A Pirate Party

Now I’m not one for fancy dress. At all. Ever.


Yet there I was in full pirate regalia, at a sixtieth birthday party. It was a family affair, so it was more of a chatty do that a rave up. When the party expired we decided to go into downtown Taunton.


We got their eventually, after two unsuccessful attempts to get through the park to the High Street due to closed, locked, bolted and chained gates. With pointed spiked tops to prevent clambering over, we managed to find a way out without having to go all the way around.


We headed to the Bierkeller, where we could hear the venue before really seeing it. The bouncers just waved us in. No asking for ID, not a single batting of an eyelid at full pirate outfits, no weapon check at the door, anything. In fact, watching the bouncers in action was a joy to behold. They did their job efficiently. A couple of ejections went without punches being thrown or heavy handiness. They interacted with the heaving crowds with a smile, and even taking time out to dance, and displaying a general friendly demeanour.


Now, this is something the SS storm troopers that are employed in some of Crawley’s drinking establishments (Octopus and The Punch Bowl, I’m looking at you), could do with taking lessons on. When someone is obviously in their forties, there is absolutely, positively, no fucking need to be asking them for ID. No need to be punching people. You are allowed to smile occasionally.


Anyway, back to the Bierkeller. A good mix of danceable, and sing along music from all eras. The place was set out in the style of a German Bierkeller, with long tables down the room, with benches either side. Not that the benches are used much for sitting down. They actively encourage you to dance on the benches. Much in the style of Walkabout in Manchester back in the early noughties.


It was a really good atmosphere. The kind of place that had people of all ages in there dancing and drinking together. The kind of place where no one cares or notices that you are dressed up as a pirate. The kind of place that Crawley could do with, but will never get. Mainly due to the fact that the police and the council wouldn’t allow a license for somewhere like that. Plus Crawley bouncers wouldn’t know how to be friendly if their lives depended on it.


Therefore for good nights out, with or without full pirate regalia, we have to rely on doing it in any other locale apart from Crawley. And it was a good night out, thoroughly entertaining and fun. Roll on June and more days out of Crawley.

Fizzling Out

It’s that time of the year for the wheels to completely fall off Spurs’ season. An FA Cup semi-final looms against Manchester United. Despite the fact that the game is going to be played at Wembley – our temporary home stadium for the season will mean nothing. We have lost the same amount of games at Wembley this season as we have in the rest of our away games.


United may not have been playing spectacular football this season, but they have been grinding out results nonetheless. In a one off game, Mourinho is more than capable of putting a game plan together to win. I fully expect this to be the case this weekend, and the last chance for us to win a trophy this season will vanish into the ether. We will look to stretch our record of successive FA Cup semi-final defeats from seven to eight.


An insipid performance at Brighton in midweek points the way for how the season will finish, there are four games left, Watford, West Brom, Newcastle and Leicester, three of them at Wembley. Four more draws beckon as the season limps to the end. It will give us enough points to finish above Arsenal for the second consecutive season, but it won’t be enough to prevent Chelsea finishing fourth and taking that final Champions League spot.


To top the season’s disappointing finish off, Arsenal, spurred on (pun intended) by wanting to give their long term outstanding manager Arsene Wenger a fitting send-off, will win the Europa League, and therefore claim their place in next season’s Champions League as well.


Even with all that, a fifth placed finish, semi-final of the FA Cup, and getting through the group stage of the Champions League was a lot better than I expected at the start of the season. I thought that playing every game as an away game, and playing so many teams at Wembley, giving them a big boost in motivation would see us struggle more than normal.


At the start of the season I predicted we would finish seventh (I expected Everton to do a lot better after their summer spending spree), get knocked out in the first round of both domestic cups (at least we obliged in the Carabao cup), and not make it through the group stage of the Champions League – even before we drew Real Madrid and Dortmund.


We will struggle to keep all of the squad we have together, and another hard season follows, as although we will have a home stadium, it will be brand new and take some getting used to. It will still be shit to get to, only it will be worse than usual as instead of 36k people trying to get there, it will be 62k. On the same poor transport links, at the same time. Late arrivals will be the norm and the atmosphere will suffer. As will Spurs unfortunately.


