Thursday 26 July 2012

Hell is other people

Today I got an email from a client telling me he hadn't finished the article he was writing and was planning on sending me today before I headed off on holiday. Seeing as we were going to have to push everything back until next week I found myself with 5 hours on my hands before going to pick the BF up at work and speed off to the beach.

So here I am, finally sitting down to post something on my blog. I know I should be getting back to my American adventure -there are so many things I want to jot down and save for posterity, but I have a backpack to pack and a dog to drop off with the dogsitters before I get going so... Hopper it is!

I'd had my eye on the Hopper exhibition since it opened here in Madrid, but I'd been waiting for the perfect time to go. If it were up to me, I'd obviously have gone on a random Tuesday morning before school was out, so I could have wandered around at my leisure, but the BF is also a bit of an art buff and wanted me to wait for him. Then I read that the Thyssen was going to stay open until 11pm for the duration of the show and I thought that would make for a perfect night out (remember I'm the girl who walks into to Ikea at 9.30pm through the check outs and is out of there at 9.58pm).

Apart from the actual show, the Thyssen also have a Hopper-related film cycle on for the summer and last Saturday we decided to check out the film. Despite the fact that we got there early, it was already packed out and they'd locked the doors (this is Spain, people might not be big on culture but they certainly are big on free stuff that they can enjoy in the comfort of an air-conditioned film theatre).

Seeing as we'd made after-art plans in the area, we decided to stick around and bought tickets for the exhibition. What a huge mistake. 

Picture me, surrounded by people chatting away about anything and everything under the sun as they leisurely fanned out around the paintings for eons. There were some ladies having a riveting conversation about a banister (in the museum, NOT in a painting), a couple who clearly needed to get a room or get their PDA under control, and a guy babbling away on his phone. Not to mention the kids.

Hey, I'm all for people introducing the young'uns to the arts, but come on, can't you also teach them to keep a lid on it?! There are ways to keep kids entertained that don't involve me having to put up with you merrily playing I spy with your kids in a loud voice and getting them all so worked up they end up kicking each other "'cos I saw it first!!". Jesus!!!

You never know when you might encounter your kryptonite, so I always keep my antidote within arm's reach. I rummaged around my bag, found my beloved headphones, plugged myself into my phone and Wilco-ed the exhibition away, occasionally fishing the earplugs out to whisper a comment here and there.

I loved the show, I love Hopper, I love going to museums... but never again will I go to a Spanish museum on a Saturday afternoon.

PS. If you're in Madrid and you're into art, get yourself over to the Thyssen, but make sure you pack some headphones. Better to be safe than sorry!!

Saturday 16 June 2012

The American Dream (part I)

Hello blog!!! Long time no see, I know, I know... I should have been back here telling you all about my holiday in the States but, luckily, I was welcomed back by a helluva lot of work which came in pretty handy considering I'd just spent three weeks travelling around California!!

I've decided to just run through the highlights because we wrote a travel journal on the road (handwritten, old school style, packed with stories and decorated with everything and anything, from plane tickets to fines (!) to Walmart receipts). I'm going to break the trip down into several posts because we did so many things and saw so many sights that I just cannot see how I can squeeze it all into a single post.

Let's start with LA in the movies.

We decided to hit Westwood Memorial for our first visit. I mean, where else would you have me go?! Marilyn, Truman Capote, Natalie Wood, Farrah Fawcett, Bettie Page, Frank Zappa, etc. From there we made our way towards Beverly Hills. Don't get me wrong, though, I was NOT driving around in search of Beckham's house, more like the house where Bugsy Siegel was gunned down, the witch's house, the Nightmare on Elm Street house, 10066 Cielo Drive...

 Afterwards, we drove all the way up to Mulholland (über cool) and then sat in a traffic jam on the way down to have lunch at Musso & Frank before stepping into Terminator's shoes at the Chinese Theatre. I still can't get over how tiny Rita Hayworth's feet were!! The fact that the Kodak Theatre is actually inside a shopping centre was also pretty mind blowing. Very strange!

Hollywood Forever was also on our to-do list, obviously. It's one of my favourite cemeteries ever, up there with Montparnasse. It's like a massive garden, peacocks, geese and ducks galore. Such a cool place, what with the lake, the animals and the Hollywood sign there in the distance! It's home to the likes of Johnny & Dee Dee Ramone, Don Adams, Vampira, Cecil B. DeMille, and a host of others.

