millionreasons: (marnie)
This is not the best day to travel. The train from Stratford is delayed. The train from St Pancras is delayed. The plane at Gatwick is delayed. The metro drivers in Barcelona are on strike so the tube is delayed. Easyjet claims that the reason for our two hour lurk in Wetherspoons is due to "a disruptive passenger on the previous plane", but the French air controllers are on strike, and other planes are delayed/cancelled. Mind you, aeroplane people like to lie to you, i remember when i couldn't use my personal headphones in the AV system because "it would break the socket".

Anyway, we get to our clean, quiet, basic hotel on the Diagonal and down to the festival to pick up our wristbands. Goat are playing, an electronica band in masks. We watch for a while, then abandon them for Cat Bar, the second of Barcelona's vegetarian pubs, for craft ale and a burger.
On Thursday, we go out for breakfast at one of our old haunts in Poble Nou, which used to be a cafe-cum-library but has now swapped books for magazines and a window to nowhere. Cafe Republic is shut, as is the bakery where we ate breakfast every day two years ago. You don't want other cities to change.

We go down to the festival, and go walking on the beaches before queuing up for Peaches. This is a post-apocalyptic beach, full of power stations, and strange looming industry. Dave points out that someone could meet you here with alcohol to take into the festival; I imagine a submarine surfacing, men emerging: "Cerveza-agua-coca-cola?"

Primavera Sound - 02 - 2016-06-02 13:45:06

We go up to Harley's flat, further up the Diagonal, via the off licence near the festival, which must make all of its money in this week-long period, a bit like Shane MacGowan in the run up to Xmas. Their appartment looks over the Marina and the beach and she points out where Blanche is staying, on a tiny boat moored up near the festival.

We go back to the Forum to see Peaches in the Hidden Stage, a fairy grotto-cum-car park. She comes on stage, dressed as a thrift store butterfly, to the sound of Nina Simone's wonderful Four Women (".....they call me Peaches!"). I'm not sure Ms Peach is mixed-race but I suppose she can identify with whatever she wants to. Mostly she identifies with sex; her first song is accompanied by dancing human vaginas, which open and close. Later, the dancers come on dressed variously as lions, unicorns, gimps and bondage queens. Merril erects a giant phallus and then climbs into it. I suppose if a dumpy woman with Limahl hair can proclaim herself the queen of shagging, then we all can. I do wonder whether she ever just wants a nice cup of tea and a few eps of Don't Tell The Bride though. I guess she's like Har Mar Superstar, a comedy sex symbol.

Primavera Sound - 11 - 2016-06-02 19:22:04

Later on, we go see Har Mar, who strips down to his leggings, but I'm agreeably surprised that he and his band actually purvey a nice brand of soul-funk. I suppose if you're a short, balding, tubby, white guy who is the diametric opposite to Otis Redding, you have to have something that'll mark you out from the covers bands.

Next up is AR Kane, whom I watch semi-recumbently so that I can pretend that I'm lying in bed listening to John Peel in the '80s. Later, a long long time later, at a time when I should be onto my third dream, LCD Soundsystem come on. They've kinda passed me by in the past; I thought they were a Hot Chip/Flaming Lips hipster hybrid minimal electronica band, but they bring the F-U-N-K. They have emotion, ideas, verve, passion. They have a song featuring Kermit the Frog (unfortunately not on stage). I particularly like I'm Losing My Edge, about the fear of getting old, of youngsters being better than you, especially as this fear is interspersed with piss-taking of the sort of people (men) who get upset if an under 30 wears a Ramones t-shirt ("Name three of their albums"). He mentions all the cool bands of the last 40 years that all the readers of Nick Hornby would like, although in the live version he changes Gil! Scott! Heron! to Sun! Kil! Moon!

We've missed breakfast so we go to Cafe Blu for salad and a cafe con hielo, which is a mere €1.35. Here it's sunny every day, not 13ºC one day and 26ºC the next. It doesn't even get that hot - the highest recorded temperature is a degree lower than London's. There are ten hours of daylight in the winter, as opposed to England's eight. Why don't we live here? I don't understand it, especially when we later meet Jamie's English friend Andrea, who married a Catalan and settled here.

At the festival, we hide from the sun in the twinkly planeterium-style auditorium (which is a museum the other 51 weeks of the year),  where Richard Dawson is playing. He's a Geordie folk tale teller, i.e. literal folk about people in times of yore who stole a loaf pf bread and were deported to Australia. It's not quite my thing and we leave for Ben Watt who is lovely and does a song (Some Things Don't Matter) from the olden days, although it's a bit ruined by Bernard Butler hawking his rock Rickenbacker all over it. This time last year I was seeing Tracey Thorn with [ profile] picosgemeos at the Stoke Newington Lit Fest. This year, her hubby.

We go back to the auditorium to see Cabaret Voltaire, which is essentially a film soundtrack. It's the centenary of the original Cabaret Voltaire, so perhaps the band thought they should reform. I have a little disco nap whilst fans dance in the aisles and security tries to stop them (all very Bill Haley). Next up is Caverns of Anti-Matter, who are Stereolab without the good bit (Laetitia) so we leave for Dinosaur Jnr, who do us the disservice of not performing Freakscene. What.Is.The.Point.

Unlike Radiohead, who make us stand through a very long set of songs that I half-recognise from the radio, until the end when they bring out Creep and it's a real hands in the air festival moment. Next up, House of Pain with Jump Around? or Rage Against The Machine's Killing In The Name Of? Then we can all pretend it's 1993 and we're still 20 years old. The 'Head don't have any visuals of themselves on the big screen, instead showing computer graphics. Later, I see a pic someone took of Thom Yorke and I understand why: he looks like Fagin now.
We get the tram up to Glories and walk around to the Sagrada Familia. It turns out that I booked the wrong tickets and we can't go up high to the walkways. Maybe my error was sub-conscious: last time I was there, I felt dizzy and nauseous. We have tickets on my phone and are told at gate two to go to gate four. At gate four we are told to go to gate two. No wonder they lost a war against themselves.

