Friday, August 04, 2017

Beach life

An exhaustingly lazy day.

It is not easy sitting on the beach and going in the sea for an occasional swim.   

For a start I have yet to find a truly suitably comfortable, portable beach chair.  I have a long spine and it is not slow in letting me know (the day after) that I have been sitting in the wrong position.  

 Secondly, the weather was a “reasonably sunny with a brisk wind that strips unsuspecting Brits to the bone as they tend not to get too hot because of the breeze and think its safe to go on sitting in the sun” sort of day.  And while the rest of me survive pretty well, the top of my hairless head now has that tingly tightness that does not bode well for skin retention.   

Thirdly, The Crow Road was a truly gripping read and therefore I spent more time in exactly the same position in the sun than I should have.

But, while a day later, I can tell that I have been in the sun, it did not stop me doing exactly the same thing today.  And at least I finished The Crow Road and, although radically different to The Wasp Factory (a book worth reading for its title alone) that I read in the 80s, it is another Iain Banks that will stay with me.  I understand that the novel was made into a television series that passed me by, but I can easily imagine it translating into television and, now that I have read the novel I would be interested to see how they coped with the fractured time frames.  I suppose they went to town on the Scottish location and I must admit that I would have liked to have accompanied the locations finder as an interested observer!

So, having finished the novel, I made some notes about the Visitors poetry sequence and I was generally dissatisfied with what I came up with.   

I think that the whole concept of a sequence is too restrictive and what I will do is merely write poems or notes for poems while the Visitors are with us.  I have mapped out a rough series of ideas for one poem about collecting sea glass and another about water on the beach - never let it be said that I didn’t try and tackle significant moral and ethical problems in my poetry!  I will see where these things lead!

Depressingly for my weight, we have had two substantial meals today.  One was in a restaurant that had slipped down the rankings last week but managed to regain its position with an exceptional meal today.  In a town that is filled with restaurants, we have a depressingly small number of regular culinary destinations.  I think that we suffer from the Teacher University Recommendation Problem, but related to restaurants.

Let me explain. 

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Kids ask (or in my retired state “asked”) about which university they should apply to.  And we teachers would reply, usually citing our own universities as places of excellence for the subject that we actually studied and making hazy recommendations about what the other students in other departments looked like.  Our global university outlook was based on reading through prospectuses, long before the age of the internet and remembering from my experience the prospectus for Sheffield trying to assure potential students that that the city was actually far cleaner than they might have thought, and indeed proving it with a series of colourful maps and diagrams!  My detailed knowledge was from the late 60s in what is now a previous century and indeed millennium!  The undergraduate population changes entirely every three years.  Departments come and go.  Lectures do the same.  Buildings pop up and are pulled down.  Things change!  So whatever advice we were giving was based on ageing information about an institution that no longer existed in the way that we remembered it.

The life of restaurants in a busy seaside resort makes the undergraduate life look positively tortoise-like.  So our prejudices and memories are even more inappropriate for our eating choices than our recommendations were for future students! 

Doesn’t stop us of course, but then what does, we are humans after all!

Now for poems.

If you are interested in drafts of previous poetry that I have written then you can find examples at and I will attempt to post examples from Visitors - if I ever get round to making something of my notes!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Use of the Ordinary

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Although I swim every day, I have never pretended that swimming is anything other than boring.  It is now like brushing my teeth, it is something that is necessary and you do regularly, but is not exactly pleasurable.  If I don’t have a swim, in the same way when I (rarely) forget to brush my teeth before I go to bed, I feel that there is something missing, something is not right.

I set myself a metric mile each day and up and down I go for sixty lengths in my local pool and at the end of it I feel that I have accomplished something and like ‘Doing a good turn to somebody every day’ my duty is done.

So swimming in our community pool attached to our house raises another problem motivation.  As our community pool is quite small, the last few meters separated form the main pool by an underwater wall to create a ‘kiddies’ splash around area, the actual straight swimming length is limited.  If the pool is empty I compensate by swimming in circles, but it is not entirely satisfactory.

I have, therefore, devised an approach that combines exercise with the law of the Wolf Cub Pack and make a virtue of necessity and swim around picking up and discarding the rogue pine needles that settle on the surface of the water.

