Monday, July 19, 2021

Someone please tell me why...?

The Spanish region of Valencia will be the world capital of Hyperloop, "the transport of the future." 

From July 19 to 25, Valencia will host the European Hyperloop Week, a transport system that will allow passengers and goods to be carried at more than 1200kph.

[Source via news service: Business Over Tapas.]

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Video: "Paul McCartney - Córdoba - Spain (1966 ) ( The Beatles en España)" -- A home video:

"Until now, there had ben no evidence that McCartney had been a tourist in Córdoba. Here are the images of some emblematic places of the Andalusian capital, such as the Plaza de la Corredera, exteriors of the Alcazar de los Reyes Católicos, Patio de los Naranjos, Cathedral Mosque.

The recording also includes children and local people in their daily lives.

Paul McCartney visits the Spanish city of Córdoba together with The Beatles' roadmanager Mal Evans. 

In November 1966, McCartney traveled through Spain towards Almería with the intention of visiting John Lennon, who was there working on the movie "How I Won the War " by Richard Lester but filming had already finished and John was no longer in Almería.

Apparently, McCartney and Evans traveled from Bordeaux (France) to the Almeria coast.. Evans and McCartney traveled to Seville, where on November 12 they took a plane to Madrid, and from there they traveled to Nairobi. 

According to Diario de los Beatles and the journalist and writer Jordi Sierra i Fabra, McCartney returned to London on November 19, 1966."

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Aymerich’s “The tourist factory” [New release, 2021]

"Ramon Aymerich, La fábrica de turistes. El país que va canviar la indústria pel turisme [The tourist factory: the country that traded industry for tourism], 2021, 149 p.

publisher’s summary:

Catalonia is no longer a country of industry, but one of tourists.

The day that Barcelona was left without tourists [2020, Covid-19] felt strange to the locals, they were so used to them. 

During the last 60 years, tourism has changed the country’s appearance. 

It has urbanized half of the country, has damaged natural ressources, has transformed the economy and has created a lot of jobs… temporary jobs. Part of Catalonia’s identity was made up of industry, and now it is a country that fabricates tourists. During the pandemic we have discovered the cost of this bet, now full of uncertainties.

La fàbrica de turistes covers the creation of the myth of the Costa Brava, the birth of Port Aventura [amusement park], and the appearance of Barcelona as a big international tourist destination… and it stresses the urgency of finding a plan B for its economy."

Above text from Literary Rambles here.

Friday, June 25, 2021

"Living the reality" -- My latest book review for Catalonia Today magazine

[Writer Carrie Frais: Pic by Poppy Maidment]

Who are these people? “Immigrants temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than the one[s] in which they were raised.”


This to me is a much better explanation than the word expat (or expatriate) which I dislike and so does Carrie Frais the editor of a new book titled “#LivingTheDream: Expat life stripped bare.” 

Her preferred definition of herself and the other ten women who contributed a chapter each is stated in her introduction, inside a publication with a cover photo of broken sunglasses. (It reminded me of Yoko Ono’s album cover for “Season of Glass” showing John Lennon’s bloodied specs after his murder in New York in 1980.)


The book explores “grief, loneliness, Brexit, motherhood, identity, belonging, single parenthood, rootlessness and integration” but these are just some of the issues that are ranged over. The nebulous concept of “home” is also touched on in various distinct ways.


As an author, Frais focuses especially on the emotional baggage of her relocation. Her timeline of the last decade and a half jumps between London and Cabrils (not Cambrils) in Catalonia and moves between themes of parental illness and death, the power of memory and ultimately the Covid 19 pandemic. Wisely, she both recognises and reconciles her status as an outsider: an adventurous one, open to challenges.


Deborah Gray, Managing Director of Canela Public Relations in Barcelona has some specific advice. She finishes her chapter with a title taken from a century old quote from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata, saying “exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is: many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.”


Her own life experiences include managing a private life (including children) and running offices in Madrid and Lisbon as well as the Catalan capital. She has been navigating the rough seas of European business conditions since 2006. Gray states, “Don’t define yourself by what you do for a living because it can all disappear overnight through no fault of your own.” Millions across Catalonia and the rest of Europe could relate to that.


