Let’s hear it for the weather forecasters! They got it right. At least at the moment. It is Sunday morning and the weather is fine: a bright sun in a flawless blue sky. And it’s a Sunday with Monday and Tuesday “off”. Apart from wanting more days, what could be better!
Saturday was one of those lazy days when by staying in bed until 9.30 am I actually had a three hour lie-in when compared to my normal time of getting up! Such a luxury!
Lunch was in the centre of town and, wearing shirt and shorts we sat outside and I, at least had an excellent lunch. I know that most Spaniards regard my liking for arroz a la cubana (rice with tomato sauce and fried egg) as unmentionably juvenile but I love the stuff and this time there was an imponderable extra something in the dish that made it simply delicious. Toni’s choice of meat balls (four in number) padded out with more of the fried potato squares that he had for his starter of patatas bravas with alioi were not such a success.
I had grilled salmon with caliu for my main course and it was just right for lunch. That was followed by white chocolate cheesecake and thing rounded off with a coffee with ice. The red wine with the meal was drinkable and for about ten quid all-in I think it would be churlish to expect more!
The choice of “free” e-book available for download seems, at first glance to be amazingly extensive, but when you get down to the things that you would actually like to read the choice is a little more restricted. There are great classics there which would form the backbone for any Eng-Lit University course, but - And perhaps I should stop there and think about exactly what does constitute an Eng-Lit course in our modern universities.
Swansea University, or University College Swansea, of the University of Swansea of whatever it is calling itself these days had a severely historical approach to English Literature. We started with the barely readable pre-Chaucerian poems made our way to Chaucer, then wandered through the arid wastelands of literature between Chaucer and Shakespeare and then got stuck into the seventeenth century and we were away. The course was relentless and impossible: the number brick-like books that we were expected to read during the part of the course devoted to the nineteenth century was simply impossible and books like “Vanity Fair” were only read by my good self many years after leaving college. To my shame it must be admitted.
But I had read all the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe. Most of Milton apart from Paradise Regained; all of the poems of Pope and Swift in English and swathes of the Great Poets of the nineteenth century and at least a chunk of the wall that you can make from nineteenth century novels. The twentieth century was my special paper and we read monumental novels from Dostoyevsky to David Storey, taking in along the way the only novel to make me ill “The Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann – not I hasten to add because I hated it, but because I became more and more involved with the central character of Hans Castorp. One of my friends came to call on me while I was going through the novel and fell back aghast at the ashen faced and sinisterly shrunken figure hunched in the chair reading under the light of a single lamp – me! A great book, though when I tried to re-read it I found that it had lost some of its, well, magic for me. Something for my retirement perhaps.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time on just one part of the teaching that I am supposed to be doing in school – the history of art, or at least the part that I am supposed to be involved in, Making Sense of Modern Art or MSOMA as Suzanne and I termed it making the course sound as trendy as some of the major galleries in the world which are known by initials like MMOMA or MNAC. I use the excuse of a school course to justify the buying of any number of books vaguely connected with any aspect of what I am or even might be teaching.
Admittedly it is difficult to fit Holbein into the period that I am teaching which stretches from the Fauves to Pop Art (with notable gaps in between) though I suppose I could make a case for the skull in “The Ambassadors” as influencing a charlatan like Dalí; or perhaps “The Dead Christ” being a clear guide for the more bleak art of the Expressionists and one can always link his obsessive detail with the Surrealists because you can link whatever you like to that particular group – almost as a critical reflex action!
Two of my latest purchases “El siglo XIV” and “El siglo XX Vanguardias” published by “Los Siglos del Arte” by Electa books can be justified as leading up and containing the period I need to teach, but the third “Arte de la A a la Z – Los mejores y más famosos artistas del mundo y sus obras” by Nicola Hodge and Libby Ansonis less easy to explain.
If indeed explanation for buying a book were needed! It is worth the money on two counts: firstly because it forces me to use my Spanish to find out what the hell is going in the paintings and secondly the alphabetical arrangement makes for stimulating juxtapositionings like Duccio and Duchamp; Dalí and Daumier; Léger and Leighton; Mondrian and Monet; Palmer and Paolozzi; Turner and Twombly; Guardi and Guston. The more you look at the side-by-sides the more implied comment is made by the choice of images.
In the Degas and Delacroix for example the Degas is a typically rugged oil of a washerwoman whereas by contrast the Delacroix is “Liberty leading the people” – a contrast if ever there was one between myth and reality; humility and the epic; sketch-like and finished; anonymity and representation; degradation and elevation – and then there are the similarities in terms of choice of central character, nationality, tonal choice, even the trust of the pictures which is with a central character off-centre and the movement in a left to right up and down manner with both finding a certain stasis within action.
The more I look at this book the more I find links both playful and insightful. The Mondrian/Monet connection produces a double page spread of astonishing beauty while the Turner/Twombly link merely shows up the utter vapidity of the latter. I recommend this book as a pure delight. The original English edition was entitled “The A-Z of Art” and was published by Carlton Books Limited.
On television there are the final stages of the F1 Grand Prix in India and here, more than many other venues in the world, the true obscenity of this thoroughly unjustifiable sport is shown up. Quite apart from the inherent unfairness in the fact that the cars are clearly not equal, the essential mind-bogglingly astronomical sums of money expended on this excuse for excess in all its aspects when compared with the general standards of living of ordinary Indians makes this even less acceptable. It puts me in mind of the grandiose displays that Communist regimes put on to convince the rest of the world that the system was working. I’m sure that the millions of homeless poor in India will take courage and faith from this disgusting display of ostentatious waste and, as they look forward to their early deaths die happy that their country has joined the upper echelons of the super wasters of scarce resources.
And I don’t like the way that the winners spray giant magnums of Champagne over each other rather than drinking them. Idiots!
Now is the traditional time (tea time on Sunday afternoon) for “tristitia magistri” or the “sorrow of teachers” to hit with the realization that tomorrow is Monday and a school day but, you know what, this is not true for tomorrow, not yet for the day following! And yet I am paid (admittedly a lowly wage) for them. Life is goodish.
This evening we are going up to Terrassa for an evening meal to celebrate All Saints. The Bank Holiday is actually on Tuesday but many organizations have made Monday an Occasional Day to give workers a long weekend so the police are going to be out in force and, as always in Castelldefels. The number of times I have returned from Terrassa to find a road block before you hit the beach part of my town is well, almost without number and at times of fiesta it is simply not worth even taking the risk of an alcoholic drink.
Which makes Terrassa the only place where I drink Fanta.