La Merce : festival of compassion?

19 Sep

I was at the opening of La Merce tonight. We watched the fireworks and then in messy Spanish style managed to join groups of friends, make sure everyone ate something and drank something, watched the fireworks and then reached the experimental world music stage. It was a bit like herding cats….. who were high on rum.

But we got there in the end. Everyone was a little drunk and dancing in true La Merce style, when the sound of disturbance rose and the crowd parted.

At the center of the empty space in the crowd was a man. He wore a grey cardigan and a backpack and his hands hung by his side. His penis was tucked into the waistband of his jeans, so that as he pissed, his urine formed a wide arc away from his body. Everyone cleared a circle to get away from that free flowing penis.

Our faces twisted in disgust. Cries of ‘Hombre!’ ‘¿Qué haciendo?’ and ‘En serio?’ went up through the crowd. He had clearly drunk too much or taken a drug he couldn’t handle. We were disgusted, but still he continued to pee a steady stream. Clearly he was beyond caring about humiliating himself in public.

Then a young man in an over-sized black hoodie stepped into the empty circle. He walked up to the drunk man and put his arm around his shoulders. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Do you want some water?’

That’s when I remembered why I fell in love with this city.

La Merce 2015

Get your gypsy on in Poble Sec tonight

18 Jul

The awesome Barcelona Gyspy Klezmer Orchestra will be playing in Placa del Sortidor tonight. This free concert is part of festa major del Poble Sec, Poble Sec’s barrio party. If you like gypsy music and if you like dancing till your feet hurt get yourself down to Placa Sortidor at 23:15 tonight.

An action plan I’d suggest is to stop by at Pizza Sortidor for the best pizza served by the friendliest staff, load up on carbs and limoncello and then step out into the square and dance your little socks off.

Members of the band are from Serbia, Serbia/India, Italy, France, Catalunya and Greece. If you want to hear a sliver of what’s really possible when countries come together, this is it.

A preview:


Barcelona Gypsy Klezmer Orchestra

Do you sometimes feel like a tap dancing bumble bee too?

1 Jul

A fellow writer once described the experience of finding Writers in Barcelona like the moment in the Blind Melon video when the chunky little tap-dancing girl pushes open the gate to the garden of dancing bumble bees.

I’ve enjoyed attending the writers group on and off over the last three years. It’s helped keep me coming back to writing after countless dry spells and my creativity feeds off the buzz (:-P Couldn’t resist that. Sorry) of my fellow dancing bumble bees at the weekly meetings.

So it’s a pleasure to announce the publication of our third anthology and the launch of this book tomorrow. If you’d like to come hang out with some cool as ice bumble bees do come to our book launch and enjoy the cañas, readings and books.

Book: The Barcelona Stories

Venue: Mitte Barcelona, C/Bailén 86

Date: 02.07.2015

Time: Anytime from 18:30 – 22:00

Creative Writers Barcelona

Barcelona’s biggest water fight is tomorrow

27 Jun

Two years ago, the forces of good (yellow) versus evil (blue) came together in an epic battle. Every man, woman and child fought till the death….or till the end horn sounded.

The only lasting casualties were the oblivious couple having their wedding photographs taken in front of the Parc Ciutedella fountain. We tried to save them. We shouted warnings. We yelled for them to get out of the way, but they were too far away to hear. Thinking we were congratulating them, the groom waved at us proudly. Then the war horn was blown, and 120 people ran down the side steps into the battle arena. It was carnage.

Lord of the Rings had nothing on us.

Two years later….and things have once again come to blows. They said some things about our dress sense, we may have said some things about their moms, relations have degenerated. There is only one way to settle this.

One note of caution: This year, over a thousand people on facebook seem to have been pulled into the fight. This is an epic battle. Once the giants and whitewalkers join the fight, things could get ugly.

A second note of caution: Don’t refill from the fountain, the chemicals in it will make you sick the next day.


