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April 2012 - N 352

Books N' Roses

Reading is only part of St Jordi and we report on how seven million roses are brought together for a single day

Were visiting Scotland! All the news about the ECClub on pages 54 to 61
121 37 8 437006 148405



APRIL 2012 - N 352

From the editor .......................................................... 5 Matthew Tree: Smack on the bottom ......... 7 Letters to the editor ................................................. 8 Martin Kirby: is there a car in your garage? ................................ 9 Barney Griffiths: Multilingualism at home ................................... 15 Joan Abril Espaol: A question about independence ...................... 40 Terry Parris: In Derbyshire ................................ 40 Tony Tysoe: A pilot project .............................. 41 Neil Stokes: Playing the wage game ......... 62

Penny Berlin, Santa Cristina dAro .............. 10

Xevi Ayala, Sommelier ........................................ 12


Racing around Catalunya, by Nicole Millar ....................................................... 16

What the foreign press says about Catalonia ....................................................................... 19


From the field to the flower stall

St Jordis Day, or La Diada, would be nothing without a main ingredient: roses. We report on the massive logistical operation undertaken every year to bring together up to seven million of the iconic flowers to meet the demand of a festival that combines reading and romance

Photo competition ................................................ 20 One day, millions of roses ................................ 26 Book of Death .......................................................... 32

Monsterrat Vendrell, Biocat ............................. 36

The triumph of colour......................................... 42 The legacy of the worlds best chef ........ 44 All about food: Forquilla gironina ............... 44

Soul incorporated .................................................. 45

We were so fortunate .......................................... 46 Travelling in Catalan lands: Storm and calm....................................................... 48

Geopolitical censorship ...................................... 50



The Black Death revisited

Lleidas medieval plague manual

The biotechnology boom

Biocat director on the future of medicine

My flag is not your flag ...................................... 52

Explore Scotland with us! ................................. 54 For your eyes only.................................................. 55 All Angles 2: Souvenir.......................................... 56 ECClub Reading Groups books ................... 57 From winter to spring, by T.Parris............... 57 Entertainment ........................................................... 58


This way up
'Delicate' was the key word that inspired the entrants in this months photo contest. The winning photo (right) was taken by Barbara Foster from Osona. Next months theme is all about 'Blue', so break out the camera and get snapping!

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Spain - More Austerity Measures Needed?

By Bill Blevins, Financial Correspondent Blevins Franks
In February the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) praised the tax measures introduced in Spain as a crucial first step to bringing the countrys finances onto a sustainable footing. Taxpayers in Spain may be less complimentary when they receive their tax bills for 2012. The European Commission probably also has less praise for Spain now it is breaching deficit reduction targets and testing the new EU budget rules. Madrid was meant to bring the public deficit down from 9.24% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 to 6% in 2011. However the final deficit for 2011 came in at 8.51%. Spain is bound to reduce the deficit to 3% by 2013 under the EUs excessive deficit procedure. The Commission can fine Eurozone countries up to 0.5% of their GDP if they repeatedly miss targets. The deficit target for this year was 4.4%, but on 12th March Eurozone finance ministers agreed to ease it to 5.3% - still lower than the 5.8% Prime Minister Rajoy had called for. Madrid however needs to stick to the 2013 target of 3%. Spains economic slowdown will reduce tax revenues for the government and its social welfare costs are mounting with 4.71 million people unemployed. Last year the government reluctantly abolished the 100% tax credit on wealth tax to bring in more revenue, but some autonomous communities have said they will continue to give their residents the credit, so wealth tax will be bring in much less revenue than hoped and needed. Even with Spains easier 5.3% target this year, it still needs to bring the deficit down to 3% within 22 months and right now it is hard to see how it will achieve that. While the government has already introduced tax increases, residents of Spain need to be prepared for further tax hikes because the government will need to look for ways to bring in much more revenue. For advice on effective tax planning solutions in Spain speak to an experienced wealth management adviser like Blevins Franks.

Summarised tax information is based upon our understanding of current laws and practices which may change. Individuals must take personalised advice. To keep in touch with the latest developments in the offshore world, check out the latest news on our website





Scotland here we come!

s we told you last month on this page, we would have some big news for the growing community of members that make up our English Culture Club. The ECClub Reading Groups that meet in Abacus stores around Catalonia and Valencia to read and talk about books under the guidance of native teachers may be the main ECClub activity, but there are also other advantages for member card holders. In the first few months of the ECClub, we had discounts and free entrance to plays, films in original version, conferences, art exhibitions, music concerts and

festivals, as well as e-books, bike rentals, online resources, British cookery classes, and wine tasting. What these activities have in common is that they are all in English, and all for less than an unbelievable six euros a month. However, there was something members asked for from the beginning, which we can now provide: to visit the locations where the books enjoyed by the ECClub Reading Groups take place. So, we are delighted to announce that we can now fulfill that request in cooperation with the Viatges Canig travel agency.

From the several books studied in the past months, there were a number of options, but we settled on Edinburgh. It is in the wonderful capital of Scotland where the action of Alexander McCall Smiths The Right Attitude to Rain takes place. Of course, this trip is open to every ECClub member, whether they have read the book of not. A visit to Edinburgh (and Glasgow) is a reason in itself to join the club. Go to page 54 to find out more about this great opportunity. Places are limited because we want a small group that can make the most of this opportunity!

Published by CATALONIA TODAY SL. Carrer de les Tpies, 2, Barcelona 08001 Tel. +34 93 227 66 20 / / Advertising: +34 972 186438 Subscriptions: +34 902 456 000 Letters to the editor: Editor: Germ Capdevila. Advertising Manager: M.ngels Ribas. Staff and Contributors: Neil Stokes, Marcela Topor, Barbara Leonard, Matthew Tree, Martin Kirby, Terry Parris, Nicole Millar, Tony Tysoe, Pere Gifra, Barney Griffiths, Joe Hogan (text editor). Design: Jordi Molins - Florent Morante. Deposit N GI-322-2004 Printed by Rotimprs. Catalonia Today SL has a co-operation agreement with Grup El Punt on the use of content.







Smack on the bottom

In short, Cul de Sac gave that timorous, postdictatorship Catalonia exactly what it needed: a good laugh.

he posters appeared all over Catalonia just before April 23rd - Sant Jordis Day - in 1982, white letters on a red background: "Molt aviat, a prendre pel cul!" ("Very soon, you can go sod yourself!"). It was too much for the Guardia Civil in Lleida, who arrested the people putting it up, and too much too for the mayor of Barcelona, who banned the offending message from the citys bulletin boards. A week later, the poster campaign culminated with the appearance on newstands everywhere of a Catalan-language satirical magazine called Cul de Sac. Put out by the once clandestine Botifarra Collective - headed by the now legendary graphic artist Alfonso Lpez it was apolitical, tasteless, cruel and very, very funny. Its first cover story was a take on the legend of Saint George (Catalonias patron as well as Englands) in which Jordi (aka 'The Saint') is a pimp who throws a wobbly when he finds out that his favourite whore, the princess, has been shagging the dragon for free. Other strips revealed the seedy side of Catalan and especially Barcelonan life: transvestites, drugs, and lurking fascists (the military had tried to take over Spain just the year before). There was also a wonderful skit on the Catalan Governments first linguistic normalisation campaign which featured a squeaky-clean preteen called Norma: Cul de Sac turned her into 'Sub-Norma' and had her sanctimoniously correcting the Catalan of gibbering lunatics and prostitutes clients. In short, Cul de Sac gave that timorous, post-dictatorship Catalonia exactly what it needed: a good laugh. By lampooning the new Catalan and Spanish democratic institutions (and any other sacred cows that came to hand) Cul de Sac being the Catalan equivalent of Frances Charlie Hebdo or Spains El Papus (which, though produced in Barcelona, was aimed at the mainstream Spanish market) - made Catalonia seem as normal as its neighbouring countries. The Catalan government, however, thought otherwise: although it subsidised all other Catalan-language magazines

(given that most of the population back then was still illiterate in Catalan, it would take years for such publications to attract a profitable readership) it let Cul de Sac fall by the wayside until, within months, it had gone the way of all pulp. In fact, I had practically forgotten all about it until last month, when I met Alfonso Lpez for the first time and he gave me a rare, indeed historical, copy of that first Sant Jordi issue. Im keeping it in a (very) safe place: for my grandchildren, should I live long enough to have any.




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he dictionary shows me the third listing of this over-used word is 'the practice or spirit of social equality'. It strikes me that we have a long way to go for this to be true in Catalonia. The Eye in last months magazine highlighted some of the outdated legislation that still allows Draconian measures to be implemented should a judge decide to do so. Openness and accountability and has to be an essential part of any true democracy. It is difficult for any Catalan citizen to believe in the democratic process when there are so many examples of 'one law for them and another for us', those with friends and influence in high places avoiding the consequences of their actions. I cant be the only young Catalan who questions the point of studying hard in a country where who you know is still more influential than what you know. Democracy? Not yet. SALVADOR LOPEZ Barcelona.

Off the rails

All Greek to me

s a native English speaker I have to agree with most

ongratulations Matthew Tree on your article in Marchs Catalonia Today. I am a regular user of the rail network across Catalonia and can see that it suffers from a lack of planning and investment. It takes a regular, clean and efficient service to prise people out of their cars and that takes money and some degree of foresight. Timetabling is also an issue. My family would love to go to the theatre, cinema and have dinner with friends in Barcelona, but the last train to get back home to Girona leaves Passeig de Grcia at 21.20. This would be more understandable if everyone here was tucked up in bed by 11.00 at the latest, but even in the UK where this is often the case, railway services to the areas around major cities often run until midnight and sometimes beyond. What are the chances that the people making key decisions about Catalonias railways and public transport systems actually use them? Very slim I suspect. Theyll be far too busy dashing from one high profile meeting to another in their chauffered limousins. If you have never had to wait on a draughty platform or spend the night on your friends sofa as youve missed the last train you are unlikely to understand the problem. JOHN TAYLOR. Girona.

of the opinions expressed in your article 'Literary artisans' in Marchs edition of Catalonia Today. Translation is a highly skilled profession, requiring as it does an encyclopedic knowledge not just of the languages involved, but also the cultures behind them. There are many companies in Catalonia who spend a fortune on setting up businesses and then skimp on the translation of their webs or leaflets, thereby showing a lack of professionalism that can only reflect badly on their sales and services. Sadly, the rise of the internet and easy access to mechanical forms of changing one language into another makes the man on the Clapham omnibus think simple things can be typed into translation software and the results put on public display. Your The Mistake photo each month shows a good selection of these. May I share one such gem I saw last week in Barcelona? The Menu del Dia proclaimed the last item on the menu as He came from home. Any offers? Vino de la Casa Pay a professional, it really is worth it. STELLA ROBERTS Barcelona.





Is there a car in your garage?

It was mightcomeinhandyoneday dried oregano if you must know, lost underneath a couple of broken but repairable beach chairs. We do not grow cannabis.

any moons ago, after a particular ferocious gale had blown across Europe from the west, I was one of the first to see the finest photograph evidence of that human affliction, mightcomeinhandyonedayitis. I was night editor on a daily newspaper in the UK, perusing images of the aftermath of a particularly humongous storm in 1987 that flattened forests, stirred up a rainstorm of roof tiles and put the fear of God into everyone, and yet for all the mayhem is best remembered because of BBC television forecaster Michael Fish. A few hours earlier he had assured the nation, in response to a woman whod phoned asking if a hurricane was on the way, that it wasnt, and that Spain would get it instead. The storm veered north, three million homes were damaged, 15 million trees were uprooted and 19 people died. As we know to this day, weather forecasting is still not an exact science. Among the shocking images of battered Britain was one of a block of five garages, those little lines of adjoining, flat-topped buildings where the British keep their beloved cars....or not. A gust had torn the roof off in one lump and from the helicopter circling the devastation a photographer had gifted the world an eagles eye view of the contents of these vehicle depositories. Yes, you are right - there wasnt a car in any of them. One was spotlessly clean and as empty as a politicians promises. The other four, however, were stacked to the absent ceiling with things that "might come in handy one day". The relevance of all this is our 200-year-old farm Catalan barn; large as a house, and (you

guess correctly once again) full of "stuff". Or rather it was, because we have finally taken to the recycling centre a ludicrous number of jam jars, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, vinegar, childrens broken toys, perforated irrigation piping and an ancient sack of bread flower, lost and forgotten beneath the pile, that had turned to stone. The vinegar had been lined up in a collection of dusty containers between the snow tyres and the yellow anti-freeze for the solar hot water system ever since our first winemaking attempt had gone horribly wrong. Weirdly, we wondered if it might improve with age. Three hours, two rats nests and a dust storm into the task my worldly-wise nephew, who had foolishly called by for a couple of weeks, waved a carrier bag of something in the air."Ay, Ay!" he said, looking inside again, his eyebrows completing the circle of his grin. "Beaten Rasquera to it have you?" It was mightcomeinhandyoneday dried oregano if you must know, lost underneath a couple of broken but repairable beach chairs. We do not grow cannabis. Rasquera isnt a million miles from us, and the mayors plan to free the 900-strong community of a whopping 1.3 million euro debt by cultivating marijuana for a personal use cannabis association who will pay 50,000 euros a month is heady stuff; in my case for two reasons. Are even small Spanish towns and villages really sliding into that degree of debt? And what exactly is the legal situation for such a radical project because its without precedent isnt it? I sense a storm brewing


