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BY Bel

08/01 Direct Link
The most irritating thing about my mother is the way she continually points out that I am fat. This winds me up far more than her other annoying habits because she is hardly slim and svelte herself. When I was young, she taught me that sports were for idiots, and PE lessons at school were to be endured not enjoyed. She is also amused by the fact that I love cooking - “food is food”, actually appreciating it is for foodie snobs. So when I eat well and tell her I've joined a gym, she laughed out loud. I can't win.
08/02 Direct Link
The Gym is, however, an alien concept to me. Alien is the right word, I think, the environment does look somehow otherworldly. Strange, elongated and angular creatures connect themselves up to obscure machinery, which pull their limbs about unnaturally. All the while, things are monitored, red lights flash rhythmically and regular beeping emits from odd corners. Everything is shiny grey and metallic, or menacingly black and technologically sophisticated. With no prior knowledge, I am entirely unable to tell whether the creatures are controlling the machines, or vice versa. The place is unnervingly intimidating; it will suck in your very soul.
08/03 Direct Link
My name is Bel and I'm an interwebaholic.

Our home interweb has died. Not just died, in fact, but cease to exist in this plane of existence entirely. And suddenly I realise how much I rely on it.
I can't do any university work because the journals I need are online.
I can't update my RASC website – the whole website has gone with our server.
I can't talk to my friend because she is in Italy, and the only contact I have is through Facebook.
I can't write these words, and I can't blog.

(wails)What am I to doooo????

08/04 Direct Link
Today I told a friend that I would bring him back a straw donkey from Spain. He asked why. It's just what you do! Doesn't he know that?? This is one of a growing list of things – FACTS – that are so ingrained in my conscious, presumably from childhood that I never wonder where they came from, or why. I assume these truths to be universal; straw donkeys come from Spain, goats chew hot water bottles, there is something nasty in the woodshed, salamanders sing, and it always rains in Newhaven. Apparently these truths are not so much universal as unique!
08/05 Direct Link
Another mate sympathises with my reluctance to bring up children in this country. The Kid idea has been discussed, but whereas 50 years ago, you wouldn't dream of it until you were married, today I wouldn't dream of it until we've left the UK. We were pondering recently what this decade would be remembered for in years to come. I can't really think of anything positive! The Rise of the Chav, maybe. The fashion of being proud to be uneducated. 'Reality' TV. Student debts. Never before getting so low a quality of life for such a high cost of living.
08/06 Direct Link
he other thing we may remember about the Noughties is this inherent Blandness we are subjected to. We are all wifi'd and bluetoothed and connected to each other through the very ether with mobile phones, we are chronically addicted to social networking websites, but we don't actually TALK to each other any more. There is nothing to talk about. Everything Is OK. Not great, but not bad enough to do anything about. There is nothing to rebel against, because everything is comfortingly bland; and it dulls our senses. Even our music all sounds like it ought to be on adverts.
08/07 Direct Link
I'm going to Ohio. This is yet another random occurrence, another trip that I never expected, which I will inevitably Have Adventures on, with little to no prior preparation. I'm going to a conference on “Commodities of Empire: The Moral, Social and Economic Life of Coffee.” In Ohio for some reason. I also have to write, and then present a paper at it, in front of several hundred other industry specialists and academics far more worthy than me. And then I have to hop down the globe somehow and wind up in Nicaragua to start my “real” research.

Ye gads.