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Permaculture your life

18 Jun

There comes a moment in every person’s life, when you stop and wonder what went wrong. You’re wading through a flooded road, muddy water swirling around your calves. Wild grass taller than your head hedges you in on both sides deepening the evening hush in the valley. River water is drying in your hair under the pirate band. Your skirt is tucked into your panties and your water pistol is loaded and ready.

You wonder what went wrong for pirating to become just a once in a blue moon occurrence in your life? It takes a festival like Boodaville to make you think about this and other important life questions.

Started as an annual celebration of the Boodaville permaculture project, Boodaville festival has been running for five years now. Last weekend, around 70 people from all over Europe, the Americas (and one from Asia) gathered to unwind and have fun. Events you could take part in included body painting, acro yoga, singing, drawing, and pirate wars. The bar ran on an honesty jar. The kitchen was manned by a floating crew of fuzzy headed beautiful smiling people and at night the little stone hall built by volunteers turned into a disco.

You may think last weekend wouldn’t have been a good time to festival as it rained each night, but the rain created its own beauty. I awoke on Saturday morning and stood outside my tent. Rain clouds stretched over the valley from one hilltop to the other and under this tent of clouds the valley was silent. Everyone was still asleep. Every guy rope, grass blade and tree branch glittered with rain drops. As I walked through the campsite, my foot brushed against wild rosemary and thyme releasing their scent into the air. A quick pee behind the bushes and back to snuggle in my sleeping bag for another half hour.

The weekend was full of golden moments like this. Sliding back into the city, into underground commutes and classes has been strange. I’ve come back tired but energetic, exhausted but revitalized, and just a little more aware that’s it’s nice to look people in the eye and smile.

I’ve also come back a little more determined to permaculture my life. I’m not just talking about greening my life, but about finding a natural work-play-rest balance. Someone (wise or famous probably) once said, design the life you want because no one else is going to do it for you. Living well should be a part of any dream you chase.

If you’d like to take part in other Boodaville events, check out their website. Here are a couple of their upcoming events, the first is starting this weekend:

June 20 – 27: Workcamp – Applied Permaculture Design / Campo de Trabajo – Permacultura

July 24-26 2015 : Weekend Retreat / Retiro – Yoga / Relaxation

All photographs provided by SexyTiger

boodaville 2015 the trek Boodaville yoga Boodaville pirate race Boodaville pirate fight

Pirates! Boodaville land Body painting workshop

Anti-eviction activist becomes Barcelona’s mayor

25 May

Anti-eviction activist – feminist – socialist. Hooray! Hooray!

It’s not often that one wakes up to good news after an election but Barcelona has pulled it off by electing Ada Colau from the party Barcelona en Comú as mayor of the city.

The party’s election promises were crowd-sourced and include a commitment to citizen involvement, a cap on the mayor’s salary (2,200 Euros per month), the elimination of expenses and official vehicles for officials to attend meetings. They’ve also declared a commitment to more social housing and the sensitizing of tourism in the city to make sure the tourist industry doesn’t grow at the expense of residents. Could this mean less homelessness and poverty, and more people able to live in dignity? Less retired and vulnerable families thrown out on the streets? I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The indignados movement has moved from the street into the offices of government, and Partido Popular and their lazy, racist politics have thankfully been given a thrashing. To everyone who took to the streets over the last years to protest and sleep in the squares, bravo! Change comes slowly but it comes.

Ada Colau

A fine example of Partido Popular’s idea of an election campaign below. It reads: The Raval cannot become a muslim ghetto. Vote for some unimaginative hate monger.

Partido Popular racist campaign

Swing around the Earth Fair tomorrow

24 Apr

Have you said hello to the park this year?

I haven’t, and it’s April already. If parc de la Ciutadella was a lover, she’d have left me by now. Luckily she’s a busy lady and keeps herself entertained with ducks and jugglers and slack liners when we’re away.

