22 November 2014

More famous than the Monyos!


I have just written a new post about La Monyos, a mysterious and charming woman who lived in Barcelona in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But you need to jump over to My New Blog to read it!  It just takes a few seconds.

See you soon! Kate

PS if you have already subscribed to my WP blog sorry for disturbing you yet again. I will post once again here  because I don't want to leave anyone behind, and after that this Blogger site will go quiet and eventually slowly melt away. All my old posts are now available on the new site.

14 November 2014

An ending and a new beginning

Hello dear readers

Looking for The Catalan Way?    We have moved over here

I want to invite you all to come over to the new site and to subscribe there by email to the new Catalan Way.  I'll be happy to see you! 

Why move?
For five years I have written The Catalan Way on Blogger.   It has been a wonderful experience writing this blog and I am very grateful to Blogger for being so easy to use and for hosting me all this time.  
But there is much more I want to do so I decided to move to Wordpress and create a fresh new look.

Please click HERE to be taken directly to The Catalan Way at Wordpress.

Receive all new posts by email
When you arrive there, if you write your email in the subscription box, all new posts will arrive automatically in your inbox. I'll be thrilled if you do!
(you'll be asked to confirm your email  but with one click, it's done)

Most importantly thank you to all of you who have read this blog and followed me and given me your support.  This has been my first public writing experience and I have continued with it because you were reading and encouraging me.

Also thank you Niall Doherty of Disrupting the Rabblement who did the actual changeover - safely delivering all my old posts to the new address and  helping me create the new look.  He is a pleasure to work with and the process, which had scared me, was easy and fun.

If you want a new blog or web site or to tweak an old one, contact him on this address - I can't recommend him enough!

To whet your appetite for more Catalan news, here's the Costa Brava!

See you over at The Catalan Way!

8 November 2014

The Satisfaction of Banging Loudly on a Saucepan

Last night I went up to Barcelona in search of a cassolada.

What is a Cassolada?  I didn't know myself until a few days ago.

It is a popular way for people to protest which involves getting out your pots and pans and banging them with spoons or other implements while standing on your balcony. It makes an impressive noise and there is something very satisfying to me about the ordinariness of the tools, and the fact that anyone and everyone can join in without even leaving home.  There were cassoladas in Argentina against the dictatorship and in Spain against the Iraq war.

Look at this - videos like these made me feel I had to go and see what it was like in real life

I took the train to Passeig de Gracia. These protests had been spreading around towns and cities of Catalunya in response to the Constitutional Courts attempts to stop the democratic process of voting on independence for Catalunya.  Twitter and Facebook helped more and more people get involved and from Twitter I knew that Gracia would be a good place to go and soak in the atmosphere.

When I got off the train at Fontana there was the usual buzz of a Friday night in Barcelona. But there was something else as well - many people were wearing the yellow and red colours that show support for Catalunya.  It was a few minutes to ten and I had read that the cassolada normally started with  'Britannic ' punctuality
Yes, on the stroke of ten it started, first just a rattle of metal and wood and then it built up and got louder and louder.  The narrow streets and the stone walls amplified the sound and I could feel it in my body although it wasn't deafening or unpleasant.   I walked down past the Plaça Diamant and on to Verdi.  There were lots of people out for the evening, some  going to the cinema, others just walking and chatting with friends. The balconies were swathed in Catalan flags,  and in the dim light your could just see people standing up there, drumming slowly on saucepans
It was stirring, exciting, strange and familiar and moving.

I walked down to Diagonal, caught the metro to Passeig de Gracia and just arrived in time to catch the train back to a very quiet and sedate Granollers.

Tonight we did our own cassolada here on our own balcony.
It felt like the loneliest casolada in the world with just the two of us but still incredibly satisfying - I recommend it - go and grab a pan and a wooden spoon and get bashing!
There is always something that needs protesting about!

7 November 2014

Excalibur the dog - we will remember him

My dog Bonnie, as many of you know, died in February this year after being diagnosed with a lymphoma in her abdomen. It is still something that hurts me a lot and some days I am knocked backwards by a memory which both makes me smile and cry. I miss her and I feel a large collie sized hole in my heart.

She died peacefully with both me and Pep by her side, in the peaceful gardens of Sant Nicolau. A kindly woman vet administered the injections and with a little sigh Bonnie left this earth.

So, I can't imagine how the nurse Teresa Romero and her husband Javier Limon will cope with the pain of losing their dog Excalibur who was taken from their home by men in Ebola protection suits and killed by who knows who, in some place who knows where.
I have been following this story ever since we heard that Teresa, a nurse in Madrid had contracted Ebola after helping care for two Spanish priests who had been working in West Africa. They both later died from the disease. Teresa had volunteered for this work and did it with all possible professionalism and with more, she did it with love. She had received the training available and followed procedures but somehow the virus got through the protective layers of her suit and she became ill.

