Category Archives: Experiences

The Blue Man


When he takes off his ever-present feddora, you see that he is bald. The place above his ears, and the back of his neck is dark, where hair should be. He is balding not bald by design, but either way, he looks quite alright clean-shaven. It complements his eccentric nature.

He walks fast, he speaks fast, he thinks fast, maybe because he is extremely knowledgeable. He’s one of those people whose intelligence intimidates. It’s not that other people aren’t intelligent, but everything he does is based on facts, on more than ‘passing glance’ research; but yet it’s not all about reading, it’s very distilled thoughts, thoughts distilled in a very quick brain, a very intelligent man. He’s not young though, you can’t really tell how old he is, but you can guess from things he says – when he tells you about his trip to Barbados 20 years ago…maybe he went to Barbados when he was 5, but he describes it in too much detail plus while there he took himself for a concert and was warned against buying drugs. 5 year olds don’t go to Barbados and get threatened. He says he’s been a vegetarian 17 years…the earliest you can imagine someone would make that decision is at least 15…it’s not easy to see a younger person make such a choice and not fade off the fad when barbecues come calling.

He doesn’t like things with his name and address on them, so he keeps a shredder in his living room, where he shreds his HSBC account debit cards, once they’re expired. His living room. His living room is sparse, very sparse. A white lamp sits in the corner, it’s a nice lamp, the short stand makes has a marble design. It sits in a hole in the wall, a tasteful kind of design, where a shelf is basically cut out of the wall, you understand? Next to the lamp are the 2 couches, and at the other corner is a red lamp, tall and proud. Next to that lamp is the window, that reaches to the other corner of the room, where the TV sits, a 27 inch Samsung. He doesn’t see the point of a bigger TV, the maximum he would have is maybe  a 42 inch. Next to the TV, is the electric fireplace, and on the mantle, that’s what it’s called right?, sits many pennies, strewn all over the place. Brown and coppery, this is the UK, so those are 1p and 2p coins. You always seem to collect an abundance of change in this country. Finally, there’s the last corner, and that only has the door that leads to the rest of the 3 bedroom flat.

His accent is thick, it takes a while before you fully start to understand what he is saying. Often though, you might not hear what he says. And he repeats it, pronouncing each word slowly, and you can hear the slight impatience in his voice. He likes to talk, and get fast responses. He doesn’t often pose to think about a question you have asked him, unless it’s to listen to a song, and halfway through he already has his opinion, backed up with facts and some statements (he’s a musician). He always has an answer, a man set in his ways, another thing that betrays his age. Younger people are not as set in their ways, you only need to look at yourself. Certain things have become part of your fabric the older you got, certain opinions, outlooks, routines, how you like your food etc. He is very particular. He rolls his tobacco in a certain way, he buys the non-additive kind, he likes his tea done in a certain way, he likes his loud coffee machine cleaned in a certain way, he likes his 12 year old kettle, he likes his grapefruit marijuana. He smokes every day, it expands the mind. He is anal actually, i.e. very particular about things, but often it comes across as a consequence or as proof of his intelligence, you can’t really tell what comes first, being intelligent, or being anal. He has very high expectations of himself, you can tell by how upset he gets when he spills something, even if it’s only for 5 seconds, so maybe his high expectations of himself make him anal? You don’t know.

But then again, is he really anal? His living room, the sparse space, is not neat, and not particularly clean. His kitchen, though is VERY clean, but the dustbin isn’t, it’s full stains on the outside, from things like discarded tea bags – he drinks lots of tea.  There are bags waiting haphazardly around, paper bags waiting for recycling. He’s just eccentric and definitely enigmatic. He talks a lot, but even after 2 days, you are not sure you know a whole lot about him. He lets slip one or 2 things about his family in conversation, and has a photo of a relative in his living room – the only photo around- and once mentions that he was the victim of a horrific drug-crazed gang, the cctv showed them jumping on his unconscious head… he said. Maybe that’s what makes him cautious, he often warns you about going this way and that way.

