Where’s Lucifer?: The Chronicles of the Nemesis of Dan

Oh how I have criticised him in the past. How I have lambasted him, sat within the four walls of my bedroom, seething at the prospect of listening to him bark just one more time. How he has led me to question my desire to live on in this world if living means having him around for just a minute longer. Needless to say, I am referring to my one true enemy on this Earth, Lucifer. No doubt, he will have surely caused a surge in my blood pressure in recent months thanks to his continued [successful] attempts to infuriate me. Make no mistake, he enrages me like no other. Yet, over the last few weeks, I have lived a peaceful existence. My apartment building has been so blissfully quiet. Mysteriously quiet… Too quiet. What brought all this stillness in the air and thus, absence of rage on my part, to my attention in the first place? After all, a lack of a particular sound to which one is accustomed to hearing hardly grasps the attention in the same way as does the sound itself. Well, as reliably and as true to himself as ever, it was Lucifer, as he personally delivered me a noise-ridden reminder of his existence.

The other night, I was subject to a particularly violent episode of cacophony, in which I wondered, as ever, what it might take for him to show me mercy. I know Lucifer to be ruthless at heart, so the idea of him ever relenting does not strike me as a dream that is one day likely to come true. With that in mind, this most typical of outbursts of his, which I must now – taking recent proceedings into account – describe as an isolated incident, makes this whole period of relative calm all the more difficult for me to understand. Clearly he still is and has been around, as illustrated by the latest debacle, but he could surely not have decided to spare me by granting me this momentary respite. That is just not his style. Which is why so much of this makes so little sense. My default stance at this time is to exercise caution, for he may simply be toying with me; lulling me into that sense of security, so oft referred to as false, and for good reason. I am letting him get in my head, I know, but at least I am aware of it. But then again, maybe he knows that himself and wants me to know that he knows that I know that he is in my head, thereby working his tricks on me further. These appear to be the musings of a mad man, driven to extraordinary lengths by a life-long adversary. This, I think, illustrates just how far I have been pushed by nemesis. However, to my bewilderment, it is that same nemesis that has afforded me the period of tranquility of which I speak. What is his play here? And just where has he been? What has he been up to? Where many questions remain, few answers lie…

The thought has just come to mind that perhaps some of those reading will not have the faintest idea of what I’m going on about. For their benefit, let us recap briefly. Lucifer (an alias; his real name remains a mystery) is my unconquerable opponent, weighing in at around 15kg and standing at just over 1ft tall. He is, as of course many will know, a dog. A suspected English Cocker Spaniel, no less (pictured below). Now, Lucifer has spent much of his adult life tormenting the residents of my building in suburban Barcelona with his indomitable and clamouring spirit. He is, by a country mile, the loudest dog that I have ever come across and seems to hold my inner peace, most disappointingly, in the lowest of regards. I came to the conclusion some months ago, based on the countless instances of him making a racket outside my front door, that he had it in for me. Flatmates have come and gone over the course of my stay here, which has left me as the one permanent inmate to which Lucifer has been able to subject his fury. As such, long ago began the classic tale of Dan vs. Dog in which I have been driven to the brink of insanity and have yet done very little, if anything at all, by means of retaliation. I mean, what can I do? My nemesis is a dog! But my nemesis Lucifer remains, nonetheless. And he is a nemesis, in every sense of the word. And, mark my words, he knows it.

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The English Cocker Spaniel – forever more ‘The Lucifer Breed’ as far as I’m concerned

Why then, that when I bring it to the attention of my dearest readers that I have been living in relative peace of late, thanks to some time spent in blissful ignorance of my adversary’s continued existence, do I do so as if to suggest that there might be something missing in my life? Should I not appreciate the lack of Lucifer’s woofing? Should I not be positively joyous in this most victorious of moments, when I can finally enjoy some much-needed quiet in the comfort of my own home? Yes I should be and, to some extent, I certainly am. But what this period of calmness has taught me is that this war of wits that rages forever strong between myself and Lucifer, that which has suffered something of a lull, might just be a necessary evil. Like Quorn, for example.

