More Spanish Delights….

So here I sit, the end of a tiring and draining day with the sun setting whilst the remaining embers shimmer off the windows resting high above street level.  It’s been quite the majestic day that began in Barcelona and has finished in Girona.

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I awoke to not one, but two magnificent sights this morning.  The first was the strapping young Brazilian lad in the bed opposite my hostel bunk.  He was completely naked with his sheet somehow falling foul during the night.  Perhaps intentional because his cock, perfectly groomed was showing its very own morning glory (all nine inches of it) for the remaining inferior dorm mates to see.  I stood from my lower bunk, turned to look at the girl from Amsterdam with a shrug of the shoulders and she just nodded and smiled back at me.  I think she liked what she saw?

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The next magnificent sight to behold was that of the Cathedral of Barcelona.  I might have mentioned it yesterday perhaps?  Well, today, it was there for all to see in the glow of the morning sun.  There are few Cathedrals in my travels that haven taken my breath quite like this master.  I wouldn’t see much more for I needed to be on a reasonably early train to the north east of Catalonia with my destination being the former medieval town of Girona.

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The train ride only cost 8.40 Euro’s and took around 85 minutes to reach my destination.  Sadly, the scenery was not too spectacular along the way.  Many of the train stops heading up made for grim viewing.  Lots of deserted stations smothered from top to toe in graffiti as you can see by the image below.

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Once in Girona, I dropped my bag in at the hostel and made a bee line for the old town which sat perhaps no more than 10 minutes walk away.  I’m most chuffed I decided to come here because the old town is nothing short of spectacular!  Sometimes you can cover these smaller towns in one, perhaps two hours.  Not Girona!  I walked and walked and walked for hours, soaking up all Girona had to offer.  And my word, what was on show would delight even the most tricky to please of travellers.

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The Romans once ruled the city before passing hands to the Visigoths then onto the Moors upon which it traded hands for a few hundred years more. The Jews had a turn as well before the Catholics expelled them and even the French had their dirty paws in the mix before Catalonia claimed it where it stays to this day.  During the Spanish civil war, general Franco decided to bomb the city and for 18 months, Girona was never safe.  There are three bomb shelters which civilians used during the raid, one of which remains open to the public today.

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During the 19th Century, the defensive walls around the city (they weren’t very good considering all the invasions) were demolished before being rebuilt some time later to attract more tourists.  Only a staunch historian would be able to pick this up first sight I would imagine.  There are a great deal of sights to be had, particularly from the lookout posts atop the castle and boundary walls (all of which are free to explore) of the town and castle.  Best of all, it’s vast layout means that things won’t get too crowded during tourist peak season.

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There are no hulking Brazilian men in my dorm tonight so tomorrow morning should not provide too many sights to behold.  Once I devour breakfast, it’s on board the train once more as I head to the birthplace of Salvador Dali, Figueres.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is!

More than ever before, we express ourselves through social media.  In light of last night’s bombing in Manchester, I posed a thought process through my own Facebook account this morning that we should also think of the 500,000 civilian deaths in Syria since 2011.  Since the allied invasion of the Middle East in 1990, there have been an estimated 5 MILLION deaths in the region.  That’s the equivalent to wiping out a quarter of Australia’s entire population.  Think about that?

Whilst it is sad that any human being should die under the circumstances that evolved in Manchester, like Madrid, Paris, London, Stockholm, Brussels and other cities around Europe, a small percentage of deluded fools think it is ok to take away the lives of innocent human beings just going about their daily lives.

The media and our governments are brilliant at putting spin on any sad event.  They force it down our throats to encite hatred in all directions.  They should be held accountable but they never are.  The same media outlets fail on a regular basis to report on tragedies occurring on a daily basis in the Middle East.  Our governments don’t want us to see the destruction their bombs are causing.  Entire cities are being wiped out by American and allied bombs.

In 2011, United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton both funded and armed rebel freedom fighters in Syria.  These rebel freedom fighters are now what we know as Islamic State, or ISIS.  When Wikileaks released this information condemning Clinton’s actions after releasing the evidence, the mainstream media brushed it under the carpet.  I guess like they do with all news that reflects poorly on the west?