The town of Rasquera / J.C.LEON


PENNY BERLIN Owner of Brava Connect , introducing services for English speakers. Lives with partner Karl and their two daughters

hy did you choose Santa Cristina dAro? - A good central location for my two teenage girls. Close to Platja dAro and Sant Felieu de Guixols. How long have you lived there? - 8 years. What do you think is the best thing about living there? - Central location, ideal for my work and Its busy all year round not just summer. What would you most like to change? Id like to stop the Catalans knocking down the old and building new, they need to hang on to their heritage, its what attracts the tourists and we need them. The old villages and towns attract most of us in the first place. When you are away, what do you miss most? - Obviously sunny days, friendly people and mountains. What do you take with you as a present from your new home when you go back to your own country? Fuet its easy to pack and light on the plane and our relatives enjoy it. What is public transport like? - Transport is cheaper & cleaner than the UK, but we need a better late night train service from Barcelona all the way to up to Figueres, it stops just after 9pm, and then youre stranded. Where are the best places for visitors to stay? - Theres so much, budget hotels and the more exclusive hotels. Generally the standards are very good. There are some fabulous rental properties, something to suit every pocket. What do you consider the highlights for any brief visit for the first time? Thats a hard one! Girona old town, and the Cami Ronda walk at SAgaro. And if visitors have more time or make a return visit? The medieval villages nr La Bisbal. La Franc & Calella, Sant Feliu de Guixols and San Pol and Figueres & Peralada Plus a trip to Cadaques.

Sta Cristina dAro W


Some suggestions
Places to avoid at all costs? I wouldnt avoid Tossa, but try to avoid their parking costs, outrageous! Beyond Lloret South not as attractive. A place to have lunch with friends? There are loads, maybeVilla Mas at San Pol, when its sunny. About 11- 12 euros (more expensive at night) A special dinner for two? Can Roquet at Romany 0034 972 83 30 81 Best time of year to plan a visit? May- June but you will need a heated pool. Best kept secret about your area? The Museum bar Sant Feliu de Guixols


Xavi Ayala

e met wine steward, Xavi Ayala, in the Moo restaurant, where he arrives in the morning and stays until after midnight. He shared with us the objects that he always has at hand for his work . 1. The glass. At the end of the day, my job is selling wine, and I like to use the best tasting glass. I am one of those who believe that the glass makes a difference when it comes to how a wine smells, how a wine tastes, and the overall wine experience. I use Riedel, an Austrian glassware brand that makes the best crystal glasses in the world and which revolutionised the world of wineglasses. Riedel developed and refined the concept that different shaped glasses were suited to grape varieties, styles, and even the age of wines. I prefer the series Sauvignon blanc or Chianti, the most practical and versatile. 2. Mobile phone. Indispensable for keeping me connected with the outside world and the inside of the hotel. Im always available to anyone who wants to communicate with me: clients, distributors, food critics. Im not much of a Facebook and Twitter user, but I do have a blog, where I also publish the articles I write. 3. Pencil. About three years ago, I discovered that I might have a writing vein. I started with the column Reserva personal in El Segre, I also write for Cupatges, El Periodico and the DIR gym magazine. One of my favourite pastimes on Sunday is checking the press for articles about wine and food. In general I think theres too much fuss about novelties in these columns. I dont usually write about whats new, I write about wines that I like, that have a story behind the variety, the territory or the production method, which I like sharing with the readers. 4. The notebook. I always have it with me and write everything down: ideas, things that happen, plans, meetings reports, notes about wines Ive tasted, reminders...Ive noticed that all great chefs and sommeliers have this habit. 5. Corkscrew. The indispensable tool I never have in my pocket! My favourite is Pull Tab, an all-in-one, two-step boot lever, which easily extracts any cork, whether natural or synthetic. The spiral screw needs to be teflon-coated, which guarantees it pulls easy and doesnt make any noise. 6, 7. Books and magazines. One of the many good things I learnt from Josep Roca (Pito), is taking time out. So, in the rare quiet moments at the restaurant I read anything related to wine and gastronomy. One of my favourite books is El vino, by Andr Domin (Knemann), ideal for whoever wants to get introduced to the world of wine. 8. Wine bottles. Moo has a cellar of 600 wines, ranging from red, white, sparkling, organic... our wine list has the singularity of including the photo of the winemaker, in homage to their hard work in the vineyards during the whole year.

3 8





Xavi Ayala is always looking for the best match between food and wine../JOSEP LOSADA


On a perfect match
He left Lleida for Girona in search of new ways of interpreting gastronomy but Ayala found his vocation in wine. Now he explores the best wine matches for Michelin-star cuisine

fter studying hostelry in Lleida and working at the Michelin starred Casa Irene restaurant in Arties, Xavi Ayala moved to Girona in search of new ways to understand cuisine. "Girona is the province with most Michelin restaurants in Catalonia, and there is this culture of gastronomy. One day I went for dinner at the Celler de Can Roca and I said to myself: I must get a job here. I was lucky enough to work there for six years, first as a waiter and eventually as a sommelier." Its now his turn to introduce students from the Escola dhosteleria de Girona to the world of wine. He combines this with his

job as sommelier and maitre in Barcelonas Moo restaurant, and as sommelier for Grup Tragaluz, which owns 22 restaurants. In addition, Ayala is the president of the Associaci Catalana de Sommeliers (ACS).

Food and wine

Moo is a one-star Michelin restaurant run by the chef Feliu Llofriu where wine has great protagonism: "We are the only restaurant in Barcelona which offers a specific wine for each dish, and the name of the wine is mentioned on the list", Ayala says proudly. This practice of harmonising wines and food started in 2003 when the restaurant opened and we still do it,

it gives meaning to our work." Ayala explains the method behind pairing a wine and a dish: "There are four elements we take into account: one, affinity Moscatell and a fruit salad, as both are sweet and aromatic two, contrast Moscatell and blue cheese, as the strong, salty flavour of the cheese contrasts with the simplicity of the wine three, tradition panellets with Moscatell, neules and cava four, territory fried fish or Jabugo ham with Jrez, shell fish with Albario. But with Josep from El Celler de Can Roca, we also create a dish starting from the flavours of the wine." As the president of the ACS, Ayalas ambition is to encourage

the consumption of Catalan wine: "People here have always preferred a beer instead of wine when going out. We need to face that and encourage healthy wine consumption. And, of course, restaurants should have more Catalan wines on their wine list. We should learn from the French, who mostly drink local wines. Some 80% of our list includes wines from Catalonia but if we were in France, we would put Alella and Pla de Bages in first place and only then Priorat." And the future? "I hope to go from 350 to 500 ACS members in 2012 and get a good candidate for the best sommelier in Spains annual contest," he concludes.





Multilingualism at home

This is a strategy which is closely associated to codeswitching but subtly different, and guessing a word can get you out of a communication fix, even if it can also lead to occasional embarrassment.

was thinking of addressing the rather sticky topic of Jos Mourinho in this, my second column. Then I went to the doctor and got my head examined. So that will wait for another day; after all, its a bit early in our relationship to be breaching such an emotive topic. Instead, I would like to share with you some of the joys of my experience of a trilingual household. Now perhaps before we begin I should explain that my wife and I met in a Spanish-speaking environment in Barcelona (yes, Im going to say Spanish rather than Castilianits the 21st century and some bullets just have to be bitten). But when we had a child we decided to change the familys lingua franca to English so that our son would be exposed to it as much as possible while he was growing up. I dont think we could ever have predicted the English he would actually be exposed to over the subsequent years, but lets just say that he sometimes has to be told not use certain words he may have picked up from his father. Naturally, he speaks Catalan with his mum, and from the school playground, computer games and TV he has picked up plenty of Spanish over the years. Total, in our house we speak a mixture of all three, though mainly English and Catalan, and often in the same sentence. And in line with what many language experts suggest, it has proven a very successful formula, as communication is fluid. My wife and I once flirted with the idea of using German when we didnt want him to know what we were saying, but that very soon became an unacceptable abuse of family trust and was rejected. Now if we dont want him to know what were saying we gesture behind his back. Much more moral. And not so taxing (its easier to mime money, point and shake your head than come up with the German for "Im not sure he should get his pocket money this week, what do you think?") Anyway, all of this is leading up to something I trust youll find amusing, namely, conversations like the following: How many potatoes do you want? Jo two. Tu two? S, jo two. I tu? Jo two too. Tu two too? S. Now if you find that hard to believe, trust me, so do I when I hear it. It is what is known in the language learning trade as code-switching (TEFL Diploma stuff, this), whereby more than one language

is used in the same sentence. So utterances like my sons Ja tinc my shoes on or Can you put my caputxa up? are commonplace. One of my all-time favourites has to be my wifes Creus que podem treure els spuds from the oven?, and my sons Qu li passa al teu bike? (bici curiously changing gender with the change of language). So now weve started this little linguistic theme, feel free to send us some of your own real life examples. Another great source of linguistic amusement in the family is the use of invented words. Now, I have insisted to my students over the years that trying out a word which may or may not be English is one of a whole range of valid communication strategies available to them, if not abused. Other strategies would include gesturing manically (see Lloret police from previous column), repeating a word incessantly until the listener just gives up and nods, and my mums favourite, shouting at the top of your voice. But more seriously, this is a strategy which is closely associated to code-switching but subtly different, and guessing a word can get you out of a communication fix, even if it can also lead to occasional embarrassment. You dont want to refer to a VIP visitor from Salzburg as an Austrich, for example (no names). An example of word invention from my own family experience would be my wife recently taking the Catalan word punxar to prick (stop sniggering at the back) and trying it out in an English sentence, telling our son "you have to punch the sausages," which I felt obliged to explain wouldnt be altogether necessary. After all, they hadnt done us any harm. To my mind, this cannot properly be called code-switching, because she has grammatically adapted the word to fit the sentence, i.e. actually using it as an English word. It could only be considered code-switching if she had left the infinitive punxar in there. You see how I spend my time. Of course, what I havent mentioned is that such behaviour, and I frequently do the same in Catalan, can lead to discussions regarding the inherent logic, or lack thereof, in the different mother tongues concerned. In the above example, my wife argues that we say "hole punch" for something that makes holes in paper, so why shouldnt it be right to punch sausages? I, on the other hand, argue that enganar-se should be a word that means to get hungry, and I stand by my right to use it. Ill have to start writing all of these down and write a book on the subject. After all, whos to say it isnt the future of human communication on the planet. But right now its time to bring this to a close, as mestic enganant moltssim.


Nicole Millar


Racing around Catalonia

arch19 saw the Volta Catalunya cycling race pass through our familiar streets. At the time of writing, the race is still not over but by the time this goes to print we should know the results. The Volta Catalunya is an important race in the cycling calendar and is only second in popularity to the Vuelta a Espaa. The race has moved around the calendar over the years, once beginning in January, then hopping to May, then June and then September, but in 2010 it found a permanent place in March. attracts the best cycling teams in the world.

2012 Volta
Over the course of seven days, the riders will cover an impressive 1,206 kilometres. This year, the stages are as follows: Stage one 139.9km - Starting and finishing in Calella. The participants will ride through the Viladrau area and have three climbs to do . The first, Alt de Viladrau, is a 2nd category climb to 903m of altitude. The second, Alt de Coll Formic, is a 1st Category climb to an altitude of 1,145m and, finally, a 3rd category climb, Alt de Collsacreu, at just 370m high but coming straight on the back of 120km of racing. Stage two 161km - Starting and finishing in Girona. The race during stage two takes the participants over the long side of Els Angels. The top of the climb is an ideal place to sit and watch as they whizz over and battle to keep the leader jersey. This stage also includes Alt de la Ganga, another 3rd category climb. Stage three 210km The longest stage in the Volta and probably the toughest. Todays stage will suit the mountain goats as they leave La Vall den Bas and head towards Port-Ain tackling four mountain passes on the way Alt de Coubet, Collada de Toses, Port del Cant and, finally, Port-Ain standing at am impressive 1,947m. Stage four 199km From Tremp to Asc there is still no rest for the climbing legs as they have three 2nd category climbs in their way Alt de Fonrllonga and Coll de Paumeres (twice). Stage five 207km Here they climb the famous mountain of Monsterrat and finish with a rapid descent to Manresa. Stage six 169km Up until now the days have been hilly and though there are still three hills to get over, it could be a day for the sprinters to grab a stage as they leave Sant Fruits de Bages and finish in Badalona.

