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Friday, June 15, 2012

Misery & Delight!


Wednesday morning is an uneasy time for me.  Given the awful traffic on the motorway that I have to take, it is advisable to arrive at the normal time in spite of my teaching commitments starting at 9.55 am.  This means, of course that I am visibly available to a passing member of management for pouncing upon to cover other lessons.

At present the members of the art department are busily putting up the end of year exhibition and are therefore off timetable.  This means that “free” colleagues have to take the lessons thus made teacherless.  As my Wednesday (with the disappearance of the sixth form) is relatively sparse in teaching commitments I have been feeling decidedly vulnerable.

I made it to lunchtime and was looking forward to a teaching and pupil emptied double period stretch during which I was going to attack the rubbish in my cupboard in building one (the cupboard in building 4 having been virtually emptied already) when a colleague brought me the odious news that the single lesson with the 3ESO which we had been told was going to be taken over by someone talking to them about something and therefore did not need our presence there is not as we have been told.

We have to go with the kids and listen to a talk on drugs.  Shit.  And I was hoping to slope off early so that I could go and have a quick swim and still be able to get home in time to prepare the table for the festivities attendant on Toni’s name day.  Foolish boy – I should have drawn on thirty years experience of happy expectations being dashed by scholastic managerial machinations ever to assume that so jocose a plan could possibly succeed!

But, having completed my marking I do feel up to attempting a partial clean up of my cupboard.

That last good intention has only partially been completed because I obviously had to stump my resentful way off to the talk on drugs.  Which was appalling.  When I arrived in the auditorium the kids had already been spoken to for a solid hour and they had another hour of talking to go before they were released.  Considering the inconsiderate format of the “experience” our kids were generally well behaved – perhaps it’s good training for the series of absurdly long and mind numbing meetings that this country seems to go in for as part of a professional existence!

The evening was taken up with Family celebrations for Toni’s name day.  For me that meant calling in to the supermarket for goodies and then (after not going for a swim) having to go straight back out again when I got home because bread had not been purchased.  So, back to the supermarket and on my return The Family had arrived – a seamless journey to total exhaustion.

The meal was eaten to the accompaniment of the European Football Championship just to add an extra nuance of tedium to the situation because with most of these countries I have no preference about who wins.  Although I did find that remembering the marking in the Eurovision Song Contest added a soupçon of vitriol to my seemingly placid viewing.  Just how long is this torture going on!  Roll on the final and at least some respite from the tyranny of football on our television screens.  Not, of course that football is not a good spectator sport – it is – it’s just that I can think of better things to do and silence in the living room with the television switched off is an important luxury as well!

Today, Thursday, should be the last normal day of teaching for the kids as tomorrow the final (sic.) examinations of the year are going to start.  Ironically both of the examinations that I have to mark are being held on the same day and so I have the maximum amount of time in which to mark them.  I sincerely hope that the statement in the last sentence does not come back to haunt me.  In theory I should be able to start marking the 3ESO examination as soon as it has been completed and although the 1ESO exam is last thing on Friday I should have time on Monday to get that started as well and even completed if things go well.

Then there will be the filling in of the results on various pieces of paper and (sic.) in the computer system.  The last time we did this there were three separate (an very large) pieces of paper on which we had the write the same results out as well as putting them in the system.  One is tempted to ask why, but one knows that that would be the wrong question to ask.

My first gained “free” this morning at 8.15 am has been lost (again) and so I will end up having two periods with the 3ESO to start the day.  What a joy!  And people ask me why I am retiring and won’t I miss it!  How jejune can people be!

I will actually have to do some real teaching today, though I think that this will be in spite of my classes demanding time to “study”.

That word is a difficult one to understand in the context of education in this country, but a very simple one to understand from the kids’ point of view.  For them it merely means making mindless notes and learning them by rote.  They rely on a few studious kids to make written notes and then they syndacalise them throughout the year group so, if the originator of he notes makes a mistake that spreads like a disease and marks vanish into thin air!

My arrival in the house at the end of the day was after an extended swim in the pool and a relaxing cup of acceptable tea and, joy of joys, reading a whole sci-fi story on my phone.  It was a life style which appears increasingly attractive as the days slowly (O! So slowly!) creep by towards the date of release.