In the same way that I count him as my nemesis, the fiercest of all the foe that I have encountered in my lifetime, including Mike Dean and that wasp which once, unprovoked, stung me in the face in the middle of Leicester Square and then proceeded to go about its day, I regretfully count Lucifer as the yin to my yang. The darkness to my light. The evil to my good. One does not exist without the other; he is the unstoppable force hurtling towards me, the immovable object, the two of us forever locked in a battle from which no man, canine, or otherwise can ever emerge the victor. Whereas once I would think of the question, ‘who shall prevail?’ with regard to my ongoing rivalry with the canine opponent, I am now resigned to the fact that there shall be no prevailing. I am forever condemned to be taunted by a noisy animal, intent on going for a walk and barking until he is granted his one request. Dan vs. Dog. Good vs. Evil. These are all but synonyms for the cogs of the clockwork that constitutes the same perpetual cycle. This is my life now.

Lucifer’s recent placidity remains, and forever will remain, a mystery to me. Who knows why he decided to play it cool, operate on the down-low, only to spontaneously spring back into my life by returning to his usual woofing ways, as if to say, “I caught you enjoying that quiet time, didn’t I?”. Honestly, yes he did. But with my enjoyment came the understanding that this novel business of quietness was a temporary gig. I could not expect for it to last, in the same way that I cannot expect the sun to never set and for darkness never to take hold. I knew that Lucifer would some day return and, for that reason, I could not enjoy the fleeting victory with quite as much verve as perhaps I should have. Naturally and so true to form, Lucifer did return this week as I was left back at square one, fighting the good fight, containing my rage as best I could, as he went about doing his best impression of a pneumatic drill. Just to make it clear to anyone that might be overlooking the glaring truth of the matter here; dogs cannot do impressions of pneumatic drills. Dogs cannot do impressions of regular drills. In fact, dogs cannot really do any impressions at all. As such, Lucifer made a lot of noise, doing his best to sound like a power tool, but succeeding only in sounding far more like a dog, and so resumed the war…

He has since slipped off the radar once again, no doubt planning his next act of retribution, the sly bastard. Who knows when he will launch his next attack. I lie in wait, living in a state of apprehensive anticipation, with Lucifer’s movements becoming ever more difficult to read. I would describe him as a wily old fox were it not for the fact that he is a dog. And dogs are rarely regarded as wily. Yet that is how I would describe Lucifer. He operates with a guile that leaves me, more often that not, second guessing. Thus, I could easily think of myself as doomed to an eternity of torment at the paws of a rowdy hound. However, I can at least clutch at the solace that, soon, I shall be leaving Lucifer behind. Soon, I will be interrupting our feud as I move out of the building in which we both currently reside. Perhaps true to the saying, this Catalan apartment building ain’t big enough for the both of us, although I must emphasise that I did have this move planned beforehand. I’m not moving out as a means of throwing in the towel when it comes to the spaniel.

Indeed, I will soon be on my way, leaving Barcelona and venturing to the capital to see what opportunities await me there. At the end of the month – how time has flown – I will be heading to Madrid as my Year Abroad regrettably draws to a close. I reassure you, fair readers, that this is not how I will be ending my account of my time in Barcelona. I will be sure to write a glowing appraisal of my experience of the city, using superlatives aplenty that will never quite do it all justice. But, for the time being, my mind is on Lucifer and what he might make of me legging it to Madrid. He may well think of my departure as a definitive victory, the nail in my coffin that pronounces me defeated once and for all, but I know the truth. I know that, one day, our paths will cross again and we shall continue to wage the war that has had me so preoccupied all this time. I don’t know how it will happen but I know, as sure as am I that the sun will set tonight, that I will see him again and that he will somehow find a way to piss me off. Do I look forward to the day that we meet and reconvene our conflict? No. But I do acknowledge that it will come and, for that reason, I must ready myself and hone my steely resolve in anticipation of this unfortunate reunion. Whilst he is undoubtedly the rival I most loathe in this world, equally he is the one which I most respect, given that it is his name which comprises my full list. Until next time, Lucifer, you provocative, exasperating mutt. Here’s to many more years of epic warfare.