I hope I’m wrong though.

Sweary Rant Number 2 – Southern Trains’ Barriers.



You fucking useless Southern Trains muppets. Seriously, how difficult can it be to fix your shit so that it all works properly? Especially with how much you charge to get a travelcard that includes an early morning train.


At first there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong. For a start your ticket machine was actually working for the first time in six weeks, and it took less than three hours to actually print the tickets out. Your barrier was open, so I could walk through fine. I got into Waterloo station and the ticket worked perfectly well on the South Western Trains’ barrier. The ticket worked perfectly well in four different underground barriers. It even worked on the Thamestink barrier at St. Pancras.


Yet, back in Crawley, the station i bought the fucking ticket at, guess what I find? Yep, once again your excuse of a company’s barriers refused to accept my ticket. “Seek assistance” the barrier flashes.


Chance would be a fine thing, it’s after five o’clock and all your staff have packed up and fucked off home. So i had to do what many other people have to do on a regular basis and tailgate someone else whose ticket was working.


Just for once, I’d like to buy a ticket from a Southern Trains’ ticket office or machine and it work on one of their own barriers. It can’t be that fucking difficult you morons. Every other fuckwit train can manage it.

Automatic Pilot

When was the last time you had one of those automatic pilot episodes?


I had one today. This afternoon i left work, it wasn’t even my normal office, and got out on to Tottenham Court Road. From there things go a bit hazy. I remember wandering along, bumbling into Warren Street tube station and heading down the escalators and getting on to a train.


The next thing I know, I have travelled along on the tube, got off the train, come up escalators and appeared out blinking in to the afternoon sunshine. Nothing wrong with that you might think. However the plan was that I was going to head to Victoria and get a train direct to Crawley. Only there I was stood outside Euston station.


So, not only had I gone the wrong way, but I’d got off a stop earlier than I should have done if I was thinking of getting the train from St Pancras to Three Bridges.


I couldn’t find any traces of blood, so I will assume that I didn’t stab anyone whilst I was in my fugue state.


At least it was a nice sunny day for a walk down Euston Road.

Sweary Rant Number 1 – We Hate Tall People

Honestly, all this inclusiveness bollocks gets more annoying everyday Mainly because for everything people and companies do to make them seem more inclusive, the more they end up excluding people.


It’s very much in vogue for new offices being built, or old ones being refitted to have everything fitted at a much lower height than had previously been the case. Entrance access swipe pads and exit buttons have dropped by a couple of feet. Desks, tables and chairs are all lower down, and the worst of all, toilets in cubicles are so low, that if they got any lower they would just be a hole in the floor.


The reasoning behind this is to make all these things more accessible fro disabled people and people of limited height. What the fuckers who did this failed to take into account was tall people. Now, at just over six – one, I don’t consider myself to be that tall, especially not nowadays as the average height keeps going up. Yet it seems that most new office builds that I go to now actively discriminate against tall people.


You want to swipe yourself in to the building, then you have to bend down.

You want to let yourself out of the building, then you have to bend down.

Sit at a desk at all, here’s a winch to lower yourself down with. Don’t worry about your knees being rammed in against the bottom of the desk.

As for toilets, who in their right mind thinks it’s acceptable to have the seat at mid shin level? For fuck’s sake, the toilet seats weren’t that fucking low when i was at nursery school. I’ve seen potties higher up than that. No one needs to have to go to the toilet, only to find they can’t see the cubicle door because their head is lower than their knees.


Stop discriminating against tall people and have multiple height access, seats, desks and bogs.



Eye Eye

It had been reasonable weather during the week, so knowing that every other weekend of April had something planned, I’d booked tickets for the London Eye. We had a voucher to get two tickets for the price of one, and neither of us had been on the Eye for several years. We had collected tokens to get free tickets last year, but never got around to booking the tickets in time. We were determined not to miss it again this year.