However, now the sun is out Ciutadella is getting her groove on with Earth Day. Get down there this weekend to top up on sunshine, food and hippies. There’ll be massages, alternative therapies, food from around the world, hula hoops, acrobats, music, kids running about with faces painted like tigers, and blissful people handing out hugs. Not a bad way to while away a Saturday or Sunday. Oh and monkeys. I heard they’ll be monkeys. That last one may be a lie, but my desire makes me gullible.

Maybe this year I’ll get my ass out of the trees and onto a slack line.


Monkey models: Amelia and Prithika

Make a Christmas Bag for a homeless man or woman this weekend

10 Dec

Esperanca are going to be distributing Christmas bags to our friends who sleep out in the cold every night.

Maybe you’d like to put a little bag together or donate some of the things which go in bags. It could be a fun thing to do with kids, or just a little feel-good number on your Christmas shopping list this weekend.

What goes in a Christmas Bag?

  1. Toothbrush
  2. Toothpaste
  3. Soap/Shower gel (small)
  4. Wet wipes
  5. Roll on deodorant
  6. Razors
  7. Shaving cream/gel
  8. Gloves
  9. Woolen Hat
  10. Scarf
  11. Men’s underwear/women’s underwear
  12. Socks
  13. Chocolates/turron/sweets (something small)
  14. A bag to put it all in

Go to the Facebook page to find out where you can drop of your Christmas present: Esperanca Barcelona


How to be a nosey ol’ Barcelona neighbour: learn from a pro

5 Nov

A couple of nights ago we were enjoying a drink at the poolside of the the hotel adjacent to our new home. From the hotel patio we spent a few entertaining minutes watching our upstairs neighbour nearly fall over the edge of her balcony trying to peer into our house, unaware of course that we were watching her from next door.

Having already installed Spying Sunday as a flat tradition i.e. the day on which we drag chairs around the patio and windows and stand tippy-toes to peer into the houses and lives of our neighbours and compare water features and planter gardens, I felt a certain kinship with the old lady upstairs. We had much to learn from her I could tell.

Step one: Fling caution and washing to the winds

Two days later she knocked on our door at around 10 a.m. She wore a blue waterproof jacket and had a shock of browny-ginger hair and seemed pleasant enough.

“Hola! Have you found a pair of socks in your backyard by any chance?”

She wanted it so bad I had to let her have it.

“I’m not sure, why don’t you come have a look.” I let her walk past me along the hallway.

Her head swung left as she walked on, lingering on the newly installed kitchen, all gleaming stainless steel and and sharp corners.

She watched with interest as I unlocked the patio doors, then went out and retrieved a single sock and panty.

Step two: Once infiltrated find a new reason to linger

As I walked her to the door she stopped in the hallway.”Another thing we must check is the leak.”

Me: “Ah they fixed that already didn’t they?”

“Yes but we need to make sure”, She points to the site of the old leak in the hallway.

Step three: Identify and exploit any contrived matchmaking chance to mention your offspring….in a naked style situation

She continuous….”So tonight, just check the roof to make sure no water is coming through. My son will be having his shower at around 8:30 tonight. Make sure you check this spot when he is having his shower.”

Step four: Set the target a task which makes further contact easy

“And if you see any water, come and knock on my door and tell us.”

You know what lady, I might just do that. 

We've moved to the Gotico!

We’ve moved to the Gotico! More mad stories from this barrio will follow no doubt.

Part 1of living with Miss Tom: The family

10 Sep

Fleas and Dogs on the road. Vietnam.

The bus rolled to a stop at 5 a.m. It took a few minutes of the bus driver’s shouts of ‘Sa Pa!’ before the all the sleeping travelers roused themselves and started to slowly exit. I heard a sound like the distant call of seagulls. Wiping away the condensation on the windows I saw them. Around 20 tribal women, chattering excitedly and waiting to swoop on vulnerable travelers. I had read about this and was prepared.

