Please Don’t Hire Me, I’m Scared! by Sophie Bloodworth – A review

Described by the author as “a what not-to-do guide to job-hunting,” the book is a refreshingly honest auto-biographical account of the author’s experience of the world of work and the trials and tribulations of looking for that perfect job.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of jobs. Home to all species of job hunter.”

The book’s witty opening line likens the job seeker to a ‘hunter,’ which makes me imagine the job seeker fighting through a ‘jungle’ of job applications. As she takes us through her experiences of the world of work, in chronological order, it is soon clear that the workplaces Bloodworth describes are indeed not so “wonderful.” Despite the struggles of working in customer-service, she manages to find comradeship and solace with her colleagues during her cinema days. They suffer through the long days and tedious customers together and celebrate by partying by night which makes me fondly remember the busy days, power-hungry managers and night-time shenanigans of working in a supermarket in my early twenties.

A humorous read which cautions the reader to learn from the author’s mistakes, the book contains plenty of witty observations of strange interviewers, greedy customers and “dipsh*t” colleagues, along with plenty of biting sarcasm. Bloodworth’s inner voice echoes the things we all wish we could say aloud to those ‘trying’ individuals we encounter in the world of work. As a reader, I cheered with her through her victories and feel that aching blow and confusion of receiving a rejection or worse, no response, from an interview that seemed to go well.

Overall, an enjoyable, light-hearted antidote to the multitude of self-help books available, it’s a must-read for anyone who’s a little jaded and frustrated with the process of looking for the right job. Sometimes bleak, other times hopeful, there is a quiet determination in Bloodworth’s journey which is uplifting and encourages the reader to keep on searching for that dream job, to not settle for anything less and tell the nay-sayers to f** off. Otherwise, she cautions, you will be “stuck wiping the devil’s arse for the foreseeable future.”

If you would like to have a read, the book is available from Amazon and the author’s website

 

Brexit – my story

I’m still reeling over the Brexit vote. So here’s my story.. It’s almost my fifth anniversary of living in this country. When my Australian visa expired, I spent six weeks applying for jobs back home. Ireland was hit so badly with the recession that I didn’t even get a reply for any of the menial jobs available, let alone an interview. So I decided to move to England, to be close to my brother and his family and try to get a job with the Bristol office of the company I temped for in Australia.
I got the first job I applied for. Since then, I worked my ass off, got promoted and started a degree. I finally felt I had the opportunity to forge the career path I wanted. I enjoyed the benefits of the NHS, not needing to stress about paying my doctor’s bill every time I got sick. I kept my head down, played by the rules of my new home, paid my taxes & never claimed benefits. Although I didn’t agree with some of the decisions made by the Tory government, I found them to be more fair and more accountable for their actions than the Irish government. While the wages aren’t as high, car tax & insurance, rent and taxes were also more affordable than at home. I made a lot of great friends and got engaged to an English man. I got a fair bit of playful teasing about my nationality but never experienced any real racism.

..Now my whole future is in question. Will the already pricey mortgages increase? Will my student loan be approved? Will I be able to continue my studies? I’ve already had to submit 5 years worth of bank statements to prove my residency.. What will happen now? Will Britain negotiate a freedom of movement agreement with Ireland or will there be massive border patrol between Northern Ireland and the Republic, making it a scary, hostile place for Republicans once again? Will I need to speed up my wedding in order to stay? And what of the fate of any future children we might have?

Too many questions with no real answers. I now, like many other immigrants wonder who voted with the intention of booting me and other migrants out? A colleague of mine told me that some of his acquaintances voted for that very reason- to drive out anyone not born in the UK. Although the majority of Bristolians voted to remain, it does not feel like the same city it was a week ago. Last week, I strolled hand in hand with my fiancé along the bustling prosperous harbourside, watching people rowing along the river and others sitting laughing and joking, drinking wine outside posh new bars in their office clothes. I admired this cosmopolitan, free thinking place that is my new home.

