Friday, 26 June 2015

Back, and hitting the ground running. My guide to Barcelona.

Very quiet on the blog, but if you follow me on Instagram you will see that I enjoyed myself in Barcelona.

I got home early this morning, and had a cuddle with my partner. He joined me for a few days after his conference in Copenhagen, but he headed home a couple of days before me. The dog was also very pleased to see me, and is cuddling up to me on the couch as I type.

I really did have a good time, a healing time. At the start, on my own in a big city and jetlagged, I had a bit of an existential "what is this all worth" type thing. I still felt very raw from what had gone on barely a few days before. A few tears dribbled down my cheeks as I walked the Rambla de Catalunya for the first time (well since I visited in early 2010). I had sunglasses on.

I then had a "na, fuck that" moment. While acknowledging the grief I felt, I made a decision to make the best of the situation, to cherish that time alone in a magnificent city. I had worked hard for it.

The here and now is all we really have.

I walked and walked, and walked some more. Everywhere, for hours. My fitbit tells me I averaged 18,000 steps per day. I felt and enjoyed the warm breeze and the sun on my shoulders.  I ate my body weight in Tapas and Jamon, and sampled all the Sangria.

The first, and the best.

I delivered my paper at the conference, and it was well received. The conference itself was a bit meh. Australians do conferences well, I think.

Here are some of the things I did. Those of you thinking of visiting Barcelona may use this as advisory.

Spain is known for it's retailers Zara and Mango. However the clothes are often poorly constructed, poorly cut and the prices are fairly global. Shoes are a better bet; I bought two pairs. Positively restrained. I bought a pair of Camper sandals. Camper shoes can err on the side of a bit ugly but are generally superior in comfort. I also bought a pair of earrings made by an independent jeweller

Gold plated with smokey quartz. Excuse my lady-beard...

Europe and Asia are slightly more competitive for cosmetics prices - I shouted myself a Lancome mascara and their magic cushion, both beautiful.

The Barri Gotic, the old town or Gothic Quarter, is a dense scattering of streets just south of Plaza Catalunya. There are a few main streets as anchors, but it is easy to get lost in those charming little streets, and I did. I went to the Picasso museum, and, seeing the queues, booked ahead online. The other

Ooooh look, a Gothic Cathedral.

The Barri Gotic as it is now was build atop an old Roman Empire City, parts of which could be seen in the Barcelona History Museum; the excavation sits below the building, and you take the elevator down and wander about on a boardwalk thingy, which is rather cool.

The wine vats.

There were lots of little dogs to pat. I met this fella, a friend to one of the shopkeepers in a small square near the History Museum

I didn't catch his name. Possibly Ernesto? Ernie for short.

So long as there was a baseline level of concentration (the cars being on the other side and all), all of the streets were ripe for a wander. The people watching, as my friend Faux Fuchsia would say, is 11/10.

I ate a fair bit of this, hence I went to learn a little about it, to "Jamon Experience". There was a slightly twee exhibition of how the best Jamon, the Jamon Bellota, is made (free range pigs of a certain breed who are allowed to roam freely and feast on acorns, aged for 36 months). After the twee exhibition, a tasting was offered.

Remember: Jamon Bellota.

A bit of Gaudi
Antoni Gaudi was the famous 19th century Architect, who drew inspiration from nature and religion, and eschewed straight lines. People associate him with the Sagrada Familia, which is still being constructed. I found it a bit ugly from the outside, so, having been in there before, I didn't go in this time.

I saw Casa Mila (Pedrera), from the outside.

We went into Park Guell

And the highlight was going in Casa Batllo:

If you go to Barcelona, you should definitely go in, best Audioguide ever and well worth the 22 Euro cost.

The other really cool thing I did when my partner was there was catch the Funicular from the Waterfront out to Montjuic. The Bar at the top of Montjuic makes the best Patatas Bravas in Barcelona.

Here are some other random pics:

Whiling away the evening with a Sangria, Placa Reial.

the wine in the supermarket was super cheap.

The hospital at which the conference was held. I know! It's a hospital!

Have any of you been to Barcelona?
What was your favourite thing?

Thursday, 11 June 2015

I wasn't angry, until......

People had said that it was normal after a miscarriage to feel angry, jealous and resentful of other fecund women.

I really hadn't!

I survived trips to the local shops at mother/bubba in pram peak hour. Though on balance I would have preferred not to see them, I did not dissolve into tears, and I even mustered a smile at some of them.

On that front, I was fine. I am putting some finishing touches on my chapters.I went to get some lunch.

I stopped and had a look at the magazines, and saw the botoxed mug of this person

SHE is fucking pregnant.

As you were.....

Hello, am OK.

I am back on my feet after yesterday's procedure. Not as strong or robust as I would've like to have been, or felt I was this morning, but on my feet nonetheless.

Fairly minor sort of procedure - done as a day case, general anaesthetic. The Ob/Gyn was a friend of a friend (it's a small world), and was lovely. She knew I was planning on flying off to Barcelona on Sunday, and said I could, short of any complications. During/after the procedure, she was a little concerned (possibly paranoid, as Murphy's law tends to apply to doctors as patients) that a complication may have occurred. She was completely upfront, and has been ringing me to check that I am ok, and put me on some antibiotic horse-pills.

To both of our relief, I have recovered well, physically, making the complication she was concerned about unlikely. I am able to be up and about, with minimal discomfort today. I even wrestled with walked the dog. I went into work to tie up some loose ends.

Getting out of the house was harder than I appreciated. At work I shut myself in my office, played music on Rdio and had a little cry. But I got some shit done. I have more shit I want to do, but not tonight. If ever there was a time I could procrastinate, it is now.

