Thursday, 29 July 2010

If I'm quiet, they'll never know

I don’t recommend going to countries which require a Visa.
Just stay where you are, it’s much easier.
You may live in a dump. So paint the walls.
You may have no job prospects. Adapt your goals.
You may just live somewhere cold and miserable. Buy a coat.
Seriously, I don’t know how my fiancé had the patience to move to the UK in the first place.
I don’t know how he can still be such a happy person after half a lifetime of filling forms.
I waited four hours for my Visa to stay in Colombia and that was just the start of the fun.
Afterwards I was told I had 15 days to register it.
The Visa costing $160 was worthless if I didn’t.
I went to register it but I was told I couldn’t unless I had a foreigners’ ID card, which would cost another $60.
“I’m only staying three months,” I said. “Do I really have to?”
“Yes,” the woman said and gave me a strip of paper with everything I needed, including photocopies of my passport, photos, a document proving my blood group and so on.
I already had a pile of photos left over from applying for the Visa but they had been taken on a white background.
The ID card required photos with a blue background.
Because anything related to getting a Visa has to be annoying. It’s the law.
I don’t carry a document with my blood group around with me, so after getting the photos I went off to a clinic to have some blood extracted.
I passed the test with an A-
To be fair, what I had to do was easy compared to what a Colombian has to do to stay in the UK, since all Colombians are supposedly drug dealers.
But still, after the tedium of another long wait in the security office, I decided to reward myself with a manicure.
Manicures cost about 3 pounds here so you have to do them.
I chatted to my manicurist about my trip to get my documents.
“You shouldn’t be too trust worthy, there are bad people out there.”
“I only walked five minutes down the road,” I said.
“Still, you have to be careful.”
“It’s hard to know which parts are safe.”
“Nowhere is safe.”
“Don’t say that or I’ll never go outside!”
I think she thought that would be for the best. I, on the hand, was bored of being scared.
“Are you saying it’s unsafe because I look like a tourist? Or is it unsafe for everyone?”
“Because you look like a tourist,” she said.
“Ah…” I felt hopeful, “so what can I do to look more Colombian? Should I dye my hair darker?”
“No, it’s the way you talk.”
“What if I don’t say anything?”
“Then you could pass as a Colombian.”
Well I haven’t paid all this money to stay here and be quiet, so I’ll just have to accept I’m a tourist.
Goodbye, I’m off to fetch my flip flops.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Taking Steps in Bogotá

I’m still not travelling around the city as I did in London.
My job is to write and it’s at the kitchen table which doesn’t take long to get to.
“Are you putting on weight?” Mum asks.
“No, I don’t think so,” I say, prodding myself.
My saviour is the family’s step machine.
I’m doing twenty minutes in the morning listening to music.
Today it was Jonny Cash.
When I feel that tingle of air meeting the sweat on my arms, I experience a sense of well-being.
It’s also the satisfaction of routine which I need to write this novel.
Writing is slow.
I’m worried my book sounds like an Enid Blyton. Too chirpy, too golly gosh.
I’ll be doing a lot of rewriting over the next few weeks, which is alright because Mum stuffed my suitcase with tea bags.
When I’m happy I’ll send the chapters over to her and she’ll tell me the truth.
Apart from writing, I’m not doing much.
On Thursday I came very close to joining a yoga class.
I got as far as writing my name on a list and going into a room full of chairs.
Yoga on chairs? How unusual, I thought.
“It’s a lecture on yoga,” a woman said.
“Ah,” I said and hurried out of the building.
Apart from looking after my physical being, it’d also be good if I did some voluntary work. At least it would get me out of the house.
Cooking too might be an idea.
Embarrassingly, the only thing I’ve cooked here has been a solitary omelet.
If I don’t get the hob on soon my in-laws may chuck me out.
Is it me, or are other people’s fridges intimidating?
Or is that just an excuse and really I’m afraid that what I cook won’t be good enough?
An excuse ... definitely.
Thank god I can wash up.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Forget the Bacon, SAVE SALT!

I didn’t have a clue until they published my book.
I was always the sort to head into Waterstones before a holiday and scoop up 3 books for the price of 2 from the front table. They were generally published by the biggies and recommended by Richard&Judy.
I’d devour them on the plane or by the sea, and afterwards I’d think how satisfying reading was and wonder why I didn’t do it more often.
Just because I write a lot, doesn’t mean I've always read a lot.
I do read though and I’m more conscious than ever where the books I read come from.
Salt Publishing is a bit like my shop.
Its got great products, pursues quality, is run by friendly people and yet, despite these excellent features, isn’t known by enough people.
Right now, business is slower than ever for them.
1000 copies of Shop Girl Diaries were published in December and there are still plenty left.
Perhaps because people think it’s just my blog in print, so why spend the money when they can read it for free?
But the book is very different, if it wasn’t I’d erase my past blogs.
More likely the lack of sales is due to losing the battle to get a review in the newspaper and not having the money for a decent advertising campaign. It’s not for lack of trying though, believe me.
But this isn’t about my book. I’m writing because there is a brilliant independent publisher who needs your help!
All you need to do is buy 1 book.
Personally, I like the sound of Wena Poon’s ‘Alex y Robert’, a book about a young American woman determined to become a matador and Roberto, a reluctant star Spanish bullfighter whom she recruits to help her.
There are plenty of books to choose from.
See it as a well-deserved treat for yourself.
When that package arrives, put your feet up and enjoy it!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Shop Girl in Football Mania

I must’ve been to every Spanish bar in Bogotá.

La Basca full of bulls’ heads and flamenco posters,
La Tasca with its heavy wood beams,
La Puerta Grande with mosaics a la Gaudi and a white-washed terraza nicknamed ‘Ibiza’.
I wear my Spanish top with my name on the back and shout and scream at the television alongside the Fiancé.
My mother in-law bites her nails and gets as nervous as me while my father-in-law secretly supports the other side!
I’ll write my book when the world cup is over.
I’ll run off to the quiet of the country and write it word by word.
Meanwhile, I’ll wait for the octopus’s verdict while I quietly miss my family.
Because that’s the downside of the football, not being able to share the emotions with them!
I wish I could’ve seen my Dad’s reaction to those late in the game goals that got us through each time.
I imagine my Mum, walking in and out of the kitchen to watch bits and shout ‘Come on Wales!’
I want to be transported to Barcelona to see the game with my brother on a big screen by the beach.
You might not get it if you’re not into football.
So I’ll keep it short.
And when it’s over, I’ll write again.
If they win, if they lose, I’ll happily go through this all again.
Good luck to them all and Viva España!