Lonesome cowboy in Barcelona
Missing my beautiful "V"
June 25, 2002
I am invited to speak at approximately 4-6 conferences every year. The subject
matter rarely strays far from what I am told I am an expert in: getting closer to
consumers by observing/filming their behaviour. Sometimes I am even asked to speak
abroad. So far this year I have been invited to Fort Lauderdale and Barcelona. In
fact, I am writing this article as I sit all by myself in my Barcelona hotel room.
You see, my wife Varinder and I had decided to make this conference into a mini break.
We booked ourselves into the beautiful Claris hotel a few weeks ago and were due
to fly here four days ago so we could have some quality time together. It wasn't
Ten days ago I was driving back from a meeting when V called to say that she had
been to her doctor for a check up and he had spotted a condition which needed rapid,
surgical attention. Not a major operation and for nothing too serious, but she had
decided not to wait and a few days later (last Thursday) I walked alongside her trolley
right up to the operating theatre where I kissed her forehead and told her I would
be waiting for her when she came out.
It was a simple 20-minute procedure. She was home the same day and is now almost
back to her gorgeous self again. The one downside was that she was not allowed to
fly. So we cancelled our break together and I came out here on my own.
I have been to Barcelona before (with V) but this time I asked a friend to suggest
a good fish restaurant. I was recommended to sample a place called: Botafumeiro in
Gran de Gracia. I walked in at around 12:30pm to find 3 men - two middle aged and
in suits with a the third much younger and casually dressed - eating at the bar which
had been set out with small, individual table cloths and napkins. Rather like an
American diner but a gourmet version with silver service.
I sat next to them and took in the beautiful Art Deco surroundings. The waiters,
chefs and head chef had the appearance and dignity of Roman emperors and carried
themselves like senior corporate executives in beautifully starched chefs costumes
and waiter's tunics. They all looked magnificent and industrious as they took to
their various tasks.
I was spotted on entry and as soon as they realised I spoke no Spanish an impeccably
mannered waiter came over to talk me through the menu in English. I ordered Octopus
for starters and mixed fried fish for my entree. While I waited a delicious bottle
of white wine was placed in an ice bucket in front of me. This was to be the start
of a four-hour emotional roller coaster ride.
On an empty stomach, I finished one glass of wine. Soon the grief, worry and plain
fear, which I had suppressed without knowing during V's operation drama, came to
the surface. I had no one to talk to, so in my head I played the film of my beautiful
V being wheeled helplessly into theatre as I watched from a distance. My eyes began
to sting as I started to fight back tears. My glass was refilled and I took a few
Now I was seeing her being brought out. I couldn't't
believe that she was actually smiling at me as she was wheeled back to the ward.
I held her and kissed her till she asked me for some water. A plate full of delicious
octopus startled me back to by bar side lunch. I ate and drank some more wine. I
used some bread to soak up the sauce left on my plate. Again my glass was refilled.
The wine had unlocked emotions I did not realise I had in me - but it was also making
me feel better.
By the time my main course arrived my attention had wandered to the three men sitting
next to me. When they finished their main course, the youngest one pulled out several
sheets of A4 paper with unintelligible writing on it. A passionate debate ensued
as they wrote notes along side the writing and crossed out other parts. A minor but
interesting detail was that who ever had written it all had done so on both sides
of each sheet. This detail (don 't ask why) fascinated me.
I soon realised that the writing was in fact mathematics. Formulas set out in Greek
characters enclosed in brackets and littered with numbers. I was suddenly in awe
of these men. I imagined them to be two friendly professors who were discussing the
brilliance of a younger genius. My mind drifted to the film: "Good Will Hunting"
and I played the scene where Matt Damon is reduced to tears by being told that, 'it
wasn' t his fault'. Suddenly I felt tearful again.
By the time I finished my lunch three quarters of a bottle of wine had helped to
wash it all down. It wasn't even 2:00pm and I was decidedly 'merry '. I walked out
of the dark restaurant into the Barcelona sun and placed my headphones (belonging
to my MP3 player which I bought to go jogging with and never had) to my ears. I pressed
play and walked down Gran de Gracia to the tune of Glen Campbell.
Confession time: I am a secret Country & Western
music fan. I absolutely get off on the stuff. So there I was, walking down the street
and listening to Glen Campbell's, 'Galveston'. There is something euphoria inducing
about walking down the street with your favourite tune playing at full volume so
that it becomes a filter through which you perceive everything around you.
Suddenly I longed to be in a cowboy hat and boots with a guitar, walking around Galveston,
a place I know not where in the US. I received a few sudden stares from people I
walked past before realising that I was singing, 'Galveston' out loud. I couldn't
hear my own voice and thought I was singing it in my head only. Instead people must
have heard me whine, "Galveston oh Galveston... I can hear the." I don't
know all of the words.
Back in my hotel room I fell into a deep slumber, which I have just woken from. I
don't have a hangover and I feel fine. But I still miss my gorgeous V. I miss the
sound of her voice and the sound of her laughter - she laughs easily and infectiously.
I fly home tomorrow.