Month: April 2018

Weekend Reading

  • Hanami Is Japan’s Annual Obsession with Cherry Blossoms
    There are a lot of places to be curious about, so we started a Curiosity Travel Instagram. Where will your curiosity take you? Follow us! The blooming of Japan’s cherry blossoms is not only a delightful welcoming of springtime — it’s a national obsession.
    Bucket list!

  • To Hug, or Not to Hug?
    There’s a thing that happens on blind internet dates. I’ve never liked it.
    This kind of thing is alien to me. Surely you ask before touching someone!

  • The Art of Not Working at Work
    At first, the ability to check email, read ESPN, or browse Zappos while on the job may feel like a luxury. But in time, many crave more meaningful—and more demanding—responsibilities.
    For those of us in more traditional offices, ring any bells?

  • Charles Dickens imagined a Westworld-like robot park filled with “violent delights”
    WESTWORLD IS BACK!!

  • Instant payouts offer lifeline to Scotland’s rough sleepers
    Outreach workers in Scottish cities can make instant payouts of up to £200 for anything from haircuts to hotel rooms as part of a radical approach to entrenched rough sleeping.
    Here’s hoping this makes a difference.

  • Wine, Eros and Madness
    Unlike ice cream, orange juice, and most other things that taste good, wine is peculiar in that it is an object of devotion.
    I THINK you’ll find that SOME OF US are perfectly happy with our devotion to ice cream too!!

  • The Criminal Tribes of Madras Presidency
    In Dishonoured by History: ‘Criminal Tribes’ and British Colonial Policy, Meena Radhakrishna presents rare scholarship on some of the worst excesses of the British Empire.
    Horrific. A terrible history but we shouldn’t deny it, just learn from it (question: have we?? UKIP anyone?)

  • Watch the Trailer for a Stunning New 70-Millimeter Print of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001
    Sure, you’ve probably seen 2001: A Space Odyssey. But have you experienced 2001: A Space Odyssey? That particular verb no doubt implies different conditions to different people.
    Ohhh my days, when will this be in a cinema?!

  • How Janelle Monáe Found Her Voice
    On a hot December afternoon, the sky hazy from wildfires that raged just beyond the Los Angeles city limits, a handful of people gathered outside a nondescript Super 8 motel off Sunset Boulevard.
    One of the last gigs I saw at the Arches in Glasgow, she was little known then but already a megastar. If you’ve seen her live you’ll know what I mean.

  • It’s OK to Say if You Went Back in Time and Killed Baby Hitler
    Admit it. You went back in time and killed Baby Hitler. Official reason?
    Take a trope, rip it up. Lessons learned?

  • How Berlin became the capital of cool
    Why come to Berlin? Silly question. In the past decade, as London has become ruinously expensive and divided over Brexit, the German capital has claimed the crown of Europe’s coolest city.
    Definitely a place I need to go back to, I enjoyed it but so much left to explore (and preferably not on my own over a dreary October weekend)

  • We asked five experts: is walking enough exercise?
    We humans need to exercise in order to stay healthy. Exercise protects against disease and early death, and keeps us mobile and able to perform daily tasks. Walking is an easy, free and enjoyable form of exercise.
    TLDR; Yes.

  • Raccoon Crushed To Death By Garbage Truck Hits Jackpot With Reincarnation
    I won’t spoil this one. You don’t even need to read it. Just click through for the LOLs.

  • If you ever wonder why abused women don’t leave, look at this picture
    Never has this saying been more painfully true than when you’re confronted with the shocking image taken by a police officer on a domestic abuse call-out in London, shared on Twitter by Inspector Rowlands of the Metropolitan Police.
    Look at the picture.

  • I Listen to 35 Hours of Podcasts Every Week. Is That … Bad?
    A few weeks ago, I caught the bus, and before I even sat down, I started rummaging in my backpack for my earbuds. After tipping the bag’s contents out on my lap in an increasingly frantic state, I realized: I must have left them behind.
    Well, if No Such Thing As A Fish and 99% Invisible aren’t on your playlist, then, yes!

  • The World’s Shortest IQ Test is Only Three Questions
    A bat and a ball together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
    2.5 out of 3 – I knew the first answer wasn’t the ‘obvious’ answer just couldn’t be arsed doing the rest of the work. Story of my life right there! (Hey, I passed, what else matters?)

  • I Wore A Fleece Vest To Work To See If I Felt Like A Tech Bro
    As a heterosexual woman over 30, I have been haunted by this photo of Jeff Bezos looking surprisingly swole since it appeared during the Sun Valley Conference last summer. I don’t want to get into it, and neither do you, but let’s all agree that his vest and aviators are definitely a LOOK.
    Clothes aren’t just fashion. Clothes are power.

  • Rooting for Elon
    Over the past year, in pursuit of his ambitious goals to transform U.S. auto and energy markets, Elon Musk has met critics from all directions: customers, stockholders, and workers.
    Read this after I published my previous post, honest.

  • Women Intellectuals and the Art of the Withering Quip
    “If one is a woman writer there are certain things one must do,” the British writer and journalist Rebecca West wrote to a friend in 1952. “First, not be too good; second, die young, what an edge Katherine Mansfield has on all of us; third, commit suicide like Virginia Woolf.
    Read it for the insight or read it for the amazing writing that is quoted.

  • Meteorologist
    This is NO WAY relates to some people I know. Nope. Not a bit. Honest…

  • Rebirth of Militant Feminism
    Of all the opposition movements to have erupted since 2008, the rebirth of a militant feminism is perhaps the most surprising—not least because feminism as such had never gone away; women’s empowerment has long been a mantra of the global establishment.
    Long read but worth it to fully understand where this sits in the waves of feminism. Equality soon please.

  • The Epidemic of Isolation Among Young Men
    In 2017, former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy identified the most common threat to public health that he had seen: not heart disease, diabetes, or cancer—but loneliness.
    Not directly, but THIS is why I’m a feminist, this is why I want equality. It’s also why I can struggle to make new male (identifying) friends.

  • Ice breaker question
    Ice-breaker question I came up with a few years ago that I call the “off-diagonal” question: Tell me about something you love doing that you’re terrible at. And tell me about something you really do not like doing that you’re great at. That is from Mike Kim on Twitter.
    Noted and stored for later use.

  • A Paean to PB&P
    Why a peanut butter and pickle sandwich is the totally not-gross snack you need in your mouth right now.
    My spidey sense is telling me this MAY fall into the ‘marmite’ discussion camp… but I’m trying it!