Dancing with the Devil: An Update on the Nemesis of Dan

Fair readers, the title of today’s entry may come as a shock to you. Rightly so, as I doubt many of you will have been aware that I have troubles on my mind. You all must have assumed, from reading how delightful my experiences of Barcelona seem to be, that my life here is plain sailing. Well, the fact of the matter, sadly, is that all is not quite that straightforward. I do, indeed, have a sworn enemy. An adversary who I cannot overcome and yet cannot overcome me. Here in Barcelona, I have landed myself a nemesis. For those of you who have browsed the archives or, rather, the second page of Dan Makes a Friend Called Spain, entitled ‘Thoughts and Rambles‘, this entry shall serve as an update rather than an introduction to my nemesis. For the majority, it will be just that; an introduction. However, in order for my blood pressure to remain at favourable levels, I invite you to have a quick peek at the thought entitled ‘Animal Cruelty’ to bring yourselves up to speed with the current state of affairs. I really do think it would be better for us all if I were to avoid launching into another full-scale rant regarding my nemesis, who shall hereafter be referred to as Lucifer due to his flagrantly evil spirit.

Right, so I imagine you’ve all done as I have asked by now and read up on my fierce feud with Lucifer. For those who haven’t, just for you to enjoy a bit of perspective, Lucifer is a dog. A real bastard of a dog, at that. He looks very much like this – deceptively cute – which leads me to believe that he must be an English Cocker Spaniel (of course his would have to be an English breed):

Lucifer

Lucifer

Due to my very infrequent sightings of Lucifer, I have yet to capture him on camera – which, in any case, would surely perplex his owners. Why, after all, should I want to take a picture of their dog? For depraved purposes, they would likely suspect. Might I add it to my shrine to English Cocker Spaniels, per chance? I don’t think so. The last thing I need is having my neighbours think that I’m a shifty and peculiar character whose life purpose is to take pictures of strangers’ pets. Hence, photographic evidence of Lucifer remains unavailable for me to add to the blog. Anyway, I decided to write an entry dedicated to him because, the other day, after updating the blog on my experience of tequila not breaking my Spanish (see previous entry), I suffered an encounter with him. Now, suffice it to say that he has caused me much anguish and, for that, I do not much care for him, to put it lightly. Again, if you after a more scathing critique of his character, please refer to Thoughts and Rambles, to the thought dated at 03/02/2014. He certainly does know how to enrage me with his barking, does old Lucifer. In fact, ah yes, there we go. As I sit here writing, I can hear his wild howling that so often causes me to cultivate a mad fury deep in the pit of my stomach, reserved solely for him. Today, I clock his incessant yapping at 18:55 – a very acceptable hour by his standards.

Indeed, I ran into Lucifer this week. Heading out into town, I bumped into a number of my neighbours in my apartment building, which for some reason is also a rare occurence. As I strode down the stairs, I was encountered with a gentleman dressed fully in lycra – a cycling purist – wheeling his bicycle in the opposite direction towards the stairs, necessitating a moment in which I would have allow him to pass. And then, I saw him. There he was marching confidently through the door at the bottom of the staircase as if he owned the place. There was Lucifer. He was being ushered, along with another canine companion, into the hallway by a black gentleman I have seen around only a handful of times. I only mention the man’s race, by the way, because it seems that him and the elderly Catalan woman who lives next door to me must share that flat. This comes as a pleasant surprise, simply due to my past experiences of Spanish people of her generation harbouring unsavoury views toward those of other races and ethnic backgrounds. All the better for these two that they are embracing a more progressive approach to life by living together (I am, however, totally speculating at this point). Regardless, that they are sharing an apartment by no means excuses them in my eyes from owning Lucifer.

