Friday, 19 March 2010

Week 25

A significant feature in my daily routine here in Barcelona is the Mercat St Josep, or La Boqueria. I know we’ve mentioned this market a few times before, but it’s where we get most of our food, and when you move abroad it’s important to go on about how wonderful it is buying fresh ingredients from a market stall, and how sorry you feel for all the idiots trudging around supermarkets back home, so that you can forget about how you haven’t got any money or friends or central heating and there isn’t a proper pub within a thousand miles.
        La Boqueria is also a big tourist destination, and while most people want a picture of the great stacks of fruit and veg or the weird and wonderful creatures on sale at the fish stalls, the offal stalls are also a draw. Here, there’s a wide variety of animals’ bits on sale: hearts, lungs, kidneys, heads, cakes of pressed blood and whole livers, surprisingly massive, hanging from shiny hooks and drawing horrified gasps from some (typically American and British) onlookers.
    It’s a classic case of ‘one man’s meat’ – there are things are eaten by these very people that would turn the stomach of a Spanish butcher. Chicken nuggets, for example, which are made from the eyes, brains, reproductive organs, skin, feathers and faeces of chickens, beefed up with maltodextrin and water (and beef extract, for flavour). By the time the mashed skin and faeces have been salted and fried, they taste okay – like something that has been salted and fried. They are even shaped to look like chicken wings or drumsticks, giving you a strange, rubbery, boneless imitation of what was once normal human food, at a fraction of the cost (to the manufacturer, that is: if you can get people to pay you to eat turds, you’re hardly going to pass the saving on to your customers). But if you find meat and offal to be disgusting, what else are you going to do? You can either inure yourself to the icky meat, or you can be a vegetarian, or you can eat chicken nuggets – which, as I may have mentioned, are made out of shit.
    On the other hand, it could be that the Spanish butchers are a little too relaxed about plunging their gloveless hands into piles of carnage: normally when paying at the carniceria, I get my change handed back with an added smearing of meaty goodness. If I’ve been buying mince, any bank note the butcher hands me will have a few little chunks stuck to it. I then have to try to remember which hand is covered with meat-germs, and try not to let it enter a pocket (or, worse still, a nostril) until I get home. Usually I forget, and end up affectionately stroking Christina’s hair while thinking oops, that’s the beefy hand, but it still beats going to Tesco.

Montgat, a town 15km up the coast from Barcelona, where quite a number of cats live on the beach in some sort of cat hippy community

I have always harboured notions of being an air hostess. I like the idea of being perfectly made-up, smiling a lot and offering beverages and perfumes to holiday-makers. The only thing holding me back is that I'm absolutely petrified of flying. As I write this, I'm 40,000 feet in the air and my pen keeps slipping out of my sweaty hand.

I'd never set foot on a plane until I was 18 and until that point, I thought flying was a very glamorous mode of transport. These suspicions were only confirmed many years ago when one of my siblings - who had gone with dad to collect mum from Stansted - reported seeing Pat Butcher at the airport. Pat Butcher! Off Eastenders! Off the telly! A place of glamour, indeed.

But it seems the more I fly, the more terrified I become. As I board the plane, I sniff the air for signs of burning engines and I try to get a good look at the pilot and co-pilot. Are they drunk? Have they had enough sleep? Do they look capable of getting us to our destination safely? As the plane taxis towards the runway for take-off, my stomach lurches. Is it too late to get off the plane now? Yes, it's probably too late. Here I must sit for two hours with my entire body tensed like a Christmas cracker waiting to be pulled. Can't we just stay on the ground? The plane has wheels, we can just drive there. Why has no one thought of this before? I'm not sure what we'll do when we get to the English Channel, but we'll sort something out. Have the cabin crew closed the doors properly? What if they haven't closed them properly and we all fall out of the sky? Oh God!

It's because of this reasoning that Will drove us to Barcelona. We pretend that it's because we wanted the adventure of driving through France, but we both know the real reason: flying reduces both of us to a pale-faced, jibbering mess.

Anyway, I have to stop writing now. The plane has jolted slightly and we're probably all doomed. I'd rather be anywhere other than here right now. Even if Pat Butcher was sitting next to me.   

1 comment:

  1. You only know your true inner prejudices when it comes to the crunch. About to take off on an Easyjet flight, a female voice came over the speaker: "Good afternoon. My name is Catherine and I'll be your pilot today."

    I almost crapped myself. The strange thing was that all the cabin crew were men. I wanted to say to one of them, in a grizzly cockney accent, "All right, John, a laugh's a laugh but the jokes over. Now go and change clothes with the skirt mucking about up front."

    What if she was distracted by a pretty cloud or the colour of the sky was the right shade for a dress she wanted? That is, after all, why they call it a cock pit.

    The fact that the flight went without incident, and was actually an extremely smooth take off and landing, doesn't seem to have dented my irrational aero-misogyny.