Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Spanish wedding, a French weekend and an anniversary

If you are wondering where I have been, I have been taking a break and catching up with people I love. You wait ages for a chance to get away and then three breaks come along all at once. And I have to say I needed the time out and away from the flat, still in chaos as the kitchen was being painted - the last stage of the epic kitchen refit saga.

After visiting Madrid at the end of June for my best friend's girly pre-wedding weekend, I was back in the UK for just a day and a night, just time to catch up with myself. Then it was back to Madrid (with my bargain outfit from Fonthill Road) for the wedding of J's friend Flash. Flash was an usher at our wedding last year) and he was marrying the beautiful Spaniard Maria, whose family live in Madrid. J's best man and two more of his ushers were also in attendance and it was a joy to be on holiday reunited with friends. As the only person in the party who had been to Madrid before, albeit for only a few days, I ended up being guide to the city, leading the boys from bar to bar and using the extremely rough and ready Spanish I had managed to pick up on my previous visit to order food and drinks and ask directions and so on. Spanish is a lovely language, and after a week in Spain I am hooked; I think I've picked up about a hundred words and phrases and I am determined to learn more so I have bought a CD course to swot up this autumn so I can go back and talk to more people and use verbs instead of mostly nouns and pointing and gesticulating and por favor, gracias.

The wedding ( all in Spanish but we had an order of service translation) was beautiful. Afterwards we blew bubbles and sang All you need is Love to Flash, and Maria, who was radiant in a veil and long train. The reception afterwards in an elegant Quinta 26km from town was glorious; we stuffed ourselves with canapes and 4 courses of delicious food, which put English catering to shame, and then danced for hours. The Spanish families showed us how to spin and sway and clap to Spanish guitar music; we showed them how to, erm, rave. Afterwards the British contingent carried on clubbing 'til dawn. The temperature was in the high thirties each day and I was glad J and I had decamped from the noisy expensive fleapit we in were booked in to another Vinnci hotel round the corner with aircon and sound-proofing: thank God for where I always find bargains. I bought a fan as well, and practiced fluttering it like a coquettish senorita.

After a few days back in the UK, I was off again, this time to Boulogne, by speedferry, with friends. Our trip began in Folkestone, where we had time to kill before the crossing so we followed the Triennial Art trail round town, an exhibition of contemporary art. My favourite was Tracey Emin's 'Baby Things', bronze casts of discarded baby shoes and hats and socks found in places where you might place a dropped article of clothing for the baby's mother to pick up. Emin has said that she was inspired by the fact that Folkestone has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe. My friend revealed a hidden talent for photography and took dozens of pictures. If he gives me permission I will put some up here. The phone rang all day with journalists wanting to know about the end of the 7/7 trial, where the jury will retire at the end of this week.

I managed not to be sea-sick on the choppy crossing ( a first) by sitting on the deck and staring fixedly at the horizon during the one-hour crossing, but it was a relief to be on dry land and to check in to a pretty guesthouse in Boulogne town centre. We celebrated my friend's birthday on Friday, spent the next few days visiting the seaside and paddling, eating delicious food in French restaurants and bistros and exploring some of the local towns and finally picking up wine and cheese before heading back to the UK just in time to catch the men's tennis final.

Monday was July 7th, and a sad, raw day. This year it was a double-whammy, not only the 7/7 anniversary but a year since Mum had her terrible stroke, and my family reeled from the catastrophic blow. I laid my white freesias at Russell Square, then stood in silence with some of Kings Cross United, my friends from the train. The media were all at Kings Cross watching Tessa Jowell and the Mayor lay wreaths and some of KCU who were at that more public ceremony said that they had felt pressurised and intruded upon by the cameras. I was glad of the privacy and an arm to lean on.

I spoke to Shelly's Mum in New Zealand, who has become a dear friend, and said that I would be especially thinking of her, her family, and Shelley.

Afterwards KCU joined up and had coffee with other survivors and families at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport where Tessa Jowell was hosting a reception. We stood in silence again and remembered the passengers who never came home and all those who had suffered. The grief etched on people's faces was terrible to see. I spoke to some of the families who have been campaigning for an inquiry into 7/7 and updated them on where we are.

Afterwards KCU went out for lunch and then to the pub. I broke down; this anniversary was much worse than last year. I wished I could have phoned Mum. July is a cruel month; the three worst things that have ever happened in my life all happened in the first half of July. I wonder if it will ever feel normal.

I was glad that I had managed to get away and spend time with those I love.


Blogger Brennig said...

We had a small suite in the Vinnci in Granada about 18 months ago. And loved it. They treated us unbelievably well.

I can recommend some Spanish language podcasts if you need them, they keep my Lengua going.

July 10, 2008 10:34 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Vinnci are a great chain aren't they? I discovered them when my mate booked us in for the hen do thing in Madrid and when we found ourselves in an overpriced flea-pit with a Vinnci round the corner, there was only one thing to do - go to an internet cafe, find and grab a bargain.

Good tip about the podcasts - gracias!

July 10, 2008 10:57 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the three worst things that have ever happened in my life all happened in the first half of July. I wonder if it will ever feel normal"

But this July is full of really good positive things - making a difference on 42 days, plus travelling in Europe, being among friends and generally sucking the marrow out of life - and when you look back next year, you will have those good things to remember too.
I think you're heading out of the darkness of the valley and on to the sunlit uplands for a while !

p.s. is great for unbiased reviews of places to stay in Europe. Hasn't failed me yet.

July 11, 2008 1:04 am  
Blogger seth said...

hi rachel,sounds like you are having a fun time while some of us work (cough cough) but i have already taken 10 days vacation.

ive never been to spain but im sure its very nice. alas on the u.s. dollar it would probably cost me a bloody fortune at this time.

i know all the spanish i need to know-two famous words:


i am even thinking of having them tattooed on my arse :):):)

seth :)

July 11, 2008 1:34 pm  
Blogger seth said...

hi again rachel,

on a serious note:

i didnt realize that last monday was the 3rd anniversary of the tube-bus bombings.there was little if any coverage in the ny media.

i also forgot that its been a year since your mum had her stroke.please forgive me.

in ny,this september 11th will be 7 years-thats right-7 years since that terrible day.All we have to show for it is a huge hole in the ground,while the rebuilding process is bogged down by politics and infighting.its a shame.

whats an ever bigger shame is the # of people who want to forget that 9/11 did happen.the numbers of people showing up at the memorial services-ceremonies each year is dropping precipitously.

its important that events such as london and ny,horrific as they were dont fall off our collective radar.

i just cannot understand why our world is so full of hate and evil.

i think the statement used by holocaust survivors says it best:



July 11, 2008 6:47 pm  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Just a hug.


July 15, 2008 8:58 pm  

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