012 – Riots, nuns and Nigerian hookers: My year in review (January-April 2012)

Welcome to part one of my fun-filled, photo-tastic, glorious review of all things 2012. OK, not “all things” as such; you’ll find no reviews of the latest music, films or political events here. No, I’m far too self-centred for that. This post is all about MY 2012. Enjoy…

So, my favourite number is 12. As such, this time last year, as we patiently waited for 2011 to kindly bugger off, I was optimistic that 2012 was to be a great year. How could it not be, with my number of predilection at the helm? Of course, for the country as a whole, 2012 has been fantastic. With the Queen’s jubilee celebrations and Kate getting knocked up, as well as an excellent showing at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, National Pride couldn’t be stronger. For once, we’re proud to be British. And, looking back on it, aside from any of the aforementioned national events, 2012 has also been a pretty damn good year for me. So, what better way to end my 2012 archives than with a little look back on the year? In this post, we’ll tackle January-April


As January rolled around last year, things were not looking up. Let’s face it, it takes a lot of joy for this miserable 31 days to constitute a good month (such as spending it travelling around Mexico and Guatemala…ah, memories), otherwise few people are going to have a good word to say about it. For me, the first January 2012 blow was that the company I’d been working for during the festive period, Hawkin’s Bazaar, had just gone into administration. Of course, having a mere Christmas time role, I wasn’t out of a job as such, and things could have indeed been much worse. After all, many of my former colleagues had been subsequently made redundant. However, working 90 hours during the run-up to Christmas in hellish surroundings (think joyous children and happy, festive music…shudder) and not receiving a single penny for it was enough to make even Chris Cringle anti-Christmas.

The woe spilled over to the academic side of life, where I still busily furrowing away on that degree of mine. Indeed, I can categorically state that January 2012 was the worst month of my degree, workload-wise. It’s no secret that final year is the bane of most students’ existence, but this month really took the crumpet. With five essays to hand in for various modules as well as two Spanish translation exams and one Portuguese exam to revise for, I found myself cocooned in my room for the duration of the month; only leaving to fatten myself up with my housemate Natalie’s baked treats (when choosing housemates, choose ones who bake).


February was a fairly uneventful month (Presumably, seeing as I can’t remember a single thing about it). All I know is that the relief of finishing the first semester of the year led to a general state of europhia which lasted all 29 days. What’s more, it was this month that I found out I’d actually done well in the 3,500 essay on Spanish immigration which had been the lowlight of the January that had terrorised me. That alone made it a good month.


If I told you that I turned 22 on the same day that I visited this…


…would you be able to guess whether March was a good month for me?

It would be an understatement to say that I enjoy travelling. And March provided many an opportunity to do indulge in my favourite pastime, with trips to not one, not two, but three of the most wonderful countries in Europe. First, a week in Italy with my sister, during which we discovered Naples, a city so dirty yet so beautiful at the same time that it could make your head spin. Three days in Rome and the Vatican allowed us to play “spot the nun”, which, given we saw over 130 of the little blighters, was not a difficult game to win. Other highlights included the best pizza and ice cream known to man, leaving my passport on an Easyjet plane, being mistaken for a Spaniard by all locals charmed by my distinctive brand of “Spantalian”, and my own sister’s assumption that I spoke Italian “Can you ask her for one of the beers in the other fridge, Jonny?” (Love you, Lucy)

But the fun wasn’t to stop there, oh no! From Rome, I flew to Barcelona to mean up with SpanSoc (University Society) for their Easter trip. We wandered around the city lazily, eating tapas, seeing amazing Barcelonian (conundrum of the day: what adjective is used to describe something from Barcelona?!) buildings and just generally loving life. We also discovered the world’s biggest lightweight in our German friend Fred, pissed as a goat after half a glass of wine on the beach.

That night, the rest of us, more tolerant of the wonders of alcohol, energised and raring to go, tackled a local Barcelonish nightclub. Unfortunately, having forgot the password for free entry, I was denied access by the charming doormen, leading to me being placed in a pig-pen-esque holding zone for the club rejects, all of whom “tired and emotional”. After a heated debate with a few of my fellow rejects (I may have implied I didn’t like Spain…although given we were in Barcelona, I presumed this wouldn’t be such a controversial opinion…) I walked back to the hostel, accompanied by two of the nicest Catalunians ever, who had also been refused entry to the club for no apparent reason. En route, we met a school of charming Nigerian prostitutes, whose tempting offer of a blowjob in their car had to be rejected with a heavy heart by all three of us. After all, I had been warned by my Greek friend Daphne as to the dangers of such working women with the words “it’s just so much AIDS, Jonny”.

