Whilst thinking and researching book, with identity in mind.
Sat on a Flixbus 07.30am in London Victoria, heading to the Euro tunnel connection 700 direction Paris (Quai de Bercy.). Arrived at the Euro tunnel, I’m told to get off and go and show my passport, slightly worried as I did not put my full name on the ticket and I’m slightly concerned.
No problems there then they scanned and I went through. Apparently I’m not boarding the train until 10.56am! Well, I’m sure duty free, the cafes and the bars are not complaining. “Coffee it is then,” I said to myself. By the time I got to the till it was a bacon, sausage and egg roll with a black coffee, best part of ten pounds down the drain. Sited the driver… and he’s sited me back, just checked where to find our coach.
Still went out the wrong exit, had to double take, as I do a u-turn, up my speed slightly, just incase, I can see them, and on we go. At these lights for a little while, looks like our cue boards last…. Yes, our cue boards last. The last traffic light for the last cue says go, where heading on, anti-climax type of situation, not much to look at very grey, metal with small doors either side, directing to the toilets, window view, is a darker grey, sometimes brown, most of the time black view, back on the coach soon to be in Paris.
I haven’t heard back from Alison Lopez Martin, it’s a shame really. Hope to meet with her , as my new project is about ‘book,’ she would be a brilliant piece of research with those amazing book sculptures. I have an idea to base my book on Identity, but as I’m in early stages of just researching the topic, I can’t be sure this is how it will end. The idea of finding Africa for this project was inspired by a visit to Berlin, I heard of a Nefertiti and had to find her, she got me thinking about identity, my identity, her identity, the fake identities bestowed on us and the ones we choose to create for reasons that differ and/or mirror others, dependent on the situation present. I wrote a couple of poems about identity, created a couple mixed media pictures of Nefertiti, booked a coach ticket to Spain with the intention of navigating my way to Africa.
Looks like I’m here, not quite Paris maybe but I’m definitely in France, very city looking, huge buildings urban city graffiti, tower blocks and industrial smoke. Feeling rather small, getting of in this busy, concrete underpass, turnt coach station, heading for the first information desk to find out were I get my next coach. Feeling rather small, getting of in this busy, concrete underpass, turnt coach station, heading for the first information desk to find out were I get my next coach. After many hand gestures and google I finally understood that my coach platform will show up an hour before leaving the platform. Im now heading for the nearest exit to see what I can grasp, museums, art gallery, coffee? I have 3 hours to spare, so I better make the most of it.
Out the glass-doors with metal frame I can see light, so I’m heading out there, through the doors are concrete stairs leading to a small square children’s playground with monkey bars over looking a long rows of green with walking paths in between, sandwiched between tall impersonal high risers with local business happening on the bottom floor. Many people, many dark skinned africans and tanned caucasians, all speaking languages I didn’t understand, well most of them anyway. It’s suddenly dawned on me that I don’t have euros I need money exchange, I asked a man of African decent if he speaks english, he did, he explained that there wasn’t anywhere near by to exchange currency, that he wasn’t aware of any art galleries near by, but guided me to a restaurant for coffee. I ordered a french cider (I don’t drink cider) as it were the cheapest on the menu and sat for a while, slightly chuffed that nothing I intended to see, were local this place is much bigger than I thought it would be, I am feeling like a baby right now, in a huge city.
After a free hour half pint of cider I make my way back to the coach station, even busier than before a real hustle and bustle atmosphere, I swing my shoulders that I haven’t got through the crowd, pulling my mini suitcase with me, head held high searching for the platform, as I get closer I see 22 next to yellow flashing Barcelona. Drivers here already brill, I wait, he speaks in french I believe and Spanish also, no English and being a typical lazy British I speak English and English only. As for my family roots, well its taken an art project for me to even think about the idea of find my true Caribbean, red Indian, spanish and African roots. I know the obvious, but have no clue about the many foundations of which my identity stems from.
A few more hand gestures whilst flashing my ticket gets me on board a coach heading to Barcelona. First part of my longer journeys. Big motor way ride stopping at many service stations through the night, seats comfy enough. Toilet on coach filthy and my menstrual cycle has started.
Im just really taking in how large Spain is, and how different the climate will be through my journey. Just woke up to a large, strange looking man standing in front of me, I asked him to move, he asked why I said I feel uncomfortable, he moved and sat down. He was innocently waiting to get off the bus, but it wasn’t the best position to wake up to whilst traveling on your own on a bus full of strangers.