I have discovered that reflection or refraction or possibly both, mean that it is easier to see the floating needles from under the water with a pair of goggles than searching the surface from above.  I therefore must look like a swimmer motivated by Brownian Motion as I jitter my way through the water seeking the double refraction of the needles before they are swept out of the pool and to the side - where I am sure that a gentle breeze will waft them back into the water.  But that is not the point: I swim and feel that I am exercising while performing community service.

From time to time I come across insects that are vainly wing-swimming their way through the water to a chlorinated death.  When I do spy the odd wasp or beetle or fly in their death throws, with a positively Franciscan magnanimity, I scoop them out and deposit them on the pool side and drift away on my hoovering duties feeling quasi angelic and somehow ‘justified’!

Today, I have to admit, I haven’t been to the pool for a swim (for lunch, yes, but not for a swim) instead we went to the beach.  We live one street away from the sea, and yet we rarely go to the beach.  I see it every day because I usually cycle down the paseo and drive past it, but we have suddenly become aware that it is already August and we haven’t really ‘done’ the beach.  So two hours was spent beside the waves.

And waves there certainly were.  People usually assume that the Med is a quiet and domestic body of water - and to be fair, it usually is.  Sometimes, however it can be a little spirited.  Today, for example, a yellow flag was flying which indicates that swimming is not recommended.  That could be for a number of reasons, ranging from the quality of the water, through an infestation of stinging jellyfish to adverse water conditions.

Today the water was rough.  Even the profile of the beach has altered, which certainly indicates the waves and currents have been in a terraforming and sand-sculpting mode.

Castelldefels is a generally safe swimming spot because although currents can be strong, they usually drag you back to shore and along the beach.  And that was true today, with the added excitement of tumbling waves strong enough to knock you over.  Which they did.  And strong enough to remove Toni’s bathing costume - though that was in the shallows and he was able to restore decency in the masking obscurity of sand heavy water!

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Most of my time was taken up, not with swimming in the sea, but reading on the beach.  I grabbed, at random, an unread Iain Banks novel called The Crow Road, which has (I am not surprised to find out) a place in the Daily Telegraph’s 30 best opening lines in literature ( ) I cannot say, by the way, that I agree with all the choices made there, but I made the mistake of looking through all thirty and for many I was half inclined to find the book in my library and start reading it again - which is always the danger when you have a snippet of something great to tempt you!

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Anyway, I have had this novel for some time and only read the first few pages (as who cannot given the opening line!) and for some reason had laid it aside.  This is not something that I usually do, except for Virgina Woolf’s To The Lighthouse that I did (and did with gusto) on many occasions before I finally bit the bullet and read the whole of the damn thing.  I have decided to keep the novel that I am now gripped by purely as beach reading as that gives me an incentive to engage in the futile and empty pastime of lazing in the sun and gives it a sort of purpose.

Tomorrow the first of our final tranches of summer visitors arrive and I am minded to write a series of poems suggested by visitors, their arrival, response etc.  I have made some preparatory notes and look forward to seek where such an enterprise takes me.  The time period is from tomorrow to the end of the month and into September and the three ‘groupings’ of visitors are very different.  I hope that this blog can also be part of the process either for ideas or responses. 

I can but try!

Though I also fear that such a task is merely displacement activity for the work on my Spanish grammar and vocabulary.  Are both possible?  Should be.

Now, having written it down, it seems like a sort of contract with the future!

A contract easily broken!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Who pays for nice?


You can tell that holidays in earnest have started in this part of the world because there were delightfully fewer people in the swimming pool today. 

Most of the population is either planning for or actually taking their annual holidays.  Amazingly, this also applies to restaurateurs in this holiday seaside resort!  You would have thought that the one time that people in Castelldefels connected to the tourist trade would not take their holidays was in August, or high season as we call it.  You would be wrong!  I am astonished at the number of locales that take their holidays in August.  I suppose if they have kids then they do not have over many options, but August would seem to me to be the one time when they would not, under any circumstances turn away trade.  But then, I am a teacher and not a small shopkeeper, so what do I know about the real illogicality of commerce?