The day we left Barcelona coincided with the nationwide “Huelga General” (General Strike), one of the craziest things I have ever found myself caught up in. It escapes my mind what the good folk of Spain were protesting about, but one thing’s for sure: the Barcelonese go bat shit crazy when they don’t get their way. Seriously, we stepped outside of our hostel and within seconds we saw bottles being smashed, riot police, stampedes, smashed windows, torched dumpsters…and of course, with half of Barcelona’s roads being closed, getting to the airport proved a troublesome task. Especially given that most taxistas were on strike as well, and those that weren’t faced backlash from the angry mob responsable for this:


Barcelonians: Annoyed with German banks.


Barcelonites: Disgusted by dumpsters.

Having escaped the madness of Barcelona, we were soon on our way to not-so-sunny Lisbon, home to probably the best hostel ever graced by my presence. The manager was a Portuguese chappy whose English was so good he was coming out with such linguistic belters as “I shall bestow the key to you” in faultless RP. Also, aside from breakfast (officially included in the room bill), the staff casually made us lunch as well at no extra cost! Legendary – if anyone is planning a trip to Lisbon, bell me up and I’ll give you the name of this place. This probably explains why we stayed in the hostel until about 3pm every day, only leaving to vandalise beloved Portuguese monuments.


This thing was already scribbled on to shit; don’t judge us. (Sorry for party vandalising)

Other highlights of Lisbon included sampling the culinary delight of pasteis de belem (dear God they’re good), Lloyd taking the responsibility of chief Portuguese-speaker of the group, as Lusophone and former Lisbon resident Max stood by idly, leading to such linguistic gems as: “Nao me gostam cogumelos”.

A further highlight for me was when the fresher of the group, David, who had been trash-talking us final-years for being “past it”, at the ripe age of 22, for not wanting to go out on the lash every night, practically died on the penultimate day of our trip due to a severe lack of sleep. Unfortunately for him, as old as the oldies of the group were, we still had a lot of growing up to do, as evidenced by the following photo:


   David getting a head start on Movember.


In spite of the gloomy weather imposing itself on the Iberian Peninsula, I continued my travels for the first few days of April, stopping off in Seville, Spain to be reunited with my good buddy Christopher. Cristobal is from Kent originally and studied French, German and Chinese at university before falling for a Spaniard, which just shows how hilariously fucked up life can be. I was so happy to see him and to meet his fiancé Adrián, as well as the most enthusiastic dog known to man, Patches, whose saliva I am still cleaning off my face nine months later. To see how well Christopher had managed to start up a life in the south of Spain was really impressive, and I totally admire him for it. Even though I didn’t really get to see Seville at its best (The rain in Spain falls mostly in Andalucía, after all), I managed to make a day trip to the Córdoba to see the wondrous Mezquita; an incredible mix of Christianity and Islam under one roof which was both Moorish and moreish.

My plans to travel onwards to Granada and then Madrid were thwarted by the hideous climate. Instead, I boarded the next flight home, and before I knew it, was back in stunning Southampton, to brave the last two months of my degree. The rest of April wasn’t all doom and gloom, however. Firstly, I had my “house birthday”, where housemate Natalie baked cakes incorporating my favourite flavours (pistachio, cherry, lemon and white).

Image.Fun fact: just looking at this can give you diabetes

Secondly, after four months, I finally got a cheque from Hawkin’s Bazaar for roughly half my unpaid wages. Finally, despite the mountains of miserable essays I was subjected to during holidays, I was given an assignment that I actually enjoyed writing (stop the presses): creative writing in Spanish. For two weeks I amused myself with my nerdy story which revolved around the idea that words have personalities and status within their own linguistic community (Judge me all you want for being a loser, I loved it!)

So, essays, exams, cake, Spanish riots, nuns and Nigerian prostitutes…that was my January-April. Coming up next time: May-August. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming!)

Ciao for now


P.S. You might be wondering whether it was deliberate that the last post of 2012 be post # 012. I can inform you that it was just a beautiful coincidence.


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