I haven't been here for 18 years, they've added a few turrets on since then. The end plan is 2026, the centenary of Gaudi's death by tram accident. Yesterday, I almost witnessed another one, someone running onto the tracks and stumbling over, fortunately he scrabbled for the side and was fine.

Amongst the selfie-stick wielding crowd and hen parties, we look at the rose windows bleeding colour: yellow, blue and green on one one side, scarlet, yellow, orange on the other. You can understand the grace and glory of God in such places - god the father god the son, god the metaphor. In the blessed light, I feel quite moved. Growing up in Doncaster where form was merely functional, whenever there's any art moderne/nouveau, I'm all over it. Bring me spirals and swirls and colours and beauty.

Primavera Sound - 28 - 2016-06-04 11:40:14
In the corridors, we look at the photos of the construction, and the consecration by Pope Ratzinger. He's accompanied by a flock of nuns who look like they're having a whale of a time. You can imagine his Popeness calling out: "Benedictine Nuns, represent! Anyone here from St Agnes Convent? Let me heeaar you say Ma-ry! Vir-gin!" Etc.

We go down the traffic soaked streets (honestly, the metro is regular, cheap and airconditioned. If you don't like being underground there're buses and trams and even funiculars; i don't understand why anyone is driving) to El Maderal, a vegan tapas bar with a lovely way with veg - mushrooms atop smoked tofu and cauliflower cream, avocado filled with fresh broad beans and asparagus, a plate of different types of tomatoes, which if done in England would be a disaster; here is delicious, garlicky, smoky, salty.

Festival fashion:

  • Smoking not vaping

  • Those 4 names t-shirts e.g. John & Paul & George & Ringo or Eccleston, Tenant, Smith, Capaldi - getting as bad as Keep Calm & Carry On.

  • That Sonic Youth t-shirt but featuring the Simpsons or Beavis and Butthead.

  • 3/4 length trousers with long white socks i.e. the SPF 3000

  • Plastic flower crowns - sooooo basic.

Dave has some wine from the wine shack, which are named El Trendy, El Classico, El Seductor, but it all tastes El Cheapo and El €2.99 from Aldi-o. We sit in the food hall, which is St Mark's Square: someone that you know will pass eventually.

We go back to the underground grotto for the orchestral pop stylings of Cat's Eyes aka John Cooper Clarke and the Voices of Angels. They're an aptly named band as the singer demands the bright lights be dimmed. "I'm not playing a single note until they're off," he says, like he's reading from the Bad Boy Behaviour 101 Manual. They're beautiful though: girl group harmonies and delicate pop. I think the five women should dump the guy and strike out on their own with their keyboards and trombones and percussive instrumentation.

We go onto see the heavenly pop hits of The Chills and the violent wall of noise from the Boredoms. Then Richard Hawley do his rock 'n' roll, then wander over to see Brian Wilson do his greatest hits. It's all fun fun fun til he keels over. Seriously, given how 2016 has decimated the celeb population, I'm surprised he lasted the set. It's a kind of pre-necrophilia. At least Primavera don't have a Sunday afternoon camp act (Dolly, Tom) - in fact the next band (Deerhunter) salutes Primavera's integrity - a little go at Barry Hogan (here to do a DJ set), perchance?

Then it's time for the de-facto headline act. Primavera put all the female bands on last year and didn't bother with any this year, so I'd forgotten, until PJ Harvey takes the stage, that the cameraman loves to slide the camera up and down the female performers' legs. Lovely.

Everyone turns into their mother eventually and Peej is now 80% Kate Bush: the high priestess, the wood sprite, the big eyed waif fluttering her hands in front of her face, and singing at the top end of her range. It's music for weaving in and out of the stones at Avebury on Midsummer Night. We're not who we were 25 years ago, despite these festivals, and Polly can't be the howling hoyden of Rid Of Me forever - it'd be exhausting - but I miss her in leather and anger. She does 50 Foot Queenie as a sop to us old folks.

Then it's Parquet Courts (one of those mildly pointless thrash-pop bands that only exist for teenage boys to explain to teenange girls how great they are) and then I've eaten, drunken, watched and talked all I want to, so I walk home, only shouted at from one car by one tosshead.

Cafe in Spanish is cafe, but Pa in Catalan - bread is more important than a cuppa joe to the Catalonians. Dave takes a long time to wake up, so I sit in the cafe outside the hotel with cafe con leche/cafe amb llet and a croissant/cruxent for much longer than they take to eat and drink, world-watching.

We go into town and have gazpacho at perennial festival fave Dos Trece. Well, I order gazpacho, they bring me fish salad and insist that it's gazpacho until they renege and bring me the soup, which is delicious. We go onto the aftershow at the lovely Cultural Centre.


Bradford Cox, who are related to Deerhunter, are playing - krautrock, jazz, indie, psych, noise - just pick a style and stick to it!

I know Mudhoney on an indie disco rather than album track level and they don't play Hate The Police but they do roar their way through Touch Me I'm Sick!, and I bounce around a bit, 1992 style. i wonder if Mudhoney resented Nirvana's success, when they were doing much the same thing, or whether they're more pleased to a) still be alive b) have never got involved with Ms C Love.

Afterwards, we go to Biercab for Mike's birthday, craft beer and gourmet bravas. There are fourteen of us and one of the bar-staff moves several people off the long table to side tables, so we can sit there. A terrible piece of social cleansing that we totally benefit from.

We walk ten minutes down the road and we're at the platje Selva de Mar. We sunbathe, eat salad and mooch four beaches down to Barceloneta, the Margate of Barcelona. We walk through to Born, an area I've never been to before, the barrier (and barrio) between the beach and Gotic (old town). This is is a little more classy (and classic) with shady squares, Spanish guitar players, tapas bars and a bar where we sit with frozen cocktails and pasta until kicking out time, and this is by far my favourite Barcelona bit.

Primavera Sound - 001 - 2016-06-02 13:09:49_v1
millionreasons: (wine)

Stansted has tarted itself up. I don't mean that it's any more pleasant: we still have to queue for security (8 out of 17 x-ray machines are working), but now there's a posh duty free/shopping centre that you snake through to get a noodle soup at Itto (guaranteed polonium-free) or a glass of sparkling at the world's most depressing champagne bar.

