Saturday, 17 August 2019

My Brother's Keeper

"My brother's keeper" is an old saying which derives from the story of Cain and Abel in the Old Testament but I thought about it yesterday!
I was in Cadaqués taking photos for my greetings cards (I will turn them into paintings). 


I was walking along a path several metres above the sea when I came across one of many restaurants but, being British, I immediately noticed that one guy's chair was perilously close to the edge - there was no protecting wall, nothing, just a sheer drop of several metres onto rocks. I spoke to the waiter and suggested it was a little dangerous. His reply was my least favourite saying in Spanish, "Es lo que hay". I persevered and spoke to the family group. They were French and were very receptive to my faltering French, they were relaxed and happy. The man's response was similar to the waiter's which surprised me because I imagined the French as being a little more like the English. We joked about it, I attempted to say, "I guess it makes life more exciting" in response to their saying more or less the same, but I couldn't remember the word in French. They helped me out, "excitant". I left with good relations abounding but I didn't go back that way.


But I cannot help myself, this is the way I am. Most people's response would be the same as the waiter's and just walk by with a (gallic, because Cadaques was full of French visitors) shrug of the shoulders. But I think, in general, the Brits are more aware of risks, sometimes too much so. But some things I see here, especially at the railway crossing at my local station, scare me. I have given up trying to warn RENFE that to sound the train horn when it is only 50m from the crossing is somewhat too late. It should be ten times that.

My view of the human race is not to walk away but to consider that we are all connected in some way and that we should say something if we see a dangerous situation.
It is funny, because I also said something in the bus between Figueres and Cadaqués, where other people may have turned a blind-eye. There were two young girls about 24 obviously in love with each other in the seat diagonally in front of me. The aisle seat was even reclined to enable the passionate kissing. I said, "Por favor", and they stopped. The girl by the window was obviously the more passionate of the two, to put it politely. Soon they were at it again. I wasn't going to move for sure. I suggested they move to the rear seat of the bus if they wanted to do it. I said that it was "maleducado" which means "impolite", that it was OK to do it in private of course, but not in public. I said that it was the same for heterosexuals also, I wasn't commenting because they were two girls. Sorry, hehe, I don't have a photo!


Here is the great man himself! I took many photos, looking for different angles. There were lots of people in Cadaqués and at one point I was regretting coming here in August as the bus crept forwards in the traffic queue entering the town. But I'm glad I went. If the mood takes me, it would be a shame to wait. 
I had arrived by taking the regular train to Figueres and there was a 30 minute wait for the bus (in fact a little longer because its arrival was delayed by 15 minutes). The journey was rather tedious (enlivened by the two girls) because it went into Roses on its way to Cadaqués.
I felt sorry for my friends who had Thursday off because it was a holiday. It was cloudy and it rained in Girona. And here, the following day the sky was blue again as you can see.
On the return, I took a bus at 5pm directly to Girona which would have arrived at the bus station at 7pm. But, as it was approaching Hospital Trueta, I calculated that the bus leaving for Celrà at 6.40 would soon pass by in the opposite direction. So I jumped off the bus at the hospital, crossed the road, and 5 minutes later, the bus to Celrà arrived. I though that was pretty cool! If I had gone all the way to the bus station, I would have arrived back home an hour later.
Here are a few photos but I took loads more.






Thursday, 20 June 2019

Travelling to France

Sunday 26th May was a turning point for me because the build-up to the local elections had been making me feel stressed. So I decided to go away! And I always write about my travels here because so many things happen, quirky things, things that make me laugh... and cry (not literally!)
France is a one hour train journey for me and it costs me €3. Imagine the poor Brits living in the UK who have to embark on a sea voyage or a journey under the sea. Admittedly, my €3 only gets me as far as Cerbère but then an 8am train from Celrà connects to the French equivalent, the TER, which leaves Cerbère for Avignon at 9.37am with stops at Perpignan and Narbonne. I am bored with Perpignan and I wanted to escape the politics of independence for Catalonia, and Perpignan is very "catalan", with its name spelt in both languages on the station.
from El Punt Avui

This is the dream of Òmnium and Jordi Cuixart, the reunification of the old kingdom of Catalonia which includes what is now part of France, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. Make no mistake, independence for Catalonia is only the start!

So I decided to go on to Narbonne which is, I think... I hope, outside the plans of Omnium! One thing that annoys me greatly about SNCF is that now they have made the tickets for the TER, non-refundable and non-changeable. But it is their basic train service, like Regionales in Spain. It is like Ryanair, but even they allow a period of grace to change mistakes. So I have to be sure that the Spanish train is on-time before I commit myself to buying the French rail ticket. But if I leave it too late, I may not get a signal for my phone. "Well, then, buy it in Cerbère station", I hear you say. Not possible. The ticket office is closed till 9.45am and the ticket machine has been removed. On this occasion, before 26th May, I waited till I could speak to the ticket collector before buying my ticket but, this being France, he charged me the penalty fare of €12. I tried to use my phone to buy the ticket but just as I was about to enter the CVV code, the train went into a tunnel. When I tried again, the app no longer recognised the journey because it had already started. Normally the fare, with my Carte Senior is €8. So this was not too big a sacrifice.

