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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Eating, Views and Art




Triumphing over the vertical approach to Irene’s house I was met, as usual, by the baying of hounds.  Included in the intimidating pack was one fearsome looking dog who, to add to the discomfort of the putative visitor, was thoroughly muzzled.

It is only if you are regular visitor that you know that the bark is the whole of the “attack”.  Any advance of a visitor results in an equally swift retreat by said dog.  The muzzle is there to protect other dogs not humans!

Among the many animals (apart from the two ladies) who live in Irene’s home, the most interesting is the blind dog.  This extraordinary animal shows alternating bouts of uncanny prescience about obstacles in his path and then bumps his head on a chair leg.  He is, however, happy in his inexplicably perilous world and his guiding light (so to speak) is any movement of his beloved mistress.  Watching him go down stairs is heart-stoppingly tense, but every move for his aged limbs is a triumph.

He is friendly to a fault and, as a card-carrying dog person; I duly rewarded his nearness with unrelenting scratching.  My activities were closely observed by the misnomerly named cat, Blossom.  Tiring of my complete indifference she meandered towards me uttering was I understand cat people call “plaintive” cries.  Which I ignored.  She then crawled over the sofa on which I was sitting.  Which I ignored.  She then retreated and regarded me with a glare as malevolent as any I have seen a feline display – and I have seen many!

By the time we had to leave the dog was weak with ecstasy and when I sent to the loo he followed me and waited like a lost soul outside the door for my return to scratching.

The driving to Montserrat was straightforward motorway until the last windy bit, so we made good time.

Our first duty was to book a table (with view) for one of the celebrated lunches that you can get in the restaurant.  Not the self-service one, though we did give a pitying look at the huddled masses queuing for their meal when we later came to claim our table!

Off to kiss the Idol with the taking of many pictures on the Grown Up Camera along the way.  The queue to Kiss the Idol was stretching way out of the church so we knocked that on the head and decided to look at the Idol from the vantage point of the nave.

The church was packed and I quickly realized that this was nothing to do with piety but rather the fact that the famed choir of the church was about to sing.  And sing they did to a chorus of clicks and whirrs and a blaze of light from the audience (“congregation” would be going a level of sanctity too far!) as cameras, iPhones, iPad, tablets and video cameras snapped into record mode.

The singing was pretty and instantly forgettable and then it was time for lunch.

Which was excellent.  Our buffet salad starter was one of the most delicious I have ever had.  The lamb in the main course fell off the bone and the lemon sorbet was superb.

Duly stuffed we wound our way back to the Church of the Idol and went down (by lift – I said we were stuffed) to the art gallery.

The Caravaggio of St Jerome Penitent is excellent and outshines everything else in the room in which it is displayed, though I have to say that the little El Greco they have is remarkable for the almost monochrome, quasi-abstract background.

The real treasures here are Catalan and the collection rivals that of MNAC in some of its aspects.  My favourite painting is by Casas and shows a young woman preparing for her bath.  This is a subtle study in pastel tones and has a misty delicacy which I find breath taking.  It is not a spectacular painting but it is one that impresses itself on the memory and always repays a visit because no reproduction does it justice.

An excellent day out which thoroughly justified the lazy day on the beach today to compensate for all the effort of eating and looking yesterday!

The ways of our University System are gnomic to say the least.  I have been trying to get out of doing a foundation course in my present OU degree because I have already done one.  Admittedly it was some 32 years ago in the early eighties, but I really didn’t want to do it again.

I was told when I started this OU degree that everything that I had done previously was “out of date” and I would have to start anew.  The phone call today raise and then realized the possibility that I could be reinstated on the course that I started all those years ago!

So, in one telephone call, the six years that I was going to have to study for my degree has been cut to three!  I will wait for the confirmation of what I have been told before I start making any plans because living in Spain makes one wise in the ways of bureaucracy and the little mind games that they can play. 

But, on the face of it, the OU has done the decent thing and I am very impressed by the fact that I had the phone call (in response to an earlier query) and a decision about my status was decided in hours and an email sent immediately. 

The OU is truly one institution where they place students first!  God bless them and Harold Wilson too! 

And that must be a sentiment which is not often typed nowadays!

In what was surely a barely veiled political comment the lady from the OU referred to “our dear government” cutting money to the OU and demanding that students pay higher fees more in keeping with students in conventional institutions.  Perhaps my reinstatement is a reflection that I have paid (much, much lower fees) for a variety of other courses and that has to be part of my time-extended course.  Who knows!  Who cares!  My studies have changed for the better and the cost of my degree has been lessened by almost eight thousand pounds! 

All things work together for good!  And who am I to disagree with Candide!

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