  • London Marathon 2018 – Hot, Hot, Hot
    So, London Marathon. You were hot and pretty bloody emotional. This post is going to be more on the race, I will do a seperate one on the expo, my weekend in London and all the surprises (friends turning up) along the way. Sunday morning, 6am, I was wide awake.
    I knew a couple of people who ran the London Marathon this year. I’ve followed Fi’s training via blog and Instagram. I am in absolute awe and, yes, there were a few tears on my end when I read this.

  • Me, doing my own head in
    Thinking. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure if you asked anyone to explain what it actually was, they’d have a fairly hard time doing so (even Wikipedia doesn’t know – I checked).
    Some simple definitions which really resonated. If you only read one of these links today, start with this one.

  • The pie chart: Why data visualization’s greatest villain will never die
    The point of charts is to communicate data effectively. Or, at least, that is point according to data-visualization experts. The truth about why people like and use charts is more complicated than that. For the regular person, it’s more about art than science.
    People prefer art (emotion) to science (non-emotion). Shocking.

Finding the glimmers

As a child of the 70s our future was bright, so bright we had to wear shades. It was full of rockets and space exploration as the buzz of the moon landing continued to pervade my childhood years, spurned on by Star Wars and the promise of galaxies far far away…

It’s easy to question where our jetpacks are, why I’m not eating meals in pill form, and what ever became of space elevators anyway? We had dreams and hopes and aspirations all of which were to be manifest in many wonderous objects that would impact our daily lives.

It makes me wonder though, what do the youth of today aspire to? What do they dream for their future? Is the pinnacle of achievement now to be famous? Where are the inventors and dreamers? For all his haters, is Elon Musk really the leading light, the JFK of our time with a Mars-shot mission?

Or is it just too hard to dream anymore? Are our hopes pulled down to earth by the constant barrage of reality, writ large at every turn, unescapable horrors and tragedy abound.

The news delivers the usual stories of turmoil and hatred, death and destruction. Social media amplifies the worst aspects and our always on society ripples and rears up in reaction. Peer past the headlines and the future is laid bare, Atwood and Orwell nod wisely from the sidelines.

Russian cyber terrorists turn off the power to a city block. American journalists are chided from on high. Governments form around power and control, serving themselves and not the people. Brexit, Trump, ISIS, cyber-warfare. Anti anti anti.

Money the root of all, absolutely corrupting power, over-inflated egos target the disenfranchised, divide and divide. Them against us.

It’s hard to look away. Cars crashing over and over, the video loops, we stare and stare, we are numb, we are seemingly ineffective. Protest all you want, nothing will change. We are the endlessly silent majority, powerless against the feckless thugs that rule the world.

Bleak. Desolate times.

How can we dream?

How do we combat this endless, relentless, stomping down?

Can we push back? Can we retrace our steps and find a different way?

What are we missing as the world spins in a maelstrom of bedlam?

When all around seems so so dark it can be hard to find those small moments of beauty, of compassion, of love.

But they are there and the more light we shine on them the brighter they become. A smile between strangers, a flower between the paving stones, a shard of sunlight between the buildings, these things are timeless and can’t be captured by a glowing screen. Look around.

Look for the glimmers. They are always there. Sometimes they are hidden and you need to seek them out. Sometimes they are there in plain view if only you choose to see. Sometimes they make you stop, a slap in the face, the wakeup.

Beauty exists.

Love is real.

Compassion and care are the quietest noises but can build and build to a cacophony, a soaring roar of the masses that will push back. Me too, they said, and so it was. What’s next?

Raise them up, these wonderful moments. Elevate and amplify. Stand behind them. Stand shoulder to shoulder. Stand firm.

They are always there.

These magical moments of beauty and wonder.

The glimmers.

Weekend Reading

  • Public Place Meditation Exercise
    Excited to share my all-time favorite thing to do on the subway, or other public transportation. It’s also one of the best empathy exercises I’ve thought of and really helps to remind me to feel the moments of love and pain we all go through.
    Tried this a few days this week (identify the person and you can close your eyes or look away, staring is creepy!) and… it kinda works.

  • Turkish Delight
    For all the haters. Turkish Delight is a thing of wonder.

  • Who has time for that?
    Above: art-making advice from our 40-year-old ovens.
    You always have more time than you think.

  • Twenty years ago, Netflix.com launched. The movie business has never been the same.
    Moviegoers once devoted substantial chunks of their Friday evenings to perusing the aisles of video stores. You’d go in with one movie in mind, but the latest releases had been picked over.
    Place your bets now on the next 20 (I vote for big-screen streaming events become the norm, vote for your fav and watch it at the cinema).

  • What smartphone photography is doing to our memories
    Though they may appear crystal clear in our minds, our memories are not a carbon copy of the events we witnessed. Every time we recall a memory, we may accidentally alter it or diminish its accuracy. Even trivial memories are easily corrupted with mere suggestions.
    …. and I had THE BEST comment on this article… ummmmm….

  • Hating Sundays
    I’ve lived alone for 6 years now and in that time I’ve realised how much I hate Sundays. There’s just something about them. I never want to do too much else I’ll end up knackered for the week ahead but that means that more often than not I end up not making plans at all.
    For those that read my ‘Sunday Mornings’ piece, you are not alone!

  • Malcolm Gladwell Explains Where His Ideas Come From
    For many readers out there, the publication of a new Malcolm Gladwell article ranks as an event demanding immediate attention.
    I always enjoy his writing, even if I don’t agree with it all. Stories are where the humanity lies.

  • The Hague bans marijuana smoking in city centre
    The Hague has become the first Dutch city to ban the smoking of marijuana around its city centre, central railway station and major shopping areas. Flyers are to be distributed at cannabis-selling coffee shops and homeless shelters to warn of fines for those caught breaching the ban.
    Have to say, glad to hear this. Barcelona was beautiful but too often *cough* that smell.. bleuch.

  • Plastic recycling: Why are 99.75% of coffee cups not recycled?
    It’s gradually becoming common knowledge that it’s not as easy to recycle your takeaway coffee cup as people may have thought. The mixture of paper and plastic in their inner lining – designed to make them both heat and leakproof – makes them difficult to recycle.
    There has to be a compromise.

  • 10 Ways To Have A Better Conversation
    I definitely will take this talk by Celeste Headlee to heart. Time to take an honest look at how I ‘listen’.
    For those who struggle to make small talk, try listening better (some good tips I hadn’t heard before in this little video).

