Day #121: Entre el cor i el fons del mar

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Wednesday, 30 December 2009 at 13:30

Yesterday I upped sticks from this sleepy little village, and headed East, to the West Country. Due to my love for Cathedral Architecture it was kind of obvious that I'd have to head to Wells Cathedral, having already seen all of Exeter Cathedral earlier this year.

Leaving the light snowfall of Wales behind, the three amigos on this journey ended up in the dull drizzle of Bristol-and-Avon, passing by places with absurdly Olde England names, and villages spread so far apart they may as well have been a single detached house. After a brief stop-off in the Oldfield area of Bath, and lunching in that fine establishment Burger King, I decided it would be prudent to invest in an umbrella. Lo-and-behold, on moving on to Wells, the rain ceased.

Wells itself is so much more than Bath. It's worlds apart from the commercialised Bath Stone city on the Cotswolds, which bustles with life no matter what the weather, and seems very impersonal and tourism-oriented. As much as I love the Georgian architecture of Bath, I much prefer the semi-rural idyll of Wells, which, in spite of being a City, with its hotchpotch of architectural styles, from the early Georgian fronts of many of the shops on the High Street; to the 14th century row houses at Vicars' Close.

The jewel in the Crown, and the reason I went, is obviously Wells Cathedral, an imposing early Gothic building, with its blended architecture. I'm no expert, far from it, but until I saw the dates I was convinced it was one big late Romanesque building, as the pointed arches seem to round off; there seems to be a distinct lack of pomp and circumstance; and the overall feeling it gives off is one of a Cathedral on the verge of being Gothic. But, on actually taking the time to look at the dates, it's practically Gothic through and through, built in the Early English style, one which (being taught about Italian church architecture) I'm unfamiliar with. Still, it's beautiful, and, in my eyes, actually more wondrous than Exeter with its vaulted ceiling - the Inverse Arch and the Chapter House are more than enough to make this a diamond in the rough; and it keeps topping it with the astronomical clock, and the pristine nature of all its tombs and memorials.

All in all, it was a catharsis. I love wandering round being in awe of the architecture, and reading the tombs (even with my lack of Latin I can still guesstimate a lot based off Italian and Spanish knowledge). It makes me think how small and insignificant we are; it's a memento mori, a giant memorial to the fact that we will all die one day, and how we leave our mark is up to us; whether we will be remembered as a wooden cross in a courtyard, a traditionalist tombstone in a communal graveyard, or buried beneath the floor of one of the most beautiful things to come from religion.

Next time, however, I will know to take spare batteries for my camera so it doesn't cut out when I'm taking photos of the outer architecture, leaving me no way to take any photos of the inside. It really is something that sits deep in me as a love, dins el cor, and yet I can't fathom it, com el fons del mar.

#Day 116 - So, This Was Christmas?

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Friday, 25 December 2009 at 22:06

There's really not much worth documenting here: it was an 'adult' Christmas with few presents and a smidgen of money. The presents received were a pack of amaretti biscuits, for my coffee habit; two pairs of nicely lined gloves, for the cold weather; and some chocolates for my sugar cravings. Pretty sparse really, but, that's the recession for you.

Still, I'm not complaining. Roll on next year, I suppose, when it's Christmas in Italy...or, Christmas-on-return-from-Italy.

Over, and out.

Day #115: És nadal al meu cor

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 16:09

It's that time of the year again. It's officially almost Christmas. I think this is the one time of the year, as in the next two days, in which I'm generally quite festive. The other 362 days, I couldn't care less. So, for a bit of festive cheer, I've had a certain song on repeat.

The brilliant thing is, I actually appreciate the way the Spaniards, and particularly Catalans, approach this festive time of year. We have our Christmas tree and the odd nativity scene here and there. They have the caganer, and all the little things which are associated with the verb 'cagar' or 'to shit'. So, while we're celebrating with fairy lights and turkey, they're hunting for a shitting gnome (as that's the best way I can describe it) in a full-size model of Bethlehem! And then, to make things better, they take a hollow trunk filled with sweets, and beat it like a piñata in a game called "fer cagar el tío" or "making the log shit". Honestly, that sounds like more fun than pulling crackers!

