The Unexpected Home I Found in Edinburgh, 1,897 km Away

Commendator’s House Museum (Melrose, Scotland)

I’ve been living away from home for almost four years. To be precise, I live 1,897 km away from my hometown (Sabadell, Spain). It would take me at least 358 hours if I attempted to walk there. If I cycled, “only” 108 hours.

It’s funny how when you have lived living abroad for a while, the term ‘home’ gets a whole new meaning. As now Edinburgh is also my home, I usually refer to my hometown as ‘home home’, for some reason. I also use the term ‘back home’, but this often creates misunderstandings.

There are certainly a lot of things that I miss from Sabadell, but today I would like to think about what makes me feel at home here in Edinburgh. Casually running into people I know in the street is one of them.

When I moved to Edinburgh, I didn’t know that would be possible. Edinburgh is a fairly big city but small enough to come across a friend while you’re out shopping.

It might seem like something very trivial. It’s a mere coincidental encounter. Being at the right time at the right place. Am I overthinking it? I don’t believe in coincidences, though. I like to think that everything happens for a reason, even when you can’t pinpoint what it is. Therefore, this magical crossing of paths brings some warmth to my heart. The bliss of the unexpected. The ultimate reassurance that no, you are not alone in what initially was unexplored territory. Now you can finally call it home.

The Shore (Edinburgh)

Another thing that makes me feel at home is that Scottish people are really friendly. They helped me on countless occasions when I was confused about my bus journey. If you ever take part in a Ceilidh dance, you’ll be able to taste that exquisite friendliness. You’ll probably be clueless and randomly jumping around trying to pretend you know what you’re doing. You’ll most likely bump into someone or who knows, slip and fall. Good news is that it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, you won’t see any grumpy faces. They will just smile and happily get you back on track.

Last but not least, there’s ham. I know it might sound superficial, but it’s not. One can actually taste a country with their food. I miss eating dry-cured ham that wakes me up at night begging for water. It’s worth it, please take my word. I don’t need the fancy stuff (even though I would happily accept donations of Jamón Ibérico), just a Serrano does the trick. It’s a bit hard to find, but I promise you that it takes the homesickness away. At least for a few minutes.

If you’re living abroad too, what makes you feel at home?

Unofficial Olympic Sports

Before digging deeper into the so-called unofficial Olympic sports, let’s do a bit of background work.

Unfortunately, the Olympic Games which were meant to be celebrated in Tokyo next month, have been postponed to next year due to the coronavirus crisis.

However, there’s no reason to worry. Life challenges us every single day so that every one of us has the chance to take part in their own Olympic Games, a totally personalised experience.

Yes, you’ve read it properly. Forget about pole vaulting or synchronised swimming. Think about yawning with your eyes open or putting your contact lenses on with your eyes closed.

There are small daily victories that, unfortunately, are still labelled as unofficial Olympic sports.

  • Blowing your nose when it’s windy.
  • Typing on your phone at high speed with extremely long fake nails.
  • Holding a child in your arms for an extended period of time.
  • 200 metres sprint with obstacles (optional) towards the bus stop.
  • Sprinting to reach the first available seat before the bus starts again.
  • Trying not to lose balance in the underground or bus while standing up and when you have nowhere to hold on to.
  • Changing nappies in 15 seconds.
  • Changing the duvet cover.
  • Bring the washing inside when it rains.
  • Freestyle artistic sliding (falling is optional) on wet or icy pavement.
  • Stacking your grocery in the bag in 15 seconds, placing the heaviest and sturdiest items at the bottom and working from there, leaving the lightest and more delicate items for the top.
  • Juggling tangerines.
  • Slaloming on a Saturday afternoon on the busy Princes Street, zigzagging any obstacles.
  • Playing Twister.

Visible Fictions Keeps Creativity Alive During Lockdown

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Over 100 people joined the Visible Fictions online event Phone Fictions Watch Party that took place on Tuesday the 28th of April at 3 pm on Facebook.

Dougie Irvine, Artistic Director of Visible Fictions, gave some background on the project.

“The premise was really simple. We asked artists from all over Scotland to pitch ideas to us for short stories that could be filmed from the comfort of their own home using their mobile phones.”

“All we asked is that they would be entertaining and uplifting.”

Irvine said they aimed to commission 10 films but ended up choosing 15: “The quality of the pitches from artists across the nation were so fantastic that we knew we had to make more.”