When I arrived in Narbonne, I discovered that the track to Toulouse, where I had considered going, was closed due to works. Then I received a message from my political group that there was a meeting next day. So I caught the next train back to Spain!


Next time in France, I decided to stay in Toulouse for one night. I really want to improve my French and visiting France is one great way to do it. This time I was smarter and bought my Cerbère to Toulouse ticket in advance. It was about €19 with my Carte Senior. It is much more expensive at €50 than my Spanish rail-card (€5) but well worth the price.


I stayed in Ibis Budget near to the station but it is very-budget! There was a noise from the lift which was very annoying. I thought it was furniture being moved and only realised in the morning the true cause. Although I take the slow train going to France, when it comes to late afternoon, the choice for the return is easy. The connection at Port Bou is not very good and there is a Spanish AVE from Lyon which stops at Narbonne. But Perpignan to Girona is expensive at €33 and there is no senior discount. So to take that AVE is expensive.... but very cool! I am back in Girona just before 7pm and I can take a train or bus to Celrà at 7pm.

I just got back from my third trip to France in 3 weeks, I spent 2 nights at Ibis very-Budget in Toulouse after they replied to my complaint about the noise from the lift and offered me a discount.

This time, I had a bigger disaster with my ticket for the TER on Monday 17th. (Really! One cannot describe €19 as a disaster. Ed.) I had to wait to see if the Spanish train was on time to Cerbère before buying it (remember, I cannot buy it at the station). It was early in the morning and I was hardly awake. The previous day, I had booked the AVE for Wednesday from Perpignan to Girona in advance - it was only €22. Unfortunately, the OUI website for SNCF defaults to the day after the previous booking so when I bought my ticket for the TER (Cerbère to Toulouse), I accidentally bought it for Thursday (today, as I write this, back home). No refund, no change!! I had to write off the €19 and start again when I realised my mistake. Aha, this is a useful source of revenue for SNCF I think. French rail-travellers also must be angry with SNCF for making the rules so draconian for their basic means of rail transport.



Narbonne is very interesting historically. So I spent a lot of time browsing the streets between trains. I found a butcher and bought a tranche d'agneau, almost a complete leg of lamb and took it back on the train. I found another butcher, a halal butcher. I had to check what "halal" means. I knew that it meant that the animal is not stunned before being killed. I learnt that a prayer is said, which made me feel a little better about it. I feel slight unease about eating meat in general, especially beef but I will never go vegetarian. It is how things are. Many animals eats other animals! But obviously I am happier if I know that the animals haven't been cooped up in cages for their short lives.


Yesterday, on my way home, I bought some lamb chops and a couple of bottles of wine.

So, my final part of this post is about my most recent visit to Toulouse. Having lost €19 on my way there, I checked into the Ibis very-Budget and then took a walk around town. I have a bus and rail card from last time but one can walk to many places. On my first night, I was disturbed by neighbours arriving back in their room at 12.30am. I cursed and finally got back to sleep. The second night, I was not disturbed by neighbours but unfortunately I had left the TV remote control on the bed and as it hit the floor after sliding off the bed at 4am, I woke with a start. It took me almost an hour to get back to sleep!

I could tell you about the places I visited, the parks, the long tree-lined avenues but my motive for writing a blog is to write about the strange and quirky things that happened. So this post is all about train journeys and disturbed sleep! 

SNCF has a greater confidence in the punctuality of its trains than I do! Twice now, I have caught an earlier train from Toulouse to Narbonne in order to wait for the Spanish AVE. That leaves me with an hour in Narbonne which is no great hardship. But if I were to buy a single ticket from Toulouse to Barcelona on the SNCF website, I would be given a later train to Narbonne which arrives 5 minutes before the AVE. I thought this was rather tight but twice, I sat on Narbonne station and watched the TER arrive from Toulouse and about 100 people took the tunnel under the platform to take the AVE which arrived almost instantly! For sure it would wait, I thought. But for how long?

On my way back on Wednesday, I received my answer. The TER was 10 minutes late and the AVE was on time. And it did not wait! I watched for the TER coming down the track from Toulouse but never saw it. I am glad I was not the person to explain to the passengers that they just missed their connection. There was another AVE to Barcelona an hour later, so providing there were seats, I suppose that was offered as a substitute. And maybe there were not so many people making the connection. But, really! A connection of 5 minutes?




