Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Then there was one???

Sometimes a little bit of just plain old straight-forward talk would clear things up a whole lot.

Sometimes it just feels that everyone is being toooooo polite.

I'm kind of cut this way, but sometimes I'd rather just call a spade a spade.  

Or a rose a rose, or a jack*ss a jack*ss.

This brings us to today's tale.

We started out with three contractors giving bids.  

#1.  Initially recommended by the architect, did a lot of work for the bid and sent in a good number.  Never heard from him since.  Left on the sidelines.  Not sure why.

#2. Second recommended by the architect, older, more experienced, seems to be the architect's preferred choice now.  Starting to show up at meetings, though I am not sure why.  Bid came in 4,000 lower than #1.  Cynicism radar is squawking right about now.  Cannot start until May (crap) and wants to work into Aug when we aren't here (crap).  Feeling like a choice has been made to use him, but I don't remember making it.  Talked to me like I'm stupid the first time, not this one though.  Has copies of revised plans.

#3.  Too young and too stupid to keep his mouth shut when it should be plus I know what he was like in high school, which was none too long ago, and I wouldn't have been happy if my daughter had brought him home.  Never sent in the bid.  Gone.

Architect studied English ages ago and I have to bear in mind that his understanding isn't all that bad, when I commented if fast colloquial English that I didn't want, "a bloody great concrete causeway running across the living-room" he laughed.  Bears remembering.

Phone calls going to be made tomorrow.  Architect and builder(s).

Straight talk.  

Oh, and Barça?  Played like absolute crap tonight.  Crap.

If straight talk fails....

Eenie, meenie, meinie, moe
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers 
let him go
Eenie, meenie, meinie, moe


One potato, two potato, three potato, four.
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more. 

or a big game of rock, paper, scissors!!!!

Here's where you come in, what picking games did you use as a kid?  Should we get there I may need to know!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I'd get more reading done if I would just stop falling asleeeeeepppppppp.

Monday, March 29, 2010


We were sitting around the table tonight, the last night with our guests, and got chatting about national anthems.  This was the moment when I pointed out that the Catalans have what may indeed be, the most warlike national anthem of them all.  Based on a historical event when the Catalans picked up their scythes and mowed down the enemy of the day.  Certainly by far the most violent that I know of, here it is:

Catalunya triomfant,      Triumphant Catalonia
tornarà a ser rica i plena.   Will become, once again rich and full.
Endarrera aquesta gent   Behind these people
tan ufana i tan superba.    so proud and so superb

Bon colp de falç,    A good blow with the scythe
Bon colp de falç,    A good blow with the scythe
Defensors de la terra!      Defend our land
Bon colp de falç!    A good blow with the scythe.

Ara és hora, segadors.   Now is the time, reapers
Ara és hora d'estar alerta.   Now is the time to be alert
Per quan vingui un altre juny   Because when the next June comes
esmolem ben bé les eines.     we will sharpen our tools well.

Bon colp de falç,   A good blow with the scythe
Bon colp de falç,   A good blow with the scythe
Defensors de la terra!  Defend out land!
Bon colp de falç!   A good blow with the scythe

Que tremoli l'enemic   How the enemy will tremble
en veient la nostra ensenya.    when they see what we can do.
Com fem caure espigues d'or,     Like we fell the golden wheat
quan convé seguem cadenes.   when the time is right, we shall reap chains

Bon colp de falç,     A good blow with the scythe
Bon colp de falç,    A good blow with the scythe
Defensors de la terra!   Defend out land
Bon colp de falç!     A good blow with the scythe

Here you can here it,   Catalunya triomfant,      Triumphant Catalonia
tornarà a ser rica i plena.   Will become, once again rich and full.
Endarrera aquesta gent   Behind these people
tan ufana i tan superba.    so proud and so superb

Bon colp de falç,    A good blow with the scythe
Bon colp de falç,    A good blow with the scythe
Defensors de la terra!      Defend our land
Bon colp de falç!    A good blow with the scythe.

Ara és hora, segadors.   Now is the time, reapers
Ara és hora d'estar alerta.   Now is the time to be alert
Per quan vingui un altre juny   Because when the next June comes
esmolem ben bé les eines.     we will sharpen our tools well.

Bon colp de falç,   A good blow with the scythe
Bon colp de falç,   A good blow with the scythe
Defensors de la terra!  Defend out land!
Bon colp de falç!   A good blow with the scythe

Que tremoli l'enemic   How the enemy will tremble
en veient la nostra ensenya.    when they see what we can do.
Com fem caure espigues d'or,     Like we fell the golden wheat
quan convé seguem cadenes.   when the time is right, we shall reap chains

Bon colp de falç,     A good blow with the scythe
Bon colp de falç,    A good blow with the scythe
Defensors de la terra!   Defend out land
Bon colp de falç!     A good blow with the scythe

You can hear it here. 

A little different than the Canadian anthem,

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Though that is still a little militaristic.  

The Spanish don't have any words, though there is music.  They couldn't agree on words after the fall of Franco, and still have none.

Our friends sang the Welsh one for us, which is all about pride and love in the home land.

You can certainly see why anarchism could get such a strong hold in the 30s.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

BCN the Beautiful.