  • From Madonna to Janelle Monáe: how female sexuality progressed in pop
    In 1997, Aerosmith released an ode to the female anatomy, simply titled Pink, in which Steven Tyler famously brayed about his tremendous love of a woman’s vagina.
    I’d say Monáe for next US President but know the Beyonce fans would win that vote… Monáe for VP?

  • Joy Neville: ‘Coping in a male-dominated world? I don’t know anything else’
    Joy Neville never wanted to be a referee.
    Here’s hoping it’s easier for the next non-male rugby referees to come through.

  • The Ladies Who Were Famous for Wanting to Be Left Alone
    On the night of Monday, March 30, 1778, an Anglo-Irish lady named Sarah Ponsonby, age twenty-three, the unmarried dependent of well-placed relatives (her parents long dead), slipped out of her guardians’ Georgian mansion in Woodstock, Kilkenny, the rest of the house asleep.
    It shouldn’t be a surprise that history is littered with amazing women. I’m glad these stories are coming to the fore.

  • Against marriage
    What distinguishes marriage from other relationships? It is not set apart by its durability: unmarried partnerships can be more permanent than married ones.
    File under: YMMV. (note: I’m divorced but I’m not against marriage).

  • How a Liberal Scholar of Conspiracy Theories Became the Subject of a Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory
    In 2010, Marc Estrin, a novelist and far-left activist from Vermont, found an online version of a paper by Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School and the most frequently cited legal scholar in the world.
    What goes around comes around?

  • Disneyflix Is Coming. And Netflix Should Be Scared.
    Will Disney destroy the movie theater? No company has been more responsible for shaping the modern entertainment landscape than Walt Disney. In 1937, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, its first feature film, Disney invented the family blockbuster.
    And, in the midst of all this, us poor schmucks who’ll end up shelling out another monthly fee….

  • Your Eyes Aren’t Windows Into Your Soul
    To understand the expressive range of the human face, nothing beats watching a colleague scream his head off in slow motion. When my lab began to study protective reflexes in the early 2000s, the video cameras came out and the place became a scare factory.
    Ha, like I have a soul…

  • Trailblazing Scottish Mountaineer and Poet Nan Shepherd on the Transcendent Rewards of Walking and What Makes for an Ideal Walking Companion
    To place one foot in front of the other in a steady rhythm is to allow self and world to cohere, to set the mind itself into motion. We walk for different reasons and to different ends — for Thoreau, every walk was “a sort of crusade”; for artist Maira Kalman, it is “the glory of life.”
    I do love walking, solo. I also like walking with some people but not others. Some of the reasons are in this article.

  • The Boston Marathon Had Two Shocking Winners
    You will read, and in fact are reading right now, that Desi Linden and Yuki Kawauchi’s times (2:39:54 and 2:15:58) were the slowest winning times in the Boston Marathon in 40 and 42 years, respectively.
    Bonkers. Aren’t humans constantly fascinating.

  • Scrivener for Blogging
    This blog post was written in Scrivener. I think you’re all well-aware of my Scrivener addiction by now. I’ve posted reviews of both the mac version and the iOS app, and a YouTube series devoted to the topic is in the works.
    Posting more for myself and my decade long search for a ‘workflow’ that ‘works’.

  • Evangelism
    LOLz

  • Elon Musk’s advice for when you’re dragged into useless meetings
    Yes.

  • Three kinds of meetings
    Meetings are marketing in real time with real people. (A conference is not a meeting. A conference is a chance for a circle of people to interact). PLEASE don’t confuse them. Confused meeting types are the number one source of meeting ennui.
    Yes to this also.

  • What Amazon learned by having employees write stories instead of doing PowerPoints
    And whilst we are at it, this too.

  • The calmness of airplane pilots
    Yesterday a Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas experienced an in-flight engine explosion and had to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. The explosion tore a hole in the fuselage and a passenger started to get sucked out of the hole before being pulled back in (she subsequently died).
    The audio of this is utterly engrossing.

  • Actually, Table Salt Rules
    For years, I politely declined to keep the pedestrian substance known as table salt in my pantry.
    Are YOU a salt snob?

  • How to Get Minesweeper on Your Mac
    If you’ve been a die-hard Apple fan since you first put your fingers to a keyboard, there’s a chance you’ve never experienced the thrill of Minesweeper—one of the two classic games that used to be found on Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
    I didn’t realise how much I missed Minesweeper until now. (note: turns out, not that much…)

  • The Scientific Case for a Big Breakfast
    The big thing in sports nutrition in the 1990s was the “window of opportunity.” Down some carbs immediately after a workout, a notable 1988 study found, and you’ll replenish your fuel stores 75 percent more quickly than if you down the same carbs two hours later.
    No, not Chris Evans… ALL THE FOOD!!

  • TOO MANY MEN
    Nothing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India.
    I think the headline says it all (and in ALL CAPS too).

  • What Comes After The Social Media Empires
    The intense political battles over Facebook and the other giant social media companies mark the end of the empire-building phase of those companies’ history. Now they’re a mid-20th-century European power, agonizing over the inevitable loss of the colonies and trying to stomp out insurgencies.
    I’m gonna guess it’s not silence and the end of trolls.

  • Why restaurants became so loud — and how to fight back
    When the Line Hotel opened in Washington, DC, last December, the cocktail bars, gourmet coffee shops, and restaurants that fill its cavernous lobby drew a lot of buzz. Housed in a century-old church, the space was also reputedly beautiful.
    And where America leads, the UK shall follow (see the last point, ugh (also, not ALL etc etc))

No such thing as over sharing

I’ve only ever taken one shower with my clothes on.

I was alone at the time and can still remember the sensations as my t-shirt started clinging to me, my jeans growing heavy and cold on my legs. I was drunk, had just thrown up then crawled into the bath and turned the shower tap on. I lay there as the water fell on me and I cried. My wife had (rightly) just left me and gone back to Scotland, I was alone and in the early grips of the darkest days of my depression.

I’m not sure why I turned the shower on, perhaps a memory from a movie scene was my inspiration, yet looking back it all seems a bit emo-angsty and overly dramatic. At the time I think I was just hoping to feel something other than emptiness but it’s a hazy memory at best but I don’t think that should detract from the reason why I just shared that story in the first place.