Driving into Bilbao on the airport coach, we pass the stately, ship-like Guggenheim gallery and its attendant puppy, looking less floral than last time we were here and it's kind of odd to be back somewhere once visited and enjoyed but never thought you'd return to.

We are only staying overnight. In the morning, after trying to get full value from the breakfast buffet bar, we walk through the city to the bus station. I have definite memories of being in Bilbao, but it doesn't look at all familiar. There are trams now! It's odd how some cities imprint themselves on your consciousness and others don't. I could direct you around Edinburgh but Glasgow remains a geographical blur. I know the basic layout of Paris, but Brussels, which I've visited around the same number of times, is a mystery. I know the Grande Place and Avenue Louise but that's about all I can muster up.
We catch the bus through the Basque country, heading eastwards to Navarra. You forget how verdant northern Spain is when you're used to travelling through the southern vista of olive groves and goats scrabbling out an existence on the side of mountains. Here are firs and pines, a slate mountain, bulrushes, farmhouses, a distant spire, blue horizon hills, greying sheep, windmills whirlygigging, the grey sides of cloud-topped mountains, horses in fields, golden-beige cows, pylons moving across the green and brown countryside. The deciduous trees are barely yellow here, we've gone back in time two months - indeed, we've gone back in time two weeks as we turn our clocks forward to British Summertime. It's no longer dark at five. Towards Pamplona, it gets more industrial: a concrete factory, roadside bars, housing projects, a battery farm, cranes.

We check into our hotel, which is on an old town street of cafes and bars and go out to explore, eating salad and patatas bravas at one of the few places we can find that does anything sin carne. Dave, with the help of google translate, asks for the bill in Basque, which amuses the waitress for about 15 minutes. Basque is a weird kind of language, all Ks and Xs and Zs. A gelataria is Izozkitegia. What kind of a word is that for ice cream?


We wander, past the town hall where the architect thought: why not put angels and cherubs on the roof and then why not give them golden trumpets to blow? past statues holding menus, one of which is creepy, so obviously we do a photo - you can almost hear the locals thinking "Hipster doofus tourists". We're pretty much the only non-Basques here, there are a couple of German-looking people and some Japanese on a leg of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, but it's otherwise pretty empty, without that desolate out of season feeling you get in places that are just tourist-focussed. There's no winter here, it's 20 degrees. What would it be like without winter? A reverse Narnia? I can't quite comprehend it. Not to be hot, tropical, but just to be warm. Would I get bored of sunshine and start yearning for a bit of rain and fog?

Pamplona - 2015-10-30 15:09:02 - 05

We walk the old town walls (Ronda Barazzon), ending up at some Mediaeval houses and an early Hallowe'en display and then on to the bull run, from the pen up to the hill to the place outside the town hall where the dignitaries watch (there is a plaque to the "victims" of gorings), past a shop where you get your photos taken with a life size toy bull and can pretend to have been injured, a shrine to San Fermin, past the anatomically correct bull run monument, along Paseo Hemingway, past a bust of Hemingway to the bull ring, where there's another homage to Hemingway (there's also a Hemingway kebab house). I don't like the idea of bull fighting, and running with the bulls stinks of machismo (and masochism), but on the other hand, I understand ritual and tradition and the importance of those. Hemingway did describe it so evocatively in Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises) that I did want to go to experience it, although in real life I know I would find it frightening and unpleasant, a bit like Oxford street on the last Saturday before Christmas, with added animal cruelty.

Pamplona - 2015-10-30 16:17:51 - 17

Later, we wander the streets waiting for the restaurants to open, the sulphuric light giving a pumpkin glow. Our area of San Nicolas seems to be a party place, people sit in and outside of bars, babies parked in pushchairs, casually spilling out on the street, the bars are as much outside as in, there's no shouting, leering or pissing. The breaking down on the in/outside dichotomy is what appeals to Northern Europeans - British people are accustomed to spending most of our time indoors. Apart from a brief summer in the park, we move from house to work to pub, outdoors is usually something to be got through to get to the next place. A short stroll is about as much outdoors as we get without doing actual exercise.

We eat at Sarasate, one of Pamplona's two veggie restaurants, which is a relief after looking at identical menus of fish, chicken, duck and loin. They seem very keen on loin here. We eat tofu and potato soup, a weird dish of celery in blue sauce with walnuts (like a cooked Waldorf salad), followed by less bizarre main courses, - lentil 'meat'balls, and leek and feta filo pastry (with a delicious chocolate fondue for pud). A drink is included; Dave wants beer and I want juice. Nope, says the man, Wine or cider. Cider or wine. If you insist, Mr Borderline Alkie.

We meander around trying to decide on a bar, and end up back at the hotel, whose bar stretches out on the street and sit with a beer and an eighties power-hour on the jukebox (laptop) - Heart, Bon Jovi, Starship, Lady in Red, and other hair ballads until the barmaid puts on some generic house music and we go to bed.

Pamplona - 2015-10-30 17:14:24 - 26
We breakfast around the corner and take a walk up to the Citadel, the old fortified walls, now a nice park with old bits, a football match played by sharp cheeked South and Central Americans. Adjacent is the Parc Taconera, featuring peacocks, turkeys, turtle doves, ducks, hens, swans, and albino peacocks like some crazy version of the twelve days of Christmas, and some deer hiding from the birds. There are two matching arches at each side of the park, reconstructed from original stone work from the 18th century park, although the rest of the arch seems to have been made with breeze blocks.

Pamplona - 2015-10-31 13:23:13 - 31

Outside the town hall, people are doing some country dancing, with drums and a penny whistle. It seems reminiscent of Scottish country dancing, reminding us that the Basques are essentially Celts. We have a look around some giddy art nouveau buildings and wander into the cathedral, which, unlike cathedrals in other Catholic cities, has an entrance fee. Behind the counter, a notice displays the entrance prices of other European cathedrals, the most expensive is in Britain (Westminster Abbey). The cathedral is all clean neo-Classical lines and Corinthian columns on the outside, and high Gothic within: arches, rose windows, stained glass, a gold altar and silver religiousana. So much silver. All the silver. It's pretty magnificent (I am the world's most easily impressed atheist).