The plan had been to get up to London early and have a wander about first. However, there were many things conspiring against that happening. First up there was the quite usual issue of the trains not being any use. Lots of rail replacements meant that only half of the normal trains into Blackfriars or London Bridge were running.


Then there was Sniffles. He’d been involved in some kind of skirmish earlier in the week, and although he’d appeared to be getting better, he was limping, not wanting to put any weight on his rear left paw. So, it was an emergency trip to the vet. There was a brief panic as he disappeared, but he was hiding on one of the patio chairs under the tarpaulin out the back. I managed to coax him into the cat carrier, and despite him seeming keen, I was told not to give him the loop-the-loop ride in it. Of course, when he got out of the carrier at the vets he was walking normally. Little sod.


We got the Victoria train, so we could change at Clapham Junction and head into Waterloo, and the five-minute walk from there to the Eye. It was the only way we would make our time window. Not that it seemed to matter when we got there. There were more people checking tickets than at one of Brick-Top’s fights. And not one of them cared what time the tickets were for as we snaked our way through the queue and barriers. Including the section that turned out to be unnecessary queuing.


The last time I went on it, it had been the EDF Energy London Eye, now it was Coca-Cola, and that meant lots of sub-standard drink choices every couple of yards along the queue. Plus, their tie-ups with Cadbury’s, Pringles, and Walls. All of which we ignored. We also ignored the bit where you stop in front of a green screen to get your photo taken. No point in stopping when you know full well there isn’t a hope in hell of buying the overpriced piece of crap when we got off the Eye. But, you have to feel sorry for the pressure it puts on beleaguered parents.


There has been a hell of a lot of building work gone on in the five or so years since I last went on the Eye. A whole host of new tower blocks and distinctive looking buildings can be seen all over the city. There are so many new tall buildings up in the actual square mile of the City, that you can’t see the Gherkin from the Eye anymore. Because of all the new buildings that surround the Shell building, we are more than halfway up the circle before we can see the tip of the Shard. The Oxo tower is lost amongst new buildings, especially the new curved shiny one just behind Doggett’s Coat & Badge off Blackfriars’ Bridge.


What had promised to be a sunny day ended up being a bit overcast, but there wasn’t any rain, or low cloud, so the view was good. I couldn’t quite make out Wembley’s arch this time. Though I wonder with all the building work there has been in that area recently whether it can actually be seen from the Eye anymore.


The smoothness of the journey always impresses, the only time you really feel movement is when the wheel stops for a few seconds to let wheelchairs on or off, as the pods sway slightly as they come to a halt. The height the pods get to at the top always surprises me as well. Such are the size and scale of a lot of the buildings you look over, you never realise just how high up you are until you look down at the people. They really do look like little ants, scurrying around.


As the pod starts on its long lazy descent and focus is changed on where we look, the House of Parliament and especially the clock tower housing Big Ben looks strange covered in scaffolding. By contrast, the light colouring of Westminster Abbey behind it shows what a good job they have done in removing centuries of city grime from its walls.


The half hour journey goes by so quickly. We ignore the calls within the pod to go and stand in the designated areas for the phot opportunity, instead taking the time to look at the various boats on the river. To look at the colours that Westminster and Lambeth Bridges are painted to match the colour of the seats in the Commons and Lords. To wonder what the display in the raised area of what is now the aquarium in County Hall. And then the doors to the pod are opening and it is off we go. Exit through the gift shop.


We headed along the south bank, looking for food, but were distracted by the arena set up for the Underbelly Festival next to Hungerford Bridge. There were an array of bars and stalls there, and the variety of acts and shows look good. Something to consider for later in the year. We carried on down the river, under the bridge, and found a little Mexican street food shack opposite the well graffitied skate park under the Festival Hall.


Burritos crammed with rice, beans, chicken, salad, cheese, salsa, and guacamole (and extra hot sauce in my case) were ordered and consumed. Great taste and value for money, for what was a quite late lunch.