A bit of history
The Volta Catalunya is the third oldest cycling race in the world behind the Tour de France (1903) and the Giro dItalia (1909), and the first Volta Catalunya took place in 1911. It was originally organised by Club Deportivo Barcelona and was a slightly more relaxed race than what is seen today. Over a hundred years ago, the first stage started in Barcelona and ended in Tarragona, via Sitges, and was only 97 kilometres long. Then the race visited Lleida and Segri, three stages making up the tour and just 363 kilometers of course in total. Back then it was impossible for the race to go through Girona because of the poor condition of the local roads. Having said that, there were still stages in those days that resembled more of a mountain bike race than a road stage. Although the race is now over a century old, it was suspended for a number of years due to the First World War and again in 1937 and 1938 due to the Civil War. So, this is the 92nd Volta Catalunya to take place. Perhaps the races greatest champion in its history was Mariano Caardo, who won the Volta an impressive seven times four years between 1928-1932, and then again three years in a row, in 1935, 1936 and 1939. Around this time cycling was far more popular than football. Today, the Volta is part of the UCI World Tour Series, which means it




What the foreign press says about Catalonia

Walking in Catalonia, a taste of Spain as it used to be
The group of Italians were the smartest hikers you could ever encounter. There they were relaxing in the coffee bar of the recently restored medieval monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, perched high up in the mountains of Catalonia, looking as if they had just stepped from the pages of a Berghaus catalogue. Not only were they particularly well-equipped, but compared to us shabby, sweaty and exhausted Brits, wilting after a five-hour uphill, down dale march, they looked brighter than an April breeze. Their wicking layers and storm-proof outers were unsoiled. They had box-fresh boots and sparkling walking poles. While we resembled the before pictures on a detergent commercial, how had they managed to arrive at this point so high up on the mountains looking so good? The answer was soon evident. Included on their extensive list of equipment, it turned out, was a 52-seater coach. Kitted out they might be, but the most exhausting bit of exercise they were doing that day appeared to be walking back to the car park, climbing aboard their bus and reclining their seats for the hairpin journey back to the coast. No wonder they looked so well groomed. For us, the story of our Spanish stroll etched in dust across our faces, watching them make their pristine way back to their transport gave a fleeting moment of superiority. We had arrived there on foot, the climax of five days of hiking across rugged mountain and windswept vale, through olive groves and vineyards, past prickly pears and wild garlic, stopping only to search for refreshment in shuttered-up villages not so much somnolent as comatose. We had got there the ancient way, the way of pilgrims through the centuries, the proper way. Fleeting was our smugness, however. It lasted only as long as it took to dawn on us that the Italians would be in the hotel Jacuzzi long before we could walk there. Because the truth was, while we might have sneered at these phoney hikers and their embrace of ease, we were not exactly engaged on a boy scouts annual orienteering exercise ourselves. We may have got there under our own steam, relished the time and space afforded by going into the mountains alone and on foot, enjoyed the openness and the nature (...) The Telegraph, March 22, 2012 - Do you like the Pyrenees? Have your say: subject: Pyrenees

Giant marijuana crop the fix for Spanish town high on debt
A TINY Spanish country town believes it has found a way to make unemployment, debt and economic crisis disappear in a puff of smoke - by leasing out its land for marijuana plantations. The town hall of Rasquera in Catalonia has voted to sign a 1.3 million euro ($A1.6 million) agreement with a cannabis users association in nearby Barcelona to plant marijuana for its 5000 members. It will allow the association to plant on a sevenhectare stretch of town hall land - roughly the size of 10 football pitches. "This is a chance to bring in money and create jobs," said mayor Bernat Pellisa, of the Catalan Republican Left party (...) The SMH, March 3, 2012 -

What are your thoughts about this project? Have your say: subject: Rasquer

Spains vintage whites

(...) Things began to change dramatically from the 1990s, as a generation of winemakers who had grown up post-Franco emerged. With a more cosmopolitan outlook than their predecessors, they drew their influences from around the world rather than the bodega up the road. Their approach concentrating on securing ripe fruit, working in spotless wineries, using French rather than American oak, or none at all was entirely different. For the most part, the change has been positive: Spanish whites today no longer pale in comparison to the more famous reds. The best of them tend to be made from indigenous grape varieties to the north. Im also a fan of many of the whites being made from a hotch-potch of varieties in parts of Catalonia. The Guardian, March 18, 2012 - Do you think about Catalan white wines? Let us know: subject: wine



Photography Competition Delicate

This photo of a babys little feet at only six days old, cradled in his mothers hands, went straight to our hearts. Next months theme is BLUE so dont forget to take your camera with you when you are out and about and you could be a winner. Send them to: Dont forget to tell us where and when you took it and if there is a story behind it. A digital photoframe could be yours. The best of luck!

The winning photo: Tiny toes Barbara Foster, Osona

aken in March this year, the photo is of little Aram with his mother Mima.


Susan Powell, Girona

Sleep of the innocent

Monica Ogilvy Morris, Calonge


Tiny bluebells together make a spring carpet

Nria Cisa, Valls A shimmering network of fine threads

Yvette Whalley, LEstartit Each delicate petal turns its face to the sun


Yvette Whalley LEstartit

Anna Puig Oliveras

Jayne Miravet

Valerie Garuz Sant Cugat

Paula Oliva,

Julia Rice Banyoles

Clare Raymant London

Mary Banks Monistrol de Montserrat



Everywhere in Catalonia on April 23 the streets will be lined with book stalls and roses as people crowd into bookshops and florists. Publishers print their books in advance, but how are seven million flowers supplied for this single, special day of the year?


This image by Patrice Faye won Catalonia Todays Photo Competition in June 2010



How to buy the best rose


nyone in Catalonia on April 23 will find that the whole country will have dressed up for a celebration, while the towns and cities hum with vitality and colour. On the Ramblas and the main thoroughfares, the books stalls remain open for the whole day, and there are roses on every street corner. Everybody gets caught in this national celebration, as Sant Jordi is the day when visitors flock to take part in the local culture. Sant Jordi St Georges Day or simply, La Diada, is a picturesque experience, a cheerful festival of flowers and crowds. While St Georges Day is not unique to Catalonia the dragon slayer is the patron of several countries, including England Portugal, Germany and Greece in Catalonia the celebration is perhaps bigger than anywhere. Million of roses get sold every Sant Jordi in Catalonia, as men all over the country keep alive the tradition of giving their loved ones a rose, while women, in turn, give the men in their lives a book often bought at open-air book stalls. However, times have changed and it is now common for women to receive books or roses, or both. Given the popularity of

Men give women roses, while women give men books

the festival, it is hardly surprising that no fewer than six million roses and 1,5 million books will be sold. The volume of book sales will come to a total of about 18 million euros, representing 10 per cent of all book sales in Catalonia in the whole year. Authors come from all over the country to autograph copies of their books at any one of the hundreds of book stalls set up. The streets and buildings are all

Whereas choosing a book is something that depends on everyones taste, buying the best rose is not as simple as it sounds. There are many varieties, colours and places of origin. If we compare with countries like the Netherlands or Belgium, people here dont have the same culture of flowers, local producers say. Some people complain that their Sant Jordi rose is withered the next day. "That should never happen," says Germn Pons, a wholesaler from Santa Susanna. "Roses are very resistant flowers, and they only have one secret: water. The stem should be cut a few centimetres every two to three days, to help them absorb water better. If you do that, and change the water every few days, the roses should last up to two weeks." On the condition that they are quality roses, of course. A good rose should have a long, strong, straight stem, a large bloom and thick petals: "The quality of Maresme roses is unbeatable," says Pons. However, sometimes imported roses get to their destination in poor condition, especially if they spent hours without water. Also, if they have very few leaves, that is not a good sign. But it is hard for clients to find out where the roses come from: "There isnt enough information about their origin, Pons says. "When we go to the supermarket, the origin of any product is indicated. It should be the same with roses," he points out.

decorated with the Catalan flag and streets are filled with people. Roses, wrapped in cellophane and tied up with striped orange and yellow ribbons with a spike of wheat symbolising fertility added as decoration, are the order of the day. The price of a rose may very from three to 10 euros, depending on the quality and the decoration included. So how did it all start? According to the 13th century legend, George was a Christian knight who saved a kidnapped princess

Shakespeare and Cervantes both died on April 23

from being fed to a flesh-craving dragon. The Catalan version of the tale takes place in Montblanc (Tarragona). After George killed the dragon with his sword, a rose bush sprouted from the beasts blood. George offers the rose to the princess. With such a story, who needs St Valentine?

World Book Day

The book tradition goes back to 1926, when Catalonias book day was celebrated on October 7, Cervantes birthday. In 1930, the date was changed to April 23 to coincide with the anniversary of both Cervantes and Shakespeares deaths. In 1995, Unesco declared April 23 International Book Day, a day aimed at promoting reading, publishing and copyright, giving the book side of Sant Jordi an additional boost. This years Sant Jordi falls on a Monday, which should bring sales of both books and roses to the level of 2010 (last year, the rain and the clash with Easter had a negative impact on sales, which dropped by 30%). Sant Jordi is also accompanied by many cultural offerings. Every year, there are various exhibitions organised, award ceremonies, talks and seminars, to name but a a few.




The Day of the rose

70% of roses sold for Sant Jordi come from abroad

ant Jordi is a big day for writers and publishers, but also for rose growers. Every year no less than six million roses get sold in Catalonia, nearly three million in Barcelona alone. Flower growers and wholesalers say that this year they expect to sell even more, up to 7 million roses. But where do all these flowers come from? Where are they produced and how do they get from the field to the customer? The rose growers of Maresme, and to a lesser extent, Valls, supply about 30 per cent of the roses sold on Sant Jordi. Catalan producers cant face such a great demand alone and the short fall is made up with imports. "Catalonia has always imported roses, because the demand is much higher than what we are able to produce," says Jordi Rodn, president of the Mercat de la Flor i Planta Ornamental de Catalunya in Vilassar de Mar, which centralises nearly all of the flower production in Catalonia. The difference is made up with imports from the Netherlands, Colombia, Ecuador South Africa and southern Spain (Murcia, Elche). Local produce generally sells out, thanks to its quality (the local climate, soil and methods used ) but the production price is increasingly higher: "The production in other countries is difficult to compete with; the quality is similar and the price is

The flower market in Vilassar. / MFPOC


From Ecuador to Catalonia


rom the moment they are harvested in the field, until they get to the customerss, roses travel a long journey. A week before Sant Jordi, millions of roses from abroad arrive in Catalonia, an enormous logistical operation that years of experience ensures works like clockwork. The roses coming from Colombia and Ecuador (mainly red, Freedom variety), arrive by plane directly at El Prat or Madrids Barajas airports and then go to Vilassar de Mar in refrigerated trucks. From South Africa (which provides coloured roses, as well as a lower quality red), they go to Holland first and then to Barcelona by plane. This journey can take a few days, but sometimes, the roses can get from the field to the customer in 18 hours,

says Sito Villarrubla, a wholesaler from Maresme. Local producers start preparations for Sant Jordi months in advance. Germn Pons, a rose grower from Santa Susanna in Maresme, starts pruning his roses midway through January, to get them ready for La Diada. The varieties he uses are Lovely Red, Red France, Samurai and Grand Gala. "Our roses are excellent, but it is hard to compete with the producers from abroad. Every year we sell everything for Sant Jordi, but the problem comes later," he says. The difference in price between a local rose and an imported can be of up to 50 per cent."We need to promote the local rose. Even if it is a bit more expensive, it is better quality, more resistant and lasts longer."

Seven million The number of roses expected to be sold

much lower. The roses cultivated in Ecuador, for example, can be 50 per cent cheaper than roses cultivated in Maresme, where it is more end more expensive to grow roses," says Rodn. "There used to be 25 rose producers in Maresme, and only seven remain, and who knows how many of them will abandon rose cultivation in the near future." However, it is very hard to

Red France

Lovely Red


Red roses share the limelight with books./ MERCAT DE FLOR I PLANTA ORNAMENTAL DE CATALUNYA

Grand Gala

30% of annual sales of roses sold in one day

70% The percentage of imported roses

Three euros The base price for a rose

The Grand Gala variety, the queen of roses

The most in-demand varieties remain the same every year: Dallas, Freedom, Samurai, Lovely Red, Sexy Red and Grand Gala. The latter however remains the most popular. Florists say that no rose is more suitable for Sant Jordi or another special occasion. The largest rose commercially available, it has a bright, clear red colour, a long, thick stem, no thorns, a large bloom and a strong fragrance. Grand Gala was created in France in 1994 by the French flower breeder Alain Meillard.

control the conditions in which roses are gown in other countries, to check the working conditions of workers or if the products they used respect EU rules. After their arrival, the rose stems are re-cut to allow them to absorb water and then kept in water for at least a day, to resupply them with the water they might have lost during the journey. The storage temperature is extremely important: they are

kept refrigerated at a steady temperature of 2-4 degrees Celsius. The majority of roses, some 75%, are red and thornless, followed by pink coming in second place at under 10%. There is a certain interest for the less traditional colours: white, yellow, blue and black. The Netherlands even provides a rose with the bloom divided into four parts, each of them of a different colour. Of red roses, the most in-de-

mand, there are over 150 species, and each one has its one origin, shape, and shade of red, Red roses are universally associated with romantic love. In Christian culture they were for many years seen as symbol of the blood of Christ and the agony of the crucifixion. In Greek mythology, the red rose represented passion. For the Romans, too, the red rose was a symbol of beauty and the goddess Venus.