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My local swimming pool has a contract with a local garden centre to beautify the outdoor area with a profusion of plants.  The children’s playground and café area perimeter have been marked out with a collection of greenery that certainly adds to the quality of the place, but other areas are demarcated with large planters.  These have been planted with plants that thrive (or at least are supposed to thrive) in the semi-arid conditions that are the norm of these parts.  The plants chosen are the succulent (?) fat leafed varieties related to the cactus (I think) the sort of plants that thrive on neglect and can grow and develop with a lack of water as well as the occasional downpour.  I am sure that was the theory, but in practice the plants have yet (generally) to climb above the confines of their boxes.  As I have observed form my seat in the sun, they also have to contend with the occasional flicked fag end and the finger poking obtrusive attention of passing kids.

Today an employee of the garden centre has been turfing out and digging in, replacing the old abused and neglected with the burgeoning pot cosseted new.  As I watch the changing greenery I wonder about the economics of it all.  Does the pool have a monthly contract?  Did they pay a one-off fee?  Is it on an ‘if and when’ basis?  How much are they paying for what is, basically, ignored decoration?  Though, I hasten to add, not ignored by me!

I think that anything that makes my aesthetic experience more enjoyable has my vote.  I like the fact that many roundabouts hereabouts have ‘art’ in some shape or form in their centres.  Not always to my taste, but something which takes away from the monotony of a regular traffic moderator.  The (usually) metallic sculptural forms hark back to a period when austerity was not the only guiding economic power, though one does wonder about the detail of the commissioning of these municipal excrescences.  Given that corruption is the spice that heightens the appreciation of life in these parts, I do wonder how a thorough audit might change the point of view of a casual observer.  After all, most people glance at the ‘sculptures’ and either ignore them or wonder what on earth they ‘mean’ as they drive towards the beach.  Their perceptions might be appreciably different if they knew exactly how much they cost and how they came to be made.

Two cases of ‘public’ art come to mind.  Castelldefels was gifted an imposing circular metal sculpture of grasped hands by Lorenzo Quinn, but there was an almighty row about how much it actually cost to install it in its present location next to the beach.    

The other piece of art that intrigues me is the mural decoration in our local central church.  Who paid for it?  And who, while we are at it, paid for the hideous stage-scenery artificial looking façade on the church to replace the structure rightfully destroyed during the Spanish Civil War?  I have to admit were I Catalan I would never forgive the Roman Church for its hysterically enthusiastic support of the fascists and its bloodcurdling condemnation of the democratic government. 

I suspect that the rebuilding of the burnt church and the painting of the series of murals on the windowless east and west walls (the church faces north) was paid for by the government.  At the moment, I do not know the truth, but I have discovered that there is some sort of publication about the murals available from the Parochial Church House and I am more than prepared to spend 20 euros to find out a little more.  The only history of Castelldefels that I have is in Catalan, so that makes each paragraph painful linguistic deciphering - but this is an on going project, and now that there is a sort-of museum of Castelldefels opened in the centre, there may well be other sources of information now available.

Public art is always problematical.  Complex medical machinery is always pushed next to any street art object in the popular press with the implied suggestion that the money could have been better and more profitably spent.  How, goes the argument, could a twisted free-standing ribbon of metal possibly compare with a kidney dialysis machine?  How could a kidney dialysis machine possibly compare with the helicopter rescue of people on a sinking ship?  How could a helicopter rescue of people on a sinking ship possibly compare with emergency food aid to a population of starving people in sub-Saharan Africa?  And so on ad absurdum.

Someone once pointed out that there was no logical limit to the amount of money that you could pay into the NHS: whatever you give, the NHS could use more.  But there are not unlimited funds and so decisions have to be made, and decisions go on being made up and down the line of finance which mean that absolute judgements about ‘worth’ in spending are virtually impossible to make - but are made every moment of every day.

Erecting crash barriers along a road to restrain crowds wanting to see their successful football team parade the cup that they have won costs money.  That money is from a finite pot, and while the expense might well be necessary and useful it will, of course mean that money for something else will be limited.

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I have a season ticket for the opera in the Liceu.  I pay a lot of money for my (frankly) very good seat, but I am aware that each performance I go to, my payment for the ticket is not the real price of the production.  I know that, as opera is such an expensive art form, my seat has been subsidised by a government grant.