Mother of three, teacher, writer, designer and Associate Director of Jane Mitchell, lives in El Masnou on the Maresme coast just north of Barcelona. Her part of the book is called “Becoming Me (Again)” and talks about how she made happiness a priority ahead of her career. She believes her previous years in Cairo taught her about acceptance and adaptability but didn’t fully prepare her for a new role as a mother in Catalonia.  


Sue Wilson of the Bremain in Spain organisation is another highlight, writing about the legacy of Brexit for her, living in Valencia.


A great strength of this book is that it avoids most of the cliches that surround those who relocate. In several places it confronts them face on to dispel fanciful dreams and watery eyed romantic projections of Europe as a land of sunny, easy plenty. I, too, think this needs to be done.

[This review was first published in Catalonia Today magazine here.]

Sunday, June 20, 2021

La Florida: Density and Drill [in outer, outer Barcelona]


"The most densely populated square kilometre in Europe is a region in Barcelona called La Florida (50,000 per km2) according to La Vanguardia here.

It follows with maps and plans of the heaviest densities and smallest populations across Spain.

It also (oddly) equates density with musical talent, at least the drill popular in the poorest barrios of Paris and Barcelona.

(YouTube for drill with Nickzzy here)."

Above found via BoT.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Joan Subirats: Cities are spaces where things can change for better (int...

"A radical change is taking place. Cities around Europe – through platforms, movements and international networks – are creating paths for citizens to participate in and influence politics directly. Joan Subirats, one of the founders of Barcelona’s municipalist platform Barcelona en Comú, discusses how cities can deal with uncertainty and provide a new type of protection, reverse the trend of tech giants owning all our data, and even defy their nation-states on issues such as refugees."

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Working Women Week: Barcelona June 14 - June 18 2021


"This first edition of WWW, organized by Barcelona Expat Life, Barcelona Metropolitan, Planet Venus and Professional Women’s Network Barcelona, will be held from the 14th to the 18th of June and will consist of a series of hybrid (online and offline) events, workshops, exhibitions and round tables carried out by experts in their fields.

WWW has been born with the principal aim of connecting multiple organizations to exchange experiences, give support and disseminate knowledge on a variety of topics within the fields of diversity, gender balanced leadership and female empowerment.

A further objective is to connect working women with each other, create empowering synergies and enrich them with the different perspectives and resources provided by selected leading organizations, companies or individuals based in Barcelona and Catalonia.


For more info see here.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

"Backlash for Spain's postal service anti-racist campaign"

Backlash for Spain's postal service anti-racist campaign - YouTube

"Spain's postal service is feeling a backlash from its attempt to highlight racial inequality after releasing four stamps of different skin colour and different values."

Maybe if they'd consulted with people of colour before the campaign it could have all been different...

Saturday, May 22, 2021

"Needled" – My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

[Photo: Oriol Duran, Barcelona.]

You could call me one of the lucky ones; one of the chosen few.

A week ago, I had my second dose of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Bellvitge Hospital in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat just outside Barcelona. 

This was the same medical centre that successfully operated on me to transplant a kidney 3 years ago, giving the reason for why I stood in line on a Friday evening with mainly 70 year old’s, some of whom undoubtedly have malfunctioning immune systems, as I do.

I’m in this category because since the campaign started in Catalonia on December 27 last year, at the time of writing1,572,518 residents had been given the first dose of the various vaccines. 

That represents just 20.36% of the total population. Of these, just over half a million people have also been administered the second dose (6.49% of the populace).  

Naturally, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I don’t want to sound at all petty. I’m one of the biggest supporters of public health systems anywhere on this planet of marvels and mysteries. 

It just strikes me as disappointing that organisation from the EU, Spain and our government here wasn’t better. It disturbs me. 

You could say, in another meaning of the word, it needles me. 

There are even large numbers of school teachers (for example, my wife who’s in her mid-50s) who have not yet had their Covid protection maximised with a simple injection.

