Tag Archives | memories

Londres, pastel sin receta

Last night I finished re-reading Lala Isla’s ‘Londres, Pastel sin Receta’, which translates as ‘London, a cake without a recipe’. I bought this book back when I was 18 and studying economics. Clearly my choice of books should have warned the parents that I was doing the wrong degree. Anyway, Lala Isla moved to London as a young woman in the late 70s. There she found her liberal self free from the conventions of Spain’s francoism, or at least that’s what she thought. The book mixes autobiographical references with a comparative sociological study between Franco’s Spain and Thatcher’s England. Lala uses her story as an excuse to explore the differences between the society in which she grew up and the one in which she still lives as an adult and offers the reader some insight into the British character that is not available to those who visit the country as tourists or to find themselves surrounded by hordes of other Spaniards at all times. Married to an English man and mother to an English-born child, Lala’s chronicles of pregnancy, wedding traditions, family matters and bilingual education go back and forth between the hilarious and the tremendously informative. Highly recommended for anglophiles or any Spanish person who plans to make the move or simply visit the UK.

This book has made me think about my first visit to England, soon to be 10 years ago. I was a 15-year-old who went to a Catholic school and had never been away from her mummy for longer than 4 days. I had always refused to go to summer camps or anything like that, not even for a week, but the idea of spending a month in the UK learning English got into my mind and, after much persuading, my parents agreed to it. That month turned out to be one of my life defining moments, if such a thing can take place in Hastings, East Sussex.

Even though Lala Isla moved to London in the 70s and I went to Hastings in 1999, I could still feel some of the same cultural shocks she talks about. It started when I got to my host family’s house and they explained they were vegetarians. I was horrified. I had never met a vegetarian before and couldn’t understand why somebody would want to live without ham. (jamón serrano or cured ham being one of the cultural pillars of Spain). On the first day, when we went to school to take our level tests, we were introduced to our teacher Geeta, a half Indian woman. Again, I had never seen an Indian person. Geeta was awesome, despite being an extremely loud and misbehaving group, she organised a barbecue for us and brought her two lovely children. In a similar manner, I don’t think I ever talked to a black person who wasn’t an illegal immigrant selling bracelets from bar to bar until I lived with a Jamaican woman in London a couple of years after I went to Hastings. My mother claims the first time I saw a black child I said “look mum! There’s a poor little girl!” because I had only seen starving children on TV. The only coloured person I remember in my childhood was a girl who played the violin at the same academy where I played the piano.

discovering the joys of a British summer

Back to 1999. After this placement test our group leader, who was also from Spain, gave us a tour around town. At one moment he stopped in front of a church and said “this is the Catholic church in case any of you want to go to mass”. My reaction was one of shock. You mean other religions have churches too? By that time I had already decided religion wasn’t for me, but had I been religious I would have just stepped into the nearest one. The tought that maybe that wasn’t the right church wouldn’t have crossed my mind. As far as I knew, there were a handful of other religions around, but I had never met anybody who wasn’t a Catholic except for my neighbour, who I used to tease for not having done her First Holy Communion (I know, I know). I had also never seen a church that wasn’t Catholic, so in my mind other religions were some sort of thing that existed in films and books, but not in real life.

Spanish students and a machus ibericus at some museum

One Sunday, we did a treasure hunt around town and one of the questions was to name 5 places where one could eat a kebab. Eat a whaaaaat? We had absolutely no idea what it was even though we had seen them and wondered if anybody actually ate that disgusting thing. At the end, we had to ask a local about it, who gave us an amused look that showed he clearly thought we were joking. We weren’t.

Kebabs aside, that month really opened my eyes. It made me realise that what we see in school is not actually a clear representation of what the real world is like and, even more importantly, that it is okay to be different and, as a matter of fact, most people are. Oh, and it did wonders for my English too.

This is probably the longest and most personal blog post I have ever written.


Midtown: My old new favourite band

Don’t you just love it when you listen to a band you had shut out of your life for ages and fall in love with them all over again? That’s happened to me with Midtown, I guess it’s only a matter of time until I go back to Blink182.

I remember the moment when I was introduced to Midtown very clearly. It was Easter and we were on holiday in the Pyrénees. We went on a day trip to the town of Pau, in Southern France, where I made my parents run into Fnac to buy me a record. I got a split between Millencolin, one of my favourite bands at the time, and Midtown. I’d never heard of them, and when I did they instantly became one of my favourite bands. Listening to Midtown reminds me of travelling to central London by train that summer while listening to a pink CD labeled “MxPx & Midtown” and of the excitement of travelling out of town to go to my first shows. Of the times when every band was worth seeing and all new music was good music. Thinking back, the first three years of this decade were extremely formative years. Not even 10 years have passed and I’m already reflecting back on them like an elderly lady and wishing that innocence would come back. Sure, I have probably acquired a pinch of individuality and a vast knowledge of stupid facts, I’m better-read and whatnot, but these days I would change it all just to think every new band is amazing and every concert is the best ever.

Mind you, Midtown are still amazing. As any band that lists Lifetime as a main influence should be.

Midtown – Sacrifice of Life

Video with a brilliant Pixies reference:
Happy images


old new beginnings

New beginnings of yesterday

I have no energy to write about what I’ve been reading/watching/listening to, but this song fits my mood perfectly:

Please slow it down
there’s a secret magic past world that you only notice when you’re looking back at it
all I wanna do is turn around
I’m going down to sleep on the bottom of the ocean
because I couldn’t let go when the water hit the setting sun
passing white daisies taking turns
close the door walk into the street
catching raindrops on your tongue
and for a minute it all stops but it won’t last man
it’s just a passing moment gone
please slow it down
there’s a secret place that I know where I could dig a grave out and climb underground for good
all I want to do is turn around
I’m going down to sleep on the bottom of the ocean
because I couldn’t let go when the water hit the setting sun
passing white daisies taking turns
all those evenings on the back deck of our first apartment
they meant everything but the wind just carried em off
and you can’t go back now just a passing moment gone.

Rocky Votolato – White Daisy Passing (video)
Rocky Votolato – Portland is leaving mp3

Not being able to enjoy the present because we keep looking back to gone moments. Not realising how special some moments are until they’ve become memories. I know my mind is living in that “secret magic past world”, if only someone showed me where the door is.


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