I might, and do say that opera is a vital art form, it is a living sign of the cultural health of a city and country; I might say that life would be infinitely poorer without this art form, that a thriving opera scene in Barcelona is good not only for opera, music and the Liceu, but also for a host of people whose work is directly involved in the production, staging and managing of opera.  I might say that the tourist destination of Barcelona is made richer (literally and figuratively) by the fact that its opera house is one of the most important in Europe; I might say that although the majority of people in Barcelona do not get to see the productions, the economic, social and cultural effects of the shows directly support many more.

A few times a year, here in Castelldefels, we have public firework displays.  I love them and have spend many fruitless years trying to get a decent photo of them.  Now I just watch, open mouthed, and enjoy.  How can they be justified as a public expense?

I could go through a number of possible justifications from supporting local industry (we have a firework factory just up the road) to a necessary tourist attraction in a resort that relies on tourists - but, really I truly believe that fireworks add to the jollity of nations and that is justification enough!
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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Swimming and thinking

Sometimes I think too much.

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Take my first view in the original production of Omen II.  A decent enough film I thought, and the superior sneer of Damien at the end of the film was masterly.  But not really frightening enough for me.  Until I went to bed.  There, in the false comfort and snide warmth of a snuggly duvet I began to think about what I had seen.

In my half awake, half asleep state I imagined a much more graphic film than the one I had seen and my mind decided that there was no way that Damien could possibly be stopped.  None.  No way at all.  Evil was unstoppable.  The end.

Luckily I woke up and life seemed altogether brighter and much less evil-orientated.  My rock solid atheism could re-assert itself and the demons could retreat back into fantasy literature.  But I still remember that night of reimagining the film and I can still retexture the sense of lost helplessness that I managed to create for myself.  And the sense of dissatisfaction at the ‘real’ end of Damien in Omen III or IV or whatever.  Not convincing!
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Brexit and 45 are not things from which I can wake up.  The demons associated with both those grotesqueries seem more and more real as time goes on. 
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45 and The Mooch seem like overdrawn characters from some Grand Guignol pulp-fiction pot-boiler, but they live and have being in the real world, even when that world is composed of salted, filtered water in a swimming pool.

I used to say that I swam in college because the pool was the one place where I did not think.  That wasn’t really true, or perhaps accurate enough.  What I think I meant was that the pool was the one place where my brain could be truly unfocused and whatever was playing on my mind could be, and usually was, lost in a welter of stream-of-consciousness kaleidoscopic disassociation - so to speak.  In other words my mind was released from early Gothic Novels, or Don Juan, or The Magic Mountain or the horrors of William Faulkner, or whatever it was that I was supposed to be studying and it could bounce along in whatever funny little ways scraps of remembered experience took it.  Then, once out of the water, showered and changed, the real world (or at least what passed for it in Swansea University) was able to reassert itself.

It is rather like my ability to sleep. 

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I can be set about by the circling creatures of Goya’s sleep of reason awake, but head on pillow all of them slip into the velvet darkness of oblivion.  True, I sometime awoke in the morning with the immediate and startling realisation of what was there when I went to sleep, but the period of rest was release.

So my swim this morning was much more centred (yes, I am aware of the pun with swimming up and down along a line in a lane) as my mind refused to bounce in its usually happy manner and my thoughts stayed resolutely with the UK leaving the EU, and the POTUS behaving like a kitschy lout.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have written about these two disasters yesterday, adding the joke that is Spanish politics and Justice to leaven the mixture: but my concerns are present in my mind and my mind juggles these awful realities trying to find a modus vivendi.

I am reminded, as I often am, of a millionaire with whom I was once on a committee who once gave me wise advice about money.  “The Great Trick,” he said, “is to keep money moving, keep it moving, juggle it.  Borrow, spend, buy, keep it moving!”  I nodded as sagely as someone who didn’t really know what he was talking about could do, when he added, “And the Second Great Trick, is to know when to start running!”  Which I did understand.

As someone who was sort-of brought up in the Protestant Work Ethic with added Delayed Gratification, I could respond to, but not understand what my millionaire friend was talking about in terms of high finance - but when retribution was invoked which obviously indicated that the “juggling” was a euphemism for cheating, and the “knowing when to run” was away from the police, I knew.

