Spain

READ THE WORLD – Spain: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Pulp fiction writer David Martín is holed up in an abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, desperately writing story after story while becoming increasingly frustrate and disillusioned. When he is approached by a mysterious publisher, Andreas Corelli, makes him an enticing offer David leaps at the chance. But as he begins to research and write this novel, and after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, David realises there’s a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home, and maybe his publisher might be hiding secrets of his own.

The Angel’s Game is set in the same universe as The Shadow of the Wind, but I don’t think it matters if you haven’t read that book or if you haven’t read it for a while. I read and reviewed The Shadow of the Wind four years ago so naturally I can’t really remember much about the book, but the only connections I noticed was the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the dilapidated tower home the main character in this novel came to live in. (After writing this review I googled the series and realised that The Angel’s Game is in fact a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind though apparently each book in the series is supposed to be able to stand on its own from the others, so it really doesn’t matter what order you read them in.)

Set in the 1920s and early 1930s, The Angel’s Game really makes use of both the time period and the city its set in to add to the mystery and eeriness of the story. Not being able to get hold of a character, or instances of mistaken identity are rife, and both increase the tension at key moments. The city of Barcelona truly becomes a character in its own right in The Angel’s Game. The narrow alleyways, abandoned houses, tiny shops and the often-bleak weather, makes the city a wonderful setting for a gripping mystery. The descriptions of the city are vivid making the few times characters venture elsewhere, even more stark and different to what we already know.

David is an interesting man. He’s often unlikable as he pushes away those who care about him when he’s obsessed with writing and is unsure how to love or be loved in return. He’s always had affection for the daughter of a friend’s driver, Cristina, but circumstance and society keeps them a part. His reluctant friendship with Isabella, an inspiring writer who is many years younger than him is surprisingly sweet and while their relationship isn’t without its troubles and miscommunications, their honesty with one another is truly needed by both of them.

The mystery of the tower house, its previous owner and what happened to them kicks in about the third of the way through the book. Andreas Corelli seems to be connected to it all though it takes a long time for David to figure things out. David becomes obsessive, both about his writing and the secrets his home holds, looking for reasons behind the deaths and strangeness that appears to be following him. The Angel’s Game is told in the first person from David’s point of view, meaning that as the story progresses and things get weirder, you begin to doubt what you’ve been told so far as David’s grip on reality seems to slip.

I shan’t say I picked up all the threads of the mystery before they were explained to me, nor that I totally understood the ending, but that didn’t make me like this story any less. The Angel’s Game was a very readable book and the whole gothic take on Barcelona fully pulled me into the story. Would it have been nice if the story wasn’t quite so convoluted and weird? Yes, but it’s still a book that I ended up enjoying more than I remembered enjoying its predecessor. 4/5.

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Q is for Qué Caro Es el Tiempo by El Canto del Loco

Now while I have a basic understanding of Spanish, so I can pick up the odd word when I listen to pop rock band El Canto del Loco, what I really love about their music is the sound.

I took part in a foreign exchange when I was in high school, and the Spanish girl I was partnered with gave me a CD with some of her favourite music on it, one of the artists on there was El Canto del Loco. While I couldn’t really understand the songs, it was definitely my kind of music. I love this sort of pop, punk, indie rock music.

Qué Caro Es el Tiempo is one of my favourite songs on the CD I was given. It’s a bit slower than El Canto del Loco’s other stuff, but it’s heartfelt and I love how it builds, bringing the piano, drums and more guitars as the song progresses.

I often find myself listening to El Canto del Loco’s music when I’m writing as I don’t understand the words I don’t get distracted from writing. Instead, I get lost in the music which is a lovely feeling. I’d definitely recommend listening to songs that aren’t in your own language.

Taking a Break from the Internet

I spent just over a week at my Dad’s in Spain and I barely used the Internet at all. Previously my Dad’s internet connection hasn’t been that great (he lives out in the sticks) but it is better now and he’s even got Wi-Fi! I could’ve connected to the Wi-Fi on my phone but decided not to for a number of reasons.

First of all my work emails come to my phone. When I’ve had just one day off work I’ve seen all the emails come through and it can be up to around 100 emails. I didn’t want to be constantly thinking about work when I’m supposed to be on holiday. My colleagues had my mobile number so if there was any major problems they could’ve get hold of me. I have to say getting back to the UK and suddenly receiving emails on my phone, it was quite a surprise and sort of daunting to see I have 314 unread emails from work.

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Reminiscing about World Cup 2010 & being excited for World Cup 2014

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Me at my Dad’s local after Spain won the World Cup

I really enjoy watching football but it seems that that part of me is a bit of an unintentional secret. I don’t support a team that’s in the English Premier League, or any UK team to be honest, so when it’s football season I’m one of those people who is amused by people freaking out on social media when a team wins or loses.

That being said I do support the Spanish National Team and have done since 2007 – long story short, England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 so since my dad lives in Spain I decided to support Spain instead and I never looked back. I know a lot about the Spanish NT and their players and often find myself following players rather than team e.g. I really like David Silva so always get strangely pleased when he scores for Manchester City.

So when it gets to summer and it’s the World Cup or the Euros I get rather excited. I try to watch all of Spain’s matches live (and get very invested and shout at the TV in a mixture of English and Spanish) and am generally quite invested in the stupid sport. In a World Cup I also cheer on Ghana since my mum grew up there – Swarez’s handball against Ghana in South Africa in 2010 caused me and mum to swear and shout quite loudly, the consequent penalty shoot-out was incredibly stressful.

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Fernweh (n.) An ache for distant places; the craving for travel.

I am so very tempted to book myself a little weekend city break abroad. I’m not sure if it’s a bit of the New Year’s blues, or if I’m just looking for that next adventure but it’s something I am seriously considering.

I have figured out that the beginning of March would be good for me as I have no deadlines till the end of the month so three days away would hardly make me fall behind. Plus the way my Uni timetable works I’m generally free Saturday’s through to Wednesday’s.

I blame the fact that I live so close to Heathrow airport during term time and the British Airways adverts I saw all over Christmas. But I have been doing some research and have found that three days in Madrid would cost me around £160 for both flights and hotel, which sounds great to me. I’m that sort of traveller that doesn’t really care too much about the sort of place I stay at – as long as it has a bed and a shower I am quite happy. I’ll be out seeing the sights and exploring rather than spending time shut up in my room.

The reason why I’m looking at Madrid, or anywhere in Spain really, is that I have a basic understanding of the language. When I say basic – I do mean basic! I may have done Spanish for my A-Levels but I was never that great at the writing part of the exam but when it came to speaking I did do fairly well. After visiting my dad in Spain at least once a year for over ten years I do seem to pick it up easy every time I go out there and know enough to make myself understood even if it isn’t grammatically correct.

I just feel very bad when I go to a foreign country and can’t even try to speak their language. I feel like the stereotypical arrogant Englishman – not bothering to learn any other language because English is universal. While that is true I do at least want to be able to try.

So me and my basic Spanish skills may be going to Madrid for a few days. I’ve never been to Madrid before and some part of me would like to one day be able to say that I have been to every capital city in the world – or at least in Europe.

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