The family-friendly online event showcased diverse art forms such as stop motion animation, original music, sketches, and monologues.

Halfway through the show, Sophie Ochojna, Marketing and Development Manager for Visible Fictions, talked about the prospects of the company.

“If the restrictions are lifted and we’re allowed to, we’re going to be touring a new production this autumn around Scotland.-

“It’s by playwriter Morna Young and it’s called The Squawk Talk Secrets, suitable for families with children over seven and up.”

Ochojna said the tour would include community venues, theatres, and schools.

During the watch party, viewers could post real-time comments.

In the comical piece “Clover Light Field” by James Beagon, food and toilet paper mysteriously disappeared in a flat.

Darrel Williams commented: “Excellent – just how I’m feeling.”Laura Kwiatkowski said “Wow what amazing creativity with an avocado!” after watching Elspeth Chapman‘s piece. It was a stop motion animation of some hands carving faces out of avocado seeds.

Cooking Disasters Brighten your Life

Today I would like to honour my cooking disasters. I feel like they deserve a post on my blog. Yes. Cooking disasters brighten your life. They also provide a really good opportunity for that long and liberating crying session that you’ve been postponing for months. How boring my life would be if every time that I tried to cook something it turned out amazing!

Burnt NYE Pizza

Yes, I’m not afraid to admit it. Burning a pizza on New Year’s Eve is starting to feel like a tradition. Bear in mind that when I say burn I mean burn. I am not talking about a gently toasted or lightly browned pizza. Just picture a black circle. Then add your favourite topics: black pepperoni, black mozzarella, black and crispy bacon… As you might know, in Spain, we eat twelve grapes at midnight on NYE. If you don’t,  you can expect bad luck for the rest of your life. Maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea. I’m starting to think my calling is burning pizzas instead.

It’s not pizza but it’s close enough. Source: GIPHY

Easter Cake Fail

Like many other people, I felt like baking during lockdown. Unfortunately, my first baking experience didn’t go as expected. Easter was around the corner, so I thought it would be nice to try to bake a very special cake that we eat on Easter Monday. When I say we, I am referring to the Spanish regions of Catalonia, Murcia, and Valencia.

This delicious sponge cake (we call it “Mona de Pasqua”) will try to steal your heart with its apricot jam, candied fruit, and chopped almonds.Getting the ingredients was already a challenge. I couldn’t find any flour, baking powder, or candied fruit. Instead of giving up, I decided to innovate. After some Google research on a very slow 4G, I bought some cornflour, cream of tartar, and really cute tiny icing carrots.

Back home, I assembled all the ingredients on the kitchen counter. While I was casually reading the cream of tartar label, I found out something horrifying: if I wanted to use it as a substitute for baking powder, I had to mix it with bicarbonate of soda. Spoiler alert: I didn’t have bicarbonate of soda. The supermarket neither.

I decided to proceed regardless. I added some egg whites to the dough in a desperate attempt to increase the volume. It just went worse and worse from there. I messed up while pouring the dough into the cake tin and some of it ended up all over my jeans. I oven-baked what was left of the dough. You can see the result below… Even after baking it in the oven for what seemed like an eternity, it was still kind of raw inside. The taste was atrocious, believe me…

Scrambled Zombie Pancakes

I woke up late, feeling like a zombie with a creepy hoarse voice and craving pancakes. I didn’t have enough flour according to the recipe. I’m sure you know that zombies don’t like going to the supermarket so that wasn’t an option. My flatmate kindly lent me some of her exotic coconut flour. There was some light at the end of the tunnel. But no. The pancakes kept breaking after turning them. I kept the momentum going and instead of crying, I listened. The coconut pancakes didn’t want to be normal pancakes. They were born to be scrambled.

Truth is those pancakes had a strange flavour and texture… I ate them anyway, though. There is nothing that lactose-free chocolate and hazelnut spread can’t fix.

By the way, I also use the scrambled trick on other occasions. For example, it’s quite useful when you’re initially going for an omelette but you observe too much resistance. Give it a try ;).

Lightly Salted Cake

What a fancy name for a cake. Well, it’s not. It’s just the name of another of my cooking disasters. It’s the result of not labelling containers. You can already guess what this is about: I was happily baking a cake. I added 260 grams of “sugar”. Later, I realised it was salt. I took the block of concrete out of the oven, waited for it to cool down, and ate a slice binned it.  Life’s too short. Be gentle with your arteries :).

