To see you in the Tidepools

IMG_0471

Lazy rays of sunlight fell upon a scene that well enough described itself, forcing through cloud to catch a glimpse of a place once almost idyllic. Waves licked against the cliffside like flames against paper, with the splash of an occasional stone being the only sign of a chink in the face’s armour, casting a proud shadow over the body of water below. This cliff may stand for thousands more years, but it was the man sat on top who was crumbling.

The romance of the scene was not lost on him, as he looked out from his vantage, feeling smaller every second. He’d had a postcard of this place once, and he imagined that if he were to compare the image that lay in front of him with the one captured in ink it would stand up fairly well. Of course, the card would be tattered and ripped after all this time, but somehow that seemed appropriate when he considered that the real thing couldn’t remain unchanged by time either. In the artist’s head, the colours were bright; in the light of an overcast February afternoon, they seemed dull and murky, as a cold wind bit at his skin.

He shook himself alert, surprised and almost annoyed by his mood. He would have described it as melancholic if it wasn’t for the sharp feelings of doubt that he carried along with it, and for a moment he wished that he smoked. He wanted something to do, and a more irrational part of him was thirteen again, telling him that it would have fitted the scene. Unfortunately he didn’t, so he picked up a blade of grass and began knotting it in his fingers. The hint of a smile passed his lips as he conceded that this alternative was definitely less edgy, if at least healthier.

This perch had been his home for the past few hours, and it wasn’t until now that he realised how idle he’d been. His was the kind of spot that usually gave way to an activity; families came with picnic baskets, setting down blankets and panicking every time the kids played too close to the edge. Bird watchers came with their binoculars, hoping to glimpse something that wasn’t another sodding seagull. People came here with their dogs, and couples probably came here for some dogging. Whatever it was, for the time that it took his spot was theirs, and as he took another look out he considered that he’d been fortunate to exist here alone. Although, perhaps not as glad as the doggers.

He frowned at his own crudeness, snapping the grass in his fingers. He had the entire uninterrupted range of his thoughts at his disposal, and he had already derailed that train into the gutter. He cast a searching gaze back out over the water, looking for something to latch himself onto and give due attention. He settled on the waves, for a moment caught in their rhythm. He’d never indulged in anything too far beyond the literal, or subscribed to any flimsy thought considered profound; as he focused on the sea, he knew that to him it would only ever be water. But for a moment he wished that he could see it as something else. He wished that he could see the billions of people in that body of blue, carried together from the same place until they crashed against the rocks, forming their own waves, rivers and tidepools. He wished he could see the meeting of land and sea as a battle, and root for a side. 

For a second, he wished he wasn’t sat there alone.

But as the moment passed, he stopped wishing for anything but waves and water. And the man on the cliff kept crumbling.

Barcelona 2015: Sleep and Souvenirs 

Writing these posts has made me realise why I do not have a schedule with this blog. As it is, I do not post until I have a particular urge to write, meaning that I go at it with more vigour and continue to love what I produce. More than likely, I’ll read some of these posts in a few years and that love will have turned to shame, like a marriage formed on a drunken night out in Vegas, but whatever the case, it is a clear indicator of my literary progression if nothing else.

I sat down to write this post and realised that I did not have much enthusiasm. It’s not that nothing has happened in the last two days, but more that the experiences I had were great for me but do not require much of a fanfare. Yesterday morning was cool, as we took a cable car over Port Vell and ate at a restaurant with views of the entire city skyline. We then just wandered along the beach front until we encountered a club promoter. I have always been wary of these guys, and yesterday was proven right. He kept going on about this great deal that he had only offered to us, which didn’t hold much weight as a statement when considered alongside the fact that I do not look good in a bikini, and the vast majority of people on the beachfront did. To put it plainly, I do not bring glamour to clubs, and because I packed for the heat, I would not even have been able to bring trousers. Anyway, the deal was ok and so I thought that even if it turned out to be crap we wouldn’t have wasted too much and could go somewhere else. We agreed to meet the guy and some other tourists from a hostel for a “bar crawl” later that evening. Now, I don’t know if bar crawl means something else in Spain, because in English I would have called it “waiting at a bar for a guy to show up at the last minute, not give us the correct tickets for entrance to the club and then piss off”, with a whole lot of faffing about inbetween. We did at least meet a fellow Bristolian our age who was called Dave (of course) But after paying 20€ to get into the club that should have been free, I wish I knew the Spanish for “bollocks”.

