Monday, September 03, 2007

We just got back from our August vacation; Remei is back at work today and I have something I have to write up. Haven't been near a computer for nearly three weeks; we went out to Vallfogona for a week, then to London for a week, and then back out to the pueblo for another five days.

In the pueblo we did what we always do: go to the pool and go out walking with the dog. When I'm not doing that, I'm usually reading a book and hiding from my mother-in-law. London was a good trip; we saw our friend Elisabeth, and met her boyfriend and roommates, who are all very nice folks and quite interesting. We took a day trip to Winchester and spent a night in Bath, both of which are well worth a visit. On the two days it rained we went to the British Library, where Remei had never been, and the British Museum, where we dig all the stuff on the ground floor, the Egyptians and Assyrians and Greeks. I bought a little reproduction of the famous blue Egyptian ceramic hippo for ten pounds.

Last Sunday we went to the Notting Hill carnival, which was enormous and a little disappointing. I was expecting there to be live reggae bands and lots of floats with dancing girls, but there was no live music--it was all DJs, and most of them were playing hip-hop with heavy bass. There weren't many floats, either, and the ones that were there were all sponsored by beer companies and radio stations. The Jamaican food was good, and the variety of people was colorful to say the least. The crowds were so big that you could barely move in some places, though. Big crowds make me nervous. On the whole I'd compare it to Las Vegas; you really need to go once to see what it's like, it's actually kind of fun for a while, and one visit is probably enough for a lifetime.

My mother-in-law came back from the pueblo with us; she was going to stay another month, but she can't be by herself any more because she falls down a lot. She took a spill while we were gone and scraped up her knees and elbows, and did not tell the lady we had checking on her about it. She's well-behaved back here in our flat in Barcelona; if she gets cranky I give her something to eat and put Count Basie on the CD player.

As usual in August, there doesn't seem to have been much news while we were gone. The big story has been the death of Sevilla footballer Antonio Puerta last week; he keeled over during last weekend's game, walked off the field, and then had a heart attack on the way to the hospital. He died two days later at age 22. Puerta was a promising young player who won a spot on Sevilla's starting eleven last season and was an important part of the team that won five straight cup finals (two UEFAs, one Spanish Cup, one European Supercup, one Spanish Supercup). The media overreacted, of course; I'm sorry Puerta is dead, and I wish it hadn't happened, but they've been milking this one for all the pathos they can get.

A bunch of ETA guys got busted. They kidnapped a family and used their house to put together a huge car bomb, which they were going to let off somewhere that it would kill a lot of people. One of those arrested was the guy who bailed out of a taxi in Castellón a while back, and another one was in on the Barajas airport bombing.

The whole country is back to work today, the first Monday in September. The newspapers have been bringing out their seasonal stories big-time, and for the last week La Vangua has been full of reports on how the end of vacation and the beginning of the working year cause stress, and how some quack psychologist says you can solve it. There were surprisingly few traffic jams yesterday on the main roads back into the big cities; the last day of the August vacation is usually the biggest traffic day of the year. As usual, the death toll on the highways was appalling, with deaths in August up 6% over last year.

Fortunately, it hasn't been a particularly hot or dry summer. There haven't been as many bad forest fires as we usually have in summer, and we really didn't have to use the air conditioner in Barcelona. In Vallfogona, that old stone house is naturally air-conditioned, the town is 2000 feet above sea level, and the "marinada" (moist breeze down the Corb valley from the east) blows every evening, so summer is very tolerable there.

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