Sunday, July 3, 2022


Turning Art Into Water for MOSS Foundation

Melbourne: 6pm – 9:30pm Friday 25TH Nov 2022
Barcelona: 6pm – 9:30pm Thurs 24th Nov 2022

Silent Auction closes 9:30pm Friday Melbourne time & 11:30am Friday Barcelona time
(Same bidding app, same time, different time zones!)
In person and online charity auctions.
Take your decks home on the night (pick up or shipping options too).
(Also check out MOSS shows at Gold Coast in June ‘22 & Sydney/Hawaii in Sept ‘22)
Top artists from around this planet are donating their original one off art works for clean water in Eswatini / Swaziland.
100% of the sale price of every piece goes to funding a life changing MOSS Foundation permanent clean water scheme in southern east Africa.

(No commissions, no admin costs, no gallery commission or artist fees, no food or wine costs. It’s all sponsored.)
Every dollar you spend goes to clean water in Swaziland / eSwatini.
1) Magnet Gallery. SC G19 Wharf St, The District, Docklands, VIC 3008. Australia
2) Base Elements Gallery, Carrer d'Avinyó, 31, 08002 Barcelona, Spain

Free entry.
What is MOSS?
- MOSS Foundation Inc is a 100% volunteer registered charity founded by skateboarders, musicians, artists and surfers.
- MOSS Foundation has been building life changing permanent water schemes in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), southern east Africa since 2006.
MOSS Foundation - Clean Water Saving Lives

Sunday, June 26, 2022

"Donald Trump doesn't like to read" [but some of the rest of us do...]

In a period of weeks where blind ignorance and Islamaphobia have been tragically demonstrated around the globe, it's apparent that the act of reading (and here I don't mean skimming racist Tweets) is more important than ever but some of the most powerful people are against it...

"The Trump statement [in the blogpost title] was used in an ad campaign ("World, stay awake") by the German bookstore chain "Thalia" to attract attention; according to former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, it is true (cf. The Washington Post, Dec. 7, 2018).
The publisher Jordi Nadal used the same slogan for the title of an op-ed piece published in La Vanguardia newspaper in which he gave good reasons for reading, of which some excerpts read as follows:
[...] reading is growing, is feeding curiosity, is giving our minds and emotions more circuits and ressources. The biggest difference between the mind of a child educated in a rich family and that of poor one lies in the words he/she knows. A poor mind doesn't have words. A rich mind has got a universe of words that, in turn, combined and made their own, turn into the master key that will open a good part of the doors and situations present along life.
Juan José Millás reminded us that reality is made of words, which means who dominates words dominates reality. Thus, we consider it an absolute gift to have discovered books and reading. For very many reasons: we can read, because we want to feed our curiosity, because we want to grow, because we want to evade ourselves [?], because we want to understand other things and other people and cultures, because we want to listen to other lives.
[...] Without reading there is no depth of field, nor contrast, nor nuances. Without reading we easily fall into fanatism. You know, a fanatic is the one who doesn't want to change neither the topic nor the opinion. Fanatics read little or badly. Without reading, there triumph naturally the tweet and hate.
What is more, reading is healing and healthy. Reading --every day there are more scientific studies that avail it-- is good for your health. Readers on average live two years more.
Reading is a clean way of enjoying life. Enjoying it as a superior form of research to learn to govern a little better, with humility and gratitude, a life that's one's own in freedom. A PISA study revealed that, beyond the indicators of place, country, etc. and levels of reading competence, a home with less than 20 books is a reliable indicator of a more than nearly assured school failure, and, on the other hand, a home with more than 200 books is a near guarantee for academic success.
[...] Every reader has got the unique and non-transferable opportunity to be the master of a world when he/she dives into the intimacy of reading, and, as was said masterfully by the great author C.S. Lewis [at least in William Nicholson's Shadowlands]: "We read to know we are not alone."
Another statement [from] the Thalia campaign: "The world has got more secrets than those known by Siri."
SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Feb. 2, 2019, p. 26 [printed edition]; [images]
Found at Literary Rambles here.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

"Wine and a whine" – My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine


As a reptile – I like to think of myself as one of those lizards that runs across the hottest desert sands with a high knee action like an Olympic hurdler, though in reality I’m probably more of a slow-moving komodo dragon – waking up to yet another spring morning with a sky the colour of an iron lung is all too much.

