Friday, September 30, 2005

Top Oven

Our search of Barcelona’s top hip restaurants we go to Oven in PobleNou, the city’s warehouse-conversion answer to Shoreditch. A huge open space, with great low red sofas in the bar area. Seriously good cocktails and very good food.

Trouble at School

Summoned to school by the teachers; Benjamin has cleared out all his mates playing Texas Hold ‘em poker and Rebecca is in trouble for selling fake perfume.

Only joking!

It is the planned three-week visit to see how they are getting on. The answer is fine in both cases. Ben talks too much (next week’s news: Pope is catholic) but has a kindly English teacher who speaks to him in his own language rather than the sour-faced teacher he had last year who talked humourlessly of his ‘inappropriate behaviour' and his 'violence in the playground' (ie he had a scrap)

Rebecca’s form teacher, Mr Pujol looks about 12 while her headmistress comes to the meeting in a designer fashion top proclaiming ‘no limousine, no party’. You don’t get that at South Hampstead …

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I hate BA

Another appalling late journey on BA with not a hint of an apology from the captain for the inconvenience. I’m flying Easyjet next time

In the papers all is love again for Barca. They have won two matches by 4-1 and manager Frank Rijkaard, portrayed as a dunce at the weekend, is hailed as the new hero. 14 pages are devoted to this revelation in the main sports paper. Meanwhile Espanyol, who actually did play a real game the night before, creep in on page 15.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Mammy ...

Utter joy as I leave Copenhagen and land in London. I stay in my mother’s home for the first time in maybe 25 years. It is wonderful – a meal cooked in my honour and we watch United (at last) win on the TV.

We talk about Spain and the civil war and – scoop! – I discover my grandfather came to the aid of the Republicans. It turned out that an au pair of theirs went out to Spain as a nurse and Grandpa dispatched a parcel of Shevloff’s finest linens for her to take…Always on the side of the men with the white hats

Monday, September 26, 2005

Don’t get me started

Off to Copenhagen for work. First visit to Denmark and I hope my last – it seems to be a very unfriendly city with sad, unsmiling people. Having been promised there would be a sandwich when I arrived late at my hotel I get there to find there is none because I hadn’t specified that I really would want one and what variety. What?

The following morning I decided to hop into the city centre. The ticket clerk at the station tells me I can only use a Danish credit card and so I must go to a cash machine and get Kroner.

The capital is a grim, grey place with more unsmiling people. Even at 8.30am practically nowhere is open for breakfast and I get a stale roll and cheese in a dimly lit shopping centre. Back in the suburb where my interview is the focus of the town, the 1960s monstrosity that is the local civic centre is full of £1 shops and a dimly lit pub which is packed at 10am with smoking beer drinkers.

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen? I don’t think so.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Such a boar...

Sunday lunch in the country (all of 10 mins away) at Can Marti, an open air restaurant where they grill all the meat over an outdoor fire. Wonderful simple Catalan food, but the highlight of the day is the wild boar that wanders across the road on the way home. Ben claims it’s a baby but it looks pretty big to me. Five minutes later we are back at the flat.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Castles in the air

Is our big day at the Merce. We pack into the Placa St Jaume with thousands of others at midday where teams from all over the city build astonishing human castles. The one by ones are gradually smaller people, ending up with a child of about eight looking scared out of his brains. The climax are pyramid style towers with three on each layer, four or five decks high. Astonishing.