Dan rages as he thinks about Lucifer

Dan rages as he thinks about Lucifer

Back to the case at hand, then: there we all stood, 3 men, 2 dogs and a bike, doing our best to navigate the staircase. There I stood, my eyes locked on Lucifer, realising who exactly I was staring at and feeling an anger beginning to bubble inside. We all smiled at each other (apart from the dogs and the bike, obviously) as we tip-toed around each other until I was directly facing Lucifer, as the man with the bike squeezed past me. In that moment, I contemplated dropping to my knees and desperately pleading with him to, please, shut up or, at the very least, to keep it down just a little bit. But I refrained, and kept my white flag safely guarded in my pocket. Instead, I smiled at the man holding his leash as, all of a sudden, Lucifer jumped up at me, resting his front paws on my legs, and stared intently into my eyes, as if to say, ‘I will break your spirit. If it’s the last thing I do, I will. Your card has been marked’. I matched the gaze of my nemesis for as long as I dared. We shared a moment of disdainful respect for one another until his owner tugged him off my lap, made his apologies on Lucifer’s behalf and disappeared up the stairs. ‘Well’, I thought to myself, ‘Lucifer is on to me. Game on’.

Except this is no game. Lucifer and I have endured a savage feud for many months now. He refuses to back down and I simply have to put up and shut up with his perpetual barking. This brings to mind a favourite Spanish expression of mine: ‘ajo y agua(which translates literally as ‘garlic and water’), abbreviated from a joderse y aguantarse. This crude turn of phrase, for which I will refrain from providing a direct translation, but is essentially the Spanish equivalent of ‘put up and shut up’, describes my options perfectly in terms of dealing with Lucifer. He will one day be the death of me. Indeed, my mind was on him for most of my time spent out and about following on from our confrontation. That was, until I returned home.

Dear readers, I must now assume in earnest that my apartment building is home to demonic spirits, which serve solely to possess its canine inhabitants. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, evil forces are at work. I have reached this conclusion having witnessed another dog, upon my return, going batshit crazy. Just as Lucifer howls vociferously as he is about to leave the building, the dog I saw as I walked through the hallway was scampering dramatically towards the door and practically choking herself with her collar, such was her determination to go for a walk. The problem for the dog in question was friction. With the hallway of my building furnished with polished marble floors, the poor pooch was attempting to make for a swift exit but, hindered by her lead and a distinct lack of grip to the floor, she (assuming, as I am, that it was a ‘she’) achieved little progress. The result was her scuttling along with her legs in a wild blur, as she covered the most minimal of distances with her preferred technique. If she had simply walked in an orderly fashion towards the door, she would have easily halved the time spent sliding around the hallway that she did. The demons clearly wanted her to behave in a frantic manner to put the rest of us at unease. All of us, that is, apart from the dog’s owner who, again, appeared unfazed by the antics of his pets. These people! They simply must be in cahoots with the evil fiends that possess their pets. My next step must surely be to call an exorcist in order for us to be rid of this wickedness. If not, Lord knows what might happen.

It is in times like these that I miss my cat! Coming to think of it, where are all the cats in Barcelona? Maybe I am just beginning to make a discovery; beginning to uncover the tip of an iceberg. The iceberg that is the mission to exile all cats from the Catalan capital! Who knows how far this operation extends. Maybe I am too late, and maybe the cats are long gone. Then again, who knows if the plan really even exists… This could all be Lucifer’s doing. It probably is, you know, such is his treachery. He is a worthy adversary, alright. My tormentor. My nemesis… I will be back to you all shortly for updates on our antagonism if and when they develop.

 

Dan Faces Imminent Doom

As the title suggests, I am doomed. Why? Because I’m going to Basel on Friday. Now, before you begin to wonder what I could possibly have against the city or, indeed, against the nation of Switzerland, that could prompt me to fearfully anticipate my impending doom, let me announce that I have no qualms with the most neutral country of all time. I have never been to Switzerland before, and I imagine it’s quite nice over there. I should be able to let you know what I think of the city of Basel when I arrive. So how exactly is it that I’m experiencing this sense of impending doom? I’ll tell you how: by knowing that, on Friday, I will be boarding an aeroplane and, soon after that, said vessel shall be flying. And that is why I am doomed.