When we got to Waterloo bridge, it was good to see that even if the BFI café under it was closed for refurbishment, some things never change. The usual Saturday book market was going strong. Plenty of old and new books to sort through. Plus, maps, lots of old maps, genuine original Victorian, and Edwardian colour lithographs. It always had the possibility of being a time suck, but I thought I was reasonably restrained. Less than half an hour and I didn’t buy anything. (My temperature is fine thanking you very much.)


We carried on heading east, passing the brutalist buildings housing the BFI, IBM, and ITV before coming to the older setting of Gabriel’s Wharf. With there being a lack of sun, it was quiet compared to the lunacy of summer weekends. We were able to take a slow amble around the shops and check out the prices of the various eateries there for future reference. We also had a wander around the other side of the Oxo tower building where there are now new shops and additional exhibition space. Some of the future exhibitions looked interesting. So many things to do, in such a finite amount of time.


At Blackfriars we decided to head home, we needed to be back by six as we were expecting a friend, so wandering all the way along to London Bridge would have been pushing it. As it was we only got home with a quarter of an hour to spare.


We finished the day off by going for a curry. Yes, I know, such a surprise. We wandered up to the top of the road and across to the Downsman, where lots of curry and a few drinks were consumed, to the extent that rolling home was considered the best option. Thankfully it was downhill.


Sniffles was still walking normally when we got back. Let’s hope it remains the case. Especially with the price of vet’s bills.


Visions of Splat!

For the second time in under a year, I thought that I’d killed Charlie this afternoon.


The first time was when he keeled over like a punch drunk boxer on a hot day last year. I’d had him chasing balls and sticks around the park at the back of the house. He’d tried to walk and couldn’t. He had overheated and his poor little legs wouldn’t work. Having never had a pet I didn’t know that he did this occasionally. I carried him home only to get there and for him to run about the house like a loon.


Today was different. We’d been out walking Charlie around Southgate playing fields and the Hawth woods. We were walking parallel to Southgate Avenue, and Charlie had been chasing the ball all afternoon. I threw it down the path in front of us as normal. Only it didn’t quite go as planned.


The ball hit a dustbin by the side of the path, and being a circular bin it shot off at an angle. The angle happened to be straight down the slope and path that led to Southgate Avenue. Charlie didn’t care and carried on chasing it. We both shouted for Charlie to stop, and thankfully he did, just at the point where the path disappeared behind the hedge.


When we got to the path we could see the ball sat in the middle of the road. Well for a split second we could. Just before the number 10 bus ran it over and it disappeared up the road at thirty miles an hour.


I had visions of that being Charlie on the road. Thankfully it wasn’t, but it was enough to give us both palpitations.


I finished writing my second book today. When I typed the last word, it felt great. Then I made sure I saved the thing. Not once, or even twice, I must have hit that little save icon at the top of the screen half a dozen times,


Then I looked at the word count. Over 101,000 words. Over the last ten months at various intervals, whilst going to the writing group, writing other short stories and travelogues. Whilst working full time, and doing countless other things, I’ve managed to write an entire book.


In fact, it’s not just the single book, it’s the fact that there is plot and a plan for two other books to make it a trilogy. Granted it won’t be Star Wars, or Lord of The Rings, but if you had told me 18 months ago I would have two complete novels written, I would have laughed in your face.


The thing for this one is that it started out life as a Drabble – a 100-word piece of fiction. There was no plan to do anything else with it. But something about those 100 words demanded more from me, and so I started to write.


Of course, now that I have finished writing it, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of the journey. The first book I wrote tells me that. I edited that one four times, I’ve had various people read it for me and point out errors and corrections needed. That piece of work is now in the state of trying to see if I can get it published. No easy feat. That can take longer than writing the book in the first place. Though if it takes the fifteen years from first words written in an old edition of Surerandomality to completion, I’ll probably be dead before it is published.


I’m going to leave book two for a few weeks before I look to start any serious editing on it. Enjoy the fact that it’s all out of my head and onto paper – or at least hard drive – and relax and do some other shorter pieces. I’ve got some volunteers lined up to read it already, they can take the rough draft if they want it before the summer is through though.