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I’m an educated man in life.  I’ve travelled extensively, worked in refugee health services and volunteered for various charity organisations both at home and abroad.  Last year alone, a bought meals and/or coffee for over 60 homeless people.  I try to do my bit to “be the change you wish to see in the world”.  So much so, I have the quote inked (see photo above) onto my left arm.  On average, I will also donate around $2,000 of my income to three preferred charity organisations each year.

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This morning, whilst finding my way to a train station in Barcelona, I noticed a homeless man with his dog and felt compelled to do something.  He was sound asleep so I didn’t want to wake him, in turn, I put 50 Euro’s into a safe spot in one of his bags.  I hope when he woke up and found the money, he will put it to good use.  It was my budgeted allotment towards museum and art gallery entries whilst in Spain this week.  I won’t miss it.

I’m not one to hash tag my “heartbreak” and “devastation” all over social media.  It just isn’t my thing.  Nor is erecting national flags.  I wonder what all this actually achieved?  Does it make people feel better about themselves?  Who knows?  I would prefer to put my energy into physical action.

Since my original post this morning, I have been “defriended” by 45 people and sent some pretty hateful and vile private messages which has forced me to change my privacy settings.  I’m not a horrible person.  I’m just a guy who sees things differently.  At the end of the day, expressing our emotions over keyboards does very little, if anything to change things for the better.  The only real change comes through actions, not words, hash tags or national flags.

Spanish Delights!

There simply is no better feeling when you return to one of your favourite travel destinations.  For me, there are many.  Only a few though are capable of reaching  the heights of Barcelona, my current destination whilst on the road.  Tomorrow I head north to Girona before taking a train to Figueres, the birthplace of none other than Salvador Dali.

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My hostel for the night is situated a stones throw from one of the world’s truly remarkable sights, Cathedral of Barcelona.  Construction famously began on Gaudi’s grand design in 1339.  That’s almost 700 years ago!  Even more remarkable is that completion has not yet been reached.

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It’s ticking past the witching hour and I should be in bed trying to sleep.  The problem is that I am so excited by the prospect of what lays in wait over the coming days that I simply can’t bring myself into a state of relaxation.  As I type, there are two Irish girls whispering over the way on a couch as to which one of them is going to sleep with the chap from Brazil who apparently shares the same dorm.  I feel like adding my two cents to the conversation but they are barely out of their teens so one suspects they most likely see me as some old man.

I digress.

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Within the humble confines off my hostel, the walls are lined with a dip of the hat to film and music heroes.  Adorning the walls of the chill out room are two guitars whereby, residents are encouraged to pick them up and strum or play away.  Very cool.  The colour scheme is set out with a traditional Catalonian feel and there are tiny balconies throughout for smokers and people watchers to enjoy.  There is always so much for the eyes to embrace in Barcelona.  Particularly now that the warm weather is well and truly upon us.  Tomorrow though, I shall depart early for my previously mentioned train to Girona.

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I should confess though.  The big selling point for this mini adventure was the lure of attending the David Bowie Is…. exhibition which opens Thursday morning.  There is a hearty opening night party planned for later that evening though one must see how my legs endure the countless kilometres in walking that I will cover in the coming 48 hours.  OK, who am I kidding.  Of course I will be at the Bowie party on Thursday night!

Doing It The Hard Way Since 1892!

Well there you go, the red men qualified for Europe’s elite competition yesterday following a somewhat nerve wracking first forty five minutes of normal time.  You could feel the pressure valve release around the stadium after GW’s screamer hit the back of the net! The second half was a more relaxed atmosphere as we all went into celebration mode, safe in the knowledge we would be back with the big boys.

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It was my first time sitting in the “new” Main Stand.  I was up on the third level to watch proceedings unfold.  The changes around Anfield are both good and bad.  I’m still not a fan of the way the area outside has been turned into Disneyland.  There are now live bands, circus acts and all sorts going on outside the ground.  It’s an incentive effectively to get people up to Anfield earlier and have them spend their money.

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I arrived around 12:30 pm to get a duplicate of my ticket and was surprised to see thousands already gathered around the stadium.  In fairness, most seemed to be just curious onlookers trying to find something to do.  The live band just played cliched cover songs, the same every single other cover band plays.  Why not get young Liverpool bands to play original material?  Oh yeah, the tourists won’t want to watch that as part of their “Disneyland, sorry, Anfield experience” will they?

