Monday, December 30, 2013

Reading in three languages

That sounds like horrid bragging, and I suppose at some level I am excited about this, but here's the real back story.

For a few years now I've been able to read in Catalan, now I can with considerable fluidity.  There are some words I don't get, but on the whole I don't have any real problem.  If I sit and analyze the sentences I am occasionally depressed by my spoken and written Catalan, I cannot express myself the way Catalans do.  Something I should actually study. Wonder if Conrad did that.  Study the way people wrote, and tried to imitate their styles to gain greater ability to write in English.  He was at least tri-lingual and probably quadri-lingual (Polish, Russian, French and English) and though reportedly spoke with a heavy accent, wrote some of the best English literature that we have.  *sigh*

In October or so, I started Spanish lessons, and low and behold, despite my general ineptitude at learning languages (never got a mark higher than a 5 in French thoughout high school and had to drop it in the final year as I was failing dismally) I can do this!  It helps we've been here more than 7 years, and I do hear it sometimes, and my students relate it to words in English occasionally,

Still, I've read two novels (short ones) in Spanish!  Like Water for Chocolate, which I really enjoyed (again) and El Príncepe de la Nieble which was fine...and I am delighted!  I don't understand as much in Spanish as in Catalan, in Catalan I expect to understand everything but the occasional word, in Spanish I expect to understand everything but the occasional sentence.  That's how it seems to work, you understand at a generally paragraph level, then sentence level, then word level.

Since my chief reasons for learning Spanish is so that I can read some of the amazing writers that are working in the language, that is a bonus!

Today, though, we went to an exhibit at the CCCB - which is an amazing place - always love what they do and the curators are geniuses.  It was about a Catalan writer, Salvador Espriu, who was educated before the civil war, endured the war itself and lived under Franco, through the transition and died in 1985.  An amazing time to be alive, not fun, but amazing.  Eldest got one of his books of prose for Christmas.

The man could write, he is famous for his poetry, and plays more so than for his prose, and the exhibit was, as always, very well done.

It was, however, humbling.  What a vocabulary the man had.  There were quotes from his writing on the walls of the exhibit and such a lot of words I didn't know.


Back to the drawing board, and I think I may have to read some more of his work.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Who'da thunk that cabbage could be so cool!

I was cooking up a little bit of red cabbage for dinner, a pho type soup that lacked bean sprouts for I sliced up the cabbage really finely - well, my chef brother in law would not have called it a fine slicing, but by my standards it was, then I tossed it into boiling water, to which I then added salt.

Look carefully at the picture......

See the blue in the water?

That was SO cool!  The water went really really blue, then a beautiful deeper and deeper blue until it went purple.

You should try it, it was beautiful...and yummy too.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


It has been a tough year for running. I came out of last year in Spain super strong and super fit and I felt great.  Got to Toronto and drove a desk and a car all summer, as usual, and knew I'd have work to do when I got back here.  Then I threw out my back in Aug, the end of Aug....and it's still a problem.

Seems I have either pinched the sciatic nerve or have a herniated disc.  Either way it is getting better very very slowly.  Very.

Between this and my insane schedule this year, I have not been running much, bicycle commuting a lot.  Running, no.  And I miss it.

I have also been walking a lot less, which is also an issue related to time, availability and my crazy schedule.

I went for a run yesterday and it was a sad pathetic mess.  My back was fairly sore, for no knowable reason, and I just didn't want to.  So, as you might imagine, I didn't really.

Today, another story.  Set off, thinking I would maybe go a long way, maybe do not much, but as I left Youngest got up looking for breakfast - I had said I'd make pancakes for her and her sister and her sister's friend who was here overnight.  That was actually perfect, my short route that I know by heart, and a bit of a time pressure to bring it home.

Know what?  It was great.

Towards the back part of the run, which is mostly slightly downhill, I had planned to be good and go carefully, but I felt great and I just ran it.  I didn't kill myself, but I didn't go carefully (I AM SO SICK of going CAREFULLY!).  I thought I'd pay, and pay and pay.

