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Monday, April 23, 2012

The dragon rises!


When you drive along uninteresting motorways every day on your way to school you understand that clouds were invented to give some sort of aesthetic pleasure to a motorist depressed about the journey and looking for anything to give meaning to the daily drudge.

This morning there was a whole cinemascope documentary of “What Clouds Can Do” from the refulgent splendour of orange, pink and burning gold to the dirty brown of shabby scraps of obvious pollution hanging over the city.  It had obviously rained during the night and the sulky sub-fusc colouring of some low cloud looked as though it was thinking of doing the same during the day.  This is particularly unfortunate as we will be outside during part of the day.

Celebrations of St Jordi (St. George) on his day take a time-honoured form in our school.  Firstly, in the morning there is a dramatic representation by members of the sixth form of the epic battle of dragon and maiden and then later in the day there is a ceremony when the literary successes of our pupils in all the languages that we teach are rewarded by the awarding of certificates, books and of course, roses.  In time-honoured fashion this will take place during our free periods.  And today is my duty day as well so one imposition flows seamlessly into another!

As members of staff come it they are putting books in the appropriate pigeon-holes.  I know that I am not an easy person for whom to buy a book, but I hope that whoever has that thankless task they more effort than the person who bought the book for me last year.  Unreadable and it wasn’t even wrapped!

Already the “invisible” part of the book giving is being thrown to the winds as people desperately (and I think that is a well chosen word) try and discover who has given them the book.  I actually like the anonymity of it all, but I am not Catalan and therefore do not share the traditional drives that make this country “tick.”  I think that I probably “tock” – and therein lies the dynamism of my relationship with the country!

I have now got my book and it is indeed an improvement on last year.  It is a recipe book of cakes and pastries some of which look eminently makeable.  There is a lemon and brandy and nut cake that looks particularly enticing and I think that I will make it for the staff to try.  I have made no effort to try and find out who bought the book but I am sure that if I make the cake someone will shyly edge forward and claim to be the inspiration.  Catalans and Spanish are not built to deny responsibility in cases like this!

The person for whom I bought the invisible friend book has left school early pleading illness, leaving behind incipient chaos (as always) and muttering staff indicating that they would have stayed for just an extra few hours to see the day through.

We have had our St Jordi performance where the dragon plagued king phoned Dr Jones and James Bond to help with the eradication but they both wimped out (see above) and it was left to St Jordi himself to come to the rescue and kill the dragon which looked like a green coated terrorist in a small Venetian mask in our version of the story! 

Normal timetable was momentarily resumed until just after twelve when the kids were marshalled down into our assembly hall for the prize giving.  Hundreds of Spanish kids together does not make for a peaceful assembly and there was much hissing to keep them in some sort of semblance of silence.  Which failed.

The prize giving was brought to a tumultuous climax with our homegrown band which played “Sweet Alabama” and other soothing melodies at ear deafening volumes.

This lasted the better part of two periods and so took away one of my precious frees and meant that I had just time to go straight from the hall to the kitchen and dining room to begin my lunchtime duty.

As it is the afternoon I now go into my usual routine of wondering if I have the energy to go and have a swim after school.  As I invariably conclude that I do not in fact have the necessary get-up-and-go to enjoy a swim after a full day at school it is amazing that I ever get to the pool.  I find that there is a sort of inbuilt objective seeker which points me in the right, or at least the most appropriate, direction and by the time my conscious mind has worked out where I am going it is easier to continue on than turn around and go home.

For me swimming can be like banana yogurt; it doesn’t necessarily attract you but you are quite satisfied after you have experienced it!  And I know that swimming makes sense.  It really does.  And I do actually enjoy it, all things considered.

The programme for the new season of opera has arrived and the selection is not quite as demanding as last year – even if they cancelled one production because of the crisis.  This year we have La forza del destino; Rusalka; The Tales of Hoffman; Madame Butterfly; Rhinegold; Il Turco in Italia and L’elisir d’amore.  Two other operas are not in my special ticket – the first is Lucio Silla by Mozart (?) and Street Scene by Kurt Weill which I think I want to see so will have to buy some additional offer.  There are concert performances of Il Pirata by Bellini; Iolanta  by Tchaikovski and Rienzi.  I must admit that I am not tempted by any of these and further concert performances of Wagner are horrifically expensive. 

I must also admit that the idea of sitting through the torment of a concert version of Tristan is something I cannot contemplate with anything like equanimity.  I vividly remember Clarrie (bless her) who threw herself on a bottle of wine in the interval of Tristan in Cardiff and cut herself so badly that I (I fought off any other selfish Samaritans) had to take her to casualty. 

As I had been reduced to counting the number of people in the dress circle as something more interesting than watching the inaction on the stage, you can imagine that I found waiting in hospital a much more exciting and intellectually demanding occupation! 

I am not so ignorant that I am incapable of recognizing that there is great music in the opera but going to see the whole thing for a few moments of pleasure is a little too much to ask a reasonable person to undertake. 

Although, having said that, I knew a girl whose first opera was Tristan and Isolde and that switched her permanently onto the form and she was hooked.  No accounting for tastes.

My first opera was Nabucco and I found that so “difficult” that it put me off opera for years!  I was quite young when I saw it, so young indeed that I was unable to hum along to the Slaves’ Chorus whose tune I knew not.  How times have changed!

It seems that my ticket for a selection of operas is automatically renewed which takes away some of the heartache which is traditionally associated with buying a season of opera tickets from any of the opera houses in the world.  I just have to worry about buying the extra tickets that I need.  Give me strength.

Another day nearer to the meeting about our reduction in wages and I seem to be the only person speculating about what might happen!  If you don’t speculate then you will not be prepared to react to what is offered and, let’s face it I should imagine that the school could carry the whole of the cut by the Generalitat if they wanted to.

There is also, the extraordinary thought that they could, like everyone else in this country, simply raise the fees that parents pay to cover the cut.  It will be very interesting.  What, for example, is the sum of money from which the Generalitat is going to take 3%?  This is not a simple question.  Is it gross or net?  The government has already taken tax from us from September to the present; do they intend to take 3% of the sum they have already taxed or the sum that is left after the normal tax?  Are they going to tax additions to basic pay or just the basic pay?  This could run and run as the first attempt the Generalitat made to take more from our pay over Christmas was an embarrassing catastrophe for the idiots in government so that, having once taken the money they paid it all back again.  There is room for endless variations.  I think that I will ask for a written explanation of what is going on.  I can hardly wait.  It is almost possible to consider the problems from a dispassionate point of view, almost if they were happening to someone else.

But money is very real and surely the supine teachers must react in some sort of positive way.  Surely!

Well, I won’t have time to think about it tomorrow as it is my six period day and teaching will take up the space.


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