Now as I drive through neighbourhoods into town, past the cars and houses with England flags billowing out of their windows, I wonder, bitterly, who would vote to change that, who of the people walking to work next to me wants the likes of me out, in order to put the ‘great’ back in Britain again. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with national pride. However, to exchange all of the benefits they have enjoyed as part of the EU, such as freedom of movement, subsidies, inexpensive goods and employment rights (to name but a few) for ‘national pride’ seems like nothing more than cutting your nose off to spite your face.

So, like the rest of the immigrants in ‘great’ Britain, the future is not looking so ‘great’ for us. I can do nothing now but cross my fingers and hope for the best..or move home

Iceland – the land of fire, ice and peculiarities

Iceland- ‘but why??’ A few people have asked me, before and since our trip.
Firstly- I have never been drawn to the chavtastic boozy beachy holidays that you see on televisual delights such as ‘what happens in kavos’. (A cheesy night out with too many shots and cheap alcopops until the small hours is enough for me, thanks). I prefer something more obscure.
Secondly-I’ve long been intrigued by the place and thought of Iceland as a friendly neighbour (I even once had to explain to a date that ‘no, I am not from ICEland, I’m from IREland’) and my sister has always wanted to go. So when we originally discussed a ‘girlie weekend’ it wasn’t a far leap from an idea that started as a spa in Ireland to ‘sure why not a spa in Iceland, it’s bath night anyway!’

Only of course much more exciting..

Day 1- smoky bay (reijkavik)

I read somewhere that Iceland is like landing on the moon. I can say that that is not untrue- apart from one main road it has very little habitable land and as you depart the airport and travel along the isolated road, the only infrastructure that breaks up the lava fields, which to me looked like giant heads of broccoli or larger than life mouldy spores.

We joked upon landing that it was like ‘big Clare island’ (a rather remote west of Ireland island our parents have taken as a second home) due to it’s flatness and barren unforgiving treeless landscape.

It was the first holiday my sister and I have been on together and having travelled a fair bit alone, I wasn’t sure what to expect. (It worked out brilliantly as it happened- she and I both love to travel, are click-happy, fond of stupid humour, history & culture, drink and shops. Where she is more planned and organised, I’m happy to go with the flow and leave a little room for adventure and surprise – we complemented each other well).

When she suggested stopping off at the Blue Lagoon (a spa created out of a natural hot spring) on the way from the airport, I was excited. I had read and heard conflicting things about it, from ‘over priced tourist trap’ to ‘not to be missed’. A friend had already briefed me on the ‘mad dash’ from the changing rooms through the cold and into the water, made worthwhile by it’s warmth and of course, the bar.

The first thing I noticed when we got off the plane was that although it was cold outside, it wasn’t as icy as we had anticipated.
The second thing was how high-tech the place was. I have a weird habit of taking pictures of different toilets / bathroom facilities in other countries and the airport with it’s wash-basins boasting taps with built-in dyson dryers didn’t disappoint.

The facilities at the spa were also quite high-tech. We were each given an electronic bracelet (think of those in swimming pool lockers but with a built in chip) that could open barriers, close lockers and keep a tab!

Clare Island is not so technologically advanced!
Like ‘the island’ though, the place was full of Irish.
We were told before we entered the spa to lather up on conditioner and wear swim caps if we had them, to protect our hair from the salt water and were encouraged to utilise the silica mud, held in massive vats at the side of the lagoon, not unlike gruel, as it apparently worked wonders on the skin.
(My sister and I had a private snigger later, saying that as we were tourists they could be telling us to put sh1te on our skin and we’d believe that it was some magic stuff!)

It certainly looked as though some people took the advice too far…
It wasn’t long before we encountered our first fellow country’s folk, a Dublin woman laughing about using the mud to ‘make the wrinkles disappear’ then rolling her eyes in the direction of ‘gobshite of the year over there’, her husband, who caked in the stuff, daubing it on like plaster on a wall- blinking ferociously as he waded haplessly around the spring, no doubt confused at why this wasn’t a pub. He wasn’t the only Irish hubbie we’d seen flailing about and wondered if he even had a twin.