She had been back home and living a normal life before she got sick and so her husband and several other people who had been in contact with her were put into isolation only hours after she herself was taken into hospital.

This couple had no children but they had a much loved dog called Excalibur. Before leaving the flat Javier left food and water for him, not knowing how long he would be away. There were others who could come and take care of Excalibur if necessary and as it all happened in a moment of great crisis and confusion, he did the best he could, leaving the door to the balcony open so Excalibur could go outside.

But Ebola is a serious disease and of course access to the flat was forbidden. Excalibur spent a couple of days there alone while in the outside world there began an argument about what would happen to him. Teresa was fighting for her life and knew nothing of what was going on. Javier was trapped inside an isolated room in the hospital but was able to say he wanted his dog to be cared for in quarantine to see if he was carrying the virus or was not infected at all. The authorities made it clear they intended to go in and get the dog and put it to sleep, euthanise it, kill it.... use whatever description you want.... later Teresa called it an execution.  The health officials had no intention of waiting nor of consulting other experts in the field. The dog, in their opinion, was not important enough to save, nor to monitor under care and they would get rid of it.

A campaign grew on Facebook and other social media and I was able to follow the story on the page, Salvemos a Excalibur. People went to protest on the street outside the apartment. The police went in and broke up the crowds. One day a van arrived, men dressed head to toe in protective suits entered the flat, took Excalibur away and that was that.

I read lots of newspapers at the time, both in English and Spanish. Of course there were many who thought it ridiculous that such a fuss was made about a dog when there are thousands of humans dying from Ebola. People sneered at protestors and accused them of the usual 'crime' of caring more about animals than people.

But I felt strongly this was about more than a dog - and I care very much about the actual dog although of course I don't know Excalibur and my grief for him was nothing like the grief for my own Bonnie. The people involved directly were Teresa and Javier. Their feelings were ignored by the authorities, their rights were not respected. At the same time there were reports in the newspapers that Teresa had somehow caused her own infection by touching her face with her hand when removing the protective suit.  This seemed an incredibly crass attempt to absolve the health officials from responsibility - perhaps for not providing good enough equipment, or doing enough staff training, or failing to have enough staff so someone would help Teresa remove her suit. Surely there would be an inquiry which would take time to analyse what had happened. How could anyone just make public statements in the days after Teresa became ill, naming her as the one who had made a mistake?  When she wasn't able to respond as she was in isolation and was close to dying.

Excalibur showed up a system where panic and cover-up seemed to be the response to a problem rather than honesty and respect and integrity. 

In the days that followed there was a similar case in the United States which only made the Spanish authorities seem more inept, dishonest and stupid. The American nurse also had a dog but the US authorities took it into quarantine, released photos so we all knew the quarantine was comfortable and there were toys and home comforts. They were also testing the blood and furthering the scientific knowledge of Ebola which some say can be carried by dogs but there is still a lot to learn.  When the nurse (who also thankfully survived) and her dog were reunited there were videos of the happy meeting between them.

I cannot imagine how painful it must be to Teresa Romero and Javier Limon to see these films, to go over and over in their minds the last days of Excalibur and to know that he died without good reason and without the presence of those who loved him. At the time he died no-one knew if he carried the virus so of course he was not patted or stroked or given human love. How can they bear this pain on top of everything else? My heart aches for them.

Yesterday Teresa Romero came out of hospital at last and has gone to Galicia to recover at the family home. She attended a very short press conference and thanked all the staff who had cared for her - the nurses, the cleaning staff, the auxiliaries and the doctors. She was too emotional to speak about Excalibur but her husband read out her statement. She said that her dog was like a child to her and her husband and that killing him was not necessary.

Interestingly many of the news media ignored this part of her statement - all the films showed her smiling and saying 'thank you' but I had to search for the statements given by her husband. 

"The worse part of all of this is that our dog was not given a chance"

  • Ambulance staff in Cadiz bought their own Ebola protection suits as the ones provided were not 'up to the job'
  •  Health workers in Madrid and many others are calling for the resignation of health minister Ana Mato claiming that the equipment and training provided are inadequate.
  •  Madrid regional health chief Javier Rodriguez accused Teresa Romero on public radio of lying about her symptoms and making mistakes which caused her  contract the disease. He later apologised.
  • After being released from isolation Teresa's husband Javier said 'they destroyed our life, they killed our dog and they nearly killed my wife'
  •  He will be seeking redress in the courts on behalf of his wife and their dog.