Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Otway Barcelona Trip

 When the newsletter email arrived listing gigs including the Silver Anniversary in Barcelona, I didn’t do the usual ”I’ve always wanted to . . . “.  I booked the flights.

So here I am having the first surreal moment in the first airport.

At Stansted the gate queue was massive and boarding slightly delayed. I went to the Ladies. When I came out the queue (a proper big planeful )had disappeared, and with it Gate 45! I was in a parallel universe which I will call the Other Side of the Toilets, and in which they only used even numbers. I escaped and rejoined my fellow passengers who seemed unaware of the dangers.

I had the same experience a decade ago when I parked on the M6 south, went to the cafe etc in the middle of the bridge, ended up crying in the car park of M6 north contemplating Work’s lost van and thousands of pounds worth of lost steelpans. Then remembered the southern parallel universe and recrossed the bridge.

Barcelona was wet.

I left the map readers to it.

I bumped into The Band at Barca Airport, and we passed a reasonably miserable 2 hours waiting for our baggage to find their own way to the conveyor belt. They helped me find my way to the Aerobus and then to the Mont Blanc Hotel.

I eventually recognised Richard who was quite shorn from when Swanyway supported him, and thankfully he had no memory of our lamentable set in which Dave got stage fright at the Duchess. Well we all got that but he was the pianist comic turn with his quirky take on bits of classical music etc. Or, on this occasion, not!

Catalunya Square at night

I was so irritated by the baggage wait and exhausted from a day’s traveling that I forwent the Brewery Trip and passed the evening with Moses practising my Spanish for Can I have another beer please.

Next day, Saturday, I was ready!

Three tour guide guide-off

Kiki met us at the hotel and was our guide for the morning. Called at Roy’s vegan real ale bar.

Decided against a lunchtime beer! Did lots of history and culture. Ace. Disgusted once again though about treatment of Jews whose cemetery was raided to build the church. This known by discovery with pieces of rock in the fabric of the building with Hebrew writing on them.

I was  blown away by ancient city discovered under would be site for a market.

What beach! I see the ships on the horizon
We ate at a cafe on the prom. There were three of us vegetarian/vegans. I spent a while contemplating piles of mussels and apologising to them.

Next Otway did his promised dip in the sea.  Me, Amy and a couple of others paddled. Sarah dived in! Splash!

Back to the hotel, quick turnaround and back out to eat at Catbar. Mushroom burger. Mmmmm. Then a pub crawl till we get to the venue. In the second bar they decide to call the responses to The House of the Rising Sun in Spanish.


Everyone  was delighted to find that this threw the man with two hits, who seemed to lose his place in the song. The set was just perfect. The venue was just perfect.

I had already had quite a lot to drink, and nervous of collapsing, falling asleep or getting lost, I walked back to Mont Blanc with Paul and Fiona back early (well midnight) to the hotel, then we developed a second wind, sat in the hotel bar and demolished a bottle of red [have to say I probably had most of it. Soz].

I left the map readers to it

Sunday and it’s Montserrat. Me, Paul, Fiona and Sarah leave the hotel and astonishingly are on board the 10.36 train from Place de Espagna to Montserrat, then on the funnicular up to the spectacular rock formation that is home to a monastery. All very spiritual and uplifting, but let down by a naff cafe.

Bizarrely the third language on all the signs are in Russian.

Did the art gallery/museum, snapped my shadow in this stunning sunshine, checked out the church.

Worrying about not getting a place of the cacle car, I went on ahead, managing to read maps and buy tickets on my own! Don't think the others were sure I would manage! I was starving but resigned to not eating till Barca.

First I took the cable car hoping that swaying off the side of a cliff might help cure by motorway panic attacks. We didn’t sway anywhere. It had been way more exciting on the funicular

Reader, imagine my delight to discover the cafe just off the platform is a home-made sign, showing all the signs of home made food! I partake. Never has a crusty cheese sandwich tasted so good. And strangely, a hand-written sign advertising some bread, also in Russian. 