Arrived at Barcelona nord, after having a lovely conversation with a lady called Ouna on the coach. She quickly realized that apart from knowing I was searching for Africa, I hadn’t a clue about the in-between, decided to work it out as I go. To my delight she giggled lots at me then decided to take me under her wing. Its now quite hot, I’m loving it. Ouna, on the other hand, being use to nicer temperatures than my sunny England, says, its just not quite warm enough to take off her knitted woolen oversized, brilliant purple jumper. So me stripped to a bodysuit sweating, dragging my load, and Ouna with her catwalk model length legs glided through, just a few streets to point out the nearest hostel. She speaks in spanish through an intercom, to a deep spanish responding voice, then lets me know, the rooms are full. She tells me never mind, I can come to hers. I couldn’t of heard sweeter words, so off I went. We turnt a few corners and there we were, down this ever so cute narrow dead end, looking up you see small balconies elegantly place on tall thin window type doors. Back down at eye view a pretty metal flowers styled black gate, shielding a solid metal door, Ouna takes out a large key for a big lock, turning twice clanking sounds each time, as though I were entering some time of fortress, up we went up a very thin stairway tiled decor, some original tiles some replaced, each floor had a different door oozing with color, character and age set on these very small almost bumpy brilliant white walls, my luggage now feeling weighty I gasp for breath, she chuckles and tells me nearly there. Through yet another amazingly beautiful door with original locks, I entered into a gorgeous little home, pictures drawn by her 5 year old daughter covering any space available, with a few of her own, all original flooring beautifully tiled full of nostalgia.
So my belly is hurting I need to use the toilet, I need a shower and I need to brush my teeth, I opted for not discussing the toilet part and just go in for the shower, she giggles again and tells me, well for the first time you can have a shower and a poo at the same time, I giggled, she said no Im serious, the showers above the toilet and make sure you keep the shower facing away from the light as you might electrocute yourself and die, we both giggled and off I went thinking well at least that gives the bathroom time to air out, as whats about to come out of me is going to smell real bad! So sat on this toilet, I realize my plans a fail, I now have to open the toilet door and ask for the toilet paper, the shame is making me hot (or something else is making me hot), I embarrassingly pull open the door squealing fast like speaking in tongues, “can I have the toilet paper please”, quickly shutting the door as I can see steam leaving the bathroom infused with a couple days worth of my bodily waste fumes imbedded, ready to hit anyone who comes close.
As soon as were done I turnt on the the shower it was the best shower I had ever had, it was hot, soothing and so relaxing I stayed in there maybe a bit too long, but it meant the smell had left the premises by the time I finished steaming it up. Whilst drying and dressing by her dining table on top of my suitcase, Ouna tells me she had been squatting there for twelve years, I thought that were pretty brilliant, as although we were in the heart of Barcelona, her part of town had many derelict buildings with homeless living on the street, I could see it would be quite an effort to take this from them, I thought, wow! what a brave single mother Ive just met. She then goes on to tell the history of the building no longer there, as I look out her beautiful balcony whilst placing my fusia pink towel to dry.
There was once a cooked food trader and a barber under one roof, the food trader specialized in a specific food and it was the nicest you could find and the cheapest, many people disappeared without any justification, until one day a man visited the barber for a trim and spot some very peculiar behavior, the man instinctively jumped out the seat just before the barber were about to cut, his throat. It were the people the barber killed that made the food taste so sweet and the free meat made it cheap. For this reason the house was destroyed as it carried to much bad memory . She told me theres a room in the basement of these flats unused as its hummed and full of bad energy stemming from the history of the barber and the the food man…..
Well, so the story was told.
Showered and dress, hair wet, curls hanging to my shoulder blades. I’m ready to hit the road, suitcase is safley stored in my newly found friends fabulous home. Plan of action, see about a book, see Barcelona and book a ticket to Gibraltar. The draw place where Africa and Spain where once one land. You can see africa , I hear, only 25km away.
I walk out the big old door and down the beautiful staircase, admiring each floor on my way, Ouna follows to lock up the fortress after me.
it’s now around 10.30am, sun belting down I walk, where I’m walking I don’t know, but I’ve noticed the homeless people are noticing I’m new, so I continue to walk in the opposite direction from them, as I had already been warned about getting robbed. Not because their the worst, but because the housing crisis is real over here. people pushed out of there homes with no social housing set in place, prices raised for everything, to accommodate ‘ the tourist’ and/or the wealthy and build the economy. With nothing in place to protect the poor, the situtaion has created a carpet of young people hanging aroung, some glue sniffing to make the day easier , some stealing… but not all, what they all have in common is sufferation and a resilience I could only dream of being equipped with. If I ever have something of value to offer these people I will be returning to help.