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Dan thinks about flying

As we have established in the past, I do not much care for flying. I would go as far as to say that I actively dislike it. It frightens me. Yet, as scared as I am, I know and fully appreciate just how irrational my fear is, but that changes nothing. When the subject of the fear of flying comes up in any context, people are quick to cite statistics which show that driving is far more dangerous than flying, and that people rarely worry about getting in their cars. This argument makes complete sense to me, I invariably agree with what they are saying. I know that cars are more dangerous vehicles than planes. But does that change the way I think when I set foot in an airport? Not one jot. Statistics mean nothing when faced with such irrationality as being afraid of flying. I will forever be one those desperately unlucky individuals who happen to be on that plane that, some day, somewhere, has a problem. I am convinced of this every time I fly, this Friday included. Yet, well aware of my irrational thoughts and just how improbable it is that they become a reality (namely that the plane will crash), I know that I will arrive in Switzerland on Friday unscathed… Me and my contradictory thoughts. Oh brain of mine, why do you do this to me?

Anyway, I am off to Basel this weekend primarily to visit my Dad, who recently moved over to Switzerland for his new job. He seems to get along fairly well there so I imagine I will very much like it myself. Joining us in Switzerland shall be my dear friend, Phil, which also happens to be my Dad’s name. Crazy, right? He will also be flying out (safely at that) to Switzerland because this coming week is when the group stages of the UEFA Champions League reconvene. Phil and I are both Chelsea fans, his family, my second family, have blue blood, and this year Chelsea were drawn in the same group as FC Basel in the Champions League. Next Tuesday, Chelsea are playing Basel away, at the Swiss team’s home ground, St Jakob Park. Conveniently, Phil and I will be in Basel, so we thought it best that we go to the game. What a coincidence! In fact what really happened is that out of the kindness of his heart, my Daddy-kins ever so generously bought two tickets for the game in Switzerland and thus my trip to visit him was planned around this important match. Cue Phil flying out from London to go to the game with yours truly… Chelsea had better not ruin our whole trip by losing, as they annoyingly did in the return leg, at Stamford Bridge of all places. A Chelsea side losing at home under Jose Mourinho? I see a pig flying past my window.

So here I am, sat in the living room of my flat in Barcelona, writing and thinking dark thoughts about the doom which is surely upon me and, simultaneously, about just how ridiculous I am for being nervous about my flight on Friday. How ironic it would be if there actually were an incident on Friday. Better not to even entertain such ridiculous thoughts, as they are unfounded and will only multiply in my mind until, on the day, I am left, curled in the foetal position in the corner of a Spanish airport, whispering ‘There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home’ frantically to myself. I imagine I will be just fine. But until that time that the plane lands securely on Swiss soil, I will know for sure that I am irrevocably doomed.

Dan Becomes Public Enemy #1

Three weeks to the day have passed since I last took to my blog about making friends with Spain. Rest assured readers, Spain and I are still on very good terms and we are very much still friends…. But three weeks without what has recently been compared by a friend to a fix of crack cocaine (i.e. one of my blog posts) has to be tough going. Thank you to that friend who once so aptly described them as such. But I must also simultaneously apologise, for at that time I did so irresponsibly claim, staying true to the drug-related comparison, that I would ‘never let you go cold turkey’. But I have failed him! I let him do exactly what I said I wouldn’t. Having allowed nearly a month to pass me by without so much of a muttering on the blog, I can only envisage a man at his wit’s end, hopelessly struggling to battle his cravings, yet to no avail. He must have succumbed to the addiction at this point and ventured to pastures new in search of another dealer (read as: blogger) who periodically will provide that which he yearns so badly: the crack (blog posts). He has surely by now metamorphosed into Ewan McGregor’s character in ‘Trainspotting’ and taken up a nasty heroin habit too as he struggles to come terms with life as an addict, the poor bastard… Lord have mercy on his soul. Let this be a lesson to me.

Yes, on a serious note, I have not been great in the writing department of late. I have selfishly deprived all you kind people of news regarding my life, and for that I will be forever sorry. The trend which I have noticed when it comes to Year Abroad blogs is that the initial enthusiasm for writing fades dramatically quickly as the novelty wears off and us bloggers set about, getting busier with our lives.  A problem which I have come across, too, is that I am lacking sufficient anecdotes with which to adequately entertain. If I were to write on a more regular basis and inform you all what I’m planning to have for dinner, that actually, I have run out of food and need to go shopping or that I skipped breakfast this morning because I was running late for work, it would unlikely make for a good read (and yes, before you say anything, I am fully aware that I once all but dedicated a blog entry to a kettle!). So time goes by with me at work during the week, writing my report (or at least attempting to) and coming home feeling tired and not much in the mood for writing.