Pamplona - 2015-10-31 15:13:37 - 36

In the cloister is an art exhibition featuring a pink house that smells like Lush, a luminous history of Catholicism in Spain, a perspex model of the cathedral, some spooooooky skeletons that purport to be the bones of San Fermin, San Nicolas etc, and a room of scary Mary dolls. After we've finished the route we realise that we've gone around anti-clockwise, like devils. There's also a 17th century refectory, which in England would be the tea-room, but here is just empty.

Pamplona - 2015-10-31 15:19:14 - 38

We have risotto and salad in a Bistro just opposite until a loud family with sprawling kids and music on phones turn up, then mopeds start speeding around the square and a recycling van arrives for the bottles, so we walk up by the walls where there is an old fort and the archbishop's place for peace and quiet and sunshine.


Later, we go outside of the city walls which feels quite different: more cars and roads, fewer people, except for roaming gangs of kids in attempts at Hallowe'en costumes playing chicken in the street. We take the funicular down to Kafea Baratza, a microbiotic vegan place, which is nicer than it sounds with fake meat schnitzels, and kebabs with satay sauce, rice, salad and pickles. I have a blood cocktail (beetroot and apple) and seitan (Satan! Satan! Satan!) to celebrate Samhain. On the way back to safety inside the city walls, we pass a night-time fun run, not so much the running of the bulls as the running of the Mamils.

We have a cerveza y chocos caliente in the beautiful art nouveau Cafe Iruna in the main square, where Hemingway once drank. Of course he once did.
The streetcleaners have washed the pavements and San Nicholas feels fresh. We breakfast in a bakery and go get the bus for the start of this travelling day.

Dave and I have very different memories, I have no sense of direction but he remembers where everything is. I remember dates, names, addresses, phone numbers, PINs: information. I forget whole towns, I only remember places by feelings. We arrive in San Sebastian with a two hour window for lunch before the next bus and my vague feelings (it was on a pedestrian street) of the location of a cafe with a veggie menu that we visited in 2004. Dave remembers the location exactly, and amazingly, not only is it still there but still does vegetarian offerings. After lunch, I triple-check the time of the bus, only to discover that the tickets are dated 26th August, when I booked it, and not today's date. Something had to go wrong with these travel arrangements. Fortunately, the ticket office is open, the bus is not full and they issue us with new tickets in two minutes and I'm only €33 and some embarrassment down.

Adios Pamplona/Agur Iruna.

millionreasons: (marnie)

Southwest Coastal Rendezvous

Four hours and one comfort break and we're in Dorset, staying at Bindon Bottom, the most highly rated B&B on Trip Advisor (Neil's Yard toiletries, home made brownies, antique furniture that clashes with the flat screen TV. No sanitary towels though. Guesthouses never have any menstrual equipment: maybe most of their guests are past all that). It was apparently architecturally designed by Tom Hardy (not that one), but I imagine any Victorian house in Purbeck claims that. Our room is called Barnes, after a local dialect poet and there is a book of his poems in the room. I wonder what's in the Blyton room.

We walk around the village, all thatched cottages and hanging baskets (even the bus-stop is thatched), wild ponies behind the house, a real cider pub, a new church up the hill (the old Norman one remained in the village until 1869, then they decided they wanted a new one). There's also an out of service post box - you'd have to be Steven Finn to reach it, but it's Victorian, so I imagine that there was a campaign to save it, culminating in angry meetings in the village hall.

Dorset - 20 - 17-08-2015 11:42:15

Then down the slope to Lulwoth Cove, where you can get anything you want, as long as it's fudge, ice-cream or a Thanks For Looking After The Cat mug. There is a fossil shop, but I guess fossils are a finite business, so they sell quartz and gemstones as well. I'm on the look-out for animals made from shells, but whilst seaside rock shaped like boobies never goes out of fashion, it seems that shell animals do. We wander around the pebble beach and then foolhardily decided to walk to the mile to Durdle Door: foolish because it's not 20 minutes on a flat surface, but up a cliff and then down a gravel path, but it's worth it for the views.


Back in the cove, we eat in a sunny beer garden where there are free apples, dog biscuits, and wasps.
I imagine that West and East Lulworth are very competitive:
East Lulworth: We have a castle.
West Lulworth: Well we have a cove.
East: We have an MOD firing range!
West: We have a Londis; fuck you, Easties!

There are also lots of anti-windfarm posters everywhere. How about an anti-car campaign: it's pretty difficult to walk through the village on the skinny strip of pavement (or no pavement) with shiny landrovers and 4x4s trying to take your ear off as they pass.

I've installed a fitness app on my phone so I could shame myself about how how little exercise I do. Yesterday was the first day I hit the target of 10,000 steps. So I'm raring to go: we walk up behind the house past a small holding of onions, sweetcorn, orchard fruits, sunflowers and chickens, a bunch of cows chewing the cud around the water cooler, and then round the back of the village in a wooded area before setting off in, um, the car to Wareham, a market town with a quay, a river, boats, pubs, tearooms and shops (where Dave buys a sea captain's cap) and Saxon walls (now covered up in grass and wildflowers) that we walk on and around, before lunching in a place called the Five And Dime, which has pics of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe on the wall. Maybe it was supposed to be a diner for the young folk.

We drive into Corfe, intending to go to the castle, but instead visit the miniature village and see a model of it instead - it's better because there are mini-Roundheads scaling the ramparts and a tiny Lady Bankes trying to repel them. Elsewhere in the model village there is a red postbox and an advert for soap, so our eras are all confused. There's also a village ghost, a Tardis, some yokels doing Morris dancing and miniature village of the miniature village with a miniature village in it. Mind = blown. Conversely, there are giant games of Connect 4, Jenga and draughts.