On 6th June, the very first day of the swimming pool in Celrà, my bike was stolen. This is my old steel-frame Peugeot bike, not my modern carbon fibre bike. But all the same! It was parked outside the pool reception, locked but not attached to anything. As I have done for the past 4 years.  I was very annoyed as you can imagine but I only use it to commute to the pool in the summer so I replaced it with a scooter - €100 from Decathlon. It is not powered, of course. But I can whizz along to the pool more rapidly than walking which would be rather boring for the whole of the summer. The Peugeot bike was worth very little, but to me it had a great sentimental value. I bought it in London very many years ago.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

My boat is launched!

Monday 25th
My nautical life has not been very distinguished! I have owned 3 boats in total. The first two were crazy and I wrote about number 2 in my "life blog". The first.... let us draw a veil over that! It was called a Mini-sail and I used to tow it down to the south coast (the UK, that is!) and float around Poole Harbour and various estuaries. Basically, it was a glorified surf-board with a sail. On account of not having a jib, I could never get close to the wind and often ended up "in irons" with the tiller pulled up hard against my chest. As I said, let's not talk about the Mini-sail, I wanted to tell you about my latest attempt at walking and floating to Medinyà.
While the plans for my bridge are being finalised (I wish that was true, it is still a fantasy), I decided that I would cross the mighty River Ter by water, so I bought an inflatable boat from Amazon for €35 and I also bought a life-jacket because I reckoned that maybe I would be alone in the event of needing a rescue. The life-jacket was about the same price as the boat!
Yesterday, I went to church at Madremanya, tonight I have my regular meeting with the PSC, the political group which I mentioned previously. And tomorrow and Wednesday, I want to watch the Volta Catalunya which comes through Celrà on Wednesday. That left a convenient window of opportunity to try out my boat! So I packed everything onto the smaller of my two sack-trolleys and headed off to the river. 


The weather has been more like summer during the past few days and today was sunny with a clear blue sky.
When I reached the river at the end of a long drive-way (you can see it in the second of the 2 photos above), I stopped and chatted with three guys who were clearing trees which were encroaching on power cables crossing the river. The river was barely flowing at all, the scene was balmy. I had joked earlier with a friend that maybe I should have launched it with a bottle of Cava (taking care not to break the bottle!) But it was 11am so a little too early for alcohol!
Two of the men came down to the river edge and helped me launch the boat and I jumped in! It is not a very stable form of transport but as soon as I remembered that I had to face the opposite direction (!), I started to row. This was chaotic! Every missed stroke caused the boat to swivel violently in that direction, it had no momentum of its own. I nearly lost one of the oars because it was screwed in the centre and that was coming loose. Maybe that explained why sometimes the oar was not catching the water.
I made it across to the river to a convenient little beach about 50m up-stream but that was not where I wanted to be. Because I had already been in the woods on the opposite side, I knew that the ideal landing spot was directly across the river but the bank was too steep to land. From the beach, I headed up through the undergrowth but it was thick with nettles and I was wearing plastic waterproof shoes and shorts. I grabbed a large stick and set about making a path up to the top of the incline, hoping that, at the top, I would break out into the path which I knew was there. It was not to be. As soon as I reached the top, I could see a further 5m of undergrowth and, in any case, this was not something I felt that I should clear. I headed back down to my boat and paddled across the river. It was idyllic! I will go further next time, this was just a trial run.
The shame is that, on the Medinyà side, there is no access to the river, so in the longer term, maybe I can talk to the Town Hall. The obvious place to cross is by the power pylons because the undergrowth is kept clear all the time and there is easy access to the path, but the bank on the Medinyà side is too steep to land.
The last photo shows where I dream of having a bridge, I have to go out now but tomorrow, I will draw the bridge in Photoshop and also add a Spanish commentary.






Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dangerous (Peligroso - version español abajo)


This is a pedestrian crossing by the railway station in Girona. It crosses Carretera de Barcelona which is a long, straight road with two lanes of fast traffic in each direction. It is potentially dangerous because, when the traffic is stopped in one direction, it continues to flow in the other direction (from right to left in the photo) in order to let traffic turn left. This fools some people who, seeing the traffic waiting despite the little man being red, think it is OK to cross. This is not wise. The traffic is rapid. I will come back to the crossing in a moment....

This morning I went to Decathlon which is at the far end of Carretera de Barcelona in the south of the city, together with Bauhaus and MediaMarkt. I was looking for an inflatable dinghy with which to cross the Rio Ter (where ultimately my bridge will be built.... I hope!) The current flow is very slow at the moment so it would be an easy crossing and a typical dinghy is only about 4kg in weight. I have already seen many example in Amamzon.es but I thought I would find one in Decathlon. Unfortunately all they had was an inflatable canoe, much too big and heavy for me. What I had in mind was something like a coracle!

