Friday, 17 September 2010

Of Swedes and surgical tape

Well, the eagle-eyed among you may well have noticed that this blog hasn't been updated for the quite some time. The pedantic among you will notice that it is a week and two days. There is, or at least I would like to think that there is, a perfectly good explanation for this: in order to stop this blog from turning into a long list of whinges which nobody will want to take the time to read, I'm trying to keep this as upbeat and positive as possible. It has just been a case of saving up enough little victories over the course of the week to keep this post from reading like the depressed ramblings of a washed-up comedian. This week's major development is, I suppose, finding somewhere permanent to live. I am now guaranteed not to be living in a cardboard box in a shop doorway until February, which makes me incredibly happy. After a week of hostelling (hostelling is still an experience I would recommend to absolutely everyone, but it's hardly a permanent housing solution), it feels so nice not to have to lock your belongings away every time you go to the loo, not to be kept up by French girls singing in the shower at gone 1 in the morning and not to get woken up a couple of hours later by a slightly stoned Australian girl coming back from a party. I will of course miss the experience that hostelling has given me, but this is far outweighed by having a double bed all to myself and the space to spread my stuff out everywhere. Only problem is that, technically, I'm not living in the room I'm paying to rent at the moment; I move into that (only into the other flat across the landing, thankfully, so I don't have to lug all my stuff up and down stairs again) on Thursday, and then I shall enter a mystical land of working hot water. Seriously, every shower I have had in this place (I've only been man enough to have three so far) has been in FREEZING COLD water. In true British style, I tried to grin and bear it until this afternoon, until I could take no more of coming out feeling colder and somehow less clean than when I went in. It really is amazing how filthy your feet can get walking to lectures and back, and I only live 5 minutes away from my university. Complaint made, and following a phonecall which lasted the entire duration of my nice, warm shower in the flat that will be home from next Thursday and several minutes more, I returned from Lidl (perfect opportunity to practice my German while I'm here in Spain, given that most of the Spanish translations make very little sense) to a strong smell of gas and to find my temporary landlord sticking matches into the gas boiler. I was only a little bit scared for my life. Apparently it works now, but I've yet to be convinced, in light of the decidedly tepid water that came through the bathroom tap when I finally got round to having the shave I promised myself a week ago. Anyway, on to other matters. After a good 10 days of faffing about, I am also a card-carrying member of UB's Facultat de Filosofia. For those whose knowledge of Spanish is about as good as mine, this pretty much translates as the "Department of Letters" or, essentially, the Modern Languages department, mixed with Classics and Spanish. I'm always amazed when people ask me what I study over here, and I tell them "Filologia" just how much respect people have for the course. Back home, being stuck as we are in arguably two of the University of Birmingham's worst buildings, languages aren't much of a priority, but here, Filologia has the grandest and most imposing building in the University, occupying most of one side of the Pla├ža Universitat, and shared with Maths and Science. It was especially nice to see that Philosophy, Geography and History students have to travel even further to get to their campus in one of Barcelona's scabbier neighbourhoods (Ciutat Vella/The Old City probably doesn't deserve to be labelled as scabby, but the combination of tall buildings, narrow streets and ridiculous amounts of mindless graffiti don't exactly endear the place to me, although I did look at flats down there). Ha, serves you self-righteous humanities types right. Again, however, I digress (can anyone spot the stylistic theme that will probably characterise this blog for months to come?). Choosing classes was Monday's first priority, but the process was not helped by two things: one, the massive list of classes available (literally everything available in every department, in every semester and on every day of the week) and two, the fact that said massive list had absolutely no details of where any of these classes were to be held. First day of classes was therefore written off, and since I was still living in the hostel out by the Sagrada Familia (which, in spite of what certain guidebooks tell you, is nothing like in the centre of Barcelona. It's five stops away from the centre of Barcelona on the sweatiest and most strangely-timed Metro system the world has ever seen), I decided to go shopping. As a tall, thin male with relatively large and wide feet, clothes shopping of any description in Britain, the nation of fat lager-swilling dwarves with medium-sized feet is nigh on impossible. Here, I am regarded as a normal size-I actually found waist and leg sizes smaller than mine, and size 10½/EU 45 shoes (I have found three pairs of shoes in Britain in this size in as many years) are a perfectly normal size for European men's feet to be. Taking full advantage of my new-found ability to buy shoes that don't look like they were made in a Soviet factory 20 years ago, I bought several pairs. What I didn't reckon on was how uncomfortable wearing them with no socks would be. One day of wearing just shoes and no socks has left my feet held together with surgical tape, although it is worth pointing out that wearing flip-flops achieved the same thing, and had the added disadvantage of showing off my feet to everyone. And yea, one part of this post title is explained. As to the second part, I will have to return to the present. I am presently sharing this flat with a Swedish Erasmus student who attends a different university in a different area of the city to me, and we are occasionally visited by our Italian landlord who comes in, makes a salad, reads the newspaper, calls some people and then leaves. We have never actually managed to figure out where it is that he sleeps, but we're fairly sure that it's not here. Oh, and two creepy Dutch guys (in fairness, is there any other kind of middle-aged Dutch guy? One of them had the little round spectacles and everything, it was rather hard not to laugh) who we saw once last night, and by the absence of stuff in their rooms, must have left early-ish this morning. Between the two of us (me and the Swedish guy), we've managed to get through an insane amount of beer in two days (like freshers-style amounts of beer) and eaten some pretty damn good home-cooked food. Tonight's spaghetti bolognese was a veritable tour de force, and it's not just the wine that's saying that. And, since this post is ridiculously long already, I shall leave you with the information that tomorrow will have to be spent retaking all the photos I took on my phone using my actual camera so that they are of sufficiently high quality to share with people (that's assuming that this thunderstorm stops some time soon, it must be nearly 5 hours now). Adieu.

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