It is like the films of my youth.  In films, in all films, the baddies never won.  Even if the baddies were the ‘heroes’ of the film, they had their comeuppance.  Thieves did not get to keep the cash, murder always came out, Justice had a capital ‘J’.

But that was films.  This is real life.  Where is the Justice with a capital J for 45?  What precisely does he have to do to suffer the punishment that he so richly deserves?  Given the size of his ego, nothing, absolutely nothing is going to dent his own inflated idea of his own self worth.  It doesn’t matter if he is impeached, imprisoned, bankrupted (again), derided, voted out of office, shunned, demonstrated against - nothing, will dent his own belief in himself.

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I can imagine 45 (and I like doing so) as a down and out tramp, loose folds of flesh hanging from his gaunt face (making WH Auden look like a picture boy for face cream); his tattered clothes clutched about his lank flanks; his thin weedy hair hanging in lank dead twists; his tiny hands weaving around in what he imagines to be imperial gestures still telling the other homeless waifs of how he once won a great election, of how he was the most powerful man in the world and that he re-made the world in his own image, of how women threw themselves at him in ecstatic adulation and of how he was betrayed by the men, women, judges, voters, Democrats, Republicans, Americans, Germans, Intellectuals, newspapers, television, The Swamp, non golf playing people, friends, family, everyone but himself.  But, of course, he still had it.  He was The Great Negotiator (how almost like a Dalí title that is!) and that he was still, and always would be great.

I then imagine the Great Germaphobe washing his tiny hands and tucking into a salvaged Mac meal.

Image result for make america great again jokeBut the reality is that 45 will be even richer by the time his disaster of a period of office comes to an end.  He was never realize how he was despised.  He will never appreciate the damage he has done to his country.  He will die happy, realizing that he had been the president and “knowing” how great he had been and how he had made America Great Again. 
Not even justice with a small ‘j’.

I realize that writing like this does not really make a difference.  I always hope that somewhere there is a reader who responds, who relates to what I write and spends a passing moment thinking about the issues.  But with Brexit and 45 - what can one do?  One feels that there must be something practical, something real that must be done but what?

I am linked to campaigns in Britain and in Spain about Brexit and holding the government to account - especially with regard to we Brits who live abroad.  I sign any and every petition that comes my way and is sympathetic to my point of view.  I read and respond to the idiocies that I see taking place in the places that I call home.  But I fear that it is not enough.  Brexit seems to be powering (!) its way along, helped and fostered by the selfish nasty party that caused it and a crazed popular press; 45 panders to his debased base and sinks ever lower in his discourse and actions and seems unstoppable.  What is a wishy-washy liberal (with a small ‘l’) like me to do?

Perhaps this recognition of helplessness is stage one.  Determination to move one to something practical might be stage two.  I live in hope and search for the reality that allows this to happen.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Rant!

The Trouble with present day Spain is that there is not enough politics.
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That statement may appear on the surface to be a little strange.  We are governed by one of the most corrupt political parties in Western Europe; the number of officials, associates, patrons and general moneyed riff-raff connected to PP that have been, are being or are going to be tried is astonishing.  The Prime Minister has just given evidence in a corruption scandal involving the finance of his party (in which all previous treasurers have been indicted); a previous PP associate and head of a bankrupt bank has just committed suicide; a previous head of the PP government of Valencia has died before she could be investigated thoroughly - well, you get the idea.  Each day brings new scandals and precisely nothing of moment is done about them.

The present government is a minority one.  We have over the past couple of years plodded our weary way through a few elections where the left has thrown away its advantage and allowed the corrupt PP with the help of the sluttish C’s and the abstention of the so-called socialist party PSOE to form a government which has done precisely nothing to remedy the corruption which is rife in the system - how can they when they are precisely the ones who would suffer if anything substantial could be done.

A clear example of the compromised system that we have is clearly illustrated by the Prime Minister giving his evidence.  He was dragged into the Gürtel Case
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(you can find out more about this astonishing case here ) much against the wishes of the governing party as you can imagine.  However, the Prime Minister did agree to give evidence, but we soon discovered that he was not going to give evidence in quite the same way as other witnesses.

