Last year I made the decision to press Pause on my life in London and move to Barcelona.
It is a city I have visited several times because many of my friends from all over the world (England, Australia, Cyprus…) have gravitated there, taking a significant chunk of my social life with them.
One of my last trips over was to celebrate my friend Reya’s birthday.
Her house party was a ridiculously camp affair. Three of us dressed up as Charlie’s Angels (Our first choice was Salt n Pepa and Spinderella, but it was too hot for trainers and puffer jackets).
Barca parties always attract an eclectic mix of characters. The music pumped, the drinks flowed and I spent most of the party on the balcony, after drinking champagne laced with acid, staring at a face in a tree.
And so, after much deliberation, a break up and another soggy summer, I packed two suitcases and headed to Barcelona.
And it was really shit for about a month. And scary and new. And then I met people and joined a choir and moved in with a big gay Argentinean Actor called Esteban who sang Whitney Houston songs into a hairbrush with me. And I created my own Meetup group for people who wanted to learn English through Creative Writing and got two hundred members in the first month. And I saw a football match and even kissed a man or two and fell in love on average about five times a day.
Socialising was effortless. In London, meeting up with friends is often a complicated operation involving Whatsapp, Twitbook, electronic diaries and professional negotiators. In Barcelona I became this hedonistic Social Butterfly I did not recognise, flitting effortlessly from a three-hour coffee session to a long lunch followed by a Vermouth or two in some trendy little bar that had just opened up in our barrio.
And I baulked at the idea of “putting it in the diary”, feeling the constriction of such a commitment that left me closed off to any other fabulous offers that were sure to come along.
I had, on average, about an hour’s work a day and was living on the tightest budget since my student days. And yet I made the most of the ridiculously cheap Menu del dia’s , rode the Metro for less than a Euro, and said Yes to every invitation.
There was food to be eaten. Language exchanges to be had. Barrio after barrio to explore, which I did so on foot, spending hours, pounding the streets of this vibrant city.
And I walked the miles of beach and sat and contemplated the fact that I now lived in a place where the Mediterranean was a few blocks down the road and I could watch some of the most beautiful men in the world leap around a volleyball court in nothing but teeny Speedos. For free.
No one comes here to launch their career. Especially not now. And unemployment is a very real issue for many of my friends.
But Barca is a place where everyone works to live. No one asked me what I “did”, which I found disconcerting at first. It meant I was valued for other qualities – some of which I was just discovering myself – and the long hours of socialising meant that my friendships became pretty intimate very quickly. Add to that the fact that we are all orphans here, so to speak, and we quickly became each other’s families.
And the sun. The glorious sun. Shining at all manner of times and seasons as if it was just a normal thing.
And after five months I took three weeks more to travel around the rest of Spain. Sometimes I was alone – which by now was almost OK – but most of the time all the fabulous friends I had made joined me, or were there to greet me in their hometowns.
And then, after a final evening spent with an Australian couple who had adopted me, playing 80s vinyl and drinking Vermouth until the early hours, I packed my two suitcases of possessions and headed back to London.
I’ve already been back for Sonar music festival and am planning to return in January for a Clowning workshop.
And when I grow up and become famous, I’m going to buy a flat in Poble Nou, or Sants (cos Gracia and Raval are just too trendy now).
I can feel the London Nina being shed every time I get on the plane and by the time I touch down in Barcelona, the transformation is complete. I really like my Barca self. Her friends and values. Even her hairdresser. And I will always return to visit her.