Ten things I learnt in Spain…

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For some light relief, let me share some of the challenges, joys and startling insights that I encountered while in Barcelona and Girona, in Spain for five days last week…

1. If I want to climb Girona‘s medieval city walls, despite a loss of one third of my lung function, I damn well will… just slowly and with lots of rest stops. It was worth it!

IMG_2708P10707952. There’s really nothing quite like xurros amb xocolata (in Spanish: churros con chocolate), sat outside on a terrace in the wintery sunshine – Really! Nothing! Like it!

3. It is possible to be completely stuffed on pinchos/tapas… every day for four days… and still not have tried everything.

duck tapas3a. Who needs sex when I got so damn close to an oral orgasm by eating – in particular, a Basque pintxo of the most succulent duck ever, with a thick sweet blueberry conserve? OMG! (at Zanpanzar, Girona)

4. In Catalunya, if you’re not sure of a woman’s name, there’s a very good chance it’ll be Montserrat. They’re everywhere!

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5. Wandering around with eyes watering due to dry eye and blinded by bright sunshine, then losing a contact lens is not ideal in a visually exciting city.

desigual morning coat6. Shopping is fun… in Barcelona… on steroids… Especially if you like distinctive fashion… and you have a generous birthday gift just gagging to be spent.

7. Steroids are definitely my drug of choice. You know… if and when the time comes… I think I’d prefer them to morphine. Just saying…

7a. Prednisolone has less dramatic effects than Dexamethosone. Nonetheless, I relished eating, smelling, hearing, seeing, tasting, touching – all sensory perception heightened and feeling high, if a little peculiar. I loved it!

“And I am feeling a little peculiar
And so I wake in the morning
And I step outside
And I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I scream at the top of my lungs
What’s going on?”
– 4 Non Blondes, What’s Goin’ On?

8. Gaudí is not the only amazing architect of his time in the region. How about Rafael Masó in Gerona and Lluís Domènech i Montaner in Barcelona? The Palau de la Música Catalana is truly awesome! But I still think Gaudí is my favourite.

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9. In Catalunya, the sense of pride in the culture and region is fierce. I loved hearing Catalan everywhere, including the beautiful voice of a local soprano, Maite Mer, whose version of ‘The Answer is Blowing in the Wind’ [Escolta-ho en el vent] gave me chills and made me want to learn Catalan. Sadly, it isn’t available on YouTube, although I did buy a CD. But here she is singing Que Tinguem Sort [Lucky].

10. Feeling edgy and nervous about my future health, but not paying it no-never-mind for a few days certainly makes for a super-charged response to life. (The steroids undoubtedly play a part.)

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Loose Fitting Clothes

In the last week I have been advised twice to wear ‘loose fitting clothes’ for my forthcoming outpatient procedures. My response to this has been simple, I do not own any.

Given my build, the fact that I do not own any loose fitting clothes may be surprising, but it is true. The loosest things I own are pyjamas and I will not be wearing these to the hospital. It is bad enough that I have to wear them for a month when I am in hospital. The receptionist kindly suggested that for my bone marrow biopsy, I wore jogging bottoms. My response to this was simple, it was, “do I look like I own jogging bottoms?”

Now, I am wise enough to know that I need to be comfortable for these procedures and I understand that the jogging bottom is considered to be a comfortable garment. I know myself well enough to know that I would not be comfortable wearing a jogging bottom or any overly baggy trouser with an elasticated waist in public.

People, by people, I mean the public are not going to judge an overweight cancer patient for dressing like a slob. For I would look like a slob; I definitely would not look like I was about to partake in some vigorous exercise. I would judge myself.

You can say what you want to say about my fashion sense, but it is mine. It is my amour. I realised early on into my journey, that my clothes are the one part of me that oozes my personality, when the drugs send my actual personality to sleep. My appearance has already been compromised because of My Myeloma and I will not compromise anymore.

It sounds ridiculous but I know that I can handle a Medically Trained Person sucking out my bone juices and then removing a bit of bone with what I imagine to be a smaller version of an apple corer, if I am confident. I will feel more confident if I have my slap on and I am wearing my tight clothes. I need my armour.

The jogging bottom does not my armour make.

If I have to do these things, I am doing them looking like one foxy hot mama. Albeit, potentially, with a cannula sticking out my groin. Suggestive.

Things I Found #4: Bring Me Calvin Klein’s Head on a Stick

Another essay from the last writing class has bubbled to the surface. This dates me terribly, because Calvin Klein has gone from avant-garde, enfant terrible, to a “mature” designer considered to be a classic stylist. But when he first started making headlines, he gave me headaches.
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Am I the only person who feels that Calvin Klein is responsible for the decline and fall of Western civilization? Maybe I just resent him because he officially stamped my passport into Old Farthood.

I was vaguely aware that Calvin Klein’s name was appearing on people’s asses in the first wave of something called Designer Jeans. (Previously there were only Levi’s and, if you didn’t know any better, Wranglers.) Designer Jeans were meant to look as though they had been airbrushed onto your body, and the trendoids, male and female, began cramming themselves into pants two sizes too small, trying to look blasé and aloof although they were also bug-eyed and breathless.

I wasn’t too alarmed. I was still a renegade, unwilling to give up my buttery soft, faded-to-baby-blue Levi’s for the crisp, navy full-length trusses called designer jeans.

But Calvin wasn’t happy just being a prestigious tush flag. A cultural visionary, Cal knew we were right there on the cusp of becoming a nation of sheep, eager to jump on the bandwagon of any ludicrous trend that two or three insecure suck-ups now pronounced Officially Cool. Calvin decided the time was right to branch out, and burst into my consciousness with commercials for a perfume called Obsession.

Obsession! Calvin Klein wanted us to smell like a personality disorder, a state of mental unbalance. “He broke my heart so I slashed his tires and burned down his house. Obsession.” And I just didn’t get it. I was no longer Talking the Talk.

Next was Infinity. Cal thought we should smell like mathematical concepts promoted by glassy-eyed anorexics, like Kate “I only eat tiny bits of” Moss. And I realized I was completely clueless about this campaign, too. I was once the drum majorette for hip, anti-establishment thinking and behavior, the poster girl for non-conformity. Now I sounded and felt like my parents: “What are they talking about?”

I grew up with Evening in Paris, Joy, Chanel, and for naughty girls, Tabu. And the models smiled, or at least offered a smoldering come-hither look. Wouldn’t you want to sell perfume — a luxury item — with images of style, glamour, allure, success, romance? But no, here was Cal peddling his wares with greasy-haired scowling waifs and apparently that’s what we wanted, because we made him a gazillionaire!

The new campaign was for something called CK1, an apparently transgendered scent with the brilliantly succinct catch-phrase, “Just be.”
Just be? Come on! What’s the alternative? Just don’t be? I guess if you just not be, you be dead, and it wouldn’t much matter what you smell like.

Maybe Cal has forged a bold path of marketing strategies into the obtuse, the obscure, the downright silly. If that’s the case, if I’ve finally “gotten it,” I’d like to offer a few suggestions for his next perfumes:
Yo, I din’t do it. Bring me some smokes.
Calvin Klein’s … INCARCERATION.
No, I’m full, really. Be right back.
Calvin Klein’s… BULIMIA.
Party like you mean it. Jimi and Janis. Yeah, dude.
Calvin Klein’s … HEROIN.
Fabulous. Gotta take this call, babe. Ciao.
Calvin Klein’s…SUPERFICIAL

I think I just launched a new marketing career! Do I look younger? Wait a minute – how about when I scowl?

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Things I Found #1
Things I Found #2
Things I Found #3