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It has been a busy old time this last week and two days. Last weekend started with a Friday night cheese-and-wine fest with folks from work, and ended with not remembering getting home sometime around 4am.

One for Dr John - Doctor Bar, with syringe lampshades and anatomical drawings on the wall. I don't remember taking this photo. I feel it's quite telling of the latter end of that Friday night.

One for Dr John – Doctor Bar, with syringe lampshades and anatomical drawings on the walls. I don’t remember taking this photo, which is quite illustrative of the latter end of that night really.

This then posed some challenges for Saturday morning, when I was headed to Córdoba with my flatmate and a few other chicas. We weren´t getting the the train until lunch time, but nevertheless ended up in a mad rush, having to change buses and flee through the train station. That´s surely the only way to go anywhere though, right?

I was excited to get out of the city for the first time since arriving, see some landscape, some hills, some Andalucían streets the same but different. There was a medieval market on that weekend, which we hadn’t quite known what to expect of but it turned out to be a big affair.

Meat was the over-arching theme of the fair.

Meat was the over-arching theme.

Giant and unseemly shaped vegetables, a close second.

Giant and unseemly-shaped vegetables, a close second.

Face-painted men in leather playing bagpipes! Man, medieval times were exciting...

Face-painted men in leather playing bagpipes and drums. Medieval times were well exciting!

Horns and red trousers a-plenty!

Horns and red trousers a-plenty!

The above photo exhibits two delights of the day – one being the horn clutched on the right there – mulled wine from a horn, the hangover cure to beat all. The horns were all the rage within the market arena, but were met with judging glares when we bared them in the outside world…

In the background there you can also see a red-trousered man. My attention was first brought to red trousers by this website. Sevilla (and Córdoba, it seems) is awash with red-trouser wearers and they have become my obsession. Red trousers are a particularly popular weekend choice among the andaluz male. Córdoba also offered a new delight of bright blue trousers, which almost equalled the red in number.

Street art (literally) in the style of the street name letters. 'At last I have found you'.

Street art (literally) in the style of the street name letters. ‘At last I have found you’.

There's not a whole lot going on in Córdoba , but you can find the biggest tortillas en el mundo! There the size of, goodness, I don't know, a whole baby? If you flattened it out...

There’s not a whole lot going on in Córdoba , but you can find the biggest tortillas en el MUNDO. They’re the size of, goodness, I don’t know, a whole baby? If you flattened it out…

Córdoba’s small (or at least feels small, despite being a city of 300,000 people), a one-horse town when it comes to nightlife, but we squeezed all we could out of our one night away and after a visit to a ‘fairy’ bar, a variety of dubiously-coloured shots, and dancing (and singing – !!) along to Elvis, Bon Jovi and some questionable Spanish rock, we clung on until a respectable 7am.

Unfortunately for Sunday, this meant an accumulative hangover and some very bad bus/food choices.

I survived on into the next week though, and if the medieval market had been the close of winter, spring had most definitely arrived by mid week. On my lunch break I was able to bask in the sun and breathe in the aroma of the cypresses released by the heat. Winter is DEAD! Roll on the summertime…

Basking

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I’d made a few reluctant attempts at starting to learn Korean. The sounds were totally alien, I struggled to get my mouth around them, and of course there would be no familiar Romantic base to hang the grammar upon. The thought of struggling so much with communication was weighing on me a little… But then I got a call out of nowhere, offering me a job in Seville, Spain. I could abandon the Korean completely! And now, three weeks later, here I am…

Packing was difficult – I’m no stranger to packing but this is the first time that I’m going somewhere just to go. And not come back, or have to think about coming back, or where I’m going next, or what on earth I’m going to do with myself in six months, or a year, or whenever the current venture is up. This time, I can stay still. How unusual… In the end, due to the expense and impracticalities of trailing large amounts of luggage in my wake, I couldn’t really take any of the things I’d have liked to have taken for a life of staying still, especially books. I had to settle for my Spain guidebook, my Spanish dictionary, Bukowski’s Tales of Ordinary Madness, and Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, which I’ve only just read but have every intention of reading again as soon as I’m done with Bukowski. I think I chose well…