I’ve shared a lot of things about me on this blog. Some would say too much at times but, as I’ve said before, this blog is not all of me. Even the most personal posts exclude some details; sometimes that is due to embarassment, sometimes to protect others, sometimes because it just didn’t feel right to share (or it would’ve detracted from what I was trying to write), sometimes because it’s can be hard to share things with complete honesty, and sometimes because I don’t really know the people reading it and, to be blunt, you haven’t earned my trust.

As an example, take that opening paragraph. There is much more to that story, much more to the before and after of that moment, but my point isn’t to lay out my life in fine detail its just to lay out the sense of a moment, just to give something to say ‘I’ve been there too’ to anyone who reads it, after all you don’t share a map when you come back from a holiday, just the best snapshots (do I win the worst analogy award for that??).

I’ve written about my depression in the past, in fact the 20 year anniversary of that post is later this year. When I wrote it I wasn’t even sure I would publish it but I’m glad I did, not just because it helped me process things but because it also helped a couple of other people who emailed me at the time to say thank you. Before that I hadn’t even thought about what I was sharing nor that it might actually be helpful to someone else.

And here’s the thing about mental health issues. Everyone has them. EVERYONE. Even if you don’t want to acknowledge it within yourself, there is probably something going on somewhere, a disquiet or unease, even just that low level feeling of ‘I’ve HAD IT with people today’. It may manifest itself in other ways, like my more recent feeling of being a bit stuck that sent me back to counselling. That wasn’t about depression, but was mostly definitely something that was affecting my mental health and I’m so glad I got some help with it. I spoke to my closest friends and family about it, and they were all supportive and, ultimately, it teased out some stories from them as well about their own mental health.

Everyone has mental health issues of some sort.

Everyone.

Many people can get through entire working days, weeks even, without anyone knowing what is really going on in their heads. Like many other kinds of illness mental health issues can be completely invisible. Ask any of the colleagues I worked with during that time in my life, 20 years ago, and I doubt they’d have known; I didn’t miss a days work and was my usual sarcastic self the entire time. They didn’t know about the lay-by on the way home I’d often stop at because I realised I was seriously considering crashing my car on purpose, they didn’t know about the late nights lying in the dark and wondering if anyone would really miss me if I was no longer around.

More recently I wrote about the loneliness of Sunday mornings and had a couple of people contact me to say I had struck a chord and that they felt that way too. They thanked me for sharing it, after all a problem shared is a problem halved (well, shared again at least) and, again, it struck me that sharing MORE is a good thing.

And that is one of the reasons I wrote about, and will continue to write about these things. The stigma around mental health is loosening but, as with most of these things, it’ll take time to change and I think the more people who share their own stories, the quicker it’ll happen.

As I get older and continue to figure out (and challenge) who I am, the further away those dark days of my depression seem. I’m lucky that these days my worst ‘down days’ are probably no more than a few hours of feeling maudlin. There is no real rhyme or reason to them, Sunday mornings excluded, but I’ve learned when to accept them and let myself wallow a little (but not too much).

Sometimes it’s ok to give in for a little bit, have a cry, eat some chocolate, hide from the world under a blanket, whatever works for you.

As I age I find my darker thoughts turning to my future. When will I be able to afford to retire? When I’m very old, if I’m still single, what happens if I fall and can’t get up? Will I find someone to share Sunday mornings with again? Do I really want to find someone to live with when I am old? Ohhh how my brain so easily picks up on the smallest thought, the tiniest concern, and quickly nurtures it until it grows large enough to block out the sun.

It turns out the black cloud is never all that far away.

Sharing these moments of my life on this blog, publically, is not something I do lightly. I’m aware they may be triggering for some people, I’m aware that some people will think less of me for doing so, but I’m also aware that sharing these thoughts, no matter how little they may relate to the lives of others means that now and then someone who does read them may feel a little less alone, a little less broken, a little more hopeful that they too can get through things.

When I started this blog I wrote about topical things, nonsense things, things that zipped by me on the ever growing internet. I spent time digging around in the Yahoo directories or reading other weblogs as I found them. I wrote about things I was doing, about events in my life, movies I’d watched. For a while it was more diary than blog, but for a long time now this is place where I write to think. I don’t publish all of it but sometimes when I’m in the midst of writing a post I’ll realise that maybe, just maybe, it might be beneficial to others to read that someone else is going through something similar.

We are all human, we all have foibles and faults. We all carry with us many demons of differing size and emotion. We are imperfect.

A few days after I took that shower I managed to summon up the courage to talk to my doctor. I told her I was feeling depressed, that my life seemed to be stuck behind a glass wall where the sounds and colours and connections were muted. A couple of weeks later I had my first counselling session.

To this day I’ve never taken another shower with my clothes on.

Weekend Reading

  • Africa is splitting into two after tear in Kenya’s Rift Valley [Video]
    After heavy rains and seismic activities on Monday, the earth has split open at Kenya’s Rift Valley leaving a huge tear that is more than 50 feet deep and more than 50 feet wide weaving through the arable land in Narok County.
    And here we all are worrying about Trump, meanwhile in Africa…

  • Drawing is back in fashion as British Museum offer pencils and paper for new blockbuster exhibition
    It was once the staple of every artist’s practice, before falling out of fashion at the hands of conceptual art, formaldehyde cows and unmade beds.
    What a great idea!

  • What About “The Breakfast Club”?
    Earlier this year, the Criterion Collection, which is “dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world,” released a restored version of “The Breakfast Club,” a film written and directed by John Hughes that I acted in, more than three decades ago.
    Did anyone NOT fall in love with Molly Ringwald at this time? Great look on how we replay the values of today on art of the past.

  • quotemail #19: life is seasonal
    Those words knocked the wind out of me, and I wanted to share them. She understands that she is harvesting after patiently planting and tending to her garden, and it has shifted my own mindset. Now I understand: life is seasonal. Some years are for questions, and some years are for answers.
    I’ve already shared this on Twitter and Facebook but worth it again. When something resonates this hard, you come back to over and over.

  • This 1785 Dictionary of Vulgar Phrases Is a Hilarious …
    Did your mom ever wash your mouth out with soap when you were a rambunctious little scamp? If she did, you definitely know the childish joy of discovering “bad” words for the first time. Naughty language isn’t a modern novelty, and a 1785 dictionary of vulgarities proves it.
    Your challenge for today, pick one and use it in a random conversation. See if anyone notices!