Book of Death
Bubonic plague ravaged Catalonia in the 14th century; the city of Lleida tried to halt the epidemic with a unique book now rediscovered
'Hope and charity are dead'

urope may be suffering an economic crisis but in the 14th century the continent experienced the worst health crisis in its history: the bubonic plague, otherwise known as the Black Death. Without proper hygiene, vaccines or antibiotics, the Black Death tore through the continent, clocking up a spectacular mortality rate. On average, the plague wiped out 25% of Europes population but some areas suffered more than others. One such area was Catalonia, where the mortality rate reached 60% in places. The explanation given at the time was that the air had been contaminated by societys immorality, corrupting it and causing an imbalance in the bodys humours. In other words, the science of the time could help little beyond giving advice on how to stop the plague spreading. And this is what the municipal officials of Lleida decided to do, commissioning the doctor, Jacme dAgramont, who was also a professor of the Estudi General (a forerunner of the University), to write a brief

The unique horror of the bubonic plague, or Black Death, also had a devastating effect on the state of mind of medieval Europeans. In a later study, Guy de Chauliac, Occitanian doctor to Pope Clement VI, recorded the effect of the plague when it arrived in Avignon in 1348: "people died without any help from servants and were buried without a priest present; the father did not visit the son, nor the children their parents; charity was dead and hope lost."

guide on epidemics and pestilence with the aim of preventing, as far as possible, avoidable deaths. DAgramont, possibly influenced by ideas of the Franciscan order of the Church, wanted his advice to be universally known, leading him to reject Latin the habitual language used by academics of the time in favour of Catalan.

Black Death
The bubonic plague made its first appearance in the West in the Mediterranean between 1348 and 1361. Unknown at the time, the illness is passed to humans via a bite from the flea, Xenopsylla cheopis, a parasite of small mammals, such as rats and mice. This flea, which was particularly fond of black rats (Rattus rattus) made its way to Europe from India on ships used to transport soldiers to the Crusades. The disease spread in cities and monasteries, where more people lived closer to-


Engraving showing the Dance of Death, popularised during the plague epidemics. / ARXIU

gether and which were dirtier than small isolated agricultural communities. However, it was not until the 19th century that the bacterium that causes the illness was isolated and named Pasteurella pestis, and later, Yersinia pestis, in honour of its discoverer, Alexander Yersin. The microbe quickly multiplies in the blood, causing high fever and eventually septicemia and other, often fatal, infections. The characteristic symptom of the infection is inflammation of the lymph glands, which become swollen and are known as buboes, from where the disease gets its name. Acral gangrene of the extremities is another common symptom and the black colour of the necrotized tissue is the origin of the term 'Black Death'. It appears that the first territory in the Crown of Aragon affected by the plague was Mallorca. At the end of March 1348, the disease reached the city of Alcdia, where the first victim was recorded as one Guillem Brassa. By the beginning of May, the plague was active in Barcelona (from where it was passed to Lleida and Huesca) and Tarragona and Valencia (from where it moved towards Teruel).

Astrology and Jews

The official cause for the health crisis, according to the Paris Faculty of Medicine, was the triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the fourth phase of Aquarius, which occurred on March 20, 1348. However, as often happened and still happens with many disasters, an alternative theory quickly spread. Without any evidence, the Jews were blamed for the epidemic, a baseless accusation that was widely believed. In May 1348, soon after the plague first appeared in Barcelona, the Jewish quarter was attacked.

order to purify the air, people were advised to leave buckets of fresh milk standing in their bedrooms. All over Europe, doctors tried prescribing purges, hot compresses and potions containing spices and even pearls. The Occitan doctor, Guy de Chauliac, saved the Pope by putting him in quarantine, with all visits banned, in a room where two fires were kept burning. Many different people tried to study this deadly plague, the likes of which no one had ever experienced. In Catalonia, it was Jacme dAgramont, but at the same time figures all over Europe were trying to find a solution, from the Italian doctor Gentile da Foligno, to other scholars, such as Alfonso de Cordoba, Ibn-Hatima in Almeria and al-Saquri in Granada.

Agramonts life
Very little is known about the life of Jacme dAgramont. We know from his writings that he was born in Lleida and that he was a doctor and a professor at the Estudi General from at least 1343 onwards. There is a possibility that his family came from Occitania and that he was married to a woman named Ysabel. The couple lived on carrer Madrona in Pobla de Cappont a neighbourhood on the left bank of the River Segre that no longer exists and they had at least one child. We know almost nothing about DAgramonts education or training in Arts and Medicine, although he did attain the highest qualification in both fields, that of Master. At the request of the citys sanitation authorities (the Prohomenia de la Salut), DAgramonts resulting treatise, known as the Regiment, is in fact the first work on epidemiology produced in the Pasos Catalans, or for that matter on the Iberian Peninsula. DAgramonts trea-

The real historical importance of this epidemic though, is that it was the first time that the authorities took charge of such a situation, aware of the need to take preventative measures, making the crisis the start of what would eventually lead to a public health system. Thus, after the 1348 outbreak, the first institutionalised quarantine came into existence in the city of Venice. On March 30, 1348, one of the citys islets was set aside for vessels arriving from places infected with the plague. State intervention, however,

Jacme wrote in simple, direct Catalan language rather than the habitual Latin reserved for academics

did not have the effect it might have today, as can be seen from the Paris Faculty of Medicines failed attempt to reestablish the balance of humours in the population by outlawing cold or moist food, such as fish. Meanwhile, Italian physicians recommended tranquility, no easy task when your fellow citizens are dropping like flies all around. In some places, in an attempt to boost public morale, the churches were forbidden from ringing their bells for funerals and, in Siena, only widows were allowed to wear mourning. In the Balkans, in

Pages from Jacme dAgramonts treatise. The Gran Enciclopdia Catalana published a facsimile of this early event in the history ofh provision in Catalonia / ARCHIVE

which people lived, the food available in plague areas and the circulation of hot, humid breezes, which caused putrefaction. However, as for what might have caused the outbreak, DAgramont is as far off the mark as anyone else of his time. According to Jacme, in line with other contemporary commentators, the plague was the result of bad air, possibly the result of a variety of causes from unfavourable astral conjunctions to unscrupulous people tampering with the food supply to the effects of putrefaction emanating from corpses, and so on.

Where the doctors treatise does come close to providing an effective approach is its insistence on prevention, albeit through methods that leave something to be desired. Thus, Jacme recommends eating and drinking less and better, purging, consuming vinegar, or oranges and lemons, or to avoid certain types of meat and fish, especially those with strong aromas. Moreover, Jacme advises the authorities not to kill animals in the city streets and to remove organic waste to avoid it contaminating the air. Clearly the reasoning behind this advice is not based on scientific enquiry but applying these hygienic measures no doubt helped save some lives, as removing waste helped prevent the proliferation of vermin, which carried the infected fleas. After Jacme dAgramont finished his Regiment on Saint Marks Day (April 24) in 1348, the municipal authorities went on to apply many of his suggestions with some enthusiasm. However, somewhat ironically, it did not stop DAgramont from becoming one of the plagues first mortal victims on July 18, 1349.

tise is a work of medical research and the Catalan doctor went out of his way to make sure his study reached people beyond a small circle of medical professionals. This is almost certainly the reason why Jacme decided to write in simple, direct Catalan, rather than the habitual Latin reserved for academic works. In the treatise, DAgramont freely uses proverbs and there is a real attempt to explain technical details in everyday language, and Jacme himself declares that his Regiment is for "the benefit of the public". Yet, this important historical document is relatively modest, extending to a mere 14 unnumbered pages of text. Today, the document is kept in the parish archive of Santa Maria de Verd in Segarra, al-

Jacme advises the authorities not to kill animals in the city streets and to remove organic waste

though it is believed that this is a 1387 copy of the original. The treatise was discovered in 1909 by Enric Arderiu i Valls, Lleidas municipal archivist at the time, who went on to publish it in the citys Butllet del Centre Excursionista. For years, the book went unnoticed by Spains central and academic authorities, who gave little importance to documents written in languages other than Spanish. However, the text was finally reproduced in the Gran Enciclopdia Catalana in facsimile form. And what were Jacmes conclusions about the existence of the plague? DAgramont puts forward three suggestions in his study for why the Black Death spread so quickly and extensively: the close proximity in


MONTSERRAT VENDRELL / Director general of Biocat

In praise of bioscience
We hear a lot about biotechnology but what is its real significance? The director of a body that coordinates specialists working in the sector in Catalonia explains
Promoting biotech


e arrive punctually at the offices of Biocat on passeig de Grcia in Barcelona, an organisation that promotes and coordinates the biotechnology and biomedicine sector in Catalonia. The entitys director, doctor of biological sciences, Montserrat Vendrell, receives us in her office where the interview takes place. How would you evaluate Biocats six-year history? I value very positively the fact that such a young entity has shown that there is a way of working that can make the system more efficient. Looking across the board at everything that affects an economic sector, such as the health sector, can have a beneficial effect in a general sense. From the feedback we have received from our companies, affiliates and international contacts, I think that we have helped to provide a complete picture of the whole sector, which is very fragmented. In other words, we have helped Catalonia to be seen from the outside as a

Vendrell has been the head of Biocat for five years. The entity organises, jointly with a variety of institutions, different activities so that the distinct actors in Catalonias biomedicine sector are interrelated. Therefore, every year, professionals from the sector meet at the Frum Biocat, where the so-called Biocpsules project offers scientists business training and the BioEmprenedor XXI programme helps entrepreneurs to get their projects off the ground. Moreover, the B-Debate project, which is open to both experts and the general public, generates debates across the field of bioscience. Biocat also organises talks in schools and faculties, in which they explain biotechnology, biomedicine and medical technology, and try to inspire participants into adopting a scientific vocation in this new area.

powerful environment for biomedicine. Obviously, that is not only down to us, because there is a whole range of active players, but we help to spread a cohesive and unified message abroad, as well as detecting opportunities there. What we have achieved is that anyone who wants to do anything in the biosciences is advised to talk to us first. Having that centralised knowledge available is what makes you much more efficient. What would you highlight about the most recent research? In Catalonias so-called Bioregi, there is whole range of spheres in which we have strengths, from pure and clinical research to that carried out by companies to be sold in the market. These are spheres, such as that connected to cancer, where we have many great pure researchers working here and, clearly, large clinics and also companies working in both diagnostics and pharmaceutical treatments. We are also strong in nanomedicine,

an area in which Barcelona is the second most important city in the world, as far as scientific publications are concerned. The area of nanomedicine is a wide one, which goes from bioengineering to the application of medicine for new cellular or genetic therapies. We also have some good groups working in bioinformatics and genomics. What have the various affiliates who make up Biocat got in common? This is related to our main challenge, our main mission. We have had to develop certain instruments for under-


Montserrat Vendrell has been the head of Biocat for five years. QUIM PUIG

standing the system and for seeing what type of relationships we can establish between the different affiliates. We have a directory on our website, through which we learn about who is doing what in Catalonia. Using this information, we instigate programmes that look for formal and informal ways of putting affiliates that complement each other in contact, we help them to formulate their projects, look for state funding and, quite often, we develop cooperation with those abroad as well as here, welcoming delegations or organising trips to

other countries. We take part in a three-day annual meeting, the BIO Convention in the US, which this year will be held in Boston in June. We will take some 100 people as part of our delegation, which is made up of representatives from companies, research groups, hospitals, and so on. Obviously, everyone is there to meet their own international contacts, but we take charge of accommodation and we organise a reception to which we invite our international contacts to meet the whole delegation,

which we have seen often leads to new joint projects. We also help people to move around through the job pool on our website. This is what we do: step by step, bringing all the elements together. What is Biocats role within the Bioregi Our mission is to stimulate and promote the Bioregi de Catalunya. The concept of the bioregion is linked to the birth of Biocat. We map the whole territory and, with this knowledge, we drive forward projects and international re-

lationships of all those implicated in the Bioregi. What is the relationship between the Bioregi de Catalunya with other bioregions and state and international players? One of our main spheres of influence is cooperation with other entities like ours because that way we can increase opportunities for our affiliates. We have very strong links with Europe and the wider world. In Europe, we are founder members and part of the board of the European Council of Bioregions, through which we promote