Most likely, you’re reading this with summer’s heat well underway but I actively resent the idea that most foreigners have moved to Mediterranean countries solely for solar delight. 

Not true. 

Speaking only for myself, there’s plenty of other reasons to live here long-term and I’ve written in detail about them in this column over the years.

But yes, I admit, I don’t remember a spring here in the last decade and a half that was so bloody gloomy. 

Apparently, March had the least number of sunlight hours in 50 years and April/early May didn’t feel much better. 

I want my money back. I didn’t sign up for these relentless, grim overhead conditions and general damp.

Simon Winder in his book Germania, makes an argument (with Germany as the exception) that “one very odd aspect of European countries is that if you start in their north-wests they are generally unattractive, harsh places but if you head south-east life gets better.” 

He goes on to put this down to fairly obvious factors like the existence of more sun, olives, melons and an outdoor life including wine and vineyards.

Then the author uncorks some wider history, quoting a British wine-merchant who maintains that for most people in England until the First World War, “wine meant drinking ‘hock’ (German Rhine/Mosel white) or [what was popularly called] ‘claret’ (French Bordeaux red). 

Following this, post-war, the German drop “tasted too much of steel-helmet” and apart from the sweeter “Blue Nun” it largely disappeared from many British tables.

It seems to me that a lot of 21st-century Europeans, including Catalans and Spanish of course, take good wine slightly for granted. 

In some areas, the geography supports that. Just travel [I almost remember what that verb means] down the roads or look out the train window between Martorell and down the line through the Penedès to near the coast at Sant Vicenç de Calders. 

The landscape is a non-religious hymn to the grape.

That great truth-teller Eduardo Galeano wrote, “We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.” 

Personally, I can’t remember ever having anything better than an ice-cold Chilean dry white called Concha y Toro in a Canberra restaurant called El Rincon Latino.

With the recent scarcity of a penetrating heat and further east a war that must’ve taken any warmth out of any scattering of sun, I hope that rays of natural serotonin are soon seeping into our souls like “that first swallow of wine… after you’ve just crossed the desert.”

Now I’m reminded of the basic and essential difference between climate and weather, though I doubt Leonard Cohen was thinking about that when he wrote, “Springtime starts and then it stops in the name of something new.” 

What else is new apart from the season? Anything? Something?

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, June 2022.]

Sunday, June 12, 2022

"Damned noise" -- an opinion from the 2nd most noisy country in the world: Spain.


‘In this country, clamour is as inevitable as the air one breathes. It follows you, wherever you go, whatever you do.

Motorcycles, construction sites, shouting, music, mobile phones, bells, firecrackers, barking, horns, alarms, barrel organs, shouting, radios, hammers, garbage trucks, heels, drills, TVs and slot machines…

We live in the acceptance that silence is no longer possible; we have given up, we endorse with total naturalness that we do not have access to the balm of tranquillity...’

Read more (in Spanish) here.

[Article first found at Business over Tapas:

"Only Japan (with its paper walls) is noisier than Spain."]

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Another new ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ reader review (that makes it all worthwhile)

"Strikingly akin to George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

Exudes authenticity and realism. 

Hetherington gives us vivid pictures of the innards of Spain. 

A book meant more for explorers than for tourists. 

I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to know about the real Spain."

Thanks very much, Andrew! [Review here.]

Sunday, May 29, 2022

"Hands on" – My latest article for Catalonia Today magazine


[Erika Lust_Pic: Monica Figueras]

On a crisp but sunny early afternoon last month, I took myself to (lower) Sant Gervasi-Galvany, part of Barcelona city. I had volunteered to be interviewed for a documentary and before stepping through the door of the rented film studio on the building’s 8th floor, a young woman asked me and two other participants to speak in a whisper and only when necessary.