  • The dots do matter: how to scam a Gmail user
    I recently received an email from Netflix which nearly caused me to add my card details to someone else’s Netflix account. Here I show that this is a new kind of phishing scam which is enabled by an obscure feature of Gmail called “the dots don’t matter”.
    I get this all the time (well ‘wrong’ email address signups). Apparently I own a Merc in Arizona somewhere…

  • South Korea’s former president is going to prison. The scandal behind it is batshit.
    South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye has been sentenced to 24 years in prison and ordered to pay a whopping $17 million in fines after being convicted of bribery, coercion, abuse of power, and other charges.
    Say it with me, truth is stranger than fiction (which reminds me to get back to my attempts at fiction and beef them up a bit!)

  • Making the Touch Bar finally useful
    Back in 2017, I thought the Touch Bar had a vast potential to become engaging and helpful. I believed developers might support it in their applications. I was hoping there was a use for it.
    My 2012 MacBook Air is slowly dying. I will need to replace. Was gonna avoid Touch Bar but now… hmmmmm

  • How to Find New Music You’ll Actually Like
    Some people can dig up great music like magic, or have friends inside the industry who keep them updated. Some people are contented with their weekly Spotify Discover playlist.
    Nothing particularly radical in here but it’s a constant battle for me.

  • Headlines making you anxious? Delay reading them
    It’s a rare week, these days, that you don’t encounter some new, extreme plan for staying sane in a world of insanity-inducing headlines. People used to recommend one device-free day a week, or the occasional “digital detox” retreat.
    File under: So obvious you wonder why you didn’t think of it.

  • Stray Dog
    One of Moriyama Daidō’s most famous black-and-white photographs is of a stray dog, a bit wolfish, with matted hair, looking back into the camera watchfully, with a hint of aggression. He took the picture in 1971 in Misawa, home to a large US Air Force base, in the northeast of Japan.
    A story that isn’t about a dog at all…

  • Nikola Tesla predicted the smartphone in 1926
    In an interview published in Collier’s magazine in 1926, Nikola Tesla, then in the twilight of his career, made some predictions about the future that included electric airplane flights “from New York to Europe in a few hours”, more frequent earthquakes, and temperate zones becoming cooler…
    Genuine genius.

  • Glasgow Garden Festival: Did you go to the event in 1988?
    This is fab. I think I was there a few times, with groups and with my family.

  • You’ve Seen This Letter Everywhere, But Can You Write It?
    Which one is correct? (Credit: Johns Hopkins University) Most of us learn the ABCs in our youth. We see and say the letters so many times they eventually become etched in our minds.
    Given it’s the first letter of my name, and I’m a bit of a typography/font nerd… yeah I got it right!

  • The New Yorker’s musical magazine cover
    The New Yorker has a fun cover this week from cartoonist Tom Gauld. The New York street scene shows bits of music being played and listened to by people and birds and if you click through to the interactive version, you can listen to what each snippet of musical notation sounds like.
    Well this is just lovely.

  • The Countries That Drink the Most Wine Will Certainly …
    Unwinding with a glass of wine is a practice embraced worldwide, whether it’s to relax, enjoy over dinner with friends and family, or celebrate a special occasion. Wine consumption varies by country, but some countries are decidedly more enthusiastic about it than others.
    Next up, who are those people who manage to have ‘leftover wine’?

  • If Budgeting Your Money Is Too Hard, Try This Instead
    Everybody knows having a budget is a good idea. But actually sitting down, looking through your finances, and writing down how much you’ll spend on everything this month? That’s easier said than done. Sure, many people make and stick to a budget.
    I budget. I could do better. Gonna give this a whirl.

  • The Case of the Very, Very Friendly Man Online
    This is what most people’s social-media comments look like, right? A few banal pleasantries, some vague support, a soothing confirmation that you look nice in your new profile photo.
    I’ve been called out on this in the past, I genuinely didn’t realise I was doing it. If I’ve ever made anyone feel uncomfortable, please say (more on this later I think).

  • Extraordinary aerial photograph of Edinburgh circa 1920
    I’d never seen this stunning aerial photograph of Edinburgh taken by Alfred Buckham circa 1920.
    Neither had I.

  • Aging Ghosts in the Skincare Machine
    Let me start with my skin in the game. In the four months between November 2017 and February 2018, I spent about $520 on skincare products. This number does not include makeup. It does not include shampoo or conditioner. It does not include body lotion. And it is, in all likelihood, a little low.
    The skincare industry is bonkers mental.

  • Ticks rising
    Evolution has endowed the big-footed snowshoe hare with a particularly nifty skill. Over a period of about 10 weeks, as autumn days shorten in the high peaks and boreal forests, the nimble nocturnal hare transforms itself.
    Hands up if you feel a bit ‘itchy’ now?

  • Order to the Chaos of Life: Isabel Allende on Writing
    Literary history is ripe with eloquent attempts to answer the ever-elusive question of why writers write. For George Orwell, it resulted from four universal motives. Joan Didion saw it as precious access to her own mind. For David Foster Wallace, it was about fun.
    I find dedication and passion for anything utterly fascinating. What drives you, won’t drive me, but it’s still fascinating.

  • The improbable story of the cranberry’s path to global domination
    The secret of the cranberry’s success has always been stealth. After two centuries of cranberry-free Thanksgivings, the fruit quietly became a holiday staple thanks to US general Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 holiday feast.
    *invests in cranberries*

  • Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes mashup is bigger than a Mega-Penguinosaurus
    For the entire stretch of the ‘80s, for many a penguin-loving comics-phile, the Sunday funny papers were the place to be, thanks to the illuminating work of Berkeley Breathed on his strip Bloom County.
    Dear Mr Watters. Please do more (but only if you want to).

  • Booze bargain hunt: the best budget supermarket tipples
    With a £10 gin from Aldi named one of the best in the world, the likes of Lidl and Asda are giving drinkers cause for cheer. Here’s our guide to the best hidden treasures.
    Yeah because what I need is MORE gin…

  • Stephen King Creates a List of His 10 Favorite Novels
    If you’ve ever had to name your ten favorite of anything, you know how much trickier such a list is to compose than it sounds.
    AKA when a top 10 list becomes a … top 28??

  • When Did Geek Culture Get so Angry?
    In January 2011, Jared Lee Loughner, then twenty-two years of age, attempted to assassinate US representative Gabrielle Giffords at a meet-and-greet with her constituents. Giffords survived, but six people died that day in a supermarket parking lot.
    Is the answer anything to do with ‘men’?

