Writer Ivor Thomas speaks to Lucas Fox about his work, the Catalans and why he would never go back to live in the UK
CF: How did you end up living in Sitges?
IT: We had an apartment in the Borne before moving down here but, after 4 years, it became too claustrophobic for me. The view from the living room window was the wall of the apartment building across the road (a passage, in our case). Now the view from our living room is of the Garraf National park.
CF: Whereabouts do you live and what is it like?
IT: I live in the ‘Sitges Hills’ as real estate agents like to call them. If I had time, I’d sell you on the property around here, because it’s a land of opportunity. It’s quieter, and cooler and cleaner than the back streets of Barcelona and when you open the window you see trees, not bricks, yet we’re less than an hour away from downtown Barcelona and only half-an-hour from the airport. Sitges is also useful for the beach and its cosmopolitanism..
CF: What do you think makes the town so appealing to international residents and visitors?
IT: Well now, do you want a politically correct answer or a truthful answer? Or both? The former is that the town is charming, has excellent restaurants, hotels, beaches, blah, blah, blah. The latter is that it is notorious as the gay capital of the Mediterranean and its economy revolves around the pink euro.
CF: You lived in Australia for several years before moving to Catalunya, are there any similarities between the Australian way of life and the Catalan lifestyle?
IT: None that I can think of. In fact, I could write a thesis on the differences / contrasts.
CF: Before living in Sitges, you spent time living in Barcelona, whereabouts did you live and what did you enjoy most about living in the city?
IT: We lived in the Borne and I liked being able to choose which of the 500 bars, cafés or restaurants within walking distance was the one to get drunk in that night.
CF: What do you admire most about the Catalan way of life?
IT: The tenacious way they cling on to the right to have their bread buttered on both sides: Also their laissez-faire attitude and relative lack of materialism.
CF: Are there any similarities between the Brits and the Catalans do you think?
IT: I sincerely hope not. I came here to get away from the British mentality.
CF: You have two grown up sons, did they receive their education in Catalunya or in the UK? If it was Catalunya, how did you and they rate the education they received?
IT: In our case, they received their education in Australia. How did they rate it? F for FAIL.
CF: Once they have finished their studies, do they want to live in Catalunya or the UK?
CF: How does Catalunya compare to both the UK and Australia with regards to family life?
IT: Short of writing another thesis on the subject, the answer is predictable and along Mediterranean, Catholic lines: the family here is, for better or worse, much more pervasive and intrusive than in anglo-saxon communities. During the holidays here, families congregate; there, they travel.
CF: In the past year you had a serious motorcycle accident, how has this affected you both physically and emotionally?
IT: Physically, it has affected me severely. Emotionally, not at all, as far as I am aware.
CF: How did you find the Catalan health system during your recovery?
IT: Fantastic. Amazing. Incredible. Are there any other superlatives? Without a doubt, the best national health service in the western world. Six months in hospital and several surgical procedures did not cost me a single cent.
CF: Did you ever consider going back to the UK?
IT: Never, ever, ever.
CF: You recently had a book published ‘the Incompetent Cook’, can you give us an idea what it is about and how much is based on your own experiences?
IT: It is about a young man who travels the world in search of his mission in life. Along the way, fate ambushes him with some hilarious situations. Is it based on my own experience? Yes, in varying degrees of truthfulness; however, the title is in no way autobiographical.
CF: Can you let us know some of your favourite Catalan dishes? Can you cook them yourself?
IT: I can cook anything Catalan – that’s not exactly a challenge. But give me a good butifarra and beans and I’m a happy man.
CF: Do you find Sitges an inspirational base for your story writing?
IT: No, but I live in a nice house in a pleasant environment and that is all the inspiration I need from nature. The rest I get from sources that I had better not reveal in front of the camera!
CF: What are you working on at the moment?
IT: A second novel, based on the life and crimes of an American investment banker who was convicted of fraud in Monaco and served five years in prison there. It is the story of a good citizen who’s ego gets him tangled up in a world of greed and glamour that spirals out of his control.
Copies of ‘The Incompetent cook’ can be found on Amazon.