Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Into every life a little rain must fall

From the BBC:

Reunited rock group The Police began a five-month world tour in front of
20,000 fans in Vancouver on Monday, 21 years after their last major concert.

The Spanish invasion

Cruising down London's Regent Street today and you pass in order ...

Massimo Dutti

It is indeed a Spanish/Catalan invasion...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A great newspaper does different things

Another reason why I love La Vanguardia is this - today's front page features the five main mayoral candidates in today's election. The paper took them down to the beach yesterday and got them to take off their shoes and jump up and down on mini trampolines to round off their very details but colourful campaign coverage.

Can you imagine any other country in the world where they would do this? Or indeed can you imagine any politicians whose spin doctors would let them do it? Fantastic stuff.

Two new discoveries

1) Calima, one of the most extraordinary bands I have heard/seen for a long time - a sort of rap/gipsy/latino version of flamenco that would have taken the roof down last night at the Ciutat Vella Flamenco Festival but for the fact that we were in the open air.

But they had large numbers of the crowd on their feet playing a music that was uniqely vibrant with at times only a distant connection to traditional flamenco. Of the 10 band members, only two come from flamenco's traditional heartland of Andalucia, with the rest coming from, among other places, Cuba, Bulgaria, Barcelona and Venezuela. Sensational.

You can hear some their music here.

2) The Olympic and Sports Museum. Just opened in the shadow of the old stadium in Parc Monjuic. Ben and I went up this afternoon and were both pleasantly surprised by the quality of the exhibits and the lovely design and layout of the museum, with some great artefacts, pictures, videos and displays about the history of the Olympics and sport itself. The section on the Barcelona games is particularly good, focusing on the great design thought that lay behind the games. Well worth the detour.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bloody Awful

Or British Airways as it is usually known.

I tried booking a flight for Monday week and saw BA had a really cheap flight at £60 one way. It was there on their own site and on various agencies and aggregators. It was there yesterday and there again today.

And when you try to book it? It doesn’t exist. BA says it ‘has just sold out’ (repeatedly) while the 3rd party sites say there is some sort of problem. You wonder if this is some sort of switch and bait operation where you are lured into the site and then settle for something rather more expensive.

Ring the BA phone line and they have no idea. They have nothing to do with the website and cannot see what you are seeing. This is not so much pathetic service as disturbing. If its telesales and online systems are not aligned then this company is in big trouble.

I fly 95% of the time between here and the UK with Easyjet and never have a problem like this.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


And so here endeth possibly the most disastrous four days in Barca's footballing history.

On Thursday they managed to give a way a 5-2 lead in the second leg of the Spanish Cup by losing 4-0 away at the modest Getafe. Now United have lost by this margin to crap teams and been knocked out of Cup games by who knows who. But throwing away a 5-2 lead in a second leg? No one in Barcelona had bothered to watch the game believing it to be a foregone conclusion. Cue vitriolic headlines.

Tonight, they waent one better. A home game, a big crowd prepared to forgive, a shot at redemption. Instead they virtually threw away the league by missing a hatful of chances against a dull Real Betis before letting in an 89th minute equaliser. And not any old equaliser - while Betis took a quick free kick, the entire Barca defence stood around discussing who was buying the first round of drinks tonight.

As Betis walked the ball into the net, the white hankies came out. The paƱolada, the ultimate expression of fan anger, came out, along with 'fuera, Laporta', although quite what the President (two titles, one champions league) could have done about such defensive salckness, goodness only knows.

Making things worse, far worse, is the role of the city's second team, Espanol. Not only did they blow a 3-1 lead against Real Madrid last night to lose 4-3 but they are also appearing in the Uefa Cup final on Wednesday. It does not get much worse than that ...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Two wonderful and very different bars

... which we happened across on a very beautiful Saturday morning

1.Bar L'Electricitat. A bar del barrio in the best sense of the word in probably the most down to earth quarter of the city, Barceloneta, tiny narrow streets of laundry-adorned flats tucked in between the flash-harry redevelopments of the Port Olimpic and the Marina. Great tapas (manchega cheese and almonds), full of locals drinking beer and red wine at 11am on a Saturday. Wine dispensed from barrels in the corner at absurdly low prices and decor last renovated around 1955. Not my photo above but sums it up completely. Just across the square from the district's beautifully renovated market at Sant Carles 15.

2. La Caseta del Migdia. On the very top of Montjuic, high above the seam and just past the gigantic castle that so many Republican activists failed to come out of in the Civil War. Possibly the city's most laid back bar with an open air sound system, hammock chairs and a barbecue.
It's not unknown to the guide books but you have to be reasonably determined to find it and get there. Blissful on a sunny day, it looks almost unmissable when its sunset sessions open in June. Check out the Flickr photos here

Double champions!!!

1. The obvious one. United. Just a wonderful feeling, more so for it being so popular among football fans at large - a rare feeling for a United fan. First, because of the wonderful football we have played this season and second, because there was a genuine fear that Chelsea's bottomless wealth and greed would wipe out any meaningful competition.

I'm glad to see Mourinho has promised United a guard of honour on Wednesday night. Well done. It would be fun to see United play a game of two halves. The first half, just zip the ball about and give them a demonstration of how to win the title. And in the second half, take off the key players and pass the ball to Chelsea. Score a few own goals. Put Scholes between the sticks and Van der Saar up front. Lose 5-0 to show them it's all too late ..

2. The real champions. Ben's team, AE Les Corts UBAE, clinched their local under 12 championship on Friday by beating hot rivals Salesians Rocafort 5-2 in the last game. They now go onto the next stage to see if they can defend their Catalonia championship. Ben was sidelined with his ankle injury but was there to cheer his mates on and take part in the celebrations.

Above is a photo from the team's website of Ben in the team strip. The caption reads 'our latest signing, A player formed in the ranks of Manchester - a great addition'. Indeed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

United: the impossible dream

This song is over
I'm left with only tears
I must remember
Even if it takes a million years

As Pete Townshend would have put it.

Or to look at it another way, it has been The Impossible Dream - the label given to the Boston Red Sox baseball team in 1967 when a losing team of hopelessly low expectations played beyond their wildest dreams to come within an inch of the sport's top prize.

Sounds familiar? Who would have thought back in August we would have made it to the edge of the Champions League final, and still be on the edge of the domestic double, after two years of dreary hopeless football? And produced one of the most amazing nights of European football ever seen, anywhere?

Other consolations from last night:

  • We lost by a country mile - no lousy decisions, shots against the post, lucky saves - against an amazing team.
  • We played really badly. No excuses
  • Chelsea lost as well
  • The two bottles of Ferret Guasch rose cava that Pepon brought round