Baix Ebre) amb La Calaixera. I al juny 2016, va guanyar el primer premi per votació popular en la Mostra oberta de poesia organitzat per CalaCultura a l'Ametlla de Mar. Del primera poema, vam fer una gravació a casa, però el segon video el vam encarregar a una professional, la Eva Mascarell. Per més coses que fem en el món de la llengua i cultura, aquest blog.
...
This year Silvia has presented poems in two poetry competitions, and won them both! Here are the videos we made afterwards. The first is home-made, but for the second one we paid a professional film-maker to make the film. The poems are in Catalan and I'm not about to translate them now, but I think you can enjoy the spirit of them anyway (and the texts are in the Youtube descriptions). Remember we also have another blog for our work and leisure regarding the world of words.



 

divendres, 24 de novembre de 2017

The weekend in Milan

[English below]
Continuarem barrejant l'actualitat amb coses que hem fet, o pensaments que he tingut (pocs), durant aquests dos anys d'aturada del blog. Mira, al maig 2017 vam anar a Milà. Jo no hagues pensat mai en anar-hi però va ser un regal de la familia i amics, uns vols i una nit a Milà i aixì que els vam aprofitar. Vam arribar dissabte a les 10 del matí, vam deixar fato a l'hotel i cap al centre. Sóc molt de caminar per les ciutats, i aixi pots veure coses que no surten en els "10 coses a veure a Milà". Vam passar els dos dies per la ciutat pegant voltes baix la pluja. Catedral, i milers d'esglesies, galeries de compra a preus inaccesibles, van ser les coses tipiques de veure, però el que ens va fermés gràcia van ser; vam passar un parell d'hores dins d'un museu de instruments musicals al Castello Sforzesco, vam passar molt de temps, i gastar diners, en una llibreria impressionant dins dels Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, i, lo millor, vam tocar un piano Fazioli. Com que la Sílvia estava pensant comprar-se un piano nou, vam buscar "botigues d'instruments" a Google, per a veure si en tenien alguns pianos. La primera botiga que vam anar, resulta que és la casa dels pianos Fazioli, que jo no coneixia en absolut, pero són pianos que costen molts, molts de diners. Els més cars del món. I els més bons. La botiga era molt exclusiva però ens vam armar de valor i vaam entrar, demanant si podiem almenys mirar-los. La dona de la botiga ens va animar a tocar, i aixi la Sílvia va passar 20 minuts tocant-ne un! Bé, algunes fotos del viatge... i alguna canço que evoca Milà per a mi, adolescent dels 80.
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Mixing current news with things we've done in the two years while I've had the blog on standby, let's talk about our surprise trip to Milan in May 2017. One of the last places I'd have thought of visiting, but some relatives and friends gave us the trip (flights and a night in hotel) as a present, so off we went! Spent the two days walking round, as in my opinion that's the best way to see a city, making sure you see loads of things not on the "10 things you must see" list. It rained all the time! Apart from the 10 Things, then, we saw three especially interesting places for us: we spent 2 hours in a musical instruments museum in the Castella Sforzesco. We found an amazing bookshop in the spectacular shopping centre Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. And, best of all, quite by chance we ended up in the best piano shop in the world. As we're thinking of changing our piano, I "Googled" instrument shops to go and have a look at. The first one we went to was a Fazioli one, which meant nothing to me. But, it turns out these pianos are works of art, the most expensive and best ones in the world, used by many top pianists. The shop was really exclusive but we put on a brave face and entered hoping they'd let us look at the pianos. Not only did they do that, but they insisted we have a tinkle -so Silvia ended up playing a Fazioli for 20 minutes! Photos. Oh, and music, this was a music blog remember? Something which reminds this 1980s teenager of all things Italian.

Scala Theatre
 Pasta
 Cool courtyards
 Fazioli piano (olive wood!)

 Instrument museum
 Cathedral, which we didn't queue to enter
 Famous shopping centre
 Here on the left was the petrol station where they hung Mussolini's dead body for people to see
 Love books!

divendres, 17 de novembre de 2017

What happened after the Catalan referendum?