But no.

I got home, did the abdominal exercises I've been doing to maintain strength, but more importantly to support my back as I get older, and the stretching I've started doing when I realised I was losing flexibility with the whole back/sciatica thing, and know what?

I feel good.

No payback.


Sleeping in

Oh, what an absolute pleasure!

Two nights in a row I have gone to bed, slept all night and woken after 9 am.

That sounds pathetic, and my teenagers would ridicule me, but it has taken a while for the system to shake off the early rising habit that the alarm clock induces.


Long may it last!!!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It has been a while

It has been a while since I've sat down in front of a blank blog page and had to comb through the day to see what I wanted to write about.  It's been a good day, Xmas day....Santa came, presents were opened, books read, candy eaten, arguments had, walks taken, naps taken too (THANK GOODNESS), the Queen watched...the Spanish king's address here in Catalonia wasn't watched live, TV3, the Catalan public TV station held a brief half hour strike.  Woe is me.

We had a big fat dinner with turkey and all the fixings, now sitting by the fire.  Nice.

Both girls are here which is a marvel, wonderful indeed.

Though they bicker...what a surprise, as do we with them....having to readjust to all being together again. 

Neat to see the changes in Eldest.  She's so much older.  So capable.  So wonderful.

With Youngest the changes are more incremental, we see her every day. 

Odd with traditions, how hard we hold onto them, even something as silly as a walk on Christmas day, but for me, it is an absolute.  However much the kids whinge!

Anyway, not coming up with anything that profound, some things I'm coming up with aren't appropriate to the day....politics and Spain etc...

Let's leave it at Merry Christmas all!



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Well, life has been a wee bit hectic lately

And this poor blog has paid the price!   I had to look back to see what I had and hadn't posted!  Do I ever have a backlog!!!

As we are planning a pretty quiet family Xmas,  I should be able to get myself all caught up again.  Here's hoping.

Rather randomly, I'm going to start with some photos from when I went kayaking, last weekend maybe?  Seems longer ago than that, but it's been like that lately.

Went off with a group to the Pantà de Llhosa del Cavall, near Lleida.  Beautiful place and we had a simply perfect day.

The white stuff in the foreground isn't snow, but it is heavily frosted.  Not likely to get sympathy from the Canadians in the ice storms, but it was chilly for us unprepared Catalans!

Hanging out in the sunshine to keep warm!!!

Some amazing crystal formations!!!

This was nearing lunchtime, and it started warming fact I was BROILING right about here, and got around the corner and took a couple of layers off, blessed relief!

At lunch, the white stuff is dried out waterplants, not snow.

Not a lot of breeze even...

Spectacular day.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


I love living here, I am truly enjoying learning the language, and I am delighted with the friends I have here, so when you read what you say next, it is not meant in the spirit of criticism, ultimately, I am mystified.

There are many words that in English, we take it for granted that everyone knows.  The names of trees for instance.  Virtually everyone with a reasonably level of education knows a poplar, a pine, a spruce, an oak, a maple, several varieties of maple, etc etc etc...if we get exotic, something like a rowan, fewer people will be familiar with it (unless they read Harry Potter, or live where more of them grow).  I can't think of anyone who doesn't know what a saddle or a bit or reins are.  Or bricks or clay or a kiln.

Not so in Catalan.

Walking on the weekend, they were struggling for the name of a poplar - om they told me, though on further looking, that's an elm, and we were definitely looking at a poplar of some form.  Which I just looked it up and it's an àlbera particular type of poplar, or as I was told, a pullancre or a xop, which may be the name for poplars in general.   This leads me to think that alongside a general lack of vocabulary there are a vast number of names for different things like trees, which considering the sheer range of accent and vocabulary from town to town, that is not a big surprise.