Then it will be on to the next one to write. All while trying to get the first two published via the old-school methods of finding an agent or publisher to work with. If that doesn’t work after a couple of years, then I’ll look at self-publishing.



Not A Record Year

Most people who know me know that I’ve always been slightly obsessed with music. I can’t remember the last time I went more than a week or so without buying music in one format or another. It may not have always been new music. I’ve spent countless hours wandering around charity shops, second hand stalls jumble sales and car boot sales looking for music.


Over the years I’ve built up massive collections twice, having to start from scratch in 2001. Since the dawn of mp3s I’ve rarely gone anywhere without an mp3 player, and have ran out of space on pc’s, laptops, and external drives on more than one occasion.


I’ve always been a vinyl junkie, and since vinyl has been taking off again over the last few years, when I’ve bought new music it’s normally been on vinyl. Most new releases tend to come with download codes, so I have the physical thing of beauty that is a vinyl LP, and the portability of listening to it whilst on the move. I’ve probably bought a new release every week.


However, this year it’s not been like that. I haven’t been in a record shop all year. I’ll qualify that by saying HMV isn’t really a record shop, and I’ve been in there a couple of times to get presents for people, but I haven’t bought anything for myself. I’ve not looked at the offerings in the supermarkets. Sainsburys, Asda, and even Aldi have vinyl selections, but I’ve been walking straight past. Charity shops have been getting short shrift as well. Crawley’s vast array of charity shops must have seen a substantial downturn in earnings so far this year. Not even Amazon has seen any musical action. I haven’t listened to a single thirty second track preview.


It got all the way through to week twelve of the year before I bought any music for myself. Even then it was only the ubiquitous Now That’s What I Call Music release. Number 99 in what is now a never-ending sequence. I have them all, either on Vinyl through to the early twenties, or then on CD from the twenties on. It’s more out of habit now than anything else. I may have bought it, but I’ve only listened to the first four or so tracks.


I still have a backlog of tracks to listen to from albums I bought at the back end of last year. I just don’t seem to have the time or inclination to listen to a lot of music. I rarely travel that much nowadays, the hours of having the iPod plugged in to block out the general public as I walked, bussed, or got the train anywhere has shrunk down to probably an hour or so a week.


The decks sit on top of the unit next to the sofa I sit on in the living room. Yet it barely gets used. Thousands of records adorn the units on the opposite wall, yet the sense of apathy around playing any of them seems to grow by the day. So much so that I’ve committed to having a thorough sort out and selling a number of them. Something else that I’m struggling to getting around to.


Part of me wonders if I’ve hit that stage where music is over for me. A constant companion over the years, especially as I had no television for several them, it has now drifted away into a casual background acquaintance that I barely seem to recognise. Or is it that this writing I now find myself doing has taken over? Do I avoid playing music and using my senses to accept incoming stimuli so that I can concentrate on outputting streams of consciousness instead? Or is it somewhere in between the two?


I hope it is not the end of my musical fascination, it would be a terrible way for it to end. Yet it is not something I can force, I think I’ll just have to wait it out and see if it does come back to me, hoping that the apathy will depart.


Perhaps once I’ve sold some of these records and CD’s that I’m sorting out, and had that kind of cathartic clear out, it will clear my mind out and it will all come back to me.


Listening to Now 99 too much isn’t necessarily going to help.




Mercury Calling – 3 days in Barcelona

There really isn’t any need for two 4.15’s in a day, yet here we were, both awake before the alarm went off. We could hear the rain hammering down outside through the slightly open window. It didn’t sound nice out there.


The taxi was a couple of minutes early, and we were actually ready when it arrived. The drive through the dark and the rain was made more interesting by the amount of standing water everywhere; it was amazing how much water had fallen since midnight.


BA had texted us to say they were offering free bag check for cabin bags, as they were expecting a very crowded cabin, so we dropped off the larger hand luggage we had. It was at this point that Helen got to know the destination for her birthday break – Barcelona.