And then what happened. The days following the 1 October vote (see last week's post), I think many of us were in a state of shock. Shocked and emotionally affected by what we’d seen, and were still seeing, as more and more images and stories became public, and also amazed by just how successful the vote had actually been in those conditions. Every time I met someone who I knew felt deeply about the cause or had been ‘manning’ a polling station too, my eyes filled up with tears. The international press seemed to give a very clear idea of what had happened so we were hopeful that someone somewhere in Brussels might finally speak up. I’m not asking them to say, “oh yeah, Catalonia be free” – merely for them to ‘advise’ the Spanish government to sit down and work out a political negotiated agreement on how to move forward on this clear demand by millions of citizens. Given the refusal of Spain to even accept what had happened, many opinion-makers and politicians requested international mediation but Spain refused this too. In another sad revamp of political methods from darker days, instead of talking, Spanish ministers went on record claiming that the referendum as such hadn’t happened (merely a few chaotic illegal acts), that the medical service was lying when it stated they had treated over 900 people, that hundreds of police had been injured (a number later reduced to 4), and one minister even went on the BBC to say that the majority of images of police violence were faked (when in fact many were recorded by international media, including the BBC!).

3 October – general strike called in Catalonia to protest police violence and give our backing to the referendum. This strike wasn’t just called by trade unions, but by political parties and pro-independence groups and associations so basically it represented a complete shutdown of Catalonia for a day, especially when people blocked the Mediterranean motorway and train-line at different points in the day. A glance at a map shows that Spain, and Europe, are playing with fire as it would be, and is, so easy to cut off main transport communications between Spain and France. A demonstration of about 5000 people was held in our local town, Tortosa.

10 October – after a nerve-wracking week of intense political drama and debate with everybody following the news 24 hours a day, the Catalan President officially presented the results of the referendum to the Catalan Parliament. He said that these results (together with Spain’s “response”) legitimized a declaration of independence but that he would leave it “in suspension” a few weeks to allow for any possible dialogue. People say this was probably due to the fact that Donald Tusk, leader of the European Council, had made a last-minute call for restraint and not to take the jump to independence just yet, implying that maybe Europe had woken up and would intervene if we didn’t push things to the limit (now, looking back, it seems he fooled us). The evening President Puigdemont said this in Parliament there were tens of thousands of Catalans outside the  building, ready, if necessary, to try and block the entrance of Spanish police whom everyone believed would try to arrest the President. In fact this week, it has been confirmed in the press that if he’d directly declared independence there were plans for police to enter via helicopter, sewers, and attacking the main entrance, whatever the cost in physical injuries to citizens.

16 October – Background; there is a huge grassroots pro-indy group in Catalonia, called ANC, with over 50,000 paying members, and with many many more people following its guidelines and demonstrations. There is also a highly-respected cultural association set up in Franco’s days to defend Catalan literature, culture, and language, called Omnium. This group often work alongside ANC to organize independence events. Anyway, on 20 September the Spanish police raided different Catalan government buildings in Barcelona. The biggest raid was in the Economy ministry where they arrested government officials and took away loads of documents, mainly connected to the “illegal”referendum. Omnium and ANC called for a protest gathering outside the building while the police were inside. Literally thousands turned up, with many more blocking roads and protesting in other parts of Barcelona too as people saw it as Spain trying to take over the Catalan government, and do away with self-rule as they’d already threatened. A stand-off was reached with the police unable to leave the building peacefully thanks to all the people outside but eventually in the evening the leaders of Omnium and ANC asked people to move away, to form a corridor for the police to start leaving, and as soon as possible to go home as the protest was over. Well, the Spanish public prosecutor has brought charges against these two people which still have to be proven in court –charges of “sedition” which could apparently lead to a 30-year sentence. Meanwhile, on 16 October, the judge jailed them anyway on remand while they await trial. Today marks one whole month in jail - for two innocent people.

