Another week consigned to the history books. Slowly, o so slowly, time creepeth on and liberty (and of course abject poverty) beckon.
School is gearing itself up for its last spasm of examinations before vomiting forth the pupils to their various holiday homes. The magic mark-out-of-ten will have been given and pupils will either completely ignore their achievements having done their duty and placated their paying parents or settle down to ignore their holiday work until the last possible day before the start of the next term!
The air of unreality about my presence in the school is growing; I can’t wait for them to start talking about “next year” and all the preparations which will be necessary to ensure that the commencement of the first trimester is as smooth as is humanly possible to reduce to the absolute minimum any stress teachers might feel as they face the term ahead. That is, of course, a joke.
This year saw the introduction of a teacher assessment/evaluation scheme. This was accompanied by meetings, documentation and much discussion about classroom observation. We had, eventually, one meeting with department head and section head. Objectives were set and the general chitchat included a question asking how dedicated I was to the school! This is an interesting question because of its essential meaninglessness. It tells you a lot about the attitude of the managerial questioners and is not likely to get any sort of realistic answer from the interviewee. I responded by voicing an enthusiastic platitude which sadly seemed just what they wanted to hear: box ticked we moved on.
We have had, of course, no classroom observation which every teacher, perhaps rightly, regards as a threat. If the initial process is flawed, why should one expect the final results to be better?
This month will see the theft of money from our pay packets: 3% of our total wages since September rawly ripped and poured into the maw which characterizes the empty coffers of the state. This is backdated income tax and little more than theft. This disgraceful depletion is made possible by the emasculated nature of the unions in this country which are actually financed by the government!
As a reaction against such horror today, Saturday, Irene and I had flee to Barcelona to partake of culture. We went firstly to lunch, in the restaurant that I went to when Katy came to Barcelona, Los Caracoles. The prices were high and for what we had – three shared tapas: mixed salad; Catalan broad beans and a small prawn omelette – extortionate! We had a couple of beers and no change from €50!
We went to what, on the surface, appeared to be an enterprising temporary exhibition in The Picasso Museum. The basis of the show was a consideration of the “Picasso Product”, thinking about the artist as a logo or trademark and studying the industry which has grown up around his marque. At least that is what I thought the exhibition was about; having seen it I am not at all sure!
I found the presentation pretentious and confused and the visual material sometimes irrelevant to the stated comments.
When I got to the middle of the displays I was frustrated, and by the time I got to the latter sections of the exhibition I couldn’t wait to get out as the frustration had by that time developed into full blown grumpy old man exasperation.
The permanent collection of the museum is interesting rather than impressive and Irene’s face showed more and more disillusionment as she surveyed one mediocre painting after another. The final straw was the collection of slapdash ceramics that Picasso threw together. We were ready to go!
As we started our return journey to the car through the cramped, atmospheric and smelly narrow streets of the Born district we re-passed the adverts for MEAM, the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern containing “Contemporary Art of the XXI Century” and, hoping to find something more to our taste we went in. My teacher’s ticket only got me a €2 reduction (the Picasso Museum was free for me, €11 for Irene!) in the Palau Gomis, the impressive eighteenth century palace in which the museum is situated and so we started up the flight of stone steps which took us to the first of the galleries.
We visited all the floors of this museum and by the time we had seen everything we were bemused by what we had been looking at.
The central concern of the place is that the art has to be of active artists and all the works share “the common denominator of . . .working in line with the rules of figurative art” - whatever they may be!
The end result is a bewildering display of portraits, landscapes and sculptures where you can see what the image is but not why it is there.
To me the “museum” resembled a large multi-floored commercial gallery of relatively “easy” art. I could discern no connecting theme apart from the reliance on the figurative and the groupings of paintings seemed aleatory rather than the result of some deep curatorial process. Each work had a name and a title together with information about material. Nothing else. It was up to the individual observer to make sense of the stuff that they saw.
The paintings ranged from semi-pornographic photo-realism to an appalling wall hanging entitled “Dresden” which referenced Picasso’s “Guernica” from a large, rather fetching painting of two pigeons on a stone ledge to a young adolescent boy in his underpants with tiny heads of famous men drifting off like soap bubbles in the top right hand corner. Mystifying and essentially unsatisfactory.
Confused by culture we fled back to Castelldefels and the shopping centre where Irene bought a present for the French lady whose birthday I am going to help celebrate in early July and, more importantly, ice cream. We had a double scoop and agreed that, after the meal at the start of our little jaunt, this was the second best highlight!
Today, Sunday has dawned overcast and sultry – but I feel smug because I have already been to my new swimming pool and done my lengths. I am still greeted effusively and questioned closely on my exit about the quality of experience that I have had swimming. I am sure that it will not last, but it gives me a warm glow of self-importance while it does.
I have now used the pool three times, thus each swim has cost me approximately €40 what with joining fee and yearly subscription. If I keep up my attendance as I intend then each visit will have cost me less than €1.
There was only one other person in the pool when I arrived for my swim this morning and she left soon after I started my lengths so I had the luxury of the pool to myself. Today, the weather not being gloriously sunny, the telescopic roof was fully extended so the pool was entirely indoors. Although this is fairly irrelevant for the next few months, it will be increasingly important that heat can be conserved for the winter months!
There is a restaurant/café next to the centre and I had a halfway decent (sic) cup of tea there. Admittedly I had to ask the guy there to make it with two tea bags and a dash of milk – all done under my careful instruction, but when I eventually tasted it, it was a cup of tea with which I could live and that is saying something for this country! All in all a most satisfactory start to my time with this pool. I sincerely hope that it becomes a habit. I will have to remember to pack an e-book reader when I am a free man to make the most of the experience!