We wound our way through the airport, following the yellow brick road through duty free, the only way through to airside now, forcing people to go past all the booze and smellies, as if it was an airport version of Ikea.


It was Nando’s for breakfast; Maccy D’s having now been banished from the south terminal at Gatwick as well, replaced by a Starbucks in the latest refurbishment. Woe betide anyone who wants to get a cheap breakfast or any form of food nowadays. The plus side of Nando’s for breakfast was that there was halloumi.


And then it’s off to the gate and straight on board the plane after picking up half a forest’s worth of free publications available at regular intervals on the walk to the gate. Everyone else was on board the plane in plenty of time and we pushed off from the gate early, it was time to escape from the rain.


Five minutes was all it took for the plane to break through the cloud cover and have us bathed in glorious sunlight. Bright enough sunlight to make it difficult to read. We landed more than half an hour before we were scheduled to, but lost some of that time due to a new and novel approach to unloading a plane. They unloaded the baggage from the hold before they bothered to get any steps up to let us off.


Pre-booking Barcelona transit tickets was a great idea, less than two minutes on the machine in the metro station at the airport and we had our three day passes and were ready to go. Perhaps Southern Trains should look at getting some of these machines for their stations. Even in Spanish, a language I can’t speak, it was still easier to use than the newly installed ones at Crawley and Three Bridges stations.


Their metro system rattles along at a great pace. We had to change lines a couple of times, but everything is well signposted and as we found elsewhere later on, everything is posted in three languages – Catalan, Spanish and English. Quite useful for heathens like myself, who have only just about managed to master a single language – English.


Despite being at the hotel before midday, we were able to check in and dump all unnecessary items in the room and head out for some lunch. We went for that well known Spanish staple – Burger King – before carrying on walking up to La Sagrida Familia. A sight that can be seen from most of the north part of the city. We passed a building on the way up to it that is almost an identical shape to the Gherkin (30 St Mary’s Axe for those who like to be precise), only the textures and colours on the building were better.


Once at the frankly staggering edifice that is La Sagrida Familia, we found that tickets were only on sale online. Thank fuck for smart phones and roaming data packages. Ten minutes later we were going through security, stuffing up their entrance machine due to the poor use of QR codes.


Once inside the gates, well, words really aren’t adequate to describe the magnificence of the basilica. The amazing detailing on the outside of the building, which is still taking shape over one hundred and thirty five years after work started on it, is completely outdone by the scale and colour inside. The towering supports really do look like a forest of trees reaching up to the sky to hold the heavens up. The vivid colours of the stained glass windows let the most amazing shades of light into the astounding space of the building.


The design of the Windows were done before Antonio Gaudi died nearly a century ago, and seeing the banded shades of glass across the spectrum of the rainbow, you can’t help but feel it is a lighter, less foreboding space, but remarkably similar to the effect in Paddy’s Wigwam (The Liverpool Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral to those who are of a sensitive nature). So much so it may be thought that the Wigwam has copied La Sagrida Familia. Only to find that the stained glass in La Sagrida Familia has only been installed in the last twenty years, long after Paddy’s Wigwam was complete.


Even as an incomplete building site, La Sagrida Familia is quite honestly the most flabbergasting building I have ever visited.


From there it was a quick metro ride down to the old town, starting at Placa de Catalunya, where a stage was set up for a rally for International Women’s day. Most had dispersed by now and the sound system was playing Portishead’s “Sour Times” on a loop. We walked through the narrow streets past the remains of the Roman aqueduct and to the Gothic Cathedral, which though impressive in its own right, paled into insignificance to what we had already seen. We carried on walking through streets that were only wide enough for bicycles and scooters, which we found were more than happy to speed along them with no regard for pedestrians, until we found ourselves at the harbour before realising where we were.


With heavy legs we headed back to the hotel for a brief rest, a freshen up and a change of clothes before heading out for dinner. Another city, and yet as always we opted for the local speciality – curry. Only a couple of blocks away from the hotel, it was a fairly small restaurant and there weren’t a lot of spare seats. Choosing the ones next to the door wouldn’t normally be the option we went for, but compared to being next to a table with two food throwing small children, it was the only one that made sense.


