Luna’s hair

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Paula had seen many beautiful sunsets, but that evening it was especially beautiful. Maybe the colours were brighter, or maybe the air was cleaner. Or it may just be that she was sitting in the park with Luna and Tilda. Luna was taking pictures of them, but especially of Tilda. Tilda always looked the best of the three in pictures and on the mirror. But today she had put make up on for pictures. She needed a portfolio – she had one but she needed to constantly update it, she explained, if she wanted to get a better job as a professional dancer. So she would probably use some of those pictures for her portfolio. Paula was worrying that the light was going away. At the same time, she enjoyed every second of it, and she enjoyed it even more every time she remembered it from then on. One of those, so sweet memories for a lifetime. Tilda had such a nice hair, and her beauty was so apparent that day. She had made up her eyelashes with a deep black mascara to make sure they would be well marked in the photos.

At one point, Tilda took her shoes off and sat barefooted on the grass and the light was perfect. Luna does not have a copy of that perfect picture any more. She sent Tilda the negatives and copies so that she could use them for her portfolio.

As she took pictures with her camera, the sun beams made Luna’s hair even more bright and orange. And just when every one thought Tilda was making love to the camera, she snapped:
“My God Luna. Your hair is so beautiful.”
“So orange. So bright.”
Luna left her camera on the tripod and when she was sure it would stay there untouched, she put her hands on her hips and bent the upper part of her body to the left. Then back up, then to the right. Then to the left again. Her hair moved above her head with the movement.
“What the hell are you doing, Luna?”
“I am displaying my hair for you so that you can appreciate better its beauty.”
She stopped. She was smiling with her own unique grin.
“Have you appreciated it as you like, or shall I move it more?”


Paula había visto muchas puestas de sol, pero esa tarde estaba especialmente hermosa. Tal vez los colores eran más brillantes, o tal vez el aire estaba más limpio. O pudiera ser simplemente que estaba sentada en el parque con Luna y Tilda. Luna les sacaba fotos a las tres, pero obre todo a Tilda. Tilda siempre estaba la más guapa de las tres en las fotos y en el espejo. Probablemente Tilda utilizaría algunas de e aquellas fotos para su portafolio, y ella era la única que necesitaba uno.

Mientras sacaba fotos con su cámara, los rayos de sol hicieron el pelo de Luna aún más brillante y naranja. Y justo cuando Paula y Luna pensaban que Tilda estaba haciendo el amor a la cámara, Tilda espetó:

“Dios mío, Luna. Qué pelo tan bonito.”
‘Tan naranja. Tan brillante.»

Luna dejó la cámara en el trípode y cuando estuvo segura de que estaba estable, puso las manos sobre las caderas y dobló la parte superior de su cuerpo a la izquierda. Luego volvió a ponerse recta, y luego se dobló de nuevo a la derecha, y luego a la izquierda otra vez. Su pelo se movió por encima de su cabeza con el movimiento.

‘¿Qué coño haces, Luna?’
‘Te enseño mi pelo para que puedas ver y apreciar mejor su belleza.»
Se detuvo. Sonreía con su sonrisa única.
‘¿Lo has apreciado bien, o lo muevo más?’


“I am a dancer”, she answered to Luna’s question.
“As in, a professional dancer?” asked Paula.
“Are you dancing here in London?”
“No, not now. I am on holiday now.”
Paula awaited for more.
“I have been touring. The last show was in London, but the company I dance with is based in Wales, we have finished for the season, we finished last week and I came here, but I was too tired to even get out of my bed. Today is the first day I have come out.”
Paula and Luna were amazed. All this was new to them. They invited her to their kitchen and, from then on, they had their meals regularly in the communal garden patio.

Luna took pictures of some of these meals and Paula has managed to keep one of those pictures to this day.
Tilda had worked in a restaurant where the waitresses had to dance for the guests. She gave Luna the directions for that place and tips on how to get a job there. That was where Luna worked for the rest of her stay in London.

As Tilda was recovering and Luna got used to her new job, they continued to spend time in the tv room while Paula worked in her full time data entry job. Paula did not know how the words “data entry” translated into Spanish so Luna came up with a new name for it, ‘mete-datos’, which was the name that Paula would use from then on and for good to refer to that job.

