Where has all the time gone?

November 7, 2009

Local market square - many tempting bakeries to be found round here....

Another week and a half has gone by and, frankly, I’m not too sure where it went. I can remember as I approached the end of my Army career people asking me what I intended to do after I left. My response was typically ‘as little as possible’ or words to that effect. Having now achieved the initial objective of actually leaving the Army and departing the cold, damp shores of Britain, I can say that doing as little as possible seems to take up most of my time. The only trouble is, that there seems to be an awful lot of things to do which constitute ‘as little as possible’.

There’s visitors. Now don’t misunderstand me in any way. I love having people to stay on Rampage. Indeed, it is essential that people do come and visit us, as it is only by doing so that they realise just how much fun we’re having and therefore go away immensely jealous of us….. When we do have visitors, there’s suddenly an imperative to do things that might quite well have been put off until next week, or next month or perhaps not bothered with at all.

About 24 hours before a visitor is due, Julia goes into what the kids used to call ‘Mad Rabbit Mode’, where everything has to be done 20 minutes ago and it’s all a bit frantic. Once upon a time, it was at that point in time that I would make a strategic withdrawal into the shed (to fix something important) or the study (work on the dissertation). Regrettably, neither of these options is open to me now; no shed and no study (no dissertation either come to think of it). I am therefore trapped into scrubbing decks, straightening sail covers, polishing brass and all the other bit of cleaning that make a boat ship shape.


View down the pontoon - Rampage is just off the end of the ramp on the left.

Once the visitors arrive, we are then the hosts. This means different things for different visitors. Thankfully for me, my role during the Ruins visit was largely restricted to cooking and ensuring that there was enough alcohol available – a combination barman and chef I suppose. For Polly and Tommy’s visit, the functions also included that of tour guide to the better areas of town as well as nurse maid to a severely intoxicated wife and daughter. (If you want more details, please see J’s account of the visit.)


Rampage on her berth - Josie's boat to the left, a large motor boat to the right, the Catalonian Museum behind..

Whatever the required role, time seems to fly past. Before it seems that people have settled in and mastered the subtle art of using the sea toilet, they’re packing up and making their way off to the airport to fly back to gloomy old England.

We that remain (J and I) are then left to tackle the next challenge that living in Port Vell throws up. This week it’s been the first of our Spanish lessons. The marina has been running them for the past few years and they’ve clearly become something of an institution. We signed up for them once we’d got our berth sorted out and were told by our next door neighbour that she’d take us to the first one as we’d probably got lost trying to find the venue. Based on this, it’s clearly a minor miracle that any of the long term residents ever managed to navigate here in the first place, but there you go. The lesson turned out to be way oversubscribed – there were about 30 of us when the teacher would probably have preferred about half that number. We didn’t get much beyond the asking name, age and country of origin but it certainly passed 2 hours quite rapidly. Next week we are promised 2 sets – J has insisted that we sign up for the ‘advanced’ set on the basis of her Spanish CDs and my ‘facility’ for languages…

Breakfasts here are a time consuming affair as well. Firstly, you have to understand that the Spanish don’t really do cereals, so we mostly don’t bother with them. Nor is the bacon out here up to a lot and anyway, I wouldn’t be the slim, sylphlike figure that I now am if I were to eat a hearty English breakfast every morning. So the only sensible alternative is bread and jam with coffee and fruit juice.

That brings me on to the contemplation of Spanish bread; it has a major failing in that today’s bread is simply no use tomorrow, thus making it necessary to go shopping for the stuff on a daily basis and therein lies the problem. If one is strong willed, it’s a simple matter to walk in to just about any shop, pick up a single freshly baked baguette and walk swiftly back to the boat for an al fresco (in the open air, peasants) meal beneath the warming autumnal sun. If, however you should not hold true to your original aim of simply buying a single loaf, you may drift into the influence of one of the many bakeries in the area. These are places of worship to the bakers trade, where people slave from early in the morning producing riches beyond imagining to those of you stuck in the UK and surrounded by the Tesco/Sainsbury/Morrison’s in store ‘bakeries’.

