Friday, 20 December 2013

Open Mic

Most weeks people have to be shushed when an act is about to start, but tonight the crowd is unusually placid and when the Catalan guy comes onto stage and taps the microphone nervously there is an immediate lull in conversation. Adjusting and readjusting his guitar strap, the young man seems to be delaying the inevitable. This open mic night is a relaxed, friendly affair and if previous acts are anything to go by, all forms of expression are embraced. It’s his first time though. He steps forward and speaks quietly into the microphone, addressing the crowd in shaky English. The spectators are a rough split between locals and foreigners, and I think us foreigners are all touched at this detail. He plays three songs; one in English and two in Catalan, all three composed by him, and finishes to rapturous applause. He grins widely as he hops down off the stage, and I enjoy seeing him have his hair ruffled playfully by a friend.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Buzz off...please?

It’s late October and the mosquitoes are still very active. How? WHY? I woke up this morning to find several fresh red bites around my ankles and feet. This year they don’t seem to want to go… At work some of us compare bites – it seems the whole city is still suffering.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

School's Out

The last day of class after a month-long intensive course, and teacher and students alike are in a lightheaded, school’s out sort of mood. This has been one of the best teaching experiences I’ve had, and it’s mostly down to the students: they’re talkative, get on well with each other, ask loads of questions and have made a huge effort with all their assignments despite all having busy jobs. The class started every day at 8am but luckily most of them are, like me, morning people. We got into a routine of working for about an hour and then taking a coffee break together on out the terrace, which officially was meant to last 15 minutes but would often stretch beyond that.

I’ve been teaching the group colloquial phrases and trying to get everyone to use them in context. During the coffee break today the recent film Sharknado came up, and was roundly dismissed as complete rubbish. One student then flapped his hands in a it’s-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue way and said “Wait…wait! Sharknado, it’s so bad it’s good!” using one of the phrases we’d learned. I wanted to high five him. Back in the classroom and with 10 minutes to spare before the end of the lesson, I was persuaded to let them watch the trailer on YouTube. Granted, we were already in a silly mood, but it had us almost crying with laughter.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The one where señor Teodoro helps me locate the fuse box

Twenty minutes into my first experience of living alone and I’m already stuck. The flat is furnished with some rather lovely things, including a tall, slim lamp with a spherical glass shade. I drag it carefully into the corner by the sofa and plug it in. Sparks fly and I’m plunged into gloom – it is a basement flat that is beautifully cool during these summer months, but a little bit dark. I hunt around in the half-light for the fuse box. It was something I forgot to ask the owner when she showed me around and even though it’s not a big flat, I can’t see it anywhere. Sheepish, I open the door and step onto the landing. I hadn’t noticed it before but to the right of my front door is something which could be a fuse box. I open the plastic casing and flick the biggest switch. At that exact same moment I hear somebody emit a screech from a couple of floors up. Pure coincidence? Horrified, I flick the switch down again.

No choice but to get the neighbours involved. The people opposite are out, so I go up one floor and knock on a heavy, wooden door adorned with a brass crucifix. A smiley man in his seventies appears. He’s wearing trousers and a vest and has a TV remote in one hand. I introduce myself to and explain the problem. His name is Teodoro, and his wife, who joins him at the door, is called Carmen. Teodoro follows me down the stairs. He must be psychic. Either that or the layout in his flat is the same as mine, because he walks straight up to a painting which is balanced on the top of some shelves and removes it to reveal the fuse box. He puts everything right and replaces the picture. Beaming, he welcomes me to the building and tells me to pop up any time.