God love them,they’d probably never even set eyes on moisturiser before, let alone a mud mask! At least they were manly. We were nearly sick laughing.

It was the perfect place for people watching and I thought of how much my Bristolian friend would love to ‘have a nose’. From bodies to rival Greek gods and goddesses to human ‘big-foots’, red budgie-smuggler speedos to big ass trunks and everything in between. We even saw some kissing ‘gcwoks’ (gay couples without kids- both male & female) what with the open nakedness in the locker rooms, this was not a place for inhibitions. Mercifully peaceful though, no doubt due to the three-drink alcohol limit.

We chatted and laughed and waded around in the warm waters,with our strawberry sparkling wine feeling like we were living the highlife. We decided to avoid the slushies which bore the dubious name ‘krap’.

After some hours spent blissfully floating or half-sprinting half-waddling like penguins in & out of the various sauna and steam rooms, sufficiently chilled out, we headed for the city.

On the bus back, we entertained ourselves by skimming the travel brochures, discovering gems of Icelandic wit, such as that they had ‘stolen all the good looking women from England which is why they are left with what they have now’ and that they speak English, ‘even some hard words’.

We also learnt that the crime rate was extremely low- about 2%. (Another witticism about any items dropped / left behind which would, allegedly, either be returned to you or still be in the same place the next day)

We saw evidence of this later in the bikes which were just abandoned haphazardly outside flats and on streets with a half-arsed lock around the wheel- maybe. Never attached to anything secure like a bike-stand though.

Our shuttle bus dropped us off in the centre of the city, near our small but functional apartment. Upon arrival we discovered another obscurity- we had to call a number taped to the external door to obtain an entry code and combination for a miniature locker containing our door key. The reception area inside was eerily un-manned.

Having deposited out bags, we wandered around the city, a land of quirky design, little pockets of street art punctuated by large fat often colourful buildings with equally bright roofs of corrgated iron and big bright windows. with it’s independent spirit and unique / weird and wonderful fashion (grannies in multi-patterned leggings). It’s easy to see that this is the place that spawned Björk.

In honour of my sister’s hubbie, who has a thing for conquering the highest point of every place he/they visit, we climbed to the highest point in reijkavik, the top of hallgrimskirkja church, perched on a hill, guarded by a majestic-looking Viking statue, the city’s main landmark looks like a giant church organ, with lettering above the doorway that looked not dis-similar to that of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Afterwards, we decamped to our digs to change and consume some duty free vodka (drink in Iceland is expensive- no wonder as there was a prohibition on alcohol for a long time in the past), before heading out into the city centre (more of a town).
I felt right at home in the quirky indie bar with a ‘happy hour’ sign displayed out front. We had seen a lot of beardy ginger haired men and when the guy at the bar next to us gave us a tip on happy hour, I naturally assumed he was a local. ‘I’m from Newcastle!’ He exclaimed. Oops.

They love puffins in Iceland, even to eat. We couldn’t see any on the menu and also turned down the delicious traditional fare of putrified fish, sheep’s head & brain cheese, in favour of Italian.

After our meal, we headed back in light as bright as mid-day (it was after 10pm) to rest up for the second day of our adventure.

P’cyclepath’

Cyclists. Hated by drivers and pedestrians alike, loved only by other cyclists!

I was, first & foremost, a driver, for about 7 years. I loved everything about driving, the freedom, the open road, the sound of a petrol engine, the smell of the petrol itself and the added bonus of a car being veritable ‘stereo on wheels’…

Then I left my beloved hunk of junk to rust in pieces / be turned into a nice green washing machine and got a bicycle (Gumtree. Cheap, practical and cheerful, highly recommend it for starters! ‘Success!’ as they say on the ads)

Yes, from the tail end of the summer through to the following April, I became a cyclist!

How did I make the transition? You might ask. And throughout winter?!

