My favourite of Barcelona's many sculptures...apparently, it's a contemplating cow 
In this blogposting...
* Thankyou...
* Barcelona
* The Farne Islands
You may proceed...

...to everyone who got in touch with me last Sunday.  It was lovely to get your messages - even though, for reasons entirely outside my control, I couldn't reply.  I was forced to spend the day incommunicado.  Don't worry - it's a long and harmless story...

Thanks again for your cards, txts and emails.  And even for your many Facebook messages.

I don't know how many times I'm going to have to say this but...I don't know how Facebook works.  If I ever find out, I'll reply!

Please don’t forget our super special seasonal AGM later this month.

The awe-inspiring Kev has invited us to hold it at his workplace so it will take place at 1100 on Monday 19 December at South Tyneside College in South Shields.

If you’re not sure how to get there, just ask.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Be there or be nowhere.
My birthday was two days ago and, for the very first time in 63 years, I spent it sitting on a beach in bright, warm sunshine watching people bathing in the sea.  Such was my Barcelona Birthday.

Since the moment I arrived there last week, I made it my leisurely business to get to know - however superficially - this city whose wonders so many people had praised.  My head was full not only of all the sites that had been recommended to me but also of that typically assertive song that Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe had sung about it - Barcelona! Such a beautiful horizon...Barcelona! Like a jewel in the sun.
A hidden street in the city centre
It’s all true.  Every word of it.

I wandered the alleyways of its Old Town, visited its cathedral and Roman walls, gaped at its famous Modernista buildings and boulevards….
The Casa Batllo - one of Gaudi's masterpieces - by day....
...and at night
Amongst many thousands of others, I joined in the paseo along La Rambla from the city’s central square at one end to the magnificent buildings, monuments and views of and from the Port at the other…
Next door to the Casa Batllo - another Modernista flight of fancy
At the Port, Christopher Columbus pointing to the west...
We went to the base of the hill of Montjuic to see the floodlit cascades draping its sides from the Art Gallery down to the ‘Magic Fountain’ - the biggest and most ‘sophisticated’ fountain I’ve ever seen - which puts on specially choreographed colour-light shows after dark every weekend for natives and tourists alike to gawp at.  And we gawped.
Gaudi's 'La Pedrera' - and me looking either snooty or puzzled
We saw the inexplicable confection of the city’s most famous edifice - the Sagrada Familia - the brainchild of its best-known architect, Gaudi, who was either a genius or slightly mad.  Or both.

La Sagrada Familia...they reckon it will finally be completed in about 30 years
We went to two concerts - yes, two.  The first was of flamenco interspersed with opera arias.  It sounds weird and it was.  In an exceptionally thrilling kind of way.

The second was a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Catalan Palace of Music - yet another florid Modernista building….

I drank gallons of cafe cortado, to which I am now seriously addicted….
My favourite cafe...the customer is drinking cafe cortado
I travelled on Barcelona’s immaculate Metro and (naturally) took a tram ride, too….
Me and my trams!
I tried to speak Catalan (rather then Spanish), with mixed success….
Part of the Old Town
I spent hours watching the world go by….

I even had my pocket picked, which is a kind of ‘badge of honour’ for both natives and visitors to the city.

Barcelona excites your curiosity, takes your breath away, makes you sit and wonder...Barcelona’s people want you to be as proud of their city as they are….and you get the feeling that Barcelona enjoys itself hugely, whatever it’s doing, day or night.

As I sat by the beach on my birthday, I felt that Mam would be happy that I was in the midst of another adventure, in good company and smiling as I thought of her.


As they do every year at about this time, the National Trust’s staff on the Farne Islands have left them to fend for themselves over the deepest days of winter; for the next few weeks, the islands will revert to a condition of unstewarded nature without the gentle surveillance of the folk who are so devoted to them for the rest of the year.

In caring for the islands so lovingly, the Wardens are surely continuing the tradition begun there by St Cuthbert himself, who retreated to the open wildness of the Farnes whenever he could.  When his time came, the islands were where he chose to end his days, close to the birds and animals about whom legend tells us he cared so much and for whom the islands were home.

The Farne Islands are unarguably one of the finest natural treasures in all of Europe.  So let’s offer up a seasonal Thankyou - not just because we’re lucky enough to have them on our doorstep but also because they are cared for so well by their Wardens.

You can find out what their daily lives are like by looking at the good-humoured and highly informative blog they keep.  It includes some wonderful pictures, too.  Find it by Googling ‘Farne Islands Blog’ or by clicking on ‘View my complete profile’ on this blog and scrolling down to ‘Blogs I Follow’.
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


Linda South Shields said...

looks like Barcelona was just the ticket for you Ian. I'm sure your mam was with you every step of the way. Did you get up to the Pueblo Espanyol halfway up Mont Juic? I loved it there and also the port area. I tried several times to leave you birthday wishes on Sunday and Monday but for some reason the site wouldn't let me post. Hey ho !!!
Anyway, I will not be able to make the next AGM even though it's in Shields...change of location and boss are hampering my social activities somewhat. I'm sure a grand time will be had by all, even though it will be a lot quieter without me !! So dear Truckshunters I wish you all Bon Noel, Happy Christmas and hope to see you in the New Year. I'll be off work from 23rd Dec to 3rd Jan if anyone fancies meeting up then. Give me a shout if you fancy coffee and riotous chat!! My love to you all xx

Oh, re Andorra... tje only time I went there was when I was in Barcelona. We travelled for 4 hours and when we got there Andorra was..... SHUT !! I kid you not! Everywhere was closed for their 3 hour siesta. And the only fact I have is that Andorra has only 1 football team which also doubles as the national team! They have to travel to Spain and France to play against any opposition.

Michael J. Poulter said...

I would think the "contemplating cow" is probably a parody of the famous "Thinker" statue by Auguste Rodin (said he trying to sound all arty and knowledgeable on the subject!).