Right next to Decathlon is a McDonald's Cafe and I had a coffee and cookie there. I read a free copy of La Vanguardia and then headed back towards the centre of Girona. I was following the buses on my phone, which shows estimated arrival times so I arrived at the bus-stop in plenty of time.

At the bus-stop was a woman with a small wheelie suitcase in a state of panic. I think she had someone else with her, I'm not sure. The other person headed up the road, apparently looking for a bus stop. The woman was Brazilian and she asked in great anxiety about the bus, was it number 2? Yes, the bus-stop said number 2. I told her it was due to arrive in 4 minutes but it soon became apparent why she was panicking. She said she had to catch a train to Sevilla at 12.55 and I could see that time would be very short. I kept on reassuring her about the bus until it finally arrived... and passed directly by on the roundabout. It did not pass the bus-stop. Shock! She headed off down Carretera de Barcelona in panic in the same direction as the bus.

At this point I saw next to the bus times in the kiosk, a small map saying that, because the road was closed (not evident from where I was), the bus-stop had been moved and it showed the modified position 200m in the direction away from the city centre. I could see that the next bus was due in about 10 minutes, so I went and found the new bus-stop. Three kilometres into the city, we met up with my friend who was running frantically to catch the bus... "my" bus. I asked the driver to wait.

I could see by now that she had no chance of catching the train. She said it was to Barcelona but I thought, to get to Sevilla, one had to go to Madrid. She was in quite a state and I could see what was coming next. As we got off at the bus-stop for the station (to the left of the photo and on the other side of the road), I tried to get close to her to restrain her but she was too quick for me. She dashed up the road, crossed one carriageway diagonally, stopped in the middle with traffic passing in both directions and ran across to the other side. I was very shocked, that was so dangerous. Better to miss a train and not lose your life. Anyway, she was already too late.

I guess it took me about 2 hours to recover. I was shaking, as if I had just had a violent argument with someone. I spilt Coke on the table while having my lunch. I would have liked something stronger to calm my nerves but I have a meeting later today. 


I just sent this painting to my friend Marta in Ukraine!


On the subject of dangerous roads, this is my quickest route by road to the other side of the River Ter. Otherwise I have to go almost into Girona at Saría de Ter. Will I be riding down there? Nooo! In one direction, much of the traffic has just come off the autoroute. There is no escape and the shadows would obscure me. I didn't even start to think about going there, don't worry!


Esto es la ruta mas corta desde Celrà y otro lado del rio. Pero mucho demasiado peligroso para ir por la bici.


I just bought a boat! €35 including oars and the pump. So I can cross the river now, before my bridge is built. Because I will be on my own, I bought a life-jacket too. It was about the same price as the boat! It is very light and small when deflated, about 4kg, so it will be very easy to transport to the river.



Ahora en español

En la foto es un paso de peatones cerca de la estación de tren de Girona. Atraviesa la Carretera de Barcelona, ​​que es una carretera larga y recta con dos carriles de tráfico rápido en cada dirección. Es potencialmente peligroso porque, cuando el tráfico se detiene en una dirección, continúa fluyendo en la otra dirección (de derecha a izquierda en la foto) para permitir que el tráfico gire a la izquierda. Esto engaña a algunas personas que, al ver el tráfico esperando a pesar de que el hombrecito es rojo, piensan que está bien cruzar. Esto no es sabio. El tráfico es rápido. Regresaré al cruce en un momento ....

Esta mañana fui a Decathlon, que está al final de la Carretera de Barcelona, ​​junto con Bauhaus y MediaMarkt. Estaba buscando un barca inflable para cruzar el río Ter (donde finalmente se construirá mi puente ... ¡Espero!) El flujo de corriente es muy lento en este momento, por lo que sería un cruce fácil y una barca típico solo se trata de 4kg de peso. Ya he visto muchos ejemplos en Amamzon.es pero pensé que vería uno en Decathlon. Desafortunadamente, todo lo que tenían era una canoa inflable, demasiado grande y pesada para mí.

Justo al lado de Decathlon hay un McDonald's Café y yo tomé un café y una galleta allí. Leí una copia gratuita de La Vanguardia y luego volví hacia el centro de Girona. Estaba siguiendo los autobuses en mi teléfono, que muestra los tiempos de llegada estimados, así que llegué a la parada del autobús con suficiente antelación.