Well, at first I was pining over my car like some grumpy lovelorn teenager and had to reluctantly get the bus, and then, well.. Like a lovelorn teen, I got over it and didn’t really look back!
(apart from some particularly awful winter days, that is!) plus, having endured public transport which I have neither the patience nor the fondness of being ‘that’ close to strangers for, a bike gave me the freedom and independence I needed.

The advantage of being a driver first was that I knew their blind spots and would always use cycle paths (or footpaths, when I got away with it and wasn’t nearly knocked off by people opening car doors)
I started out cautiously, then I got brave and began weaving confidently through traffic, then too brave and foolish- sprinting out in front of a bus and running red lights, other times flying it home drunk in the rain, refreshed and exhilarated, as fast as my legs could go! (So much fun but really not recommended!!)

What nobody tells you about cycling is that your ears get so cold you feel like they might fall off! Or that your bum gets wet (yuck) and that no amount of rain is worse than a windy day.

I’ve cycled to meet friends, dates, training, appointments, nights out, work- everywhere. But apart from a 15k meandering round-trip (I got lost) I never really did more than 3miles in one journey.

I mastered the many hills and the (extremely difficult) task of cycling in a dress whilst preserving my dignity, then was starting to accumulate more and more cycling ‘gear’..

There seem to be two main types of cyclists, and despite accumulating the gear and almost morphing into a ‘real’ sporty-type cyclist.. I fitted neither category.

Which are:

1- The ‘Real’ cyclist (you know the type- cycles for fun and practicality, wearing high-vis, wraparound sunglasses, cycle shoes, Lycra (I never got THAT far! :shudders!)

and

2- The Hipster. To look cool. Oh yes- those with the beautiful vintage but terribly impractical ‘fixie’ bikes, guys in skinny jeans (trust me this is tough on a bike) & fashionable beards / girls in pretty dresses, effortlessly cool wavy hair and fashionable glasses.

Bristol promotes this hipsterish- healthy living idea, with our artsy, car hating mayor. I think it’s a nice idea in theory but I will take him seriously only when there are more cycle paths around the centre and better public transport. Oh yes and when he stops wearing those ridiculous ‘statement’ red trousers!

Anyway, I digress. I don’t fit either aforementioned category, used purely as a mode of transport & rocking up with a red, rain scorched face like a drowned rat..

And so my brief stint as a cyclist ended in March and April began with four shiny new wheels, a decent engine (and a sunroof). The ability to go on road trips and venture past the city limits and onto the open road, leaving my trusty bicycle to gather dust.

I swore I’d take it out regularly (I haven’t) but one day soon I will!

Until then I’ve regained my impatience at cyclists and am back in driver mode.

I will never understand why the hell they’d choose,yes, deliberately, to cycle out on the road when there’s an ample cycle path right next to them, irritating me greatly (road rage is too far) and causing me to play chicken with oncoming traffic in the attempt to travel at speeds greater than 10mph… But that’s another story!

The curse of the JGG (January Gym Goers)

6.30pm ‘down the gym’ again. It’s full of ‘January gym goers’ as I like to call them. A term derived from a species of media hypnotised zombies, ingesting endless adverts and magazine covers that tell them how to shed their Christmas fat and be better, fitter, hotter versions of themselves, in ‘no time’. A rare species seen pounding a treadmill or casually spinning the pedals around and around with the enthusiasm of a tortoise, in a gym near you. Rare because, come February, they will have long since tired of aching muscles and not losing ten stone in a month and not even their sweat stains will remain.

I, a regular gym goer, do not feel the need to shout my gym presence from the rooftops nor immediately update my Facebook status with the fervour of an excited puppy, the moment I swipe my card, I wait in the queue for the cross trainer and the treadmill and all the other bloody machines and the classes that are booked up as soon as they become available.