Filming had already started. The hushed silence inside only added to the strangeness of the experience. I was there – only for research purposes of course – to answer questions about masturbation for what was apparently “a non-explicit video to celebrate self-pleasure.”


As we came in, we were asked to sign several legal documents, including one that confirmed we did not have Covid. I was given (here’s a piece of full disclosure) an envelope with 50 euros cash inside. Then we were taken by a different woman (who repeatedly told me how exciting it all was) across the bare, wide concrete studio floor and into a separate area.


A young man began to put makeup on the face of the next interviewee. I waited on a sofa with a guy with a North American accent. He was avoiding eye contact and only mumbled something unclear when I made a friendly observation, suggesting we were doing something very different today.


On the other side of the thin wall, I could hear talk from the middle of the room. I could make out some questions I’d probably be asked and from the woman answering I was also able to get a sense of what I might say. That helped.


I chatted to the curly-haired Argentine who painted and patted makeup over my nose, eyes, and cheeks. Paris wasn’t to his liking but Barcelona was, so far. Then I was up: it was my turn to sit on a stool in front of an especially bright light. A microphone was clipped onto my shirt and an assistant reminded me that I wasn’t obliged to try and answer any questions that I wasn't “comfortable with.”


The person asking the private questions and getting answers for her public, was the owner of the company. She uses Erika Lust as her business name and her website states she is “an award-winning filmmaker, producer, and writer [whose] focus on female pleasure, cinematic values and ethics in adult cinema have helped to change how pornography is consumed.”


I quickly found Erika to be a skilled interviewer partly because her questions were thoughtful and related specifically to the answers I gave. She was a good listener, that rare quality. The session seemed exploratory, not a dry run-through of a list or a pre-prepared line of interrogation. Instead, it quickly became a more open ended, fast-moving quarter of an hour. I was impressed, for example that she also wanted to know how I educated my son about sex and bodies. Her intelligence was obvious. I later discovered she was named as one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential Women of The Year in 2019.


As her press kit states, “Erika defends the importance of having women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ people behind the camera in all key positions.” Her all-female production crew – young, efficient, English-speaking, and keen – were working a 9-hour day.


Finally, Erika asked me to wish the viewers “Happy Masturbation Month”. I was more than okay to do that and hammed it up, waving my arms and added with a laugh, “Go for it!” On the way out, I nibbled on the free lunch provided then headed back outside to Carrer Arribau with the sense that I’d done something good. And surely so was everyone else there.

(The end result...

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, May 2022.]

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Spain's Basque country and Richard Burton: a tenuous connection but a very real one


In this dramatic and poignant speech-like reply to an interview question [between 3:11 - 6:00] the Welsh actor talks about his miner father's unique relationship with The Great Atlantic Fault (or "dark artery"): a  famous coal seam that "starts in the north of Spain and goes under The Bay of Biscay and comes up in northern Wales then goes under The Atlantic and comes up in Pennsylvania."

Everything he has to say is as compelling as any political speech or piece of writing. Even more so because it's dense with authentic feeling.

(But just in case...Here's the equivalent on paper: George Orwell, "Down the Mine.")

Saturday, May 21, 2022

New fiction book from (English/Catalan) author Matthew Tree

"In Saint James' Park, London, the police apprehend a young man who is carrying a bag full of high explosives in one hand and a collection of letters sent to his grandfather by the writer Malcolm Lowry in his inside pocket. 

In the course of the following interrogation, we discover the strange past and secret phobias of the detainee, and the emotional link between his actions and the Lowry letters. (The book's author really did have a grandfather to whom Lowry wrote on a regular basis)."

From the Back Cover:

Originally published in both Catalan and Spanish, 'If Only' now appears in a revised edition in English for the first time.

'This is a technically competent book with the force of a lashing gale. There is no question that it deserves an English language readership'. 
Times Literary Supplement.

'A work of literature which has received praise from many different sources, as well as the first Columna Award' 
El Punt newspaper.