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There are loads of pop up shops around the ground now as well.  Exploiting every available option to milk the supporters for every last penny.  Look, I know this is, how do they say it?, “modern football”, but I felt like I was at a theme park for a while and not a football match.  Even the team bus is now a big red thing with “We Are Liverpool” on both sides.  Look mum, the circus acts have arrived!

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There are some nice touches mind.  More benches to grab a breather on, a grassed area to lay back and enjoy the sun from and the new Hillsborough memorial had been transitioned beautifully from the Anny Road end to just behind the new stand.  There’s also a nice brick pavement collage behind the stand where loved ones can buy up a space to be remembered for generations to come.  So, it’s not all bad.

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The Hillsborough memorial is the most thoughtful and touching aspect of any football ground I have ever been to.  Sometimes, I just stand back and watch loved ones and family members pay their respects or encounter parents explaining to their little ones what happened to give them a deeper understanding.  Opposition supporters often leave flowers, scarves and football shirts as a mark of respect.  It’s a gentle reminder that, at the end of the day, the people of Liverpool are the most determined and resilient humans in the Western world.

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Inside the ground, you can either climb the steps or take an escalator to your seat. There are multiple food a beverage options, spacious toilet facilities and subtle reminders of Liverpool’s past sprinkled around in various pockets.  It’s good to know thin 1974, the red men battered Stromsgodset 11-0! Oh, Stromsgodet FC are from Norway and have two league titles to their credit in 1970 and more recently, 2013.

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Known worldwide for their banners, some of the Kop’s more well known memories are scattered on the walls as you move up each level.  Coming in from the Anny Road end, it was a nice surprise. However, exiting later in the afternoon from the Walton Breck Road end, it became apparent that the same banners had been used at both ends.  A bit lazy I must say.

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The view from my seat was decent enough.  Full view of the pitch and a different persepective.  I was seated in row 82 and section U2.  For irregular match goers or bucket list hunters, these are decent seats.  My only concern was that I couldn’t really get a feel for the game being so far up.  There were lots of locals around me who wanted to sing which was good but I wonder exactly where the tourist groups and corporate twats were seated?  Perhaps the middle level?

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The extra 8,000 seats have added more noise to the ground and will help when Europe’s elite visit later this September that’s for sure.  It will also make it easier for locals to secure seats for the League Cup and League fixtures against rubbish opposition because let’s be honest here, Liverpool Football Club are doing their upmost best to price local supporters out of the game because they don’t spend in the club shop or pay £5 for a pie.  As FSG turn Anfield into an Americanised investment opportunity to sell for a profit down the track, it’s important that they constantly be reminded that the local supporters should and must be their highest priority going forward.

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Whilst I can appreciate that the club has to move forward at every opportunity, my nostalgic side still enjoys a pre match bevy with my mates and that hurried walk from the pub at 2:52pm, stopping on the way to pick up the latest “Red All Over The Land” fanzine (still the best read you will get anywhere) for £2 then clicking in to take up your seat to sing songs, abuse the referee and gain a somewhat resounding sense of satisfaction when our centre back cleans up that Costa twat from Chelsea. I hope we never entirely lose that from our game…..

It All Comes Down To This!

I’ve been awake since 5 am.  I’ve been aware of this day since July 2016.  The final day of the season.  Middlesbrough at home.  3 pm kick off.  Return train ticket to Lime Street booked.  Friends to see. Songs to sing.  A party of sorts to be had!

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One thing I have refused to do is buy into the media hype surrounding possible play off matches.  It’s all click bait to raise outside interest and boost television ratings.  Liverpool are going to win comfortably this afternoon.  Simple.  The only worry on my mind is making sure I meet up with all my match going mates.

In previous years, I have enjoyed sending off club legends like Carra and Stevie, endured the final day realisation of near misses in the race for the title and celebrated the odd Champions League qualification to boot.  Today will bring Champions League qualification and one hell of a party.  I know it’s not the league title celebration we dream of or another Europeans Cup trophy to add to the cabinet but it’s the city of Liverpool, football, friends and my second home, Anfield.  Nothing in life means more to me than this club.  Well, Bowie aside of course.

