Creative Writing Magic 7 June

Would you love to write a story, a novel, a memoir, a blog?  Maybe you’re already writing but struggling or feeling stuck. Or are you yearning  for the wondrous inner

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Stuff Catalans Do: Zumzeig

Zumzeig Aka the joy of research.  To tell you the truth, I was stumped. There aren’t that many Z-words in Catalan, at least not native words. Most are international ones

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Stuff Catalans Do: Yperita

Yperita My hefty (dead-tree) Diccionari de la Llengua Catalana has only one word with Y – yperita (the y is pronounced ‘ee’)  It doesn’t even have its own page, but

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Stuff Catalans Do: Xiuxiueig

Xiuxiueig Did you freak out when you saw this word? People tend to when they see a piece of text in Catalan because of the liberal sprinkling of ‘x’ s, 

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Stuff Catalans Do: W

W is not really a ‘native’ letter in Catalan. The only words in the W section of the dictionary are those of foreign origin, from wagnerià through waterpolo and watt

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Stuff Catalans Do: Verdaguer and Vermut

Verdaguer Maybe the first thing that springs to mind is that metro station in Barcelona whose name you can’t pronounce.  The Verdaguer monument is close by, unreachable in the centre

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Stuff Catalans Do: Ullastret and Ulldecona

Ullastret and Ulldecona From ancient Iberian settlements in the north to rock art and ancient olive trees in the south,  the history of Catalonia goes way back. Ullastret (oolyaSTRET), a

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Stuff Catalans Do: Tombatruites

Tombatruites Making a truita (trooEETeh) de patates (Spanish omelette) is dead easy.  You fry the diced potatoes in olive oil till soft. You beat the eggs in a bowl, with

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Stuff Catalans Do: Sant Jordi

Sant Jordi Over the years, I’ve written about Sant Jordi many times, so this is a mash-up of several oldish pieces. El dia de Sant Jordi is a standout day

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Stuff Catalans Do: Ratafia

Ratafia It really was difficult to decide what to post for R. Top of the list was Reus, the city, basically so I could give its pronunciation (having heard it

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Stuff Catalans Do: Quatre gats

Quatre gats When I first came to Barcelona, when Spain was still a police state, I taught English at a school in a stately building on Rambla Catalunya, on the

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Stuff Catalans Do: Pirineus

Pirineus From north to south, from east to west, the Catalans do mountains big time, and Els Pirineus (pronounced PeereeNAYoos) are the biggest of the lot. You probably know that

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Stuff Catalans Do: Oli d’oliva and Oliveres mil.lenàries

Oli d’oliva Liquid gold… healthy Mediterranean diet… absolutely delicious. And the Catalans do no less than five Denominació d’Origen Protegida extra virgin olive oils: Les Garrigues, Siurana, Baix Ebre-Montsià, Terra

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Stuff Catalans Do: Nit de Sant Joan

If you love being made to jump out of your skin while strolling peacefully through your local square, if dosing your dog with valium is your thing, or locking yourself

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Stuff Catalans Do: Mar i muntanya, Mató, Montserrat

Mar i muntanya ‘Sea and mountain’ is a type of dish that combines ingredients typical of mountain areas (meat, sausages, game etc) with fish and seafood, as in arrós mar

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Stuff Catalans Do: Llobregat

Llobregat “The land of seven harvests” was how the agricultural area of the Delta del Llobregat (lyoobrehGATT) south-west of Barcelona was known historically, thanks to its great fertility, plentiful water

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Stuff Catalans Do: K

Catalans don’t really do K. It’s the 11th letter of the Catalan alphabet but is only used in words of foreign origin, from kafkià to kuwaitià. According to the rule

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Stuff Catalans Do: Jaume 1, Joan, Jordi, Julivert

Jaume 1 Metro station in downtown Barcelona, named after Jaume el Conqueridor (James I of Aragon, aka the Conquerer). Pronounced JOWmeh (as in jowl) preeMEH,  Jaume 1 (1208 to 1276)

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Stuff Catalans Do: IGP, Informàtic, Ioga

Indicació Geogràfica Protegida Chickens (possibly headless) flapping and clucking along the runway amongst the aircraft: this was the image, still indelible, that popped into my head the first time I

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Stuff Catalans Do: Havaneres

Havaneres “My grandad went to Cuba On board the Català The best warship Of the overseas fleet. The helmsman and the skipper And fourteen sailors Were born in Calella Were