Lovely having people over, you do things you wouldn't otherwise do...went to park Güell and then to the Hard Rock Cafe which I had never visited before.  A slice and a half of N American culture...the food was straight out of what I was used to, on the whole.

Then we lucked out.  We had a bit of extra time so we went for a wander and came across the Cathedral, open, for free!!!!  Nothing like visiting on Palm Sunday for finding the church open.  It is lovely and grand inside.  Sadly I didn't bring my camera. (once again smacking myself on the head).  I thought we would be doing things I had done before and it wouldn't be worth the hassle.  NOT!

We walked down through BCN from the park, a million beautiful architectural details.  Honestly, I have to go and do that again and just take photos.   We came to a plaça where there was music and a big group of people dancing, all doing jive!  It was wonderful.  We were pretty sure that they were a club as they were all much the same age and they were all pretty good.  Also no purses in evidence so there was some kind of a system.

Lovely lovely day...I even got in a longish nap!

Reality asserts itself when one has to unplug the bathroom drain and all, but still.  Lovely overall.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A good reason to sing.

We went to the Palau de Musica Catalana this evening.  Home of one of our greater economic scandals.  The director seems to have made off with something between 20 and 30 million Euros, and even had the *ahem* cojones to bill for his daughter's 100,000 Euro wedding, AND had the grooms family pay for half of that as well, leaving him with a tidy 50,000 Euro profit!

Scuzz aside, the building is amazing, and the music was wide ranging this evening.  You have to understand how very nationalist the place is to start with.  The programs are printed in Catalan.  Period.  No Spanish, no English for the tourists.  Catalan.

We went to a very very Catalan performance as well, we had a piece that had only been performed once before and that was in 1956, by a Catalan conductor.  That one sounded like it should have been the - very competent - sound track to an animated film, and the second was sublime.  Greig, with a Latvian pianist who was simply astonishingly good.  Vestard Shimkus.  Very very involved young pianist, with every twitching fibre of his being.  He did an improvised variations on Beetoven's ninth which was very witty and very funny.....Youngest would have aDOREd it.

Then another Catalan piece by a watchmaker who had never studied, which was fine.  Brilliant, no. Fine, especially for a complete amateur.  The final one, well they didn't hold ANYTHING back. They had, for instance, five percussionists, all of them working away fairly steadily.  At the end of the piece, when EVERYONE was giving it all they'd got, down to the kettle drums and a gong, I noticed that the harpist was still playing as well.  Maybe that wasn't strictly necessary, we probably really couldn't hear her contribution.  Good intentions and all, but really not very audible.

That was long and probably not that interesting, but the story the old lady in front of me told me was delightful.  Asked where we were all from, blah blah blah, told me she'd visited Toronto, she'd seen a humming bird and it was lovely. Then she told me the story of the Palau!

I loved her version.  They don't tell it this way on the tour or in the books.

Seems the good old boys were all going to the bars in the evenings and drinking up all the money.  So a group of people, including painters and other intellectuals got together, headed down to the bars and told the boys that if they came along with them to learn to sing a few songs, they could make some money at it.  Seems this was well received, so off they went.  There was some success, so they grew.  Travelled, sang, made more money, but were still rehearsing in the bars so a fair amount of the grocery money was still going down their throats.  The Palau was born.


Friday, March 26, 2010

What did you say???

I am not sure how many of you were reading this years ago when, three days before my Catalan oral and listening exam my ear seized up and I could hear n.o.t.h.i.n.g.

This seems to be becoming a regular feature of my life now.  The joy.

My left ear has been bugging me for some time, feeling like I have been flying.  I have now gotten to the point where I can hear a difference between the two ears.  It is, shall we say, somewhat annoying.

Probable more so for the folks around me who I keep shouting, "eh! WHAT???" at like a modern day granny with an ear trumpet.

That and shushing anyone within about a hundred yard radius who has the temerity to speak above a whisper when I am trying to listen to something.

I was going to get the man to pour some olive oil in there because, as has already been established both on this site and in the "Catalan Institute for Curing Everything", there is nothing that cannot be bettered with the judicious application of olive oil.

The only problem is that the man has gone to sleep.  I imagine he is going to reappear as he is lying dressed, including a belt - though with only a t-shirt on - on top of the covers.  He is sure to shiver himself awake at some point.  My issue is, however, that my olive oil pourer has abandoned me.  

I can assure you that it is none too easy to pour olive oil into your own ear.  

A mite messy too.

Off to give it a run though.  Maybe I should tie the hair back well out of the way though first, no?

I would like to add that the first fly of the year has appeared in our apartment and Chuck is an amusing combination of frightened, excited and diligent.  Hope it goes to sleep when the lights go out.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


What a wild and hairy day!  Guests arrived which is a DElight, into BCN and out, work in the AM, run run run, then the architect's again.....decisions decisions decisions.....


Chunky.  A work I had to define twice in the last two days.  I quite like it.  As the crowning touch of clarity I mention how pills we take are smooth, but that if they were chunky, they would quite stick in our throats.  Uncomfortably.

Then I got thinking about pills.  When young and pure I used to try not to take headache pills and the like, I have trouble even remembering why.  They somehow had the waft of establishment or something.  Still kind of baffles me.  Now?!?  Bring on the meds.  Goodness.

