Monday, December 26, 2005

All change

Being the spontaneous people that we are, we have changed all our plans for our week away. The trip to Andalucia is off - the weather looked v grey and murky - and instead we are going skiing in the Pyrenees, taking advantage of the beautiful weather and a hugely kind offer from a friend here to borrow his ski lodge whenever we wanted. It is just 2 hours away

So we are off tomorrow morning and will back on the 3rd January. have a wonderful new year and a brilliant 2006.

A Happy Christmas

We had a great time from our Christmas Eve dinner at La Venta, a lovely restaurant on a terrace at the foot of Tibidabo, via a glorious Christmas day picnic on the beach at Casteldelfells with our friends to dinner at home with just the four of us. The weather was gloriously sunny and warm.

Ben rode his new bike, Rebecca read her new book. Santa was v good to me with a beautiful black dressing gown and pyjamas and some great books and CDs.

All the photo evidence can be seen here. I only hope yours was as wonderful.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

wrapping the presents

... and listening to Jo Brandon Radio 2 playing quirky Xmas hits, best of all Fairytale of New York by Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl and In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia by laurel and hardie. They don't make them...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

It's this easy...

Ben and I wander down the end of the road and take the number 16 bus. We then cross the massive Avenida Diagonal and follow the human crowd to the Camp Nou, Europe's biggest and best club stadium. And you buy a ticket (£10 to £25 normally) because even with 65,000 there, there are still 23,000 vacant seats.

And you go in, sing the Barca song in Catalan (the words are on the screen) and watch the most stupendous club football on offer anywhere right now from Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Deco, Puyol, Valdes or the newest star, Messi. You'd watch any team that had just one of them...

It's really nice for Ben. I got both the great years of the 60s and the 90s with United but mostly for him it's been a litany of not quites and dreadful disappointment. Now he has a real team to watch playing football he will remember for years to come....

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

Worse than West Ham

I thought it was only ar West Ham where the east end bigots were so stupidly racist that they booed their own black players. Not so - it happens also here. Last night the "Ultras" of Espanyol - the crazy Spanish nationalists - chucked racist insults at their own black goalkeeper. "Es una locura que te insulte gente de tu casa" - it's crazy that they inbsult their own he said with more dignity than they deserve. Full story here in Spanish

Sunday, December 18, 2005

You're sh*t and you know you are

One of the more peculiar traits of the Catalan Christmas is the presence of an 'umble man in background of the manger scene - the caganer - trousers lowered, having a dump.

At the Christmas market besides the cathedral, dozens of stalls sell hundreds of tiny figure, each laying a tiny plastic piece of ordure. The story is that the man is returning something to mother earth.

Needless to say, more enterprising folk have rung the changes and now represent all sorts of characters from footballers to politicians doing what comes naturally. Ben and I hunted fruitlessly for a Ronaldinho but alas they had all sold out, so had to settle for Samuel Eto'o, striking, as you can see, a very phlegmatic pose.

One wonders had someone cast a David Beckham (or indeed a Victoria) whether he would have contested the image rights.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Barca Confidential

Fascinating to take a 2nd look at Justin Webster's Barca Confidential fly on the wall documentary. When I first saw it back in the UK I knew much less about Barca and its role here and could not recognise any of the landmarks. On top of that, the film covers the period when Barca were in huge trouble - losing 5-0 to Malaga at one point - and everyone was demanding Rijkaard's head. just two years later they are playing at a level that scarcely any can match.

They have Chelsea in the next round of the Champion's league, a team that stand for everythign I loathe in football today. If justice is served, Barca will wallop them in both legs. Ben and I will move heaven and earth to be at the 2nd game...

Friday, December 09, 2005

A perfect day

By Sarah:

Today was a perfect Barcelona winter day – crisp, deep blue sky and warm enough to sit outside – but not quite warm enough to eat lunch outside at Agua, our favourite beachside restaurant. So we got the next best thing – an inside table with a sea view.

The day started with my 7.15am alarm call – there was Spanish homework to do before my lesson with Marisa – our wonderful teacher. She is clever, wise and interesting, with a curious take on life growing up under Franco. So simple she said – if you didn’t have political ideas! Well yes, up to a point I suppose but what she meant was that if you didn’t know you were living in a country without democracy you didn’t necessarily know what you were missing.