You have to imagine the scene: the body of the courtroom in front of the judges is taken up with seats for the accused and a section for the press.  As there are so many accused they leave no room for virtually anyone else.  Each witness sits at a little desk with a microphone, directly in front of the judges.  Behind them are the motley faces of those thieves accused of stealing over a billion euros from the public purse, and of illegally financing PP and its various elections.  They make a gruesome backdrop of grafters, most of whom are personally known to the Prime Minister.  It does not however make a particularly Prime Ministerial setting (though one that I think is totally accurate for the debased reputation of our glorious leader) and there is also an aspect of guilt by association (!) in such a setting.

So, Rajoy did not come openly to court.  He arrived as part of a cavalcade in a car with tinted windows and entered the court via the judges’ entrance that gave him direct access without having to confront the protesters who had been waiting for this moment to hurl accusations against him.

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Inside the court, things were different for him.  There were no accused in the massed seats in court.  They were all empty.  He was not asked to take the place where all other witnesses gave their evidence.  Instead he was given a little desk in line with the seating of the three judges!  His background was empty of any bad associates with whom his party has done ‘business’ for years.  Talk about a set up.

But because of the lack of real politics in Spain, the ruling PP is able to get away with things like this.  It is essential to stress that although PP has the largest party in parliament, it does not have an overall majority.  It can be voted down.  It should, in my view, be voted down.  But, politics does not seem to extend any further for most political parties than their own party concerns.  The idea that they have been elected by actual people to serve the country in parliament seems more like a joke in poor taste than a crushing accusation.

Politics in the art of the possible, and I know that there always have to be unsavoury compromises to get things done.  But in Spain at the moment, there is a lot of frenetic activity and lots and lots of high words and angry exchanges but still, THINGS DO NOT GET DONE.  That is an accusation that lies squarely at the feet of the politicians who seem unable to do politics.

I know that the election of 45 as POTUS shows that no matter how appalling your behaviour and outrageous your statements and low your morals, you can be elected to high position.  Brexit has shown that completely unscrupulous scaremongering and out and out lies can get you cabinet positions and the love and care of the gutter press.  Truth, morality, honesty, and ethics - all seem to be olde-worlde relics of a yesteryear that didn’t exist.  I know that a world of ‘alternative facts’ makes for dizzying reassessment of what is possible, but still, politics is supposed to take account of ‘events, dear boy, events’ and those include ways of thinking and ways of behaving.

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Although it is glaringly clear to me that our government is irremediably corrupt and is totally unable and unwilling to reform itself and must therefore be removed, I am also aware that something like 30% of the voting population would be prepared to vote for PP if an election was called tomorrow!  It is difficult to imagine a worse few years of unrelentingly bad publicity for PP as the ones that I have watched.  Secret accounts, kick-backs, black money, illegal funding of buildings, campaigns, accounts in tax havens, lies, duplicity, sedition, collusion - you name it, and somewhere in PP you can find it!  And 30% will still vote for them!

The right wing C’s party (the political sluts of Spanish politics) generally supports PP, while making pathetic mewling noises about how independent they are and what they are achieving for the country!  They complicate things.  In my view a vote for the C’s is a vote for PP, and generally speaking they vote with them.  Their cowardly approach is to ask for commissions of investigation rather than vote against the government and bring it down.

PSOE (the so-called socialist party) has undergone its own self immolation with a widely divisive leadership election where the previous leader who lost a lot of seats in a previous election resigned, and then found a certain amount of backbone and suddenly appeared as a candidate for the new leadership which he, amazingly won.  However, they are far more concerned with abstention rather than voting against the government because they have a very real fear about what might happen in any general election that they force!

I think our present situation could have been avoided a couple of three elections ago by parties working together, but ineptitude, political ineptitude made that impossible and so we have had years of the same corrupt government that daily has to become even more corrupt to keep itself in power.

I also know that there is nothing to be gained by saying ‘if we had’ in politics because, that verb tense shows that the past is gone.  We have to deal in the present and, in my view, the political parties, especially on the left, are not doing enough to provide the country with a viable alternative to what we already have.

To say nothing of what is happening here in Catalonia.

