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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting to know it


I have consulted the mystic books of knowledge and steeped in their lore I feel that I am about 20% confident about linking the IPod to the Tom-Tom GPS via the USB port in the dash.

For how many years has the latter part of that sentence been comprehensible?  Probably not more than a decade, but that does mean that most of the kids that I teach have never been aware of a world without them.  What I regard as new technology they accept as complete normality.

My father used to say that my grandmother on my mother’s side had lived through a period of time which brought in the modern age: she lived to see the development of the motorcar as a normal means of transport and the start of the space age.  She saw the introduction of television and its development into colour sets.  She lived through the revolution that came with the development of the transistor.  She saw flight as essential rather than exceptional.  And so on.  She lived from Victoria to Elizabeth II and her world changed radically.

But having been born in the middle of the twentieth century I think more of my world has changed than the equivalent in my grandmother’s time.

My father was much taken by a “sculpture” made by one of his colleagues which was a construction with a base of shattered glass valves set in plaster and painted black with a gleaming silvery transistor stretching upwards on spindly wire legs from the broken technology of the past.  How quaint that now seems in a world of microprocessors.

I am fond of saying (no doubt inaccurately, but who cares) that there is more storage on my mobile phone than there was in all the computers in the world when I was a small child.  And the kids never fail to smile with the superior condescending indulgence that they do so well, when I tell them – truthfully – that the memory of my first computer was 28K.  In fact this present from Clarrie which made me deliriously happy in spite of the fact that I could do virtually nothing with the machine had only 1kB of on board memory; I have just looked it up and seeing the machine again made my memory lurch!  It seems like an ancient artefact and indeed it is, as its name suggests from 1981 – over thirty years ago.

I am typing all this on a MacBook Air.  Thirty years seems like a very short time to go from the ZX 81 to what I am using at present – and how much of our lives have changed in the same way.  At least for those of us “lucky” enough to live in the so-called First World with ready access to the latest developments in society, technology and social networking.

All of the preceding is of course yet another example of displacement activity as I should be proving that I am a worthy recipient of all this technology by actually making an effort to get it all working and linking the IPod to the GPS in reality rather than speculating about the social trends in writing!

Well, that didn’t work.  I’m not sure why.  The music from the IPod plays through the car stereo system but the information about the tracks does not appear on the screen.  Probably you have to buy some highly expensive lead to get the final bit of the acoustic puzzle into place!  Which I am not going to do.

Lunch was from our usual place but the quality today was awful: the chicken dry; the chips far too greasy and hard; the salad unimpressive and the croquets tasting “funny” according to Toni.  The only satisfactory part of the meal was the aioli – even the wine tasted odd.  A meal best forgotten.

The entire population of Barcelona appears to be in our town at the moment and we are getting the first taste of the awful parking that we can expect for the rest of the season.  On the positive side (and believe you me you have to look carefully to find the positive in the summer months) I suppose that the new car is at its best in these stop/start situations.  At slow speeds the car works on the electric battery and when I stop, everything stops – except the radio which is being powered by the charged battery.  Quite economical and carbon dioxide lite!  Probably.

For the first time this year I have had a “proper” sunbathe lying out on the terrace on the Third Floor.  There is still a little wind, but the weather is glorious and the crowded beaches at the bottom of the road would indicate!

Tomorrow sees the start of, wait for it, an Examination Week.  Another Examination Week!  To go with all the other Examination Weeks that make up the normal day to day existence of the institution in which I teach!

The meeting on Saturday (!) and some of the discussion in it was aspiring to a form of education in the school which is impossible given the tyranny of the examination system that they willingly encourage.  But logical joined up thinking has never been the forte of the educational establishment anywhere, and certainly not here in Spain.

So the beginning of the week will be spent looking at past papers and wondering if you have completed all the work necessary for the kids to have a good stab at the mindless questions that they are going to be asked to complete.

We are working, or more accurately stumbling our way towards our long weekend which is at the end of next week and then another two weeks before we finally get to the Easter holiday.

This term has been truly interminable with no real lighter spots to leaven the blank depression of day succeeding day only interspersed with examination preparation, setting and marking.  That is, of course, a lie.  There have been lots of good moments since January – but remembering them now is contrary to the justifiable feelings of resentment that a long term engenders!

Still, in spite of everything, time is ticking onwards and each second brings release nearer.

I am already “planning” the summer and have decided to join the Olympic Canal club (as long as it is not too ruinously expensive) and do a little light rowing.  I rather enjoyed going down to Roath Park from time to time and messing about and I would like to do the same nearer home. 

I have other things in mind that I would to hand.  But I need the comfort of a holiday to work out the details.

It’s better than marking.


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