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Days 2 & 3: Mataró

Today I got to see Mataró because the sun was up. It's not the biggest place in the world and before I knew it, I was back at the train station and could see its wonderful red colouring, as well as the palm trees at its side:


I knew that the congress venue was directly opposite, having popped by the night before, so in I went for the opening ceremony. There wasn't much to report, it simply being an opening statement from the president, though I was delighted that he used both Catalan and Esperanto; I do at ours too so as not to exclude new people, but I'm always aware that for some people this is anathema. I find it reassuring that the people here are sensible in that respect too. Once that was out the way, it was time to register. I bumped into our friend Ed, which was lovely - we haven't seen each other since April. I hadn't eaten yet (nor the night before) at it was about 11:00, so I snuck away to a cafe to get a pastry and coffee. My plans to speak Catalan are going about as well as I expected; I have passive knowledge only, so quickly resorted to my broken Spanish.

At noon the programme started, with a presentation by our friend Istvan and his wife, Fabienne, on the hot topic of the moment, immigration. Fabienne several years ago did a study on the issue interviewing people (including Esperantists who had fled the Warsaw ghetto) on their experiences, and presented the subject and results. Istvan added the comedy. Following this our friend Jorge presented a workshop on poetry, following up on one the previous night, having tasked people with making their own haikus. We broke for lunch and Ed and I set off with one of his friends, Pere, to find somewhere to eat. The streets were narrow but colourful, and Catalan flags were a common sight:


We knew we were on the right track when the buildings switched from being apartments to something a big grander:


Such a perfect blue sky behind it too; hard to think that this is the last day of October:


Lunch was cheap and cheerful. I'm not one for photographing my food, but changed my mind when it appeared the olive had an Esperanto star cut into it:


I wanted to go to the second-hand bookshop but, alas, Pere pointed out what I'd forgotten; the shop was likely to be closed at this time of day. He was right too, so off to the congress venue we went.

Istvan was presenting again, this time on migration in Esperanto literature. Unfortunately for him, his suitcase didn't arrive in Catalonia with him and his notes, photos and presentation were in it. You'd never have known had he not said, though - the man's delivery is flawless and casual.

The next item on the agenda was the one I was most looking forward to; Victor Sole was making a presentation on why he didn't like the music of the Esperanto hymn. This was fabulously done, with wonderful delivery to illustrate his points and clear breakdowns of the issues. In the end he put his money where his mouth is and played an alternative version, which he invited the room to sing along to. He didn't manage to work the miracle of making people like me suddenly be able to sing, but this one clearly worked much better. And then he put it to jazz! He responded to a cry from the audience of "Now change the lyrics!" with an admission that he wasn't brave enough to attempt that! It was remarkable to me how well this went down; I'm not sure we'd get the same result in the UK.

I wasn't interested in the next topic so headed off to the bookshop. I may have gone a little over the top, buying seven items. I also spotted two copies of Ken Follett's Eye of the Needle, which we have in four different languages, I think, at home but I'm going to hold off and see whether I can find a pristine version elsewhere first.

The last presentation of the day was another workshop by Jorge. I had told him at the end of the last session that I didn't dare volunteer my poem because it was about farting and there was lots of grey hair in the room. He laughed at that; one of the poems he'd read out at the previous evening's session was on that very subject, so he asked me to come back later and do it. The people laughed in all the right places so I was relieved to have survived.

Next was the evening programme, which was at a local bar. We were set to hear a concert from a Congolese young man, but he'd been ill and hadn't made it. Out of nowhere, our hosts put on a concert themselves and were really, really good, just the sort of music which Clare and I listen to. I didn't find out until the next day that they were the Esperanto group Kaj Tiel Plu.

I had a brief catch-up with my long-time friend Jordi, but his newborn daughter had had a long day and needed to go home, so it wasn't as long as it might have been. Not to worry - another friend, Lluis, and his wife were there with their 16-month-old and they very kindly kept me company all night around the dinner table.

I woke up much later on Sunday than I would've intended. The bedroom has no windows so my natural instinct to rise with the sun couldn't kick in. It wasn't the most glorious start; I've noticed over the last year that alcohol affects me much more easily than it used to (which I'm delighted about, because it suggests I drink less) and even though I don't think I drank that much during the previous night, I was sick three times. That put me off drinking all day.

I was late getting to the congress venue for the last part of the event, a concert by Kaj Tiel Plu at 13:00. I made it just in time for the last song, which was followed by the formal closing of the event.

There then followed the banquet, which lasted about three hours. I was really hungry, having not only not eaten breakfast again, but also jettisoned the contents of my stomach. This wasn't the kind of thing one could heap together (the starters including ham and cheese) but it filled a hole. And then people started saying goodbye to each other and everything was over. It had been fun, I must admit. These are all friendly people, and the Esperanto community in Catalonia is blessed with many talented people.

Ed and I went away together and chatted for six hours. Unfortunately, since I had been so late in the morning, I had missed the guided tour and hadn't been out with my camera, so all I've got to show of Mataró are some photos of the basilica after the night had started falling:



I think I'm going to change my plans for tomorrow. I'm checking out at 10:00 and was planning to visit Castelldefels, Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú, and then get to Tarragona. But there's no entry for Castelldefels in my guidebook and I still need to see parts of Mataró (and track down a new copy of Eye of the Needle!), so I think it might get dropped from my list. We'll see.

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