June 2011


What triggers a memory?  What is it that occasionally transports you back to that different time and place where the common thread seems so infinitely insignificant?  With a little thought the answer is perhaps quite obvious – a smell, a situation, an image.  Any number of things provide that link with the past to the present.  So it’s kind of funny that today I managed to squeeze in two such back to the future moments.

Today was beautifully hot.  The first such day we have had this summer and I’m not complaining.  For the simple fact that millions of Britons skimp and save 50 weeks a year to board a plane and head south for a slice of sun, sunburn and the odd beer.  So, sitting in our guest dining room at La Rectoria having spent a few hours tending the garden with grease and dirt on my shirt and trousers, accompanied by the honest glow and sweat of that work, I was contemplating our potential choice of dining chairs when I was teletransported back to an anonymous hotel in Edinburgh on a Saturday afternoon like countless others when I would have been preparing for the dinner service that evening or a banqueting function for 400 odd similarly anonymous persons.  The link – simply that I would be doing much the same thing all too soon, but for me and maybe 14 other guests.  A pitifully small number in comparison but with the relish that they will be our guests in our home.  

The second flashback took me back 40 plus years to something of an enchanted childhood – the enchantment being a castle shared with some magic friends.  The trigger this evening was the shrill scream and swoop of some 30 swifts as they dived over the houses and gardens in Cardedeu as the swallows had filled the skies at Brotherton Castle in their pursuit of flies and other fluttering insects.  Here the swifts and swallows salute the onset of dusk and the bats see out the setting of the sun and it is a majestic summer evening scene.  At school they symbolised freedom in both time and space.  I suppose the underlining thread to all this is our invitation to celebrate the wedding of school pal, Patrick and his wife Mandy.  Now that will be something to remember. 

So much for nostalgia.  The future is looking pretty damned good up the road where many cyclists voiced their approval of our endeavours as the passed to and from on the carri bici adjacent to La Rectoria today.  The ‘Opening Soon’ sign will be up ‘pronto’.  And if those are our choice of dining chairs, they’ll give your aitch bones some darn good comfort.

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I guess you could include F****** A in the above but the F here alludes principally to the façade, floors and other fixtures and finishes. But firstly, the finishing and the closure of yet another chapter in my working life. The teaching year in Barcelona is beginning to wind down and I have started to say my goodbyes to ‘students’ some of whom I have known since I started teaching four years ago. Goodbyes uttered on a scale starting from the very poor English, to Spanglish and through to the very good. Along the way I have inadvertently picked up some good friends, got a good insight into Spanish and Catalan life and culture and would say that it has truly been one of the most enjoyable work experiences in my somewhat chequered career. The life of the peripatetic teacher is coming to a close. For my part, the teaching was largely learnt ‘on the hoof’ and one quickly learnt that students initially knew a sight more than the teacher about grammar and its associated terminology. Ultimately, the teaching was the easy part. It has been the 70km round trip to Barcelona on each working day and the getting about the city by metro, bus or tram between classes that proved tiring. Leaving the house just after seven in the morning and returning around nine at night, with the following day’s material to be pulled together after dinner. I’m not grumbling. It has been a bag load of fun and has provided me with a reasonable income in an alien country where I can still hardly string a sentence together in the local lingo, be it Catalan or Spanish. So to one and all thank you and “Fins aviat!!”.

Back at the site. Having seen numerous samples of differing renders applied to the outside walls, a recent trip to Girona and a visit to see a project Pere is working on sealed our decision. Thus that same texture and colour is now being applied with the customary aplomb of Vicents and the others that we are now almost taking for granted. The swirl and movement of their arms is almost discernable in the finish, key stones are left exposed and these contrast wonderfully with the mottled grey render finish.

On the basement floor intricate coils and lines of red plastic piping have been laid over sheets of expanded polystyrene which in turn look like giant pieces of white lego. Concrete is now being poured on top of this and when finished this will be our floorcovering – a continuous sheet of satin smooth concrete set against stone walls and white ceilings, cool in summer, touchy feely “calentet” in winter.

The tiles we purchased some weeks ago in Castelló are now in place in three of the bedrooms as bed heads, helping to underline the individuality of each room.  Elsewhere terracotta tiles – tova – are being laid. The dining room looks superb and we have all but chosen the tables and chairs. Easy one might think but trying to put the finishing touches to the rooms has been anything but.