By that time Paula could finally afford a mobile phone and she had lent it to Luna to make it easier for her to find a job. On the Friday that she was going to meet Lisa, Paula kept it so that she could phone her in case she was late. And of course she had to phone her to tell her she would be half an hour late. She had got out of the office later than usual and then the trains were delayed. Paula had shunned mobile phones and so had Lisa some time in her past, but now they had to agree that it was useful to know that the person one is waiting will be half an hour late.

Lisa took Paula to a nice cheap restaurant in Soho. Paula shared with Lisa her experiences when all she could afford was a small cup of tea that she would drink with others like her, all aware that they were each drinking an hour and a half of their work. Lisa had similar stories to tell. Paula was surprised that she had hardships stories even without having been an immigrant like herself and her other Spanish friends.

From the restaurant, Lisa took Paula to Covent Garden among other places, to see the portrait painters and hear the street musicians play and sing. There was a tall and handsome long-haired man signing songs Paula had never heard. Then he sang ‘Mrs. Robinson’, which Paula had heard before, and that must have been his jewel final, because immediately after singing it he started to wrap up. As he was wrapping up, a pair of young men who had been standing in the background with big cases started to open those cases and take out instruments from them – a guitar, a flute, percussion. Lisa explained that each musician had a slot allocated for each location. Now the solo singer would leave and the group of two would start their act, at the agreed time. How the agreed time had been reached remain a mystery, as was who and how decided who would be allowed to play in the plaza and who would not.

The duo were not Spanish but they sang in Spanish well enough and could make up that they were playing flamenco. Paula was glad to hear some songs she could relate to but was not especially impressed. After hanging out for a few hours and standing up, both felt quite tired and headed off to their respective stops for public transport after a warm good-bye.
Paula must have recover most if not all of her strength while napping in the bus home because when she got home and found Tilda and Luna in front of the tv she scolded them and urged them to go out on such a beautiful Friday night. She wanted to get them back to Covent Garden but they reminded her that their economies were not buoyant enough to spend a pound on a bus trip that was not vital for their own survival. She thought that at least Luna had a weekly bus pass so two more trips were not going to make any difference, but she agreed to go somewhere where they could walk. Even if the walk would take longer than a bus ride to Soho.

They didn’t know much about local pubs either and she decided to take them to the same pub where she had taken her Polish friend to listen to live music. There was live music on that night too but that was only relevant to Paula. Luna and Tilda were entertained by men amazed by their beauty. Paula was amused and consulted from time to time for translation.

After a few weeks of rest, Tilda went back to her dancing company. Luna and Paula stayed and did a bit of tourism, of the kind that Paula now liked – she showed Luna the London that only people who lived in London could show their guests. Of course Luna went on her own to take pictures of the Big Ben, the Tower of London … and she saw the Tower Bridge opened for a ship before Paula did. Paula would only see it years later. But Paula showed Luna things that were not in the tourist guides. She took her to Stoke Newington cemetery, the swimming ponds in Hamstead and the ‘Meridian Zero’ in Greenwich.

“Are we supposed to feel something here?”, asked Luna. Paula was about to laugh but this was just Luna being Luna.
“No. This is just for you to know that meridians are counted from here, that’s all.”
They did not see that many things after Luna got her job as a dancer and waitress and she started to complain that now that she had a bit of money, she no longer had so much time. Paula thought that she was lucky that she lived with some one who was a friend and who had all evenings free to share, something she herself had lacked.

After those few weeks, Tilda came back for a couple of days only. Luna and Paula smuggled her into their room so that she wouldn’t need to pay for a room in another hostel or a hired mattress. On the second night there were some steps outside. Luna and Paula were pretty sure they were from some other resident. Tilda disagreed and just in case she was right, she hid herself under the sink in the kitchen, which Paula and Luna had thought it was only big enough for a small bucket, but somehow Tilda squeezed herself there before they even had the time to check who those steps belonged to, because they faded away as quickly as they had come.

Eventually Tilda went back to her dancing and Luna went back to her life in Spain. Paula continued to have Luna’s letters and Tilda’s visits from her tours.