There's also a faerie glen, which looks like a gift shop has puked up in it (if I were 7, I'd have loved it). Opposite the model village is Ginger Pop, an Enid Blyton book and toyshop. In the window is a teatowel featuring "The Darkest Gnome" (a gollywog type creature) and words like "Diversity" and "Equality". Are they trying to reclaim Golly as a post-racial icon? In Wareham museum there was a gollywog toy and a golly postcard for sale; let's just say that if some blacked-up Morris men came prancing down the road, I wouldn't be surprised. It's probably not worth getting incensed about such trivialities; I'm sure if black tourists went into Ginger Pop, they wouldn't be treated differently from a white family, but it's the insistence that these things were OK, that we don't need to move on from our past that annoys me. It sometimes feels as if the battles aren't between rich and poor or left and right anymore, but between the anti-PC "Well, Nigel's got a point" brigade and rational, thinking people. On the Ginger Pop website, it staties that they sell books as Enid Blyton write them "not as someone else thought she should write them". Also: "lashings of ginger beer" is from the Comic Strip, not Blyton's oeuvre.

We try to find a cream tea in the village of Wool (there's only a Chinese takeaway) and then at Lulworth Castle (about to close) so we go back to the B&B and I have my own version with a cup of green tea and the aforementioned brownie. Later, we go to a pub that men go to to complain about each other's wives, although the barman does give me a free soda water.

I know that I'll be back in Chesil Beach someday

We walk up the hill behind the house and then through the MOD rifle range, which is open for the summer (I consider shouting "Viva ISIS, death to America", but resist), past some not unfriendly baby bulls, a ruined cottage, a Jurassic coast sign that implies early Homo Erectus hung out with dinos, down to Fossil Cove which has been decimated by local A-level geology students, past Mope Bay and back to Lulworth Cove, where we stumble down the cliffs and around the pebbly cove.

Dorset - 12 - 16-08-2015 17:23:48

We drive west to Portland where we're staying at the bottom of Chesil Beach. I wanted to walk along the tombolo, but what looked like a long line of golden sand both from the map and the top of the cliffs this morning is actually all pebbles. Chesil = coesil = pebble. Hmph. We manage about half a mile before giving up and walking into Chiswell village, but finding nowhere to eat (so many closed up shops and cafes, not ever charity shops have moved into the void), we go further to Fortuneswell and find a gallery cafe, where we sit in the sunny window and look at the view.

Dorset - 55 - 18-08-2015 14:27:56

I'm finding it hard to adjust to all the niceness of the countryside (David is in his element). In Abroad I try hard to be nice and polite, so as not to give a bad impression of British people. In the countryside, I do the same so they don't think all Londoners are arrogant. It's only up north that I can be my bad (blunt) self.

We drive down to Portland Bill, passing the stone quarry (the place is much more industrial than I thought) and wander around the lighthouse, having a surprisingly delicious al fresco cream tea from the cafe, looking out at the channel, trying to spot France. Later, because we're fed up of pub food and Portland only seems to have pubs, chippies and a sad looking Indian restaurant, and because Dave has keep up his daily alcohol ration, we take the bus into Weymouth. The bus is regular and the fares are comparable to London (£3.50 return). It drops us off in the town centre, no fucking about trying to find parking. The old harbour is flush with restaurants (but not Carluccio's, Pizza Express or Cafe Rouge). We eat tapas outside in the square, accompanied by a lady playing piano versions of jazz standards and then ruining a perfectly good heroin ballad by warbling her way through it. The man on the table opposite treads in the bowl of dog water by his feet. Everywhere we go it's dog biscuits this and dog water that. Dorset is open for dogs. There's even a Dog, Sausage and Cider festival. No wonder we haven't met a solitary cat - I was hoping for a holiday romance with my platonic ideal feline.

We then drift into a craft beer bar opposite. They have a poster on the wall stating: Keep Calm And Wine. Surely the last word is missing an 'h'. I wish the relatives of the draughtsman/woman who created that poster in the war would serve cease and desist notices on everyone selling posters, mugs, t-shirts, coasters etc featuring that design.

On the prom, the town is lighting up for tomorrow's carnival. We walk on the beach and listen to the sharp short swoosh of sea over the sand. On the way back, we see one pub advertising Tranioke, i.e. men dress up as women to sing Sweet Caroline and Hi Ho Silver Lining. It's not a gay bar. No. Just no.

And the days were just packed

I am woken up by a seagull, yesterday it was a chicken. Tomorrow, I expect a crow to be sitting on the bedstead, reading me an Aesop's fable.

Our luck had to run out. It's raining. We were going to take a gander at Weymouth's carnival, but standing around in the rain watching local bands soundcheck sounds unappealing. We decide to set off for Bournemouth via Poundbury so we can make snide remarks about Prince Charles's architectural vision, we but take the wrong turn at Dorchester and the traffic going back is harsh, so we head north to Blandford Forum, a fine example of a Georgian town. It is pretty and we linger for a coffee, but no longer.

In Bournemouth, after we've fed our faces on toffish and chips at the veggie Zoukini cafe, the rain clears enough for us to walk through the rather charming Alum Chine ravine walk to the prom, where I beat Dave's ass at air hockey. It's kind of frustrating to be finally on a sandy beach in the daytime - in 15 degree temperatures. There's another nice park between the front and the town, unfortunately it's pissing it down once more so we seek refuge in Espresso Kitchen and then wander around the high street shops, buying DVDs and jeans. You can see why some people's hobby is shopping, there's nothing else to do and the shops themselves are quieter and nicer than, say, Oxford Street or Westfield. I can also see why the Netflix model is so appealing since a DVD of a film released last year is £14.99 in HMV. Later, we eat at Wagamama, the saviour of many a provincial evening, and take a taxi back to the B&B as it's still raining.

Now I'm lost in some small town, I'm lost somewhere in England

It's still raining. We set off for Poole, checking out the cockle trail (old buildings with local history - Charles II visited (a building that stood on the site of) the Sainsbury's), the Scaplen's Court Medieval house, the museum, and ye olde coffee saloon.