Later on we return to watch the main procession go down the Ramblas before heading on to see an open air circus in the park, the fireworks and a few dancing lessons in the Placa Reial, where we find the secret entrance to the best bar in the square...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Merce, mercy me

The first day of the three day holiday weekend to mark Merce – the festival commemorating the City’s saint. It’s also the first day of autumn and we pay homage to that by hopping down to Garaf and spending the afternoon on the beach. We eat the freshest fish in a cliff-top restaurant of the type you’d pay £75 a head for on the French Riviera – which is what we pay for all four of us.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wonderful Woody

The gloom about Barca in the local press is only relieved by Jonathan Woodgate’s comical debut for Real Madrid – a classic own goal and a sending off. Who says you get nothing for £13 million these days?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Barca revisited

A kind friend who has known us for all of 10 minutes lends us his top flight season tickets for the key game against Valencia so Ben and I get to be there for the first two home games of the season. It ends 2-2 and Barca are awful (none more so than Ronaldinho) apart from Giuly. We do see a world record of sorts. Villa of Valencia must be the first player to score from the penalty spot and with his arse (when Valdes whacks him with a clearance) within 60 seconds.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Real Madrid 2, Barcelona 1

Not the score but the number of pages in the papers devoted respectively to their start to the season - Real's being dire (two league defeats and a Champions League thumping by Lille) and Barcelona's so-so - a win, draw and loss in league and a comfortable European win.

And much cuddly comment for the city's second (and usually unloved) team, Espanyol, who beat Real last Sunday.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The best thing

is that after one week the children seem to have made friends at school. Ben has a play date next Wednesday and Bex went last night to see Mr and Mrs Smith in Spanish with some classmates. She said she sunderstood the film which says something about her Spanish or the complexity of the film...

Big night out

We get a baby sitter for the first time on Saturday night and head off for Commerc24, the avant garde tapas restaurant in El Born. It's somewhere where I have wanted to go to for ages and it is sublimely all I imagined, from the first course (a shot glass of sangria topped with lemon foam) through to the dessert (salted, semi-solid dark chocolate and a frothy creme catalane).

The chef
Carles Abellan is there, cooking, cleaning, serving and generally being most un-star chef like. The food is all sensational and by London standards amazingly cheap (E48 for the full tapas menu). By the end we are too full to do anything and head home with huge smiles on our faces after one of the most uplifting meals I have had in ages.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Have Weetabix ...

Another alarm call at sparrow-fart and another food-less trip with the useless British Airways to Edinburgh. But I get to see Katie for lunch at Harvey Nichols (and we both emerge alive) which is wonderful.

Back home to Barcelona, laden with real tea (can’t get a decent cuppa here), DVDs, books and Weetabix for Ben. I feel a real pillock carrying the cereal on in my Sainsbury bag, as if I can’t survive the weekend without it. ‘Expecting delays are we sir?’ asks the security man at Edinburgh airport. .

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Make mine a pint

Pissing down with rain on a day that involves constantly heading round London for meetings. No time for lunch but a serendipitous couple of pints of IPA in the O’Conor Don (London’s finest pub) with Rob Beynon before watching 49 Up, one of the finest TV programmes ever, at Nick’s.

So there – two things they do better in London

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

London redux

First tripback to London for work. The 6am alarm call is bad wherever you are but the taxi is just 10 mins to the airport. London is grey, grey, grey but I’m trying not to be a Barcelona bore. Apart from the tubes and taxis being so expensive. And the sky is so grey. Or did I say that already?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


We’re cracking the school run. Take a bus, or a train or pack five mins away. Bex seems happier after her second day.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Very draining. Up at 7am and the alarm is like a shotgun firing off next to my ear. It is the thick end of three months since we did a school run and it doesn’t feel very good. The kids look great in their new uniforms.

We were warned about the school run on the first day of the year. Ha, we thought; we’re used to the worst in Europe. It can’t be that bad.

It was. Hampstead is like a drive in the country. We crawl up the hill into Sarria and then get poleaxed around the school where every four wheel drive in Barcelona has mounted the pavement at crazy angles as if their occupants were fleeing some disaster. The tiny streets around the school are completely gridlocked as cars, vans, school buses and lorries battle for every inch.

Eventually we find a space and get in. Ben being Ben is up for anything. He’s greeted by a committee of three classmates and is immediately involved in game of tag. He has little idea of the rules but joins in. His little face is beaming with eagerness. It’s very moving. By the end of the day he tells us he had made six friends before the start of school.

