Thursday, July 20, 2017

Only connect, if you can be bothered.

Image result for dental appointment

There is something unacceptably cruel about an unexpectedly delayed dental appointment.

I turned up at midday, on my bike, to be met by blank incomprehension about my check-up that had been arranged almost a year ago.  Eventually my name rang a bell in the receptionist’s mind and she wittered on about not having my telephone number to let me know that circumstances had changed and that my new appointment was for Tuesday of next week.  They do have my telephone number, indeed they have both of them and my address, and my full name and probably my NIA as well - so they could have used the telephone directory or looked me up online.

But people don’t do that nowadays.  If your mobile number or email (which they also have, come to think of it) is not immediately to hand then contact is impossible.  I call it The Full Dishwasher Syndrome.

The FDS is when you cannot fit anything else into the dishwasher and you find that you have one cup left over?  What does one do?  From experience you know that the higgledy-piggaldy approach to randomly piling things together will result in imperfectly washed items that will also have retained water because they have not been placed in their correct, drain-ready position.  Better to leave the extra item to one side so that it can be added to the next load.

Or you could (as you used to) wash and dry it by hand.  A squirt of washing liquid (or a mere drop of the more expensive stuff), some reasonably hot water, a quick brush over, rinse and a fresh tea towel to dry.  But that doesn’t enter one’s mind.  FDS obliterates the idea that washing dishes can be done by hand: the lone, dirty cup becomes A Problem.  “My dishes,” so runs the mantra, “are more hygienically dealt with by the dishwasher.”  The machine is more thorough, it works at higher temperatures than your hands can stand, it produces cleaner results - even as it washes off some decoration and leaves streaks on glasses and fails to remove some stubborn stains.  No matter - dishes are washed in the dishwasher.  It’s a fact.

Just like clothes are washed in the washing machine and dust and loose dirt is picked up by the Hoover and getting to places is by car and . . .

It is only when you consider how your life is lived that you realise that it is very different from the way that your parents lived.

In no way do I consider myself to have had anything other than a comfortable and privileged upbringing, but we did not have an electric record player until I was 10; we didn’t have a fridge until I was 12, which was around the same time as we got our first television; we had an outside loo; our first automatic washing machine was when I started secondary school; dishes were washed by hand; our first telephone had a ‘shared line’; our first motorised transport was a Bonmini three-wheeler. 

But this was all in the 1950s where I was the only person in my year in school to have gone on a foreign holiday.  I could safely roller skate down the road because most people did not have any motorised transport of any sort and photographs of the time (B&W) show me in an empty road, with few cars parked.  So-called white goods were only starting to become affordable.  It was the time when you had to apply for a telephone and you had Hobson’s Choice about what you got.  There were just two channels on the television, BBC and ITV. My grandparents’ television had a tiny screen and took an age to ‘warm up’ and faded to a single bright spot when you turned it off - and of course it was black & white, not colour.  I still remember my first viewing of a mobile phone: a large wooden box with a normal handset and rest used by a telephone engineer.

Things have obviously changed and we have many more ‘things’ than we ever used to have.  But our ways of doing things have also changed: our expectations and our approaches.

Which brings me back to my dental appointment.  One way of contacting me failed and, instead of trying another (in this over connected world) they gave up.  Because we do things this way and not in other ways.  After all, they could have written - but when was the last time that you had that sort of communication for a previously arranged appointment.  If you can’t Message it, it is not going to happen.   

O brave new world that has such full stops in it!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Image result for Open University

This morning’s information on the OU site that the Assessment Section was down because it was ‘very busy’ indicated that the results of the module that I had taken were going to be released a day earlier than the target date.  And so they were.  So now I have another ‘qualification’ to add to the Castelldefel certificate that gave me a pass at A2 level for last year’s work.

Alas, paper qualifications in a language do not always tell the linguistic truth.  I now have two scraps of paper which seem to indicate that I have a proficiency in the language and, indeed I have been able to ‘speak’ my way through circumstances which have been testing: ranging from local government applications to getting the car sorted out in a local garage; from complaining about obscure prohibitions in an art gallery to finding and getting selections of books photocopied for a long essay in a Barcelona library.  In short, I have coped - though always at the expense of poor natives hearing their language mangled or, as I like to put it, “re-imagined” by my good self.

This situation cannot continue.  I have now been living in Catalonia for years and I should be near to fluent, and the real truth is that I am nowhere near that standard.

Next September will see me starting Spanish 3, an advanced course in Spanish in our local adult education centre and there will be, I’m afraid, no hiding place for inability.  My confident use of limited grammatical structures will be glaringly obvious and I will not be able to bluff my way through the series of tests and examinations that will beset me from early October onwards.

I am therefore attacking my reluctance to settle down to the hard work necessary for linguistic advancement on a few fronts.  I am going back over the work that I should have done as part of my OU course (which I have passed with flying colours, which goes to show what you can do when you are wise in the ways of the OU!) to try and reinforce what basic knowledge is lurking in my brain; I am also going over the work in the text book that we used in Castelldefels last academic year to point up what I am expected to know for the next academic year, and finally, I am working my way through “100 ejercicios” in writing and grammar designed for Year 6 Spanish Primary School pupils!  I am hoping that this three-pronged approach will lessen the humiliation in the first classes in the new year!

Some isolated things do stick.  For example I now know that the word “visón” (which in Spanish is pronounced like “bison” but with the emphasis on the second syllable) means mink.  So I can now translate the title of the Leonardo painting I always recommend to people visiting the Louvre, that in my view is much superior to the selfie-crowded Mona Lisa, and that hangs almost unnoticed just outside the crowded room in which The Picture is virtually un-viewable.  And, in case you were wondering, the Spanish word for “bison” is “bison” - but the emphasis is more on the first syllable.

I have also learned the words for a swift and a seagull, but they have not lodged in my brain as of yet.  For some reason the word for swift (the bird not the adjective) was not in my Spanish Diccionario Primaria Lengua española.  This is an excellent beginners’ dictionary which is entirely in Spanish and which I found in a rubbish bin in the centre of town and rescued.  I can only imagine that some disgruntled scholar was passing from Primaria to Secondaria and threw away the books.  It is in such good condition that I doubt that it was ever used, just dead weight in the bulky backpacks that adhere to kids’ backs.  Well, it is being used now - though I had to find the Spanish word “vencejo” in one of my many other dictionaries.

I knew that “vencejo” had to be the word for swift because I had found it in my “sopa de letras” as part of one of the exercises (number 1 of 100!) in my homework book and I was able to link it to the simple drawing.  In my Collins Dictionary and Grammar I was able to find the Spanish for swift from the English, but the Spanish word was not in the other section.  Odd, but I suppose decisions have to be made about words to be included, and I further suppose that it is much more likely that the adjective (rápido or veloz) will be used rather than the noun.

This is my life at the moment: trying to force into my easy-access memory words that I am unlikely ever to use, but which every schoolchild knows.  God help!

The Stain

Is fading!   

After only ten days it has lost its startling otherness and now looks like some passing shadow.  It is still there and I am confident (barring torrential downpours) that it will last at least another week or so, maybe more.  My determination to documents its degeneration has taken a knock with the reluctance of this program to accept my mobile phone photographs, but I shall persevere.  I have not studied the work of Ana Mendieta in my past art courses not to recognize and value the importance and significance of the transitory and gestural when I see it!