I like Poole. It's tedious when people go somewhere on holiday and immediately want to move there, but I could see myself living there when I'm old(er). It's a seaside town, but not so touristy that you feel that the place would be dead in the winter (most of Dorset's economy seems to be 90% cream tea based). There is a sci-fi shop, a comic books shop, a second hand record shop; it's good that such things still exiss. There are also tea rooms (one offering a vegan menu), a high street (if only I could monetize spotting which building used to house the Woolworth's), a pottery shop where we watch a man make, and then destroy, a teapot, and a historic quay with boat trips to see the red squirrels on Brownsea island.

We drive to our B&B, which is on an industrial estate. We were dithering for ages about booking it as it looked like you had to walk down the A35 to get to the town (there's actually a car-free walkway), but I'm glad we did because, apart from the chintz o'clock decor, it's very cosy with Dorset apple cake on the side, a proper bathroom, a very reasonably priced minibar, and is run by the kind of eccentrics you only meet when you stay in B&Bs. She is from Doncaster, he from Nottingham and I'm sure Steve Coogan must have stayed here, because he is the very spit of Saxondale with his droopy moustache, too long hair and "I left the oil rig to spend more time with my motorbike". There's a private bar downstairs with UV lighting and thank you cards taped into the guestbook.

We decide to go back to Bournemouth to see the much advertised airshow. The journey, which should take 14 minutes, takes us an hour due to waiting for the train, delays, some more delays, and I'm in a temper by the time we leave the station, especially as it's badly signposted how to get to town. When we do find the way, it's across, then down the side of a busy road. People travelling by train obviously have no car so why make things so deliberately pedestrian-unfriendly? It's not even as if it's great for cars either, today, we got tangled up in the one way system, yesterday, roundabouts conspired against us. Never mind going back in time to kill Hitler, I'd go back the 1960s and murder the town planners. Ban cars from towns and run free or cheap buses. You can have that one for free, Jeremy Corbyn.

I get into even more of a mood when we find out that the airshow has been cancelled. I don't even like airshows - I'm not interested in old planes or the WW2 heritage industry and the guys doing tricks with coloured exhaust fumes don't make me proud to be British, but it's been so heavily promoted that it now seems a bit sad to cancel it because of rain*. The day seems mostly to be an advert for the RAF anyway - we are Guantanamod by tannoy adverts all the way down the prom and through the town: "I was born in Lincoln/Carlisle/Portmouth, but the RAF/Navy/Army made me". Big Brother is forcing you to join the forces.

We quit Bournemouth (taking advantage of the delayed trains this time by nipping onto one 8 minutes late) and go back to the more refined confines of Poole. We eat in a Thai restaurant, populated by northerners having a birthday meal. I often feel like a member of an established community when newer immigrants arrive when I witness Yorkshire folk down south (i.e. I feel embarrassed by their loud mitherings). The birthday girl is making her poor aged grandparents eat Thai green curry and chips.

Poole, unlike Bournemouth, has not cancelled its entertainments. I check the Poole Tourism twitter feed: "Breeze sponsored by Volkswagen is going ahead tonight!!" Breeze comprises three lovely ladies doing a kind of clockwork ballet to Katy Perry and then a quick costume change to Riverdance. It's bloody freezing, so I applaud their English stoicism in the face of an English summer. Then there's a singer doing Commitments covers, a cold magician, and a shivering balloon wrangler. We retire to the Drift craft bar, which is tinier than the same one in Weymouth, but with an upstairs gin bar with nobody in it, until it's invaded by some middle aged men with a penchant for music from 1974 and loud opinions. We go outside to watch the fireworks (every Thursday throughout the summer), with a climax of a big hoot-hoot from the chimney of a moored ship, then make our way B&Bwards.

* NB: I wrote this before I read about the Shoreham airshow disaster.

Homeward Bound

Through the New Forest to Lymington (Idea: combine the tourist attraction of Monkey World with the wild horses of the New Forest to create a simian rodeo). Lymington is a Blandford-style market town, until you take a right turn down a cobbled street where it suddenly becomes St Ives, with boats and fisherfolk cottages and a natural saltwater pool.

Then we sit on the M25 for several hours before arriving back into civilisation.

millionreasons: (marnie)
The sun is a hungover cyclops' eye and the Pyrenees are an iced chocolate cake. We land in Barcelona and take the metro to LLacuna, our base for the week. It's not a great area, but it's three stops to the festival, and three stops into town, and near to the Islington-y Poble Nou. The famous Razzmatazz venue is nearby but other than that, it's industrial: the flat overlooks a carwash and the old Metalworkers' Union building is nearby. It feels like cool bars will be opening here, but in a few years time; it's sort of like Hackney Wick - five years ago. The apartment has a coffee machine, dishwasher, washing machine (in a cupboard in the balcony*) and a great view of the Agbar tower in a nice old building with a novelty lift: three doors that you have to close yourself. If someone doesn't shut the doors, the lift doesn't run, as I found out the night I had to climb six floors. We lunch in Poble Nou and visit Mercadona, where there is row upon row of yoghurts but only one choice of leche frio.

Out to the festival to pick up our wristbands and see Cinerama, who are part of the warm up day, which seems a bit insulting to them. Gedge now looks like Tony Hadley in his blue three piece suit and his slicked back hair. He has abandoned the guitar, which is odd, because he is no torch singer. He rather resembles a northern pub landlord insisting on doing karaoke of a Saturday night. A  lot of bands here are doing their old hits and it's a shock to think that Cinerama, rather than the Weddoes, are now Old Stuff. Next up is Albert Hammond Junior from the Strokes. The festival is getting a good deal from the Strokes who are headlining Saturday night and Hammond and Casablancas' side projects are playing as well. Albert is very rock classique in his Springsteen short sleeves. You can imagine his songs being played on Mark Goodier's Drive Time in 1991.

Headlining this short evening is Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark, who are looking good. They do all the hits including their Johnny Hates Jazz smooth radio phase, their dance party hit (Locomotion), and one featuring the great EU steel pans mountain of 1985 that, by law, all pop groups had to use. OMD are all about the hooks, I didn't know that I knew that many songs until I started singing along with the synth lines. This is not even music from my youth, but my childhood.