That said, I don't go overboard wildly, I probably take a headache pill once every two months, and cold meds twice a year, but if I want it and I'm miserable, bring it ON boys and girls.

Curious that I cannot remember why I objected.  Maybe it was that amorphous at the time too.

Hard to say.

I don't take chunky pills though, only the nice smooth ones.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Today's a good day for a joke, I think.

1) Good:  
A Caledon OPP policeman had a perfect spot to watch for speeders, but wasn't getting many. Then he discovered the problem. A twelve year old boy was standing up the road with a hand-painted sign, which read 'RADAR TRAP AHEAD'.
The officer then found a young accomplice down the road with a sign reading 'TIPS'  and a bucket full of money. (And we kids used to just sell lemonade!)

2) Better:  
A motorist was mailed a picture of his car speeding through an automated radar post in Kingston , ON . An $80 speeding ticket was included.  Being cute, he sent the police department a picture of $80. The police responded with another mailed photo of handcuffs.

3) Absolute Best: 
A young woman was pulled over for speeding. As the Ontario Provincial Policeman walked to her car window, flipping open his ticket book, she said, 'I bet you're going to sell me a ticket to the OPP Ball.'    
He replied 'OPP don't have balls.' 
There was a moment of silence while she smiled, and he realized what he'd just said.  He then closed his book, got back in his patrol car and left. She was laughing too hard to start her car. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Good news, bad news!

OK, Good news should always come first, I think.  Back when I was in some coaching seminar they taught us a great trick.  They called it the sh*t sandwich. First the bread (that would be the good news) then the sh*t - I imagine you're following me here - then the other piece of bread.  Seems a pretty bland sandwich, I mean really, where's the tomatoes and cheese and lettuce and all that good stuff????

Well, GOOD NEWS!  We have visitors coming on Thursday and it should be a WHOLE lot of fun.

Bad news, the man got laid off today.  One of fourteen all at the same time.  More than half the workforce.  Not unexpected, but still fairly unpleasant all around.

GOOD NEWS!  Three more days till the holidays and I have a week off!  With family here!!! TRIPLE SWEET!!!!

Um, OK, I'll lay the lettuce and cheese and mustard and all that over here.....

I got interviewed by the grade 5 and 6s about my life as an immigrant here.  It was fairly amusing overall, and they asked some great questions.  Why did we come (opportunity, adventure and heritage), what do I miss (one word answer this, friends), what is difficult (language and isolation - I did no begin a rant about bureaucracy), what was great (way of life) blah blah blah.....nice group of kids.  I commented several times that our experience as immigrants is not typical of immigrants who might be political or economic refugees, but it seems the teachers had already covered a fair amount of that.

They commented on how bad my Catalan is. (not to my face) *ho hum*  Mouths of babes and all that.

Walked in the hills and felt utterly happy.  Good-ness.  

I have been under the weather since Friday and the anti-biotics have FINALLY kicked in, well, they changed them on Sunday and I feel GOOD.  Indeed I felt like walking which was wonderful too.  On Saturday all I could do was stagger to the beginnings of the hill and sit on a rock while the dog romped and Eldest nagged.  Napped long and hard both days so feeling good today is more than good.  So I guess that would be a good news (feeling good, meds working)/bad news (getting ill) thing combined.

The man and I had Catalan class and he sucked was challenged by the rules for accents.  I was challenged by sucked at recognising and pronouncing vowel sounds in Catalan.   

Guess most things are good and bad, no?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off for papers I go.....and a cup of tea. Ahhhhh.

This morning we all took off from work and school to go and stand in line at a government office.  We are going through the -apparently interminable- process of trying to get the girl's Spanish citizenship.

Today we went to get a piece of paper that will entitle us to a different piece of paper that we have to bring to a meeting in April, which may entitle Eldest to a piece of paper which she (we) can then take to go and get a formal document saying that she is Spanish, and a Passport.  *whew*  in April however youngest's piece of paper (assuming she gets it) will have to be sent off to another office who will then decide if she can have the piece of paper that entitles her to official documents which we will then have to go and apply for.


Me to.

You would think it would be easier than this for a Spanish man to get papers for his kid, no?

You should have seen all the papers we brought in.  Everything, and I mean E.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.  With triple photocopies.  We were, of course, missing one piece of paper.  I think they run through a mental list of possible documents until the find one you don't have with you. Relevancy to the process is irrelevant.  We stumped them on a few: my presence as a non-Spanish mother, my passport, photocopies of my passport, my ID number as a non-Spanish person, and photocopies of that.  We didn't have it all though.  That would have spoiled the fun.

This gets more fun as two of us have new passports and new passport numbers which don't coincide with the now fairly ancient paperwork we submitted I know not how long ago.  Plus we will all be moving officially this summer, so whatever isn't finished by then, will have to be altered.  Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to bureaucracy we go.....

AEvery time you move here you must go and get new official documents issued as they contain your address.  Why, you may ask, would they want to go to all that hassle?  Do Canadian Social Insurance numbers have your address on them?  NO!!!!! I think it is just because they can.  Just to make everyone's  life a little more complicated.

I think this is why my shoulder is hurting, hauling all this paper around.