27 October –after weeks of attempting to get Spain to negotiate or Europe to propose international mediation, 2 key things happened this day. The Catalan Parliament voted to declare independence with 70 of 135 MPs in favour. A historic moment with lots of epic images, anthem singing, flag waving, solemnity.... but, at roughly the same time in Madrid the Spanish government were also playing their top card. They decided to put Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution into practise for the first time. This allows the central government to take over the home-rule powers of any of the autonomous communities (Catalonia is one of about 20) in Spain if the government thinks they’ve misbehaved, to put it in plain English. Many believed a few months ago that they wouldn’t go so far as this, effectively eliminating home-rule, as the political setup of autonomous communities is one of the key parts of the glue holding Spain together. But Rajoy and co. had been warning that this day might come, and it did. Thus, as Catalans hit the streets to celebrate, Spain put the machine into action to take over Catalonia’s government.
So, there were now two parallel realities. In one, Catalonia had declared its independence and must now put it into practise. In the second reality, Spain had taken over the Catalan government and dismissed its President and ministers. At that moment, people believed we either go meekly into the night and allow Spain to crush us, or we go for the epic defence of the new Catalan Republic, with the President and his ministers in the Parliament building surrounded by thousands of citizens protecting our democracy, while the Catalan police take over the positions of Spanish police around the country, especially at key control points like airports etc. The fact that we were called to celebrate in town squares, rather than encircle the Parliament on the night of the 27th was a clue as to which road we’d be taking, though. Not the epic Braveheart one, but the one of peace and common sense. This was confirmed over the weekend when the Catalan govt basically disappeared, except for the President who was seen going about his social life and who asked Catalans, in a televised speech, above all to peacefully defend our democracy in whatever way necessary and not to respond to provocations. Another key aspect was that Rajoy announced they’d hold autonomous elections in Catalonia on 21 December (illegally as only the Catalan parliament can call these elections). Would independence parties participate? Will they be allowed to? How, if we’re already independent?

30 October – Monday morning. Catalan government officially dismissed by Spain. Would they dare to turn up for work? Would they be arrested? Over the weekend the chief of the Catalan police accepted Spanish police taking control over them (following Article 155) so we now knew there’d be no clashes between different police forces. One Minister turned up, was in his office for a while, then left again. But where’s the President? By lunchtime we knew. In Brussels. Rumours had flown in previous weeks that if it came to the worst, Belgium would be a possible place for the Catalan government to go into exile – an act with significant historic overtones for Catalans who have seen their governments arrested, executed, or exiled before. Meanwhile Spain issued arrest warrants for them.

31 October – President Puigdemont press conference in Brussels. He explained that up until the 29th itself he had tried to negotiate a last-minute agreement with Spain to no avail. He had offered to forget the independence declaration and call elections, if Spain called off the threat of Article 155 – to no avail. He explained that on the same day of the independence vote, he’d been told that Spain was more than willing to use violence to end this situation. That if we went down the “epic road” (my wording), they’d use police violence against any citizens trying to obstruct the police from arresting the government. That there may be deaths, and these would be on the Catalan government’s conscience. [Another top-ranking Catalan MP went on record this week confirming this, that Spain had threatened the Catalan govt with civilian deaths]. Given this information, Puigdemont wisely reaffirmed what we have always said, that the birth of the independent Catalonia can only be a peaceful birth, and faced with this level of brutality, it was better to retreat and play intelligently. The plan would be for some of the Catalan govt ministers to return to Spain to face their court cases, while the President and 4 ministers would stay in Brussels to actually work as the legitimate Catalan government, making all the contacts they can to generate support and/or denounce what’s happening. He also said Catalans have no fear of democracy, so we would accept the gauntlet of the December elections. It also turned out that the independence vote hadn’t been completely legalised as it hadn’t been published in the official gazette of the Catalan Parliament yet, another play in this intriguing game of violent chess.

2 November – 8 Catalan government ministers travel to Madrid for preliminary hearings on their court cases, and are immediately jailed on remand too. As we all think we know, when “important people” are jailed, they are treated with kid gloves, aren’t they? Well, not here. Apparently they were sat on benches without seatbelts in the back of police vans for a 3-hour drive at full pelt, speeding round corners, with their hands cuffed behind their backs. Meanwhile Spanish police officers insulted them and played a constant loop of the Spanish national anthem. On their arrival at the prison, at least two were then strip-searched.
Apart from being government ministers who’d merely carried out their political programme/promises, peacefully and clearly, two members of the government used to be MPs in the European Parliament, well-known and respected for their work on peace, international cooperation, and human rights. One of them was even involved in the peace talks in Yugoslavia. And now they are treated like this. Words fail me. They are also still in jail as I write this.