Other movie and TV locations we called in at included Griffith Observatory, the American Horror Story house, the Fisher & Sons funeral home, Doc Brown's house from Back to the Future, Los Angeles river, High Voltage Tattoo, the Formosa, Six Feet Under, the tar pits in La Brea, and my all-time favourite, the Walsh house.

I could go on and on and on but it's football time. Me and my priorities!! I know!!!

To be continued...

Wednesday 14 March 2012

The freelance wardrobe

If you’re proud to work in your pyjamas you might want to look away now. That said, each to their own. I’m not here to nag about your fashion faux pas!! Personally I hate working in my pyjamas. I feel lazy, unmotivated and sluggish, but that’s just me.

When I first started working as a translator back in year 2000, in a world without wifi, Google and decent Internet connections, I still lived with my parents. I’ve never been one to sleep in but I do like snuggling up in bed on a cold morning with a book or lost in my own thoughts. So sometimes when I couldn’t drag myself out of bed and had to proofread or translate a short text at the crack of dawn, I’d just reach over to my desk (conveniently located in the comfort of my room) and deal with the text before heading down to breakfast and a morning chat with the family. So... I guess that could count as working in my PJs. Oh, the horror!!!!

FF a few years on down the line and cut to me living in my first flat and suddenly being able to make my own rules. Sure, I’d been away on an Erasmus in Geneva and studying an MA in the UK but in both of those cases I actually had to get dressed and leave the house everyday to go to uni and I usually spent the weekends nursing killer hangovers doing my homework and can’t really remember what I was wearing. Although I was obviously free to do as I pleased I hardly ever lounged around in my PJs. Maybe the fact that my parents had a strict pyjamas ban had something to do with it. Pyjamas were to be worn in bed and occasionally on a lazy Sunday morning at the breakfast table. That was it. Shuffling around in pyjamas and a dressing gown when you had a cold was out of the question.

Soon after moving out I got a dog and as soon as Silva entered the stage the unthinkable thought of ever working in my PJs flew out the window since the first thing I'd do was get dressed and take her for a walk. Back then, my garment of choice was the tracksuit. Guess I could blame it on the tracksuit-clad bands I was listening to. Adidas was actually all the rage at the time, so I could get away with calling it a fashion statement. [Lamest excuse ever?]. I cringe at the thought. I now only wear a tracksuit on the occasional visit to a muddy park with the dog or when I’m making my way back from the gym on a cold winter night. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one in public for any other reason.

Instead of going through every single item in my wardrobe I’m going to fly with that last thought “I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that in public” because it crosses my mind almost every single day.

I’m no fashion guru and I don’t follow up on every single trend listed in the Vogue look book, but I do pride myself in being a somewhat stylish dresser with a strong penchant for the 90s when I’m out and about, but at home I seem to have become an onioner and a compulsive clothes-changer.

Being an onioner, for those who haven’t guessed, is all about layers. Working at home exposes us to ever-changing climates. My flat now has central heating, the kind that is decided for me by whoever runs this building, so being the early bird that I am, when I get up at 7am it’s freezing. I usually pull on a pair of leggings/jeans and a thick jumper and head into the office to get some work done check my Reader before I take Nara for a walk. I’m always cold and my fingers go numb (more on that in another post) so I put on an extra jumper, sometimes pull on a pair of jeans, a scarf and two pairs of gloves. When I get home I peel off layers of clothes and make breakfast. By the time I sit down I’m cold again so I'm back to adding layers, another cardigan here, a snood there and I throw a pair of thin gloves into the mix just for fun. Then the heating comes on at midday and I run through the opposite process, leaving my extra office chair strewn with clothes for the day. On “paper” this doesn’t sound as extreme as the combinations I put together are. You should actually take a look at the crummy leggings, bobbly dresses/jumpers and t-shirts that I sit around in. When couriers come round, I take a deep breath before opening the door and greeting them in my combination of old jeans, woollen dress, slippers, fleece, sweatshirt and scarf. All at the same time. Summer’s different, I usually type away in flimsy old dresses or an old t-shirt and girl boxers. The keyword to the disgraceful summer look is “old”. Holes are always welcome.

Hairstyles are also worth a mention. I wear my hair à la garçon at the moment, but I used to sport the Louise Brooks look and you don’t want to know about the state of my fringe when I needed a haircut. Barrettes, hairclips and bobby pins galore. Plus, without my GHD irons, I get cowlicks all over the place. Frizzle is my middle name, so my shadow during lunchtime walks with the dog makes me look like Tintin.

So to cut a long story short, my freelance wardrobe is all about jeans, woolly dresses, leggings, thick tights, sweat shirts and cardigans in the winter, and hot pants and a vest in the summer. No pyjamas for me!!