'In short, a brilliant and innovative won't be able to put it down'. The poet Daniel Ruiz-Trillo in  
El Punt newspaper.

'This extraordinary novel, which I read in one sitting...interesting, caustic and technically remarkable.' 
El Periódico de Catalunya.

'One of the most surprising, unusual and ambitious books of recent years' 
El Temps magazine.
'Tree creates an atmosphere which convinces the reader and plunges him into the world of the story'. El País.

To read more click here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

In London: a highly-deserved tribute to Peter Bush


Not before time, one of the very finest translators of Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and French is being honoured next week. (See above for details.)

His brilliant work on The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo is still one of the best pieces of translation I've ever read.

A genuine literary great and master of languages.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Italian National Parks...

I just love how all their symbols (still) look like they were designed and made before about 1984. Never been updated: there's something innocent in that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

“There is only one race: the human race.” -- Rita Levi Montalcini



Marking her 100th birthday, my 2009 translation of a manifesto by eleven Italian anti-racist scientists that begins with the words:

“There is only one race: the human race.”

These were the words of scientist Rita Levi-Montalcini (also attributed to Gandhi and Satyendranath).

My English translation (from a Spanish version) can be read below:

I.  Human races do not exist. The existence of human races is an abstraction that has come about from a false interpretation of the small physical differences that we feel we perceive. It comes from mistaken “psychological” associations: differences interpreted from a basis of secular prejudice. These abstract subdivisions are founded on an idea that humans are made up of groups that are, biologically and hereditarily, greatly varied.

This is pure invention that has always used arbitrary classification between men and women as better and worse and in this way discriminates against those at the extreme (always the weakest) after having blamed them for being the key to all evil in every moment of crisis.


II.  Humanity is not made up of large and small breeds. It is above all a network of connected persons. Certainly, human beings come together in groups of individuals, communities, ethnic groups, nations and civilizations. But this does not happen because we have the same genes but because we share life stories, ideas and religions, customs and behaviour, lifestyles and cultures.

These groupings are never established from the same DNA; in fact they are subject to profound historical changes. They are formed, changed, mixed, fragmented and dissolved with a speed that is incompatible with the lengths of times required by the processes of genetic selection.


III.  The concept of race has no biological meaning for the human species. Analysis of DNA has shown that genetic variation in our species – less than that of our ‘cousins’ the chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans – is represented above all by differences between people from the same population, whereas they are less than the differences between populations and different continents.

The genes of two individuals of the same population are, on average, slightly more similar than those of people who live in different continents. Precisely because of these small differences between populations even racist scientists never defined how many races make up the human species. They made estimates ranging between two and two hundred races.


IV.  There is a fake and deadly myth that has already been forged: the identification of the “Aryan race” with the image of a warlike people, the winners, ‘pure’ and ‘noble.’ Along with this, there is the theory that much of EuropeIndia and central Asia is the homeland of the basis of Ind-European languages.

History makes it apparent that it is extremely difficult to identify Aryans as a people in addition to the notion of an Indo-European language that stems from conventional classification. But on the other hand, modern archaeological data indicates that Europe was inhabited in the Palaeolithic era by a population of African origin and in Neolithic times other immigrants came over from the Middle East.

The foundation of present-day Italians is from the same southern African immigrants who today constitute the enduring fabric of life in Europe. Despite the dramatic originality of fascist racism the Italians allied themselves with the Nazi’s due to their identification with “Aryans.”


 V.  It is a legend that sixty million of today’s Italians are descended from families that lived in Italy a millennium ago. These same Romans built their empire by welcoming people from diverse backgrounds, giving them the status of Roman cives.

The phenomena of social and cultural mixing, which marked the history of the entire peninsula - also including Greeks, Jews, Africans, Hispanics and those seen as "barbarians" - produced the hybrid we call Italian culture. Even though they were dispersed throughout the world and living in small Italian states, Italians continued to be identified with this culture that was global, varied, humanistic and scientific.


