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Friday, December 25, 2015

What do you expect?







The Twelve Cartoons of Christmas ran smack-dab into the Flu before Christmas!


Christmas Day – and the cold/sore throat/headache which has been lurking underneath my insistence on good health has chosen today to come to the surface during Day 1 of our annual visit to Terrassa.  Merry bloody day indeed.

            However, such minor inconveniences to enjoyment must not be allowed to interfere with the inexorable progress of Family Entertainment.  The Grand Gathering of the Clans is set for lunchtime and I am hoping that a liberal application of Cava to my internal parts will see me through the experience.

            Christmas Eve, which is when Catalans give presents, was fine with a meal that included my favourite concoction of a salmon, cream cheese, tuna and ham layered bread that goes down a treat – with the previously mentioned Cava.

            The most intriguing of my presents was an ancient looking pot with two spouts and a circular carrying handle on the top.  It was decorated with Catalans dancing and I was informed that it was hand made and of tradition design.  It is of earthenware and the theory is that in some magical way it keeps the water or wine inside cool in spite of the ambient temperature.  As Toni immediately informed me, it will be ideal for the Third Floor and I rather like the idea of drinking water from something that looks like a modified poron.  I realise that the last word of the last sentence may also need some explanation, but there again that is why Google exists!

            I have brought my OU books with me and, perhaps more compellingly my drafts of the poem on which I was working in Castelldefels.  It remains to be see if either of these worthy projects gets a moment of my attention while here!

            The poem is proving to be much more difficult to cope with than the continuing chapters of the OU course books.  In the poem I have an image that I am loath to leave out, but I am not at all convinced by its inclusion at the moment.  It is one of those nice ideas (at least to me) but one which is too strong to stand alone and I am struggling to find a development which will justify its use.  Who was it said that it is sometimes necessary to ‘kill your darlings’ when writing?  Well, this may well be one of those times.  We shall see.

            Terrassa is cold, or rather, colder than Castelldefels.  The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the temperature may well be in double figures, so we can’t really complain.  But one still needs to be fortified to meet the demands of the day and, to my horror, I have discovered that Toni’s mum only has herb and green tea!  Even as I type I am waiting, vainly I fear, for two green tea teabags to give a bit of colour to the minute amount of milk added to the mix.  At the end of this paragraph I will attempt a few sips and hope for the best.

            I did.  And, while not exactly to my taste, there is enough of a suggestion of that smoky Chinese dustiness to the flavour to make me believe that it is a valid taste experience.  There are also, I now discover after further sips, overtones of cut grass.  Ah well, perhaps it is doing something for the list of symptoms that I started the day with.  One can but hope.

            The political situation in Spain continues to defy settlement with some of the Barons of PSOE (the equivalent of the Labour Party) speaking out forcefully against any possible pact with Podemos because of the insistence of the leadership of Podemos of making a referendum on the future of Catalonia within Spain an essential element for any pact agreement.

            I have a fear that the fears of Catalonia breaking away from Spain may well be used as a (cynical) reason for other pacts.  I also fear that if agreement on a government is not made within the statutory period outlined in the Constitution then the ‘Unity of Spain’ banner may well be unfurled by the two major parties to get their lost voters back and we return to a bipartisan political system which has allowed the two major parties to rip off the public purse since the foundation of democracy in this country after the dictatorship of Franco.  Although the placing of what turns out to be far too much power in the hands of the political parties was understandable as a bulwark against the past, there is a real need now for the relationship between politics and modern life in Spain to be redefined.  The present situation is an ideal moment for that to happen, but the giving up of power is never easy and is never voluntary – so the next few months in this country are going to be replete with screams of anguish as power bases are threatened.

            An important, if not key, player in this new and exciting situation is the so-called King of Spain.  After the abdication of his elephant killing, philandering and hypocritical father, the present ‘king’ was installed on the throne by the machinations of PP and PSOE.  There was no provision in the Constitution for abdication and so the two political parties took it upon themselves to invest the new King.  The request (which I fully supported) for a referendum to find out if Spain actually wanted a monarch was ignored by the king-makers and it will be interesting to see what their creation says in the ‘King’s’ Speech today.
           
            Presumably the ‘King’ (who appears to be a perfectly charming and tall man) will aspire to find his moment, just as his father did during the attempted coup by the colonels when he told the soldiers to return to their barracks and accept the young democracy.  The present ‘King’ has the Constitutional duty to call on the winner of the election (PP with 29% of the vote) to form a government.  If Bromo is unable to do that, then the ‘King’ will call on the leader of the opposition to try and form a government.  After three months if no government has been formed then the nuclear option is to call another general election.

            The leader of the C’s (a particularly nasty right-wing party) has called for a Grand Coalition of PP, C’s and PSOE to unite as a front to exclude Podemos (which got more seats and votes than the C’s) to defend the unity of Spain.  In my view, such a grouping would be a disaster of monumental proportions with Old Corruption winning and continuing.

            Meanwhile, life goes on of course, and people are more concerned about family, presents, eating and how to get rid of the kids than Grand Questions about the political state of the country.  That may be a cynical view of mine, and it is certainly true that more people are talking about politics in an urgent and exciting way than they did previously, when they merely shook their heads over the new stories of rapacity that emerged in every television broadcast.  The times have changed and I hope to god that the people of Spain do not throw away an opportunity to make the transition to a new and potentially refreshing political situation.

            By way of contrast (or is it a sort of comment on the situation?) I am re-reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray on my smartphone.  While waiting for my padel lesson I pass the time by reading the lapidary prose of Dear Oscar and relish the exhaustingly bon mot stuffed ‘dialogue’ that his deracinated characters lavish on the intimidated reader.  I must admit I am reading it from the point of view of an English teacher, as I remember that the WJEC once set it as a set text.  It was a choice rather than obligatory, but as I am reading the book I am wondering exactly what teacher would choose such a book and, having chosen it how the hell they would teach it to, say, a mixed class of Cardiff school kids?

            The story itself is simple and the mechanics of the plot are melodramatic and rely on the sort of coincidence than Dickens would have relished – that is easily taught.  But the style and the range of reference is much more difficult to teach in any meaningful way.  Well, such concerns are behind me now and only present themselves as abstract conundrums to be teased at leisure.  That is the sort of luxury of feeling which permeates the whole novel!  I am thoroughly enjoying it!

            And now to prepare myself for the Christmas Meal.  What this means, in effect, is ensuring that my smartphone is fully charged so that I can carry on reading when the opportunity arises!
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