There was other excitement too, they have something here called empadronament.  This is a registry of where you live and you have to provide this piece of paper everywhere you go, and it is only valid for three months before you get another.  Turns out that Eldest is registered as living in two places!  Here and in BCN, someone there has her pport number and exact name!

The guy in the office did not seem unduly disturbed, but we dropped in on the Canadian Consulate just to let 'em know.  Since we hadn't lost the passport, as far as they were concerned, no problemo.  They figure it is an error in the Spanish system.  No guff, huh?

We adjourned for a much needed snack and a drink.

Then I went off to buy tea and watercolour paper.  Have to keep the important things in mind.

That and a lovely walk around BCN.


We've decided to wait till next year to get driver's licenses. Our constitutions could not stand more paperwork than we are already doing between the house and the citizenship.  Goodenss no.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

anarchistic teachers

That means what you might think it means, "All the sh*t has left from within our organisation"  Gotta love the Catalans.  You don't hear Canadian politicians being quite so, ahhhh, clear with their message, no?  They removed all the 'dirty players' and are ready to move forward again, no enemies in the ranks.

It is an independentist group that LaPorte, who is currently head of Barça, will most likely be joining when he leaves that post in June (I think). 

Near idyllic weekend in many ways, well chiefly because we had yummy food and because I had  a lovely nap both days and got to read a lot!

Blogger is strangely double-spacing this post, how odd.

You know how doctors are supposed to make the worst patients?  I think possibly teachers make the worst students.  I have a high level course for professional English teachers, and they don't do the homework, they don't even read the assignments some of them.  One does. The second last time didn't do the homework, which was reading a book and doing a presentation and this time, when they were only supposed to have read half the book, finished it and then told everyone the ending!  The third student some of the homework last time, in that she read the book, but nothing this time.....and never reads the assignments, or does them of course.

Most anarchistic lot, so I have given it over to them and asked them to read whatever they like but to let me know what it is, which means I have to read all of the books this month.  Good gracious.  Good thing I'm a fast reader too!

Let's hope they pick good books!

Saturday, March 20, 2010 it good or bad?

The man and I spent a few hours today going through the details of the house plans to ensure that all is well, lights, heat, water, etc...


We'll have a meeting with the architect (mark 2 who seems to be working out better) to finalise these details, or get as close as we can to doing that.

I am getting so very tired of doing this over and over and over.

Ho hum.

I don't know if this is a Catalan thing or if architects the world over do this, but they keep telling us to decide where we're going to put the furniture so that we can decide where the outlets and lights should go.  I have to confess that I don't affix my furniture to the ground with concrete and possibly whomever lives in the house after us would like their own furniture, and maybe arranged differently.  So, maybe we should just put these things in a logical kind of


I've been reading Edward Abbey in anticipation of lending it to a friend to read.  He is so funny and so cranky.  The Journey Home.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kissing Catalans

One of the things I have been trying to figure out lately is how to kiss Catalans.

The man?  No problem, got that all figured out.  It's everyone else.

You see, the Catalans do that cheek to cheek kiss thing like the French do, and the Polish and and and and.....the trick is figuring out who you're supposed to do it with and when. You know what I mean, no? Your mouth doesn't actually touch the person's face, because you are both still facing forwards, but your cheeks touch briefly, right cheek to right cheek, then left to left.

I have been quite contentedly going along essentially following people's lead on this for some time and in truth, there are very few people that I do the kiss-kiss thing with.  There is, sadly, no work in English for this greeting - that I know of, and strangely the Catalans also don't have a word/verb for it.

Now, there are the obnoxious air kissers who get close to you but don't quite touch your face and make no noise at all, then there are the really juicy sounding ones who, with their mouth quite close by your ear make big MWAAAAAH noises.  Not so keen on either of those.

Then there is me.  I basically follow the lead, but I am sometimes a wee bit, ah, clumsy in the execution. My poor sisters-in-law have suffered the worst from it, as they were the ones I did the double cheek kiss with most often, especially early on.

You see, sometimes I seem to misjudge distance or speed and come away with aching cheekbones....I've actually whacked someone with my face. They are always very polite about it, and I have never seen anyone actually rubbing their cheekbone as they back away.  Very polite they are.


Then there is the rest of your body.  Do you lean way forward to keep distance with the rest of your body or step right in and stay fairly upright but with much greater proximity?  Do you shake hands or touch in any other way?????  I have offered a hand and then been pulled in for the kiss-kiss like a confused guppy into a vortex of salutation.

If you are in the middle of saying something, do you keep talking?  Pause the conversation?  Let it drop???  Haven't figured out that rule yet.

Some rules I have figured out:

Rule 1.  Unless you are very pretentious the kiss-kiss is only done when you quite like someone and haven't seen them in a long time.

Rule 2.  Rule 1 does not always apply.

Rule 3.  It is normally not done within a professional setting, for instance your OBGYN should not kiss you at the beginning or end of a visit.

Rule 4.  Rule 3 does not always apply.

 Rule 5.  It is not an appropriate way to congratulate someone, nor an expression of affection or contentment.  ie, it cannot substitute for a hug.

Rule 6.  People look surprised if you make an error with rule 5.

I have done that twice recently, hence the study.