In October we will have a referendum about independence.  Our government has said that if there is a majority for independence (no matter how many people vote) then the government of Catalonia will start the process of disengaging with Spain within 48 hours of the vote.

The Spanish government has declared the vote illegal.  A previous vote (overwhelmingly in favour of independence) saw the President of Catalonia charged and convicted in a court of law for holding a democratic election.  He has been barred from public office and has been fined.  PP has said that it will do everything that it can to stop the vote.  The Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal and the Catalan government has responded by saying that they will disregard the rulings, which prohibit the vote.

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Again, I ask, where are the politics?  Where was the renegotiation of the relationship between the Spanish central government and the region of Catalonia?  Where were the mollifying words about rethinking the relationship of the two entities?  Where was the suggestion that a referendum could be held some time in the future after a process of rethinking the present positions?  Nowhere is the answer.  PP went straight for denial and rejection.  Everything the Madrid PP government does makes new independentists each day.

In my heart I would like to see a Spain united and strong, with an association of regions with a dynamic relationship with central government.  But PP has in the past and seems bent in the future of being absolutist and obstructionist.  They seem to be actively seeking confrontation - to do what?  Send in the tanks?  Disenfranchise the whole of the Catalan government?  Impose direct rule?

Spain, and more particularly Catalonia, is my home.  I am concerned about how this country within a country sees its future.  My status is already under real threat from the idiocy that is Brexit, my position could become even more problematical after the October vote - or before, depending on how far and how stupidly a myopic central government feels that it can act.

So where, to come back to my starting point, are Politics?  And why aren’t they being used for what they should be used for: to provide a government of the people, for the people, by the people.

Are the politicians listening?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

To tan is to be!

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The weather continues to confuse.  One moment it is sunny, then cloudy, then hazy, a sudden downpour, humid, cool. 

No, I’m lying. 

We have had some changeable weather that Toni has described as ‘awful’, but all I have to do is translate it into British terms of weather and I find that I am more than satisfied with what we are getting.  Yes, to be fair, it is not entirely cloudless skies and unmitigated sunshine, but I have to realize that I have been driven indoors because I am glistening with sweat and it is perhaps a little too hot.  The third floor study is relatively cooler and, even if the fan doesn’t create cool air, it at least moves it around a little.

Art passes

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The ‘unsettled’ weather has also destroyed The Stain.  I had great hopes that the slash of fading red from the broken bottle of cheap wine would be something that could have lasted through the rest of the summer, but two sharp torrential downpours seem to have consigned my gestural piece of land art to evaporation and the gutter. 

The next time I pass on my newly charged electric bike, I must pause and see if there is anything left.  I do feel somewhat self conscious taking photographs of nondescript parts of a pavement, but it would be somehow ‘satisfying’ to find some tinted remnant lurking.  Given the amount of time that I have spent being confounded by various manifestos of the artistically self obsessed, it is the least I can do to drag out the last pieces of aesthetic significance from a chance event deemed art-worthy!  And I have to say that it was more interesting than some of the stuff that I have been studying over the last couple of years via the course in the Open University.  Though, there again, I defend maligned Modern Art with a vengeance when provoked by those who cannot find an upturned and signed urinal to be provocatively original!  Though with Duchamp I sometimes wonder, as with Warhol, how much of his ‘art’ was clever and how much taking the piss - and if the difference between the two is real, or indeed matters!

Anyway, I am sad that The Stain has gone, but also recognize that one particular part of the pavement in Castelldefels will be forever different (at least to me) because of what it once contained.  And with Modern Art, who can ask for more?

The ghost of past hurt

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I follow my father in the way that I take the sun.  My mother was fair skinned, blond haired and blue eyed - and so was I when I was a pre-toddler.  But after a few years my father’s genes asserted themselves and my eyes went hazel and my hair (O tempora! O mores!) a very dark, almost black-brown, and in the summer I went a more than acceptable shade of not white.  When the summers were kind enough to have a reasonable quantity of sun.  Of course in my childish memories, all summers were sunny, as were all visits (and there were many) to Barry Island.  In Barry my excavations were frenzied and extensive, all my efforts devoted to building a castle mound surrounded by a wall that would resist the sea, so that eventually I would be sitting surrounded by the incoming tide.

