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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


The trouble with paradise

14 Aug

Fleas and Dogs on the road. Cambodia.

We lay on our beach towels dreaming under the sunlit trees. This was our recovery day, from discovering secluded beaches, hiking through tropical forests and snorkeling off tiny islands.

J: See that man.

I prop myself up on my towel. A European man, overweight with dark hair and in his late thirties is trudging by, dressed in a red T-shirt, shorts and baseball cap. Behind him walks a slight, young Cambodian boy, between 10-13 years old.

J: They’ve been together for the past two days,

Once you see them you can’t unsee them. It’s a small island and a smaller village. Invariably the quiet pair will materialize, laboriously walking through the sand, unnoticed by the young travelers playing in the sun. I point them out to another island friend, M.

M: Ahh that’s sick. Ah I hate seeing that stuff, or hearing about it. Man, I don’t want to think about it!

He storms off.

The one thing worse than being a pedophile in paradise is being a downer.

There is no police presence on the island. Guesthouses don’t ask to see any I.D. Local men lounge about in comfy chairs, bare bodied and bored, drinking or arm-wrestling while waiting for their next boat tour hire. Out-of-money travelers sleep on the pier undisturbed. Nobody forms an authority and everybody does what they want. This is the hidden utopia on the edge of civilization, with all its freedom and all its danger.

I go online and write down the hotline number for Child Safe Cambodia, but then don’t know what to tell them. There is a man on the island who I’m sure has hired a child prostitute for the week?

J: Let’s follow them. Maybe we can get a moment to talk to the boy, or even listen to them talk. If they both talk the same language, then maybe they are related.

Me: And maybe we can find the guesthouse they are staying at.

We try to follow them but lose them. Another day J sneaks up enough to overhear the boy speaking French.

Me: Okay, so maybe he is a child living in Europe. Right?

Neither of us looks convinced, but almost want to believe it in the face of our impotency to stop anything worse. From the moment J pointed them out we had taken to eyeballing the man. He knew we were watching.

Soon the day to leave arrived. I was preparing to get the ferry when they walked past. His eyes went to the backpack on my back. A look of relief crossed his face and perhaps even a little triumph.

In that moment I knew that all our speculations were real and yet none substantial. I still can’t pick up the phone and report a look of triumph on a no-name man at a no-name guesthouse on a tiny island in Cambodia.

Child safe Cambodia

How do you solve a problem like Abeya!

26 Jul

Fleas and Dogs on the road. Thailand.

I´d fled the seedy red light district and landed in a local young blood’s bar close to the backpacker street. I was finally making my way back to the guest house after the stools had been put up and the lights switched on.

I noticed a figure sprawled against the curb at an awkward angle. This didn’t look like a street sleeper, more like someone passed out. I went around to the other side of the body and saw a giant vomit trail.

Okay, first thing to do was check the breathing. Still breathing. She was a girl and a local by the looks of it.

I shook her gently, ‘Hey, hey, are you okay’. A wail was my answer.

‘Do you want a taxi?’

‘Waaaaa yesssss!!!’

‘Okay, do you remember where you live?’


‘Okay, we´ll get you a taxi’.

There were no taxis on this street.

‘Look, I think we need to walk to the end of the street, there are lots of taxis there,’

‘waaaaaaa   noooo, I’m sorryyyyyy waaaaaaaa’

What’s your name?’

‘waaaaaa  Abeya….waaaaaaaa’

‘It’s fine sweetheart, you’re just a little drunk. Not a big deal. Just sit up, drink some water and we’ll get you in a taxi.’


(Oh god please help me!)

‘C’mon, up you get, up up up, upsy daisy!’


Another tourist stops: Is she a tourist?

‘No I think she’s local.’

He makes his apologies: Sorry I can’t really help you.

I let him go. No point in two of us being caught with the weeping mess.

I try to get the neighboring bar staff to help me. They give me the bright vacant smiles I’m coming to recognise in the hospitality industry here. It’s just as bad as the camarero scowl back home.

I heave her up in to a sitting position and prop her against my legs. As I try to hand her a bottle of water she retches a fresh batch and slumps to the ground.

‘Waaaaaaa I’m so sorrryyyy!’

‘It’s fine, you’re just drunk. Just try and sit up for god’s sake!’

(Finally, I can speak to the younger generation from a position of experience.)

I pick up the Blackberry clutched in her soggy hand. There is no key pad lock. I wipe it clean and start dialing all her last dialed numbers, particularly the ones that say ‘fam’ as a prefix. God only knows what it really means in Thai.

One woman, called ‘fam:Jim’, finally answers.


‘Hi, do you know Abeya?’


‘Can you come and get her?’

‘Er, no. No!’

‘Well can you contact her friends or family to get her please?’

‘Er, who is this?’

‘Look can you come and get her please?’


‘She’s very drunk and in trouble. If you don’t come and get her, she’s going to sleep in the street  tonight.’

‘Oh my god!’

Suddenly a girl in a  red dress appears in front of me.

‘Oh my gawd, is she okay?’

‘Hey! Do you speak Thai? Speak to the lady on the phone please.’

‘I know her’, she says pointing at the prone figure of vomit soaked Abeya.

‘Great! Speak to the lady on the phone!’ I shove the phone in her hands.

‘It’s fine, I know where she lives’ she  gives me her assurance.

I turn around to find two local young men lounging against the barrier along with another young lady, looking down at Abeya in the peculiar disinterested interest only teens can summon.

One of the young men: ‘Oh my gawd, did you like, take care of her? Wow thaink you sooo much!’ (What is this? Thai hipster?)’

‘Well not really, …. (she’s still lying on the street in her own vomit), but here you can take care of her now’, I shove the packet of tissues into his hands, and the bottle of water into his companion’s. ‘I’m so f*****g glad you turned up!  Bye Abeya!’

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I’m so sorrrryyyyyy!!!!!!!


p.s: Fleas and Dogs is on the road again.