One was a friend's birthday.  She is quite a good friend and we went for coffee on the big day.  I wished her a happy birthday, and if she had been another North American I would have given her a hug, however, we were in the center of a small town café and it Catalans just don't really hug.  However it felt quite cold to not touch her at all on her birthday, so I went for the kiss-kiss.  She didn't complain, but was distinctly surprise.

Second occasion, I ran into a woman here in the village who I really like, and I believe feels the same way, though we have not advanced to friendship per se.  We were chatting about something or other, and she mentioned something that left me utterly delighted.  I would have hugged her in Canada.  Again, public street and a strong sense that hugging just isn't done, so I went for the kiss-kiss and she looked surprised.  Not unhappy, but a bit stunned.

So I arrive at rule number 7.

Rule 7.  Kiss-kiss actions are purely for greeting someone and for saying goodbye. Anything else is odd.

I believe they chalk my errors up to fruitiness.  Could be worse.

There is also considerable gender variation within this rule,

Rule 8.   Men do not do the kiss-kiss thing unless they are life long friends or family.   This means that the when the man and I are out, I will get kiss-kissed by people who shake his hand.  Considerably less familiarity is needed for a man-woman kiss-kiss than a man-man combination would allow.

There are also some unspoken rules about men and women instigating the kiss-kiss thing in a man-woman combination. This I am unsure of as I always simply follow other people's leads.

There is also an age related element to this, which I haven't figured out at all.  Sorry, no help there.  For instance no one does the kiss-kiss thing with teenagers unless they are really quite a bit older; 40 min (Eldest, when asked, stated that only really really old people do the kiss-kiss with her, like my age and up.)  Teenage girls hug.  They hug a lot.  Teenage boys punch each other in the shoulder or grab each other around the neck.  Younger children are kiss-kissed by a wider range of people, from 20 up but they both say that it happens quite infrequently.  I have seen very very few to no seniors doing it.  Maybe they only do it with family.

Another interesting study of this:  a group of my adult students were finishing a course.  We had been working together since October so at this point we know each other pretty well.  It is, however, the last class.  One of the male students thanked me sincerely and shook my hand making clear eye contact.  One older man came to the kiss-kiss but with a sense of reluctance because others were doing it. Two younger men simply leaned in and did the kiss-kiss, one of the two women, again younger than me simply kiss-kissed, while the other woman, who is not Spanish, but is from Georgia though she has lived here a long time was awkward.  I suspect that she usually follows other people's leads, as do I, so the two of us together found us doing that sidewalk dance, plus she added in some holding onto my arms, which felt like a hug that wasn't allowed to go any further.

Interestingly, I felt the most completely thanked by the man who shook my hand and looked me in the eye. Something about the level of eye-contact led to a higher sense of sincerity.  The kissers who left a stronger sense of sincerity followed up with eye-contact as well as a bit of conversation after the kiss-kiss event.

I so have to invent a word for this.


Who do you kiss????  Who do you kiss-kiss??????

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Disillusioned second try.

I wrote the first post today and it was a wee bit dark.



Not going to post that one just yet.

Had a laugh with the man over all the crap.  Goodness it's great to be married to him.

*deep breath*

Chalk it all up to anthropological investigation, no?

OK.  Getting a little opaque here.  Sorry.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about kissing.  Promise.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hair and money.

Another busy day...the paperwork for all of this is horrific.

But, we have a mortgage again now....mixed blessing that one, but definitely better than NOT having one.

Went out for lunch with the girls!

Went to the hair dresser for the first time in about a decade.  The man has been cutting my hair for ages...disappointingly most people haven't noticed I got my hair cut, so I'm not sure it was worth the effort. Whatever.  It was pretty cheap.

Eldest is now the proud possessor of coloured hair.  She has green, blue and purple, streaks in her hair.  Looks pretty cool. She wants more and Youngest wants any.  We'll see.

I was a wee bit cheeky at the bank today.   The Spanish are, shall we say, commission happy.  There is a commission on our mortgage, just for getting it, of over a thousand Euros.  I was, um, *cough* clear in my comment that I thought this was outrageous.  Pointed out, in this many words, that considering the amount of money they are going to make off of us with this mortgage, they had some cheek asking us to pay this sort of commission to get it.  Everything also has to go through an official notary - there's a license to print money- he got paid a couple of hundred Euros (or more) for reading a document, watching us sign it and then signing it himself.

They mentioned that part of the commission was notary fees.  I pointed out that we don't have that either in Canada.


Maybe it isn't such a good idea to alienate the manager and notary before you sign...but what the heck, no?

Nothing like getting mugged in the cold light of day.  Legally too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

La Lacuna

Barbara Kingsoliver.

What can I say.  I love her books utterly and absolutely.  (Except the Poisonwood Bible that EVERYONE loved.  Hated it.)  This one transported me.  Goodness it was wonderful, and I was all prepared for a miserable ending.  Braced.

Then she pulled it right out of the hat.  I don't want to give any spoilers here, so let me just say that the ending was unexpected but so completely and beautifully perfect.  A delight.  And so very logical and fitting once it was done.

Makes me not want to read another book for a bit.

Well, almost.

Only sad thing is that I don't have another Kingsolver to read right now.


Monday, March 15, 2010

House next step.