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Stuff Catalans Do: Gegants, Generalitat, Girona

Gegants The giants of Catalonia are not the kind of horrid monsters of fairy-tale and legend that gave us childhood nightmares,  but huge figures of men and women that are

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Stuff Catalans Do: FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona Having married into a family of cradle-to-grave Barcelona supporters, Football Club Barcelona, aka el Barça, is naturally one of the main threads in the tapestry of my life

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Stuff Catalans Do: Ebre, Esqueixada, Escalivada

Ebre I knew that the Riu Ebre was Spain’s longest river. That its delta was an important wildlife reserve.  For many years I also ‘knew’ that it was the boundary

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Stuff Catalans Do: Denominació d’Origen Protegida

Denominació d’Origen Protegida Hazelnuts from Reus, rice from the Ebro Delta, pears from Lleida, butter and cheese from Alt Urgell and La Cerdanya in the Pyrenees… olive oil from Siurana,

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Stuff Catalans Do: Calçotada, Castellers, Català

Calçotada The calçotada is the Catalans’ favourite gastronomic bash, traditional to the town of Valls and environs, and is the festive outing of choice from November to April. The last

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Stuff Catalans Do: Besòs, Bon profit and Botifarra

Besòs One of the rivers that Barcelona lies between on the coastal plain, as opposed to having a river flowing through the city. You know those three tall chimneys you

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Stuff Catalans Do: Andorra and Arròs

Andorra Very long and very crowded duty-free shopping street running through the mountains between Spain and France. In fact, Andorra is a mini-country, capital Andorra la Vella, officially called the

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The A to Z Blog Challenge Theme Reveal

It’s over ten years now since In The Garlic: Your Fun, Informative Guide to Spain was published, a quirky book in A to Z format that distils the essence of

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Poach Pod

I’ve been having a massive clearout and, finally, the poach pods have gone for recycling. I bought the set of garish purple silicon egg poachers years ago in the UK.

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Valerie’s A-Z of Bullshit

From Awesome to Zeitgeist, you’ll be blown away by this no-brainer A to Z of buzzwords, hype and cool stuff. A is for Awesome Please do not send me any

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Brushgasm

So I’m back from digital darkness with a jumble of notes and drafts. I’d lost the thread of this blog – until our cat had a brushgasm. I’m sure you

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Waiting for a Fat Furry Girl

I hesitate to give you this link: you see, it’s a major procrastination tool, which is why I’d carefully deleted it from my bookmarks and my mind. But after a

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Stainless Steel

So I had the idea of doing a kitchen-themed exploration of my language obsessions. What gadgets or utensils or whatever were worthy of note, linguistically speaking? Stick beater. I like

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Birging and Corfing

Who remembers the wonderful game show they used to run on British TV, Call My Bluff? The show featured two teams of awesomely witty celebrity contestants. An obscure word was

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Z is for Zeitgeist

This German word is one of my favourites and it means ‘spirit of the age’, which obviously doesn’t sound as streamlined as the German (which translates literally as time-spirit. For

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Y is for Yettie

You know who they are. They carry black computer bags and they are that particular irritant in airports, spouting into their phones non-stop all the way from baggage drop through

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X is for X-Ray Specs

If this blog had a soundtrack, this song by punk band The Lillingtons would be it: Cause I can see through your bullshit with my X-Ray specs. Well I can

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W is for Wow

Bullshit aside, this is absolutely one of my favourite words in the whole of the English language: it’s versatile and expressive and energy-efficient, packing a big punch with just one

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V is for Vector

Sorry, no idea what a vector is. Nor has anyone else (except, presumably, rockstar mathematicians and engineers.) Not to worry. It’s extremely versatile and sounds great. Just toss it in

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U is for Unpack

I only became aware of this one recently and then found myself using it over and again. At my last writing workshop, for example. “So, that’s a few housekeeping issues

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T is for Turbocharge

I knew that a turbine was something that turned (duh), but I was driven by my passion for etymology to do further research. The word originally comes (via French) from

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S is for Storytelling

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin. Once upon a time there was a marketing strategist who had such an overblown idea of his own awesomeness that… Now it’s your

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R is for Rockstar

That is, that pinnacle of awesomeness: who you really are, in your relationships, your business and your life. You can use Rockstar like Quantum or Ninja to sell stuff. Turbocharge

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Q is for Quantum

Use this word to shift gazillions of self-help and personal development books, audios, workshops, webinars, systems, seminars, courses, toolboxes, practices, healings, activations, attunements, ‘transmissions’ and master key programs.    