  • The Darker Side of Leonard Cohen
    O, the night Leonard Cohen’s death was announced, pilgrims began assembling at the doorstep of Cohen’s Montreal home to cry, pray, and lay offerings. This was just the beginning.
    Dare I suggest I rank Cohen alongside The Smiths as ‘hype does not justify the product’? I think I dare.

  • Who Does She Think She Is?
    Another day at the Telegraph and another attack on Laurie Penny. — Nick Cohen, The Spectator, 2011 Do you think that red hair and makeup is used for anything other than attention? Her writing? Same. That bitch is a whore who needs to die choking on cocks. — 4chan, 2016
    I hope she never ever stops. What is this world??!!

  • The Real Technology Problem
    We know Congress and Mark Zuckerberg won’t discuss the real technology problem. Neither will we. Ironically, it’s private. Sure, the privacy issue is worth examining and big tech needs to get humbled.
    What are you reading this on, right now? Is that the real problem?

  • Andre Ingram steals the show in Lakers’ loss to Rockets
    Staples Center stirred in anticipation as a thin 32-year-old rookie with taut cheeks and gray-speckled hair walked over to the scorer’s table to check in. The arena erupted when the part-time math tutor made his first three-pointer.
    10 years in minor leagues and finally gets a shot with the ‘big boys’. This is heartwarmingly lovely (go Lakers!!)

  • Airbus to Offer Naps in the Cargo Hold
    It won’t be a room with a view, but may help prevent neck strain. Passengers flying on Airbus SE planes will soon be able to slip down into the cargo hold for a proper nap.
    I struggle to sleep sitting up, so YES PLEASE TO THIS!!

  • Scottish police ‘rescue’ metal fans mistaken for suicide pact members
    Emergency services mounted a full-scale rescue operation, including fire engines, ambulances and lifeboats, after a passerby thought a group of heavy metal fans out camping were involved in a suicide pact.
    OK, so WHO CALLED THE POLICE??

  • Dêjà Rêvé Is Even Weirder Than Dêjà Vu
    According to legend, Cassandra, the princess of Troy, was cursed to speak true prophecies that no one ever believed.
    That weird dream, yeah it was weird, but was it prophetic?

  • What if The Shining was an 8-bit Video Game?
    My love of everything ‘The Shining’ grows and grows…

  • I refuse to be silenced
    Whore. Liar. Traitor. Opportunist. I have been called all of these things and more since I first began to speak out last October about being raped in 1997, when I was 21 years old, by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
    Amplifying.

  • The Infuriating Innocence of Mark Zuckerberg
    Mark Zuckerberg has spent most of his adult life apologizing, but he hasn’t managed to improve much.
    Facebook isn’t the problem. YOU are the problem (me too!).

Podcast: Distraction Pieces

Hosted by Scroobius Pip, this weekly podcast is always, ALWAYS, interesting. Not only because the host is a smart guy but because he manages to put his guests at ease no matter how dark or deep the topic. He’s as adept at bringing out moments of humour and humanity as he is treading the fine lines of discussions around, for example, addiction.

And what a mixed bag of guests. Refreshingly, for every episode I’ve listened to so far, each guest realises this is a conversation about wider topics and no-one appears to be selling their latest product or pushing a certain storyline. Yes, it’s an interview, but it’s more a frank exchange of ideas and thoughts between intelligent, erudite, people.

Some examples to peruse:

You can subscribe to future episodes using this RSS Link.

Weekend Reading

  • 13 Tips For Losing Weight Without Going Broke
    If you think you need to spend a lot of money to lose weight, you can blame the expensive juice detoxes and plans that call for super powders and other uncommon ingredients. While you can spend a ton of money on such plans, you don’t have to.
    Step 1, stop following a ‘plan’?

  • ‘As if’
    Some movies have a way of infiltrating our everyday conversations. “Clueless,” for example, influenced the way an entire generation of kids talked. In the mid-1990s, suddenly every teen was dishing out a blase “whatever” when they weren’t totally buggin’ or Audi.
    I’d love a British version of this, although most of our cultural influences are from the US anyway. How many of these do you know?

  • Whatever You Do, Don’t Hit the Snooze Button
    When the alarm goes off after a late bedtime and a restless night, most of us are tempted to hit the snooze button. Resist the urge — it’ll only make things worse.
    I can’t hit my snooze button without physically getting up and out of bed. But now I understand why this is helping me sleep better.

  • The 2-Dot Optical Illusion Is a Simple GIF That Will …
    Optical illusions are fun for some, and infuriating for many. Take, for example, the two-dot illusion that resurfaced on the web in January 2018. It blew up online, for reasons you’ll understand after taking a look yourself.
    An oldie but a goodie… watch watch watc… whoooaaaaa!

  • In a disposable age, luxury is something old, worn, and beautiful
    I’m slowly ‘disposing’ of my IKEA furniture for older, worn, pieces. So much more life in them.

  • Elena Ferrante: ‘I make an effort never to exaggerate with an exclamation mark’
    Of all the punctuation marks, it’s the one I like the least. It suggests a commander’s staff, a pretentious obelisk, a phallic display I try never to raise my voice. Enthusiasm, anger, even pain I try to express with restraint, tending towards self-mockery.
    Guilty as charged!!

  • Doing Dishes Is the Worst
    This is now an empirically proven fact. Dishwashing causes more relationship distress than any other household task. Every day, they slowly accumulate. Plates covered in sauces and crumbs. Bowls with a fine layer of sticky who-knows-what.
    Two solutions: 1. Live alone. 2. Get a dishwasher. Simple. No??

  • The World’s First Face Gym Wants To Make Your Head Sweat
    When we work out, it’s all about the abs, glutes, and biceps. But a new gym is targeting an often-ignored set of muscles: the ones behind your smile. Called (what else?) FaceGym, it melds beauty, spa, and, well, face-muscle fitness.
    File under: FFS.

  • 50 years since his death, Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophical work is all but forgotten
    In the 50 years since the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., the memory of the transformative civil rights leader has undergone a “Disneyfication.” Textbooks, movies, and TV shows often suggest that King’s quest for racial and economic equality was ultimately successful.
    50 years and it doesn’t seem like all that much has really changed.

  • 8 Photos of Badass Women Who Made Hatred Shrink in Their Presence
    An image of Saffiyah Khan, a young woman from Birmingham, made waves as it reminded the world of the power of peaceful resistance in the face of grotesque hatred.
    I am lucky enough to know several badass women, but this is a whole other level.