The local small shops do operate on the same basis as the UK stores with dough delivered and finished in ovens on the premises. But the local ‘proper’ bakeries are just what it says on the tin; places with hot ovens surrounded by the people working hard to produce bread from the raw ingredients. The variety of loaves on offer is bewildering and threatening to the waistline. In addition, most bakers also make cakes of one breed or another and delicacies like croissants. You’re starting to see the problem, I trust. Whilst the catholic amongst you may get a minor kick out of denying temptation, the majority will understand just how much of a pain it is to stick to buying a single loaf and not indulging in anything else at the same time. I’ve found that the best way of dealing with the problem is only to take just enough money to buy the loaf and that’s it!

The reason that breakfast is a time consuming affair is that one has to get up, get dressed and then go out on the self denying trip to the bakers for the bread. Takes time, especially as we usually have a shower prior to leaving for the shops. Now, when you often don’t wake up until about 9am, get out of bed until say 930(ish) and it takes about 30 minutes to have a shower etc, you can see that it will be getting on for 1015 – 1030 before breakfast starts. Allowing for interruptions from other folks heading for the showers, returning from the shops and the like, it can be 1115 before breakfast is finished and we can start to think what we might like to do with the rest of the day. Hard life, I know, but someone has to live and it may as well be us.

Lest you think us idle, you should understand that we do have a fair bit to do keeping the boat up to scratch. Julia, for example, spent most of Friday in her cropped trousers and grotty tee shirt scrubbing the decks, getting rid of various foot prints and marks, whilst I sloped off to the chandlers’ to get some bits and bobs that we needed. Subsequently, I had a happy time making a new trim for the companionway hatch from a spar bit of hardwood we brought out from the UK as the old trim had decided to disintegrate on us over the summer. Very nice it looks too, although I think I probably need to take it off the hatch again and do a bit more shaping work on it before we protect it with some teak oil.


Rambla Marina looking across the marina - Rampage lost in the crowd!

One of the reasons we’re so delighted with Port Vell is that we’re very close to Barcelonetta, a tight little neighbourhood of narrow streets just to the north of the harbour. It’s where the fishermen used to live when they still operated from the harbour in any numbers. At it’s centre there’s a market which is open 6 days a week as well as a couple of reasonably sized supermarkets. In addition, there are innumerable little shops selling just about anything that you could ask for, including the aforementioned bakeries. Polly and Tommy were much taken by a drinks store which seemed to have examples of most intoxicants available to purchase at (so it seems to me) somewhat inflated prices.


Local church - the angel is a particularly combative looking chap.

The proximity of Barcelonetta means that shopping is not too much of a pain, as it’s only about 5 minutes walk away from the boat, so getting in the weekend shopping isn’t too much of an effort. We’ve just come back from doing the shopping as I write; beer, Sprite, water and OJ seem to have featured strongly this weekend, so the trolley was well laden as was the backpack.

We’re now sitting taking our ease after our exertions in the market, where we bought provisions for the next few days, as most shops shut on Sunday. The weather is continuing to be fine and sunny, although the temperature is somewhat lower now than it was when the Ruins were here. Hardly surprising, I suppose as it is the end of the first week in November.

I think that’s probably enough for the moment, although I could ramble on for some time if I felt so inclined. The object of this blog was to give you a feel for what we’re up to and encourage you to come a visit us if you can. Our next visitor is my brother Mike, who arrives tomorrow evening, so our next entry will probably be telling tales of what we got up to with him.



  1. Sounds idyllic and not unlike life here in Perth excepting for the warm weather (beautiful sunny day with a hard frost and the temp struggling up to 3 deg today)a boat and life on Las Ramblas! I too have problems with the local lingo altho am getting to grips with it now. The local bakeries have all sorts to tempt me and my explain the extra stone I’m carrying, however there is the small matter of work. Mind you as I now work at Frankies and Benny’s the hours are eratic – no 9 to 5 thank goodness and the other folk there are great. Plus still teach my upholstery which is such a laugh I can’t believe I’m being paid for it! Lovely to see you both living the dream – will definitely visit you somewhere on your journey!
    love and hugs to you both!
    The Nabbies

  2. Hola Ruin and Kipper!

    Buenas Dias. Que tal?
    Glad to see you are keeping busy and keeping the local bakeries going!

    T x

  3. Yum yum, just remembering the bakeries…
    Hope that sylph-like form will be retained over Winter, Kipper!

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