My journey over on Saturday was also notably unusual. For me, anyway… I stayed with a friend in Glasgow in order to catch my late-morning flight in plenty time. I did indeed arrive at the airport in plenty time, and hangover-free. I checked in my hold bag, 0.1 of a kilo below the weight allowance. I carried on through security without difficulty. The flight wasn’t delayed; In fact it landed 25 minutes early, which left enough time to catch the direct bus from Malaga airport to Sevilla. I had enough cash for my bus ticket (despite initially trying to pay the driver with Turkish Lira – thanks, Dad, for the bag of ‘Euros’). The bus got into Plaza de Armas station right on time, at 8pm. I walked in the right direction straight off and arrived at my new apartment within only a couple of minutes, where my new flatmate was waiting to greet me.

All this things going smoothly is unheard of for me. An airport experience, free of debacle? Naw… Either something is very wrong, or, just maybe, very right… Korea never had sat quite right with me (goodness knows, I’d procrastinated over it long enough). Now it feels like the universe has corrected itself. If it hadn’t been for an unexpected delay in getting my Korea visa documents sorted, it would have been too late – I would already have been there, away out East and unreachable. I don’t think I believe in fate – more often than not it’s used as an excuse or an empty justification, and that annoys me – but sometimes you need something to hold on to. It makes you feel nice…

We arrived early at the Estadio Nacional in order to claim a good seat, quickly losing patience as person after person jumped the metal railings in unashamed disregarded of the queue. As four ‘gringos’ we were reluctant to try the same tack, but our irritation got the better of us and we skipped on through with a thrill of adrenaline.

 Honduras, as with all Latin America, takes its football very seriously. The atmosphere before the League final in capital city, Tegucigalpa, was frenetic.

We claimed a spot in the middle of the concrete terracing with a reasonable view and no reprieve from the midday sun. The stadium filled up with red, white and blue. And up and up, crammed far beyond capacity. The final was a showdown between Tegucigalpa home team, Olimpia, and Real España of second city San Pedro Sula. Only a handful of España fans had dared make the trip, the Honduran League notorious for supporter violence.

 The match kicked off and even I, far from aficionado, found the level of skill displayed underwhelming. But that mattered nothing. The season ticket stand was an inferno, chants and fists thrown to the air unceasingly. Boy vendors leapt between terraces selling beers, plantain chips, and 5 Lempira bags of water. Boisterous onlookers pelted the policemen encircling the pitch with empty cans. Occasionally they would spot a culprit and two officers would stride up the stands and eject the offender. Mexican waves did the rounds. Olimpia scored and supporters threw their hands to the sky, beers, hot dogs and all.

Ninety minutes up and with a score of 1-1, the anticipation surged on into extra time. Olimpia scored again, the crowd roared again, the final whistle blew, the crowd exulted!

 Exiting the estadio, hawkers still a-hawking, we were thrilled to have witnessed like locals this celebration of our adopted city, and unimaginably relieved by the prospect of emptying bladders painfully full with the beer that had seemed so irresistible in the baking sun.

*

This was my entry for the World Nomads/Rough Guides travel writing competition the other week. I’m not particularly happy with it, though it does fit the remit and that particular vein of travel writing. I’m never particularly happy with anything I produce so I suppose I shouldn’t take too much from that.  I do, however, think it superior to some of last year’s wank entries.

Two things to note:

– It was alarmingly difficult to think of an interesting episode which didn’t involve some kind of wrong-doing, miscreancy, or terror.

– The amount of detail which my brain has let go of over these short years is astounding. Stories that I wrote at the time are filled with minute observations and occurrences of which I now have no recollection. Oh how I have abused this grey matter of mine…

On the plus side, it has made me think about writing again and I think I’ll rework some old tales. With this as a starting point, I might begin with a series of Honduras pieces, incorporating my work from Spanish class last term which I promised a couple of friends I would translate.

But Time, I have given you all away…

I saw Ashley today, working in the British Heart Foundation charity shop. She looked thin and pale – so pale it was almost a green – and sort of folding in on herself as she attended to a rack of clothing.

I can’t tell you much about Ashley, but we both went on a history department trip to Prague in 2004. I remember her vividly, perhaps because I have a fantastic photo of her – an actual photograph, before the transgression to digital.  She is sitting with my three good friends at a table in a pub, the three of them smiling (as is the custom), and Ashley on the end with a look of inexplicable surprise upon her face – eyes wide, mouth open.

