Social Pressures

November 24, 2009

Or should that be duties? Not too sure really but what I think I’m trying to say is that we occasionally do things that we wouldn’t always want to do left to our own devices but have to do because of the expectations of the society in which we live. You know the sort of thing I mean – going to the Cocktail Party as a host, not because you think you’ll enjoy it but because you have to (those of you who’ve been in the military will know just what I mean.)

One of the great delights of Marina Port Vell is the fact that the above doesn’t seem to apply to anything. If there’s something going on and you want to go, fill your boots. If you don’t want to go, then relax back on the boat with a good book or a film on DVD. The Bohemian atmosphere is great, with folk joining in to the extent with which they’re happy, equally content at times to spectate from their decks.

There is something of a social routine here, with a two major events bringing people together on a regular basis. The first is a strictly ladies-only gathering for coffee and networking (OK gossip) that takes place at the ungodly hour of 10am on a Tuesday morning. For Julia this means getting up for about 8am, so as to allow enough time to shower, chose what to wear, change again because the weather is warmer than she thought it was, have breakfast and finally leave the boat in a fluster because it was later than she realised and Josie from next door is shouting for her to get a move on…..

Marina Port Vell Ladies Coffee morning

All this time, I’m in a bit of a dilemma. Do I shrug my shoulders, get up at 8am, get in the way of the deranged woman my wife has suddenly become whilst I try and have a bit of breakfast in peace or do I remain in my bunk until the whirlwind has left for her social event? If I get up, then I run the risk of becoming embroiled in decisions as to what to wear as well as being unable to enjoy a quiet breakfast. On the other hand, if I stay in bed, then the chances are that I’ll attract criticism from the boss about my idleness and lack of drive and inability to help her get out of the boat on time. You begin to see my problem? And here I was, thinking that social pressures had more or less disappeared from my life only to start telling you a story that shows that they’re still there, albeit at the micro level.

The coffee mornings are not the only Tuesday event. The other one is our Spanish classes, held on Tuesday evening in the local community centre. First a word about the centre, which apparently is a standard fitting for all Spanish neighbourhoods. It’s a purpose built centre, reasonably modern and well maintained with classrooms, performance areas and the like, all provided by the city council in this instance – such a contrast to UK where if that sort of place exists at all it‘s usually a broken down place that limps along on totally inadequate funding. There seem to be all sorts of classes and events that go on in the place and it’s something of a hub for the area. The staff are welcoming and take a pride in their work, taking the weekly influx of a bunch of foreigners in their stride.

The marina pays for the classroom we use and for the teacher, a girl from the Canaries called Miriam. Her efforts to get us all speaking Spanish are heroic and, to date, focused on getting us up on our hind legs telling the class who we are and what our family does – in, at the moment, fairly fractured Spanish. Whilst the objective is to learn Spanish, there’s a good deal of chatter and arranging of other events that goes on in the margins of the class.

Other events in the social calendar are more ad hoc. We had a busy few days this week. On Friday, we went to the Caja Madrid concert with Josie our next door neighbour. The concert really was beauty and the beast; a stunning young female vocalist signing Italian songs to the accompaniment of guitar music played by the ugliest man I’ve seen in quite some time. He added to his facial artibutes by constantly grimacing or grinning as he played. Great music but boy, was she sweet and was he just plain ugly! Anyhow, Josie walked us back through the old town and then we settled down to a few drinks on her boat, Windsong. Windsong is about 10 feet longer than Rampage, is ketch rigged (two masts) and has a very high bow. She’s moored bow in, so boarding her involves climbing first a little step ladder and then another ladder over the pulpit. This is a minor challenge stone cold sober. After being reintroduced to genever (Dutch gin) at the end of the evening, negotiating the ladder was daunting & fitting climax to the night.

Josie and her boarding ladder

The following night, we had been invited along to “Brigantes”, another ketch berthed a bit further up the pontoon, for a few drinks. The plan was to go on to a local restaurant for tapas later but things changed, as Sue and Peter had recently been with other friends to a local Japanese-style place, with a conveyor belt system and suggested that we might like to try the place. We happily fell in with this plan and spent the next 2½ hours stuffing ourselves on a stunning array of food ranging from sushi to lychees by way of lobster, crab and oysters. The place operates on a 13€ per person basis, so there was no motivation to finish too quickly and we had a great time, staggering home late in the evening.

The following day was the next pontoon party (apparently they happen about once a month – don’t know by what mechanism – perhaps it’s something to do with the coffee morning people?). Once again, it was held on the pontoon next to our berth, with Josie, our Dutch neighbour, acting as ring master, and producing tables for the food. The gathering started at 4pm and this time as many as 40 or 50 people turned up, each bearing drinks for their own consumption and munchies to share. The resultant array of food was magnificent and naturally one feels beholden to sample all these wonderful delicacies which people have taken such time & trouble to produce. (Incidently our own contribution – well mine actually as the mate had nothing to do with it other than eating large quantities of it (strange for someone who won’t eat mustard or honey normally)- local sausages baked in the oven in a honey/mustard glaze – proved extremely popular & disappeared fast, I’m delighted to say!)

Most people staggered off to their boats at about 7.30 or so for a gentle lie-down. We however were joined by Linda and Steve from “Tantrum” for a few more drinks after it got too cold to hang about outside any longer (yes it does get chilly in the evenings now).  One thing led to another and we wound up having a fair bit to drink before Linda, having single-handedly consumed a bottle of wine & helping herself to three bananas in swift succession, suddenly decided it was time to go for burgers. We bowed out of the burger bar exped and retired to bed at that point. We understand that she felt a bit rough the next day.

All in all, we’ve been taking things fairly gently since. Not exactly hung over but certainly glad not to have to do anything in too much of a rush. Work on the Murder/Mystery for Christmas progresses.  I’ll post another update once I’ve got enough materiel to make it worthwhile, maybe another week or so.  By the way, it’s been very pleasing to have so many people let us know how much they like the blog – we’ll try to continue in the me vein over the winter months.  Please do feel free to post comments on the site – its fun to see how people react to the day to day life of boaty folk.



  1. Sounds like you have quite a busy social life going on. Why is the coffee morning held so early in the day – it would be much more sociably acceptable to to have it at elevenses!!

  2. oh dear – just catching up and learnt about Boris.
    What has happenned to one’s sense of adventure I ask??
    I like the idea of you on the Rampage having friends on the Tantrum!!!!Excellant!!!
    Have taken up T’ai Chi to find inner strength and calm, its not working as I keep falling off the gym mat when I am supposed to be balanced with right hand outstretched and right ankle in left hand behind back (pretzel position?)mucho swearing and inner calm shattered instantly. However practice makes perfect!
    J – did you get news of Mme Jarvis who has sadly disappeared off to do the great crossword in the sky? Mrs Savidge was instant you were told.

    Later then Grizzled and Mate – behave!

  3. Here I am sat at my desk 5.15pm another 45mins before going home. Dark, cold and wet outside, how envious I am of you two. I adore Barcelona, spanish food and particularly Rioja and at this moment can’t think of anything more blissful. Looking forward to seeing Julia for a catch up with the M&S girls prior to christmas.

  4. Duncan, I love your blogs(yours too Julia). They are so entertaining, and make us miss Julia all the more. Your life sounds idyllic and am so pleased that you are both having a great time. Hi to Julia and we all cant wait to see her on Thur

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