What about you? Do your cooking disasters brighten your life as well? Feel free to share them on the comments below. Happy cooking and crying!

First Day with Contact Lenses

A colored abstract eye in purple, green and pinnk
Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

The first day of wearing contact lenses is big, exciting and scary at the same time. No one is ready for that, to be honest. You assemble a mirror, tie your hair up in a ponytail and wear your most comfortable clothes to allow freedom of movement. You do some arm stretches, followed by some wrist and finger stretches and tapping exercises. Fine motor skills need to be at their best today. 

You take a deep breath. 

The contact lenses are happily floating in their solution. Yes, it feels kind of cruel. You will take them outside of their natural habitat and place them in some strange and uncharted territory (aka your eyes). And drumroll please… they might not like it there. They might get annoyed and dry your eyes so much until you give up and remove them. Or they might feel all cosy and just let you be, and see, most importantly. 

Gathering strength from God knows where you carefully grab one and place it on your index finger. You inspect it carefully to check if the shape is correct (if it’s not a perfect circle, it might be inside out, as your optician warned you). Everything seems fine. In slow-motion, you bring the contact lens closer and closer to your right eye. Your terrifying look is undeniable (Thank God no one is around to immortalize the moment). You are almost there, and your eye is wide open, ready to embrace his new friend. 

Plot twist. Your eyelid closes. Again, again and again. It’s like there’s a switch somewhere: as soon as the enemy is too close, it’s time to close the curtains. And then you sort of wish you were in that A Clockwork Orange scene where the eyes are clamped open… But then you think again, realise it might be a bit painful and forget about it. 

After several failed attempts, somehow you succeed. You are now wearing one contact lens on your right eye. WOW! It’s a whole new world out there, you think, keeping your left eye closed. Fuelled with adrenaline, you rush and manage to put the contact lens on your left eye on your first strike. Oh boy, does it feel good… 

It’s like seeing for the first time. The frame of your glasses is gone. Your eyes are wild and free to look wherever they want. Everything is clear and focused. It’s better than a dream! Every once in a while, your hand reaches up in an attempt to readjust your glasses (which are no longer there). It will take a while to get rid of this automated action… Later on, you’re chilling on the sofa and decide to read a book and out of force of habit, you reach for your glasses and put them on*. 

*All memories of what happened afterwards have been meticulously erased. Thank you, brain, I owe you one. 

Thank you, Writers’ HQ for this lovely exercise on day#1 of 14 Days of Self Write-solation :).

P.S.: Aliens struggle with eyesight too. Find evidence on that here.

Mind-blowing moments of 2019

  • Washine-machine safe tissues (Read again. Yes. Funny spelling mistakes)
  • Realising that I’ve been pronouncing the word ‘sandwich’ wrong all my life (and feeling comforted by knowing that it’s a common mistake amongst Spanish and Italian speakers)
  • Realising that ‘tanga’ means the same in Catalan and Hungarian
  • Period-proof panties
  • Some buses in Edinburgh finally have separate doors for getting on and off (Respect for the people who shout ‘THANK YOU” to the driver while exiting through the middle door).
  • Tallest man on earth might not be the tallest, but his guitar skills are highly remarkable
  • A webster is not someone with a high level of computer literacy but someone who weaves cloth

Sun-kissed banana skin

Someone should have warned me about this. I mean, I knew about the bagpipes. The rain. The Highland cows. But this? Is it a gift for Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and nut trees? A Celtic ritual? A prank? First, it was a banana skin. Then, a handful of grapes. Maybe it’s just a genuine act of goodwill. But hey, whoever left the skin of a banana wasn’t feeling too generous, don’t you think? 

The thing is that every time I return the shopping cart after my grocery shopping, I experience an extremely disturbing sensation, as if someone was watching me. Even when there is no one around, I still get the same odd feeling. Morning and evening. Weekdays and weekends. Like two sharp knives tickling softly the back of my neck. I nervously get my 1 pound coin back and I start walking: straight back, shoulders down and chin up. Usually things fall off my bags and once I almost hit a lamppost. No matter what happens, I don’t stop walking. I have to get away from the supermarket ASAP. When I start crossing the road, I get goosebumps. And then, that strange beeping in my right ear which lasts 27 minutes on average. As you might be thinking, I’m starting to dread my weekly shopping. And it used to be my favourite thing to do. I would even offer to shop for my friends! I’ve tried shopping in several supermarkets (even in different cities) but nothing seems to work. 

