Today I rose in the dark, had a hurried shower and gulped down my essential cup of tea and then marched upstairs to my ‘study’ on the third floor. I have to admit that this is not normal behaviour on my part. My enthusiastic study dedication was a direct result of fear: a test.
You would have thought that a life spent in education, lurching from exam to exam (either sitting or marking) would have meant that these, uninspiring experiences would have lost any ability to inspire anything other than boredom in me. But this test was different – though only because it was part of my Spanish class in town, and for some reason I feel more, how shall I put it, exposed somehow.
It is true that I am struggling as each new tense fails to ‘take’ in my mind. I have been wandering around chanting verb endings to myself like some demented cult monk and then, as soon as I am confronted by an actual piece of original writing in Spanish all verbs leak away and I am left with nouns and the odd adjective linked with inaccurate badly spelled illiteracy. Or is that last part tautological? Anyway, there are others there (we are all learning Spanish as a foreign language) who are much, much better than I am. They find things easy that I find very difficult; they see simplicity in exercises where I only see fiendish evil. I am, in other words, suffering what the more work shy pupils in the school on the hill used to go through when I took them through similar exercises in English!
The one good thing about my approach, however, to differentiate it from the attitude of so many of those I taught in Barcelona, is that I don’t cheat. I find frustration, ignorance and inability all working against me, but I don’t cheat! It remains to be seen if such an approach actually gets me sufficient credit to scrape through. And I have to say that I will be quite satisfied with a bare pass. However, humiliating that might be in comparison with a certain other gentleman who is taking examinations at the same time as I!
The actual horror of the test was slightly mitigated because there were a few 50/50 questions which at least allowed me the luxury of hoping that the informed monkey vote would work out to my advantage. There were also a few ‘odd word out’ questions which were also a sure thing, but I am not sure that there was enough there to give me the marks that I need.
And ‘need’ is a key concept here. The reason for learning Spanish is surely a no brainer! Who would not want to be able to speak the language of the country in which he lives? It is common courtesy and common sense. And essential.
Given the lunacy of my fellow countrymen in their support of Brexit, I have had to rethink my position in Spain. At the moment as a citizen of the EU my position is unassailable, but what happens when the trigger is finally pulled and the Brexit bullet goes careering into the British brain?
So far, the fall in the value of the pound has lowered by pension income by 20% at least, and that is likely to be much more when the dreaded Article 50 is finally invoked and we start the two years’ hard labour to break ourselves away actually begins – which I am sure will be a surprise to some die-hard Brexiteers who think we have actually left already and aren’t we doing well financially! Then the real problems begin for me when I have to start thinking about my ‘rights’ in Spain when the real rights that I have at the moment will be taken away by the hard ‘right’ and ignorance.
Then there is the question of health care. As a retired person, I am conscious that I am not getting any younger and that there is a likelihood that my medical needs will only grow with time and at the moment my needs are well met by the Spanish National Health Service of which I am a card-carrying member. The fact that we Brits living in Spain are being used as a bargaining chip is not an encouraging element in my future planning!
So, the Master Plan is for me to apply for dual citizenship so that when the final break occurs I will be able to stay in Spain because I will have the rights of a native.
There are problems there however. Two to be precise. The first is that you have to have a level of proficiency in Spanish equivalent to A2 (a level where a working knowledge of the dreaded verbs is obligatory) and the second is you have to pass an examination to demonstrate your knowledge of Spanish culture, geography, politics and institutions. A further problem is that I am not sure that Spain actually allows join Spanish/British citizenship, but stories are confused on this issue and I will go with the confusion until I am told it is impossible.
So, my efforts to learn the language have an added urgency. It’s just a pity that this does not translate into information staying in my brain! I will keep on keeping on and hope for the best – and use any other clichés that come to mind.
Meanwhile, I have bought and read (thank you Amazon) “The making of Donald Trump” by David Day Johnson (2016), First Melvin House, Brooklyn & London. A thoroughly depressing read for lots of reasons. It is obvious from what Johnson writes that there have been numerous occasions in the past when the murky behaviour of Trump should have landed him up in far more trouble that he appears to have got into. The number of times when, if various legislative bodies and law enforcement agencies had done their job, it would have been highly unlikely that the present President of the United States would have made it to the White House. Trumps unsavoury background and the appalling people with whom he has associated; his unscrupulous chiselling; his duplicity, where the truth does not seem to have any purchase on any part of what he might laughingly refer to as his system of morals and on and on.
“The making of Donald Trump” is a compulsive read, though you have to keep reminding yourself that this is documentary and not grotesque fantasy. The reality is emphasised in the last section of the book where there are detailed references, where the horrified reader can find documentary references to follow up any of the unlikely incidents, occurrences and statements made.
As a way of dealing with the awful reality of the political situation on both sides of the pond, I have discovered (and am desperately trying to lose) Nestles Strawberry Cheesecake Chocolate. In an oversize bar. I bought it because I could and then made the disastrous mistake of trying a bloated square of it.
By way of digression: have you ever seen a half-eaten dish of dry roast peanuts? To which the usual answer is, no you haven’t. My explanation was that, as part of the production process, the peanuts were lightly dusted with heroin. I was always astonished by people’s reactions, which were mildly surprised, but not dismissive! People actually believed that a commercial company would really do something like add a Grade A drug to nuts! In fact, the easy acceptance of the drug addiction as an explanation for the taste and consumption, has made me wonder about it too! I suppose this is the nearest that I get to experience what it must be like to be Trump: someone who believes his own alternative truth!
Anyway, back to Nestle. One piece of that delectable sweet was enough to convince me that I would never buy another bar as long as I lived. Something that delicious is dangerous! I limited myself to one square a day, a restriction that (after the first day of splurge) I managed to keep to. In a desperate attempt, yesterday, to make the thing last longer I sucked it instead of crunched it. That was a mistake, it is the immediate masticated combination that makes it what it is. I would only recommend this addictive chocolate to those of a stern and forbidding constitution who able to say no in spite of overwhelming compulsion!
And now to get ready to join my fellow poets for an evening in Barcelona to which a certain orangely self-regarding bigot is not invited!