Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Week 15

"I have never fixed a boiler", our landlord cheerfully announced yesterday as he arrived to fix our leaking boiler.

I get very nervous when it comes to home appliances. I'm the kind of person who thinks that unless I unplug everything and do a thorough safety check before going to put the rubbish out, I will return to a big ball of flames. So when a kindly, but evidently clueless, man turns up to do a bit of plumbing, my stomach starts to churn.

Of course, broken boilers are a common feature of the winter months but it's not so bad to be without hot water when you have central heating. If you're brave enough for a cold shower you can reward yourself afterwards with a nice radiator hug. This flat, like many of Barcelona's old buildings, does not have central heating. When we moved here in balmy September, I would boast to friends and family back home, "you know, our flat doesn't have central heating? That's right, I live in a country where radiators are not required. Radiators are for wimps! Enjoy the cold, losers!"

Well, I can inform you that Barcelona does get cold. Over the past weeks we've gaffer-taped the window seals like we're preparing for nuclear war, stuffed gaps in the windows with towels and used rolled-up duvet covers as draft excluders.

"Why do your arms look so big?", Will asked me over dinner the other night. Because I'm wearing three jumpers and a cardigan, that's why. For those of you planning to come and stay with us, please don't let any of this put you off.

Back to the boiler and my confidence in the landlord's handyman skills plummeted further when, by the end of the day, he had managed to turn a few drips into a full-on waterfall. Anyway, heís just been back with a new 'part' and after much faffing, grunting, to-ing and fro-ing, it's apparently fixed. Roll on summer. 

I may not be the best fisherman in the world. I may in fact be the worst, but at least I’m not cursed.

I was fishing down on the long sea wall that extends a few hundred metres in front of the Olympic port, when the weather suddenly turned nasty. A chill wind came up out of nowhere, the sea started to heave menacingly, and angry bruises appeared in the sky. She’s here, I thought. And sure enough, I heard a voice behind me.

“Hi! It’s me! How do I get down?”

She’s never told me how it happened but Christina, like Odysseus, has somehow incurred the wrath of Poseidon, or some other marine deity. As a result, fish instinctively flee from her presence, and fishing line loops wilfully into impossible knots. I am like a character in some forgotten shanty: Don’t ye let Will Dunn’s woman near yon boat, lad… storms roll in from the sea when’er she be near it.

Still, I kept on fishing, because only a small part of the activity of fishing has anything to do with catching fish. It’s more about doing nothing: sitting somewhere by the sea, staring blankly into the middle distance, listening to the cawing of gulls and doing bugger all. Because if someone asked you what you did on Sunday and you said, “oh, I sat on a wall”, they’d think you had failed to use your Sunday properly. Factor in a half-hearted attempt to kill a herring, and suddenly you’re a sportsman.
            There is a real air of contentment down on the sea wall, the quiet satisfaction of men getting away with not doing anything at all. Gardening? Car washing? Football? Sorry, I can’t. I’m going fishing.

Inside Barcelona Cathedral. I wonder if the font is warm enough for an armpit-wash?

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