Now please excuse me as I hurry off to change because I have people coming round to watch the footie!!

Thursday 1 March 2012

The Freelance Life (I)

Yesterday I decided to make the most of the freelance life. I handed in one of the books I'm working on last week and I had just sent out an estimate for a project that, if accepted, will have me up to my ears in work for the whole of the month. Before I start touching up and finishing the translation of the book I have due in June, I thought I'd chillax a bit and take advantage of the freelance life to check out an exhibition and catch up with some friends.
The best thing that can happen to a freelancer is to have other friends who freelance too and can join them in their escapades. One of my best friends works as a freelance stylist so on the rare occasion that we both have some free time, we team up and go for it. A couple of years ago we spent a whole long weekend lounging at my parents' beach flat, last year we were both too busy for words and this year seems to have started in the same style, so we made the most of the day instead.
We spoke at 9.30 am and decided on the Fundación Mapfre's Lewis Hine show. Highly recommendable.
As soon as I put the landline phone down, my mobile started ringing. A client. What to do? I decided to pick up, because it was one of my best and favourite clients and a phone call meant something was up... I mean, email is what normal work is for, right?
She was in a right pickle. She was heading off to the printer's when she realised she had a poster that was still in Spanish. She'd forgotten to send it to me to get it translated. It was just three sentences long, so I told her to send it over to me asap. Once I'd sent it off back to her (and saved the show), I switched off the computer, only to have her call me 10 minutes later to say she needed another quickie.
I finally managed to make it out at midday. The show was great, and the museum was a lot busier than I'd expected. Don't know if that had to do with the time of day or with the fact that it was a free show, but it was definitely pulling in the crowds.
We ended up having lunch with my family. My brother usually has lunch with me on Wednesdays and my parents happened to be in the Prado, so we all got together and giggled the meal away.
After lunch we made our way off towards our favourite café to indulge in a slice of carrot cake before we parted ways.
I got home to a sleepy doggie, who did not seem to have missed me a bit, and sat down to sort out my invoices.
All in all it was a great freelance day.

Afterthought: as I was writing this post, another one came to mind. "Smartphones, are they wreaking havoc on my 'freelance life' escapades?". Stay tuned for my conclusions on that!!

Saturday 25 February 2012

Paul Auster

Paul Auster came to Madrid on Thursday. He's one of my favourite contemporary authors. I quite enjoy going to book signings and I really hate the fact that Spain doesn't seem to be into that kind of thing. Although the turnout on Thursday might change the game a little. I once queued for Javier Marías during the Madrid Book Week. He's one of the only Spanish writers I actually enjoy reading. I don't know why it is, but I can't stand the way Spanish authors write. I am yet to find someone who can blow me away. And I've tried, believe you me!
So, Thursday afternoon, I finished my word count for the day and decided to head off to the venue. Paul was outside when we arrived and we walked inside to try to snatch a photo of him before the event. Good job we did because although it cost me an angry glare, it also meant we got to be some of the last people who were allowed to queue inside. I know Madrid isn't Siberia, but waiting outside in the cold for two hours at 8pm isn't the coolest way I can think of to spend an afternoon.
Our coffee plans were botched and we had to gossip the hours away surrounded by eavesdroppers and on our feet. The occasional cookie was a welcome surprise, although some kind of liquid to wash down the sweetness would have been appreciated. Still, don't look a gift horse in the mouth, as my mum would say.
The first part of the event was a conversation with a Spanish author. There was supposedly going to be a monitor streaming it, but the zigzagging queue arrangement cut us out of the picture and we could sometimes hear bits and pieces of what the interpreter was saying but it wasn't clear enough to actually get the gist of what was going on. Not cool, Fnac.
When Paul finally started the signing, the queue started moving at full speed. People started asking questions, there was a buzz in the air. PR people gave us our orders and curtly answered our questions. 'Open the book at the right page. He'll only sign the title page. No photos. No, you can't chat to him. One book per person. More than one book is out of the question, I don't care who it's for.' We started snapping away as we approached the table, some people got told off and others were able to get a so-so pic of him.
When I got to the table I was lucky enough to have him talk to me. I'd taken a copy of 'Auggie Wren's Christmas Story' with me. It's a cool glossy illustrated edition I bought in New York, and the only hardback book I have by him.
He was signing copies with a Sharpie, quite a challenge for my glossy paper. After he signed his name, he stopped to blow on his signature for a second and then told me to make sure I didn't close the book right away or the ink would run and stick to the other page. I told him I would take good care of his name and thanked him for coming. Then I was ushered out of the way without even being able to snap a picture of my friends as they got their books signed and we went out into the night to compare signatures and point our fingers at all the people left queuing in the cold.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

The groupie interpreter

As well as working as a translator, I'm also an interpreter. That said, the kind of interpreting I do is pretty strange. I've been working as an interpreter for many years, but I've never set foot inside a booth since I graduated from uni.