Apart from the tangible loss of the pregnancy, I am feeling a less tangible loss. I was surprised and quite delighted by how, in it's early stages at least, pregnancy agreed with me. I had a twinkle in my eye, and an easy, wide smile. I am normally a fairly cheerful person, but I felt ebullient. I am noticing the difference now.

I mentioned the other day that I was trying not to fall down the rabbit hole of wondering what I have done wrong. The other potential rabbit hole I am now trying to avoid is that regarding the next pregnancy, the "what if it happens again" question. It does not help to think too far into the future; not about that anyway.

Still, the plans I had, we had, have necessarily shifted. It is my habit to try to find the potential for good in any situation. We adapt as we need to.

And, having already made my peace with minimal vino and no jamon in Barcelona, now I can make the most of all the culinary offerings "EAT ALL THE THINGS". I am nothing if not glass-half full, especially if said glass contains a nice wine.

If one must cry, it helps to do it into a glass of Veuve Clicquot, am I right?

Seriously though, I am letting myself feel this. In my own way. There are worse places to grieve, though, than the sunny streets of Barcelona. In my sadness and disappointment, I am well aware of my blessings.

I am not one to gush in this forum, but I have to say, the care I received in the hospital was magnificent,  as have been my family and friends.

My dear partner has been so, so wonderful (I tear up as I type this). I have told him this, repeatedly.

And tomorrow is another day.

Your comments on my last post helped me enormously, so thank all of you xxx. For me, it is easier to talk about things like this in this forum than face to face, if that makes any sense. I feel a bit more able to express myself in an authentic way.

Monday, 8 June 2015


My blog posts of late were all a mish mash of the grind of the final throes of thesis writing, and my excitement regarding going overseas, and some brags about my crossfit exploits.

They were hiding something more important, more exciting.

About 6 weeks ago, when I was thinking of what I would do with my pimply skin, and considering some definitive treatment, I had to have a pregnancy test.

It was positive.

Shock gave way to joy. Joy like I had never felt before. I walked around with a big dopey smile on my face. I was excited about having a baby close to my sister (she is having a little girl, squeeee)

I was so well. Full of energy. No nausea to speak of. Food tasted good. I didn't even miss wine that much. My mood was good, no doubt the pregnancy hormones agreed with me. I was enjoying it.

The only thing that was annoying was the fact that I had to go piddle every two seconds. I still did my running and jumping, being careful to empty my bladder before. I reveled in my wellness.

Among the joy of it, I felt vulnerable in a way that I never had before. Aware of how open to twists of fate I was. I felt sometimes a bit like a precious, breakable vessel, an unfamiliar feeling. The love within my heart expanded to a tenderly heartbreaking level, and I felt acutely grateful for the people I had around me, especially my partner.

As a break from my thesis, I would trawl the literature on pregnancy. There are a lot of beliefs about what is bad in pregnancy, and I was trying to get a feel for the facts. I became well appraised of what the risks of coffee, wine, cheese and diet soft drinks. I had also started to look at stretchy garments. I had been a conscientious objector to Jeggings, but had overcome this because by Gosh, they are comfy.

A week and a bit ago, we went to see the obstetrician. We had the viability scan. A small, healthy little blob with a heartbeat. Miscarriage rate down to 10% or less at that point.

The little blob with the heartbeat had a lot of hopes and dreams attached to it. It's natural.

I spent all weekend working on my thesis, so going back to work this morning was almost a break.
I had been feeling a bit dizzy, nothing out of the ordinary, and a twinge in my lower abdomen. Happens.

At work this morning, I had some bleeding. I told my co-workers and burst into tears.

An ultrasound was arranged. The secretary at the ultrasound centre, sensitive to the situation, offered to sit me in the quiet room. I declined, tough. I sat and read old magazines.

The scan showed an outline similar to what I understood from the "what to expect" websites. Except this time it was amorphous. There was no heartbeat, and I was informed that the fetus had stopped growing.  The obstetrician came in and confirmed that I had miscarried.

There is no anger, just sadness. Gratitude and hope too. Efforts not to fall down the rabbit hole of how I could've done something to avoid this, knowing intellectually there was something beyond my control.

I just have to feel the feels, and let the tears come as they need to. The only way out is through. We will get there.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Hard Yards, the Home Stretch...then BCN!

Hello from dreary Melbourne.

Melbourne put on some craptacular weather during the last week, with the mercury some days not really going abouve 10 degrees.

This made going outside, or exercising, seem ridiculous. I got some steps in at the shopping centre. Carrie Bradshaw was right, and shopping is actually cardio.

The weather has made it all the more appealing to sit inside and get the last throes of the thesis written. It really is like the last bit of a 10km fun run, like from about 8.5km, where you feel tired, but too excited about the finish to drop the pace. You want to pick the pace up and do a magnificent sprint finish.

I am nearly there, friends. Just one more results chapter, which should not take too long. I don't know whether I should re-read all my chapters and do the conclusions chapter, so I might leave it till after Barcelona.

Barcelona, people!

I am off next Sunday evening. I am super excited, and planning some gadding about as well as the conference. I am craving the sunlight and novelty, as the "rat in a cage" feeling is mounting here at home. I've been to BCN a few years ago, but that was during winter. I am planning to visit the Sagrada Familia again, as that is a work in progress. I would also like to do a bike tour. I have had some bikini line "surgery" performed so that I can go swimming in the pool of the hotel I am staying at for the first couple of days. Swimming (or really just splashing about in the pool) really says holidays to me.

At the present, I am at work, just psyching myself up to write my presentation that I am giving at the conference. I am also excited to be sharing my research with an international audience.

Well I had better get on to it!

Do any of you have some tips for things to do in BCN?