Whilst waiting, I observe my fellow gym goers, the girls in full makeup (mine’s only still there from work) those in teeny tiny (how can it even pass for a bra and knickers?) and tattooed guys as muscular as they are tall, making their way through the aisle, half swagger, like hairless apes dragging their ‘love/hate’ branded knuckles on the ground from the extra weight of their arms, leering at said half naked waifs. Who, in turn, I’m surprised have the energy to spend on the gym and not topple over with the combination of an apparent lack of food and disproportionate chests and hair extensions. I have a friend who watches people while she’s working out and concocts back stories for each. I wonder what she’d make of these barbies and kens. I wonder myself what their conversation would be like. ‘Hey babe, what brand of fake tan do you use, naw I’m just back from me ‘olidays in Kavos’

Finding a machine (any is good at this rate) I crank up the resistance, plug in my fastest – adrenaline inducing tunes and in decidedly unflattering-to-the-arse leggings and a tee, work away until I resemble a tomato with yellowish hair. Sometimes I feel brave enough to enter the mixed weights room, trying to ignore the testosterone filled grunts and groans and the stares.’what are you lookin’ at Gorilla McGee? I raise you 15kilos to your 150!’ But I’m being cynical. There are normal people here too, like me, who sort of glance around curiously before retreating into their own personal fitness / music world, unintentionally glaring at anyone who dares to enter their personal space and occasionally, perhaps deliberately entering into an unspoken challenge to go faster than the person next to you.

I just wish the JGG (January Gym Goers) would go and join a running club or something. It would be perfect timing, for they will be gone when I drag myself off of the treadmill and emerge, bleary eyed, from my gym-hibernation into the bright Springtime to pound the streets with gusto in my beloved Nikes.

Barça- Day 4. Park Guël, Street art, Spanish Russell Brand and ‘Lesbian Bar’ tapas

Decided to visit Park Guël. A park designed by Gaudi. It’s the hottest day of the trip and it’s a bit of a climb but there are escalators to make it a bit easier. Chatted to a South American woman who lived in London on the way. She’s also travelling alone. We enter the park near the very top and I’m shocked to see vandalised cactus-type plants, torn and broken, with names etched into them. There’s also some ungainly anti-tourist graffiti. Probably due to the amount of crowds the park attracts. The view of the city is amazing from here. Bought earrings off vendor at the top of the park, marked by a big cross on a mound. There’s also an older man playing blues on his guitar . He has it laid flat and has something that looks like spoon in one hand. Further down the park I paid the entry fee into the house Gaudi lived in for about twenty years to see how he lived. It’s quite modest and it’s plain to see that he was quite a Religious man as he had his own prayer room and some religious items in a display case of his last remaining items. Took photos of furniture he designed, thinking it would appeal to my younger brother. There are some beautiful arches on the descent and more buildings and some mosaic curves and fountains with animal shapes further down. There is an admission fee and a queue to enter. I pay, in case I miss something amazing but am disappointed as everything I saw could be seen from higher up in the park or from the gated entrance Made my way back to the Metro station, passing a ‘headless’ street performer. He’s spotted by others too. I snap a cheeky photo and he beckons me over, for a donation, no doubt. I ignore him and continue on my way, downhill all the way, passing numerous souvenir shops. Eventually I get to the station and head for Arc d’ Triomph where I’m doing a street art tour at 2pm.

I find the arch and have a few minutes to spare so I sit and enjoy the sunshine. I’ve been told that the guide isn’t too obvious and just holds up a little sign. I see a guy waiting to the side, holding something up and it’s him.
He introduces himself as Chris.
He was wearing a bohemian top with brown leather satchel and brown shoes and skinny jeans, long dark hair and a beard. A bit of a Spanish Russell Brand but not obnoxious. We wait awhile to see if anyone else turns up and chat about street art while we’re waiting. (Not that I’m trying to impress him with my knowledge or anything) he’s quite interesting and passionate about street art. No one else turns up so after a quick brief on the tour, we begin. The first piece is an oriental looking picture painted on a metal sheet, with a blue background, easily overlooked.
Chris takes me through side streets and alleys, telling me about artists and there relationships to each other, like Pez and C215 (a French artist) and his girlfriend, who once did a portrait of his daughter and he, in turn, painted her dog
And American artist who he got to see in action, he showed me one of his pieces, a pickup truck, that’s stuck to the wall.

