To the absolute delight of my class the scrap of card outlining our success was handed over in the only assembly of the week this afternoon.
I am now noted for my ability to transform dull certificates to things of wonder by lavish use of garish border strips and glitter pens. Take it from me the reality is even worse than you can imagine. It proceeds from the suppressed imagination of a primary teacher manqué that I must have been for most of my educational career! Perhaps it’s best not to go there; some fugitive thoughts are better left running than being tied down and considered!
I have recently been trying to remember the last time that I read a book. I barely remember what they look like, let alone remember what they feel like and what they contain. In a foreign country there are strategies for obtaining reading material; you just need to think before you panic.
In the staff room there is a shelf devoted to novels in English. I have to say that they reflect the gender imbalance that is inherent in teaching. The titles are not encouraging and I’ve never heard of the authors. Not a good start, but also offering the possibility of an unexpected delight.
You could also buy English books, though I have to say that they are far less ‘available’ than I would have expected. Even in Barcelona they are no as readily apparent as I would have hoped.
The last way is to buy them from the internet, though I have to admit that I have only bought one book using this method since I have been in Spain.
What I really miss is the cheap book shop. With books in English! We have a cheap quality book shop in Castelldefels, but, apart from a couple of cheap art books, it does not satisfy.
It is perhaps all for the good as all the shelves that I have are at present occupied with ‘essential’ books. Each new compact volume in the Great Artists of Catalonia series poses a new storage problem. There are some jejune and callow commentators who might say that the ‘problem’ could be solved by my taking some books back to Bluespace and the cold, heartless prison where the rest of my books languish.
I was hoping for a job in Secondary so that I could justify releasing the rest of The Bluespace Thousands and bringing back the exiles into the warmth of human contact. The school in Castelldefels has stymied that plan, so the Siberian banishment of my volumes continues.
Virtually every day, and sometimes more than once during the day, I think of books that I want to dip into. Hearing of the success of ‘No Country for Old Men’ made me think of other Yeats poems that I wanted to look through – without the hassle of having to bring them all up on the internet.
There is something inhuman about reading a poem on a screen, let alone a poem magicked from improbable pixels floating around the web. Unless I have the comfort of the hard reality of cool, flat, smooth pages to caress then an essential aspect of the reading experience is lost.
I always used to wonder when listening to Desert Island Disks about the veracity of certain musicians who were on the programme. Ray Plomley, the only authentic voice of the programme, used to ask the guests, after they had chosen their eight records if they would rather have the scores of the music rather than a performance. When some of them replied that they would rather have the scores I always assumed that they were showing off and they couldn’t possibly ‘hear’ the music from rows of funny shapes symbols on the page.
It was only much later when I imagined being given the opportunity to respond to the ‘which eight gramophone records would you choose to have with you’ that I thought about how I would respond if, instead of music, the recordings were of poems.
Suddenly the ‘pretentious’ musicians’ requests for scores became more understandable. Imagine the poem from which the film title ‘No Country for Old Men’ is taken being recited by your favourite actor or personality. Imagine the dark velvet of Burton’s voice sonorously telling the verses of ‘Sailing to Byzantium’: an initial delight at such voluptuous indulgence hearing Yeats’ poem read by Our Richard would soon degenerate into irritation and then revulsion at the unchanging nature of the delivery. Far, far better to have the words and then begin to imagine the perfect rendition in your head than hear a performance which is, but its very nature, static.
There are some lines in poetry which I have never even come close to saying in a way which I find even remotely satisfactory.
One such phrase is the rather bewildering “silence in the echo.”
Never been able to get that one right.
And that’s from a poem I wrote myself, so I really should know how to say it!