Saturday, 19 April 2014

Graffiti...A new series...?

(Love Rat by Banksy)

Grafitti keeps working its way into my life. It keeps popping up to say 'hullo'. 

First it came in the form of Banksy. When I was about 24/25 years old my boyfriend of the time told me about some chap called Banksy whose prints (ok not quite graffiti as prints, but they stem from graffiti) he liked and how he'd bought some and he was going to sell them on ebay. He'd paid like £75 for a piece called Love Rat and he then went on to sell it for £500 later (not even the original guys! Just a print!). I didn't have any disposable income and I was timid so I let him get on with it. He amassed something like £10,000 through his efforts - I'm not kidding - and it was only just before the bubble broke and others cottoned on that I thought...hmm...maybe I should get involved... Opportunity to make some quick cash clearly missed.

And then Banksy was everywhere and I moved to Bristol and Banksy is from Bristol so the city has gone all graffiti lovin' in recent years - what I mean by that is the council is not painting over the graffiti, they are celebrating it and encouraging it. It equates to added tourism value now. And the Exit Through the Gift Shop video also helped with that also. So I was surrounded by it all the time.

And then I kind of got intrigued by toilet graffiti this summer when I was sitting on the loo in The Canteen in Stoke's Croft (Bristol again) and reading all the loved-up garble on the walls there...you can tell its clientele are on something other than beer because this stuff is verging on profound and poetic. There is definitely a lot of love on those girlie toilet walls. This will be another post that I have been meaning to do FOR AGES (like a year almost now).

I have two rather trivial things I'd like to do - blog posts/ a book on graffiti (mainly toilet) and blog posts/ a book on the worst souvenirs in the world (also coming soon to a blog near you...). So when I can and when I see enough of it I'll report back to you on my graffiti finds!

Having just returned from the city of concrete and graffiti, it is only fitting that I start this series following this with some Berlin beauties... See you in the next post xxx

Friday, 18 April 2014

Berlin

Do you know what? Germany is fast becoming one of my favourite European countries. Every time I have visited I have not been disappointed...and weirdly...the three times I have visited have all been in the Spring around Easter.

So I have three places on my European wish list at the moment: Berlin, the Isle of Skye and Istanbul. This holiday I took to Berlin and can I say it was brilliant.

I don't know where to begin really as I have so much to say and I'm not sure I can shove it all into one blog post. I should consider a structure...or some headings perhaps...

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

As I walked from the airport to the station, I joked to my friend that the climate and place felt like England. The grass was that lush green colour, there were daisies, dandy lions and daffodils and it felt like the British Spring I had been missing. Catching the train was pretty straight forward and as we grew closer to the centre, I noticed that Berlin continued to stay green and leafy and there were lots of flowers and allotments dotted about and greenery spilling over concrete and grafitti. A mix of ugly manmade materials meets nature in a rather pleasing manner.

The city is spacious, easy to walk around and quite calm. There are cycle lanes and flower boxes and there is ALOT of construction taking place. It sort of feels like East End London a little bit... everything seems very hipster and rough and artistic. It can topple over into pretentious sometimes with the 'no photo' signs in bars and some of the fashion seen on the streets but generally everywhere you look is intriguing.

THE HOSTEL

We stayed in the Meininger hostel -  a chain - but very cheap and cheerful with good wifi, good location and lots of information at your fingertips. I have nothing bad to say about this hostel. We were plonk in the centre of Prenzlauer Bers in the East - a rather hip neighbourhood - and it was great for getting to most things quickly. You can also rent bikes and the tube station is next to the hostel and there are lots of good places to eat nearby as well as the famous Sunday Market in Mauer Park.

THE FOOD

Berlin is famous for all its good places to eat. You can get an idea from the pictures below. We had bagels, traditional currywurst, sushi (so much sushi everywhere), Vietnamese (so cheap it is unbelievable), delicious breakfasts, traditional Italian pizza, coffees, just yum, yum, yum...there is nothing more disappointing when you go on holiday and you make some bad food choices and end up getting overpriced crap...this never happened. Everything was goooooood.