European projects and exchange knowledge and good working practices. On the global scale, we have strong agreements with different clusters in the US, in Baltimore and Boston, for example, which can help our businesses to get a foothold there, and we also train entrepreneurs. Has the Bioregi helped to produce successful research? It is difficult to evaluate the extent of your actions. I want to believe so, obviously, because we have been able many times to place key people in key projects, or to bring two elements, for example a researcher and a clinic, together and, above all, I think that we have successfully created a perception among pure researchers that their knowledge can have a value in the market. We have seen how many pure and clinical researchers have gone on to start commercial projects based on the knowledge acquired from attending one of our sessions or from talking to us and seeing that there is a whole world beyond that of research. How has the economic crisis affected the biotechnology, biomedicine and medical science sectors? As with any other, in both direct and indirect ways. Small companies depend on access to venture capital. The concept of risk taking is not very fashionable these days. We know that cuts in the health sector are focusing a lot on pharmaceutical costs, something that has caused pharmaceutical spending to plummet, while fewer biotech companies are contracted. This means there are at least two elements affected. In the same way, medical technology firms have been affected by the delay in payments from autonomous communities. There is a series of elements

'Having centralising knowledge is what makes you efficient' 'We have many great pure researchers working in Catalonia' 'In nano medicine, Barcelona is the second city in the world' 'Our mission is to stimulate and promote the Bioregi de Catalunya' 'The brain drain is not a bad thing if we make sure they come back'

that make this a difficult time. Now, we are also talking of a sector that has a very longterm cycle of development and, therefore, goes beyond isolated periods of crisis. No one knows when the crisis will end, but because of the single fact that the bioscience sector is international, there are more opportunities than in other sectors. The development of our companies depends not only on them selling to local hospitals but also on whatever agreements they can come to with foreign firms, and this is where we have to focus our efforts. Would you say that the public and private sectors of the biosciences cooperate well? I think there has been a significant leap forward in the past decade because of the cultural change in pure researchers, who have the same need as companies to find innovation further afield, because today it is much more difficult to get projects off the ground. Knowledge is now global and that means looking for it wherever you can find it. What is true is that we still have a lot of work to do to reach the same level as some other countries. The work that we are trying to address involves the regulatory sphere to help, for example, a researcher start a company without much of the red tape, which is the case today - or incentives, that make it important for a researchers CV to include patents or create companies as well as publishing. It has been estimated that by 2015 more than half of all new medicines will be of biotech origin. Yes. Biotechnology allows you to produce products or services, such as new medicines, for example, from living organisms, such as bacteria or yeasts. This allows you to synthesise antibodies or pharma-

ceuticals that can be targeted at the origin of the illness. In other words, rather than treat something systematically, biotechnology allows you to address the genetic or molecular basis that is failing and causing the illness. It is a very personalised concept of medicine and this is the direction that medicine is going today, completely changing the treatment model. We can now target much more efficient treatments at much smaller groups of patients. Nanomedicine is also in the ascendancy. What does it bring to the table? It continues to emerge as technology advances and, as we learn more, it opens new doors for us, such as that which makes it possible to personalise medicine by better identifying the target and making medicines that will reach the target. In other words, vehicles can be designed on a nano-scale that ensure the medicine only goes to the cells that need it and not the others, thereby reducing side effects. Or, with the developments in the area of imagery, you can swallow a pill that contains a camera that will record images of a particular part of the body. Even more things can be done, such as measuring vital signs via certain chips installed under the skin, or cultivating certain cells on something called a functional surface so that the cells take on a series of new characteristics. We are moving towards microtechnology, nanotechnology or photonics, which are all tools concerned not only with what you take but how it gets to the affected area. Biocat supports Catalonias bid to lead the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC) in health and life sciences of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology

(EIT). What initiatives are being carried out to ensure that this happens? KIC is an initiative linked to EIT and we believe that we are in a good position to ensure that Catalonia has an active role in the spheres related to our business. Above all, we are working on training, designing programmes for entrepreneurs, and at the same time we are working with the government and different institutional actors to develop the candidacy process, which has not long begun. Has the fact that Biocat has signed cooperation agreements with international research groups meant that the research being carried out in Catalonia is receiving global recognition? Rather than talking about global recognition, we should refer to making an impact in specific areas. A concrete example is the cooperation we have embarked on with the John Hopkins University in Maryland, in the US, where we recently sent a representative to spend the week working on setting up agreements and informing potential investors about Catalan companies and their projects, and also to put our investors in touch with US projects. Our contacts have, for example, helped some companies to more easily establish themselves in the US. We put them in touch with scientific parks over there, so that they are not alone when they arrive and receive help with the legal aspects and how business is done in the States. What role has the Instituci Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avanats (ICREA) played in improving the level of research in Catalonia? A key role. ICREA has made a great difference. What you cannot try to do is set up a group of researchers as if they ageous in opting to voluntarily create a whole network Vendrell says that Catalonia of research centres, especially is particularly able in the field as jurisdiction for research lies of cancer research, nanowith the state and has not medicine and cell therapy. been devolved. However, now She refers to the pharmais the time to prioritise, to ceutical industry as being in adopt what works, to centra"pole position in Spain", as lise, to make groups and create clinical research and applia critical mass. We cannot afcations in hospitals are "light ford centres of a size that do years" ahead of the rest of not make us competitive anythe country. Vendrell praises where and we cannot conthe Catalan governments tinue to support centres that support for research, someare not working well. So, as thing which, together with with many things, it is time to programmes such as ICREA analyse where we are and deto attract researchers from cide how to prioritise, even merging groups and projects abroad, make Catalonia that by themselves do not make the grade. That way, we can have centres that are strong and internationally competitive. And what about the Llei de la Cincia? It is a step forward, but there is still much important work to do. There is no doubt that it was the only possible legislation given who was sitting around the negotiation table. We at Biocat took an active part by setting up a working group and Montserrat Vendrell in her office in Biocats headquarters. / QUIM PUIG putting forward amendments that we believe were key in helping to they come back. The brain more competitive in Europe protect Catalonias research drain has to be encouraged as as well as providing promosystem. Things have admuch as possible, because tion on a global scale. vanced, but there is still a long today knowledge is global and Nevertheless, she says that way to go. we have to go all over the there is room for improveWhat does the future world to see exactly what is ment in making more out of hold for Biocat and Catalohappening abroad. At the the knowledge that research nias Bioregi? same time, we have to build a generates and in better Opting for a model of system in Catalonia that itself training for professionals to growth in emerging knowledge is attractive enough to get our reinvent themselves so that sectors, such as our own. In people back or to attract they can better adapt to the todays environment, the chalpeople from other countries. changing environment. As lenge lies in finding funding and We have to ensure that the for Barcelona, Vendrell says the professionals needed to flow of people is beneficial. that "it has many assets" that move forward. We also need to What do you think of can turn it into a leader in ensure that our companies, Catalonias science policy? the south of Europe, as well which have grown greatly in reThere have been a number as attracting international cent years, can not only consoliof different science policies on congresses in the sector, date their progress but also the Catalan and the state such as BIO-Europe Spring achieve sustained growth. level. Catalonia has been courset for 2013. were civil servants, which is what happened before. ICREA is a flexible and useful tool that allows you to take on the researchers you need without them also having to teach courses. This has allowed us to provide all of Catalonias research centres with key researchers on specific contracts and according to their value for the system to work well. What measures should be taken to avoid a brain drain? The so-called brain drain is not a bad thing. On the contrary, going abroad is a very good thing. What we have to do is make sure that



JOAN ABRIL ESPAOL Catalan Philologist

A question about independence

ho has never asked a leading question? Obviously, it depends on how you look at it. If we are asked: "Are you prepared to break the speed limit?", the cautious answer might be that we wouldnt. However, our answer will not be so clear if we are asked on paper, and anonymously. The same happens with the debate on secession that is taking place in the UK. If there is only one question on the paper, David Camerons government could consider up to four different options: "Do you wish Scotland to keep on being part of the United Kingdom?" "Do you wish Scotland to abandon the United Kingdom and become an independent country?" "Do you wish Scotland to leave the United Kingdom and becomes a separate nation?" or "Do you think Scotlands parliament should have wider powers that could lead to independence? The first question is asked from the point of view of continuity of the UK. In order to get a positive answer for independence, the answer should be 'No' in the first place, and then 'Yes', as the question

creates confusion in the publics mind. The second question, explained as an abandonment, is also a tendentious, toxic question, as the verb 'abandon' plays with our personal feelings. No-one likes being abandoned or abandoning anything: home, partner, child, dog or parent. Abandonment implies neglect of responsibility and affects the most sensitive part of undecided voters. The third question goes even further in not only talking about abandonment but about separation, too. Separation from a land is not so different from separation from a person and separations are always painful, even if the couple can no longer live together. Furthermore, the concept of 'separate nation' rather than 'independent nation' communicates a derogatory idea about the fact of becoming a state, focusing on the suggestion of isolation that the word separation implies. The last question is the most elaborate one, as it looks for a 'yes' or 'no' to the possibility of widening Scotlands powers and eventually getting independence. Nevertheless, it doesnt make a direct reference to whether they want to be independent or not.

US professor Robert Cialdiani believes that "Do you agree or disagree?" would be the most balanced option, instead of only asking "Do you agree?" Anyway, the apparent balance gets lost when only one answer needs to be given. We answer 'yes' to which fact? Agreeing or Disagreeing? The answer could be 'Yes, I agree' or 'No, I disagree'. Despite the clarifications, confusion among the public still exists (and stands at around 9%). I would make the question crystal clear by expressing it in a plainer way: "Do you want that...?", where 'wanting' means having a will towards having something and, as we all know, where there is a will, there is a way. Theres no need to mention that Catalonia feels it is a mirror of this situation, now even more so that the PP is in power and any sort of fiscal pact seems far away. Our country is progressing in hope towards independent horizons. Catalonia is a sovereign country that wishes for independence, with Spain as a brother, not as an enemy. Adapted by Sandra Canals, from the original Catalan Una pregunta per la independncia by Joan Abril Espaol.


In Derbyshire

henever I visit my eldest son in Derbyshire I always look forward to the train ride from St. Pancras to Matlock. To see the English countryside flash by while enjoying a cup of tea and a bun, and even more the enjoyment of seeing the backs of the houses and flats, and imagine what it might be like to live in them. This time, passing factories and flour-mills, terraces and towers, housing estates and vil-

lage halls, I found myself observing the suburban window-sills. I had a moment of epiphany. Each window-sill, seen only for a moment, yielded the interest or love of the occupant. In many, there were flowers in bright jugs, in some, candles or teddy bears, a Mexican hat, a crucifix, fruit, sprays of leaves, books, Indian gods, horse-shoes, wooden carvings... suddenly I felt a rush of

love for humankind, each in his little world, but One as a species. And as the rivers and fields passed by, this feeling of shared warmth and intimacy spread to the ducks dabbling and the swans gliding on the river; the gentle solidity of the cows, and the light-hearted gambolling of the lambs. There was a surge of love for all, paradoxically inside and outside of the passing scene.


"The worst of the eurozone crisis is over" Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank
They say that the economy is all about confidence. Believe me, Mr. Draghi, we hope and pray you are right.



A Pilot Project

t was late morning in the Bar Olmpic and the tables were being laid for lunch. Derek was on his mobile, looking very animated. In fact, as somebody said later, he hadnt looked so animated since the time hed got back from judging the annual Camping La Plana Miss Wet Tshirt competition and taken it upon himself to explain to the Bar Olmpic regulars, at length, what it was about Monica, 16, from Chelmsford that had won her the title. He finished talking to whoever it was he was talking to and put his mobile back in his pocket. "Sorry chaps, cant hang about," he announced, emptying his glass and rising from his seat. He rubbed his hands together, "Somethings cropped up. Time and tide and all that, you know." "Tough tittie," said Stan. "Its my round." Derek sat back down again. "Well, itll have to be a quick one," he said. He ran his fingers through his hair. "Dont need a haircut particularly, do I? Or a shave?" Stan muttered something under his breath, levered himself out of his seat and headed for the bar. Brian, who had a hangover and hadnt said anything all morning, came to life suddenly. "Come on then, spill the beans. Whats it all about?" "Its a bit hush hush, actually" said Derek, looking very furtive, even for him. The gleam in his eye escaped none of those present "Youre on to something arent you, you old bastard? Come on, out with it," said Sid. "Not a word, right?" said Derek, looking at each of them in turn. "I got this in the strictest confidence. Peoples heads are on the block here." His companions nodded dutifully. "Well, Ive just heard from an ex-girlfriend of mine Raquels the

name, beautiful gal with lovely well, never mind she works at Ryanairs Head Office, Raquel does, and shes tipped me off theyre recruiting. Theyre holding firstround interviews in Girona this evening." He looked around the table with something close to a look of triumph on his face, as though his parting with this information would gain him bragging rights for the next ten years in the Bar Olmpic. But his announcement failed to create the stir he was apparently hoping for. Brian laughed scornfully. "Well, that really takes the biscuit, that does. Ryanair recruiting, eh? I can just see you weaving up and down the aisle at 30,000 feet in your creased shirt and tight-fitting trousers, serving lager and sandwiches. Or trying to get people to stay in line at the departure gate, and then telling them their luggage is overweight. What makes you think any of us would be interested in working for Ryanair?" "For your information," said Derek coldly, "its pilots theyre after, not cabin staff or ground crew." "Pilots? But " Brian seemed stuck for something to say. ". but youre not a ruddy pilot."