VI.  There is no Italian race; there is only one Italian people. Italy was only unified as a nation in 1860. Many millions of Italian emigrants in the past often concentrated in foreigner areas. They were considered as, and are, Italian. One of our greatest assets is being mixed with so many people and our exchanges that "cross" physically and culturally.

"Purity of blood" and the "nobility" of the "Nation" have been ascribed to a country that has never existed. It has meant reducing the homogeneity of an alleged biological element in addition to the current populace of Italy’s thousand years of heritage and spreading of cultures.


VII.  Racism is at the same time both homicidal and suicidal. Empires became empires due to the coexistence of diverse peoples and cultures, and collapsed when fragmented. That has happened and is still happening in nations with civil wars. To cope with this crisis, they used minorities as scapegoats.

Racism is suicidal not only because it hits those belonging to different peoples but because it also strikes the same people who practice it. The trend of indiscriminate hatred that fuels racism is spreading infectious ideas about any “foreignness” or strange “otherness.” This comes from an increasingly narrow definition of "normalcy".

There are those that do not match up to standard human types. They are "out of line", the "mad", the "weak spirited," gays and lesbians, poets, artists, and alternative writers. All of them are attacked, though it is they who are actually allowed to live and incessantly transform mankind. Every living system is capable of continuing only if it is capable of change, and we, human beings, change with fewer genes and always more with the inventions of our generously disordered brains.


VIII.  Racism discriminates, denies relationships, and it introduces fear into various thoughts and behaviours. To defenders of the Italian race, Africa appears as a terrifying threat. The Mediterranean Sea simultaneously separates and unites. From this, the racists claim that there is no "common Mediterranean race."

To reject Africa even further, racist scientists put up a barrier against "Semitic" and "camitas". Science indicated that there is a clear distinction between the genetics of Mediterranean Europe (occidentals) and on the other side, Oriental and African. From the paleontological and genetic point of view the theory that earth’s people originate from Africa is absolutely proven: we are all together in a single race.


IX.  Italian Jews are both Jews and Italians. Like all migrant peoples (nobody migrates from free choice, but many do so from necessity) Jews have been spread across the World and have been part of diverse cultures. At the same time they have still retained their people’s identity and religion.

So as in the cases of the Armenians, or the same Italian immigrants: the same thing is happening with migrants from now: African, Filipino, Chinese, Arabs from various countries, peoples belonging to Eastern Europe or South America, and so on. All these people had the painful need to emigrate, but also the luck in the best cases, of enriching themselves by combining their culture with those who gave them hospitality. All were equally enhanced, and where possible, neither one nor the other cancelled out each other.


X.  The ideology of the racist bigot is based on fear of "disruption" of their own race. This is totally blind to the fact that many societies recognize that getting married outside their community, even with their own enemies, is fine because they know that partnerships are more valuable than barriers. In addition, human physical characteristics are altered a great deal by the particular living conditions, just as the psychological characteristics of peoples and individuals are not written in their genes.

Cultural mixing is the foundation and basis of hope for progress stemming from the European Union constitution. A racist Italy fragmented into "ethnic" separation, as has happened in the former Yugoslavia, would be devastating now and in the future.

The consequences of racism are the loss of culture and self-expression, homicide and suicide, fragmentation and implosion. These end results are uncontrollable because they are caused by an indiscriminate revulsion towards those who are considered the "other" and not "us".



Enrico Allevi, Professor of Ethics, Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Rome
Guido Barbujani, Professor of Genetics of Populations, University Ferrara
Marcello Buiatti, Professor of Genetics, University of Florence
Lauradalle Ragione, Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist, Perugia
Elena Gagliasso, Professor of Philosophy and Science of Living, University La Sapienza, Rome
Massimo Livi Bacci, Professor of Demography, University of Florence
Alberto Piazza, Professor of Human Genetics, University of Torino
Augustine Pirella, Psychiatrist, Co-founder of Democratic Psychiatry, Torino
Francesco Remotti, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, University of Torino
Philip Temple, Professor of Physiology, University of Torino
Flavia Zucco, Director of Research, Association President of Women in Science, Institute of Molecular Medicine, CNR, Rome


Original version of the Manifesto in Italian.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

My book signing/sales location on St Jordi's Day (April 23)

I'm happy to say I'll be doing a signing and sales session of Slow Travels in Unsung Spain with Barcelona's Come In bookshop's stand on the international day of books and Catalonia's St Jordi's Day, Saturday, April 23.