The tv room

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There was a tv room in the hostel-for-women where Paula was staying. For most of the time until Luna had come, the room had remained as vandalised as legend had it that it was once made. Then the management of the hostel decided to open it up, bit by bit. Paula did not enjoy watching tv. Comedy shows were the only programs where she could understand an acceptable percentage of what was said. Yet she found it enormously frustrating to watch all those people laughing at words she could not even catch. She did enjoy watching, in their original form, films she had seen doubled into Spanish. At least she could resort to her memory where her English would fall short.

There was one show she did enjoy. It took her all the way to her office job days to work out on what day of the week it was on – on her pub days, every day was so much the same, with Mondays not being that different from, say, Fridays.
There was one show made of cartoons that looked like was made for children. Yet, the themes seemed so much for-adults to Paula. The swearing was of an adult nature too, but it took Paula yet a bit longer to notice this too – her English took a while to get good enough to distinguish when too much swearing was ‘too much swearing’ for a kids show. But back in the day when she first noticed this show, she was so happy that she could understand almost everything every one said. There was only one character that she could not understand, but fortunately it was only one and he didn’t say that much anyway. That didn’t stop Paula from trying hard every time this character spoke, and feeling frustrated for not managing to understand him. This character always wore a red hoodie that kept most of his face hidden too. All the characters, Paula realised with time, wore the same clothes in all the episodes, making the colours of their clothing as much a distinctive feature of each one as their faces, or maybe even more so.

The day when she first noticed this show, there was a critique of those tv programs where the main content was funny home-made videos that were sent by the audience. The protagonist kids wanted to make a funny slapstick video that went too far and the only character whose speech Paula could not manage to understand got killed. Paula was horrified at the sight of the other kids laughing at the great resulting video, too excited at the prospect of winning some price to mourn the killed kid. Then she understood it was a comedy and was just sad that the character would be lost of the rest of the series.

When Paula managed to remember and note the day that this show was on air, she was surprised – and glad – to see this character was back on the show. And killed again. This character was killed in every episode.
Paula got used to this show and wanted to share it with Luna:

“See, there is this really funny show. It’s great. The greatest thing of all is that it is easy to understand. It’s called ‘South Park’.” Luna laughed at the idea that the main reason to like a show would be how easy to understand it would be. And Luna preferred ‘Friends’. Which was just as well because it was aired right before ‘South Park’. So they started to watch tv together, especially on Friday nights. Paula found it strange that Luna would like something like ‘Friends’. They were both comedies, but at least, she thought, ‘South Park’ made her think. ‘Friends’ made her laugh, but ‘South Park’ always had some critique of at least some part of the system. But Luna liked ‘Friends’. And the very person who had insisted in things like recycling every possible bit of paper, was now saying, in a half-jokingly way, every time Paula suggested separating their refuse: “Why do I keep hanging around with ecologists?”
It was Luna that talked to Tilda in the tv room.


Había un cuarto con una tele en la residencia para mujeres donde Paula vivía. La mayor parte del tiempo hasta que Luna llegó, el cuarto había permanecido tan destrozado como decía la leyenda que lo habían dejado una vez. Entonces la dirección del parador decidió abrirlo, poco a poco. A Paula no le gustaba ver la televisión. Los espectáculos de comedia eran los únicos programas donde ella podría entender un porcentaje aceptable de lo que se decía. Aún así encontraba enormemente frustrante ver todas aquellas personas riéndose de palabras que ella incluso ni podía atrapar.

Como sí disfrutaba era viendo películas que había visto dobladas al español, en su forma original. Al menos ella podría recurrir a su memoria donde su inglés quedaría corto.

Había un programa que sí que le gustaba. Le llevó todo el tiempo hasta sus días de trabajo en la oficina para averiguar en qué día de la semana lo daban – durante sus días de pubs, cada día era tan lo mismo, con lunes que no eran tan diferentes de, pongamos, viernes.