I can manage a sort of Spanish conversation now and I understand much more than I can say -but compared with the three or four words I knew when we arrived in August, my brain is a treasure trove of them – “muchas palabras” as Marisa would say and when you’re learning a new language, every word is precious.

After two hours with Marisa I set off on the metro armed with my copy of Robert Hughes’ “Barcelona, the Great Enchantress” to meet up with Richard, Pauline, Rebecca and Ben on the beach. You could spend many happy hours travelling round the city reading this book. It brings Barcelona alive like no other and reminds me constantly why I love this city so much. It has a kind of fierce humanity about it which always feels a bit raw round the edges too. Hard to explain but very Catalan!

This is what he quotes from one of Catalunya’s most famous political dictums – “ We, who are as good as you, swear to you, who are no better than us, to accept you as our king and sovereign lord, provided you observe all our liberties and laws – but if not, not.” Simple, eh?

Lunch at Agua was delicious as always and the light on the sea especially lovely – I like this time of year here because there is less haze, the horizon is sharper and the palm trees even more clearly outlined.

Then off in two taxis to the Picasso Museum to marvel – there’s a wonderful exhibition of his drawings and illustrations and it was lovely to be there with Pauline who managed to look at most of them.

Then spent two happy hours wandering round the back streets of the old city and came across a street full of antique shops and a cake shop on the corner where candles were lit - on towards the Cathedral Square where the Christmas Market was in full swing and people were dancing in one corner of the square. Walked up towards Plaza Catalunya as the sun was setting, got on the metro again with Robert Hughes and got out as the moon came up in a perfectly clear deep blue black sky.

Now it’s off to dinner at our favourite restaurant, Cinc Sentits. Being a person who worries constantly about everything there are few days when I feel perfectly happy. But this is one of them.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


it's hard to feel depressed in barcelona but watching a spineless man united crash out of the champions league tonight did the trick.

ah well had they got through they would have been humiliated by Barca who won their 10th on the run tonight.

still my family (and mother) come back tomorrow.

Taverna La Llesca

I stumbled across La Llesca tonight after seeing a movie in Gracia (Broken Flowers - Jim Jarmusch - well it was ok but ...). It's rustic Catalan cooking at its best - char grilled meat, veegetables, baked potatoes etc, massive pieces of toast covered with pate or ham, unmarked bottles of country wine. The butifarra, in both conventional and black pudding varieties, looked enormous and senational.

I went for the Entercote Girona, a really tender piece of steak. Great ambience as well - full of locals eating early on the bank holiday and walls lined with vintage radio sets old pics of racing cars.

Go see - Terol 6 or another branch in Eixample atTraversa de Gracia 86

fatboy slim .. you have been warned

i am making a short video for the big Citywire conference in January. It features all the brave financial advisers who have given up being the junkies of the life companies to give their clients a fair deal.

now i thought a bit of Fatboy slim's "praise you" would have done very nicely as the intro and outro. great beat, apt lyrics. so we asked for rights.

£10,000. honest.

so we are making do with some poxy royalty free music. adn FS is definitely off my xmas card list - and will soon be off my ipod ....

Monday, December 05, 2005


C'est Rebecca
Esta tarde yo voy a Londres para tres noches. Que bien! Me encanta Londres. Yo voy a las tiendas, y Starbucks, y el colegio de South Hampstead y tu no puedes haces nada! ja ja ja!
beso beso

start the week the barca way

1) win your ninth game on the run

2) see real madrid sack their fifth coach in 30 months

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Senyor Parellada

... remains one of the culinary highlights of barcelona (or indeed anywhere). not only the beautiful setting of a grand balconyed colonial room in the old city, but wonderful catalan dishes (veal carpaccio, duck with figs, honey ice cream) at astonishingly low price - four of us ate there on friday night - aperitifs, three courses, wine, coffee for E120 (£80). like Tragaluz, it is part of a very old family grouping (its wine bar in placa sta maria del mar is also a treat). its always packed to the rafters with locals and tourists. how they do it for the price i still dont know...