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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Domestic humiliation!


There are only two types of ironing: the committed and the reluctant.  I am very much of the latter party and only ever iron in extremis.  As the mountain of crumpled clothing threatened to make entry to my library impossible I succumbed to the necessity and (eventually) set up the ironing board.

It is at time like this that I thank whatever deities there may be for the steam version of that fat steel triangle of misery.  The cloth mountain was bone dry and curling at the edges and I forcibly reminded of the iron that my mother used to use which was as dry as the clothes.  As I recall she would either sprinkle the clothes with water or use a dampened tea cloth to ease the smoothing.  I find it quite difficult enough manoeuvring one piece of cloth on the board without the added horror of a further layer!

The steam iron is the only defence against manic depression and I felt quite unduly smug as I emptied the water reservoir from the tumble dryer into a jug for use in the iron, having been informed by a knowledgeable Catalonian of my acquaintance that this was a simple and cheap supply of ionised (or possibly unionised) water which was essential for use in the smoothing process.

Although the sun is shining here in almost flawlessly blue skies, it is not warm and I have taken to the wearing of jumpers.  They may be thin, but they are jumpers and I consider that I have therefore reached another stage in my ageing as I succumb (is that the second time that I have used that word?) to the febrile pleasure of the flesh and cling to residual warmth as I traipse from building to building in my day job.

This is not, remarkably, a digression from ironing.  Indeed not.  Jumpers, while retaining body heat also have another inestimable advantage: they hide my reluctant form of ironing.

I can do the collar and cuff bits; the shirt-tails and breast pockets; the button facings are easy – but the yoke and set-in sleeves are beyond me, as indeed are long sleeves.  My aim in ironing is to make the crumpling less.  There are areas of smoothness in my finished article but I rely heavily on body heat to do its bit in the ironing process and to aid that I feel that the jumper is an invaluable addition to the steam.

I sometimes think that one of the most important reasons for moving to Spain was the fact that it is possible to wear short-sleeved shirts for the greater proportion of the year.  After all, the hairs on the arm are programmed to erect themselves to aid heat retention when weather becomes a little brisk – and that little physiological atavistic heat conservation technique can take one bare-armed well into December in this country!

The Mountain has now been levelled and access to the books is an open invitation to get them into some sort of order.  An invitation I shall firmly resist until the more “open” days of the summer when I WILL visit the church on the hill above Sant Boi.  I shudder to think how many times I have said that.  But this year will be different.  And the shudders continue when I think how many times I have added that.  But I have promised to loan a book of Yeats poems in a parallel Spanish/English text to a colleague and I have no idea at all of where it might be.  Though I did find lots of interesting things (not merely books) in my last search!

My colleagues in the UK are gearing themselves down to enjoy the half term holiday.  We do not have this obviously necessary break during the term and so Monday sees the second half of term with most of my colleagues having had only a single day’s respite from the kids.  My colleagues who went to England last week will only have arrived back this weekend and so will have missed out on the single day holiday of Friday.  And they have a very long haul to the release of Easter.

As soon as we go back we will be preparing for the next set of examinations, in the strangely compulsive way that the system demands: pointless, counter-productive and addictive!  Give us a day or so and the hiatus (one can hardly call it anything more positive) of last week will be lost in the past and people will look as harassed and edgy as the default condition of work in our place. 

And that is without the ever-present threat of a pay reduction!  God alone knows what the Greeks are deciding or not deciding as I type, but whatever they decide it is not going to be good news for the Eurozone and for the EU generally.  Spain’s horrific levels of unemployment are not the cause of wholesale rioting because of the strength of the Black Economy in this country - which is vast and presumably increasing.  With a quarter of the total population out of work and half (!) of young people out of work something must be going on to prevent the total economic and social collapse that should be visible if these figures told the whole story.

In the next few weeks the mendacious and discredited government of PP (a party which includes creeps like Camps in their vile ranks and is mired in an on-going corruption scandal) are going to make announcements about their approach to El Crisis.  As the government has already done a U-turn and taken the two measures of increased taxation which they vowed that they would never do in the run up to their election, they can only do more of the same.  We confidently expect higher taxes and a cut in wages, and perhaps tinkering with the so-called “extra” pays that we have as an integral part of our salary.

In our school, because of our double pay-masters (government and private foundation) any percentage cut will be difficult to impose because of the complex proportions in our pay mix, so it is likely that a lower rate across the whole slew of teachers whether they are paid by the government or the foundation will be imposed.

And presumably we will be expected to work normally for lower wages.  This is a form of economics that doesn’t work in the so-called real world.  I cannot go into a shop having been paid less and tell the shopkeeper that I will only pay 95% of the prices that he charges because my wages have been cut by 5%.  No, I will have to buy less because I have less money.  It follows that if the school (for whatever reason) pays us less then we do less.  They cannot afford our full time services, and just like the shopkeepers who don’t lower their prices (indeed inflation has risen year on year since our wages have been frozen) they should expect to get less from the customers.  Which lessons would they like me to stop teaching?

When I put to a colleague that our timetable is over-long; our day is over-long; the curriculum is over-long and therefore there was room to cut it according to how much the school could afford to pay – he looked at me as though I was mad.  It seems like simple economics to me: if you can’t afford something you can’t have it.  The school can’t pay; it can’t have the same as before.  So cut.  Why should we be the only section of society that works according to fairy-tale economics rather than the economics that we encounter when we take our pay and spend it?

I know that I am going to be a lone voice crying in the wilderness as frightened workers scurry up to managers to show how committed they are in spite of the cuts so that they can keep their jobs.  The government has, by the way, lowered (by 50%) payments that have to be made to workers who are sacked.  And in Spain you can always be sacked.  Spanish labour law and unemployment payments are a complete mess and need to be sorted out, but the government using a crisis to pay back to their friends in business at the expense of ordinary workers is a more than repulsive (though sadly common) aspect of all right-wing parties in power.

It will only be a few weeks before we know the worst, or at least the beginning of the worst.  I am sure that we will be drip-fed cuts and increases in payments over the next year or so.  And of course, if Greece has a disorderly exit from the Euro god alone knows what will happen.

Happy days!
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