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P is for Push the Envelope

To be honest, I got stuck with the letter P. Spoilt for choice: so many epic words to take the piss out of: portal, platform, process, paradigm, purposify, productize. How

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O is for Options

Options – the illusion of choice. With most things now there are so many options you go dizzy and end up (a) spending hours / days on consumer sites to

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N is for Ninja

You see it all the time now: all those people out there who call themselves book / business / blogging ninjas or profess to teach you seven kick-ass ninja strategies

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M is for Migrate

As in ‘migrate out’ meaning to fire, sack, kick out, ‘let go’. Of course it’s now a transitive verb: ‘migrate’ is something you do to someone else or have done

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L is for Leverage

Seriously, can anyone hear this word now without rolling on the floor laughing? This time, instead of just sniggering from my moral high ground, I decided to find out what

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K is for Killer

How violent our language is. How aggressive we have to be to engage (rolls eyes) our clients. We have to write killer subject lines and sales pages, come up with

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J is for Jargon

“Can I pick your brains?” says my friend who, poor thing, works in ‘communication’ and spends his days (plus nights and weekends) writing, editing and translating applications for funding for,

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I is for Innovation

 I have seen ‘innovation’ and ‘innovative’ obsessively bandied around enough times (solutions, platforms, applications, strategies…) to suspect it is pure bullshit, but I couldn’t put my finger on why exactly.

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H is for Hack

Frankly unable to bear this word which now seems to mean – what? Tips? Tools? Methods? Processes? Solutions? As in Five Life Hacks or 50.000 Web Hacks. It has such

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G for Going Forward

Can someone please tell me why we now have to say this instead of ‘from now on’? I once asked this on a Facebook thread and got a sanctimonious little

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F is for Functionalities

The wild card applications of this word are endless. Incentivize future-proof functionalities.  Repurpose robust functionalities. Synergize mission-critical functionalities. Functionalize synergistic initiatives. Now it’s your turn.     The A-Z of

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E is for Epic

An excellent option for those who have heeded the plea to refrain from across-the-board Awesomeification. No seriously epic bullshitter should be without this word.     The A-Z of Bullshit,

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D is for Driven

From Awesome to Zeitgeist, you’ll be blown away by this no-brainer A to Z of buzzwords, hype and cool stuff. D is for Driven Stick this handy all-purpose word onto

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C is for Click

From Awesome to Zeitgeist, you’ll be blown away by this no-brainer A to Z of buzzwords, hype and cool stuff. C is for Click Clicks and Bricks, Clicks and Mortar,

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B is for Bullshit Bingo

From Awesome to Zeitgeist, you’ll be blown away by this no-brainer A to Z of buzzwords, hype and cool stuff. Aka buzzword bingo. The fun game that makes business meetings

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A is for Awesome

From Awesome to Zeitgeist, you’ll be blown away by this no-brainer A to Z of buzzwords, hype and cool stuff. A is for Awesome Please don’t send me any more

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Jumbo

So we were talking in Catalan about something very large, and my son said: “in English you can use jumbo, right? Like a jumbo-sized sandwich or burger or other horrid

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Flipchart

I needed a flipchart (back in the dark days before I had a smartphone). And I could not for the life of me remember how to say it in Spanish

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The Moo and the Dougalist

To this day, I can’t actually tell you what The Moo looked like. I was very very small, and I was so terrified of it that I always ran inside

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Snoreathon

The first time I came across the word ‘snoreathon’, I fell about laughing. It’s so amusing and evocative. How was the match / the movie / your date? A total

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Using Your Loaf

When I was growing up in the north of England, at bedtime my mum always used to say: come on now, up the apples. In those days, men still wore

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Think-tank

Don’t you just love this word? I do. It’s one my totally favourite expressions, one of those matches made in heaven where two words that rhyme or alliterate or have

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Talking about Talking

‘He pontificates, and she rabbits on,’ said my friend witheringly, by way of explaining why he would not be having dinner with a certain couple we know. I grinned in

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Vivamus non augue mauris amet

Mauris efficitur sit amet risus et amet. Donec purus leo, malesuada maximus amet.

