David Holmes Every Friday afternoon on El Punt Avui TV Nicole has a chat with an English-speaking expat. Here is her talk with Dave Holmes, who works for a publisher and is a member of the band, Los Stompers.
How did you discover Catalonia?
I was living in Southampton with my partner and we had just finished university and we were weighing up options, which were very few. A friend called me…her mother had a language school out in Granollers and would we be interested in going out and working there. Neither of us had considered teaching.
Was teaching not your background?
We both studied modern languages: I did French and German, she did French and Spanish. We thought, let's give it a go! We came here, bought an inter-rail ticket and thought we would travel for the summer. We got here, someone picked us up from Sants and the first piece of news we were greeted with was that there wasn't a job!
What did you do?!
We thought, don't panic, let's have a look around and leave our CV's in language schools. Many people we met said if we didn't have a job in a language school by the end of the week then we haven't tried hard enough.
How long ago was this?
It was 23 years ago.
Was learning English as popular then as it is now?
It has always been popular. I think the difference is that there weren't so many children's classes as now. I think with the recession that people feel that learning English is a passport to getting a job for their children. We waited a week and hadn't heard anything but just as we went to get our train at Sants we got a message to call a language school. They asked us to cover a class that evening! We flipped a coin to decide who would take the class. After the class they gave a job to both of us!
Do you still teach now?
No, I work for a publisher now.
What was it like learning the language?
The first language school I worked for offered free classes in Spanish for the teachers. Having learnt French made a big difference. It meant the grammar made sense and the structure of the sentences. I thought to myself, I want to master Spanish before I start learning Catalan. Then quite quickly it came apparent that you never master a language. You get to a certain level after accelerating rapidly at the beginning and then it plateaus. The great thing about living in Catalonia is that they are really encouraging about you learning their language.
Lets move onto……what do I call it? A hobby of yours or another job? The band youre' in, Los Stompers!
It's both. It is a folk-rock band. It is being marketed by our record company as Indie Folk. I play the violin and accordion.
How many of you are there in the band?
There are five of us. There've been a few changes over the years. The expat musician circle in Barcelona is really small.
Are you all expats?
Not now. The drummer is Catalan and we have had various Catalans in the group. But in terms of people who tend to play Irish folk music, there are two or three bars where groups of that nature get together. The jazz circuit would probably tell a similar story for its own genre. I played in a band before. I have played in various places; two prisons, a disused church and a second-hand clothes shop where they paid us in clothes! Then a friend of mine told me the violinist had just left Los Stompers and I was the only one around really. It was a natural progression as they were friends.
You have albums, you have toured, this is the real thing!
Yes we have. We occasionally get lucky and get a nice festival. All round Spain and even Denmark. We get to go to places we would never normally visit, which is great.
Your son also plays the violin.
Yes, but his thing is singing.
Where are you originally from in the UK?
I am from Boston, in Lincolnshire
There is a UK Boston?
Lots of people say – but you don't have an American accent! The Boston I'm from is 1,000 years older. The original one.
I recently had your son Oliver on Small Talk. We had an interesting chat about his education. As his school closed, you decided on home education. How did that affect you and your wife, who home educated him.
I think that being a trained language teacher helped, as the techniques that you learn as a teacher of any subject can be applied if you have enough imagination, which she does. It wasn't really down to me, I work full time. She was the key player. I helped out where I could, but I can't take any credit for it.
What do you think about it?
Home schooling isn't for everyone. For some it is ideal and for some it is absolutely wrong. But we were lucky enough that my wife was in a situation where she could do it and try it and it worked for Oliver.