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Twelfth Night

I'm 229 months old. Don't worry, I'm not going to get all hep up every time the 5th rolls around. I just figured I'd hold onto my birthday photos for a moment — January had waxed a little too long by the time I got round to editing them.

I celebrated my birthday in Barcelona, and because Australia is so astromically far in front time-wise, my birthday began about 4pm the day before. I mean, not really, but if you have an excuse to celebrate a little longer, why not? I drank cava at that nightmare venue Poble Español — and had to go back to rescue a forgotten bag. Then I got pickpocketed and spent an hour fretting over the loss of my lovely wallet. That mometary hitch was soon fixed at a little place on our street, Marques de Barbera; and it was fixed by cheese, ham and more cava. Cava for days.

And so, the fifth, and the real thing so far as my timezone was conderned. From what I've pieced together, Christmas Eve in Spain isn't really on Christmas Eve, but they still do the 24th — I mean, it's a country full of people who know how to celebrate, why not have two parties? So: the Twelfth Night, Epiphany Eve and, hurrah-hurrah, my birthday all fall at once. Twelve drummers drumming, that sort of thing. Sparkles in the evening.

That would come later. I had no idea about any of this and the day unfolded. We ate, and cava'd, at Grill Room (Escudellers, 8, 08002 Barcelona) — which is just off La Rambla and those 1€ juice stands, hot damn. It isn't really a grill place at all, but does those set menus the Spanish are mad about. Does them well, my god, and so cheaply. Thank you.

Later, 12 Years a Slave. If you've seen it you'll know what I mean when I say it wasn't, um, ideal birthday material, but hell, what a film. If it weren't for Gravity I'd say something about the Oscars. We saw it in English (of course), with subtitles en Español — really, performances like that could never be replicated in a recording booth. There are some films you just can't dub — and thank goodness, because without it we had El Lobo de Wall Street or La Increíble Vida de Walter Mitty which have, apparently, made the transition to Spanish extrodinarily well.

Then we came out of the cinema and found this.

A thoudand open-top buses parading along, wreathed in glitter and lollies and music and joy. One for each king, we realised, and a few spare for children in hats and handfuls of sweets, pelting onlookers and each other. The pavement swamped with revellers, each armed with a good-natured elbow, pushing aside and being pushed. And the song played on loop, one of those rare sorts that doesn't wear, pulling them in like it did to us, two blocks away and blinking the last moments of trauma from our eyes.

And, when debris replaced the buses and the parade moved on, we stood and held our cheeks, aching as though they wanted to split from smiling.

As far as these things go, my 19th was a pretty casual birthday, spent with my parents in a strange and wonderful city. Even if the day itself was relaxed (full of food and charming) the vision that lasts is the girl, perched beside a bus with hands curled round a camera, opening her mouth to laugh and showing every tooth. I'll go back. I'll go back to be a face again, in a crowd or in a window, and to believe, quite privately, that these celebrations are for my day — and why not?



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