Monday 30 December 2013

on the feast of stephen

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I'm so out of the habit of doing outfit posts that I felt positively shy posing for these, although it was Boxing Day and windy and cold and the bars were closed and the streets deserted. The perfect day for donning this dress, which I love but which really can only be worn in the dead of winter, and the Hudson Bay Company toque my mom gave me (and each of my sisters too, making family outings potentially embarrassing). Apart from its extreme wintery-ness, the other thing that has kept me from wearing this dress more since I got it over two years ago is that it's longer than the average coat, which tends to look a bit weird on the street. However, my snuggly cashmere coat has happily solved this problem, allowing me to go out feeling like I'm still wearing my pyjama and housecoat combination that I live in in the flat.

This year Boxing Day wasn't the usual snoozefest, but was a proper Feast of Saint Stephen kind of affair. After two days of gorging with Víctor's family, my sister and her visiting friend came over and we spent five hours cooking, eating and drinking red wine. Followed by a good bout of reading and snoozing in front of the space heater, and drinking water in a desperate attempt to avoid the dehydrated skullface look that tends to come down on me post-festive-season.

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Dress and coat by Family Affairs (I think I might be developing a problem with this brand)
Photos by Víctor

Friday 27 December 2013

shitty christmas

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That would be shitty in the Catalan sense of course. I've gone on at length in past years about the Catalan "Caga Tió" tradition of feeding a log, and then hitting it so it shits presents, but this year Víctor and I organized a Caga Tió party to initiate our foreign friends (and some gate-crashing Catalans) into the tradition.

Otherwise, it's been a home-made sort of Christmas, which suits me perfectly. I bought a little Christmas tree at the cathedral market and staggered home with it, and we made paper ornaments, and also a paper Happy New Year sign for the front hall. My sister and I had TWO all-day baking Sundays to stock my freezer with a dizzying amount of traditional family goodies (sugar cookies, rum logs, truffles, magic squares, shortbread, gingerbread, birdsnests)and Víctor drew a delightful Christmas window for us.

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Anyway, I have been failing on blogging lately, which hasn't been due to lack of interest, but lack of internet (we made an executive decision that we get more done and have more fun without its evil influence at home) but I REALLY intend to be back before the new year with a Year in Review, and perhaps even and outfit (I KNOW!)

Happy Post-binge detox day, meanwhile!

Friday 13 December 2013


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Reading my blog, you'd think we were in permanent summer in Barcelona... and we were for ages and ages, but the winter finally arrived with the snappiest of cold snaps (my sister could see her breath in her room, and I started sleeping with TWO hot water bottles). Still, during the day it meant glorious sunshine and cold breezes, the perfect weather for enormous scarves and autumn colours.

I went with a group of friends on a day trip to see bridges and lakes (one of those trips that starts out as a few people in a car and morphs before long into three cars). The bridges were probably the best, but for now you get me all bundled up, and sunset over Lake Banyoles.

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Wednesday 4 December 2013

family intervention

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One of the few things I had left to complain about in my life was the fact that I never see my family as much as I'd like to, living on different continents and all... and then one day, it was decided that my sister Morna would come and live in Barcelona too. She spent 3 weeks on the pull-out couch in my spare room and is now all set up with a job, a flat, and a burgeoning new life... and I have family where I live! My dad is even coming for a visit this week so I feel completely spoiled. In the meantime my sister and I have been going for sunny walks, hot chocolates once the weather turned cold, and enjoying the chance to talk properly, without the looming deadline of leaving that has been a constant in our lives for years!

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(Hallowe'en - least imaginative put possibly most gratifying costume idea ever, and also fun to beat all that Movember silliness to the punch).

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...later we came across some facepaint and morphed into pirates...

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Thank you all for the support on last week's post by the way. It's infuriating to know how many of you have had similar experiences, but good to know I'm not alone in my frustrations.

Friday 29 November 2013

toil and trouble

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Photo by Louis Cesteleyn (this photo has nothing to do with the text, but anyway)