"Oh, that doesnt matter," said Derek, more confidently. "All you need is a clean driving licence. Theyre quite specific about that. The thing is, see, they dont actually expect you to fly the plane." "No?" "No. Its the look of the thing, see? They make sure youre scrubbed and combed, give you a clean white shirt and sit you next to the real pilot. Your job is to put on a show for the passengers, reassure them like, and maybe take the controls once in a while if the real pilot falls asleep, or needs to take a leak." "Take the controls if the real pilot needs a leak?" said Reg incredulously. "Its okay, they give you a couple of days training," said Derek. "Course, the pays not wonderful 60 euros an hour. But it beats the shit out of English teaching, right? Theres just one problem." "Whats that then?" "Youve got to look the part, havent you? No point in even thinking about going in for it if you dont look the part." There was a moments silence, quickly followed by the sound of half a dozen chairs being hurriedly pushed back and table legs scraping against the tiled floor. The rest of the Bar Olmpics customers watched with interest as six men tried to shoulder each other aside in their rush for the door, cursing each other as they did so. "Where are those guys rushing off to?" asked Stan, back from the bar with a tray of drinks. "Not like any of them to leg it when someone else is buying." "At a guess - to the hairdressers before they close," said Derek, who had remained seated throughout. He reached for his beer. "Cheers, Stan."

"Either we get a new fiscal agreement, or it will be the end of self government in Catalonia" Andreu Mas
Colell, Catalan minister of Economy and Knowledge It seems highly unlikely Catalonia can hope for anything more being returned from a Spanish government with such a large majority in Parliament, but there is another option rather than the end of self government, Mr. Mas Colell. You should ask Mr. Alex Salmond about it.



The triumph of colour


his year is Caixafrums 10th anniversary and the Barcelona venue is celebrating it in the best possible way with an outstanding show dedicated to Delacroix and another one devoted to Goya. Delacroix (1798-1863) offers the unique opportunity to see 130 works of the great French Romantic painter, in arguably the most complete exhibition devoted to him in the last 50 years, following the exhibition organised in Paris in 1963 on the occasion of the anniversary of his centenary. Previously hosted by Caixaforum Madrid, where it attracted 300,000 visitors in three months, the show will stay in Barcelona until May 20. One of the highlights of the exhibition is a section featuring all the great paintings that the French master produced on his return from a journey to North Africa in 1832. The curator, Sbastien Allard, head curator at the painting department of the Louvre Museum, says that Delacroix felt great admiration for Goya: "He discovered his paintings on a journey to Morocco, and he made various stops in Algeciras, Cdiz and Seville, which influenced his etchings and drawings", he points out. The centrepiece of this section

Barcelonas Caixafrum explores the art of Delacroix, the outstanding Romantic French painter
The result of years ofwork
This outstanding show has been made possible thanks to the collaboration between La Caixa Welfare projects and the Louvre Museum. In fact, negociations started in 2004, and it wasnt until 2009 that a cooperation agreement was signed. The show offers the opportunity to see works on loan from the Galeria Uffizi in Florence, Londons National Gallery and British Museum, New Yorks Metropolitan Museum, and the Muse dOrsay in Paris, among others.

is the oil painting, Women of Algiers in their apartment (1834), loaned from the Louvre Museum for this exhibition. The last time it was shown outside the Louvre was 50 years ago, and most likely after Barcelona it will not travel anywhere in any hurry again. The work, accompanied by other orientalist paintings inspired by his journey, allows us to see the painters most important artistic discoveries, which later will become the origin for modern painting: an innovative approach to the treatment of colour and a rejection of the theme.

It also allows us to see the thorough study of the different types of cloth worn by the women in the painting and the importance of the combination of colours. The journey to Morocco was crucial, as from 1832, Delacroixs inspiration was further renewed by his selection of subject matter and treatment of colour, which became the main protagonist of his painting. "When I paint a picture, I am not writing a thought," he claimed, questioning the need for a theme in painting. According to the artist, what created emotion on a canvas were its artistic values ma-


terial, light, colour, rather than the scenes depicted on it. Another work on display that has become a point of reference of our culture, is Greece Dying on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1826), which depicts the heroic resistance of the people of that city where Lord Byron, who he truly admired, died in 1824. At the end of the 1830s, Delacroix returned to classicism and painted large oils devoted to mythological and religious themes. The exhibition offers various versions of Medea and St. Sebastian, as well as paintings where the figure of Christ occupies a

Self-portrait with blue jacket (1837), Women of Algiers in their apartment (1834) and a visitor contemplating the sketch The Lion Hunt (1855)/ QUIM PUIG

central place, and the three self portraits of Delacroix. Another highlight is a sketch of The Lion Hunt (1855), in which the powerful treatment of colour transmits the great tension and violence between the man and the beast. Delacroix created it eight years before his death, influenced by Rubens. The finished work was the central attraction at the retrospective organised at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, but it was burnt years later during a fire. Delacroix painted three selfportraits during his lifetime, all of them on show here.


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The legacy of the 'worlds best' chef

A new exhibition at Barcelonas Palau Robert unveils the singular universe of Ferran Adri, the world renowned Catalan chef who revolutionised modern cuisine

l Bulli was declared the worlds best restaurant for a number of years and it is now a synonym for creativity, talent, imagination and innovation in cuisine. Six months after El Bulli closed to reinvent itself as El Bulli Foundation, the Palau Robert has opened the exhibition, Ferran Adri. Risc, llibertat i creativitat (Ferran Adri. Risk, Freedom and Creativity). The exhibition is a journey through the heritage of Ferran Adri, arguably one of the most influential chefs of the 20th century, and shows his contribution to contemporary haute cuisine, his capacity of innovation and creativity that led El Bulli to the height of excellence and to the peak of quality and fame. "Actually, the Bulli would have opened around this time," said Adri, adding: "Instead, we inaugurated this show, a coincidence," he joked.

Adri posing in front of a reproduction of some of his most famous dishes ./ MARTA PREZ/ EFE

The exhibition about Adris creative cuisine is indispensable to understand the transformation of Catalan gastronomy, revolutionised by the man who transformed a restaurant from Cala Montjoi in Roses into

"the most imaginative generator of haute cuisine on the entire planet" and home to molecular gastronomy. The exhibition is divided into various sections, including Acknowledgements; elBulli foundation; Origins; Evolutionary

Map; the Search for a Style: the Time of Major Change; elBullivirus and the Spirit of elBulli, amongst others. Each section features snippets of newspapers, books and magazines, as well as audiovisuals, documents and photographs.

Curated by Sebasti Serrano, the exhibition runs until February next year, when it is expected to travel to New York and London. Complementary activities include a set of lectures at Esade, guided tours and presentations of DOP products.

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All about food: Forquilla gironina

ooking for a good restaurant in the Girona area? Then you will certainly be interested new website dedicated to local gastronomy., created by Agns and Lloren Cabezas, is first of all a free search engine offering information on over 500 local restaurants. However, the project also includes news and audiovisual material. The first video features posted present the Cuineres de Sils cooking vedella amb bolets, pastry chef Jordi Roca making fruit candy or Salvador Sunyer cooking a recipe of fideus amb escamarlans. The website, which was presented by the writer Miquel Berga, also aims to raise consumer awareness of local fresh fruit and vegetables, the so-called productes km 0. / CATALONIA TODAY

Miquel Berga at the presentation of the project. / I. BOSCH


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Soul incorporated
The Boston singer Eli 'Paperboy' Reed has come together with the Girona band The Pepper Pots to produce an EP that includes four gems of the genre
caught by Jimmy Lewis. The chemistry was perfect despite the language, we understood each other", adds trumpet player, Roger Montsant. Now, only six months since that encounter, Paperboy and The Pepper Pots have released, Time and Place, an album recorded at the Black Pepper Studio in Girona. The album includes the Jimmy Lewis song, as well as other soul gems, such as Lee Moses Time and Place, and scar Dalmaus Dont. Contributions have been 5050. "Eli brought some really good ideas and we also redirected him to our own style. We hope to get together on stage again some time soon".


Eli Paperboy Reed, with sunglasses, alongside the 10 members of The Pepper Pots. "It was a nique opportunity", they said. / MARCEL ASS

t seems to have been just a question of time that Eli Paperboy Reed, the 28-year old Boston soul singer, should coincide with the Girona band

The Pepper Pots, whose girl group concept has been incredibly successful in the soul community all over Europe. "We both have the same oldschool ideas", admits singer

Adriana Prunell. "At last years Primavera Sound, Eli Paperboy Reed came to a Pepper Pots concert and together we performed, There aint no man that cant be




We were so fortunate
An English woman nursing in Southern Catalonia in the Civil War

his biography of a British nurse who spent 18 months of the Spanish Civil War in Catalonia is full of rich drama nursing the terribly wounded in infernal conditions (their fingernails dark with clotted blood), a tragic love affair, a noble and flawed heroine and a deeply moving climax. Angela Jackson tells Patiences story with both sympathy and historical rigour. Her style is fluid; she does not shrink from controversies; and she succeeds in both portraying Patience in her several contradictions and writing about her times. Patience was an upper middle-class girl from a Conservative family. Nursing showed her harsh poverty and, on the Civil War breaking out, she responded to the call for volunteers against fascism. From a religious background, then radicalised by the left-wing London priest Father Roberts, Patience in Spain evolved rapidly towards the Communist Party. Her subsequent life was not easy, but always sweetened by her continuing political commitment. Her experience in the Civil War marked her for life, as it did nearly all the International Brigaders. "We were so fortunate to be able to be with people who were committed to such a just cause," she said 60 years later. Biographies of people who are not well-known figures are especially hard to write, as Jackson says, because you cannot adorn the story with the public record. Jackson was lucky to have interviewed Patience several times in the early 1990s for her definitive

For us it was heaven

For us it was Heaven The Passion, Grief and Fortitude of Patience Darton, Angela Jackson. Sussex Academic Press. (also in Spanish: Para nosotros era el cielo, Ediciones San Juan de Dios). Angela Jackson has lived in Mar, in the Priorat, since 2001. She is President of No jubilem la memria, an association to recover memory of the war years in her area. Several of her books have been published in Catalan and Spanish. They include: British Women and the Spanish Civil War (2002), Warren & Pell (revised edition, 2009), also in Spanish from Universitat de Valncia). Beyond the Battlefield (2005), Warren & Pell (also in Catalan, from Cossetnia). Warm Earth (2007), Pegasus, a moving novel about three women Civil War volunteers. At the Margins of Mayhem (2008), Warren & Pell, (also in Catalan from Cossetnia).

British Women and the Spanish Civil War and to have found the letters between Patience and her mentor, Father Roberts, and the other Robert, her German lover who was killed in battle in July 1938. Roberts death brought Patience such pain that she never talked of him till the very end of her life. The love affair with idyllic days in the countryside snatched from the blood and danger of their daily lives is beautifully evoked by Dr. Jackson, who avoids sentimentality but brings feelings into sharp focus. The author has written books of local history about the Civil War in the area where she lives. These are not stories of battle: Beyond the Battlefield describes the work of nurses and doctors in the cave hospital at La Bisbal de Falset. The hospital, improvised in a cave that sheltered it from bombs, treated the wounded from the Battle of the Ebre. As part of reconstructing the memory of those events, Jackson wants to recover the role of women behind the front lines. She is careful to give the work of the nurses its due value, yet not set them on a pedestal as 'angels of mercy'. Angela Jackson is a fine, fluent writer who structures her books particularly well. There are many memoirs by men of the International Brigades. The biography of Patience tells a slightly different story: the same commitment to fighting fascism, the same passion, but more emphasis on life behind the front, more contact with local people and awareness of the role of women.