Street art used to be very popular in Barcelona but the city council decided, with the increase in tourism, to ‘clean up’ the streets. They painted over the walls and made street art illegal. Some of the artists are brazen, come out at night, with their cans and stencils and make their mark, either as a tag or a ‘piece’. They have to get these up as quick as possible. Chris talks about artists collaborating, one watching out for the authorities whilst another does his/her piece. Some use tissue paper stencils as they stick easily and work with the background, others, like C215’s partner, use an initial stencil and then paint on top of it.
There are many different styles, from sharks, lollipops, space invaders and smiling fish, to portraits of famous people and Aztec designs of a Spanish collective. Each one tells a story, from the heart-broken vegan, with her meat-is-murder messages, lovelorn pictures tinged with sadness and cute bunny pieces from happier days. He stops to refill his water, point out a community garden area and to ask if I need a toilet break, also recommending an awesome burger place.
He goes on to explain that, due to the ban, artists paint on electricity boxes and bins as these service providers are not as fussed as the city council about removing them. Many of the pieces are on shop shutters, the artists having made agreements with the shop owners.

Along the way, Chris tells me to look up and points out a Spider-man suspended from a balcony. At the end we visit a shop that doubles as a studio and gallery where street artists do pieces on canvas and sell them. We even get to see an artist at work downstairs, a colourful series of works on Spanish unemployment.

When the tour ends, I’m so impressed that I give him ten Euros (it’s a free tour but donations are welcome) he asks if I need advice on bars or clubs or directions and gives me a hug and a double kiss, (like the French) Spanish style, says he, and I swoon a little.
By now, my feet are sore and I’m tired and hungry, I head back to the so-called ‘best sandwich shop’, he pointed out, a place called Bo de B ,near to Barceloneta station. Luckily it’s easy to find. There’s a queue in front of the side-hatch in the cafe. so I think it must be popular and worth the wait. The smells wafting from the hatch make my mouth water and when it’s finally my turn, it’s definitely worth the wait. Fresh chicken with a myriad of toppings and sauces, from olives to peppers, friendly staff and only €3.80!
I decide to sit by the marina to eat. It’s after 5pm and a digital screen nearby bearing the time shows that it’s 23 degrees.
Whilst waiting for my food, I had gotten a text from a girl I’d met briefly in Bristol living in Barcelona. She suggested meeting for Tapas and beer later that evening, a place called Gata Mala in the Gracia area.

I make my way back to the hostel, freshen up and head out, telling my new friend I’ll see them later at an Indie place called Manchester bar.

I meet my Barcelona-resident acquaintance at the metro station, Fontana. She’s brought her sister who has recently moved to the city. They are Canadian and it’s really nice to relax and speak English. Even in my hostel, there’s a mix of cultures and English is not spoken very much.
It’s a little walk and the area looks similar to El Clot, where my hostel is. We reach the bar. It only has one table and it’s vibrant and busy and bustling. There’s barely room to move but I don’t mind, I’m enjoying the atmosphere. From what I gather, we are the only foreigners and it feels like an authentic Spanish experience.
There are two Banksy prints on the wall and the name of the bar is slang for Lesbian, I believe the staff are Lesbians too. We order glasses of beer and receive a tapa with each. They are delicious chunks of baguette, each topped with olive oil and various things like egg/ chorizo/ bacon, even a type of black pudding. I’m told that this free tapas with beer set-up is the ‘done thing’ in Spanish villages further out from the city.
Our drinks run a lot later than I’d thought and when we leave (posing with a statue of a man on a bench along the way) the girls jump on the same Metro line as me and tell me which station to disembark for Manchester bar.
I’m not sure where to find it and ask some girls living in Barcelona, one just turned 29 at Midnight, helped me to find it. I couldn’t find my hostel friend and the service was slow so I went into an interesting looking bar on the corner of the street and had a quick Sangria on the way home, disappointed that I couldn’t find my friend but happy in the knowledge that I’d feel much better and hangover-free the next morning.