Hubo una serie de dibujos animados que parecía hecho para niños. Sin embargo, los temas parecían para adultos a Paula. Las palabrotas eran de una naturaleza adulta también, pero llevó a Paula todavía un poco más a notar esto – su inglés le llevó algo más de tiempo para mejorar lo suficiente como para distinguir cuando ‘demasiadas palabrotas’ eran ‘demasiadas palabrotas’ para un espectáculo de niños. Pero el día en que ella descubrió este espectáculo, estaba tan contenta de poder entender casi todo cada uno dice. Hubo sólo un personaje al que ella no podía entender, pero afortunadamente fue sólo uno y de todos modos no decía mucho. Esto no hizo que Paula dejara de intentar entenderle, cada vez que hablaba este personaje, ni de sentirse frustrada por no lograr entenderle. Este personaje siempre llevaba un hoodie rojo que ocultaba la mayor parte de su cara. Todos los personajes, Paula se dio cuenta con el tiempo, llevaban la misma ropa en todos los episodios, haciendo de los colores de su ropa un rasgo tan distintivo de cada uno como sus caras, o tal vez más aún.

El primer día que ella vió este espectáculo, fue una crítica de esos programas de tv donde el contenido principal consistía en vídeos caseros graciosos enviados por la audiencia. Los chicos protagonistas querían hacer un vídeo de payasadas divertidas que fueron demasiado lejos y se mató el único personaje cuyo discurso Paula no podía comprender.

Paula estaba horrorizada a la vista de los otros niños riéndose del genial video resultante, demasiado emocionados ante la perspectiva de ganar algún premio para / llorar al / afligirse por el / niño muerto. Entonces comprendió que era una comedia y se quedó triste por el personaje que se perdió para el resto de la serie.

Cuando Paula logró recordar y anotar el día en que se emitían estos capítulos, quedó sorprendida – y alegre – al ver que este personaje estaba de vuelta en el espectáculo. Y matado otra vez. Este carácter fue matado en cada episodio.

Paula se acostumbró a esta serie y quería compartirla con Luna:
“Ven mira, hay esto realmente divertido. Es genial. Lo mejor de todo es que es fácil de entender. Se llama ‘South Park’.”

Luna se rió de la idea de que la razón principal para que un show fuera bueno, fuera lo fácil de entender. Y Luna prefería ‘Friends’. Que ni tan mal, porque se emitía justo antes de ‘South Park’.

Así que empezaron a ver la televisión juntas,sobre todo los viernes por la noche. Paula encontró extraño que a Luna le gustaría algo como ‘Amigos’. Ambas eran comedias, pero al menos, Paula pensó, ‘South Park’ hacía pensar. ‘Friends’ hacía reír, pero ‘South Park’ siempre tenía alguna crítica de al menos una parte del sistema. Pero a Luna le gustaba ‘Friends’. Y la misma persona que había insistido en cosas como el reciclaje de cada trozo posible de papel, ahora, decía medio bromeando, cada vez que Paula sugirió separar sus basuras: ¿”por qué me juntaré con ecologistas? ”

Luna en Londres

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Luna “was” good at keeping in touch. It was thanks to her and her letters and Paula kept informed about their doings, even though these were not as varied as Luna’s or indeed those of herself. None of them seemed to be changing jobs as often as she was. Only Luna seemed to go from photography school to a badly paid job, to a better paid job, to the union to fight her own sacking.

Jose for his part continued to work for Emaus, same as Josu, and Fede, Mentxu, Salva and Ara and all the others continued with their volunteering in Fair Trade, each in their own organisations.

Paula was proud to manage to continue to be part of that in as much a way as she could. It was ironic that the person who was more and more distancing herself from all that was the only one who came to London for such a long visit.
Three days after the conversation with the Pole, Luna came to stay for three months. Paula was gutted that she could not offer some free space, even on the floor in her room. The rules were that she could have a visit for as long as three nights, hiring a mattress to put in her room for three pounds a night. But Paula’s room, being the cheapest of the range, could not even fit a mattress on the floor that the bed and the wardrobe left free in her room. They decided to request a room for the two of them. Paula upgraded to a much bigger room and Luna enjoyed an affordable rent. It was not ideal but they were the best months Paula spent in that hostel-for-women.