The food was great, much better than the Bruges curry catastrophe of half cooked chicken, but once food had been consumed, and being out of the centre on a weeknight, there weren’t really any open local bars, so it was back to the hotel and a reasonably early night. After all we had been up since four.


On day two we woke early, but feeling refreshed, and we had had breakfast and were out on the mean streets of Barcelona early. We found a bus stop and in a rare turn, one turned up a minute later. Travelling through the city on a bus is so much better than using the metro, as you get to see so much more of the city. We were heading across to Paral-lel to get the funicular railway half way up the mountain of Montjuic, to the cable car station to wind us up to the castle at the top.


However we found a sign there to say that there was no service as they were on strike, so it was another bus to wind up the hill, past the palace built for the Barcelona Exhibition in 1889, and the Olympic Stadium built for the 1992 Olympics. Whilst on the bus we could see the cable cars were moving and had people on them. Turns out the sign related to the previous day, and no one had bothered to take it down.


Once at the top of the mountain, we found the castle, which had a little sign outside and a bridge across a wide moat. The sign said it had been built as a small fort. As a group of school children were rampaging across the bridge to get into the castle, we decided to go for a walk around the small fort first.


Jeez, I’d hate to see a big fort. The whole thing was huge; the walls around it must have enclosed a space nearly the same size as the walls of Carcassonne, which we had visited the year before.


We paid extra for a guided tour of the castle, which was money well spent as we were the only two on the tour so got lots of information as we went around the castle, hearing of its history from the eleventh century up to the twentieth century and its part in the Spanish Civil War and what a symbol of Catalonia it was. The hour and a half flew by and we got to two parts of the castle that normal entrance doesn’t allow. The first being a cistern built in the seventeenth century originally , but updated and still used today to supply water to parts of the city, the second being up onto the roof of the tower of the castle with amazing views all over the city and the port, the sea and away to the mountains that surround Barcelona.


We got the cable cars down the mountain, always a nervy method of transport for me as someone with a fear of heights, before going back on the funicular down to sea level and a spot of lunch in one of the many street side cafes. Nice baguettes sat outside in the sun, getting ready for an afternoon of more sightseeing.


Another afternoon in Barcelona, another Gaudi masterpiece to look around, this time Casa Mila, or as it is better known locally La Pedrera (The Quarry – because of its outer appearance). Another place where it’s good to have a smart phone to book online tickets. It would cost an extra three Euros each to walk in off the street and buy tickets at their ticket office. No need for that at all.


Entering into the heart of the building you find yourself in an amazing open air atrium and as you explore the rest of the building you find that it is one of two such atriums, which means there isn’t a room on any floor that doesn’t get the opportunity for natural light.


From the atrium it was up to the roof, and another great undulating space, with views over the late nineteenth / early twentieth century expansion of the city. There are a number of what at first glance appear to be unnecessary adornments of decorated towers all over the roof, but they all serve a purpose. From being stairwells, to lift towers, chimneys, ventilation stacks, water towers, they are all hidden there as art.


Beneath the roof the brick arched attic space forms what is now an exhibition space, but was originally a communal area, an open plan space across the whole of the building; though at one point in the late twentieth century it was split into thirteen apartments. The whole building has no load bearing walls. It is all built using columns and beams, so that any floor space could be changed by the occupants to suit their needs.


The sixth floor, just under the attic has been laid out in the style of a 1920’s single apartment across the whole floor. It has an eclectic mix of furnishing and decoration that would have been in vogue at the time. The space and light is fantastic. The whole building is a work of genius. I’m just in awe of how Gaudi used nature and took it to build spaces that were decades before their time, working out problems that most could only tackle with the advent of computers.


It’s a long standing saying that anything overly decorated, showy for the sake of it, is called Gaudi. Yes, there is a lot of decoration, but I think that if I call anything Gaudi in the future it will be because I think that it is an utter work of genius.