THE HISTORY AND SITES

There is so much to see and you can walk around all day and drink it in. Something I highly recommend though is taking the Sandeman's free tour. Our guide was an American called George and he was just phenomenal. He was witty, well informed, entertaining... You were in danger of falling in love with him and his way with words and the little thoughts and insights he offered up. I bet he must get hit on quite a bit... We saw the Holocaust Memorial and learnt all about the designer and his intentions; we witnessed the car park that once housed Hitler's bunker and learnt about what became of the Fuhrer's body (which I didn't know and was very interesting); we saw still standing Nazi architecture, we learnt about Communisim and the Berlin Wall and how impenetrable it really was (137 people died trying to cross it) with its guard dogs, sand, electric trip wires and soldiers ordered 'shoot to kill'...

We saw the old cars they used to drive in Eastern Germany, we were explained the history and significance of Checkpoint Charlie and how close the world had come to war; we passed the Gestapo Museum (which I'll have to go back and check out) and saw the two twin churches and explained their significance...before ending in bebelplatz where the Nazi's burnt 22,000 books on the 10th of May 1933 and given a sobering speech where our guide pointed out the quote engraved on the floor 'Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings' Heinrich Heine,  which was actually a quote which referred to the Spanish Inquisition many years before but was a rather relevant thought/prophesy for 1930's Germany...
 (Holocaust Memorial)
(two churches)
I can't emphasise enough how great this tour was...I was so pleased we went on it despite the rain and windy weather that day.

THE NIGHTLIFE

We didn't sample a lot but I did want to try and get into the Berghain just to see what all the hype was about. It stands as a massive sort of warehouse building in the middle of nowhere (it feels as we walked for ages, we should have grabbed the metro), by the time we had got there we had 100% walked off all our homemade caipirinhas (the shops here are stocked with various bottles of spirits and booze that are harder to find in the UK and Spain). Outside a large queue had formed and we watched, as we edged closer and closer, many people being turned away. I really didn't like the feeling that I was queueing up to be judged. So, when we got the I just stood there with my friend and prepared myself for the worst, a half smile on my face...

...The bouncer asked my friend about his t-shirt but besides that we were let in! It was a pretty relieving feeling. They really search your bags in there too - I have never had such a thorough search. What I didn't know, and I found out later from a friend who lives there, is that once your hand is stamped you can leave and come back when you choose without queueing. We washed ours off the next morning and my friend moaned about how hard it was to scrub off. Maybe this is why...we could have gone back on Sunday... oh well. One to know for another time, though I'll probably try some place different next visit.

Inside the music is really good and it is dark and very atmospheric. The drinks are not very cheap but we went for tequila and absinthe... There is a strong homosexual vibe there with a quite large and graphic picture of a man's anus in the Panorama bar which my friend pointed out as we sipped our drinks, and I didn't feel like I was going to do much flirting that night but I was there for the music and atmosphere so that didn't really bother me. My friend who lives there tells me the crowds differ at different times and evenings. It runs through from Friday night all the way til Sunday morning.

The only thing that surprised me was I thought there would be more rooms. It seemed comparatively small and less warren-like than Razzmatazz where I had been the week before. I kept looking for more but that was it. And you can't take photos which is annoying. I can see that it is all part of some big marketing/promotional scheme and this slight air of pretension makes me feel a stronger sense of warmth for what I have back home in Spain. Usually you get a free drink for your entrance fee in Barcelona too for 14 euros.

Anyway, we came, we saw, we partied...it was good. The following nights we headed to a quieter part of town near the canals and drank wine and cocktails in dark candlelit bars (no photos again!) and artistic gay bars (damn some of the bartenders and clientele were hot!) in the Kreuzberg and Nedkolln districts.

ON LEAVING

It was only a few days but it was a well needed and much enjoyed holiday. One last thing that I haven't mentioned also is the great old fashioned Photoautomat booths where you can get your photo taken oldstyle - a cheap (2 euros), lovely little souvenir... Worth reliving the fun of when you couldn't guarantee a perfect posed passport photo...

I will be going back to explore it further one day. There is still lots of history to drink in, clubs to visit and food to eat and grafitti to photograph! If you get a chance for a weekend break I highly recommend it. xxx

Friday, 11 April 2014

From there to here

So I was making myself a tuna mayo sweetcorn pitta (some mini pickles on the side) and a thought crossed my mind...