She’d led a sheltered life. She didn’t drink or go out, had never owned a mobile phone (her parents didn’t believe in them), and had the socially inept manner of what we assumed could only be an indication of genius.

The mobile phone thing turned out to be a hindrance when she went AWOL the afternoon we were flying back to Scotland. Our bus departed for the airport, leaving behind a lone lecturer to look for her. We all worried. “She’s no savvy”, one of the guys commented. Somehow, she was found in time.

Having supposed all this time that she had been some sort of genius savant, I was taken aback today to find her in her charity shop guise, seemingly crumbling, though strangely and sadly congruous…

I don't think it would've been fair to post the picture of Ashley.

I’ve been to the cinema twice in the last couple of weeks, and in both films I felt I’d seen the supporting actresses in something else, that I had known and liked their characters in something else. But I hadn’t. They had reminded me of good friends, far away, and once I realised this the nostalgia was intense.

This happens to me often now. I started a new job a few months ago, and really warmed to one of my new co-workers even though we didn’t speak at length or have anything hugely in common. Every time she spoke I felt happy to hear her voice, and I soon realised it was because she spoke at the same pitch and tone as a friend who’d moved away to London not long before.

I’m in an odd place, friendship-wise at the moment. Living and working in my hometown for the first time in a decade, I’m no longer connected to anybody here. I never was of course, that’s why I left. Though I met my best friend ever at university – truly the other half of me – I’d only ever made a couple of genuinely good friends until I went travelling, when suddenly I discovered there are a whole plethora of misfits out there, all with one core virtue in common – our oddness.

Since then, I’ve largely chosen the people that I spend time around – leftfield, open-minded types for the most part – or been fortunate enough to move in circles where those sorts abound anyway. But now I’m back on the outside. Not that the people I work with aren’t great, they actually are! But we lead parallel lives, parallel thoughts… And so I miss those far-away friends all the more intensely. I’m not sure if the people I see on the screen or in the street really are like the people I know, or if its just wishful thinking, my brain in its sentimentality transposing what it wants to see…

There are two things I miss about life on the Island. One is without a shadow of a doubt the anarchy, but that’s a whole other thing. The other is having friends so close by. No matter what nonsense was going on, there was never a fellow misfit more than five minutes away with whom to unburden your woes, and indeed share some of those anarchic delights…

An article on The Guardian this week imparts The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, as described by a nurse who spent several years working in palliative care. Among them was not staying in touch with friends: “Everyone misses their friends when they are dying”. This statement grabbed me. Although I wasn’t dying, when I got shot and was lying in the clinic I found (to my guilt) that it wasn’t my family I wanted to see but certain friends that I wished, so bad, could be there…

David Walliams was in the news the other week for having completed a gruelling (and frankly, disgusting) eight-day swim of the length of the River Thames.

I saw him once. I was sitting at a bus stop on Oxford Street. It was the first time I’d ever been to London, and I hadn’t really timed it well. It was February, dark, and everyone was miserable. And I didn’t have any money. I’d decided to get the bus back to my friend’s house away out in East Ham (I say house – try room that fitted a bed and a wardrobe and barely room to stand between the two), so I could view some sights on the way instead of whizzing along oblivious on the Underground. This turned out to be fairly fruitless as it was a cold, damp, winter evening and the windows were all steamed up on the stuffed-to-capacity red London bus.

But as I’d waited at the bus stop earlier, a black cab rolled past, slowly, caught in the mash of Oxford Street traffic. There was a passenger looking out the back window – a big man with a big face who looked right at me. I held his gaze and we exchanged a long, suspicious look. The cab rolled on and I realised I recognised him – David Walliams had been the man with whom I’d exchanged strange looks…

This is my favourite photograph from Dallas. Though the patchwork of analogous colours with the contrasting sky has an appeal, there is something in its proportionality that draws me more. I am always drawn to images with nice arrangements of lines. The pleasure in this sort of aesthetic seems to come from something mathematical, rather than classically visual elements, or the interest piqued by a subject.

A picture of nothing in particular, but something at all…

I have ventured into the ungainly medium of Flickr. See the rest of the set here.