08/08 Direct Link
She says she can't imagine me spending 6 months in Peru. A strange thing to say. Well, I did, when I was eighteen. I was very different then, granted. I've only known her ten months. Maybe she can't imagine the Me she knows now in Peru. We've had the “will fieldwork make us lonely?” conversation enough times, and I am scared of leaving Carl for so long. Maybe the Modern Me is too clingy, needy, co-dependent, too married to spend 6 months on the other side of the world. Good job I'm only going for four months this time!
08/09 Direct Link
Time for Corping! This is such a hallowed event that it becomes a verb in its own right. I refer, of course, to the act of attending Syn at Corporation, the best night out that I've found in Sheffield so far. This was an even more special night than usual, mainly because I made a big scene, embarrassed Carl in the best possible way and then spent the whole evening dancing like a loon wearing purple PVC, looking remarkably like a drunk My Little Pony. Carl and I were celebrating a renewal of sorts. All is going to be GOOD.
08/10 Direct Link
Urrrgh. The Hangover. I'm actually not feeling as bad as I thought I would. We had to get up early in order to rid Mary's house of any trace of our existence (including kebab smells) and drive home. Carl is not in a good way. I haven't seen him that drunk in quite some time. I am mainly dehydrated, I think. I drank but I also danced (well, flailed limbs enthusiastically) and sweated it all off inside my PVC! Quite how I got out of those trousers I do not know. I think they'd have to have been peeled off!
08/11 Direct Link
Holidays are supposed to be fun! Stress free! Time to relax and enjoy yourself! So why am I running round like an agitated ferret?
No internet mans no booking of forgotten travel insurance and no downloading of maps or city guides.
Neither of us being here for 2 weeks means leaving specific instructions for the Ferret Sitter, and given the choice of Ferret Sitter, we had to write it all out in words of one ayl-la-ble.
And of course, the ferrets chose NOW to have a big fight and a vet trip was required too! AAAAAAARGH!
08/12 Direct Link
Una vacacion con Jopo. I honestly think we are going to have a fantastic time, but I do have a few reservations. I don't think Jo and I will fall out exactly, but I do know that this sort of trip is stressful – we are doing a lot of moving about, everything has to be done in another language, and it'll be hot and tiring. Jo says she's never done anything like this before, and that's what concerns me. I've never done this before with a good friend, only ever with Carl, or alone. It'll be a new experience, certainly.
08/13 Direct Link
I am obviously no longer a seasoned traveller - a mere 2.5 hour flight and I am exhausted! So, we find ourselves in Girona in Catalunya. It is a beautiful place, seemingly neglected by the tourist trade, all street cafes and tiny shops selling the arty, ethnic tat that we so love. Everything is in Catalan, not Spanish, however, and my tired brain is struggling to cope! The hostel owner is a fascinating man, who speaks no English and so talks to Jo in French and me in Catalan-Spanish, while we speak English to each other. Unsurprisingly it got very confusing!!
08/14 Direct Link
Aaah... that first kidney-kickingly strong sip... that's what it's all about! And fortunately for me, this is 'cafe fantastico'.