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How The Creative Process Works

Lying on my yoga mat, focussing on my breathing, focussing on releasing the almost crippling tension in my neck and shoulders – suddenly it comes together. Dots join. It’s like

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A Story of Mine

“Tortoise had become so demoralised by other, faster, nimbler animals bullying him that he lost all his self-confidence. Instead of feeling calm and unhurried and savouring every instant of Now,

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Love Your Characters

The essential element of powerful fiction is not a twisty plot, pace, tension, effective writing… you can do all those things and still not engage the reader. The absolute key

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Slinky

“What does ‘slink’ mean?” Robert asked me. (Apparently he was trawling through the entire list of English irregular verbs.) As usual, I’m unable to give a straight answer / translation.

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Weaving Text

In a recent post we looked at how the creative process has many stages, and how writing is no exception, and how each stage requires different skills and tools. And

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In progress: In The Garlic new edition

We’re working on it. Stay tuned.

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What a Vase from Portugal Can Teach Us about Writing

This vase was bought my late parents many years ago on holiday in Portugal. How did this vase start life? As clay. Formless and colourless. So how did it become

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Flipchart

I needed a flipchart (back in the dark days before I had a smartphone). And I could not for the life of me remember how to say it in Spanish

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Big Mind Join Dots

Yesterday, on the way back from the shops, an idea hit me – a section of plotline for the second novel, which is currently mostly a bunch of freewrites and

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Picasso for Writers

I’m going to be brutally honest here: writing is scary. It’s one of the big reasons  we procrastinate. That said, it’s taken me years of attempts at meditation, mindfulness, NLP,

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The Gift of 20 Minutes a Day

Can we reframe this business of writing for 20 mins a day/500 words as a gift that you give to yourself? A gift to that part of you that never

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With A Rose Between Her Teeth

A story that plays with both British and Spanish stereotypes. “Whenever we Costa Brits became weary of sun, sea and sangria, tired of bright beach umbrellas, blue skies, palm trees,

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Black Dress: The Making Of A Story

My most chilling – and successful – story (if successful means the number of times it’s been published) came straight from my unconscious mind. It’s the only story I’ve ever

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The Map and the Territory

Do you know the difference between the map and the territory? It’s a key skill to have, to be able to distinguish between the map and the territory. It puts

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Not Schrödinger’s Cat

An article of mine about the Catalan language once appeared in a magazine under the title ‘Catalan Got Your Tongue? The Language With Nine Lives.’  I showed it to my

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Business Writing Magic

Many people tell me they have big problems writing for their business. They know all the stuff they’re supposed to do to promote their products and services: email marketing, newsletters,

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Picasso and You

Do you believe that talent is innate?  That when talented people sit down to write or paint or play music,  it just flows out effortlessly into amazing art? But when

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Write What You Know?

Write what you know.  But don’t take that too literally.  Maybe you don’t know what it feels like to be shot or wounded. Do as actors do: think back to

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Writing: The Three Keys

Passion – Perseverance – Patience Passion drives the story and sweeps the reader along. Your passion for your subject, your story,  your characters in some mysterious way leaves its energy

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Story Success

Big congratulations to Creating Worlds writers Kobie du Plessis and Sam Mardell on the publication of their stories, both set in Barcelona,  in Foreign Encounters 2012, the third anthology published

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Paradisiac Pink Power

I gasped as I eased the bottle of shower gel from its wrapping (a gift from a friend over from the UK). I was drooling before I even got the

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The Colours and The Shapes

Ever since I was a depressed, angst-ridden teenager in Manchester, I’ve zoned out / self-soothed / chilled out by wandering round shops. So when I read about the wonderful Artist’s

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Why I Failed Ancient History

“Cicero,” declared my grammar school classics teacher, “was an old windbag.” And that’s when it all came alive. I was a straight A student – Latin, Greek and Ancient History. 

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Creative Writing Magic

Creative Writing Magic: a fun and festive introductory workshop in central Barcelona. Spark the magic with simple but powerful creativity and writing tools. Click here for more information.

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The Three Little Pigs

When my mum came to pick me up after my scary first morning at primary school, I pretended I had not left a puddle on the brown polished wood floor of the classroom. If I pretended it wasn’t there, no one would see it. But childen’s magic doesn’t work for grownups.

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Jam Tarts

When we talk about books, reading and writing, my mum always remembers an episode from one of those wonderful novels by H.E. Bates (probably The Darling Buds of May) where Ma Larkin makes jam tarts.

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