I do, however, have a post lined up which is to be published imminently and I hope shall be enjoyable. But in general, I am happy to report that life goes on swimmingly. I am still alive and well, still friends with Spain and having a great time with said friend. I’m going to Switzerland in two weeks’ time, which should be rather fun. I’ve never been to Basel before, which is my specific destination and where my papa lives these days, so I will be sure to report back on how it compares to La ciudad Condal, that’s Barcelona to you and me.

The purpose of this blog entry has been primarily to provide a quick update, but then how, you must wonder, did I land upon the bold title of ‘Dan Becomes Public Enemy #1’? This is how. What follows can and will only ever be described as the worst anedote ever:

Yesterday, I was very tired. Very tired indeed. I had been out the night before to go to see off a friend who was leaving Barcelona the following day, heading back home to London. That night, I left the flat late, we had dinner late and, considering it was a Tuesday, the majority of restaurants and bars were shutting up shop by the time we had finished. So, deciding that we weren’t done for the night, we made it our mission to find a bar that was still open and eventually succeeded after heading over to Gràcia. After a few mojitos to add to the drinks from dinner, a long walk home and getting to sleep around 3am, I knew that the following day would be a challenge.

Sure enough, it was. Up again at 7.30, I was hating life. Luckily I wasn’t hungover, which would have potentially spelled the end for me, but I was absolutely knackered and not enjoying the prospect of a day at the office. Minutes went by slowly, hours slower, but after a long day the time to go home did eventually arrive to my relief. I left the office and stepped out into the fresh air for my brief walk to the train station, which revitalised me a bit. And so, waiting for my train to arrive, feeling fresh, I decided I would read on my way home with this new-found energy of mine. On the train, Kindle in hand, my head nodded as I struggled to concentrate on the words in front of me, let alone maintain consciousness. It must have been fairly obvious to the three sat around me in our set of four seats that I could do with a siesta. At one point, I caught a glimpse of the woman sitting to my left, a petite middle-aged Catalan lady – looking sophisticated in a cream jacket and a green silk scarf as she read her hardback book – glancing at me, probably thinking what I mess I looked.

Soon enough, the train approached my stop, Sarrià, and with it my time to leave. I was feeling fairly disoriented at this point, having spent much of the journey fighting the urge to fall asleep, and fumbled with the zip on my bag to put my Kindle in it before I stepped off the train. I swiftly failed in my zipping mission, which was fairly embarrassing given that I had an audience, including the lady to my left. So I clutched on to my Kindle in my hand, stood up as the train pulled into the station to make my way to the doors, but cramped as space was between the knees of those sitting down, I had to unsteadily attempt to sidestep past my fellow commuters. Suddenly, as I stood there between two sets of knees, the train came to a halt, braking hard and causing me to swing my arm round in a desperate attempt to grab onto something. This swinging arm happened to be the one attached to the hand wielding the Kindle, which was to momentarily become a weapon. To my horror, the edge of the Kindle cracked directly against this woman’s head, prompting her to shoot me a look of utter confusion, anger and hurt all at once. Mortified, I apologised profusely, asked her if she was alright and ran for the exit before I could hear the probable ‘No’ that surely followed. She has got to think even now that I am the biggest tool she has ever come across. And that is how I became ‘Public Enemy #1’. Exaggeration? I’d say so, just a bit misleading.

Like I said, the worst anecdote ever.

The Mystery of the Happy Pigs

In recent days, it has come to my attention that my neighbourhood is replete with pigs. Before you begin to wonder what kind of area I live in or, indeed, about the state of my mental health, I’ll clarify that I am not referring to the mucky, farm-dwelling mammals that like nothing more than a good bit of mud or, equally, to some particularly abrasive neighbours. I am in fact referring to graffiti. Evidently, there must be a graffiti artist local to my neighbourhood whose signature tag is a depiction of a pink and smiley pig.