Luna ‘sí’ era buena para mantenerse en contacto. Fue gracias a ella y a su cartas que Paula se mantuvo informada de lo que les pasaba, aunque no fuera tan variados como Luna ni como los de Paula. Ninguno de ellos parecía estar cambiando puestos de trabajo tan a menudo como lo estaba Paula. Sólo la Luna parecía ir de la escuela de fotografía a un trabajo mal pagado, a uno mejor remunerado, y de ahí al sindicato para luchar contra su propio despido.

José por su parte siguió trabajando para Emaus, igual que Josu, y Fede, Mentxu y Ara, Salva y todos los demás continuaron con su voluntariado en comercio justo, cada uno en su respectiva organización.

Paula estaba orgullosa de poder seguir siendo parte de todo esto en tanto que pudo. Resultaba irónico que la persona que se fue distanciando más de todo esto fue la única que fue a Londres para una visita tan larga.

Tres días después de la conversación con el chico polaco, Luna llegó para quedarse durante tres meses. A Paula le habría gustado ofrecerle un espacio gratis, aunque hubiera sido en el suelo de su habitación. Las reglas eran que ella podría tener una visita durante tres noches, alquilar un colchón para poner en su habitación por tres libras la noche. Pero la habitación de Paula, siendo la más barata de la gama, no podría ni encajar un colchón en el suelo que la cama y el armario dejaban libres en su habitación. Decidieron solicitar un espacio para las dos. Paula se mudó a una sala mucho más grande y Luna disfrutó de un alquiler asequible, dos en una. No era ideal, pero fueron los mejores meses que Paula pasó en aquel albergue para mujeres.

A year after squatting

Paula was coming back from the library one day when she went past the pub where she had worked the previous summer and stumbled upon one of the Poles she had worked with. She looked so the same, yet so different. They hugged in joy and in surprise.
“My God, Paula! So great to see you! We have thought of you so much in the winter!”
(“Yeah, that’s why I’ve had so many letters from you”)
“I didn’t have that many letters though!” She was still smiling; his own smile turned apologetic but all was fine.
“This summer I am on my own. But we should meet up! “Where is your friend?!”
“He went back to Spain. He came only for six months, remember?”
“Ah, yeah, I remember that.”
“He still stayed for eight months, almost forgot his deadline, but then one day he remembered and ran to get a plane ticket back!”
They laughed.
“Hey, when are you next free?”
They arrange to meet another day and, unlike last summer, now Paula could afford to invite him to a pub and she chose one where, again unlike the previous summer, she knew there was live music.
“Wow, I didn’t now there was live music in pubs in London.”
“Yeah. You spend three months a year here and you have no idea about live music in pubs.”
“And neither did you know, last summer.”
“I did. I just couldn’t afford to get into any of them!”
“So, where are you working now, then?”
“I left the pubs. I went to Spain for Christmas, and when I came back I decided that I did not want to continue with that unstable life any more, and looked for a job in an office. I worked in a shop for a while too, but now I only work nine to five, Monday to Friday.”
“It sounds mainstream”
“It is dignified. I no longer count the pennies when I get home on Friday after getting my wages.
Paula was marvelled at the way this guy had improved his English.
“Hey, your English has improved!”, he said.
(Hang on a second. ‘I’ was supposed to say that about you.)
“How about you?”, she asked instead. He smiled.
“I am still studying drama, in Poland.”
“What about the other two that were staying in that squat?”
“They are there too. Seems last year it was too much for them, with the squat, the way that chef evicted us, then having to share a room between the three of us. They didn’t want to repeat this year.”
“And where are you staying now? Still waiting distance from here?”
“No. Far away. It takes me one hour on the tube. But it is cheap.”
“Still saving, eh?”
“For the rest of the year, yes.”
They listened to the live music for a bit. After more than a year in London, Paula still felt fortunate and privileged to live in a city with such beautiful possibilities.
“I went round to that squat the other day.”
“Did you?”
“Yes. It was full of drunks. All men. They looked pretty rough, very scary.”
“So your chef it not living with his wife and his little son there, then.”
“Hopefully not!”
“After all that effort.”
They promised each other to keep in touch this time. One of those promises.