En la parada del autobús había una mujer con una pequeña maleta con ruedas en estado de pánico. Creo que ella tenía a alguien más con ella, no estoy seguro. La otra persona se dirigió a la calle, aparentemente buscando una parada de autobús. La mujer era brasileña y preguntó con gran ansiedad sobre el autobús, ¿era el número 2? Sí, la parada de autobús dijo el número 2. Le dije que debía llegar en 4 minutos, pero pronto se hizo evidente por qué estaba entrando en pánico. Ella dijo que tenía que tomar un tren a Sevilla a las 12.55 y pude ver que el tiempo sería muy corto. Seguí tranquilizándola sobre el autobús hasta que finalmente llegó ... y pasé directamente por la rotonda. No pasó la parada del autobús. ¡Choque! Ella bajó en pánico por la Carratera de Barcelona en la misma dirección que el autobús.

En este momento, vi junto a los horarios de los autobuses en el quiosco, un pequeño mapa que decía que, debido a que la carretera estaba cerrada (
No es evidente desde donde estaba), la parada de autobús se había movido y mostraba la posición modificada a 200m del centro de la ciudad. Pude ver que el próximo autobús saldría en unos 10 minutos, así que fui y encontré la nueva parada de autobús. A tres kilómetros de la ciudad, nos encontramos con mi amigo que corría frenéticamente para tomar el autobús ... "mi" autobús. Yo pedí al conductor que esperara.

Ya podía ver que ella no tenía oportunidad de tomar el tren. Dijo que era a Barcelona, ​​pero pensé que para llegar a Sevilla había que ir a Madrid. Estaba en mal estado y pude ver lo que venía a pasar cuando ella salio del bus. Cuando nos bajamos en la parada de autobús de la estación (a la izquierda de la foto y al otro lado de la carretera), traté de acercarme a ella para detenerla, pero ella fue demasiado rápida para mí. Corrió por la carretera, cruzó una calzada en diagonal, se detuvo en el medio con el tráfico pasando en ambas direcciones y corrió hacia el otro lado. Yo estaba en choque, era muy muy peligroso. Mejor perder un tren y no perder la vida. De todos modos, ella ya era demasiado tarde por su tren.

Faltaba unas 2 horas para recuperarme. Estaba temblando, como si acabara de tener una discusión violenta con alguien. Derramé mi bebida Cola sobre la mesa mientras almorzaba. Queria cerveza para calmarme per tengo un reunion mas tarde.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Elecciones ... y un sueño sobre un puente.

See the previous post for the version in English!

Una actualización.

Cuando regresé de Dubai y Kiev, decidí no irme por un tiempo, principalmente por razones económicas! ¡Pero con la primavera en el aire, no hay mejor lugar para estar que Girona! Y ciertamente, durante el verano, muy rara vez me voy. Durante muchos años, la Costa Brava fue el destino de ensueño para nosotros, los británicos, y ahora puedo ir a la playa en bicicleta! Pero mi plan a largo plazo es ir a algún lugar cálido en el invierno, como Colombia, pero eso está muy lejos en tiempo. Hay un verano para disfrutar primero.


Si estás aburrido de la política, puedes saltar a la sección sobre la construcción de un puente!!


Sé que he escrito sobre eso antes, pero creo que la incertidumbre sobre el Brexit y la situación política aquí me hace un poco estresado. Brexit es tan loco ahora que las palabras me fallan. Los parlamentarios abandonan sus partidos, todavía no hay acuerdo y los productos se envían al Lejano Oriente, que llegará después del salido de la UE. Eso es asumiendo que Brexit no se retrasa. ¿Y cuál es el punto de hacer eso? Si no pueden encontrar una solución ahora, ¿qué diferencia harán otros 6 meses? David Cameron (el prime minister quien comenzó el proces), tienes mucho por lo que responder.
Aquí, tenemos elecciones locales en mayo para coincidir con las elecciones para el Parlamento Europeo y una elección general en abril. Y en la mente de todos, está el juicio de los 12 políticos en Madrid que abarcarán ambas elecciones y sin duda influirán en el resultado.
Para mí, el conflicto aquí se reduce a "El derecho de autodeterminación". ¿Existe para Catalunya o no? En cierto modo, el juicio trata de este principio. En mi opinión, si todas las regiones de Europa tuvieran el derecho de autodeterminación, tendríamos países pequeños (o ciudades) apareciendo de repente por todas partes. A menudo se cita una carta de las Naciones Unidas, pero eso se aplica a las regiones que están bajo opresión. Y aunque a menudo esto se plantea como el caso aquí, simplemente no es la verdad. Catalunya tiene mucha autonomía.
Mi problema con la independencia es simplemente pragmático; no veo cómo podría funcionar en términos económicos o logísticos. Si la frontera entre Irlanda e Irlanda del Norte es un gran problema, eche un vistazo a la frontera entre el resto de España y Catalunya... y Francia. La mayor parte del transporte español por carretera y ferrocarril con el resto de Europa pasa a través de Catalunya, por la frontera en Le Perthus. Si Catalunya lograra la independencia, se dice la Constitución de la EU, sería automáticamente fuera de la Unión Europea y tendría que volver a solicitar la membresía. Creo que Quim Torra, el actual presidente de Cataluña lo reconoce porque recientemente habló de un acuerdo comercial similar al de Canadá. Sería enormemente complicado. ¿No sería mejor encontrar algún consenso por evitar una división total?