Today we woke up late and decided to just be generic tourists, walking down La Rambla and buying the odd gift for people at home. We were made cultural heathens by our decision to go to a Starbucks, but at the end of the day the main coffee sold in cafés there is also the go-to for Wetherspoons, so I’m sure it didn’t make too much of a difference. Besides, tomorrow we are planning to go to a Gaudi exhibition, as he is apparently treated like a god over here. In all seriousness it should be interesting to see, and so I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m amazed at how quickly the holiday is going, and that’s with me having stayed sober for the vast majority of it…

Barcelona 2015: My Mountain, this Molehill

Today I visited the first place that has ever taken my breath away: Montserrat Spain is the home of a Benedectine Sanctuary and is Spain’s first National Park, according to Wikipedia at least. I’d find a more reliable source if I really cared, but all I know is that it was honestly beautiful. I’ve never really considered myself as someone who is overly affected by natural spaces, which is why my reaction to this one threw me off. 

In order to get there, James and I had to get the metro to Placa Espanya train station, and take a train from there to the foot of the mountain, which while direct was still the longest commute we had done as tourists. Also worth noting is that the train journey was the first time that the predominant language appeared to be English, with the majority of voices belonging to yet more Americans. I had to hide a smile, because I think I have finally encountered the stereotypical young spiritual hippy, who in this case spent the whole journey talking about his many journeys across Europe and Peru, and talking about his personal growth as a result of this. I only heard this second hand, and had to switch off when he started blaming technology for children having no sense of adventure. He can say what he likes, but as far as I’m aware it doesn’t take playing video games to realise that throwing him out of the train may have succeeded in shutting him up; that all came from my imagination and kept me busy for the remainder of the journey. Anyway, where was I?

Once we arrived, we took a cable car up to the main peak of the mountain that acts as a sort of base camp for the attraction, containing the museum and Monastery, as well as the expected food hall and gift shops. The spectacular views from the mountain and the impact of the architecture was juxdoposed bizarrely by what amounted to a school canteen, albeit one that served calamari. I was a bit wary about the trip initially, just because of the amount of time I seemed to spend queuing, whether it was for the cable car, chapel, or just to have a look at an item of interest.

That is, until we took another railway to the top of the mountain. I honestly can’t describe what it was like to look out across everything below. I offered to take a photo of a Chinese guy at the top, but he misunderstood and instead took a selfie with me, so at least I could be a part of his history in a very strange way. It didn’t matter that hundreds of people had followed us there; to me, I was the only one there, and having such a feeling towards a bit of rock surprised me. But for the time that I stood there it was easy to forget anything logical and just get lost in absolutely nothing. I’m sat staring at my keyboard wondering why I can’t think of anything more to say, but it might be because if the fact that I didn’t care about the monastery or the buildings. What today was for me was a chance to put everything in perspective and realise that whilst this may just be a small speck on the face of an ever-changing planet, for the time being it was the biggest thing in my universe.

Crap. Never let me become a travel writer. Hopefully tomorrow’s post will be more comprehensible.

Barcelona 2015: Oompa Loompas in the Market.

In Bristol, having a healthy tan consists of painting yourself so orange that you wouldn’t look out of place auditioning for the part of an Oompa Loompa in an urban remake of Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t find a Primark in Barcelona, and so I had to make do with grabbing some sun cream and heading to the beach. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to do the activity that brings the most people to this part of the world, apart from possibly the architecture, and I think it’s because I spend so much time applying said sun cream that the process becomes more of a chore that a relaxant; still, I guess it beats the alternative of applying none and becoming crispier than mislaid remains in a badly organised cremation ceremony. Even as I write this, I have become aware that I have did not completely avoided burning, which means that tomorrow’s shower could be a slightly painful experience. Which is a sentence I never thought I’d write, for many different reasons of taste and decency.

