Saturday, 19 November 2011


By the time my alarm sounded at 8am there was already a chorus of washing machines outside my window. Window in the vaguest sense of the word, for it looks out not over the rooftops of Barcelona, but onto a dank inner well that runs from the ground floor flat right up to the attic flat, 2 floors above me. These inner wells contain little balconies for washing machines, mops and junk and are usually covered in a film of grease and dust. Amazingly people still use the space to hang out their washing. I open my window for approximately 4 seconds twice a day, just to raise and lower the blind.

The metro was quiet, and I arrived at school just as the caretaker was unlocking the door. The two receptionists looked pale and mumbled a weak "Hola" when I stretched across the counter to pick up the class register. I don't usually work Saturdays, but agreed to substitute for a colleague who's worked weekends for 2 years straight. She'd told me the students were easy and friendly, which was largely true, but 3 hours is a long time to keep even the most motivated person interested. Rain fell steadily outside and muffled the sounds of roadworks...the endless roadworks which follow me around this city.

After class I meet two friends for lunch in a tiny family-run Japanese restaurant. As we sit in there watching the windows slowly steaming up, we marvel at the food, at the waiter's excellent Spanish, and at a love story gone wrong. When we emerge the sky is brighter. We head in separate directions. I stop at the fruit shop and buy some vegetables, including a beautifully bright purple stripy aubergine. A Latino couple run the shop, the only shop on the street open on a Saturday afternoon at 4pm. Their baby daughter lies asleep in her cot in one corner, oblivious to the music pounding out of the radio on the counter.

Up the street and home...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


While taking washing off the line, I hear my neighbour (who until today I'd only heard shouting at her sons) singing a few lines from an old song rather beautifully. I pause, trying to keep as quiet as possible, and wait until she finishes. I don't manage to record her but I find the words later - they were originally sung by Carlos Gardel.

El día que me quieras
La rosa que engalana, se vestirá de fiesta con su mejor color

On the day that you love me
The pretty rose will dress in its best colour in celebration