Es gracioso, después de toda una vida de ser un verdadero "Tory" azul en el Reino Unido, ahora formo parte del equipo del PSC que promueve a Manel Roqueta como nuestro nuevo alcalde. PSC, Partido Socialista de Catalunya. De hecho, en el mundo en su conjunto, soy "socialista". Creo en compartir los recursos naturales. Cuando Escocia tuvo su referéndum para la independencia, se habló mucho sobre el valor del petróleo crudo en el Mar del Norte. Pero sentí que no era "su" petróleo. De todos modos, eso es agua abajo el puente. Pensé que era una locura ofrecer a Escocia la oportunidad de romper con el Reino Unido, de la misma manera que Catalunya decidía su propio destino. En cualquier caso, no sería seguro que un referéndum legal aquí resulte en el deseo de independencia. Y las personas como yo que no tenemos un pasaporte español, a pesar de ser residentes aquí, no pueden votar de todos modos.
Aunque formo parte del equipo, no voy estar consejal. Disfruto mucho el verano y no quiero estar sentado en un despacho soñando con la piscina municipal que está al lado!
Por lo que entiendo, todavía tendré un voto en las elecciones locales a pesar de no ser ciudadano europeo en mayo. Hubo un tratado firmado recientemente entre el Reino Unido y España llamado el "Tratado de Derechos de Votación" que lo permite. Supongo que todavía es válido en caso de un Brexit sin acuerdo.


Una pasarela para el Río Ter.


Durante mucho tiempo he sentido frustrado por la falta de un puente que cruza el Río Ter en pie, donde vivo en Celrà. El cruce más cercano está más allá de Flaçà o Saria de Ter, que es casi parte de Girona. Para poder explorar el otro lado del río, tuve que tomar un autobús hacia Girona y luego otro autobús hasta St Julià de Ramis. La primera vez que hice esto, tomé el autobús equivocado y, aunque la parada se llamaba "St Juilà de Ramis", estaba a kilómetros de donde quería ir. La segunda vez, fui mucho más sabio.




 
Hay una nueva atracción en Sant Julia, la Fortalesa. Durante muchos años hubo un fortaleza abandonado en una colina que domina el valle del río de regreso a Girona. Conduje hasta allí hace muchos años. Luego, durante aproximadamente 5 años, había dos grúas operando en el sitio y ahora todos podemos ver el resultado. Hay un museo de joyas, un restaurante y un hotel y restaurante de lujo. Hay un camino fácil desde el Ajuntament de Sant Julià en la NIIa hasta la Fortalesa.
Aqui hay algunas fotos.

En mi segunda visita al otro lado del río, estaba buscando un posible sitio para un pasarela, pero tal vez no haya suficiente demanda para justificar el costo. La ubicación obvia es una carretera de hormigón que se detiene abruptamente en el río en el lado de Celrà. Oh, la frustración, a pocos metros de distancia es Medinyá. Bueno, no es el pueblo más hermoso del mundo, pero justo enfrente de mi puente, hay un camino que, de una manera, lleva a Figueres y la otra a Sant Julià de Ramis y Sarria de Ter.

el camino de hormigon desde el lado de Medinyà (A)

otra vista de (A) desde el lado de Medinyà

en la mapa... (B)
 Tomé la última ruta y fue maravilloso. Sigue terrenos abiertos cerca del río y junto a la autopista AP7. Luego hay un puente sobre el pequeño río Terri y luego un paseo señalizado por el río, con una serie de señales que muestran la vida silvestre típica de la región. Seguí el camino hasta la esquina que está muy cerca del ferrocarril y la carretera C66 entre Girona y Celrà. Frustración en revers! Luego seguí el río de regreso al Ayuntamiento de Sant Julià de Ramis, donde llegué a tiempo para tomar un autobús de regreso a Girona.

En Internet, encontré un sitio web que describía cómo construir un puente colgante. Me puse en contacto con el hombre que lo construyó (está en Seattle) y compré su libro. Pero cuando me senté en el cruce del río donde termina la carretera, pensé que sería mejor como un puente atirantado. Sería asimétrico obtener la mayor parte de su fuerza desde el hormigón.
(A) pasarela.... es obvio!