Still, the day was pleasant enough and it was nice to partake in an activity that encourages being idle. Apart from hitting the beach, James and I spent the evening looking around the shops and markets in town, which were surprisingly still open at around 10pm on a Sunday. All I can say is that 24 hour Tescos could learn a thing or to about both honesty and stamina from La Rambla when they close on Sundays at 4pm. Our dinner tonight was definitely the most disappointing so far: though we were intrigued by the idea of a set menu in a respectable looking restaurant, after a strong start of mixed paella it kind of went downhill. The promised “potatoes” were genuinely undercooked oven chips, and the large glasses of Sangria we ordered were only large in the same way that the Conservative party thinks that they have a large amount of support; whilst there is something there, it is covered up by the lack of any real substance, and the sense of regret and you feel when you realise that you’ve ordered something crap. The only consolation was when we found out that the drink was at least included in the price of the meal. I stuck to coffee for the dessert, and almost expected them to just bring out a kettle and some Nescafé and scold me with it until I was grateful. On top of this, the soundtrack was a collection of English acoustic covers from every “Now that’s What I call Music” CD since about 2004.

Ok, so I may be overreacting. The money we saved from the meal being relatively cheap meant that we could sit and have a drink somewhere else, and tomorrow we’re planning on getting our cultural arses in gear and visiting the sanctuary of Montserrat. Which reminds me that I should stop leaving these posts so late, as it is technically tomorrow now. Ah well, it’s still yesterday in England, so I can still claim a very false kind of punctuality, in the same way that Tesco claims to operate 24/7….

For the sake of it

Vivid 

Against my eyelids like paintings on a cave wall,

The outside rendered dull.

To evolve or to explode

as all of these everythings bounce around my skull,

Trephoning bone, jagged circular holes,

To exorcise these demons, spirits;

My bloodstream leads them home.

Head on my shoulders, a hedonist

to head off by the wayside

A principled prayer to nothingness.

Invincible as I am, so much less a man as a cage to hide my broken side,

The other half desensitised,

And as it tries to feel you there I’ll think about you still.

Because the dregs of my brain are pouring doubt,

As motivate me up and spat me out.

Wanting to be more than all these thought stains on the floor,

Spilling will until the remains are diluted,

Even more, or less,

This mess of intention intent on leading from my chest,

And if I gave my best I know I’ll never intend for more.

Barcelona 2015: Lagging Behind

So I’m writing yesterday’s post today, but it will probably double up as today’s post as well because I’ve already spent most of today in bed. It is also likely to be another short post because there isn’t really a lot you can say about going clubbing; despite a difference in location, the formula is pretty much always the same. 

We started yesterday by being as cliched as possible and taking a tour on an open-top bus, which covered most of the main city and major landmarks. It was one of those hop on, hop off things, where you plug in headphones and listen as an automated voice tells you where you are. The only issue with that being that the narration tended to cut out, or just give up on actually explaining. A few times I was simply told that “if I look to my right”. The voice would then fail to elaborate on what I was looking at, and so I’d just trust that the building was important. I actually found it more amusing that because everyone had headphones in, to anyone looking in it would seem as if we were doing an organised dance routine based solely off of moving the head, as we all turned to look at whatever landmark at the same time. It was a good way to get a very broad view of what there was to see at least, and it’ll now be easier to focus on where we want to spend more time later.

The day was broken up by the arrival of my exam results, and the plan had been to go out in the evening as either a congratulations or a commiserations. Thankfully it was a former, and so James and I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the hotel, going shopping, and finding somewhere to eat. Again, I feel guilty that we went to an Italian restaurant and ate pizza, but the food was great and I’m sure I can live with myself in the long run. When it came time to go out we took the metro into town, missing our stop because I was chatting to someone and wasn’t paying attention, and James didn’t bother to tell me. But we eventually found our way to Razzmatazz, a popular club in Barcelona. There isn’t too much to say; there were 5 rooms, and the music made me forget I was anywhere other than another club in Sheffield. We did basically stay out all night, because the metro stops at midnight and doesn’t start up again until 5. So that’s why I’m currently still lying in bed. Hopefully it won’t throw us off too much and we can get back to being a bit more cultural soon. Still, I now know that singing along to “Under the bridge” is just as fun in a different country.