Oh wow, gaudi style building s mixed with tall balconied buildings, many church like, some fairly new, one new building almost adjacent to the gaudi church museum, had a wall of glass, with large sticker letters saying Gaudi. I stopped and did a 360 spin just in the middle of this square, taking in the architecture, the people of Barcelona, the many tourists, the flower lady and the soft singing guitarist sat by the stairs of the guadi church busking. with an army of pensioners holding hands in a large circle’s, doing what looked like some type of folky line dance, quite sweet to watch for no more than a minute. So I continue to move on up the many stairs to the gaudi building, and through the doors and again with lots of hand gestures and badly spoken English, each word said so slow, I must sound condescending, if I where Caucasian you would see my cheeks reddening, I ask ” how much? ” “ummm money ? Euros? Pay? Ummm is it free?, the lady replys in English 15 euros, with that my hands went down, the shame disappeared and I replied 15 euros? Before she could say yes, my back turned and walking away, I said “I’m not paying that!” At the time my reasons where ligit its expensive, it should be free! Its not about a book or my identity, but I regret that decision now as I’m very privileged in England, spoilt compared to most of the world, I shouldn’t expect the same every where I go. When I put it into perspective, I, we expect too much, have to much for all the wrong reasons, but I will get into that at a later stage in the book, when we get closer to Africa.
I decided to follow behind a private gaudi tour, trying not to be noticed I walked up narrow street, that started on the far right hand side of the gaudi church ( as I call anyway ). I noticed some hand held fans being sold by the locals, a few small enough to fit in my nieces hand so I bought it, along with a few other bits one from each stall (stall being a once white sheet placed on the floor with goods for sale, price wrote on torn rigid cardboard). Quickly I toddle up to the group, its seeming very churchy up this lane, I stop behind the group as they have a commentary about the history of the free standing statue before us backed to the middle of the wall to the right of the lane up two steps on a rectangular paved outdoor type varander like space. The guide notices me and informs me this is a paid tour, so scurry along as if I didn’t know any better.
Met by another square with what look like some type of government official premises, as both buildings adjacent to each other where guarded by police, I asked what it was but didn’t understand the reply, but I fully understood that I wasn’t allowed in. Slightly tired I sit down in the middle of the square, get my phone out to book my next coach, my phone has turnt Spanish, I understand nothing! I phone home for back up. Just as the ticket were booked I hear people, lots of them and music, these huge moving statues with adults and children underneath dancing to the beat. The statue’s that I first saw where of a black man and a tanned brown haired wife woman, I would like to know more about who they are, the rest became whiter as the procession went on. I could here an annoyed voice speaking in Spanish and English saying “be careful!”, ” mind where your walking!”, I found him humorous so I got up and walked over to see what he were fussing about, as I got closer through the thick crowd I saw the sign on top if his head fixed to hat in 3 different languages it seemed, saying I answer questions and on the other side saying, no to tourist and on the floor was the strip of paper that he fussed about people stepping on, filled with adapted nursery rhymes and celebration songs about the errors of tourism, I explained to the bilingual activist that I am here as a tourist and although, I’m not going to immediately turn back, I apologise for my part, he softens in face and tone and replies well, you can write in my book if you want, I agreed and wrote an apology to the locals of Spain, he told me thank you and handed me a piece of paper no bigger than 2×4cm with social money printed on it, he looked up at me and said I’m paying you, I smiled, he said well its no different from the money you value, I smiled and said thank you goodbye, thinking, well for one at present your money has no currency, money exchange ain’t excepting it! But the experience, you’ve just installed in minutes is priceless, therefore I will forever cherish my social money.
I sat and sketched him whilst listening to the continuing parade.
Time past so I moved on as I now had a coach to catch in the evening, I had a look in a few buildings then came back to the square in front of the gaudi church. I sat and got my sketch book out singing along to the guitarist s beat, about to draw I was approached by lady covered in flowers I gave her five euros, she then sent her friend over, who put her hand out for money I gave her two euros, she screwed up her face looking like a wet cloth being twisted to drain and said, no more! I told her sorry no, feeling annoyed that I gave such an ungrateful stranger my money, also risk assessing that I’m obviously looking like I’ve got it to give and muggy enough to give it, I got up and walked until I found a cheaper free space to relocate. Time waits for no one, after a sit down giant sized broschecca ? ( toast onions peppers marinated with grilled halumi). And terrible sketch of a cactus it was head back to get my luggage time and head to Barcelona nord coach station, heading to Granada.