(According to Kiki, lots of Russian oligarchs are buying up Catalonia/Catalunya; I did think maybe some Russian Orthodoxy knocking about. Who knows? Answers to this blog please.)

Chez Mont Blanc I felt the need for a lie down and to watch a nature film about Dutch wetlands, thought it would either help my Spanish or help me sleep. Zzzzzz

Venturing down at 7.20 I found the Marie Celeste, decided I must have missed that particular boat (nice pun n’est ce pas?) and so ventured down to Catbar for the spinach burger. Here I found the rest of the group and we swept along these atmospheric streets for a tapas, then shots and then back to Catbar for more drinks.

Now Donna tells me that I look exactly like the lady who leads the Silver Sparrows. Much merriment as we realise that 1. I am and 2. that there are a few of us who have northern and even Leeds connections.

Monday I arrange to meet Paul and Fiona at breakfast to “do” the Segrada Famila, miss them by two minutes, decide to join them later, and later, and later, get talking to John, Stewart and others. Oh well, I’ll just look at it from outside.

 I manage the metro all by myself, even get to enjoy the puzzles as they unfold. On the L1 line I pay the busking clarinetist, more as an apology for not paying the singer from the day before

Segrada Familia - I see some of its spires with attendant cranes, poking over the roofs well before I see the whole. A fine piece of anticipation. At first it seems just awesome, then it looks like a house made of sugar, then I just can’t decide. Yes it is overwhelming and yes it is messy. I am sure there is a debate. Sure beats the brutal neutral crass straight lines of today’s UK PFI public buildings, all built for someone else to live and work in.

Next it’s over to Catbar for that spinach burger and a last chat with Roy about how we can make the world vegan. Meet John and Catherine at Mont Blanc, aerobus back to airport, meet a second parallel universe in which the lift back from the Toilets Floor has melted away until I find it lurking in an alcove with the gents. Whereas the ladies toilets were, as ever in the same alcove as the disabled toilet and baby change. And when is that message ever gonna change!

Ah well, time to hide behind pillars and then get on the plane.

And it's goodbye from me, John and Catherine, landing safely at Liverpool.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Carlisle Trip

The proximity of station and hotel

view from station

I had three days between Carnival and the beginning of term. A familiar theme. I chosen Carlisle so I could go on the Settle to Carlisle railway and go over the Ribblehead Viaduct, but failed to spot the Northern Railway workers strike on the chosen day of my return! 

I wasn't expecting to have a view of said viaduct, However spotting a fellow-traveller, a sputnik, with a camera, I pestered him and the guard, maybe irritated the other passengers, and managed this shot of it. Ace!

Ribblehead Viaduct from the train


The Hallmark Hotel was ten paces from the station entrance, and my hotel window looked out onto the station bar. The bar was mostly unopen but it was a nice concept.

The plan was to write, catch up blogs and the like. I made the first of many cups of tea and started to write. 

After a while I went for a walk, deciding to find the Waterfront, crossing the river, but there was no waterfront only deserted streets, a gym, and a long hose across the road, leaking spurting water. It was a bit spooky, I hurried back and ordered the mushroom pasta with asparagus sauce, and delicious.

Unfortunately I also  "treated " myself to a white wine, but it laid me low, and I passed out for an hour until I felt awake enough to write some more. Each blog was a labour of love, as I recalled Foxwood exploits from Unity to Pride to Manchester and Leeds Carnivals and Northern Ballet summer school. 

eat this all in go!

Next day I found the wonderful Script and ate a the perfect but overlarge breakfast., while listening to the classical busker.

Exhausted by the the portion size I staggered round town, then returned to the hotel for more writing and picture cropping. As I was on holiday, decided against too much art architecture and history as any form of entertainment, and found an ice cream parlour.
classical busker. Ace

mirror at top lof lift

I also found some industrial outside lifts which took you [me] from street to rampart and from rampart to street. With a mirror in the ceiling. As you can see.

Next day back to the Script for a half size breakfast, then over to the station and the train home sadly via Manchester Piccadilly, scene of my previous infamy.