Plans are submitted to the town hall for approval!!!!




Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunshine and dogfights.

What an utterly perfect day.

Painting, walked in the mountains and read there for a few hours - La Lacuna, Barbara Kingsoliver -  beautiful sunshine and warmth, I was sitting in in a tank top.  Chuck yawned and groaned in boredom and sprayed me with dirt as he dug down to cooler soil.  Retribution for my inaction.

On the way home Chuck definitively won a dog fight.  A loose boxer whose owners didn't come around the corner quickly enough.  I let his Chuckiness loose as things warmed up, it's easier to fight without a rope around your neck.  Great growling and snapping and then they pulled their dog off.  I've broken off a dog fight or two, but this bruiser was big and the aggressor.  Then I got Chuck who wasn't quite ready to finish the rumble when the other guy was leashed.  Bellowed at the owners for good measure.

Got him home and looked for cuts, there was blood, but seems that none of it was his.

Way to go Chucky!!!

Back to some more painting!

Think we may go out for burgers for dinner, just to cap it all off.

Goodness I love sunshine and warmth.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


What is it that makes one bookstore wonderful and the next one kind of, meh.

I was in a variety of bookstores today hunting for a book for one of Eldest's classes....I went to my preferred bookstore first, Alibri in BCN on Blanes.  It doesn't look like that great a bookstore.  Almost a little big boxish with a slightly industrial feel to it.  No interior designer work done, a little too spacious for the current field of bookstores, lots of books on tables that are a little too low to be easily read, and a huge huge huge section of language learning books in the second room all give it a superficial feel that maybe it won't be so great.  But look at the books.  Best English language selection I have found YET in BCN, and great books too.  Listen, we're talking a selection smaller than a fairly crappy airport bookstore, a lot smaller and there are GOOD books there, not schlock at all.  Then there are the folks that work there, super helpful and knowledgeable.  I had a bit of a book conundrum because the requested book turned out to be out of print.  We started searching for an alternative.  All four women working there helped.  Very cool.

And, they ladies checking out the books have chairs!  Not only that, they were drinking tea from ceramic mugs while they were doing it.

Maybe that's the trick, subtle work in place to keep the folks working happy and a great selection of books.  I always come out poorer in pocket and richer in mind. Today's haul?  Alice Munro in Spanish, she hasn't been translated to Catalan yet, No entenc el món àrab by Tahar Ben Jelloun in Catalan and Morrison's Song of Solomon in English plus Zadie Smith's On Beauty in English. (how someone can be so beautiful, so creative, so smart and so capable is amazing, no?)  Sweet that I was buying books in three languages, no? (even if I can't read the Spanish one yet, maybe I should try.)

Another store I really like is Altair, on Gran Via.  Primarily a travel shop it also carries a wide range of literature that is set in related parts of the world, Kerrouac On the Road, of course etc.....all done by region.  One of the things I like here is that they simply mix the languages up. You go in and there's a Spanish book beside a Catalan beside an English flanked by a French and German.  Sweet.  Comfy armchairs, designer cosy decor, if they don't have hardwood floors it feels like they do.  A bookstore you  could spend a day in (and a fortune).

Then there is FNAC, they have a big bookstore in there, they have a lot of books, but it is totally blech.  Teens with McJobs working the aisles, no one knows anything, like shopping in a train station.  Blech blech blech, definitely last resort.

Grand Libreria Catalana across from El Corte Ingles, I end up in there cause it's big but the folks who work there are subtly surly, maybe it's the lack of chairs and the incredibly cramped space they've stuffed the English language books into so tight you can't get back enough to read the titles and the ones down at your knees?  No hope.  The organisation in the place seems strange too.  Meh.  Good store, but somehow cold.

I think about the stores I like most, and the decor is good, coffee shops are fine, but knowledgeable interested happy staff coupled with a good range of books RULES!

So, where's your favourite bookstore, and why?

Gosh, I never even got to used stores!!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010


OK, for those of you who were not sitting with baited breath waiting for the results of this year's Canada Reads debates, I am utterly delighted to inform you that Nicolas Dickner's Nikolski WON!!!!


Now, here's the back story.  I am doing a course for very high level English students, more a keeping-your-English-fresh course than anything else.  We are reading books as part of the course, but I am also looking for books that have a very high level of alternative media associated with them so that the students can also do listenings and read a wide variety of texts in formality and informality all surrounding the subject.  The first book I chose was Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye.  Morrison has no shortage of on-line presence to say the least, everything from Yale University courses to Nobel Prize Lecture to talks given my major art galleries about her portrait!

I wanted to use North American books as well, I am a wee bit tired by the endless slam that North America has no culture other than Hollywood and McDs.  I won't go into it all, but let's just say it bugs me.  So Morrison got the nod for the first book, but I really really wanted a Canadian book for the second, and there are just SO many to chose from, however....the Canada Reads excitement was going on at the same time as the course, so that seemed a natural.  I ordered the books; all the Canada Reads books.  They didn't arrive.  I had to order the books for the students, so I did some on-line searching about the books and went for Nikolski.  I loved what I heard about the style of the book, the etherial untidiness of it, and I loved it's pan North America (and further) movement.  I loved the mystery of some of what I heard, and as Catalans, who consider the Quebecois to be brothers in oppression (a mite strong, but the sympathy is there) or repression, or risk I thought a book by a French Canadian author might ring well.  Plus some of us do translation work, so the fact that it won the GG for translation too sang well.