Anyway, my arrival was met by Toni sitting on the sofa holding something and staring at me in a meaningful way.  I met his meaning with blank incomprehension until Toni rattle the paper he was reading and said the magic word “tapas”!  I then instantly comprehended his previous mute communication and realized that he had the new sheet for the Ruta de tapas for Castelldefels.

For the last three years we have been enthusiastic supporters of this idea.  Some forty cafés, bars and restaurants agree to provide a “signature” tapa and a drink of your choice for the set price of €3.  You are provided with a sheet which contains the names of the participating locales, a map to show their location and a description of the tapas offered.  Each time you try a tapas you have your sheet stamped and, when you have completed 50% of the route you can submit your sheet for the grand draw to win a prize.

Last year with a superhuman effort and the help of friends and visitors I managed to complete the whole route and tasted ever single taps on offer!  A remarkable achievement, especially as some establishments were less than welcoming and amenable to fulfilling their part of the bargain!

The prize was an IPad and I felt that I was in with a good chance.  As well as a chance of winning all people who submitted a completed sheet of visits were given a booklet of tickets to have food and drink at the fair and festival at the end of the allotted time for completing the route.

Not only did I not win the IPad, but also my visit to the festival of food was an out and out disaster.  I was not feeling 100% when I set off for this jolly, but I felt infinitely worse when I got there and, sampling nothing and drinking nothing I made my sorry way home and went instantly to bed where I remained for over 24 hours wallowing in self pity (when I was conscious) and bewailing my state.

This year is going to be different (come hell and high water!) and we enthusiastically started on our camino with a tapa in a new, or at least renamed bar in the centre of Castelldefels.  This tapa was made up of salad, two pieces of bread and pinchos.  Flavoursome and generous it was an excellent start. 

The second tapa was an aesthetic triumph and, unique in our experience, looked exactly like the photographic on the advertising board which each locale has to advertise the event!  A combination of caramelised apple, prawn, artichoke and bread: it looked ravishing but was actually less appetizing than the more ordinary but more satisfying first.

The third was another classy production served on slate, but it disappeared in a mouthful and the glass of wine was a bit stingy too.

But we have started and I look forward to discovering more of the culinary delights that Castelldefels has to offer, as there are plenty of new places in the list this year.

Last year our great “discovery” was the restaurant El Elefante where, after eventually finding the place we sampled the tapa and stayed for a meal – which surely should be the aim of participating restaurants.  This was with Andrew and Stewart whose presence seemed to be a good luck charm as all the tapas we tried with them were exceptional!  The tapa of this restaurant for the present competition (each route follower has to nominate the best tapa they have tried) seems a little ordinary but perhaps they have a twist on the production which will make it exceptional.  Last year I voted the El Elefante tapa as the best and none of the three that I have tried so far matches it.

Knowing that each day will bring a new taste experience is something which helps deaden the pain of the next week when I will have to mark the examinations that the kids in front of me at the moment are sitting.  There is something to be said for touch-typing as I daren’t stop watching these kids for a moment as they take every opportunity of bolstering their future achievement by clandestine opportunistic reinforcement – or “cheating” as we know it!

Their examination paper is thirteen pages long and there are 127 marks to be gained (actually 127.75 but that’s our system for you!) and is one of the longest papers I will ever have had the mind numbing torture of marking.

If things go according to plan, I will start the process today and complete it on Monday, when I will be able to start the marking of the second paper that is going to be sat today which will also end up in my brief case.  This second paper will be even more resented than the first because it may (perish the thought!) cut into my early finish time which is absolutely unthinkable.  I am already planning (if the kids are kept in two classes and not three as is normal) to volunteer to do the early stint so that I can depart on time and not be held back, gnashing my teeth in impotent fury.

There is also the thought that Castelldefels has a “Gourmet” route as well where restaurants offer a three course evening meal for €25.  €50 for a couple or £40 in real money is not such a bargain when you consider that a normal three course lunch (with wine) is about €10 - €14, so the evening meal will have to be substantially better to merit the higher price.  But I am more than willing; in a spirit of scientific curiosity to find out if it is so!
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