We go back to the apartment and I spend the next 8 hours being woken up by people noise, traffic noise, lift noise, Dave snoring, leg cramp, recycle truck emptying noise, neighbour noise and scooter noise (I would vote UKIP if they promised a Europe-wide ban on 20cc vehicles). I dreamt that to get to sleep I had to stand for Mayor of Barcelona and as I can only say "cafe amb llet" in Catalan, I didn't think I would win.

* the smell of which gives me a Proustian rush, reminding me of my grandparent's "chalet", i.e the shed in their garden that they used as a windbreak from harsh Irish sea winds on sunny days.
The next day I buy a white noise fan. We walk through the Park de la Ciutadella with its amazing fountain, around Gotic and Raval to Dos Trece  for their Menu del Dia (icy-sweet beetroot soup, pasta with rucola pesto, and chocolate and banana cake).

We walk down the glare of the beach to Baobab bar for cava and cocktails, then to the first night proper of the festival. I'm hoping to see a year's worth of bands in a one weekend, meaning I won't have to got to Bar Oslo on a Tuesday or the Shacklewell of a Thursday. We walk down to the sea in the sunset drift, the sweet sounds of Yasmin Hamdan flitting behind us like a soundtrack. We catch a smidge of Cheatahs, who have listened to a Ride album or three, then it's Viet Cong whom I believe are quite popular with the youth of today, but I'm old enough to know better. Some of the more punky, angular, spiky songs (think Stiff Little Fingers) are ok, but the dronescapes just annoy me. I don't know why people in 2015 would bother making this referential music. What are they trying to SAY? Apart from "I don't want a proper job."

Next up is Thurston Moore in his red trousers (surely more Putney than Stoke Newington). I suggest that Free Kitten should be on at the same time so we can see who is #TeamThurston and who is #TeamKim. I'm starting to get a bit bored of old people on stage (surely still being a popstar in one's 50s is a bit disgusting? But then again, if the young people have nothing new to say...) Thurst plays some very long songs that he dedicates to his new girlfriend. I get bored and wander off to the food hall for a mushy vegeburger and then to Primavera Woodhouse, the festival within a festival with its own food court and toilets and stages to see Antony and the Johnsons. Coming off like a cross between Vulva from Spaced, Maria Callas and Dan Dan Preacher Man from Nathan Barley, Antony comes out from behind his beloved Steinway to stand in front of his twenty piece orchestra, complete with Simon Rattle-esque conductor, to sing about the ending of love, of life, of the world, dressed in a white robe for the lights to project blood red and sea green onto him, for us to project our hopes, fears and dreams. Vulnerable and masterful, he sings Starfish, and a beautiful pared down, bared soul version of Blind, the cellos become the thumping bass, the violins the striking synths as Antony works up to the slow release, the little death of "I feel blind, I feel blind" only slightly ruined by some Spanish guy yelling along next to me. I am communing with nature. It's a great change from the balls out rock and roll we've seen all evening, this is balls-retracted music, balls tucked under, strapped in. Down with heteronormativity rock and roll! Eddie Cochran, you have far too much to answer for. Away to the main stage for Spiritualised who attack the crowd with their sonicscapes but they don't do the cover I liked back in the last century, so I get the last tube, walking from the station in the silent suburbs.
Friday is a day of lost things. I mislay my festival pass, we go up to Parc Montjuic (riding on surely the world's only indoor funicular) to look at the view of the harbour from the hill, cruise ships lolling in the water and the wonderful cactuses and other spiky creatures, but then I lose Dave and with no mobular technology working, we walk around and around without each other until I find a wifi signal. Later, much later, Dave's phone is snatched from his hand.

At the festival, I lose Dave again and wander around on my own for two hours. It's a very respectful festival though, there's no groping or harassing, and balloons not bottles are thrown (Daphne and Celeste could play here with impunity). I also see gay couples canoodling and you know that means you're in a safe space. We see Ex Hex, a Runaways tribute band (more or less), but it's still so powerful to see women playing the guitar at each other. It's Ladies Day at the festivus, next up is Living Ledge Patti Smith, tall and powerful, growling out: Jesus.Died.For.Somebody's.Sins.But.Not.Mine, which sends a wonderful shiver down to my feet, it's another song with a delayed chorus, anticipation, the build up to G-L-O-R-IA - songs that start with chorus are all show and no grow, here's what I have and nothing more. Flashy. Shallow.

We have to leave Patti to go see The Julie Ruin (seriously, did no-one anticipate that anyone might want to see both?). We edge to the front to see Comandante Kathleen and her girl/boy revolutionaries, but the bass and drums hurt my whole body, so I go sit on the steps to dance sitting down. Kathleen does a cartwheel which ends in the splits and announces that she's still punk aged 46. Nowadays people don't have to choose between being punk and having a well paying job and a mortgage, and that is what these festivals are for.

Then it's Belle and Sebastian, I band I once adored. They're a bit like a former boyfriend who's gone to seed. You can see why you once liked him, but now he's old, paunchy, balding. They do Another Sunny Day, which I like, Funny Little Frog, which I don't, the Thin Lizzy rip off one (ditto), a new, bossa-nova one called Perfect Couples...Are Breaking Up (B&S are seen as being twee and innocent, but I find them quite cynical) and then the wonderful Boy With The Arab Strap. The opening chords of that song always sound like summer. Unfortunately, it only plays behind me as I have to schlep over to Primavera Woodhouse to see Sleater Kinney. Gareth says that B&S finished with Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying, which I also like, but the line "You could either be successful, or be us" seems disingenuous now. B&S have gone from failed gigs in chapels to successful stadium rock.

