Thursday, April 27, 2006

If' Bruce Springsteen's ' We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions' , purchased at the Apple Itunes store isnt the best £7.99 I've spent in many years then my name is Arsene Wenger. The whole album rocks and you get a great video thrown in as well.

Young Town

Barcelona seems to have more than its share of wrinkly rockers coming this summer. We start off with The Eagles soon (never liked them after the swapped country rock for cock rock many years ago), then The Stones at the Olympic Stadium (tempting but v.ex tickets and we saw them at Wembley years ago) and then Jethro Tull (puhleeaze...).

But I am sorely tempted by The Who at the end of July, without quite knowing why, and, yes, yes, yes, Ray Davies who plays Razzmatzz next week.

Si Si Si! Nos Vamos a Paris!

Barca were brilliant last night and now go on to meet the Evil Empire of Highbury on 17 May.

Gooners aside, I can't think of any right-minded football fan who loves the beautiful game, and the way it is played by Ronaldinho et al, who would want anything but a Barca victory.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

St George's Day

Completely ignored in England, St George's Day is very big in Catalonia where San Jordi is also the patron saint. Each 23 April, every man has to buy his loved one a rose and will in turn receive a book.

This year falling on a Sunday, the day was bigger than ever with every inch of Barcelona's big thoroughfares covered by book stalls and rose sellers. The streets were packed with women and girls of all ages carrying their roses. It was utterly charming, a picture of uncommercialised innocence that would be hard to match.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ghosts of Spain

If you haven't read Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett, the Guardian's man in Madrid, then do so. It is a wonderfully written account of how Spain took its return to democracy in it stride and simply forgot about all the truly horrific things that went on under Franco.

No truth commissions, no mass confessionals, no gigantic lying on the shrink's couch to get the collective pain off the country's chest.

It is also very funny about the key aspects of life here ranging from the role of children to the compliant TV media, the industrial scale consumption of cocaine and stern rule of the medical profession which brooks little deviance from the norm, particularly when it comes to childbirth.

Giles was up here yesterday for a book reading. Not only is an exteremly nice man but he says the book is selling like hot cakes in Britain and may be translated into Spanish.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Happy in the Bar Mandri

If there is a better place to watch a big football game than in Barcelona's Bar Mandri, take me there.

We were there for last night's stunning victory over Milan. The place was packed to the rafters with fans watching on three screens, including several dozen on the pavement, while the overworked waiters squeezed through to serve bottles of Damm beer, patatas bravas (the best in town it is said) and croquetes (and trusted you that you would stick around to pay). The place went wild after Giuly converted Ronaldnho's stunning pass but without any of the aggression, real or imagined, that you get in an English Sky pub. Wonderful.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Decorous Deia

Onwards and westwards over the stunning mountains to beautiful Deia, the beloved village of poet and author Robert Graves who lived here for years and is buried in the tiny graveyard at the top of the village. We have a gorgeous sunny flat with the mountains high to our left, olive tree terraces ahead and the sea to our right.

Graves’s legacy is a miniature British arts and music community and the super rich owners of villas (£2 million here) and guests at the nobby La Residencia. But it is very quiet and magical and you can walk down the hill to Deia’s tiny cove by the crystal blue sea.

Among other pleasures, a Sky dish brings untold pleasure to TV deprived Ben, who catches up with the delights of Scooby Doo and Basil Brush. Bliss

Friday, April 07, 2006

Holiday time

Majorca, or more precisely the Sonbrull, near Pollenca in the north east corner. Thoroughly to be recommended if you want two days of 5 star relais and chateaux luxury, if I may say so. It’s sited in an old monastery which has been completely transformed inside with very hip black and slate gray modern bedrooms and great bathrooms.

It’s the first time I have been in Majorca since we came en famille when I was eight. I remember little except that we stayed in a very nice hotel in Palma and that the real British tourist trade (‘full English breakfast, football results by 6pm’) was very close nearby.

Plus ca change. Spin forward a few years to today and the British in Majorca have bifurcated further. There are hotels like the Sonbrull and villas at £1 million and above. Then there is Puerto Pollenca with the perennial full English breakfasts and a range of cuisines ranging from Tex Mex to Indian. Instead of Sports Report on the BBC World Service there are Irish pubs with seven games on Sky every weekend.

A glimpse at the local English language prints reveal the frightening self imposed isolation of the English community who have moved out here to settle and run the pubs and clubs. The letters column is like reading the Daily Telegraph from 40 years ago with their moaning about how Britain has gone to the dogs.

Actually make that the Rhodesia Herald of 40 years ago. One writer harks back to the golden holidays of youth in the Isle or Man when the threat of the birch mean violence didn’t exist. The rest of the paper is all darts nights and pub quiz nights

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A sad day for British politics

Nothing to do with the Blair Brown dispute but the passing of former Tory MP Sir Anthony Beaumont-Dark, the leading member of the 1980s backbench battalions who could be relied on to proclaim that 'it's an outrage' whatever 'it' was - political correctness, Sunday shopping, equal pay, end of capital punishment in schools etc etc

In fact so reliable was Sir Anthony in his trenchant views that he gave licence to Chris Moncrieff, political editor of the Press Association to quote him in a story on any such topic even if , in those days before email and mobile phones, he hadd failed to make contact with him.

They don't make them like that any more; apparently the wood just isn't available...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Good news ...

A very good friend's ghastly ankle problem has been hugely ameliorated by acupuncture, as has my brother's various back ailments. So if you are at the end of your tether pain wise, go forth and get punctured

... bad news

For the fourth week in a row, I learn that a friend of a good friend has bought the farm in the 40-50 age range. Not so much the dying of the light as it being shut off in a flash as spouses leave home without a care in the world and return an hour later to find their future simply extinguished.

Moral of the story. Switch off the Blackberry and open the wine and/or play with your children. Citywire's wonderful new deathometer says i should make it to 85, but I am not taking any chances.

Not so classico

our fairy godfather dropped in again at the last moment with tickets for the barca-real madrid classico on saturday night so an escstatic Ben and his ever so calm father hoofed off to the camp nou for the 10pm kick off.

An amazing atmosphere crowned before the game when we all raised coloured sheets of paper above our head to create the barca and catalan flags. as a game the spectacle failed as a hopelessly off colour barca attack couldnt score against a flaccid real madrid lacking roberto carlos who was sent off after 26 minutes for bone headedly telling the ref and the linesman "you and you are both shits"; Carlos himself maintains that he said "you and you don't understand shit." so that's alright then ...

The only Barca goal came from a penalty and that means according to el mundo deportivo (a paper so laden with stats that it makes the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society look like te beano) that they have now had 59 attempts on goal from open play and not scored once. All thoughts turn to a United like whimpering exit from the champiosn league vs benfica on wednesday night.