October is just around the corner and the days are drawing in. My summer vacations — spent in Spain and Scotland — are now just memories and photographs. I’m thinking ahead to places where I’d like to go next year: five very different destinations. Which places — cities, countries, regions — are on your must-visit travel list?
A puppy is a puppy is a puppy.
He’s probably in a basket with a bunch
of other puppies.
Then he’s a little older and he’s nothing
but a bundle of longing.
He doesn’t even understand it.
Then someone picks him up and says,
“I want this one.”
~ Poem by Mary Oliver from her book Dog Songs (2013) ~
A week ago today, feeling a mix of nervous anticipation and excitement, I drove to collect the newest addition to the family. No, not a baby, but something I confess I find much cuter: a little bundle of puppy joy! Continue reading →
De-cluttering, getting rid of stuff, tidying up… minimalism is very trendy these days. There are countless lifestyle blogs and articles about keeping unnecessary, unwanted and unused possessions to a minimum. This minimalist approach has also been extended to money and finances, with bloggers such as Cait Flanders writing about shopping bans and saving money by rejecting consumerism. Because, after all, you need money to acquire the stuff and experiences you actually want.
On Saturday morning, I started clearing out. Inspired by Marie Kondo’s New York Times best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, I spent the whole day focusing on tidying up my bedroom.Despite having a fairly ruthless (or so I thought) sort-out when I moved house a few years ago, I found clothes I’ve owned for 10 years or more. My drawers held clothes that, I kid you not, I wore to my first teenage job as a waitress. Time for them to move on. Continue reading →
Continuing with the Spanish theme of the last three posts on my blog, The Shadow of the Wind is a novel set in mid-twentieth century Barcelona. In the middle of the old city of Barcelona is a ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, a library with winding passages and corridors so hard to find again that you must leave a trail as though journeying into the heart of the Minotaur’s den.
When Daniel is ten years old, his father takes him to choose one book from this mysterious labyrinth of a library. He picks an obscure title, La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind) by Julián Carax. As Daniel grows up, he tries to find more titles by Carax, but he cannot find a single one. There are reports of a strange man who calls himself Lain Coubert — the name of the devil in Carax’s novel — who is going around the city asking for Carax’s books to burn.
After the busy sight-seeing in Toledo on the second day of my trip to Spain, my friend had to work on the third day, so I ventured out into Madrid on my own. I decided to go to El Museo Nacional del Prado — one of the most magnificent art galleries in the world.
Before you can enter the museum, you have to go through a more basic version of airport-style security: bags through the scanner as you walk through a metal detector. As I only had a small backpack, I was allowed to carry it with me but people with any larger bags had to leave them in a room behind the security desk. Continue reading →
If you read my previous post, you’ll know that at the beginning of June I flew to Madrid for a four-day mini vacation. Four days isn’t a long time, but it’s surprising just how much you can see, do and experience in that time. I spent three days in Madrid and one day in Toledo, a nearby city.
A view of Toledo, looking back across El Puente de San Martin (Bridge of St. Martin)
At the beginning of June, I spent four days in Madrid, visiting a Spanish friend who is living there and studying for her Master’s degree. I am already longing to go back. The city is beautiful, filled with gorgeous architecture, elegant parks and expansive boulevards.
On the first day of my visit, we went on a three-hour walking tour around the city. I chose to go on the Spanish-language tour, but it is available in English too. We began in Plaza Mayor. Like many Spanish cities, Madrid is a city filled with plazas (squares), but Plaza Mayor is the main square — popular with locals (madrileños) and tourists alike.
The largest and most central square in Madrid, Plaza Mayor is lined with tapas bars and restaurants.
The European Parliament, Strasbourg. Public domain photo by hpgruesen.
On Friday morning, I woke up to the news that I didn’t want to hear. I had gone to bed quietly confident that the Stronger Together campaign would prevail, but the result shocked the world.
This vote could easily have gone the other way — out of a 72% turnout at the polls, 51.9% voted Brexit while 48.1% voted to stay. I believe that if we had another referendum tomorrow, we would not be facing the uncertain prospect of a future outside the EU.
And I am sad. I feel bereft, as though part of my identity has been stripped away. Oh wait, it has. As it stands, within the next two years, I will lose my European citizenship.
A few days ago, I was on the Tube — the London Underground subway. Somewhere between Piccadilly Circusand Leicester Squareon the Piccadilly line, I apologized to a fellow passenger for being in front of the doors when she wanted to get off at her stop: “sorry, I’m in the way.”
I wasn’t expecting her response. She put her hand on my arm and, in a North American accent, said emphatically: “Never, dear. Men don’t say that.”
It made me smile because it was one of those brief interactions with strangers that you don’t expect, and also because her words rang true. I tend to apologize a lot and I probably say “sorry” too much. But I’m not sure that it’s entirely a result of being a woman. Continue reading →