I know a man who is a sculptor, he makes and sells art made of bronze and clay all over Europe, and he teaches this in one of the two art school in BCN.  He did not know the Catalan words for kiln and clay, which I just found out today.  A kiln is una bòbila, clay for making bricks etc is argila and a brick is un maó, which I have heard but totxo is much more common.  (my Catalan teacher did know these words, but had to be prompted - he is trained as an architect and rides horses, so my questions may have run in his favour, horses, woods and kilns!)

Saddle?  Sella.  I asked.

  • bridle - brida
  • reins - regnes
  • girth - la cincha (spanish, didn't know the word in Catalan - la cingla)
  • bit - el ferro (he's not sure that's the correct name, rather one they use)
  • stirrups - estreps

Mostly I wonder how it is that people don't know these words.  Adults with a good education.

I am mystified.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Finally, photos from the weekend!

This was, in all honesty, one of the coolest walks I've ever been on with the group here.  Really great.  COLD as all get out, what's that phrase?  Cold as a witch's titty?  Cold as a well digger's ass?

Whatever, it was chilly!

We climbed some a river way, which was, as you can see below, seriously vertical, very very cool.  What they call a grimpada, which means you have to deploy your hands to make it up.....

There were kids along with us who found icicles, and like kids everywhere, were eating them.   In Catalan they are often called 'caramels de gel' -  ice candies.  The girls were hilarious, parts of the climb involved the possibility of a serious fall, and involved some real climbing in cold and possibly icy conditions....the girls were forced to leave their icicles at the bottom as they needed both hands to climb, so they spent the entire time calling up to me asking if there were more icicles at the top.  Love what is important.  No fear, no nerves, just wanted another icicle!  They were great.

There were also another couple of women who were fast walkers!!!! They walked at my pace!!!!! And they were funny as hell.  We spent a large part of the time passing each other... and repassing and repassing.

We stayed in a refugi that was very remote.  Kind of pricey, but good, and had lots of wood work which is not typical here in Spain.

The next day, we saw lots and lots of animals...this little pony followed us out of his field, and as none of us were horsemen or women it took us a while to convince it to go liked following the kids when they were running, so that worked, we got the kids to run back in and then shut the gate and the climbed out.

Mountain horses and ponies tend to be big of body and short of leg.

We were greeted by some donkeys, who wanted affection and got it!

Saw a mass of beautiful snow covered mountains

The area was spectacular with lots of pointy mountains sticking up out of nowhere.  Beautiful!!!

Like one of those old chinese paintings.

You can get a bit of an idea from here, but mostly this is view......

Oh, and a cow.... her calf was running around in and out of the field.

Fabulous weekend.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I have some photos from the weekend, but

I have something else I'm thinking about right now.

For some of the classes I teach, I put up readings that I find from around the internet for them to work on, develops vocabulary and grammar structures and then they have to talk about them in class.

Well, you know what?  They make up the kind of news I'd like to read.  You see I don't read the news very much.  It is one sad story after another of a corrupt stupid ass politician or a crime or a murder.  Some of these do have an impact on my life, but damn it is depressing and it doesn't change. Honestly we'd get on the boat for 11 months, and the news would be the same when we got back.  A couple of deaths....but really, not very different.

This kind of news is important in its way, we do need to police the politicians, we do need to know what is going on in our world and how it will change our lives, but the world is full of amazing and astonishing and awe filling things, and for some reason, they just don't get the same coverage.

So, here I bring you a collection of stories that I find excellent....

Otzi had tattoos!

Toddlers are smarter than 5 year olds

This house is AWESOME  I want to live in it

Seahorse hunting

Babies start wet, get drier!!!!!

Noisy street food in China

Limitless graffitti

Zoran Popovic

Worlds tallest domino tower falls

London book benches

Forgive me, but I think it is important too that art is being made in all sorts of places and has been for millenia, that toddlers are brilliant (never doubted that, glad the science is catching up) that seahorses are huge hunters, that we are bags of water.....that you can buy street food in China that is part art, part music and part performance.