Esto es mi sueño, construir este pasarela. Yo usaría comerciantes locales. Incluso hay una fuente de cable porque hay mucho de eso en los cables catenarias del ferrocarril abandonado al polígono industrial. El resto es madera. Tal vez esperaré hasta que tengamos nuestro nuevo Ajuntament, ¡tal vez Manel sea alcalde! En este momento, el partido gobernante es la CUP de extrema izquierda. Nosotros en el equipo queremos un pueblo para todos. Hablamos español en nuestras reuniones, lo que es genial para mí porque no hablo catalán. Lo entiendo razonablemente bien, pero no sé cómo construir un frase.


Ahora Ad Mundi en el estación de RENFE en Girona vende mis tarjetas postales!

Elections ..... and dreaming of a bridge (English version)

An update.

When I came back from Dubai and Kyiv, I decided not to go away for a while, mainly for economic reasons! But with spring in the air, there is no better place to be than Girona! And certainly, during the summer, I very rarely go away. For many years, the Costa Brava was the dream destination for us Brits and now I can go to the beach on my bike! But my long-term plan is to go somewhere warm in the winter such as Colombia but that is a long way off. There is the summer to enjoy first.


If you are bored with politics, you can skip to the section about building a bridge! Where all the photos are!!

I know I have written about it before but I think that the uncertainty about Brexit and the political situation here are making me a little stressed. Brexit is just so crazy now that words fail me. MPs are abandoning their parties, there is still no agreement and goods are being shipped to the Far East which will arrive after the UK leaves the EU. That is assuming Brexit is not delayed. And what is the point in doing that? If they can't find a solution now, what difference will another 6 months make? David Cameron, you have a lot to answer for.
Here, we have local elections in May to coincide with elections for the European Parliament  and a general election in April. And in everyone's mind, there is the trial of the 12 politicians in Madrid which will span both elections and undoubtedly influence the result.

To me, the conflict here comes down to, "The right of self-determination". Does it exist for Catalunya or not? In a way, the trial is about this one principle. In my opinion, if every region in Europe had the right of self-determination, we would have small countries (or cities!) popping up all over the place. A United Nations charter is often quoted but that applies to regions which are under oppression and have no freedom. And although this is often raised as being the case here, it is simply not true. Catalunya has a great deal of autonomy and freedom.
My objection to independence is simply pragmatic; I don't see how it could work in economic or logistical terms. If the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is a huge problem, have a look at the border between the rest of Spain and Catalunya. Most of Spanish road and rail transport with the rest of Europe passes through Catalunya, through the border at Perthus. If Catalunya achieved independence, according to the Constitution, it would automatically be outside the European Union and would have to re-apply for membership. I believe than even Quim Torra, the current President of Catalunya recognises that because recently he was talking about a trade agreement similar to that of Canada. It would be enormously complicated. Would it not be better to find some consensus short of a total split?
It is funny, after a lifetime of being a true-blue Tory in the UK, I am now part of the PSC team promoting Manel Roqueta as our new mayor. PSC, Partido Socialista de Catalunya. In fact, in the world as a whole, I am "socialist". I believe in sharing natural resources. When Scotland had its referendum for independence, much was said about the value of crude oil in the North Sea. But I felt that it was not "their" oil. Anyway, that is all water under the bridge. I thought is was madness to offer Scotland the opportunity to break away from the UK, in the same way as Catalunya deciding its own fate. In any case, it would not be certain that a legal referendum here would result in the wish for independence. And people like me who do not have a Spanish passport, despite being resident here, cannot vote anyway.
Although I am part of the team, I will not be standing as a councillor. I enjoy the summer too much to be sitting in an office dreaming about the municipal swimming pool next door.
From what I understand, I will still have a vote in the local elections despite no longer being a European citizen in May. There was a treaty signed recently between the UK and Spain called the Voting Rights Treaty which allows this. I assume it is still valid in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


A bridge over the River Ter


I have long been frustrated by the lack of a foot crossing over the River Ter where I live in Celrà. The nearest crossing is either just beyond Flaçà or Saria de Ter which is almost part of Girona. In order to explore the other side of the river, I had to take a bus into Girona and then another bus out to St Julià de Ramis. The first time I did this, I took the wrong bus and, although the stop was called, "St Juilà de Ramis", it was miles away from where I wanted to go. The second time, I was much wiser.





There is a new attraction at Sant Julia, la Fortalesa. For many years there was an abandoned fort on a hill overlooking the river valley back to Girona. I drove up there many years ago. Then for about 5 years, there were two cranes operating on the site and now we can all see the result. There is a museum of jewellery, a restaurant and a luxury hotel and restaurant. It is an easy walk up from the Ajuntament of Sant Julià on the NIIa to la Fortalesa. 