Like his opinions, his cooking is also well-researched. He has 3 course meals- starter, mains and desert, they taste like they should cost a good deal of money. He won’t really accept help in his kitchen,  you get the feeling that it’s not because he is being hospitable but because he has a way that he does it, a rhythm that only he can play and that he enjoys having complete control of (he’s a percussionist), although I suppose he would allow Jamie Oliver to cook in his kitchen, or maybe that woman from Mke Nyumbani. BTW, this in no way should discredit his hospitality, because he is almost as hospitable as a Pakistani. So he cooks, and you eat, you try not to eat too fast, just so you have time to savour each spoon/fork – full. You would eat with your fingers if you could, food always tastes better from your own skin.

His accent is thick, Scottish. He seems care-free but as we have established, is not. He sets you up in a bedroom, a proper bedroom, the first after a month of travelling/holidaying. The theme in the room is light blue, a soft, powdery, calming blue. The table stands next to the bed have a blue lamp each. Opposite you against the wall is a drawer with a blue vase on top, in that blue vase is a blue plastic flower. On that drawer are 2 porcelain birds, they don’t have eyes or legs, just fat happy blue bodies. He gives you a green towel that he cleaned because you were coming.

It’s peaceful here. This Glasgow experience is nice.

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Barcelona-Mallorca:15 shots


I detoured past Barcelona and the Spanish island of Majjorca on my way back to Cardiff.

This time I got to experience Barcelona by night, in the middle of summer. Immigration is clearly a huge issue in Europe, and especially Spain (from what I saw) and Italy as far as I’ve heard.

In an Amsterdam subway

In an Amsterdam subway

Immigrants though, don’t only come across the sea from nearby North Africa – but there are a fair amount of illegal Pakistanis all over Spain it seems. I stopped in this one kebab restaurant for lunch in Barcelona, and there was a picture of the founding father of Pakistan in it.

jinnah

So I tried to practice my Urdu with them ( I do the most cliche traveller things I can sometimes, like those slighlt annoying backpackers who insist on speaking Kiswahili in Kenya).  The 2 restaurant guys, just like the guy who ran the Internet cafe I’d been too on were not at all impressed.

Understand this, if you’re in Pakistan and you say at least 3 words in Urdu, you’ll be praised and shown off like a clever monkey, but here I was spitting whole sentences in Spain and not even being asked how I knew Urdu. Anyway, in English the 2 restaurant guys told me they weren’t Pakistani (I asked) in the most Pakistani accent you’ve ever heard, just short of bobbing their heads…lol. I made a joke later on about the bill, and one of the guys laughed and relaxed a little then he asked me if I had ‘papers’, i.e. if I was legal, clearly trying to see if we were on the same boat wading away from deportation. That’s why they didn’t want to be identified as Pakistani, probably a safety strategy. I didn’t tell them that they were a little dumb to put a huge picture of the founding father of Pakistan in their restaurant while trying to be discrete.

African immigrants seemed to be mostly from Senegal and Mali to me. Met a couple of Nigerians hustling beach party tickets on the side of the Las Ramblas, famous street in Barcelona (also met another Pakistani also hustling tickets who was suitably impressed with my Urdu and branded me his brother.) Across the road from them were African sisters, selling themselves in skimpy shorts at 11pm. I don’t understand if prostitution is legal or not in Spain, but it’s clearly an open secret.

I found myself in Majjorca at midnight.The last bus to my couchsurfing host’s house was at 11pm, so I had to entertain myself until the first bus at 6am ’cause taking a cab was literally more expensive than my flight back to Cardiff. I decided to aimlessly wander around taking pictures, when this 30-something, regular, chubbyish woman approached me and tried to exchange a few words in Spanish…then finally asked:

‘Moos moos?’

‘Moos moos?’ I echoed

‘Moos moos’…she repeated, ‘Moos moos!’ she said thrusting her pelvis back and forth and reaching for my face.

I think it’s safe to say if you are approached by someone saying ‘moos moos’ in the middle of a Spanish night, you might want to chose your  next move carefully. I scampered away, camera in hand, and ended up on a street full of moos-moos ers. I don’t think it’s ideal to be on a street full of moos moos at 3am with a camera that’s impossible to hide…I made it out unscathed though, and turned onto another backstreet, where I eventually ran into the original moos-moss-er. This time I was sufficiently calm and amused enough to say ‘No moos moos…’ as I walked away from her and her glazed eyes.

15 pictures of the Euro-tip here

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