8 November – a second general strike, once again bringing roads and railways to a standstill.

9 November – the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament called to court too for allowing the Parliament to hold a debate and vote on independence. She was given a bail of €150,000 to avoid jail –but the judge/beaurocratic system wouldn’t accept the payment until the next day, so she had to spend a night in prison too!
Meanwhile, despite initial reluctance, it became clear that we (pro-indy parties) had decided to face the 21 December elections whatever happened. Perhaps this would be the signal Europe needs, yet another victory for independence, this time through elections? At the previous elections, two pro-indy parties joined forces, while a third left-wing one stood separately but supported the others in Parliament. This time, after much debate, they’ve decided to stand each on their own, and then make coalitions afterwards, presuming they win of course. At the same time, Spain’s been doing its work too –sending its ambassadors and the foreign minister to spread lies and confusion, criticizing Catalan press and TV (getting ready to take them over too), criticizing the Catalan education system (getting ready to make radical changes), wondering whether pro-independence parties or jailed politicians can stand for elections, and organizing unionist rallies in Barcelona –filled out with people bussed in from all around Spain! The Chief of Catalan police, responsible for the quick and efficient response to the terrorist attacks in Catalonia in August has now been demoted to a pen-pushing job in a small police station. And slowly but surely, Spain has been taking over Catalan ministries.
There have also been many, almost daily, gatherings, rallies, and other activities demanding freedom for the ten political prisoners now sleeping in Spanish jails, hundreds of miles away from their families. 

11 November - The largest such demonstration was held in Barcelona last Saturday. Probably over 750,000 people showed (a) we want these prisoners released and (b) the Catalan ‘problem’ isn’t going away. Photo below:






diumenge, 12 de novembre de 2017

Visiting Harry Potter Studios, August 2016

[English version below]
Pensant que tampoc cal que el blog renascut ha de ser monotematic, aniré explicant algunes de les coses que he fet en aquests dos anys sabatics. 
Harry Potter. Al final dels anys 1990 quan Potter va començar a ser famos, jo vaig tenir l'actitud tipic que tenia quan era més jove. Si a tothom li agrada, pos, a mi no. No m'apunto a una moda perque sí. Vaig a ser critic (pensant que merament era un reciclatje d'altres llibres classics de la literatura en anglès). Evidentment, em vaig equivocar com en moltes coses en la vida. Quan vam tenir xiquets, i ells es van enganxar als llibres (llegint i rellegint, en anglès, català, castellà), vaig llegir-los per posar-me al dia. I vaig quedar enganxat igualment! Són molt bons i els recomano a tothom, igual que us recomano a 'open your minds' i no ser tant negatiu en coses noves com jo vaig ser! En fi, l'estiu del 2016 vam decidir visitar els estudis a prop de Londres on van gravar moltes escenes de les pel·licules. Increible, val molt la pena. Si sou fans, ho recomano molt. Vam fer 3 hores de cotxe per arribar (i 3 per tornar), però no m'arrepenteixo. Crec que vam passar gairebé 5 hores dins dels estudis, i una hora dins la botiga!
...
To avoid the reborn blog becoming just a Catalan independence blog, I'll throw in a few posts on what I've been doing during the last two years.
Harry Potter. When I was younger, so much younger than today, I was a bit of a fool in that whenever something new came along or became fashionable, I'd always steer in the opposite direction or try and ignore it, if not criticize it. When the Potter craze broke out at the end of the 1990s, I did the same, moaning that it was just a rehash of other great kids' literature etc. I was wrong of course. Flash forward some years until our kids were old enough to get hooked on Potter (reading and rereading them again and again, in English, Catalan, Spanish). I had to read them then to see what they were talking about, and I loved them. So now we're all hooked. That's why we visited the Harry Potter Film Studios near Watford in the summer of 2016. A 3-hour drive down (and 3 hours back) were well worth it. We spent about 5 hours in the studios, and an hour in the shop,and I'd go back tomorrow if I could. There you go, give it a try!