On my second visit to the other side of the river, I was looking for a possible site for a bridge but maybe there is not sufficient demand to justify the cost. The obvious location is a concrete roadway which stops abruptly at the river on the side of Celrà. Oh, the frustration, a few metres away is Medinyá. Well, it is not the most beautiful town in the world but directly opposite my bridge "site" is a path which, one way, leads to Figueres and the other direction to Sant Julià de Ramis and Sarria de Ter. I took the latter route and it was wonderful. It follows open land close to the river and next to the AP7 autoroute. Then there is a bridge over the River Terri and then a signposted walk by the river, with a number of signs showing typical wild-life in the region. I followed the path right down to the corner which is very close to the railway and the C66 road between Girona and Celrà. Then I followed the river back to the Ajuntament of Sant Julià de Ramis where I arrived in good time for a bus back to Girona.



the concrete roadway, from the Medinyà side (A)

another view of (A)

This is where I normally visit...(B) but from the Sant Julià side!

On the internet, I found a website which described how to build a suspension bridge. I contacted the guy who built it (he is in Seattle) and I bought his book. But when I sat down by the river crossing where the roadway ends, I though that it would be better as a cable-stayed bridge. It would be asymetrical getting most of its strength from the concrete.

it is crying out for a bridge!

This is my dream, to build this footbridge. I would use local tradesmen. There is even a source of cable because there is plenty of that in the overhead wires of the abandoned railway into the industrial estate. Maybe I will wait until we have our new Ajuntament, maybe Manel will be mayor! At the moment, the ruling party is the far-left CUP. We in the team want a village for everyone. We speak Spanish at our meetings which is great for me because I don't speak Catalan. I understand it reasonably well but I would have no idea how to construct a sentence.


Oh, I nearly forgot. Ad Mundi in the railway station in Girona has started selling my cards again!


Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Ukraine Part 2

I hope you are keeping up with this! At 8am on Wednesday 19th December, I arrived back  at Kyiv Airport after a 6 hour flight from Dubai desperate for a bed. Ligena Hotel to the rescue! I had booked a room during the day because I had decided to visit Marina in Kharkiv, then return to see Marta before returning to Spain. The hotel shuttle soon arrived and after breakfast I crashed into bed and slept about 2 hours, but very deeply. So, by the time I was ready to catch my flight to Kharkiv at 3pm, I felt fine. 
The actual flight time is about 40 minutes, Marina was working so I took an airport taxi to Hotel19 which is where I always stay when in Kharkiv. Marina came to see me later and we had a meal in the restaurant. Although part of the same organisation, the restaurant operates separately. Unfortunately, Marina left a plastic bag with her school books in the restaurant (she also teaches English) and we had a very difficult time getting it back. Next morning Marina asked if they had found it. Reply: no. On the morning of my departure next day, having checked with a taxi driver that she didn't leave it in his car, she asked again whether they had found her bag. The answer again was no. She left her phone number in case they found it. In the taxi going back to the airport, she received a phone call. Someone had taken it up to the hotel reception, not telling anyone. Obviously they realised whose bag it was because I was resident in the hotel. I never though to ask reception in the hotel as they are quite separate. To add insult to injury, two chocolate bars which were in the bag were missing. Marina gave them a hard time, I think. She takes these insults personally, as would I. Their security guy thought, "Hey, what good fortune, a reward for picking up the bag". I think I will not be staying at Hotel19 again.


Marina at Karavan Shopping Mall


I got ahead of myself because I spent the whole of Thursday in Kharkiv. We visited Karavan shopping mall (haha, yet another shopping mall), had some food and Marina headed off to give a private lesson. We met up again in the evening for a really nice meal here. There was a singer on the stage with a delicate voice, at first I thought it was Karaoke.


Next morning, Friday, at 11.30, I headed back to Kyiv. Marina stayed with me at the airport until I had to go through to check-in. At 1pm, I was back in Kyiv and this time, I took the train to the city centre. I had a light meal in the Ibis but did not check in, I was heading back to Nizhyn at 5pm. 
Marta met me at the station with Toli and we went back to the apartment via a supermarket where I paid for food and drink. Marta proudly showed me her new sofa-bed. So, no sleeping on the floor this time.
There is not much to tell you about my second weekend in Nizhyn, Marta offered an excursion back to Chernohiv but I was happy doing nothing, we cleaned the windows, just ordinary weekend jobs. Before I left, we fitted a large wall clock, where the numerals are fixed separately to the wall. On Saturday night, Marta and I went to a really nice restaurant about 10 minutes walk from her apartment. We got a little bit drunk on a bottle of wine and she instigated a snowball fight on the way back. I laughed so much that it hurt. What is more, I was so much in stitches that she clearly won the fight, I was unable to return her fire.


"I won!"
(Maybe you have guessed.... these photos were taken after the real event. I would not have risked my phone!)

On Sunday, we went for a light meal in another restaurant and I took this photo which I really like, partly due to the colours. 


So, I have almost come to the end of my Ukraine and Dubai story. I took the train back to Kyiv but I have already written about my journey back to Spain in my post, "A new Adventure".