Jo could snore for Britain in the Olympics. The woman is capable of making noises that no mortal being should be able to make. Her grating, gutteral, coagulated repertoire ranges from disgruntled warthog, Mr-Muscle-Sink-and-Drain-Unblocker-type gurgling, Angry Duck to Rusty Chainsaw, and all are performed at volumes capable of deafening several elephants. Despite already being exhausted, I didn't get any sleep all night. This morning I've tried desperately to remember the Spanish for "Ear Plugs"!
08/15 Direct Link
We're slowly but surely adapting to the Spanish lifestyle. I got up early in search of coffee after another rough night, and sat at a bar downing espresso in the sophisticated manner demonstrated by my continental counterparts. After breakfasting on dead pig, rancid lactation of cow, and French toast ("I thought French toast was when you stuck your tongue out and licked the butter off?!") we went absinthe shopping, then had another siesta for a few hours! Working hard as ever. We have also soaked up the culture and visited ancient Arab baths and the hideously kitsch, gold plated Cathedral.
08/16 Direct Link
Travelling - not the 'experience' of backpacking, but the actual physical logistics of getting from A to B is actually more tiring than any other part of the backpacker lifestyle. Culture shock, having to get by in another language and survive in a culture you are not familiar with is hard work.It requires a lot of effort and can be quite frightening - but also exhilarating when you get it right. It's a major reason why I go travelling in the first place. Logistics, however, are different. No matter how smooth the journey (and ours was both simple and cheap), real travel still exhausts you.
08/17 Direct Link
The beach called us. We are not beachy people. But you can't not go in Spain, right? And whilst mucking about with a head massager in our bras (we forgot the bikinis), we "met" a Swiss photographer ("Je suis un artiste!") who wanted to take our photo, because us and our mad hair and the blue sea made such a good image.... Yeah, right. After establishing that he was NOT going to use my camera, we acquiesced. And they were pretty good pictures. If they end up on some porn site later, we can put it all down to experience!
08/18 Direct Link
Comida!
Mejor: comida barata!
Estamos alojandan en la casa de Clare - una amiga buena de Jo. Ellas no han visto la otra por siete anos, entonces estan una opportunidad excellente por ellas, y tambien para mi a ver una casa 'normal' en Barcelona, en comparison de los hospedajes. Siempre nos pensimos "estaria asombrosa a vivir en Espana!" - pero aqui, es un ejemplo de alguin como nosotros viviendo en Espana....
Clare tiene una cocina. FINALMENTE! Yo Puedo Cocinar!! (Los hosepdajes tienen micrones solamente) Fuimos al Mercado Boqueria y compramos muchos verduras y gambas, cocine papa de Huancaina y pimientos rellenos.Deliscioso!
08/19 Direct Link
Nous sommes en France!
Our first European border hopping was successful, and we are now the right side of the French/Spanish border in a town called Cerbere, waiting in an overpriced cafe at an uninspiring station, for another train to Perpignan.
The plan for Perpignan is to make like Hemingway and sit at the station wearing berets and scribbling industriously, whilse gulping back coffees, Je suis une ecrivain, or I hope to be! First impressions of France are not too interesting. Other than finding I know understand even less French than I thought I did, there's no real difference!
08/20 Direct Link
We cam on holiday initially for some sunshine, but also for Writing. Sitting in cafes drinking endless coffees or buckets of wine. Here's the results:

Long Live the Cookie!
I've got a cookie,
A well-travelled cookie
A well-travelled cookie
Is good to find.
I've got a cookie
A big smelly cookie
It's a big squashy cookie
But I don't mind....

There was once two Loons in Girona
One wanted her husband to phone her
They shared a beret
Just like Hemingway
Cos with absinthe you're never alone-a!

"You know when you're in Spain, cos the trees are different."

08/21 Direct Link
"You sound like you do this a lot." we are informed.
"What?"
"Sit in cafes and talk bollocks!"
Says Mira from Brighton, having spent about an hour in our company. She's right to a point, that was the whole plan for the French leg of this trip. However, we have packed a lot in so far. We tried to see as many of the Gaudi buildings as possible in Barcelona, and went mosaiced lizard hunting in Parc Guell. We even managed the 'teleferic' (cable car) out of Montjuic which allowed wonderful panoramic views of the bay. We've been busy really!
08/22 Direct Link
The one saving grace of France is that the hostel has a kitchen! And as we're in France, cooking something French is compulsory. We found a supermarche, and bought ingredients (not forgetting the icecream). Then we actually investigated the kitchen. Doh. We had a one-ring electric hob to cook on. Coq-au-vin can be cooked in one big pan, so this was not a problem. What was more of a problem was the lack of sharp knives. Ne'er to be deterred, I found a ceremonial dagger (as you do) and used that. I even wore a beret too!
08/23 Direct Link
Contrary to popular belief, the continent is NOT cheap. Girona was OK, Barcelona was the equivalent of any large British town, but France was ludicrous.An exhausted and over-emotional Jo was nearly in tears when she realised she couldn't afford anything,and I have just stopped myself buying a medically necessary beer when I realised it was going to cost £2.50 for less than half a pint. We have completely bankrupted outselves on this trip, which is depressing since we've hardly bought any souvenirs. We've not been silly with money at all; EVERYTHING has gone on food and drink!
08/24 Direct Link
gggggggggggaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh. Coming back was Hellish. Without a big red guy and sadly lacking in flames. Actually, I lie, our last night was brilliant, we got drunkled in a bar til 3am, and sang horrid songs about Chloroform girl and Pogo the clown. But we had to sit up all night, wait outside the bus station with all our bags being hassled by weird blokes until 5am, navigate huge queues at the airport, survive a Ryanair flight, then get back home from Newcastle. The Greggs pasties we demolished at the airport have never tasted so good as they did this morning.
08/25 Direct Link
Grem has not wrecked the house. This is a very good thing. Evidence of Teenager pervades – there is that odd smell of too many hormones in the air. We have gained a pair of yellow rollerblades, a silver engraved tankard, and a bag of miscellaneous Stuff which is no doubt highly prized by someone, somewhere. On more foul topics, there is a lot of yellow bumfluff left in my razor, and plenty of empty bottles of cheap plonk outside. But, the ferrets are happy, nothing has burnt down and Grem is still in one piece. He deserves his absinthe then!
08/26 Direct Link
I really need to be Sheffield – already. Despite not technically getting a summer holiday like the undergrads do, I have found that everything at uni seemingly slows right down over August. People who usually reply to emails instantaneously are slower to respond. No-one is actually in the office. Even the university online environment has slowed up drastically. With less social commitments, this should be the time spent industriously working on your individual projects. Sadly in my case, this is not possible because social science requires some level of sociability and interaction with others. I can't do anything without responses!
08/27 Direct Link
Maaaaaaaaammeeeee!!! The drilling outside a dull roar as the whole house shakes. Heimlich werd ich auferstehen, und du wirst um Gnade flehen, dann knie ich mich in dein Gesicht, und steck den Finger in die Asche. Mam, Ryan's picking on Nathan! I can't even have a fookin' shower in peace! My depressive cousin, what I like to do, he can't be arsed...BEEP! BEEP! Vehicle reversing! Oi! Scruff! Geddin 'ere NOW! Pigeons, pigeons everywhere, loud random barking such imagination seems to help the feelings slide, I'll take it by your side...Ferrets scrabbling at the door, without you I'm nothing.
08/28 Direct Link
Today I saw a chicken fillet on the pavement.
I don't mean an edible chicken fillet, but the rubber type used to stuff the bras of less well-endowed women.
According to Bravissimo, more women in this area have big boobs than anywhere else in the country. So they wouldn't need chicken fillets. Maybe it belonged to a bloke!?
I once interviewed a transexual for university. She had chicken fillets. Being rather well-upholstered myself, my entire knowledge of chicken fillets is based on that one experience.
08/29 Direct Link
I am in the pub AGAIN. With Jo. Feels like we never went away!! I don't actually need to be in the pub to use the wifi anymore– instead it has become our RASC office. We are planning the incredibly over-ambitious but achingly cool Pink Pomflet (in layman's terms, the promotional leaflet from our creative writing group). I am actually very glad Jo has offered to do the designing - I'm incapable at the moment. I feel devoid of ideas, and it bugs me because this is the one thing I've got to do this week which is actually FUN!
08/30 Direct Link
Tomorrow is the S.O.P.H.I.E march, raising awareness of the campaign and as a memorial for Sophie Lancaster. In Newcastle, we'll also remember Lee Davison, who committed suicide as a result of the prejudice he suffered. These aren't protests; effectively we would be fighting for the right to 'be different', which is silly, we have that right. We also have the right, in a free society, to identify with any subculture and present ourselves accordingly. What we want is the ability to do so without fear of hatred and intolerance meted out to us entirely because of the way we look.
08/31 Direct Link
Doh. It wasn't exactly the turn out we were hoping for, shall we say. Nevertheless, we may have been a small group, but we made up for it in enthusiasm, volume, costume and bloody-minded obnoxiousness. We did good. If we only get one message across, it should be this: there are people in the world who think it's ok kill people because they look different. We can't get rid of them, but we can attempt to educate people so that these views do not result in murder, assault, bullying or harassment. That isn't too much to ask is it?