The only thing that sounds like a bit of a bother is that the Spanish celebrate Christmas, but on top of that they also celebrate Epiphany as a sort of 'mini-Christmas'. So, while we've all taken down our decorations to avoid the bad luck of 12th night, they're putting out their shoes ready for the Reyes Magos to leave them presents and sweets. And then it all ends on a high-note of a month that counts as celebratory - from December 8th, when Catalans begin filling up their Tío, to January 6th when the Reyes arrive, it's one big fiesta. And how do we spend it? Buying crap we don't need, and listening to Coleen Nolan on the idiot box trying to sell us "rasberry...tart" from Iceland.

Can't we just have a nice Christmas, where we either celebrate the important days for us (24th, 25th, 26th); or, can we do it right, so we're not giving away the significance and importance (religious or otherwise) to the mass-market monopolies around the world. Yeesh.

And with that said, and a little lesson on Catalan Christmas, I bid you all a Bon Nadal.

Day #114: Pobl Y Gwyrdd

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 16:03

I've never been one to understand fully the sentiments of the average Welsh Nationalist. Admittedly, I vote Plaid Cymru with all the fervour of a Welsh Nationalist, and I vote on lines of linguistic heritage, rather than ideological bullshit about an independent Wales, devolved from the Big English Westminster system. Still, I can't help but feel a pang of Nationalistic pride when I listen to Radio Luxembourg, now dubbed Race Horses.

I know very little about this group, save that they seem to be pretty big on S4C's Bandit programme, and they seem to be a little more eclectic than your average Welsh rock outfit (see Funeral for a Friend; Lost Prophets; The Poppies; etc. for comparison). And so, two days before Christmas I say: "You know what, as much as it's silly to be patriotic because it's only dumb luck that I was born Welsh instead of Argentine, I'm proud to come from a country with such a lovely language."

Nadolig llawen, bobl y byd!

Day #112: Al Seny, O A La Rauxa?

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Monday, 21 December 2009 at 14:48

It snowed last night, and you know what, for the first time in 20 years I haven't thought "Oh my! Snow! How happy I am!" My initial thought was, in fact, to tell all the people who are far too excited or stressed about the snow to move to another country and quit hogging my air with their festive cheer. Yes, I'm a scrooge, but, you know what, I could care less.

In more heartwarming news, I finished up my two album lists for the year. I should really do an 'album of the year' sort of malarky, but I've really not listened to enough new music this year to warrant it. Instead, I gave the accolades of "Album of the Decade" and "Underrated Album of the Decade" to Daft Punk's Discovery and Venetian Snares' Detrimentalist. Somehow, I've boiled down an entire decade of indie pop and 'emo' into French techno, and an American having an electronic seizure. And frankly, I don't care if it's not what the NME, Rolling Stone, Q, or Pitchfork had as their album of the decade; I feel I have captured the spirit of the noughties in the fact that it was a time of general happiness. As the Catalans would put it, it was a time of rauxa.

Continuing with the trend of the moan today, it seems like sanity is rushing out of the room very quickly in Britain, to be replaced with one heck of a white elephant in the corner. Basically, we've gone from having the good sense to know when everything is screwed beyond repair, to having to argue till we're blue in the face. What am I talking about? Well:

1. Eurostar has decided to cancel its services, whilst it works out how to improve them in order to stop breakdowns in the tunnels over this snowy, cold period. How do we react? We don't say "Oh, thank you Mr Eurotunnels." No. We queue in St Pancras in the hopes that, magically, someone will say "You know what, get on this non-existent train, and it'll all be fine". Moral of the story: Grow up, and get some common sense. If they say it's not's damned well not running!

2. Copenhagen basically devolved into an average political discussion on climate change. The Americans don't want to concede to China; China can make as many demands as it likes because it's unaffected by the Kyoto agreement (being a developing nation); countries like Tuvalu and the Maldives shouted to no avail; and in the end, our great idiot-in-chief and his second-in-command for this weekend jolly said "It was bureaucratic chaos!" In short, we lost the game of marbles and came back crying to mother.

Perhaps the better solution to climate change is for discussions to go into sub-discussions. Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, South Asia, North Asia, Australasia, South America, Central America, North America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Africa, and the Island Confederations. Then, when they all agree on 75% of the policy, they come together and make demands. Don't try to get 192 member states to 'discuss' when each wants a voice as big as China and America. Honestly...

And on that depressing note. I'm going to settle in for a week of drinking glasses of red wine, cider, and doing no work. Living a la rauxa, in a world that is slowly forgetting how to be al seny.