Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Went to a BBQ on Sunday. In England. It didn't rain. Just thought I'd mention it.

Being home - but is it home?

I flew back to the UK on Saturday evening, for the first time since May. It's only been 3 months but they've been a very eventful 3 months.

I felt strangely nervous as I headed to the airport (partly cos I'd been very disorganised and thought I was going to be horribly late!) - I was wondering how I'd feel to be back.

Ryanair did their best to change my nerves to anger by being delayed by half an hour, then letting us board the plane but then sitting on the tarmac for nearly another hour. Finally we left and the wheels hit Gatwick at 10pm (after an exciting descent through some great turbulence - yes, I'm one of those odd people that actually enjoys that!)

As we'd landed at a gate somewhere in Scotland as far as I could tell, it was 20 minutes before I found myself heading down the ramp towards the arrivals hall. Having spent so much of my life working at airports, they're not my favourite places anyway, but Gatwick South, particularly, fills me with abject horror these days. It's not improved by the fact that they're removing asbestos from the ceiling so there is now a false ceiling up, barely a couple of feet above our heads. It's very claustrophobic! So I joined the throngs of Brits and queued for immigration, hoping not to see anyone I knew. No such luck - but at least it was someone I liked! I got to giggle at the new uniform but as I left the hall, I realised that I absolutely can't ever imagine going back to the job, no matter where.

The delights of the British public transport system were my next challenge. Having spent nearly £9 on a one-way ticket to Brighton, I then found there wasn't a train for nearly 40 minutes and that was going to be the slow train. A dull wander around the terminal ensued to kill some time - at least it involved an M&S giant vegetable samosa - then off I went back to the station. The next stage of my journey was then thwarted by one of those announcement that you know isn't going to go well when it starts "Ladies and gentlemen, we are sorry to announce......." This time it was that everything was delayed because a train had hit a shopping trolley which had been thrown onto the line from a bridge. So vile British youth were already affecting my trip!

I finally got on a train and spent most of the journey being appalled at how the big group of chavs sitting behind me were massacring the English language. It struck me just how different it sounded to the English I hear in Madrid, from both Anglos and Spaniards (yes Debbie and Louise, of course you both know you speak the most AMAAAAZING English :-) )

At midnight, 3 hours later than expected I fell out of a taxi to my front door. It felt very strange to be back - it's my flat, it's my stuff (well, most of it at least!) but somehow it's not mine. At least Messy (the cat) recognised me this time! Last time I was back she spent 2 days skulking around, looking at me sideways and refusing to sit on my lap. This time, she was all over me in minutes, sniffing, head butting and washing me! Come to think of it, there was a lot of sniffing and washing. Maybe I didn't smell too good! :-)

After my day of travel, I was too awake to go to bed so I stayed up til 4am just faffing on the net and waiting to see if it would feel like home.

It didn't.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

What a week!

I could go on for hours and bore you rigid with all the details, but won't. In short (well, relatively short):

My sixth Vaughan Town (my third at beautiful Gredos) turned out to be as close to perfect as I can imagine. With the exception of the crappy veggie food (really, overcooked spaghetti with watered down tomato ketchup 3 times in one week?), which I was expecting anyway, everything else was fantastic.

The Anglos bonded really fast, in some cases within minutes of meeting for the first time at the tapas night (eh, Kim?!).

The Spaniards were an astonishingly lovely group - a pretty good starting level of English which probably helped but really just the best people. As usual, there was a good mix of ages, genders (well, OK, there are only 2 but....!), occupations, interests and talents.

Over the course of the week, I had silly, deep, ridiculous, interesting, moving, honest, educational and indescribable (or at least unrepeatable) conversations.

The group activities and entertainment hours were filled with laughs, audience participation and occasional bafflement. I enjoyed being in my own (tweaked!) murder mystery but the less said about my part in the dead parrot sketch, the better!

Queimada and karaoke night was fun, though as usual by the time karaoke really got going and people were getting enthusiastic, it was nearly time for it to be over! Too much time spent fighting over the 2 songbooks, trying to read them in the dark, deciding who to sing with and supping the requisite amount of Dutch courage!!

Party night rocked. Probably the first time I've known absolutely everyone stay til the end and of course, still not want to stop! The bleary eyes and sheepish looks the next morning indicated that not everyone did stop!

As ever, Friday rolled around far too fast and before we knew it, we were packing up, doing group photos and heading off for the certificate ceremony. Several of us were swallowing back tears before it even started, but by the end (despite the VERY inappropriate interruption of Dade's moving sentiment), open sobbing was the order of the day.

The palpable sense of achievement, accomplishment and friendship in the room is something I've never experienced anywhere else. That, along with the ludicrous amount of fun to be had, is what keeps me coming back. Time to look at dates for my next one, I reckon!

Here are my photos, though they're few and far between as I was generally having far too much fun to think about my camera: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/emsr2d2/GredosAug09?authkey=Gv1sRgCOv-rdqH1d-wHQ&feat=directlink