A view of the old quarter of Valencia / ARCHIVE

Storm and calm

A 19th century American journalist describes his firsthand experience of the upheaval and violence that took place on the streets of Valencia in 1869

o reach the hotel we must brave this barricade. We cannot stay in the street, so we make three leaps; and, as Stanley turns the corner of the little avenue which leads behind the hotels, three bullets fly past, and strike in the Valencia Bank windows. We are hurried into a back door, amid a crowd of soldiery, and a little French landlord comes forward to congratulate us on our escape; for the insurgents had sworn to shoot anyone who crossed that street. [] This incident illustrates well the manner of the siege, and the struggle which has been in progress seven days when we arrive; not a siege with artillery at long distance, nor one where lines are distinctly drawn, but one where every street and house are beleaguered. This avenue, for instance, is narrow,

long, and straight. At its end is a barricade, and in the houses on each side are at least six hundred soldiers. This is repeated two or three streets further on; but away up in the citys center, in the great market-place, and the twenty-eight streets leading from it, the Republicans hold everything. Long-range shooting is all that they have to fear. Every private house is a fortress, insurgent or govern mental. The landlord takes us over the hotel, shows us furniture riddled with bullets, and his mattresses all in use, to protect the soldiers who occupy his balconies. The side windows look on the barricade, and near them soldiers are crouching expectant. This is in the first story. In the next still more destruction: mirrors smashed, curtains in shreds, and tables in fragments. We are

given a room on the third floor, fronting on the street we have just crossed. We open our window cautiously, and look across the way. The large stone building is the Valencian Credit Institution. Soldiers are firing from the balconies of this bank, and dodging the bullets from the barricade. In the square below, through which we have just come, a regiment is quietly arriving. The Valencian Republicans, including the mountaineers, who have come down from their homes to protest against the restoration of monarchy, are from twelve to fifteen thousand strong, commanded by a Republican deputy lately withdrawn from the Cortes. In and around the town are ten thousand irregular troops, General Alamenos commanding. []

The Republicans here, as in Saragossa, are mostly pajanos (sic), or peasants. They are all of one type, with swarthy faces, olive complexions, strong limbs, and are clad in a curious costume, trousers reaching only to the knee, long hose, and sandals of undressed hide. A handkerchief is bound about their heads, and huge blankets of brilliant coloring are slung across their shoulders. They never wear coats, hats, or boots, and are so sun-burnt that they look like their African neighbors, or like the Apaches of our American plains. The barricades are only shoulder high, made of a double row of paving-stones, and protected at the top by a few beams and well-filled sacks of sand or grain. But there are so many, each corner being made avail-



Intrepid journalists willing to travel abroad and report on perilous events are invariably an asset to newspapers. The life and career of Edward Smith King (1848-1896) seem to prove this maxim. He left his family at age 16 and spent most of his unmarried life travelling in search of news. He first worked as a reporter for two newspapers in Springfield, Massachusetts, and then in 1870 he joined the staff of the Boston Morning Journal, for which he covered events like the Franco-Prussian War, the Paris Commune and the RussoTurkish War. Endowed with an adventurous spirit, King risked life and limb in the thick of these conflicts, chronicling them in a plain, direct style. In 1888 he returned to the United States to work for the New York Morning Journal and also to consolidate his literary career, which by then already comprised poetry, travel books and several novels. His temperament and style are discernible in this excerpt from Europe in Storm and Calm (1885), a compilation of newspaper articles describing European life. It narrates his first impressions of the insurrection that shook Valencia in October 1869, a year past the liberal revolution that sent Queen Isabella II into exile. King explains not only how he and his companion (the celebrated journalist Henry Morton Stanley) escaped from the street fighting unscathed but also graphically illustrates the hatred that the Republican insurrectionists felt towards the governmental troops. The rebels considered the pro-monarchical and anti-federalist measures recently adopted by General Prims central government a clear betrayal of the progressive objectives they had sought together. Even though the revolt was finally quelled and a year later a new kingAmadeo Iwas secured for Spain, General Prim paid dearly for his convictions: he was assassinated in Madrid.

Torre de Serranos, part of the medieval walls of Valencia / ARCHIVE

A selection by Pere Gifra Edward Smith King. From Europe in Storm and Calm. Twenty Years Experiences and Reminiscences of an American Journalist (Springfield, Massachusetts, 1885), pp. 69-71

able, that even were the sol diery to reduce one, as, for instance, this before our street, they would have to take twenty, forty, or fifty behind it be fore they could possess the town. The dull, dead roar, that breaks in now and then on the comparative silence at each end of Valencia, comes from the outside, whence General Alamenos is throwing shell into a barricade. Now and then a shot from a rebel cannon comes whizzing into the square, on which we can look, and we can see confusion among the soldiers, and sometimes a faintly palpitating mass, from which surges lifeblood, staining the canvas thrown over it. By and by a great number of troops are massed in the plaza, and we hear incessant bullet-firing from the adjacent barricade. In the square the

buglers are sounding the charge, and Prims Huntersthe scum of Madrid, yet the most daring soldiery in Spain: reckless devils in dirty uniforms, with straw sandals to their stockingless feetcome up slowly into line. Other companies fall in behind, and it is plain that we are to have a battle. All this time the soldiers do not face death at the barricade in our street. They mass together in front of the college in the plaza, and two battalions go charging towards the centre of the town. Those who come running back wounded bring stories of the barricades. Irresolute, all go on. The government volunteers, the small portion of the mountaineers who have not taken part in the insurrection, have been captured in a body, and their noses have been cut off, their ears slit, and their

bodies piled en the barricades. So the survivors come back trembling with fear, bearing their dead on litters and crossed muskets, and it is getting gradually towards dusk. As the church clocks are striking seven the senior bishop of the diocese and some of the city authorities go to General Alamenos with a flag of truce, and pray for some arrangement to stay the flow of blood. The commission is received with the greatest kindness by Alamenos; but in their passage through the streets the would-be peacemakers are saluted with kisses from many of the barricades. No arrangement is reached, and the commission goes back late in the evening, mortified and alarmed. So we must wait the morrow in our fortress, and meantime get a retrospect of the seven previous days.


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Geopolitical censorship
Twitter and Blogger agree to block tweets and blogs in countries where they are considered offensive if 'an official body' demands it, although they will still be available in the rest of the world

work is present in many "countries with different ideas about freedom of expression", and that this forces them to adapt to a range of different norms.

Deep concern
One organisation most critical of this restriction to free speech on the net is Reporters Without Borders, who did not take long to express their deep concern with the decision of Twitter to selfcensor according to a "different" concept of liberty of freedom of expression. In an open letter send to the head of the US firm, Jack Dorsey, the Paris-based NGO hints that Twitters decision might ultimately be motivated by a desire to break into the Chinese market.

It has been a year since the socalled Arab Spring began that was so closely associated with Twitter due to the extensive use made of social networks in mobilising and organising protestors, especially in Egypt. Now, however, using Twitter as a tool of rebellion may be under threat. In a corporate blog entry at the end of January, Twitter announced that they had developed a system for filtering tweets that might be considered offensive to certain cultures or populations. The advantage, they say, is that this new tool allows the withdrawal of inappropriate content in a specific country, while maintaining access in the rest of the world. In the same entry, the company gave an example of how

New rules
Tweets still must flow.
Portal de Chilling Effects. normativa de Blogger.

the system would work: in Germany and France, the law prohibits the distribution of content favourable to the Nazis. But, according to the Chilling Effects website, the organisation work-

ing with Twitter to make the deletion of messages more transparent, the majority of tweets withdrawn from the social network are related to the issue of intellectual property rights. Twitter, which will inform its users when their tweets are withdrawn, has not specified how they will determine which messages go beyond the right to selfexpression, but it has said that any blocking of tweets will be in response to a demand by "authorised" bodies in the country in question. Until now, Twitter has had to delete messages entirely from its system, if called on to do so by a particular country. This new tool, they say, provides the flexibility to respond without riding roughshod over free speech. For the company, the exponential growth in the use of Twitter has meant that the net-

Blogger joins in
Soon after Twitter made its announcement, Google also said it is going to apply a similar filter system to its blog service, Blogger. In this, however, the plan is to restrict government demands to withdraw content from blogs with URLs belonging to the country in question, such as, in India, for example. With this readjustment, when Google agrees to censor content, only the version of the blog ending in the national suffix will be affected, leaving those with the .com ending in place.



Protestors in Cairo last February. Twitter may never again become the tool of choice for revolutions like those of the Arab Spring. /ARCHIVE




Sant Pol de Mar, March 22, 2012

Photo: Teresa Marquez

My flag is not your flag


hen it comes to symbols, the argument exceeds the scope of reason and intelligence. Its very difficult to understand from an external point of view what is going on in many town councils around Catalonia. Many Catalans dont feel the Spanish flag is their own flag, so they remove it from the Ajuntament building, to leave only the Catalan Senyera and the European flag. Spanish authorities feel that this is an attack on the identity and integrity of the state, and force the local representatives to put the missing flag back. Some town councils argue that the flag was sent to the laundry and never made it back, and on several occasions the battle ends in front of a judge. In Sant Pol de Mar, as in other cities and towns, the people demonstrate against this imposition, because they identify only the Senyera as their flag, and they even use a ladder to climb and remove the Spanish flag. So the police have to come and put it back again. Its a funny situation somehow, but its another example of the rising tension between Catalonia and Spain. Divorce is getting closer by the minute.




THE ENGLISH CULTURE CLUB ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Explore Scotland with


e are delighted to announce the ECClubs first holiday offer: a three-night stay in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Backdrop to Alexander McCall Smiths The Right Attitude to Rain, this historic city has much to offer the visitor. Whether it is a visit to Edinburgh Castle to see the Scottish crown jewels or a gentle stroll browsing the shops on the Royal Mile is your cup of tea, this beautiful

city awaits. Departure will be on Thursday 24 May at 2.25 pm, travelling from Barcelona to Glasgow. On arrival, the bus will take a short tour around Glasgow before arriving at our three-star hotel in the centre of Edinburgh. Over the weekend there will be a free guided tour of the Scottish Parliament building, designed by Catalan architect Enric Miralles. Your stay at the hotel is on a

bed and breakfast basis, allowing you the freedom to try local cuisine. It is also an excellent opportunity to sample that most famous of Scottish exports, whisky. The return flight departs from Glasgow on Sunday 27 May, arriving in Barcelona at 1.50 pm. The cost of this trip per person is 445 euros, which includes return flights Barcelona-Glasgow, transfers to and from the hotel in Edinburgh and three nights

accommodation on a B&B basis in an Edinburgh hotel in a double or triple room. (single supplement 94 euros) The hand luggage maximum on the flights is 10kg. Checked in luggage costs an additional 30 euros. Be quick, because places are limited! To book, call: 972 202 227 or send an email with the subject ECClub Edinburgh to


CATALONIA TODAY AND ABACUS ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................


For your eyes only

Get free copies of new books and a discount on original version films
Fo us it was heaven
We have 10 copies of the latest book from writer Angela Jackson, reviewed by Michael Eaude in this issue, page 46, to be raffled among those ECClub members who send a message to ecclub@catalo with the subject "Heaven".

h us!
Edinburgh awaits
From Thursday May 24 to Sunday May 27 4 days / 3 nights visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh 465 euros Places are limited. Hurry up! Discover more information About Edinburgh: The Scottish Parliament: Whisky: Alexander McCall Smith and 'The Right Attitude to Rain':

Souvenir - All Angles 2 ECClub members can enter the draw for one of the 10 free copies of the book. Send a message to with "Souvenir" as the title. Original Version Cinema. Every Thursday in Cinemes de Palams. Two films every week. More info at Get a great price with your ECClub card! Cinema Truffaut - Girona Showing your card at the ticket box will get you a reduced price for all films, all sessions, Monday to Friday.


GET YOUR FREE COPY! ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

All Angles 2: Souvenir

The second collection of short stories in English and Catalan hit the shelves in time for the St Jordi celebrations and for ECClub members to have a chance to win a copy

hen a we launched our first ever short story competition at Catalonia Today back in the spring of 2009, we never thought that it would continue to bear fruit some three years later. People all over Catalonia discovered others with a passion for writing in English and, under the guiding hands of Paul Connell, Georgina Tremayne and David Gary, an anthology was produced. Persuading any publishing company to take on a group of unknown writers, and with a book in two languages English and Catalan was no easy task, but in April 2011 Arola Editors of Tarragona published All Angles 1: Big Magic. The book received good reviews and sold well both in Catalan bookshops and to students of Catalan in UK and US universities. The second part of the anthology, All Angles 2: Souvenir, has now been published in time for the St Jordi celebrations. The new collection with its preface by Antoni Bassas, TV3 correspondent in Washington, contains seven more stories, each with its Catalan translation on the opposing page. Diversity of voice, style and subject matter was the aim of the editors and

the seven new stories range from historical drama to the macabre. The Curious Contents of Don Alfonsos Underpants by Paul Connell tells of a middle-aged man losing something important and then deciding to live without it. Equally surreal is The Dealer

in Strange & Diverse Curiosities by Hunter Tremayne, a dark tale of sorcery and revenge. Llaves, by Regina WinkleBryan, is about rootlessness and mobility making us all consider how our material goods pile up around us with the passing years.

