Tuesday, 1 July 2014


The night before I moved out I took a final walk around the barrio. The air was perfectly still and smelled of hot pine and jasmine. When I got home it was uncomfortably warm inside, so I turned all the lights out and went to stand on the terrace for some more air. I’d been there a good few minutes when I heard the gentle squeak of metal springs – and looked up to see my neighbour Teodoro readjusting himself in his garden chair. His feet were barely two metres from my head.

“Last night here, right?”
“It is. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the neighbourhood, I’m fond of it.”

We spent a while discussing the merits of living in this hilly part of town. Then he told me about the time he had left Barcelona as a young man, having moved here from the South.

“I didn’t like this city, it was too big,” he said, but then explained that he was forced to return because there were no jobs in his town. He’s now in his seventies and has lived in Barcelona ever since, and has grandchildren here. Then:

“Will you live with your parents back in England?”
“I don’t think so. I’m a bit old for that, don’t you think?”
“Not here.”

He said he was sorry I was leaving and that he hoped the new neighbours were quiet. I said I hoped so too, and was about to say something else when cats started yowling at the end of Teodoro’s plot of land that lay below our balconies. Stirred into action, Teodoro stood up muttering something about a broom. We said goodnight and goodbye, and then moments later the yowling was halted with a crash and a Spanish expletive.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Thursday thank you

I've got these two private students, a boy and a girl both aged 17. Every week for almost three years, I've turned up at the boy's house (which is where we meet) and done an hour and a half of English class. I've had lots of students of all ages and levels, but these two have been rather special and knowing we're coming to the end of our time together, I'd like to say why:

Because they're articulate and observant, and more perceptive than I remember being at their age.

Because despite being in the grip of adolescence, they are two of the most genial people I've worked with. I met them when they were just entering their teens. Not an easy age to be yourself and make yourself understood, let alone in a foreign language, but these two managed to do both.

Because they tell good stories and have made me laugh a lot. Some weeks I've dragged my feet a little on the way to class feeling tired, ill or burnt out, but every single week I've felt better after the lesson with them.

Because they laugh at my jokes, which is doubly gratifying because the fact that they find them amusing means they have understood!

Because I am genuinely interested to see what their next step will be, and what they'll be doing in a few years' time.

Because my Thursday afternoons will feel funny without them.