I accept that some causes for delays have been outside local authorities’ control. One case in point was the closure of the Eurotunnel in the English Channel just before Christmas. 

Reportedly, the main reason for the slow vaccine rollout speed in Catalonia was fridges (used to store doses) being trapped in Dover, one of England’s main ports.

Of course, that was 4 months ago now. And yes, I know there are plans to quicken the pace so that 70% of the population have been covered by the end of August. Plans don’t impress me. Well-coordinated action does.

There are other parts of the world that have done this task much more efficiently. Unsurprisingly maybe, places like Australia and New Zealand who’ve had relatively few cases of Covid have also already begun vaccination programs. 

Even that obscenely corrupt, malfunctioning corporation called the United Kingdom is looking pretty flash on this question.

While I’m all riled up, I’ll mention another related point. Now that it seems agreed that there’s going to be some kind of special travel “passport” for the pre-vaccinated elite like me in Europe, I have to ask about what’s going to happen to everyone else in the next few months leading into and through the summer?

What about the opportunity to travel across borders (is it even a human right?) Children, young people, many immigrant adults and all those not lucky enough to be immunised are clearly going to be discriminated against.

And here's another crucial error. I was arguing from the very start of scientific investigation into a vaccine that it should be centrally run by the World Health Organisation and an enhanced European Medicines Agency. 

The pandemic was, and still is, much too dangerous and long-lasting to be handled by local governments as prisoners of private interests who make medicine for profit.

Surely, one single contract should have been given to the most effective vaccine company and the patent for that vaccine should have been waved in the interests of global public health.

But I suppose that wouldn’t have been a financial shot in the arm for the pharma giants, would it?

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, May 2021.]

Friday, May 21, 2021

"The quiet one" -- From an article I wrote for Catalonia Today magazine

[Photo: Lluís Serrat.]
There he is. Sitting along the side of the class, with his head down. He could be a child or an adult -- and certainly female too -- but today at least this introvert has very little to say for himself.   

Familiar to most of us who spend any time in group situations at work or in a social setting, the introvert is not shy by definition. 

According to North American author (and self-acknowledged introvert) Susan Cain, shyness is actually about fear of being judged by others.

In fact, she argues, it’s just that “introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they're in quieter, more low-key environments.” Extroverts -- their opposites -- are people who simply function better with a high level of social stimulation.

The wider point that Cain makes in her book on the subject is she believes that a bias has crept into “our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces. They are designed mostly for extroverts and for extroverts' need for lots of stimulation. And also we have this belief system right now that I call the new groupthink, which holds that all creativity and all productivity comes from a very oddly gregarious place.”

Myself, as someone who does not fit neatly into either category of the out-going chatterbox or the silent internal type (but rather seem to flit between the two depending on the moment) I confess to having largely failed in my attempts to run a fully inclusive classroom. 

When I was a secondary teacher I tried to democratically involve all of my students in being vocal but (like many educators) I was unaware of how best to do this or that some teenagers just do not want to speak if it can be avoided.

Teaching adults over the last few years I’ve learned that the prevailing culture in this part of the world too is clearly in favour of extroverts. I have even taught in companies where they believe that they do not have any introverts working alongside them as their colleagues. 

In the endless rounds of group meetings and chatty open plan offices introverts often fade into the background. It is as if being introverted is a mark of shame and sets someone apart as “not a team player.”  

But there is no good reason for this to be the case. 

As Susan Cain discovered, “when it comes to leadership, introverts are routinely [ignored] for leadership positions, even though introverts tend to be very careful...and when psychologists look at the lives of the most creative people, what they find are people who are very good at exchanging ideas and advancing ideas, but who also have a serious streak of introversion in them.” 

She gives the examples of Charles Darwin, Steve Jobs and genius children’s author Dr Seuss.

Of course, extroverts can and do lead us the wrong way though. 

Cain notes that “groups famously follow the opinions of the most dominant or charismatic person in the room, even though there's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

For some reason, the name Donald Trump immediately comes to mind.