Goodbyes and thanks said, I’m back down the four flights of narrow stairs through the metal fortress door, a hug and bye’s again, I’m off to Barcelona nord coach station.
Coach in view as I reach the station, I head straight for it. Coach standards are slipping now that I’m getting deeper in, never mind, I say to myself, its only the best part of 24 hours before I reach my destination! Its getting late, I’m becoming tired, but can’t quite get comfortable enough, the night was long and dark. I fell asleep, waking up to mountains and greenery in the distance you could see a mountain so high it looked like it had snow on top, I tryed to to take a picture, but you couldn’t quite see it through my crappy lense. Its becoming hotter, I would now describe the scenary as how I would imagine somewhere like, Mexico and the coward in mevfeels like I’ve reached the real life 1996 dusk till dawn movie ( just hoping, no one turns monster and bites me). I see letters on a mountain like Hollywood has, we have reached Granada, quickly I head to my next coach, to Gibraltar, no time going to be spent in Granada my coward wouldn’t allow it, next time round, I will map out where’s safe and stay as it beautiful really, if you know your safe. We stop at malaga, the bus practically empties leaving myself and two Caucasian male passengers on the coach, coward kicks in again, not because of the movie hostel though, but because in real life, in Spain two amazing young afro carribean women, had an experience that before hearing it, you would only expect it in a movie. Panic levels high, I breathe, bus stops, cigarette break, they smoke, I smoke, we talk a little, I start to relax, not giving much though, survival skills kicked in. This dyed blonde green eyed Caucasian is quite nice to be around, he speaks very honestly about the world and its real faults. A skiing instructor from Austria, he travels to Morocco to buy marijuana seeds as they are legal in his country, he then creates an oil from the growth.
I tell him, ( as I relax and loosen the tongue) that I’m going Africa too looking but not Morocco, as its seems to tourist, to westernised, im going Gibraltar to find a small boat to take me to Africa. He then starts to explain that where I want to go lots is going on there, its a very serious time, he goes on to tell me it’s not safe, Africans are being killed and beaten to be kept away from the British boarders, apparently Morocco is very much Dependant on England he says, so the morrocon military keep English boarders clear for us, using extreme and unjustifiable methods. Im baffled, why does this not stop? The land I grew turning a blind eye still, to the pain of the African people, my people, from a land I never knew, but the place I should of grew…. My life my privilege is based on the sufferation of others, others being my own people too, how does one truly absorb this without feeling?
With all information given I continue with the plan as I were not going to go along with my new found friend to Morocco, as relaxed as I were coward still wouldn’t allow it.
De LA conception, the place that meets Gibraltar, I’ve arrived, I get off, now I’m by sea, it really feels like a holiday now, hotter than before and I love heat.
I see Gibraltar, i need a shower, its not about the wet wipes, shower, river, sea, (not keen on shared jacuzzis or bath’s ) all the way, but as its that time I will stick with a shower.
After many busy cafe territory streets and a sorry rooms are full I found a little hotel opposite, a gallery that wasn’t open. I checked in 35 euros bargain! Bathing flip flops on and naked like the day I were born , I climb up on the bath sides one foot either side, just in case the drainage is not perfect and water collects in bath, I turn shower on and for that next 10mins relaxed under a hot shower, complete comfort! Shower off and out of my zone, I notice the emmense amount of water flooding the bathroom, throw all there towels down making a white fluffy path to the bed with my sitting towel awaiting me.
Hungry… Everything is closed already! Well so I thought at the time, I do make myself laugh! I head to Gibraltar, but soon get turnt back as I have to go through customs with my passport, by the time I arrive back at the hotel I see a big dark wet looking cloud over the Gibraltar mountain, not understanding how the town is built and lit up round the edges I chicken out, decided an early morning rise, and one night of sleeping horizontally after some good food is what I really need.
Ooh message on Instagram from my Austrian friend his ferry doesn’t leave till tomorrow another port, I would love to invite him over, been t at this stage risk assessment says no! We will meet again and I will take a chance another time, baby steps its all new to me, save the middle aged wild out for another book