The title story Souvenir by Sophie Cameron is about love, memory and forgetting with a twist in the middle that may prompt a rethink of our preconceptions. Crisis, what crisis? by Susana Solanes, follows a troubled mother when she visits England with her teenage daughter. Parts of her teenage diary intersperse the text and reveal a truth, long hidden that will impact upon their lives. Two stories take historical events as their inspiration. The Earthquake by Belinda Parris is set against the background of the earthquake which devastated the Osona area in 1428 and looks at the dire consequences through the eyes of some of the local population. The aftermath of the Spanish Civil War forms the backdrop to Because of the Beach by Sue Crampton. A stirring story of bravery and family loyalty tells how Marta seeks to liberate her father from his imprisonment and the personal sacrifices she has to make to do so. If you are an ECClub member, then enter the draw for a free copy of the book. Send your details to with 'Souvenir' as the title.



ECCLUB READING GROUP BOOKS ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Escaping a crisis or trapped in its claws?

Seeking a new life abroad and the arrival of fabulous wealth feature this months novels

ou could not ask for a greater contrast between novels and authors than what we have in the ECClub this month. John Steinbeck is perhaps one of the most famous authors in the English language. No stranger to poverty, in The Pearl he recounts the tale of a young couple whose unexpected find of great wealth in the shape of a huge pearl brings them pain and suffering. Written in 1947 after some of his more famous work, including Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl matches their emotional punch. We are invited to consider the role of relationships and money in bringing us contentment. Our happiness for Kino and Juana turns to sadness as they are unable to save their baby son Coyotito. The corrosive effect their wealth has on those around them is like the apple in the Garden of Eden. A newer voice on the literary scene is Jhumpa Lahiri, a BengaliAmerican author, born in London in 1967, whose novel, The Namesake, is under the spotlight in the advanced groups. Ashima Ganguli has an arranged marriage that whisks her

from her Bengali home to the US. There she gives birth to a son whose name, according to tradition, should be decided by the grandmother. Her letter fails to arrive in time for the demands of the US bureaucracy and the childs pet name, Gogol, becomes his 'good' name. Lahiri writes from personal experience. Her own primary

teacher found Jhumpa an easier alternative to her real name of Nilanjana Sudeshna Lahiri and so it has stuck to this day. As young Gogol grows and becomes more American than Bengali, the book explores ideas of culture and identity. Passing years and maturity allow him some insight into understanding the dilemmas lived through by his par-

ents when they abandoned the security of family and language to seek a new life elsewhere. His failed romantic attachments even make him consider the solidity of their arranged marriage. With many people seeking to avoid the current economic crisis by seeking new lives in foreign countries, The Namesake is a novel with lessons for us all.


From winter to spring

he poet Shelley said, "If Winter comes can Spring be far behind". And whenever I visit England in March, leaving in a Catalan Winter, it is demonstrated clearly that Spring has arrived. My daffodils in Collsacabra are in bud, in Derbyshire where I am staying, they are blooming. The first thing I do when I arrive is to go for a walk. Tilly, my dog, has been left with a grandson at home, so I stride out here alone. My sons house, a game-keepers cottage, is in the Peak District, a district of tall hills and deep valleys, of isolated farms and grey drystone walling, sheltering hundreds of

sheep. The road I take is narrow, built for horse and cart rather than the modern car, and follows a high ridge. I pass Matthews llamas, and see that his description is both fond and accurate, their dark heads and long curving ears have "sweet shallow eyes and a soft velvet nose". As I walk past a wooden gate I see a rare sight - a brown Mountain Hare with long dark-tipped ears- and I remember that in winter he would be white. A grouse rises up from the bright green field with its raucous cry of "Go back, go back". The fields change to a dark pine-forest, and a brightly coloured cock-

pheasant struts proudly by. Looking to my left is a dizzying drop to the valley below, and the tiny tractors working in the fields. There are solitary trees on the hillside scattered with grey rocks, but I lift my eyes to where an Indian-file of trees are marching across the horizon. The sky is enormous, with the light changing the scene constantly. Now it is dark and angry looking so, without a rain-coat, I hurry home. Here, in the kitchen, I can safely watch through the window the blue-tits and robins perching on the bird-feeder, and enjoy toast and tea by a roaring fire.

Can you make two common five-letter words from the nine letters given, using each letter only once? You can but only if one letter features in both words in the squares on the right. Theres at least one way to do it, and you must have the right letter at the crossover but which one is it?

How many words of four letters or more can you make from this Nonagram? Each word must use the central letter, and each letter may be used only once. At least one word using all nine letters can be found.

Good: 10 Very good: 12 Excellent: 18





Average: 15mins

Good: 10 mins Can you find a word using all of the nine letters? If you can, email it to us with your name and where you live. The quickest will be printed in the clues and solutions section next month.

Excellent: 5mins

FIND THE PROVERB Can you find the well-known English saying? The words are in the correct order, just take care to avoid the red herrings!.
One A dozen of these weeks months days sadly reverse is none of apples these days

Clue Dont put things off. Start something now, or you may never do it.


Answer the questions, then re-arrange the letters corresponding to your answers to fill in the name of a famous American industrialist.
BOX 1: Catalan for coin: Moneda (H) Mona (G) Mono (T) BOX 2: Capital of Angola Kinshasa (L) Luanda (D) Nairobi (P) BOX 3: Matt Damon was born in 1965 (S) 1970 (R) 1975 (O)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

BOX 5: Beulah Speckled Face are Cows (N) Sheep (E) Dogs (W) BOX 6: A maul happens in a game of Cricket (C) Snooker (L) Rugby (N)

BOX 7: Official language in Gabon Spanish (F) English (Y) French (R) BOX 8:Kew Gardens are in New Zealand (P) Australia (J) United Kingdom (F)

BOX 9: Which of these numbers is prime? 354 (G) 359 (Y) 366 (K)

BOX 4: Sequins are used as Food (E) Currency (A) Decoration (O)


Here is a general knowledge test. Correct answers reveal what you hope your friend wont do with your secret.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
1, Smallest of four main islands of Japan. 2. Person from New Zealand or Australia. 3. Continent. 4. Head of the IMF. 5. Won Best Actor Oscar for Gladiator in 2000 in the role of Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius. 7. Youre reading it. 8. City in Alabama in the USA and the Midlands in the UK. 9. Oval objects made of chocolate normally eaten in the spring 11. Network of rivers and lakes in the East Anglia area of the UK. 12. Henry VIIIs first wife. Her divorce led to Englands break with the Catholic Church. 13. Second President of the United States of America 1791-1801.14. an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states, all but two formerly part of the British Empire. 15 Spains Economy Minister.


Choose the answer that best copies the pattern. 1. WALK is to WALKED as STEAL is to: STEALED STEELED STOLED 2. LAMP is to LIGHT as RADIATOR is to: HEAT HEATED HOT 3. HURRICANE is to WIND as WAVE is to: FOUNTAIN RIVER SEA 4. MUSIC is to LISTEN as FILM is to: SEE SPY OBSERVE 5. UP is to DOWN as ODD is to: LUMPY FLAT EVEN

Use this space to do your working out.












Can you find these words from the world of work?






















Can you spot the mistake?

Here are eight words that go together in pairs. Can you match them appropriately using each one only once.









1. .................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 2 3 Thanks to Adam Maci. Please send your photo to: 4




Here is a quiz to see whether you picked up the meaning of some of the more colloquial phrases in Matthew Trees article in this months magazine.

1. The posters offended a) Only people in Lleida b) Farmers in Lleida and Barcelona c) Some officials in Lleida and Barcelona d) Nobody at all 2. a pimp is a) A homeless person b) A thief c) A person who avoids taxes d) A person who controls prostitutes 3 ...throw a wobbly... a) To become agitated b) Attack the police c) Hide from the authorities d) Ignore everyone around 4. ... shagging the dragon... a) Making friends with the dragon b) Having sex with the dragon c) Deceiving the dragon d) Feeding the dragon 5.... the seedy side of Catalan... life a) The best parts b) The parts people do not usually see c) The trickiest part d) The unseemly part

6. Lurking fascists a) Fascists who met regularly b) Fascists who operated openly c) Fascists who existed furtively d) Fascists openly active across the country 7.A skit a) A reasoned argument b) A satirical sketch c) A short resume d) An argument against 8. ...lampooning a) Neutral appraisal b) Helping c) Praise in favour d) Satire against 9.Fall by the wayside a) Cease doing it b) Star doing it c) Do it in a different way d) Prevent others from doing it instead 10. Matthew thinks a) His copy of Cul de Sac is an heirloom b) Hes in danger and wont live much longer c) Cul de Sac is the best publication ever printed d) He will never have grandchildren
Matthew Tree


This months clue: Famous for his cars: "...any colour so long as its black." WORD POOL Answers can be found vertically and horizontally. There are no diagonal answers. Some letters may be shared. FIND THE PROVERB One of these days is none of these days FIND THE NAME GAME Marchs person was Bill Gates


QUIZ LADDER Shikoku Antipodean Antartica Christine Lagarde Russell Crowe Catalonia Today Birmingham Easter Eggs Norfolk Broads Catherine of Aragon John Adams The Commonwealth Luis de Guindos Solution: Spill the beans

THE MISTAKE Pegs CROSSED WORDS March: Theif, steal This months clues: Down: Calculation Across: You do it when youre happy NONAGRAM Send in your longest word. March: Vibration Congratulations to Jordi Roqu i Figuls in Sitges. He was first past the post with the correct answer last month. Will it be you next time?

FIND THE LINK STOLE, HEAT, SEA, WATCH, EVEN MATCHING PAIRS Tall building Low cost Short story Jagged edge COLLOQUIAL COMMENTS 1c 2d 3a 4b 5d 6c 7b 8d

bileonard@ Feel free to send in comments and suggestions: GET IN TOUCH We love to hear from you and receive contributions for The Mistake and other features in Catalonia Today 9a 10a




Playing the wage game

lot of columns begin these days with a question like: "Who hasnt been hit by the economic crisis?" Footballers, thats who, not to mention investment bankers, royalty and luxury car dealers. Ive never paid a great deal of attention to what footballers earn. I know its a lot, but stories about how that striker you worshipped as a kid is now stacking supermarket shelves always led me to presume that such a short career requiring so much sacrifice needed to be well remunerated in order to be attractive. However, the other day, in the spirit of pressing ones nose against the window of a top restaurant when you are starving, I decided to take a look at how much everyones favourite sportsmen actually earn. The first thing that struck me was that footballers are not paid according to merit. If that was the case, Leo Messi would earn more than anyone else on the planet. Yet the diminutive Argentine pulls in a measly 10.5 million euros a year, about half what Manchester Uniteds Wayne Rooney commands and three million less than Cristiano Ronaldo. Having said that, Messis total annual earnings, including sponsorship deals, special appearances, and so on, does put him a few million above Cristiano, so Im not sure where that leaves us. I was surprised that players outside of the two most successful leagues in the world England and Spain can also bring in a pretty penny. Former Bara forward Samuel Etoo, who now plays for Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia where he no doubt went to only improve his technique, as if made 23 million euros last year, while Bayern Munich star, Philipp Lahm, banked a respectable 14.5 million. Not surprisingly, godlike superstar, ohisnt-he-gorgeous, David Beckham raked in an astounding 31.5 million euros (more than half a million euros a week), though only a small part of that came from his day job playing for LA Galaxy in the United States. As its stands, the minimum salary in Spain is less than 9,000 euros a year. The average minimum-wage worker in Spain would need to work for 3,500 years on that salary to match a single year of Beckhams pay. The pay gap between the top and the bottom is so astronomical that it is like trying to get ones head around distances in space. For example, the distance between Mars and Earth varies (because their orbits are not aligned) but the average is 225 million kilometres, and that is (sometimes planets move) the nearest pla-

net to Earth. Just like Mars, these stars of the sporting firmament are out of reach for most of us, which is what makes them terrible role models for children, apart from all the sex scandals and drunken car crashes, of course. Yet, lets assume that most people are earning more than the minimum wage. The average salary in Spain is currently around 22,000 euros a year (20% lower than the EU average, by the way). Many people in this bracket are not just stacking boxes in a warehouse or cleaning toilets. Many people in this bracket are, in fact, well-educated, highly-skilled workers, probably like you and me. Nevertheless, these people would still have to work for

The average minimumwage worker in Spain would need to work for 3,500 years on that salary to match a single year of Beckhams pay

1,400 years to earn the same as Beckham. The other day, I had dinner with two friends. All of us have been in the workforce for at least 15 years, during which time we have all gained a great deal of experience while simultaneously extending our skills (mostly at our own expense). Jointly between us, we had five languages, six higher education qualifications, 53 years of work experience and good knowledge of translation, editing, management, IT, human resources, mechanics and medical care. You would imagine that such a large reservoir of skills and experience would command a decent wage in the market. Well, between us, starting today, we would have to jointly work for almost 500 years to earn what a footballer with a pretty face gets every 12 months for kicking a ball around a field. As it says at the top of the page, I am lost for words.




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