I first noted this when a friend visited the flat and pointed out one of these happy chappies outside my front gate. Since then, I have had numerous sightings of them dotted here and there. Scattered throughout Les Tres Torres and surrounding barrios, they have inspired the inner detective in me as I am drawn by the intrigue of the pigs. Who is the individual responsible for these tags? Why this neighbourhood? And perhaps above all: why pigs? It is now becoming increasingly difficult for me to mill around locally without encountering one of them. Questions aplenty and answers standing at a grand total of nil.

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Should I decide to investigate further into this mystery of the intriguingly chirpy pigs, I shall keep everyone updated (I have just realised how crazy that sounds). That which strikes me most concerning these artistic depictions – opening up the graffiti debate of ‘art versus vandalism’ – is that prior to my friend physically stopping outside my flat, gesticulating towards the graffiti and saying ‘look at that pig!’, I had never once noticed it before. Does this mean that they are fresh from the spray can (my graffiti jargon leaves much to be desired), or that I am just one unobservant son of a gun? Probably the latter. In any case, I want to know where they came from, who put them there and for how long have they been there! Defamation of a few depictions suggest that the mystery pig tagger has been around for a while and that, supposedly, not all of the locals count themselves as fans.

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Answers are unlikely to reveal themselves so I will have to live on with my curiosity eating away at me when it comes to these smiley bastards. It could be worse though, the artist could have chosen far more explicit imagery with which to work. The happy pigs remain just as cheerful as they do mysterious. If and when I receive leads on the puzzle of the pigs, I will be sure to return to the trusty blog.

Awkward?

Generally speaking, I am not an awkward person. Like most others, I have rarely in the past struggled with social cues. For example, if I make a comment which is immediately followed by a short but meaningful silence and quick glances around the room intended to avoid eye contact, I know I have done wrong and either need to a) acknowledge my faux pas and apologise, b) say ‘no offence’, which seemingly entitles people to do the exact opposite of what the phrase suggests and intentionally cause offence, or c) just leave the room, as the wound is too deep and far too fresh for me to even start thinking about apologising. Similarly, awkward silences – when, for instance, there is a distinct lack of connection between a group – denote that it probably isn’t worth continuing with the endeavour of engaging in small talk. Never before have I had issue with understanding social cues, until now. The language barrier, which in my case consists of a proverbially small shrubbery – considering that I speak Spanish and thus chose a shrubbery as the obstacle I must overcome – still occasionally rears its ugly head. How so? Namely, because I have done more awkward lingering in my time in Spain than I have ever done before in my entire life, due to struggling to determine appropriate moments to be on my merry way. At least, I perceive it as awkward, but then again, I really have no clue at times.

This issue mostly applies to my working life. At the IGS, based in the International University of Cataluña, I work alone in my own office, well, strictly speaking my boss’ office, but the fact remains that I am there alone. Thus when I have a question I want answered, I stroll down the corridor to seek the advice of my colleagues. They are invariably helpful and friendly and often have an answer for me straight away, which is perfect. Only am I ever presented with a problem when my presence in the office sparks a conversation between myself and my colleagues, in which I often assume the role of the intent listener as I set about my task of understanding everyone, all the time! At this point, I often bide my time to have my say on a matter, which is more or less always short and sweet, or alternatively an uncertain ramble riddled with ‘um’ and ‘como lo diría en castellano‘ (how would I say that in Spanish?). My colleagues actively encourage my involvement in their conversations and occasionally prompt me for my opinion, which I appreciate very much. Yet when much of the time they spend chatting to each other as if I were Spanish, I struggle to keep up with everything being discussed.

As good as I know this whole experience is for me to learn well, equally, at times, I am unsure of the appropriate moment to utter the words ‘hasta luego‘ and leave my colleagues to it. Whether they have noted this or not I have no idea, maybe I suspect that I appear awkward simply because I am so used to being able to detect social cues with English-speaking folk and here your guess is as good as mine. I am either very awkward indeed, lingering far beyond my welcome or an appropriate amount of time, or completely normal and simply listening politely! It remains a mystery. Time will tell how awkward I really am in Spain but at the moment I am still left to ponder it all.