Tuesday 30 August 2016

Moving Country: What do you miss when you're away?

"You've got to watch the meat," she warned me. "Spanish meat is a bit funny."

I was on a flight to Mallorca. This was it. I had no return ticket or any intention of getting one. I was heading to my new home. Beside me were two young women who were going to the the island to work as night club promoters in Magaluf for the summer. It was 9.00 in the morning and they were already on the booze. Between their alcohol intake and my excitement we'd struck up a conversation.

"When we're there we survive on pasta," her friend went on. 

I nodded and pretended to be on the same wavelength. The truth was, I wasn't at all concerned about the meat in Spain. When I thought of Spanish meat, I thought of tender lamb chops on the barbeque and peppery sausages.  Growing up, my Mum only visited the butcher when were in Spain. Lately my Dad had started bringing over packets of the finest cured ham, Jamon de Bellota, to London. Now I was moving, he wouldn't need to do that any more. 

"It gets cold too around October," the girls said. "We had to wrap ourselves in towels last year."

My eyes widened in sympathy, but really I was wondering why they hadn't bought a blanket. Spain might not have meat to their taste, but it definitely had lots of shops!

It's been over a year since I moved and for the first time I woke up the other day and I wished it would rain. I wanted it be cloudy, rainy and cold. Ha, I thought, Mallorca has finally cracked me. But to be honest the feeling didn't last. I wouldn't give up this sunshine without a fight!

I bet lots of Brits abroad miss the taste of British milk and butter. However I've been coming back and forward to Spain all my life and have got used to the flavour of their milk. As for butter, I haven't eaten much of it in years. I'm happy rubbing tomato, oil and salt on my bread. In Catalunya they call it pa amb tomaquet, in Mallorcan pamboli.

I miss ginger beer. Yep, Enid Blyton would understand. I bought some rum for a party the other day and suddenly craved the fresh taste of ginger beer and rum mixed together with lime. It was one of my favourite drinks in England. Here, the option is coca cola, and I hate mixing drinks with coke because in the end it just tastes like coke.

And other than food and drink?

Boots. I miss Boots. Not the shoes, but the shop. In Boots everything you could ever want is on display. Over here, you have to go to the pharmacy and ask for everything over the counter. What can I say? I get embarrassed easily. I love the anonymity of Boots.  Plus medicine and vitamins here are a lot more expensive.

Among the cast of characters in the new novel I'm working on is a retired British couple. They are facing the challenge of life in a new country with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It got me thinking...  

BACON! Sorry. I forgot about that one. Britain does the best smoked bacon. Once my relatives brought serrano ham to England, now they bring British bacon to Spain. I didn't predict that one!

What do you miss when you are away?

N.B. To friends and family, don't be offended, obviously I miss you a bit!

Friday 19 August 2016

Will our narcissistic selfie culture ever end?!

I know what you're thinking. Who am I to judge, right? 

My social media accounts are all about me. I've got a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and I'm on Instagram. I write a lot about little me and my wonderful little life. 

But at least it's about writing, travel, books...  At least I'm not just taking the same picture of my face over and over again. If that ever happens, unfollow me and send a therapist. 

Last week I went to the beach and watched as a girl spent over an hour standing in the water taking selfies of herself with the aid of a tripod and selfie stick. I'm not exaggerating the time. She was still at it when I left the beach. She probably is at it now. She'll probably emerge at some point and discover fish have nibbled off her legs. But as long as her pictures make it look like she's having the best time ever, she probably won't care.

I get it! A solo traveller wants to show they are somewhere nice. A group wants everyone in the photo together. Fine! A couple of photos is okay. A lovely memory. But a whole photo session of yourself endlessly posing, trying desperately to prove what a fabulous time you're having is pitiful.  

Every time I go to the beach it's the same story. I want to shout at these desperate photographers, That's enough! Put a snorkel on! Go explore! Live a life worth documenting!

Half the time selfies don't even show the background. No I can't see that amazing sunset because your face is taking up the whole screen. If you'd just asked one of the dozen people around you to take the shot, like we did in the old days, it would have made a decent picture. Instead no one knows where you are, plus you've got a double chin. 

Frankly it's a big bonus if there's a fancy background at all. Plenty of selfie-takers are satisfied taking their picture in the bathroom. It's always the same practised smile. The same arranged hair. These photos are so boring I want to cry.

When will it end? When will we stop feeling the need to photograph our face every time we move. Please God, let it be soon.  

N.B. Quite possibly illustrating this post with a selfie has come across as hypocritical. My other option was...

...but I thought this was more about oversharing than selfies, which I've also ranted about in my post The Oversharing Sickness, do you have it?