Now I can’t help but wonder if I should be leaving some fruit on my cart too. Who knows, perhaps this way my nightmare would end. Maybe a kiwi? Some tangerines? Strawberries? How could I be sure that it would be appropriate? Sweet would be a safer choice than sour, right? I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. And here I am, at 2am, wondering what fruit I should leave at my cart tomorrow. And without having made a final decision, tomorrow I will go to the supermarket. And the knives will tickle me again and again… 

Websters Land

Websters Land

Websters Land: only certain people were allowed there.

The requirements were secret and confidential, so if you wanted to join the club, you had to request an appointment and wait to be assessed. There was no way one could prepare for it, as you would do for an audition or exam, and that was part of the deal.

Looking through the bars, I spotted an intriguing sign: “No items to be left in the walkway or chained to railings”. Was it a minimalist club? Some sort of feng shui gang? Or maybe the assessment took place in the walkway and that’s why it had to be hazard-free and empty. But why would they need so much space in the first place? Maybe it was all about a fight, a dance or a Twister competition. One could just dream and wonder. It was equally exciting and terrifying. If you signed up for one of the assessment sessions, you would sign a contract agreeing to basically everything. Just between you and me, I’ve applied 99 times in the last month. They never got back to me a single time. I’m not entirely sure what might have gone wrong.    

Sweet old Websters Land. I guess a decent degree of computer literacy would help pass the test. What else could ‘webster’ mean? It’s surprisingly close to the word ‘hipster’ and ladies and gentlemen, I do not believe in coincidences. A webster must be someone who is cool with computers. Someone who writes code while making homemade vegan meatballs. Someone trendy. Websters Land is the paradise of IPs, binary code and cookies. And I can’t wait to be part of it. I’ll just need to apply one more time and hope not to land on the SPAM folder. Maybe this time I’ll be able to find out what’s all this about. Or maybe I’ll never will. Maybe it’s all just a big computer-generated dream. Wait, is it 7 am already?! 

Disclaimer: webster is an archaic term for ‘weaver’ (someone whose job is to weave cloth). I do not take any responsibility for the confusion created within the human population, linguists and IT professionals.    

Keeping the magic alive

I know it’s not Christmas yet, but I promise you there is an elf running around the streets of Edinburgh. But surprisingly, he is not helping Santa deliver any presents. He is doing something even better.

As you might already know, he works at night so that’s why you have never seen him and you never will. He hides behind a tree, explores the area with an avid glance and when he is 120% sure that there is no one in sight, the fun begins. He quickly tiptoes to the nearest traffic light and BOOM! In less than 8 seconds the job is done and he can go back to his warm and cosy flat.

Smooth and efficient: that’s why they chose him amongst the 299 other elves who had applied for the position. One traffic light per night, as the contract says. Princes Street, Howe Street… Who knows: maybe your street is next. If I were you I’d go to bed early and refrain yourself from going out at night. Otherwise, he will have no choice but to miss your lovely street. What a shame, I know. But I don’t make the rules: the contract makes it very clear: “If some human catches you in the act, the magic is lost and therefore, you are fired”. So yes, being an elf comes with endless moments of cheerfulness but also requires bags of discipline, responsibility and agility. I swear that the application process was harder than that slice of bread you left on the back of the shelf for more than two weeks.

So please, do him -and yourself- a favour, and the next time you press the button and        -impatiently- wait for the traffic light to turn green, take a look around and you might be surprised. Remember: every time you smile, he is smiling back to you. Let’s keep the magic alive. Are you in?

 

 

New music

cassette-994272_1280

Listening to new music refreshes your soul.

Even if you don’t like it. But especially if you do. Sometimes the tune feels so familiar, so close to you that you just click with it. You know it: that song was meant for you. And you’ll never know if you’ve found that song or that song has found you.

Can you imagine how many songs might be out there, waiting for you to listen to them by chance or thanks to someone’s recommendation? Tones of songs. Millions.

Probably they are just patiently waiting in a playlist or in an old cassette stored in a box somewhere. Others might be waving hello at your face but you just don’t notice. You don’t even know they exist.

Maybe it’s the next song playing on the radio, but you don’t get to listen to it because you’ve just got out of the car.

Maybe it’s like the people you meet in the street on your way home. Chosen by a strange supernatural force.