Folks, it’s time to begin the blog again. After seven months, one operation, two crutches, three (metal) screws, a big limp (that’s a noun not an adjective here please note), a whole lot of fizz, the odd toyboy or two, much good food and a good deal of time with my beloved friends and family I’ve made it back to Buenos Aires!!!!!
Super strange to be back. Spent so long chomping at the bit and pining to be here that once I actually made it back there was this wobbly feeling of, ok… well… now what? After a certain amount of soul searching, quite a few glasses of an exceptional malbec (purely medicinal) and a very large rare steak at my favourite restaurant, La Gran Parilla de Plata (The Big Silver Steakhouse. Love it.) in San Telmo, decided that I do in fact still want to live in this beautiful and wonderful country.
Am staying with my super cool friend Graciela in the downtown neighbourhood of Congreso. She came to collect me and bless her, turned really quite pale when she saw the mountain of impedimenta I had with me (well, a girl needs more than one pair of shoes in a city like this). Her apartment is teeny tiny but she’d arranged all her stuff so there was a bed for me. And we can almost see the floor beneath all my bags. It’s jolly lucky we get on so well…
Graciela is busily learning English because a) she wants to and because b) her masters degree in Environmental Law next year is going to involve a lot of literature in English. I am therefore helping or sabotaging her efforts, depending on how you look at these things, by teaching her my personal brand of verbage. If you want to know how to say “Don’t wade in the ornamental fishpond” or “Excuse me, you’re standing on my skis”, look no further. I’m your girl.
Fabulous to see old chums again. Chicago Rick is still living in his huge and awesomely designer grafitti-ed apartment in Barrio Norte… I forecast more fighting over hot boys. He has set up another internet project… a forum for questions on Buenos Aires www.bafaq.com. Made us all (i.e. bribed us with pizza and beer) go round for a think tank on it. For the record I am happy to be bribed in this way any time… but hold the anchovies.
Saturday managed to score tickets to go and see the Fuerza Bruta show. Maybe you’ve heard of it, as the company tours the globe. They are originally from Argentina so the tickets here are 50 pesos rather than 50 quid. Suits me. It’s a most unusual set up and almost impossible to describe… the space between the audience and the dancers changes all the time. They’re in front of you, behind you, to the side, right above you in a glass-bottomed swimming pool that lowers until you can touch it with the flat of your hand. It’s dynamic and exciting and worth seeing if you ever get the chance.
Saturday was also La noche de los museos, an annual event in BA in which pretty much every museum and place of interest opens its doors from 8pm to midnight and the public pours in. What a great idea! Mind you, don’t really understand why people would queue for an hour to get into, say, the Fine Arts Museum when it’s free to get into and open every day anyway. We popped in before the line started to get long so I could see if there was anything done by one Leonidas Gambartes, a book on whom I spent the best part of half a year (on and off) translating. There was, and it was very good.
Went out of town on Sunday to Victoria, which is a tube ride and an hour on an old rickety train out of grubby Retiro station. Retiro is a horrible place: situated bang next to a big old slum, it’s grimy, hot and jam-packed with pickpockets, robbers and sundry Charlie artfuls. Expect to get liquid chucked over you and your bag snatched while you try to see through the goo.
Never mind, little Victoria dozes beneath the jacaranda trees and seems a long way away. I was invited for late lazy Sunday lunch with my super sweet hippy friend Nico and a round dozen of his cousins (it is de rigueur in all South American cousins to have approximately 30 first cousins. They find it deeply suspicious here that I only have three). Found them all seated in the shade on the patio around a vast wooden table eating paella and arguing about compost. Nico is something of a green-fingered fanatic and so salad vegetables of all varieties flourished around the walls. I gave him a bag of bird’s eye chilli seeds to grow for me because if I don’t keep my spice levels up I might die and they consider a sprinkling of black pepper dangerously hot here. Nico is also happily growing the biggest pot plant I ever saw. It lives in a bath and obviously enjoys the climate as it’s bigger than its container.
After that we went to the races. Can you believe I never saw a horse race before? I wish it had been somewhere a bit more glamorous than San Isidro hippodrome at 9pm on a Sunday, but you can’t have everything. Races are run three times a week and as there were no major prizes involved that day attendance was limited to the kind of grubby middle-aged man you might find in Ladbrokes any day of the week. The boys evolved some complicated system of betting that involved them losing their money every time. I declined to join them and watched the horses and the muscles bunching under their glossy coats as they stalked round the ring.
There was a fight on the bus on the way home. A strange rather elderly man with too-tight white clothes and a disturbing glassy stare that you felt was fixed on you all the time that he was looking into the middle distance was suddenly set upon by the large, bald and extensively tattooed gentleman standing next to him. God knows what set it off but one moment it was peace and quiet and the next man-in-white is being thrown across the bus and pummelled unmercifully. A woman pulled Mr Tattoo off him in the end, but not before he ended in my lap. Bloody hell these Latinos can all be a bit fiery at times.
Anyway, the evening ended well as a nice old chap with a thick thatch of grey hair and twinkling green eyes leaned up to help the crutch and I off the bus and we got to talking as we were both walking towards the huge Plaza Congreso. After a few platitudes he asked me “Sos importada vos?” which means “Are you imported?”… and I think that is the cutest thing I’ve heard all week.