It´s a truth universally acknowledged that as soon as one part of your life starts to go right, something else will come to bite you, to paraphrase Bridget Jones misquoting Jane Austen. I´ve been amazingly happy lately: perfect new place, perfect home life, my sister moved to Barcelona so I even have family nearby… so obviously I was due a backhanded slap from life. This has come, in all its banality, from work.
The last couple of years I´ve been working as an editor/proofreader/translator/general English speaking person at a publishing company. Since my job was basically “anything and everything in English” from translating contracts to writing 20 page introductions to books on bamboo, I´ve had a chance to do a huge number of things and learn so, so much, all while working flexible hours, with the option of working from home (or from Canada). I guess it was never going to last. Anyway, the publishing industry is in crisis, we´ve got a backlog of books, and me and three other people have been given ambiguous “at some point” marching orders. I´m still employed, but probably not for long.
Luckily, since everything else in my life is going so well, I´m taking it with as much equanimity as can be expected from someone living in a country with 27% unemployment.
But I´m mad as hell, and not with my boss or my company, but with the world of work as I´ve known it.
It took me 8 months of searching, interviews cancelled due to financial crisis reasons, and discarding jobs that required me to work 12 hour days while speaking 5 languages for minimum wage, and being as poor as a church mouse to get this job. I was just in a position where I could start saving.
When I read the newspaper, I hear that my generation suffers from feelings of entitlement, and from “special snowflake syndrome” and that we refuse to work our way up because we feel everything should be handed to us on a plate. My actual experience of working has been that I am chronically either a)underpaid, b)undervalued or c)not accepted for jobs for which I am overqualified on account of not having done the exact same job for 5 years previously. Or d)some combination of the above. In jobs that I have had, I have frequently been paid late, subjected to contracts that leave me unemployed for large swathes of the year, not given contracts at all, and been forced to be freelance when it was blatantly obvious that I was going to the same company to work every day. It´s well established that my generation will not live as well as our parents, and while I don´t think that´s entirely a bad thing (the world could not sustain all of us living like they do), I resent that the alternative should be that I have to live as my grandparent´s grew up, and they grew up in the Great Depression. They also fought years and years to get us some of the advantages (universal healthcare, sick leave, gender equality as such in the workplace) and I see all of these being eroded away before my eyes. Don´t believe me? Example: due to my ridiculous pseudo-freelance status, I won´t qualify for unemployment benefits, and last year the Spanish government tried to pass a law that would have kicked me off the country´s health care system. There was a public outcry and that was shelved, for the moment. Similar things are going on in my home country, and throughout the Western world.
Anyway, if this comes off as whiny… well it´s not whiny to complain about things that genuinely screw you over. I don´t think I suffer from special snowflake system particularly, or if I do, I save it for my hobbies. I know I´m luckier than most. But I know that the things that have plagued my working life in Spain are also present, though less obvious, in Canada and anywhere else I might go. The contract work, the instability, the juggling two or three jobs, the people with masters and doctorate degrees who can´t get jobs because they´re overqualified, the workdays that extend into your personal life.
I´m sure I´ll work something out, but in the meantime, I´m mad, bad, dangerous to know, and definitely my political scientist father´s daughter.

Thursday 21 November 2013


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Some photos from the opening night of Víctor´s exhibition, at which actually I wasn´t exhibitionist at all, being the photographer. Someone did grab the shot above of me though, taking a break and catching up with a friend. Anyway, enough about me. Apart from being well thought out and fun, and apart from the amazing food our friend Rosa whipped up after all all nighter, I found the fact that this was pulled together on two weeks notice, making use of free space and developing an idea (Manipulation of information, Public memory) that´s exceptionally topical in Barcelona at the moment.
I´m running on not enough sleep and explaining myself badly BUT, it was an important reminder to me that we don´t need money, or contracts, or much of anything really to work towards creating things and diffusing ideas that can be important, and that one thing can lead to another (the curator from a series of works at the Fundació Miró stopped by), and that Barcelona´s an amazing place where people are doing things, talking about things, and living things.

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Photos from Feixisme pùblic

Tuesday 12 November 2013

home on the floor

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I recently moved into a cozy little flat, which I'm bursting at the seems to show off, but biding my time until I make it that extra little bit more homey. The first few weeks after I signed the lease were spent moving in at the leisurely pace; actually, largely spent camping out on the floor before the furniture arrived, eating pizza and drinking wine by candlelight, enjoying not having internet, and plotting the future. These photos were taken a while ago, but yes, the weather was this hot until pretty much the end of October, punctuated by some spectacular storms.

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Wednesday 30 October 2013

artistic endeavours

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My boyfriend, Víctor, recently decided to mount a small exhibition when he found himself paying rent in two places for a month. He converted his old flat into a gallery, and put together an artistic exhibition about history, manipulation, public memory, and politics, with a healthy dose of fiction.

A few of us went the day before to put it all up, and the light in the suddenly empty space was so magical that I wanted to share the pictures.

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Blouse by Family Affairs

Sunday 27 October 2013


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I generally try to avoid making excuses for why I haven't blogged but I'm just going to say: moving. no internet. computer passed out (again). followed by a nice round of hysterical cyber-bullying. Anyway, I'm back.

A birthday in three parts: the first, a heavenly dinner with enough wine that I didn't notice the clock ticking me into a new decade.

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The second: a birthday picnic in my new apartment before we brought the furniture in. I'll give you a proper tour when the last box has been broken down. On this occasion, we put blankets on the floor and I enjoyed no fewer than FOUR birthday cakes.

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Alicia, who made me a wonderful little wooden birdhouse necklace!

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The guest book!

The third: a quiet home-made dinner with two close friends who couldn't make the party, with chocolate brioche and warmth and laughter and yes, very red light!

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I was worried I'd feel sad being away from my family but really, it's just another birthday, and I couldn't have felt more loved in the home I'm building in my adopted city.