Barça- Day 3. Sunshine, sarongs, soggy sandwiches and beach vendors

Had a leisurely ‘cardboard’ breakfast (it didn’t improve) and chatted to my Aussie hostel buddy.

The weather is beautiful, at least 20 degrees, so after being busy the day before, I decide to go to the beach.

It’s a little walk from Barceloneta Metro station. Yet again I get lost. It doesn’t bother me though. In fact, I enjoy it. It gives me the opportunity to venture down side streets and see areas that I might not otherwise have even noticed. One of those was a narrow street, with dusty, shabby looking apartments with rows of clothes flung haphazardly across balcony railings. Several elderly people emerged from downstairs flats and I wonder if it’s a sort of retirement block. I see one or two scooters outside and walk towards a palm tree I spot in the distance, thinking it has to be by the beach.

I was right. I’m delighted to discover a beautiful, clean golden beach. There are lots of people stretched out sunbathing and others running around playing frisbee or volleyball.

I realise I don’t have anything to lie on and find a little beach-hut type shop selling lots of beach related bits and pieces. I see a sarong that can double as a scarf or towel or blanket and bargain with the cheerful, flirtatious Asian cashier (they are all flirtatious, these sales people) over sunscreen. A low factor, not exactly advisable but I’m ridiculously pale and long for at least a darker shade of beige as evidence of my trip. (‘Look! Sunshine in November!’ I hoped to be the envy of my friends)</p>

By now I’m hungry. I buy a soggy sandwich in the local shop, some crisps and a small can of pear Kopparberg (I’m on holidays so why not?!)</p>

After changing into my swimsuit (I have neither the body, nor the brazenness for a bikini)
I find a spot in the lovely sunshine and happily roast for a few hours, interrupted only by some Asian women offering ‘Massagey only five euro, madam’ (in the end, I liken these women to pesky persistent fruit flies and tell them to please not ask me again). There are also men selling cold drinks, sarongs and mojitos (I have to admit I’m tempted by those. Nonetheless, I refrain)<br/>
It seems like they have a set circuit of the beach and they go around and round with their sing-song sales voices, not unlike market stall vendors. I stroll around for awhile, enjoying a Catalonian cream icecream cone before descending into the Metro.

I return to the hostel in the evening and have a pasta, sauce and salami dinner(with the addition of some Sangria). Standard backpacker food but it’s tasty.
Later I hang out with the Aussie girl and a Californian-Mexican young lad I’d met before. We continue to drink Sangria and play tunes and are joined by a Hungarian guy, who looks to be mid-thirties. He tells us he’s here on a side journey from a work trip to Madrid. He has a penknife which he places on the table along with a travel phone battery. I find this a little odd and wonder if he is trying to show off his masculinity or to be disconcerting. He’s sprawled out across his chair in a relaxed macho position. My friend offers him some Sangria and we converse for awhile until he starts talking about the dangers and lack of privacy involved in social media. He’s quite intense and emphatic about this and tells us that he has a fake profile. My friend excuses herself and I finish my drink and also politely say goodnight. We are, in truth, a bit freaked out by him but have a giggle about it the next day.

Barça- Day 2. Gaudi, Plastic bags and La Ramblas

My first morning in Barcelona, I’m woken up by plastic bag torture at various points. Anyone who has stayed in a hostel will know what I mean and will probably also have been rudely awoken by their roommate scurrying around with plastic bags. Don’t know what the girl is AT with them but I’d cheerfully put HER into one..

Drag myself out of bed and down for breakkie for 9.30. It’s not what I’d expected. Some rolls and jam and cheapo looking cereal. There’s also fruit (good) coffee but the hot milk tastes of goat (Not good).

My crew from last night wave over at me so I join them. They invite me on their street art tour and to cook dinner with them. I agree to go ?food shopping but have my tour of sagrada familia at 1 so decline their tour. They go off to do different things before the shop and I decide I’m happier doing my own thing.