The real joy of course, was the even more frenzied activity to repair breaches in the wall to obtain the “island” objective.  Sand was plundered from the castle mound to rebuild sea-washed defences and eventual, and usually quick and complete failure was guaranteed.  But once, and once only, did I achieve sufficient repulsion of the sea to be surrounded.  It was only momentary, but it remains an achievement that I treasure!

Here in Castelldefels we have no tides.  Technically, I am told, we do, but they are not aquatic events that you would recognize sitting by the side of the sea.  Certainly, if you are more used to the tidal range of the Bristol Chanel then Med. tides can be ignored!

So, castle building does not have the same allure - and it is some sixty years too late to hold the same attraction.  Admittedly, there was a spate of civil engineering in the sand when I was in university in Swansea when streams on the beach (ask not of what the water was composed!) lured me back to the sort of hand digging where you paid the price through the sand impacted under the fingernails.  Extensive systems of canals and dams were built with Robert perfecting his technique of dripped sand buildings with fantastic towers that rivalled the architecture of Gaudi.

I find that I am not drawn to constructions and I also find that my ability to lie in the sun has also lessened.  Time was when a Christmas holiday trip to Gran Canaria would seem me outstretched for hours.  On one particular day lying on my hamaca in Maspalmoas it started to rain!  I and the other northern Europeans who had paid and arm and a leg to stay on the island in high season simply ignored the adverse weather conditions and waited for the weather to get better.  And it did.  Or at least it got good enough to lie there with out shuddering and we could continue to rely on the penetration of the UV rays through the cloud cover to do what we had expensively paid for.  And anyway, it was always worth it, greeting colleagues in cold Cardiff in January, and watching their eyes take in my bronzed skin!

Nowadays, I use factor 20 cream - rather than the perfumed cooking oil that I used to buy to get that “deep down tan”.  It never worked and I always dreaded the day when I would finally start to peel and then I would worry about the fact that I could be going home even whiter than when I arrived!

Nowadays I do not have to rely on two sunny weeks in foreign parts to get my tan done.  I live in foreign parts and they do have a disproportionate number of sunny days - even in December and January - when our nearest star can be enjoyed.

But I also notice now that, as I brown, elements of my history show up on my skin.  For example, just above the second knuckle of my middle finger of my right hand, there is now a faint outline of a small, three-sided rectangle.  It must related to what must have been a fairly serious cut or graze, where a flap of skin was ripped out of my flesh.  It must have hurt, there must have been quantities of blood and, given where it is positioned, the flexing of my hand and finger must have pulled and broken the scab.  On the right hand, as well, it must have constantly been rubbed and knocked.  It must have been an extended and thorough nuisance.  And what with the natural propensity to pick and worry at healing scars it must have been a feature of my life for ages.

And I have absolutely no memory of the injury at all.  The ghostly outline is almost like a accusation form my body.  Look, it seems to be saying, this happened, it was an event and you care so little that you have consigned it to forgetfulness!

Other scars have a back-story that I remember well.  The ball of the right-hand thumb and the slicing of an open salmon tin; my right elbow and the tip over the tennis net during my victory leap; my inner thigh where the rotten tree stump entered and broke off; my chin and the collapse of friends on top of me in junior school; my lip and something on the building site that bit back; my foot and a piece of rubble on the Asia side of Istanbul - and all those scabs of childhood on knees and legs and arms that would have to be layered in three-dimensional ghostliness to show the succession of minor cuts and abrasions that is part of growing up.

I have always found the expression “like the back of my hand” as a picture of familiarity to be woefully inappropriate - I challenge you to describe yours without looking at it!  And, in my opinion, apart from our faces (and let’s face it, we mostly recognize ourselves from reflections in mirrors and that is absolutely NOT how we appear to other people!) what parts of our bodies do we actually know?

It is usually only when something is going wrong that we start to explore the substances of which we are made.  Which is why I am grateful for my ghosts of past hurts.  They make me think and they encourage me to remember and with the absolute pleasure that comes with confused recollection, although specifics might be inaccurate the experience can be retextured to my own individual attitudes and prejudices.  I can remember about the cut on my finger, even if the unique circumstances are lost.  I know how I am and what I’m like, so I can place the cut and call it mine.