A few hours flew by again, so there was only a quick drink before another fascinating bus journey through the city. Most of this one was accompanied by the soundtrack of two very enthusiastic geeks talking about the “fucking awesome” things that could be done when programming with Ruby.


The plan was to get changed and head back out to the Gracia district, to hunt down tapas and music, however stopping to change after over ten hours of intense sightseeing (and not seeing sights within tents) made it difficult to get started again. Trying to find a tapas bar in Gracia whilst online was proving tricky and we hadn’t even started getting ready yet. When it had got to the time where the bus service to Gracia was going to be coming to an end and we hadn’t found food, it was time to change track, so we knocked that search on the head and looked local to the hotel again.


We found a place that was exactly a block away called Can Resadata and got what pretty much looked like the last two seats in the house. Plates of salad, cheese fondue, more cheese, meats, and baskets of bread all followed with a rich depth of flavours and strengths. We had just about managed to plough through it all when the deserts turned up, followed by espressos. With the bottle of wine and ice cold mineral water that were included, the whole thing was great value at only fifty Euros for the lot.


We were quite glad it was only a hundred yards back to the hotel, where the bar didn’t offer such great value for money. We had to fight our way out to the street to get out as well, as even at eleven at night the queue to get into the restaurant was just mental.


It was a bit of a later start the following morning, breakfast and packing took a bit longer, and there was a queue to check out, and then the room to store the bags for the day to find. We took a stroll into the centre of Barcelona making our way down to the wide open space of the Parc de la Citutadella. The huge fountain in the north east corner of the park was free of water, but it must be a sight to behold when in full flow. Also under repair was the castle of dragons, fenced off and dark inside. From there we could see the Arc de Triomf; in brick it looked impressive, even if it wasn’t as large and grand as its namesake in Paris. On the walk up to the Arc all along one side of the avenue were the imposing law courts, barricaded off to the hoi polloi. We were carrying on walking around the Parc de la Citutadella, and had got alongside the Hivernade, when off to one side we spied another impressive looking building, and so we detoured in that direction.


Turns out it was the El Born Centre de Cultura I Memoria. A large nineteenth century market that has been turned in to a centre for culture and history. Streets and houses from the seventeenth century have been excavated underneath the space and are now on display at a lower level to the old market floor. After some time reading about the history of the city and especially the area around the citadel, we were back out onto the streets, and wandering around more of the old narrow streets of the old city in la Ribera.


By accident we ended up popping out into the cathedral square. It was lunch time by now, so we found another tapas restaurant – Neyvas – where we managed to cram a little bit more food in and top up the tapas levels before heading to the last big venue of our visit.


The Palau de la Musica Catalana. Another modernism masterpiece, which in this case wasn’t built by Gaudi, but by Lluis Domenech i Montaner. We got tickets for the next available tour and had forty minutes to spare beforehand, so wandered the almost alleyways around the Sant Pere area near to the Palau to pass the time.


When we got back the queue for the tour was just building up. There is so much detail in the artful build of a very much working building. It holds over five hundred concerts per year, with a seating capacity of over two thousand (2,146 was the figure the somewhat confused tour guide finally managed to settle on.) At other times it is a rehearsal space for numerous choirs and other groups, and there was such a group in full voice whilst we were on the tour around the upper galleries.


The hour flew by and it got to the sad part of any trip, the part where you head back to the hotel to pick up the bags ready to head back to the airport. A final walk through the streets of Barcelona followed as we made our way up to the Glories interchange, past the Barcelona gherkin, which is called Torre Agbar. It turns out that the locals are quite proud of it if the number of different postcards it appears on at the numerous vendors through the city is anything to go by.


The metro was full and warm as it went through the stations across the city, right up to where we needed to change for another line to the airport, at which point the crowds dissipated and the journey became chilled. We had just enough time in the airport to pick up some vittles’ for the flight, and some gifts for fellow workers before making it to the gate for almost immediate boarding, an on time flight, and a shorter journey time.


Then it was back to blighty and for me the joy of cooler weather.


Definitely three days well spent.


Well, right up to the point where I left our shopping from Barcelona airport on the plane.