I get my stuff together, head for sagrada familia and have some lunch across the street before my tour, a delicious focaccia with chicken and peppers. I’m pleased that I’m able to at least try to order my coffee in Spanish.

The tour is quite informative and Gaudi’s designs are amazing. We even get to see his models and conceptual designs. He used what the guide described as ‘Catalan arches’. She demonstrated these by holding a light chain at either end, forming a loop or upside down arch in the middle. Gaudi used weighted strings to achieve this effect and placed a mirror beneath them, to project a view of them in an upright position. He wanted to keep the interior simple and close to nature, always related back to our Lord. He based his design on a forest, the columns resembling trees with branches and leaves. The exterior bears religious figures depicting scenes from the bible and also animals and seasonal fruits, each one symbolic. Once finished (expected to be 2026) there will be 18 towers outside, 12 for the apostles and 4 for the evangelists.

I then took the Metro to see la Pedrera, took awhile to find and I made the most if this by looking in some shops, by now brimming with Christmas goods. It’s worth the effort, a curvaceous and beautiful building, true to Gaudi’s style.I took photos of the exterior and headed back to the Metro.

Casa Batlló (buyeo) was next on my agenda and was pleasantly surprised that it was just at the metro stop.
I decided to pay the admission fee and picked up an audio guide. It’s a cavernous wonder of curved lines and light and tiles, mostly glass and beiges and blues and carved wood. The curves not unlike being under the sea. A couple of guys asked me to take ending off pictures and I got one to take some of me.

After taking some great pictures and seeing a very obscure projection show, I headed for Catalunya and La Ramblas. There I explored the central promenade with its’ traders and artists, performers, florists and eateries all the way to the sea. Several Asian men were demonstrating squeaky toys they sent whizzing into the night sky, all plastic and neon.

I explored some of the old charming narrow side streets and had a look in the market, with rows upon rows of vibrantly coloured fruit, veg, meat, fish and nuts. Bustling and noisy even after nightfall. Daunted by the al Fresco eateries with their pushy waiters and menus in Spanish advertising meal deals for two, I settled for a (sacrilegious) Burger King.

Before descending into the Metro and off to my hostel bed, I explored the local ‘Carrefour’ supermarket, with it’s sushi bar in the middle and lots of baked goods to choose from. You can buy almost anything there, except for normal sized bottles of shower gel!

Barça- Day 1. Landing in Barcelona- The Metro, Sangria & Bikini bottoms

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View from the hostel rooftop – Torre Agbar, Barcelona

Barcelona- El Clot

Landed in Girona airport at about 4pm local time, flying over lush green slopes and a patchwork of sunny browny-green fields. I snuck a picture on my camera after I was told to put it away. I’m used to flying Ryanair from Bristol to Ireland but it’s stranger flying from Bristol to Spain, hearing the Irish accent over the loud speaker.

Customs staff were friendly but clearly I spent too long in the loo as a security guy barged in, also checking the cubicles and when I came out, the baggage area was empty.

I wondered if this was the airport we’d flown into on our one and only family holiday. In any case, I don’t remember. After an hour-long bus journey through nothing but hills and trees, lush and green with little of the autumnal shades back ‘home’, interspersed with a few dirt tracks, run down looking houses stacked into the hillside, what might possibly have been a vineyard and a herd of sheep. Finally arrived in Barcelona about 6pm, getting very excited at spotting the spires of Sagrada Familia rising majestically into the sky.

It was already getting dark and signs for the metro were not clear. After asking the info lady, I was on my way, navigating the system with ease thanks to my friend’s donation of their unused tickets. Another faff finding the hostel and a random man speaking something presumably Spanish, I was happy to finally see the sign and escape inside!

Hostel life revisited comes as a bit of a shock. Bed sheet rental and shared dorms with  Continue reading “Barça- Day 1. Landing in Barcelona- The Metro, Sangria & Bikini bottoms”

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