Becca is equally brave but more nervous and by the end of the day she looks dazed and confused. Her Spanish was all in Sapnish and she didn’t follow anything. Other teaching was decidedly odd.

To make things worse for her we drag her off to the rather ghastly Black Horse pub to watch the denouement of the Ashes. By the time we have inched through the traffic it’s all done. We walk in the pub just as Pietersen is bowled after his astonishing innings. The ceremonies take ages but it’s there. We’ve won the Ashes. I dared dream we would have this moment six months ago but put it aside after the first test fiasco and never picked it up again.

We are all in bed by 10pm, completely exhausted.

Double bubble

An extremely emotional day ahead. Ben and Rebecca start school today and England may or may not win the Ashes

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A night at Camp Nou

One of those great sporting moments. Ben and I in Camp Nou for an early evening kickoff. Still very hot and the sun going down behind the hills. Its Catalonia day so there’s a few rousing hymns about statehood, the Barca song and it’s all eyes down for an efficient 2-0 win against a rather tepid Mallorca.

Much different from an English league game. No anger, no fat blokes with tattoos in football shirts getting pissed, no obscenities, no fights with away fans, no crap food, no useless public transport to get you home.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

that's better

sunshine here and a morning on the beach, pissing down at the Oval... we went around 10 miles north which is all you need to go to find sandy, clean beaches and crashing surf. a really glorious morning that left us all hot and salty. Charlie Burgess, live from the Vodafone box at the Oval, kept us up to date with the weather and scores (and indeed the news later that Carlisle had won). Ben and I later watched the manchester derby back in town which was far less exhiliarating.

Barca tomorrow night, on Catalunyan national day of all days ...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

back to work

sob. it had to happen but it has gone pretty smoothly - I am crap at returning to serious thinking after my summer hols in any case. The lack of colleagues to share the gloom with at work is probably a good thing. So far eveything works - the net connection is lightning fast although the lack of router means I am mostly confined to the living room rather than the study.

And it's been pissing down - thunder, lightning, torrential downpours, howling winds, the whole nine yards. just the sort of weather that would wash out the 5th test for the full five days. We'll be listening ...

Monday, September 05, 2005


... is a part of town we have never really looked at. We spent Saturday night wandering round the bars and the squares. Some similarities to the old city but less touristy and more urban. It has an edgy reputation - they had a big fiesta in August and the kids got pissed and thre bottles at the police.

The squares in particular reminded me of Rome and we spent 20 minutes queuing for some very good Italian ice cream.

Deep in the country

one of the amazing things about Barcelona is how near the deep country is - a mile to be precise. On Saturday we followed a tip in the local paper for a 'fiesta' in a part of town called font del mont. It turned out to be a hamlet up the winding roads leading in the direction of the Tibidabo mountain.

What we saw when we got there was a children's show in the open air, free hot chocolate and preparations for the night's communal dinner and ball. It had all the hallmarks of La France Profonde yet was literally five minutes from Barcelona's North Circular. It was pretty much the same on Sunday when we visited friends in a nearby area which is a national park. We tramped for two hours through the forest full of horses, wild boar and goats (60, lost according to two guys who asked if we'd seen them). Yet they can be downtown in 20 minutes.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Our Spanish mobile numbers

at last

0034 then

Richard 697912769
Sarah 697912766
Rebecca 697912767

Skule Daze

Very much one of those. First to visit the school itself so that Ben and bex could meet teachers etc. Langauges galore - Bex Catalan, Spanish and French, Ben gets Spanish and German.

Then a second mortgage job on uniforms (but we have done so well hitherto with hand me downs for both The Hall and SHHS) at Aguilera, the school outfitters just opposite the Sagrada Familia. Winter and summer uniforms for both and both seem to like theirs. Bex has a padded shoulder gray jacket and Ben a white polo neck and red jumper that makes him look like he is set for 18 holes at Sunningdale. Pix to follow.

Other news - still very hot (and weathermen say more to come). And they still haven't finished building the church ...