Time: 5pm-6pm

Place: Paseig de Gracia between C/-Provença and C/- Mallorca

Maybe I'll see you there!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

"Overheard" -- My latest column for Catalonia Today magazine


(Pic: J. Losada)

Barcelona is a city where plenty takes place outside the home or workplace in full view of the public. 

The other day, on the edge of a hospital car park, I witnessed the awful sight of a naked young man, screaming and kicking as he was strapped onto a gurney stretcher by police and ambulance crew.

They are far less alarming but here are just a few of the conversations in various parts of Barcelona that you could have heard if you’d been with me at other times…

“And well,” the Frenchman said, “in our century how can you win? You and me, we are living in a country, it is called the Spain and about Spanish people there is one enormous problem. My ex-wife is Spanish. I understand this problem very, very well.”

His nose wrinkled in his conquered face as he went on.

“For they, the Spaniards, everything only is black or white. All things must be located on the extreme. Their opinions, their politics, their relations; nothing can exist in a middle. When I speak Spanish, I am like them and I use their extreme words all the days: nuncasiempretodoninguna: never, always, all, no one. I’m sure you know when they want to say ‘everybody’ they say ’todo el mundo’, meaning, all the world. When all the people of the town come together in the square, that is all the world!”

He shook with laughter.

“Yeah, that’s a strange one I agree, though I tend to speak better ’pain-ish’ than Spanish,” the Englishwoman said.

“But with the French, how different we are,” the Frenchman countered.

He straightened his posture and an index finger pricked the air.

“Yes, this is the truth: we are so happy with the ambiguous, we are in the deep love with the grey areas. We enjoy many exceptions because we are exceptional.” He chuckled again. “Nobody can fix us to a position because we change it in an instant. We evade you all.”

Overheard in a cafe on Avinguda Diagonal, the North American group leader, in clandestine conversation:

“You said we were gonna do this thing. Why you wanna back out now? We came here together and we gotta be strong. This is no time to be chicken shits.”

An English businesswoman talking to another woman standing smoking on Carrer Enric Granados (again, overheard:)

“I went to that plumbing company office again and had another big fight with the staff. I was told to wait but after 10 minutes they hadn’t given me the libro de reclamaciones [complaints book], as I requested. I told them I was in a hurry but they argued with me instead. I asked to see the manager, they wouldn’t do that either. I asked for the name of the manager, they wouldn’t tell me. I said that I would give them five more minutes only.” She looked across the traffic.

“They started to threaten me with getting the Mossos [Catalan police] to come. I said fine with me – they were breaking the law, not me. A staff member accused me of ‘falta de respeto’ [a lack of respect] because I didn’t use enough polite language with them. They threatened to call the Mossos again. I smiled at her and she took a photocopy of my factura [utility bill]. I decided to get out of there. My lawyer’s going to hear about this.”

Free entertainment is everywhere in the city if we just prick our ears often enough. For some time, maybe free entertainment is all that many of us are going to be able to afford.

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, April 2022.]

Sunday, April 10, 2022

"Let's Cook:" A recommendation


Here's a rare thing: me endorsing something. And I only do it when I believe something is really worth supporting.

Let's Cook do a damn good job at making your lunch or dinner easier without sacrificing any quality.

[Disclaimer:] The food I selected from their wide menu and was sent as a trial I did not pay for. I agreed to review their service only if it it satisfied me and my wife.

And it did!

We both chose the organic tofu burger "kit" with guacamole and the freshness of the ingredients was excellent. The size of the portions was more than generous and the delivery was also convenient. They have weekly menus which change, reflecting seasonal produce.

So, for you my readers there is a special offer: Sign up with a 10€ discount. LETSCOOK1265 . I'm confident you'll enjoy Let's Cook as much as I did.