I managed to fob most of them off by claiming I was already booked on a tour. The other backpackers who hadn’t booked anything huddled together in a daze before heading to a hostel. I had an address for a place to book tours and headed off in a random direction to find it. A couple of women followed me and one of them offered to show me the correct place.

It took about 5 minutes of walking together before we decided I should go stay with her instead. So began the best 5 days of my journey.

My host Miss Tom was from the Black Hmong tribe which live in the hills around Sa Pa in north Vietnam. Getting to Miss Tom’s village took a 4 hour hike through the hills. In our group was Van a girl much younger but partnered with Miss Tom, and two German sisters who would be staying for one night. I had decided to stay for 4 nights. A 4 hour hike after a night bus and waking up at 5 a.m, with my 10 kilo backpack was challenging to say the least, but the quiet of the mist shroud which the mountain covered us in made it all worth while. The madness of Hanoi was far behind.

Over the next 5 days I grew to know Miss Tom, her family and her friends. And I fell in love with all of them.

#1 Su

Su is a tiny, grubby faced, snotty-nosed force of nature. She’s two years old, the youngest and the only girl, and rules the little household by sheer lung power. Miss Tom still breastfeeds her, not having the heart to rub a little chilli on her nipples and wean the kid as the other women usually do at the age of 1. Su likes to eat everything she can get her hands on, try out the mini machete her mother uses in the kitchen and tap other women on the breast to see if she can get a feed.


#2 The Boys

There were three little boys in the house while I was there. Bare footed, bright eyed, grubby and feral; they range in age from 7 till 11. There were another two brothers whom I never saw as they were helping their father gather and dry black cardamom in the forest. The men stay in the forest until the work is done.

The little boys in the meanwhile would be left to run wild and sometimes run the household. When Miss Tom was out, they would light the wood fire, slip a stick through the handle of the large kettle and carry it between themselves to put over the fire. Heated water poured in bowls of leftover rice and vegetables was their breakfast and lunch. When Su screamed enough they would serve her a bowl as well. Sometimes they would get themselves ready, pack a lunch box and head off to school. It all seemed to depend on the mood.

Now I don’t really like kids. My ovaries fail to sing love songs to every passing child and their immense cuteness is generally lost on me. I often try but fail to see what the big deal is. However, this little pack of wild brothers and their despotic baby sister effortlessly carved themselves a little corner in my heart, which is hard to explain.

#3 Leechy

The first night I was there, I noticed the family dog had a long brown booger hanging from his left nostril. This booger would occasionally wave about, and sometimes retract right inside. I asked, so I was told. The dogs often pick up leeches when they drink from mountain streams. The leeches live in their noses for a few weeks before dropping off. Somehow the fates had conspired to combine the creature I love and the creature I abhor in one neat package. Leechy meanwhile was a bit confused by the quiet panic his friendly, best-nose-forward approach was creating in me and the German sisters.

The introduction to Leechy had four main effects on my behaviour:

1) I began surreptitiously checking my nose and ears for uninvited guests.

2) I absolutely forbade my mind to think about any other orifices at all.

3) I was cured of the desire to touch or handle the ridiculous abundance of cute baby creatures we came across. I’m talking chicks, ducklings, new born piglets, buffalo calves, kittens and puppies. Yup, they could all take that cuteness and f**k right off!

4) I started praying every night: ‘Dear God, thank you so much for all the wonderful experiences I’ve had so far. Please, please keep me and my v****a safe from leeches. Thank you.’

On the second day I trained myself to not look at Leechy. By the third day, we reached an understanding. He would wag his tail at me invitingly. I would tell him to piss off and take his leechy nose with him. He would continue to wag his tail invitingly.

On the fourth day the leech disappeared. Where!????? Where did he finally decide to drop off!!!!! What place did this leech find better to hang out in than the lovely moist nose of a dog?



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