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, June 2017.]

Sunday, May 16, 2021

"They took me to prison:" The nightmare of a young Italian woman at UK border after Brexit

Marta, 24, was supposed to work as an au pair in London but without a work visa, she was sent to the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre.

"They took me to prison; then I burst into tears..." [Dozens of EU citizens have reportedly suffered similarly.]

Read more from La Repubblica here.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

New green oasis for Barcelona residents

[Photo: MataAlta]

"Terrats d'en Xifré is one of the initiatives promoted by the Barcelona City Council to further humanize the city.

It is a green space of 1,500 square meters with a garden that is located on the roof that connects six buildings between the neighbourhoods of Born and Ciutat Vella."

Read more from source at Barcelona Secreta here.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

LAUNCH EVENT: Spanish-English edition of Clive James' poetry

A bilingual Spanish-English volume of Australian Clive James' poetry has just been published.

Title: "Fin de Fiesta. Últimos Poemas". (Publisher, Pre-Textos.) Launch: 4 May, 19.00h, bookshop, Pau Claris, 144 Barcelona.

Reservations (Max. 20 people:) Email ... OR follow event on Instagram:

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Noam Chomsky trending on Twitter in Spain

Astounding that #Chomsky can be #TrendingNow in Spain on Twitter.

It's also encouraging that a progressive, democratic Socialist can do that anywhere on the planet.

Considering that the mainstream media has a virtual ban against him for telling the truth about capitalism and corruption it's even more surprising.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

"Thanks to Life:" Mercedes Sosa - Gracias A La Vida


Just over 10 years ago I first posted this video and have now replaced it with a version that is still available. 

Mercedes Sosa - Gracias A La Vida - YouTube: surely one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded in the Spanish language (and one of the most well-known songs in Latin America apparently.)

[Lyrics translated into English:]

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me two beams of light, that when opened,
Can perfectly distinguish black from white
And in the sky above, her starry backdrop,
And from within the multitude
The one that I love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me an ear that, in all of its width
Records— night and day—crickets and canaries,
Hammers and turbines and bricks and storms,
And the tender voice of my beloved.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me sound and the alphabet.
With them the words that I think and declare:
"Mother," "Friend," "Brother" and the light shining.
The route of the soul from which comes love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me the ability to walk with my tired feet.
With them I have traversed cities and puddles
Valleys and deserts, mountains and plains.
And your house, your street and your patio.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me a heart, that causes my frame to shudder,
When I see the fruit of the human mind,
When I see good, so far from bad,
When I see within the clarity of your eyes...

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me laughter and it gave me longing.
With them I distinguish happiness and pain—
The two materials from which my songs are formed,
And your song, as well, which is the same song.
And everyone's song, which is my very own song.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

"New Book Details the Lives of Vincent van Gogh’s Sisters Through Their Letters"

L to R: Anna, the eldest van Gogh sister; Elisabeth, or Lies; and Willemien, the youngest, who was better known as Wil (Illustration by Meilan Solly / Photos via Wikimedia Commons under public domain)


"Much ink has been spilled about Vincent van Gogh’s relationship with his younger brother Theo, an art dealer who steadfastly supported the painter’s career even as his mental health deteriorated toward the end of his life.

Comparatively, far less has been said about the lives of the artist’s three sisters: Anna, the eldest; Elisabeth, or Lies; and Willemien, the youngest, who was better known as Wil. Now, reports Dalya Alberge for the Guardian, a new book by Dutch art historian Willem-Jan Verlinden seeks to help rectify this imbalance.

Aptly titled The Van Gogh Sistersthe upcoming release draws on hundreds of previously unpublished letters written by the three women, many of which are printed in English for the first time. (A Dutch version of the book was initially published in 2016.)

As Verlinden writes on his website, the work “provides an impression of the changing role of women in the 19th and early 20th century, of modernization, industrialization, education, feminism and the fin de siècle, of 19th-century art and literature, and—of course—of Vincent’s death and his meteoric rise to fame.”

Read more from  article at The Smithsonian Mag.