The books still didn't come.

I ordered an extra copy of Nikolski for me.

The books arrived, and with some trepidation I cracked to cover.  I was committed to teaching this book and I had never read it.  Imagine my relief when I got part way through, then finished.  It has a lovely haunting depth to it that calls for re-readings. There is space for the reader's imagination, like beautiful peaceful music.  I was enchanted.

Then I was very very happy when it won because now they will be interviewing the author on CBC on Monday and dedicating a month of the book club to it as well.  BONANZA!!!!

Picked a winner!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

There are decent people in the world

My workplace in Canada wasn't looking over the computer's proverbial shoulder when it filled in the forms to mail me my T4 form (vital Canadian tax document) and it got sent to some random office at one of the universities in BCN.

Some lovely woman there, who shares my first name - including the unusual-for-Catalans spelling - went to the trouble of searching for me on and sending me an e-mail.  That was two days ago.

Got the letter in the mail today.

Amazing, no????

Now I get the fun of thinking of a Canadian novel I can mail her (in translation) to thank her for her effort.  Suggestions?  I'm thinking of Alice Munro myself...but....

....on another note, watching your children eat when they serve themselves too much wasabi at once can be very very funny.  Cruel, but funny.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Flat post, flattened blogger

"Dante has a place in hell for people who are grave when they might have rejoiced."

Marilynne Robinson.

Something I could bear remembering.

On another note, I am recovering though still feeling rather flattened.

I have also been speaking to the Catalan Ministry of Education about the English classes that Eldest has to do....the very nice lady at the ministry is going to talk to her school to find a solution to the boring classes within the letter of the law.

We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Feeling very nauseous

Snow's a melting!

Hope I'm feeling better tomorrow.  


Monday, March 8, 2010

We interrupt our regular programming to say....

We got a Snow DAY!!!!!!!

Remember the excitement of snow days?  No work?  No school?  Running around in the lovely white fluffy stuff?

Most of you probably remember this all too well and recently, but we haven't had a snow day in over seven years, and as I worked at home, probably over fourteen!



Just got a text message....snow day tomorrow too!!!!!!

......later.......sounds of breaking trees.

........later still.........someone has to tell the weather clerk, there shouldn't be thunder with a snowstorm.  Someone is doing it wrong.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The man...

ran the Barcelona Marathon today.

He didn't shave his head and he didn't hurt himself in any permanent kind of way, and he finished with a respectable time.

I am quite happy myself and he seems reasonably content in a travelling ache/pain kind of way......

We watched lots and lots of people go by, over and over and over again, as we jumped on and off the subway over and over to cheer them on.

We never once saw the man without him seeing us first and calling out to us.

It was actually quite a lot of fun cheering people on, it was actually quite great because they had people's names printed in large letters on their numbers so you could cheer them on by name.....great fun!

We did get up WAY too early for a Sunday morning, and though I didn't run 42.195 kilometers I did stand and run and jump with a heavy knapsack for seven hours and it was cold.... it is time for a shower and a nap.....

We were calling the front runners the Kenyans out of definition, and then I checked the race results.  They were Kenyans, with a couple of 'others' tucked in.  They were a whole different race, they just happened to be on the same course, these guys were F.A.S.T.  The world record, from 2008 (according to Wiki) is 2:03:59.  The winner here today ran in 2:07:something fast.  These boys were MOVING!


and fancy 100 Euro shirts or 65 Euro leg squeezing socks.  Runners, regular socks, loose shorts and a singlet.

then the carnage at the finish:

Hats off ladies and gents....hats off.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


We were in Barcelona today and there were super fit fast looking folks everywhere.  You see, tomorrow is the Barcelona marathon, and while it does not draw as many runners as the New York or Boston marathon, it was still apparent that something was up.

Some folks looked sturdy, some very very small and very very fast.  Some looked happy, most at ease.

There were a lot of them.

What I want to know though is this.

Why do serious runners, the men that is, all have to have their hair shaved off to nearly military lengths.  Indeed, possibly shorter.  Some of those guys would make moss look wildly extravagant.  

I don't get it.  

You don't see women doing it.  Swimmers tend to shave their heads, but the friction and resistance issue is exponentially different in water.  Bicyclists do their legs, which may make them feel fast but which I always assumed had to do with getting cleaned up from road rash.

Runners rarely get road rash on the tops of their heads.

Is it some kind of macho runner thing?



Friday, March 5, 2010


We all have far too many passwords to remember, goes without saying.

Then there are the irritating sites that require high security passwords for uses that are clearly not of high security for us individually, for example twitter vs. your bank.  REALLY!  I know twitter gets hacked a lot and it is a big fat hassle for them, but honestly, they're more uptight that the banks!!!!

Due to a recent massive virus attack at work I have been forced to update the passwords I have everywhere and I have also been forced to increased their security.

This has tipped me over the balance of password happiness.   Isn't that precious of me?