  • For Deeper Sleep and a Stronger Memory, Listen to …
    A love for sleep is what unites all of humanity. Probably. In any case, many people are on a never-ending mission to elevate their snooze sessions, from choosing the perfect pillow to setting the perfect room temperature. One more tip to take your bedtime to the next level: pink noise.
    I had no idea there was such a thing… by why is it called pink noise?

  • Pink noise
    Pink noise or  1⁄f noise is a signal or process with a frequency spectrum such that the power spectral density (energy or power per frequency interval) is inversely proportional to the frequency of the signal.
    Ohhhhhh that’s why.

  • Samantha Irby: Why I’d Rather Live Alone
    I HAVE NEITHER THE TIME NOR PATIENCE TO FIX MY GROSS SHIT.
    Subtitle says it all. Also, no one to fall out with over doing the dishes.

  • Teenage Vandals Were Sentenced to Read Books. Here’s What One Learned.
    Instead of spending time in community service, Judge Avelina Jacob decided, the youths should read a book. But not just any book. They had to choose from a list of ones covering some of history’s most divisive and tragic periods.
    Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. (name that quote)

  • What Lorrie Moore’s Essays Can Teach Us About “The Male Glance”
    The Spring 2018 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review features an article by Lili Loofbourow that has attracted a lot of attention, and which sparked a good deal of discussion among friends of mine.
    “The White Male Glance”, which is my lens on the world, is one I’m constantly trying to refocus.

Six by Nico: Vietnamese Street Food

It doesn’t seem that long since we last ventured to Six by Nico, largely because it isn’t. Due to the vagaries of multiple calendars, we ended up booking to go on day 2 of the newest menu which was taking us to Vietnam.

I’m a huge fan of eastern flavours, and have to admit I was pretty excited to try the Six by Nico take on some of my favourite Vietnamese street food style dishes, I mean check out this menu!

  1. SPRING ROLL – Rice Paper / Crayfish & Crab / Vietnamese Herbs
  2. PHO – Chicken ‘Noodles’ / Tiger prawn / Aromatic Broth
  3. CHÁO VIT – Rice Porridge / Duck / Peanut / Mooli
  4. SEA BREAM – Rice noodles / Mango / Squid
  5. CLAYPOT PORK BELLY – Pak Choi / Water Chestnut / Coconut Rice / Pineapple
  6. VIETNAMESE COFFEE – Condensed Milk / Coffee Cake / Pandang / Palm Sugar

But first, as always, SNACKS!

For this street food inspired menu, the snack definitely set the tone for the meal. A wonderful take on BAHN MI, a rich, deeply flavoured beef, served on toasted baguette, with some pickled chilli. Delicious if a little ‘bread’ heavy. Mind you, we had ordered some mango mimosa apertifs so they helped wash things down.

The snack was shortly followed by the first course, well when I say shortly followed, the spring rolls turned up whilst I was still taking a photograph of the Bahn Mi… a very subtle and well balanced dish, packed full of crayfish and crab, vibrant herbs and a few dollops of a mild lime jus, they were an excellent start to the main courses. Light, very tasty, but possibly could’ve taken a green chilli heat to give it a different dimension but that’s me being very picky.

I’ve had Pho at a few places, both in the UK and in Singapore and I think this take on it nails all the key parts perfectly. Starting with the rich broth which brought a heavy hit of chicken umami-ness (if that’s a word) which added to the depth of flavour for thin ‘noodle’ strips of chicken. A perfectly cooked tiger prawn sat atop the dish, with another hidden underneath alongside some earthy mushrooms to add both texture and further flavour. It may be small bit this Pho was mighty!

I’ve never had rice porridge before and I’m pretty sure what we had wasn’t how it would normally be presented; a slice of what was essentially a savoury rice pudding which was seared on one side. On top of that was satay duck, and somewhere in the mix a gentle heat which, I’m presuming, came from the mooli. The shredded duck was succulent, with a good heat, and was utterly delicious, I’m not sure about the presentation and it’ll be interesting to see how that aspect of the dish changes over the coming weeks (we were there on day 2 of this new menu).

More fishy goodness with the next course. A perfectly pan cooked fillet of sea bream on top of smoked vermicelli rice noodles, with a couple of squid rings as well. Each element was perfectly executed, I could’ve eaten a large plate of the squid alone as it was perfectly cooked, and the lightly spiced and smoked noodles helped bring a freshness to the entire plate.

Looking at the menu, the penultimate plate was the one that had me a little trouble. I’ve had good and bad pork belly in the past and, as I am not a fan of eating fat, I had my concerns. To say there were unfounded is to sell short and absolute belter of a dish that packed some huge flavours, and the pork belly, ohhhhh that pork belly, was an utterly, salivatingly, salty and succulent delight. Coconut rice, charred pineapple, and a lightly chilli’d pineapple jus brought the entire plate together in an explosion of taste and, well I could’ve six courses of just that!

And then dessert arrived. I am on the record as NOT A FAN of cold coffee flavours. They just don’t sit on my palate all that well, so you can keep your tirimasu thanks. Not so this decadent offering, with a condensed milk panacotta (oh my heavens!) topped with a slice of light coffee cake and slivers of palm sugar, and presented with a subtle coffee aroma’d espuma. I don’t mind telling you I was virtually licking the bowl clean.

Looking back, it’s hard to find fault with any of the dishes offered. Each one was clean and light on the palate, even when packing a punch. It was a real embodiment of Vietnamese cooking served up with no short measure of panache, skill and flair.

In the grand ranking of Six by Nico menus whilst this doesn’t quite push The Chippie off my top spot (a menu which packed heartier flavours in and was without real flaw), it’s certainly up there in a close second place.

Price wise, in a shock move, they’ve put the price up a massive £3! Yup, six courses of delicious food will set you back £28, plus £5 for the starter and £5 for an apertif. Wine matching remains £25, an option I thought it best to avoid when starting dinner at 9pm on a school night.

Regardless, £28 for food this good is still a ridiculous bargain. There is a very good reason we’ve not missed a menu yet, and if you haven’t managed along I cannot recommend this eating experience enough.

A small sidenote: one of my friends is a very fussy eater. He too has not missed a menu and has tried all manner of things that he has avoided before. The beauty of Six by Nico is precisely that you aren’t really entirely sure how the ingredients listed against every item in the menu will be cooked and presented and, so far, it’s been a wonderous delight every time.

