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Friday, October 14, 2016

Reality check?


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Say what you like about the Spanish education system, but they do like a good test.
            The use of that last adjective is an interesting one.  For the first time for a considerable time, I have had to do a test.  And I have not done at all well.  Not at all.
            The real problem is that I was not playing to my strengths, as this test was the first of what I am sure is going to be a continuing series of tests in my Spanish course in Castelldefels.
In most situations in my present country of choice I find that my Tarzan-like approach to Spanish (heavy on nouns, adjectives and expressive hand gestures, but low on verbs and grammatical forms) usually gets me out of most situations in which I have blithely entered into.  I have ‘spoken Spanish’ in all types of situations, formal and informal and, usually, astonishingly, I have managed to survive.  This impressionistic approach to language use while it is certainly a way of surviving is not the way of the Spanish educational test.  In such tests the lack of an accent is fully and totally wrong and no matter how you might have got away with saying the word, if you write it incorrectly, it is simply wrong            
            And tests like things like verbs and the correct use of prepositions.  Such things are not my strengths!
            I spent last night in an increasingly desperate write-it-out-until-you-remember-it attempt to push a vast amount of specific grammatical information into a brain that seems to be wired not to accept such things as in any way important.
            My humiliation (to be revealed next Tuesday in the next lesson) has had one positive result: I am now ‘officially’ panicking and am determined to do something about it.  That last phrase has more than a touch of the defeatist optimism of King Lear, but I do believe that at least part of my mind is available to accept morsels of information linked to what might get me an eventual pass in the examination that I need to pass if I am to be qualified to become a Spanish citizen.  As an example I have (you might well say “at last”) understood the difference between the use of the verb ‘gustar’ related to singular and plural associations.  This is fairly basic stuff, but lots of basic bits put together equals proficiency!  At least I hope so.
            I suppose the real lesson to be drawn from the sorry tale of low marks is that it is not going to be easy.  Although I might be able to bluff my way through an easy conversation in Spanish – easy, conversational Spanish is not the sort of language that is going to get you marks in a Spanish examination.  I am reminded of my third year tutor in university who did not allow me to get away with any airy-fairy ‘interesting’ comments about literary texts: he wanted specific, text supported, page numbered evidence to back up anything I said.  I would do well to bear in mind his attitude to inform my response to my future studies!  Who knows, I might actually progress!

Only I could place all my gadget hopes in possessing a state-of-the-art mobile phone, the flagship machine of a world leader in communications, only to discover that it also had an exploding battery!
           I paid for this phone (in full) in August, proudly pre-ordering something that was obviously going to be the cynosure of all phone users’ eyes.  Each delivery date I was given, stretched my patience to breaking point and beyond.  And then Samsung (yes, it was a Note 7) announced that it was suspending production of the machine and instituted a worldwide recall.  Disaster.  And it was, in the brilliant advertising phrase used by Stella Artois, “reassuringly expensive!”  Well, not for me the glorious moment of ostentatiously using something that other people have not got.  With new tech. it is not enough to own something, other people must be without it!
            The seriousness of the situation was indicated by the fact that not only did I ‘open a file’ on the Affaire Samsung, but it also had its own box file to contain it!
            A phone call got me my money paid back into my account, and a quick check on the Internet checked that it was actually there.  Then Toni got to work.
            After the years that Toni has spent on his IT course, it is nice to get something back.  He set off on an Internet trawl to find the next best phone for me.  I have to say that he does not go for the obvious.  His previous suggestion was for a Yota phone, a Russian double-faced device – the only ones that I have seen have been mine.  I use the plural as the first Yotaphone was stolen and the second accompanied me into our pool and died.  Being far too expensive to replace a third time, I downscaled to a Huawei.  This was also on advice from Toni who had explored possibilities in the phone world when suggesting a phone for his sister’s birthday.
            I have been satisfied with the phone, but, as I rarely use the thing as an actual phone, it has not been ideal.  Therefore, again on Toni’s advice I have decided to go phablet and have ordered some sort of monster mobile phone from China.  And it is less than half the price of what the Samsung was going to cost me.
            And, as far as money is concerned, I have just had, coincidentally, back payment of my small Spanish state pension fragment that covers the cost.  And then some.  Though not much more.  So, to my way of thinking, the phone is actually free.  That sort of economic thinking developed in college and has stayed with me ever since.  And, as I do not smoke, I have always considered that the money I have not spent on a disgusting habit exists in some sort of financial ‘cloud’ to be called on when a mad moment of expenditure calls.
            I am not sure how the next piece of information fits into my money thoughts, but I had a phone call from the police yesterday informing me that my sports bag which disappeared from the back of my bike in the couple of hundred yards from the Correos to the optician had turned up and was waiting for me to collect.  Which I did and found that absolutely nothing was missing.  From earplugs to a small packet of mixed nuts for emergency energy and all the towels, bathing costumes and goggles that I stuff into the interior, everything was there.
            In the days after the bag disappeared I remembered all the things that I had forgotten were there: a case of bike tools; a mini tyre pump; a packable raincoat and cash.  Unfortunately, the return of the case was not timely enough to stop my buying replacements, but on the bright side it is always good to have spares!

            I now await my new phone.  With impatience.
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