Sleater Kinney then. I can't say that I ever loved them, but they put on an amazing performance, probably the best of the festival. If Antony Hegarty was balls-in R&R, then SK are Clits Out Rock And Roll. Sleater Carrie is very different from Portlandia Carrie - passionate and engaged, skittering round the stage in her hight heeled boots like Tina Turner sans absuive husband. After they've rocked themselves to death, we go watch Run The Jewels, the only hip-hop band on the agenda. The camera keeps panning to the only black person in the crowd like when Moeen Ali hits a four and the director decides to use a shot of a Muslim family celebrating his efforts. The band (or crew as I believe the young people call them) are like a not as angry Public Enemy or a not as surreal Goats. Steve, who persuaded us to go see RTJ instead of Ride, is now restless and so talks us into leaving in favour of Ariel Pink, a cock-rocker from LA who thinks he's Iggy Pop, but is actually Keith Lemon. The only interesting bit is his boy drummer wearing a sparkly bikini.

Things seem to go wrong if we try to do things in the day. We must adapt to the Spanish ways and forget our North European methods of filling the days. So all we do is lunch in Poble Nou on avocado and strawberry salad and gazpacho, risotto and piadina, lemon cake and agua con gas. I don't know why we just don't move to BCN. Brilliant pubs, food, bicycle lanes, public transport. My only worry is that our hair would automatically go into dreadlocks and we'd mysteriously acquire a pair of bongos.

Down at the Festival we sit on a small patch of grass, drink schnapps and watch Fucked Up, who are indeed, fucked up. The rest of the evening is spent in the food hall, with a brief diversion as we walk past Tori Amos doing a frankly bizarre cover of Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round (Like A) Record (Baby) Right Round (Round Round). Barcelona are playing football and a big screen has been erected, complete with cheers for the goals and boos for the FIFA representatives in the crowd. I am persuaded to go see Sleaford Mods, whom I've heard and hate. Unfortunately, I have to change my mind about them, which is annoying because once I've formed an opinion, I don't want the hassle of changing it. Basically, they work better at a festival than being blasted out of the TV on youtube when I'm eating my tea. They are almost Joy Divisionish in their sing-ranting and lead singer who looks disturbed and disturbing. They remind me a bit of Scorzayzee, the white rapper featured in the Shane Meadows film. So easy to parody them though: "I was on the fucking bus watchin/Satdy Superstore and eating me Coco-pops/And there weren't no fuckin free toy/ Fucking SHIT." I still wouldn't want to see them in an enclosed space.


We watch a bit of Einsturzende Neubaten, who are the most German band ever. One guy has an '80s mullet and tache and another looks like he's auditioning for Kraftwerk with his greased back hair and red shirt. Part of their act involves falling cutlery. They sing/speak in English, so why they pronounce Wintertime with a V, I don't know.

Next up is Babes in Toyland, a band I haven't listened to for about 20 years. They are ramshackle, but excellent, Kat Bjelland on stage like a tiny witch in her black lace and ripped tights and pointed face and straggly hair and un-American teeth. I change my mind about old people on stage sickening me, older women in rock are now celebrated rather than erased, as previously.

Everyone else is crowd-surfing at the Stokes, but we go to see TuneYards, a kind of hipster drum circle with electric ukuleles, day-glo clothing and a lot of fun energy. They save their hit, the Bow wow wow-ish Water Fountain ("hoo-how hoo-haw") as the last song. They are Eve And The Ants, a choral Slits, a modern Martha and the Muffins. Perhaps they fell into a cryogenic lab in 1981 and have just been defrosted. We lurk in the food hall, eating donuts and drinking sneaked rum until 4.20 a.m. when the disco starts. We make our way down the steps with our Heinekendisco bracelets to the banging tunes (basically classic indie to a Jive Bunny Four To the Floor Megamix) beat, but by the time we've walked up and down and around trying to find the perfect spot, but wind up next to the speaker on a grassy knoll; you know it aint gonna end well.

Sunday in the park with Jorge. We wander through Citudad to Gotic where we eat in an organic, slow food, artisinal vegetarian tapas bar. It's Stoke Newington on a plate. Everything we eat is delicioso, the smoked mushroom gyoza in sweet soy, the patatas bravas with roasted garlic, the baked egg with mayo and asparagus, the tortillas and frijoles. Later, we wander up to the University area and meet Gareth, Wendy and Mike in a real ale place and eat even more tapas - nouvelle patatas and salted peppers before finishing off the face-stuffing with a veggie dog. A holiday's not a holiday unless you eat too much.

...Or you go to the beach. The players to the playa via a double decker train. I'm beach-body ready, i.e. I have a body and it's ready for the beach. Then again, I'm not so much Ursula Andress as a Great White.

The landscape in Catalonia is more verdant than the extreme, blasted, olive tree 'n' photovoltaic panorama you get in the south, then again there are more factories and misc. industry here.

Sitges in a lovely town. It's great to be in a proper resort and not the industrial beaches of Barca. It doesn't seem like an alternative cool place at all, more like a more liberal Whitstable with beach bars rather than beach huts. We find a spot of sand that's not nudie or cruisey and sit and swim. It's amazing really how beaches are free - surprising that a conglomerate headed by Donald Trump, Richard Branson and various Mittals hasn't bought up the world's coastline and charged entrance fees.


Later, we wander around the church and the old town and the rude statues and then go to a beachfront bar and have a drink. It's our last day of holiday, so I treat myself to a cava, thinking it'll be around €'s €7.50 for three drinks. I don't see why I couldn't just move here and live on cava and ice-cream.

Back in Barca, we walk down the Passieg de Gracia with its fairytale Gaudi (one can imagine a Leonora Carrington heroine living there), over Placa Catalunya; the M&S that was here in 1998 is now an Apple Store and the tapas bars we visited now posh eateries. The £20 a night hotel we stayed at on Avenue Portal de l'Angel is long gone, the road now more like Regent Street.

We go to Born in search of tapas, but we end up in Ale and Hop, the vegetarian pub. Outside are huddled masses; at first I think that they are living statues in the twilight, but they are an art installation, representing emigrants moving across continents.

We fly back from a hot airport into a cool sky, landing in wind-torn London. I want to get home via the new Overground system and Thameslink trains helps with this by not bothering to run trains past London Bridge. But once we're on the 149 going through the City and Shoreditch, I wanna stay on it. London seems so big and strange.

January 2017

89 1011121314


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 07:04 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios