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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Last Day



It has come round in half the time that it would have taken in Britain: the last day of the woefully short Easter Holiday.  I shouldn’t grumble as my holiday has been extended by an extra day by the school taking one of the days that they can choose.  But it is still far, far too short.  And the long slog towards the end of June begins.

The day for me began with an almost swim: I almost decided to go to the pool but there were things to do and you know how it is.  So I didn’t.

One of the things to do was financial and that meant that I took out a large sum of money from my bank in the morning and, because of circumstances beyond my individual control, put it back in the bank in the afternoon.  At least I tried to.

Banks, as I have always maintained in this country have taken the place of the market square.  Where do people meet and chat?  Their banks.  The old folk come in for a socializing talk with the tellers and to make sure that their money is still there.  People come in with sheaves of bumf and take an inordinate time sifting through their documentation and getting their papers stamped (always a good thing in Spain) or signing each page of endless photocopies from the bank.  The queue for the single teller never seems to get shorter and everyone in front of me seems to be putting the affairs of the whole of the Eurozone in order by the amount of time that they take.

So it was with a sense of depressing familiarity that I entered my bank and stared mournfully at the congress of humanity that had decided to visit at exactly the same time as me.

As I had a wodge of money to put in I thought it expedient to wait in line so that I could give the whole amount to the teller and let them do all the work of checking that the amount I said was there was, well, there.  No movement for minutes so I decided to risk the machines.

I know from past limited experiences that I can feed money into my account as well as take it out.  And I knew which one of the three machines on offer in the central bank was the one to use.  I had previously had my bankbook renewed in the morning when I took the money out so I was well prepared to put it all back again.

I fed my bankbook into the appropriate slot and the machine grudgingly authenticated it and (in English, because it is well trained) it asked me what I wanted to do. 

Each request was displayed on the screen and each finger touch was accompanied by an inordinately loud beep.  I got through to the feeding of the machine with my cash when I hit a problem.  The machine can cope with 40 notes at a time and I was trying to feed it 100!  So the whole process had to begin again with my feeding the thing with batches of 40 notes.  Each time the machine rejected one suspect note (a note I might add which came from the same bank just a few hours before) and therefore after three separate transactions and a whole orchestra of beeps I finally retreated with two of the notes still in my hand but the vast bulk of the cash safely in my account.

I tried to ignore the baleful looks which my retreating back had to endure from those hapless souls who were waiting for a machine, but their reflections in the window of the bank will haunt me!  God alone knows how long I was stuck there but Toni was virtually dancing with impatience before I finally emerged blinking into the cloudy, patchy sunshine.

Recuperation took the form of a double teabag pot of tea and an astonishingly expensive turron muffin – one can’t help feeling that such an establishment is first in line for closure when the crisis grips further. 

And my tea was exceptionally weedy. 

It was served in what looked like a tiny Chinese inspired cast-iron teapot in which the tea bags had been placed inside a metal filter which ensured that they barely touched the hot water.  I extracted the completely redundant filter (they were tea bags after all) and poked them about a bit in the water and eventually got an ecru coloured beverage and that, believe me, is better than most attempts at our impossibly complicated national drink!

Lunch in the Maritime: which for me was quail broth with butter beans followed by half a dozen fat prawns finishing with whisky tart (swimming in it my dear!) and iced coffee.  The red wine and Casera goes without saying.  Not bad for €12 and much better service than you get during the weekend.

Although the day started dull and cold it did brighten up a little and even allowed me half an hour on the Third Floor before comprehensive cloud cover forced me indoors.

This gave me the opportunity to look at my timetable for tomorrow and decide that the work that I have not done yet didn’t need to be done then either so I can relax and enjoy the opera this evening.

This is another opera that I do not know so, as I have not done my homework about it, there is a plain sheet on which the experiences inside the Liceu can be writ large!

I have decided to risk leaving the house at 6 pm for an 8 pm start.  It is only half an hour or so into the centre of the city from Castelldefels but this is rush hour and I consider (perhaps rashly) that four times the normal length should be enough.

The one good thing about traffic jams in this car is that when I stop so does the car.  If anything needs feeding like lights, or radio or whatever this is taken from the battery which has been charged up by previous driving.  The stop/start approach of petulant lines of traffic is perfect for my type of car with a hybrid engine which does all the irritating staggering on the battery.  But the delight of some sort of idea of economy does not make me relish the trip into the city at the unkindest part of the day.

To which the reasonable response is why not do this journey by bus or by train.  Alas!  If only!  I have no intention at my venerable age of taking the “nit” bus, where the Catalan for “night” does give some sort of indication of the vermin who usually fill such a conveyance.  And the trains stop running by the time that I come out of the opera house.  It is a far better thing to have a car available so that one can get home as easily and quickly as possible – and certainly when the next day is the first day of a new term!

I have just had yet another call from Toyota asking if I am satisfied with my purchase of the car.  This must be the sixth such call which shows concern with customer satisfaction verging on the paranoid.  It is certainly much more than Peugeot ever showed which is part of the reason that I am no longer driving one of their cars!

The sun looks as though it has shone as much as it wants to for today so I should go and get showered and ready to go off to the opera – but first I must try and find my opera glasses which I think I will leave in the car for future performances.

My ideal is to go to the opera by train and then stay in the city overnight and come back at my leisure the next day.  The cost of accommodation is little more than the cost of parking the car in the centre of the city and it makes for a much more pleasant experience.  The inconvenience of having school the next day makes this plan impractical at the moment, but there will come a time!

Irene is still keen on setting up a school and, after going through some documents and coming across old statements by dissatisfied teachers who had been connected with The School That Sacked Me, I can understand her urge.

It is wickedly wrong that a school so clearly unfit for purpose as that one should be allowed by the authorities to continue.  From regal disregard of the health and safety regulations to the bullying attitude of the owner and her general unprofessionalism everything about the place calls for somewhere better to be established to drain her pupils away so that they can have a proper education.  And nothing is done!  A school that has been accused of stealing money raised for charity – nothing is done!  Enough!  I don’t want to relive those times!

Focus on finding the opera glasses and looking forward to a last evening of musical pleasure before the alarm goes off at 6.30 am tomorrow bidding me drive off for a new term.

Actually there is one thing that I need to find before I go to the opera: my start of term tie.

Each first day of term I don my Munch tie which has a vivid version of “The Scream” printed on it. This is clearly the most expressive and accurate of all the ties that I wear - with the possible exception of the one which has Homer Simpson strangling Bart as a tastefully repeated motif on one of my other favourites!

Ties for teachers!
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