 I have been gradually increasing their security, as the IT types want us all to do.  No longer the simply easily remembered word. Back in the good old days we could use our kid's middle name and be done with the beast.  No,  I moved onto longer words; you know, middle name of both kids put together in chronological order; then onto longer words with associated numbers. Then you move to increasingly difficult to guess items.  Kids are out now, you've got to go with an anagram of the name of the salesman that sold you your second car or something equally stellar.

 Now I have added capitals and non-numeric, non-alphabetic symbols as well.  This proved extra challenging as I have to use the same passwords on both Spanish and English keyboards and some keys are easy to locate on one board, but hidden or unclear on another.  Finding one that had both some logic and was easily locatable on both boards took some time.  My personal favourite, and I wonder who dreamed this up is the dash/bottom of the line line, you know, these: - or _ .  HOW can I remember which is which on the keyboard????

I just went to log into facebook and decided it wasn't worth the hassle of typing in the password.  The stupid thing is enormous and there are so many keystrokes.  There must be a better system, no?

I went to change the password on my stat counter site and they didn't accept my non-numeric, non-alphabetic symbol of choice.  I had to invent a separate password for that site alone, a sure guarantee that I will never be able to get in again without going through the entire 'I've lost my password' e-mail saga.....

I have heard of people that have used complex formulas based on the date and page numbers of books they are reading at that time.  Pity those who work in industries where they have to change the password on a weekly basis.

Or, the rotating password horror.  People who have a stable of passwords that they spin around and around as the weeks pass, sort of a modern day pony express.  The poor ponies gradually working their way across the continents or shuttling back and forth eternally between the same few changing stations.

Sometimes I think that virus writers are actually the marketing departments of anti-virus software companies, no?  Either that or they are mad scientists trying to bring about the end of civilisation as we know it by creating the simultaneous melt down of all computer literate people caused by the crashing of our neurological systems under a weight of unrememberable passwords.

BWAH HAH HAH HAH HAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


A friend came back from getting squished and was telling me about it.

She put the palms of her two hands laterally across the front of her cr*tch and pushed them together while growling out, "If it were men, they'd find another way."

True, no?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I have a perpetual and chronic problem here with people asking me at the most inappropriate and unprofessional times if I could teach their kids/themselves English outside of where I work, cause it would cost less, or cause they don't like my workplace (where I am really very happy).

First.  I work there, so if you don't like it, what are you saying?

Second, pay me what you'd pay them, no?

Third, do you think I adore you/your kids so very very much that I would want to break my contract and jeopardise my job for them?  I barely know you!

The ones that really bite me are the folks who ask me when I am asking them for professional work, like yesterday's architect.

The ones I really get a good hate on for though are people who basically ignore me completely, sometimes quite rudely and then ask.   Two different mothers on Youngest's basketball team who never. speak. to. me.  -which is quite impressively rude in a small town- and then have the unmitigated cojones to ask me to teach their kids.  After I say no, they go back to the silent treatment.

Cows.  Wasn't that polite?  May they someday be immigrants in another place and folks treat them that way.

The best story though?  The very best?  A co-teacher was at the gynocologists.  Yup, feet up in the stirrups.  The doctor looks up from, well, from what she was doing and opens that conversation, "You teach English don't you?  Could you help my daughter......."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


My architect and the municipal architect and I all met up this morning.  Seems to have gone well, we have a timeline for submitting papers and all that.  He was happy.  I think that is good.

Met with the bank's architect after that, 3 architects in 1 hour, has to be a record of some sort.  He had to do a brief review of the house.  As we went in he asked me, and I was ready to murder him, about English lessons for his daughter.  I am so utterly sick of people asking me to do English lessons for their kids.  Phone the freaking school!  No I have no burning desire to teach your kids outside of my contract.

He pulled it out of the fire though by mentioning the school himself, maybe he saw the look in my eye.

I made it clear that I cannot do it outside of my contract, and thank god for that.

Could have killed him.

Anyway, progress seems to be in place, albeit slowly.

Plates still spinning above me, I haven't dropped too many yet.



Monday, March 1, 2010


I was back to feeling a mite jaded again this weekend after a number of kind of unpleasant little irritants, all on the same theme.

I think I don't want to go into it all, cause it isn't really what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is not all the million mosquitos of irritation are soaring around my head, but rather how wonderful my walk in the mountains was today.

It was warm, it was sunny, it was beautiful.  The almond trees are in bloom and so are the cherries.  There is nothing that is beautiful in quite the same way.  I found my first asparagus of the season and I was in heaven.  They are so very very good.  I ate it raw and right after I picked it. Yum.


I threw pinecones for the dog who was utterly ecstatic.  It is very hard to be grumpy when the mutt is so utterly happy.  I found a second asparagus.

Then I saw a man climbing up the hill towards me.  In his hands he had a big bunch of asparagus and a second smaller bunch.  I laughingly exclaimed over his luck and noted my pathetic tally of two.  Guess what.  He gave me the smaller bunch of them.  I don't think he can know how much that meant to me.  A gift of delicious fresh food, rare and the first days they are up.  Honestly though.  Restored my faith utterly.

In men anyway.

A simple act of kindness.  It is so cliched now, but sometimes.... sometimes..... it really can make such a difference.  I went through the rest of my day and into this evening a much happier and kinder person.  Much.

and, tomorrow morning, truita d'esparac!