I guess it is because it is the last week of term and my term calendar looks pretty large and full on my cupboard door with all the little squares which represent the days crossed off. 14 weeks of working term... I like to fill it with the little details of my weeks, a visual diary of sorts.

And I'm not the same person who began the term...or the year. I've come a long way from there to here.
At the beginning of the year I was still battling through a problem I'd suffered for over a year - letting go of someone (it feels like I've always been letting go of something, letting go for over five years if not longer but this was a biggie). I'd been in a foggy daze for so long and it just felt impossible to shake even with a little help from my friends and all the right books and positive thinking. I had worked on myself so hard and had done everything I could to try and move on. Maybe I tried too hard...

And then the worst and best thing happened and the guy met someone...and it was the plaster being ripped off instead of being eased off slowly. The spell began to lift more rapidly...and as time wore on over the last 14 weeks I was just left shaking my head curiously and wondering how I'd ever let myself fall into that situation. Who was that girl before?! She baffled me. And it hasn't been the first time... I could identify patterns from way back in my twenties repeating themselves. I remember that girl and her first trials and tribulations, I thought I had learnt the first time and she'd gone but she returned to haunt me again...

It is weird when you come out of such a tunnel or place. You sort of 'sniff the air' and gingerly venture forward. "Am I okay?" you ask yourself, and you run various scenarios and tests through your brain to gauge your emotional levels. You realise you've stopped doing the things that were helping you to get through - the excessive reading of self-help websites and the books which now lie sleeping in a draw; the well-being journal that you once wrote in everyday; the pink quartz gratitude stone which once sat on your bedside table but now has drifted up onto a shelf to collect dust. The stomach issues have subsided and you don't come across those sad, odd moments in the day when you check yourself and realise you feel empty and broken.

You start to gain a little confidence and you begin to realise life is just that little bit more carefree again, for now, and you sigh a little in relief - though not too much as your guard is still up. And when some other guy even dares to cross a line you are very protective of yourself and the metal doors come down fast and swift and you're not standing for any nonsense this time, oh no. I know your game, I've been there all too recently. When you go to a club it is nice if a guy comes to chat to you or buys you drinks but you care very little if he stays, you're here to dance -dancing is the one solace you continue to carry with you - and be with your mates.


So...the girl has gone. For now. A new girl stands in her place. The fog has gone, fear has subsided. Confidence remains. 


I look back at my 14 weeks and so much has happened and all these little things have helped to build me up. Where the next term will take me is quite an exciting prospect. The summer is coming and I am smiling more.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Where does the time go?

Sandy Denny asked this question in one of my favourite songs by her...and I'm asking it today AGAIN.

It isn't so much my surprise at how fast the weeks speed by - they do when you're having fun, but when I stop and think -what have I done today? And I realise that I feel like I'm getting less done! Maybe there is something wrong with my time management? I'm going to blame whatsapp and social media a little...and then planning... and coffee breaks...and then socialising too much for my own good.

I hardly ever pick up a book these days or watch a TV show. It took me ages to finally finish Mad Men and I only did it because I consciously forced myself to. Yet, last year, I was a TV addict and I certainly remember reading more... And when do I get time to blog?

I have to say this is the nearest I've come yet to packing it in...and not because I haven't got things to write about...just because...well...I just haven't found the time. I find it hard to find time to cook a proper meal too...or go shopping...Maybe I'm sleeping in too much in the morning?!

And then there is the being away from home and seeing photos of people you haven't seen for a while and thinking suddenly...oh my...we've all aged a bit! Everyone buying houses, having their second babies...sign posts of time everywhere...

Meh... What can you do really? It is like the weather...you can comment on it...but that won't stop it from doing what it likes. xxx

Monday, 24 March 2014

Oh and following on from the last post...

This is a good little thought-provoking video...

Long time no blog...

How have I let two weeks slip by without blogging? How have I let the first three months whiz by? Where is the time going? It is zipping by faster than I can take stock. The summer is almost upon us.

And yet...this term has been our longest with eleven weeks down and three to go. The holiday will be most welcome when it finally arrives. Some relief and then the count down to summer begins with the final term.