Barcelona

No, not the Ed Sheeran song, if anything my recent trip to this wonderful city evoked the original (and best, and I’ll fight anyone that says different) song performed by two soaring talents…

Barcelona
It was the first time that we met
Barcelona
How can I forget
The moment that you stepped into the room
You took my breath away

Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé

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Gaudi with ALL the filters.. amaze!!

A post shared by Gordon McLean (@gmclean) on

This was my second trip to Barcelona, the first being a lifetime ago as part of an off-site working weekend. I don’t remember much about that last trip as we didn’t really have time to go and be tourists, a quick walk up to the Olympic Stadium was all I had time for, so I was excited to be going again to explore Barcelona anew.

Ostensibly this trip was to go and attend the last two days of Formula One testing, which fall on a Thursday and Friday, so it was simple enough to tag on a weekend of exploration and with such a rich history of art and culture I was possibly a little more excited about that aspect of the trip than the ‘loud cars going fast’ part (possibly, but let’s not split hairs).

My first day was a bit of a rush, getting from the airport to the circuit proved tricky and expensive thanks to IWD protestors managing to close all the major roads out of Barcelona meaning a €60 taxi charge became €110 by the time we pulled up at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but once there it was great to see the new shiny F1 cars whizzing round the track (and to be clear, I’m happy the protests were happening).

Then it was back to the hotel for a first beer (the circuit doesn’t sell alcohol) in the shadows of a great big half-built cathedral thingy – more on that later – before we headed out for sushi (don’t ask) and ended up in an Irish Bar until the wee small hours which was a lot of fun but didn’t help the next morning, 4 hrs later, when my alarm went off.

The next day was a bit more sedate but the early rise was necessary as we had booked a paddock tour for the morning which meant leaving the hotel at 8.30am… it was a good idea when we booked it. It was, for us F1 geeks, a lot of fun getting to see behind the scenes, the press room, the control center, and even a chance to stand at the top of the podium, before we got a tour round the track and then were let loose(ish) to wander the paddock. As it wasn’t a race day it was pretty relaxed, a Ferrari engineer here, a Red Bull clad person there, but it was cool to see all the kit up close (did you know those massive big tyres only weigh about 5kg, very easy to lift!).

And then it was proper tourist time. I headed out solo on Saturday with a rough route in mind and a few places I wanted to visit on the way. The Picasso museum was my first stop and is well worth a visit. Seeing his progression through his early oil paintings and his journey towards his better known Cubist works was fascinating. From there a wander to marina, a cafe con leche or two, and then I meandered back up into the Gothic Quarter to hit MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona).

The gothic quarter is as it sounds, a maze of streets and alleyways you could quite easily get lost in. Cafes suddenly appear on the edge of little town plazas, whilst ornate balconies lean over you, casting their intricate shadows.

MACBA was everything you’d expect from a Museum of Modern art. The building itself, a minimalist stark affair rendered in pristine white, is beautiful and airy and invites you to explore. I was mainly there thanks to the wonders of the internet matching up an image I’d seen some time last year of a piece called ‘Flashers’ by Rosemarie Castoro with the fact that some of her work was being exhibited whilst I was in Barcelona. Aces! It was a fascinating set of performance pieces (recorded), graphic design, photography and sculpture, and I was utterly transfixed.

From the challenging serenity of MACBA I headed back out to meet up with my friends in another Irish bar to watch Scotland play Ireland at rugby… least said about that game the better… and then we all met up again later for dinner and drinks at a very hipster restaurant called Zed. The food was very good, although it did seem to depend on what you ordered as some of my friends didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday was Gaudi day, a man it is hard to escape in Barcelona, and it was also Barcelona Marathon Day so the place was jumping. Still, I had my tickets for Park Guell and Sagrada Familia booked and another early alarm set so I had time to walk up to Park Guell for my 8.30am entrance time. I’m glad I got there early as it was quiet enough to enjoy without hordes of tourists and the sun was still low as Barcelona lay spread out below me. I took some time to sit and marvel at the intricate mosiac work, the organic curves of the lookout structure and just enjoyed being outside in the early morning sunshine with Barcelona starting to shimmer in the morning sunshine.

My entrance ticket to Sagrada Familia was booked for 12noon so I had plenty of time to wander back, letting my feet take me down streets and side streets, stopping for lunch and churros when I got hungry. The influence of Antoni Gaudi was obvious, with curving balconies and stained glasses edifices all over the place, and that was all before I got to Casa Batlló, another famous building covered in a myriad array of tiles and colours, wrapping the rippling facade and shimmering in the sunshine. Beautiful.

And then it was on to Sagrada Familia, that massive unfinished cathedral that is still being worked on many years after Gaudi’s death.

Built using a clear set of principles, which are still followed to this day, it is an epic achievement of stunning design. The outside is decorated in various biblical scenes and as you enter through the 10foot high (carved and painted) ivy clad doors your eyes immediately follow the tree like pillars up and up to the gloriously vaulted ceiling space.

When I arrived at the cathedral a few clouds had started rolling in, so I was glad to get inside before the rain started. I wandered in and started to look around, admiring the massive stained glass windows, the gently angled and tapered columns, the entire organic feel of the place and then it happened. I turned round to look back at one set of windows just as the sun came back out and all of a sudden the stained glass sprung into life, bathing the entire vestibule in a rainbow of vibrant, breathtaking, colour.

It’s hard to put into words my emotions. I’m not particularly religious but the word ‘reverence’ springs to mind. The effort and toil that had gone into this building, into the careful representations, the swoops and spirals set in stone, and those stunning windows was brought to life and I was utterly spell-bound and overcome with awe. I sat down on a nearby seat and stayed there for some time, on the edge of tears. It was beautiful, in the very true sense of the word.

Whilst that moment will be the first one I tell people about in years to come, I loved every minute of my time in Barcelona (OK, every minute AFTER that fuckin taxi ride). It is a beautiful city to spend time in, whether wandering the parks, marvelling at the luxury yachts, or exploring those timeless lanes and alleyways. Despite all the ‘be careful of pick pockets’ warnings I’d been given I never once felt threatened and everywhere I went, with my paltry attempts at Spanish all I had to offer, I was met with smiles and warmth.

I think it’s only fair to hand the last word back to Freddie and Montserrat:

Barcelona – Such a beautiful horizon
Barcelona – Like a jewel in the sun
Por ti seré gaviota de tu bella mar
Barcelona – Suenan las campanas
Barcelona – Abre tus puertas al mundo
If God is willing
Friends until the end
Viva – Barcelona

Indeed, Viva Barcelona!