Important, and this knowledge, and the knowledge that people are out there working on these things also changes the world, changes what I think about the world and changes our lives.

So there you have it, a collection of news, from me to you.



This is

Monday, November 18, 2013

went to BCN

and it rained so hard I had puddles inside my shoes and my undies were damp...twice in one day.

Got this photo.  That's it.

Yes, that is a bathroom sink, in the Olympic stadium though...and it's pretty cool...despite the crap on the's a tiled wall, a metal sheet that tips back and is set out from the wall and a big drain on the floor.  Spare, efficient and only wets your shoes a bit I imagine!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


The computer, blogger and all are being a pain in the butt, so this isn't the shot I wanted, but it's the one I've got.

Day off

Had big plans for today that I was really really looking forward to...and they got cancelled.  We were supposed to be kayaking on the Ebre with a bunch of friends, and it is a big muscular river.  My back is still quite dicey, the man has a cold and the forecast was for rain all day and up to 45 k/h winds....possibly against the current.

As your kayaking skills are, shall we say, limited, we bailed.  Better part of wisdom it seemed.

So, today, quiet.  Had a two hour nap, lost one of those nasty black toenails, painted a painting, that I think will be finished and read a whole book.  Also went climbing with Youngest, which given the back at the moment, meant mostly watching her and getting on the wall briefly amidst a cloud of swear words...figure it's better for your stomach than ibuprofen!

Will post a picture of the painting if I get around to it....and now I'm off to watch Big Bang Theory with Youngest.

Into BCN tomorrow......I hope, if it doesn't get canned due to the rain.  Catalans hate getting rained on, to make a generalisation.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Can tell I don't live in Wales

The weather today, 8 degrees, 45 k/h winds, some rain (max 20mm)

Everything grinds to a halt.  The lunch (admittedly a barbeque near the beach) got cancelled, the kayaking trip is going on, though without us, we don't have the experience nor the skirts nor them clothing, and I have bailed on the trip into BCN too....sitting by the fire.

Getting wimpy in Catalunya!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Into BCN again

Checking out modern architecture today.....

This hotel was designed by Jean Nouvel, who did the Torre Acbar in BCN, but also did the Museé Quay Branley in Paris, which I adore!!!!  Strangely he doesn't have it on his'd think you could pay someone to keep that up to date.

Anyway, it's a pretty cool building and was pretty darned empty when we were there.  I imagine that when there's a big trade fare's kinda not in the center of the city.  It also much have cost a BUNDLE!!!

This is the building we went to see, some kind of hotel...pretty cool design...

This building is next door, a sort of unexpected surprise.

The original one, this architect, I am told, likes to work with print on glass, I think it is kind of fancier than just print, but it doesn't seem like it is destined to last.

This one is by a Japanese architect, and is likely to feature again next week!

I like it.

The surprising other building, I like the geometry of it...


Back to the original goal...the other three sides all have that white palm tree top shape, while this has cloud pattern and is open in the middle, filled with trees and plants!


We went up to the terrace, the advantage of looking and speaking like you come from abroad, is that people believe that you come from abroad!

Nice pool, no?

This however is stupid.  This is what they have for goes up to about 6 feet or 2 meters.  NOT POSSIBLY can easily be climbed, and if you look, it would be quite a big fall.

We wandered in some of the central section as well....pretty no?

On the left are the bedrooms, a little tricky to figure out which is yours!

Another neighbouring building, not as elaborate, though I like the work with the red, blue and green.

And as an aside, seen quite randomly in another part of town.....some more traditional architecture.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Just a dog walk

I've not got so much time for walking the dog this year, and so it seems more special again.  Took the camera along one time....

It is lovely to live here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Seen in the woods:

Here's something more bucolic for you all!!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Some random photos from TO

Clearing out the photos on the computer, and came across these.....

tossed in these nasty photos of my toenails after that overnight race.

Youngest figures you need a tough stomach to read the blog lately.  She may be right.  At least I haven't taken updated photos of those nasty kinda loose toenails!