Will:“I’m champing at the bit for a good ear-clean,” said Christina over breakfast this morning. “It’s starting to look like a candle factory in there.”
It’s funny, the things you miss when you’ve been away from home for a while.
Our first week has been, in a word, daunting. The ten days it took us to get here were were very much a holiday – a ruddy-cheeked, idyllic French camping holiday. On our first evening in Barcelona, we walked up to the Parc Güell, a short distance from where we’ve been staying this first week. You can see most of Barcelona from the Parc Güell, and it looked very big to us on that first night. We were two more tourists in a parkful, but we may have been the only ones thinking: Where are we going to live, and what the hell are we going to do for money?
After a week of filling in forms and traipsing the streets, the city seems a little less massive. We have been staying with a very friendly and helpful couple called Paco and Aura, who have made us feel at home in their flat. Spanish bureacracy is not all that bad, even if you don’t speak much Spanish. Estate agents are arseholes, wherever you go. I even negotiated a (small) reduction in rent with a wily Catalan, on a very Gothic flat indeed, so one of my questions from the first night is answered. As for the other – we have enough saved to tide us over for a while, and thanks to Christina’s organisational skills we seem to be doing quite a lot of work. We’ve even had a meeting with a lady from the tourist office – “the problem is that we are too close to Africa,” she informed us with a knowing look, “and so we have a lot of crime now” – who told us to look for jobs in something other than journalism. I thought about suggesting something in race relations, or motivational speaking.
Things I have seen this week:
An ocean sunfish (at the aquarium)
Lots of flats
The world’s tiniest language expert: Paco and Aura’s 16-month-old son, Luca, who speaks Italian, Romanian and Spanish. I normally despise small children, but Luca is quite the charmer.
A man with a small dog, yesterday.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to live somewhere hot and sunny and do lots of writing?” About a year ago, I uttered words to that effect to Will. Instead of leaving it at that and returning to gazing out of a drizzly train window, we quit our jobs, said adios to postal strikes and David Cameron, and headed to Barcelona for a year-long sun-and-sangria-fuelled knees-up.
We’ve been here for a week and this is what we’ve done:
1. Found a flat in the centre of town, not through an agency. Hurray! We move in tomorrow.
2. Queued for two hours outside the foreigners’ office to get some forms for our NIE numbers. This is a number that every foreigner (or extranjero, if you want to know some espanol) needs in order to live here. It’s a tedious process.
3. Connected to Skype. This is big news and yesterday, I received my first Skype call from my friend Catherine. I went into a spin as her expectant face popped up on my computer screen and I scrambled about for the headphones. “Catherine’s calling! I can see her! She’s in Hull and I’m in Barcelona! Wow!” I remember experiencing similar awe when mum and dad first bought a video player and we watched a recording of the Smurfs.
Will and I have also replaced sloppy text messages with a daily bicker about subjects as diverse as Scrabble, slippers and coffee. We haven’t lived together before and it’s quite a challenge spending all our time together in a city where we have no friends and speak little Spanish. As I type, Will is in a sulk because he can’t find the cable that connects his camera to his laptop. It’s my fault, of course, just like it’s my fault he keeps losing his slippers (the lovely couple we’ve been staying with while we flat hunt, have provided us with slippers so that their 16-month old child doesn’t feast on the dirt from our shoes). “Where are they? You’ve hidden them!”, he bellows at me with predictable regularity. I roll my eyes as he tears around the room, before eventually locating his fluffy footwear. It’s going to be a long year.
Apparently this is a statue of Colombo – they must really love their TV detectives over here.