I get such a buzz from this kind of gig. I have always been a first-class groupie. I'd hang around outside the venue before or after a gig to try to get the band to sign my CDs. (Let me add I was always in complete control of my senses, do not mistake me for a twi-hard fan). As you can imagine, when I first started working this kind of jobs, I couldn't believe my luck. I started out thanks to some friends who worked for a now-defunct Spanish TV channel called C: (on Canal Plus). I got to meet the artists, got in free to the gig and sometimes got some swag to take home with me too. Getting to share a sofa with Nicky Wire has been one of my favourite moments ever.

I graduated from music into film and TV a few years later and found myself dealing with press conferences, TV sets and swanky hotels. I debuted in the film world thanks to Cargo. I worked for a day in Madrid and a day in Barcelona. They flew me out to Barcelona first class, I loved the celebrity lifestyle. The cast were all really great and Peter Mullan and I got on like a house on fire. We had such a giggle. It was hard work, press conferences, back-to-back interviews, no time to eat, no time to rest, but working with such a nice bunch of people made it so much fun.

Over the years I've dealt with egos the size of double-decker buses, met some of my favourite groups, actors and directors, chatted to some of the nicest people ever, faced 3,000 screaming teenagers in a bullring (thank you, Twilight) and have tried to make myself heard over frenzied teenagers in a cinema (thank you, Zac Efron).

I can't wait to see what the future has in store. I'm still reeling after meeting yesterday's diva!!

That's me on the left with Claire, my partner in crime.

Friday 25 November 2011

Mummy & Papá

I'm really proud of my mum and dad for bringing us up bilingual. It must have been pretty hard work.

My brother and I were born in London, my dad's Spanish but my grandparents moved to London in 1960 so he's bilingual too. My mum started learning Spanish when she met my dad and she has afforded us a great many laughs over the years as she's continued to perfect her grasp on the language.

When we lived in London, they always tried to talk to us in Spanish at home and then reversed their policy when we moved to Madrid. We spent every summer in Spain with my grandparents and I sometimes came on my own for Reyes (double the pressies, double the fun!!). When we moved to Madrid we'd visit my family in the UK once or twice a year (HMV, Virgin, Waterstones, Boots, Topshop!!), although we never did holidays... I mean, Christmas in York is nothing like summer in Alicante!!

My voice is distinctly different when I speak Spanish and English. I once spent a month in Spain as a kid when my mum was too pregnant to travel for the summer. I didn't speak a word of English over that time as I spent the days playing with my Spanish grandparents and my Spanish friends. I would not speak English when I got back. My playschool teacher called my mum to tell her I could understand everything that was going on but kept talking to all the other kids in Spanish. Years later I spent a month in Paris at the Sorbonne speaking only French or English, I came home and realised I hated the sound of my voice in Spanish. I think that was also what happened to me as a child, although I probably didn't know it at the time.

When it comes to names, there's also a clear difference. My parents decided on names that would work in both languages. Hence 'Laura'. My brother was going to be 'Daniel' for a whole 9 months of planning and baby names. The day he was born my dad decided to scrap all that and insisted on having my brother continue his name. Enter 'Javier'. My entire UK family (mum included) let out a groan. My mother was always 'mummy' when we were kids, she's now 'mamá'. My brother has always been 'Javs' (pronounced /habs/). My father is 'papá', he has never been and will never be 'dad' or 'daddy'. He hates it.

I speak to my mum in English. Always. I text her in English. I email her in English. I find it very weird when she talks to me in Spanish when we're on our own. As for my dad, we usually communicate in Spanish when we're on our own and will use English when my mum's also around.

Things are different with my brother, we're terrible. We use a horrible combination of Spanglish, not so much in that we pepper English sentences with Spanish words or the other way round, it's more a case of chopping and changing from one language to another in each sentence. E.g. "Vas a ver el partido en casapadres? Yo sí. BTW, I checked out that bluray you said they wanted for Xmas" and so on and so forth. Truly terrible, and a very bad example for everyone. Although it gives our friends loads of comic material when it comes to taking the mick.

Do you come from a bilingual background? How do things work in your house?