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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bless books!


Let’s face it; however much I try and kid myself, the early mornings as I stagger from my bed and throw water at my body are still dark.  I am going to school during the night.  The only positive aspect of the day is that in this country the days are usually bright and sunny.

This winter has been out of the usual in the number of sunny, rain-free days that we have had.  Cold it may be – but dry it certainly is.

The goods delivery companies are crap in this area.  And I think that that word is too mild to describe their actual attitude of cavalier disregard for the primary aspect of their bloody existence – that of delivering the packages.

Thanks to the tracking system in Amazon I can at least tell when a package has been handed over to the local delivery service. This is just as well because our local delivery service does not regard the final part of the journey of any parcel as being their responsibility.

I now no longer (obviously) lose my temper when I have to go to the delivery office to get my package.  And there is always something delightful in getting a book which tempers my fury.

The most important part, at least potentially, in the items to be sent to me this time around was the dog zapper.

I have now used this machine on a number of occasions and I am pleased to report that there is a definite diminution in the irritating barking from the moronic mutts next door.

I have adopted the strategy of creeping downstairs when the hounds are howling, opening the door as silently as possible, creeping up on the dog and then after a brief “Ssssh!” zapping the dog.  There is an appreciable negative reaction when, after zapping the caterwauling crippled cur he dragged himself to another part of the garden.  I have absolutely no sympathy for this Heath-Robinson canine catastrophe, as his bark is the most irritating that our terminally insensitive neighbour keeps in her personal menagerie.  I followed him and, as he failed to quieten I zapped him again.  Silence!  Delight!  It works!

Unfortunately it only works over short distances so my overly optimistic of pointing it through walls and windows and getting a response have not been realized.  Still the fact that there is a clearly silent reaction makes the machine worth the money I paid for it.  So far.  I only hope that familiarity does not breed barked contempt.

I have now read “Red Strom Rising” by Tom Clancy and I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  This novel was first published in 1986 and it is astonishing how far the political situation of the world has changed!

The premise of the novel is that an extremist Islam strike on a crucial oil installation in the Soviet Union so weakens the fuel supply of the country that the Politburo instigates an attack on NATO as a means to securing the Middle Eastern oil fields.

How much has changed!  The USSR doesn’t exist.  Where is Communism nowadays?  The corrupt Politburo has been replaced by even more corrupt oligarchs and their cronies.  Germany is not divided.  The puppet states of the Soviet Union are, well, different.  The world of 1986 is clearly not that of 2012.

But as a futuristic historical novel it really works quite well.  I have no idea if any of the technical information is even remotely correct but it sounds convincing and it gives a verisimilitude to the writing which is safely exciting.

The course of the “war” is described in compelling detail and the emphasis placed on the submarine aspect always gives a claustrophobic excitement to death.

The personalities of combatants play their part in the development of the plot and there is even some subdued love interest.

Clancy is a safe pair of hands and he is a more than competent storyteller.  I found some parts of the 800-page narrative to be compulsively page-turning.  But what we have lost (thank god!) is the sense that the events in the novel could be all-too-true.  The battle is fought with conventional weapons which in spite of the technology used makes the novel even more old-fashioned and something not a million miles from one of the spate of World War II novels.

When nuclear weapons are finally considered, they form an exciting part of the end-game of the novel itself.

I liked reading this novel, but it is firmly in the class of something which I will never read again!  I also feel that I have also experienced the Clancy formula and the next volume might be strangely familiar!  As I haven’t read any other book by him this is patently unfair, but that doesn’t stop my believing it!

This weekend has been largely defined by food and reading.  The reading has included not only my trashily enjoyable novel but also by new art books which are a continuing delight and something I will certainly look at again and again.

The food has been home and away.  Our regular visit to the restaurant of the retired folk provided me with one of the best meals that I have had there.  Sea food stuffed eggs covered in cheese as a starter and one of my favourites, arroz a la cubana, another starter but chosen as my main course: simple and delicious.

Sunday saw the arrival of The Family and a barbecue with another of my favourites, calçots.  You may get filthy eating these leek-like barbecued onions but laced with the traditional sauce it is all worth it!

I have done nothing of the school work that I might have done but, given my timetable I do feel that if something cannot be done in school time then it simply cannot be done.

Next week sees the start of yet another batch of examinations but the week after that will be a week when most of the school will not be there, as they will all be off on trips.  As I “do not do trips” I will be one of a small number of secondary teachers still in school.

There are the usual threats that we will be “helping” in another part of the school but, as I have pointed out of any who will listen, my official designation as signed, sealed and delivered by the Department of Education in Madrid, says that I am qualified to teach secondary.  There is nothing there about helping colleagues in the foetal section of the school in my contract.

It is pointless getting upset about these arrangements because there are still a couple of weeks to go and there is time for a few more plans before the date when they are supposed to take effect!  This I know from hard past experience in this country.  Long term planning here means 24 hours before!

So two more weeks to a pause of sorts; a difference in the routine and one day off on the Friday of that week.  What I should do is look at flights and see if I can take in the Hockney show in the Royal Academy.  In fact I will do that now.

Well, I won’t be going to London during the long weekend!  The prices were a little depressing.

Back to the drawing board.
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