It has been a funny second semester. There have been ups and downs and a lot has happened. Tarragona, as much as I love her and the people I have met, has begun to lose its glow. I thought it was a passing fad that began when the guy I was in love with starting dating someone else - and all I could think about was fleeing...but now, almost two months later, the restlessness is still lingering in my bones. This small town is grating on me, I feel like I'm stuck in a soap opera or Groundhog Day (I'm sure I have said that before in a post too so definitely beginning to repeat myself), but maybe I am looking at it with old eyes and I simply need a change in perspective...or a holiday!

Thank goodness for visitors and trips away at the weekends. Las Fallas and my trip to Valencia felt like it was so far down the calendar and now I'm looking back over my shoulder and wondering what happened. It was lush to get away though. Although it was a weekend, it felt like a nice mini break. My friends came to stay and we went out and I saw another good friend who I hadn't seen in almost a year. I'm so lucky to have such good friends.

So...life is generally good but the need for excitement is beginning to take hold. It makes me wonder if I ever will settle, if I am capable! I definitely want to stay one more year to possibly do a course but already my gaze is starting to stray towards places more exotic...I guess only time will tell. Life is certainly more creative than it used to be and fun and I feel braver these days...or at least I want to be.

Anyway...I'm sorry if this isn't much of a post...but just bear with me... I'll upload a few photos soon as well to offer you some visual highlights. Until then xxx

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Online Dating: The chemistry experiment and rollercoaster ride

So...not counting the many flings and short stops and starts I would say I have now been single for just over 3 years. I count my last serious relationship as the one that ended in 2009 with my ex-boyfriend of five years.

I was once the 'relationship girl'. I was always in a serious relationship. So once I became single and it began to remain that way, I found it all very weird and well, if I am honest, frightening. I launched myself into the rebound relationship with a 'playboy' which was great fun but totally not the right thing to do when I still had so much baggage and emotional issues to sort through. Then, a few months out of that, I flung myself to the other side of the spectrum and dated the really nice, perfect guy who doted on my every need. Only problem was...I didn't feel the same.

Since then, I have had dates, flings, obsessions and within this chunky soup of encounters and experiences, I have been slowly getting to know myself, what I want and how to conduct myself a bit better. I've also been getting to know the countless dating sites out there!

Online dating is such a weird basket of affairs. I still don't know what to make of it. I hear about the couples who met and married but I am still skeptical. Maybe some were lucky, maybe some were desperate. As my fellow friend and dater often exclaims:


"You have to wade through a lot of rubbish to get to the good stuff."


Guess I am still wading! I've met all sorts. The overly forward and arrogant who immediately send you photos of packages you didn't express a wish to see; the emotionally desperate who have fallen in love with you the minute you have even bothered to reply; the seemingly ideal who either it turns out are just looking for sex or slowly reveal their true colours. The hesitant and analytical who read into your words too much and make sweeping assumptions about how you are too cautious when in actual fact they are just scared themselves.

I think ideally you shouldn't talk too long online on these things. Get out there and meet the person. Take a chance. But then, if you are me...well, you need to practise the filter! Just because you have a date doesn't mean you can relax and treat the person like a life-long friend (they may seem sweet on the surface but you really don't know this person...yet) revealing all too much on the first date. People get scared off. I think you have to be yourself, definitely, but I guess, as I said to someone just now and to quote Al Stewart's song: 'If it doesn't come naturally, leave it.'

Well...of course give it a try...but don't sweat blood and tears over someone you barely know because there are going to potentially be a lot of dates with different people in this 'dating world' and do you really want your emotions to be climbing and dipping like some rollercoaster? No...


I kind of see it all as a big chemistry experiment. I'm curious. I reply back to the ridiculous who send me messages like 'Do you want to have sex with me?' (with replies like 'Er...what is your success rate on that opening line?' Usually zil...)

...and I reply back to those who are a bit more creative with their words than just the usual: 'Hola guapa!' (Hello sexy)...

....I even reply back to those I don't find physically attractive (to be honest some of the online dating photos out there are horrendous) but might have shared interests (Mike Oldfield) or may seem intriguing.

Anyway...I'm still riding the beast. Sometimes I think I should just get off and wait for someone to come looking for me. As they always say... when you don't look... but...well...It is kind of fun and intriguing and I would like to explore it a little bit more and feel like I am being somewhat proactive - even if it is just meeting people and collecting stories.

I'll keep you posted if I discover anything exciting. Until then... xxx