Barcelona 2015: The Rambler and the Rockstar

This post concludes my first full day in Barcelona; a day which started with me trashing the hotel room like a flippin’ rockstar. Of course, this sentence loses its impact when I point out that all I did was hang a towel, and the towel rack came off of the wall. But if nothing else I’m just impressed that I managed to do such a basic task with such destructive ferocity, and coupled with my whiskey based disregard of hotel floors the night before I think that I am well on my way to doing student holidays right.

Sadly, both these events happened whilst I was sober, and actually work to describe my clumsy and gormless nature fairly accurately. Still, I was determined to get out into the city today and take in some culture, and the continental breakfast gave me a kickstart as I wondered why there were cloves of garlic next to the cereal. I guess that will be helpful if I encounter any vampires in the Gothic Quarter, and then I could actually call myself a supernatural “cereal killer”.

I am so, so sorry.

Anyway, the less said about that joke the better, but as I am not one to edit my posts I’m afraid it will have to stay. I had my first experience of the Barcelona Metro today, which is the first actually reliable transport system that I have ever encountered, made even better by the fact that trains arrive around every 3 minutes and you can get 10 journeys for 10 Euros. This is in astronomical contrast to taking the bus in Bristol, in which a bus ticket is like a lottery ticket in terms of chances of success, and where it would probably be a better investment to buy your own sodding bus. 

Within 15 minutes we had arrived in La Rambla, which acts as the heart of the city, with roads forking off like veins to other areas. This main stretch alone reminds me why I want to travel in the first place, as despite the fact that for a lot of the workers and locals it is just another city, it still has so much more life than any british equivelant. Of course, this could be the bias of a bored british teenager, but we spent the best part of the day just exploring the centre without getting the sense that we were just in another shopping district. My travel savvy was conspicuous in its absence again ordering drinks, when I panicked and just ordered 2 beers. 20 euros later I decided that I needed to learn the Spanish for “drinks menu”.

In terms of cultural exposure, it was a day of Spanish swings and British roundabouts. On the one hand, we decided to take a boat trip around the coast of the city; on the other, this did mainly lead to a view of cranes and industrial work. We visited Barcelona Cathedral in the afternoon, which was beautiful and definitely made me want to explore the architecture of the city even more. But it was here that James and I had our second interaction with an English speaking tourist, and it was again with an American from California. He didn’t mention football at least, but he did have a selfie stick. I know that isn’t a crime, but I had to find something to complain about in the midst of a good day just to remind myself of where I’ve come from. In the end, I think being somewhere so new and exciting was strange for us, because we ended up ignoring all the Tapas and eating at the Hard Rock Cafe, but seeing as I ate octopus last night, I think I’ll allow myself a small lapse. Between the hedges of the outdoor seating area existed possibly every British tourist in the city, and so it’s no surprise that they addressed us in english. Also, I am nothing if not a sucker for deals, and we were promised a gift with a voucher if we spent over €30. Which you have to unless you want to suck on a chip for nourishment eating in the centre. Now, I know you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but I think you are perfectly justified in suffocating it with the free clear plastic pencil case that was revealed to be our mystery prize. I was at least hoping for a key ring, or some jokey “Hard as a Rock” Cafe condom that I could turn into a balloon.

As with last night (or technically the night before, as I have left writing this until far too late), I am chilling in the hotel room and looking forward to another day of magnificence and well meant mistakes and faux pas. I am not used to writing on a regular basis, or with an actual topic or purpose in mind, so if you do follow my blog, bear with. Maybe by the end of the holiday I will have learnt to never attempt a joke again, or at least filter out any cereal based ridiculousness.