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The train from Huddersfield to Lime Street departs in exactly one hour.  By 11 am, I will be walking through the gates of Lime Street.  By midday, I will have made the long yet delightful walk up to Anfield. From there I will find all the regulars, laugh at the crazy season about to be laid to rest, take lots of happy snaps with the gang, eat one of those delicious foot long hot dogs from my favourite street vendor on Walton Breck Road, buy my matchday programe, find my seat in the Main Stand,  sing the songs, abuse the referee (if needed), celebrate the goals we score by hugging and kissing complete strangers, swing my scarf above my head, cheer the full time whistle then be safe in the knowledge the red men are off to the big show in Europe come September this year.

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I’ll make my way home on the 7:22 pm train from Lime Street with a wry smile on my face.  Why you ask? Because I am doing what I love doing.  It all comes down to this!

Touts, Twats and mentally challenged football supporters….

For seventeen long years now, I’ve been finding my way, comfortably into Liverpool away matches around England and Europe.  It’s always been at face value unless I throw a little extra for a couple of beers as a thank you for the ticket.  Away credits are pretty much a closed shop so for most travelling reds, we rely on our contacts and friends for help securing those hard to come by match tickets.

Today, Liverpool visited West Ham at London’s Olympic Stadium for their final away match of the season.  The weather was boss and I arrived at the ground early enough to get on the hunt for a spare.  After all, somebody always has a mate who couldn’t make it.  The past couple of weeks had led me well down the garden path with no luck from my regular ports of call.  Still, I figured I would turn something up outside the ground.  In the end trying to work out what the huge penis shaped monument (pictured below)  at the front of the stadium was the closest I got to getting in.

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The minutes passed by as the touts were asking anything upwards of £250 for the Liverpool end.  To put things into perspective, that’s a 500% increase on the face value of £30.  I’d never pay those prices on principle alone however, there is always a desperate supporter or a mentally challenged tourist with a selfie stick ticking off their bucket list willing to pay.  They are the fuel to the fire which keeps the touts coming back for more.  For every ethical supporter like myself, there are two or three deluded fools who will pay the £250 to get in.

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What got my blood boiling today were the Liverpool supporters passing tickets off at the £150 mark.  Some had the audacity to to wear Hillsborough Justice Campaign stickers (pictured below) on their Ben Sherman’s as they slugged vulnerable supporters £150!  Ironic considering they were wearing a sticker that spoke up against the lack of ethics and morals of a particular newspaper, the Sourh Yorkshire Police and the British government at large.  Now these same reds were dropping their own ethics and morals to take other supporters to the cleaners.

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I take nothing back when I label supporters who buy off tours mentally challenged.  The touts are a disease in football and as long as morons buy off them there will always be an outlet for them to thrive off.  Plenty of supporters also bought fake tickets for crazy sums of money only to be turned away.  Another group of reds had their tickets refused at the gate which led to a huge battle between security (who didn’t give a flying fuck) and the West Ham ticket office who were equally disinterested in helping.  The 15 or so finally got in at half time.

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The football clubs could act strongly on touts and greedy supporters by sending out undercover Police officers to arrest and deal with the problem but the clubs give next to no fucks about the supporters  as well.  There’s no end in sight and I dread to think of the days when Liverpool start winning titles again.  It’s only going to get worse with the impending demand that follows on the back of trophies and titles.

Helping Others

I was finding my way along Edgeware Road to my hostel this evening when I noticed a young homeless couple looking a little worse for ware in the rain and wind.  My instincts too over and I briefly stopped to have a yarn with them.

Ryan and Katrina are a young couple who have been on the streets for almost six months now since they lost their apartment in Milton Keynes.  They have a young child who is currently in custody of carers whilst they try their best to get back on the horse.  Ryan is 21 whilst Katrina is one year his junior.  Both have had troubled upbringings and battled drug addictions though they have been clean for over a year now.  The battle to clean up was a simple one.  They wanted a better life for their young daughter.

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Noticing Ryan (pictured above) was shaking, I offered him my hoodie then popped off to buy them some food and hot coffee.  It’s only a few pounds out of my pocket but it’s a big thing for young people in need.  Moments like these are always a reminder of how fortunate I have been in life and why I count my lucky stars every single day.  Actually, I was a tad bummed out earlier in the day because I couldn’t get hold of a ticket for the West Ham v Liverpool match at the Olympic Stadium.  First world problems and all that.

Sometimes people like Ryan and Katrina just need a leg up in life.  You know, some kindness from strangers to help them feel like they can actually achieve great things in life.  Now, I’m not saying you should stop and help every homeless person you pass but every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to offer an act of kindness.