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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Refuse refuse - it's all in the way you say it!

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A short, sharp, apocalyptic, thunder and lightening storm yesterday afternoon has left the path strewn with pine needles.  Yet again.  From trees that are not ours.  This means that we have the imminent appearance of the noisy leaf gatherers to look forward to.

The invention of the leaf-blower has to one of the major banes of the modern urban leafy suburb - if our little zone could be called one.  As our area is named after the pine trees which are a characteristic of our streets, it is not surprising that we are well used to the howl of the leaf-blowers - both private and municipal.

It is not out of any aesthetic civic pride that the pine needles are gathered up; it is rather because of our inadequate road drainage system.  Fallen pine needles gather into impressive clumps and block the drains, so any delay in collecting the organic excess, when linked to a sudden downpour, will result in extensive flooding, or at least large areas of standing water on the roads.  The collection is therefore necessity rather than cosmetic.  Our economy relies on the tourist, usually the day tourists from Barcelona, so any discomfort and inconvenience has a direct relationship with the wealth of our municipality.  Our resort, through undoubtedly popular, does have rivals, and it doesn’t take much to persuade fleeting visitors to fleet elsewhere.

The one good thing about refuse collection here is that it is daily via the system of collective bins that are found along all the roads.  In addition, each Friday (in our zone) any pine needles or tree clippings or general plant waste will be collected separately.  On a Thursday evening, therefore, I brush together all our neighbours’ pine needles that have fallen in our back garden and sweep them into a neat heap outside our front gate.  And by Friday afternoon they are gone.

Although I know that the logistics of refuse collection are prosaic enough, I have always found the reality of rubbish collection almost magical: now you see it - now you don’t!  I also know that the reality of landfill and the general problems of disposal are rapidly assuming crisis proportions and we are probably living in the last age of the free-and-easy, throw-it-all-in-the-bin approach to refuse.  I know that Britain is gradually developing a fairly Draconian approach to when, when and how you throw things away, and I read with interest of local councils fining people for putting the wrong things in the wrong bins, or putting things out at the wrong times.  Here in Castelldefels while we do have bins for plastics, cardboard, glass and general refuse - there is nothing to stop you from putting veering in the same black bag and throwing it in the ubiquitous green bins.  I feel that this anarchic time is quickly coming to an end, and it is only a matter of (short) time before we too are dragooned (rightly) into a more caring attitude.

The Greek Way

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On a related economic model, I have now reverted to something that I used to do years ago - make my own yogurt!

I used to own a rather nifty device which comprised a heated stand on which stood six yellow screw topped containers complete with overall plastic cover and which provided me with (though I say it myself) a rather fine yogurt.  I seem to remember heating milk with ‘starter’ yogurt in a saucepan while keeping an eye on the thermometer to ensure the reaction ‘took’.  That is obviously old school.  My new device comprises a cylinder inside what looks like a pressure cooker: you add the milk, add the yogurt, stir it a bit, turn the machine on and leave it for 10 hours or so.  Voilà!  It’s done!

The resultant yogurt was a trifle runny.  But the little book of instructions had advice (in Spanish) about making Greek yogurt - that, in theory should be more solid.  The complex instructions for adding this sort of value were merely to let the runny yogurt stand for 24 hours in the fridge then put it into a mesh strainer (provided) in the white receptacle (provided) and let that drain for a couple of hours in the fridge and the job is done.  And it worked!  And is delicious!

The next time I am in a supermarket I am going to look at the price of Greek yogurt.  My newfound machine makes 1ltr from UHT milk with the use of the machine (obviously) and 10 hours of very low-level electricity and the fridge.  I will have to start making ‘fruit’ versions and see how they go!

At the moment there is something very satisfying in having made a food that I eat every day, it is the equivalent to growing your own wheat for your daily loaf!  I am very smug about it all!

Slotting into place

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When I was living in Cardiff, I could walk around town and sooner or later I would bump into someone who would say, “Hello!” with that element of genuine recognition that would suggest that we knew each other.  And to be fair, I am generally a good rememberer of faces to the same extent as I am an appalling rememberer of names.  My inability to recall names bordered, and continues to border on. the psychotic, but my ability to feel affinity with faces means that I am subject to an almost endless mental jigsaw as I attempt to fit the face into a pattern that never seems, at first glance to have the correct space to place it.

The last time this happened was in the changing room of my swimming pool.  I was about to walk to the pool for my swim when a naked young man came from the shower, saw me, smiled and said, “¡Hola!”  I replied with a smile and walked on to the pool, thinking as I did so, about where the hell I knew him from.

In Cardiff, as a teacher, you have a bewilderingly wide range of ways of knowing people they could, after all, be present pupils, past pupils, colleagues, past colleagues, Union Members, friends, family, shopkeepers, audiences (I had cultural season tickets) sports partners, parents (of pupils I mean - even my inability with names is not that bad!) and so on.  Here in Spain there are not quite so many possibilities, though I have taught here and the parents, pupils, colleagues thing can be brought into play here in Catalonia as well.

But this guy was in the sports centre.  He was slim and fit and so I tired to ‘dress’ him in the uniform of the centre, perhaps he was one of the summer guys brought in to cope with the summer schools being run.  But that didn’t really fit.  Past pupil didn’t seem right.  Customer?  Wrong time of the day for someone so young.  And so I went on, slightly resentful that he was naked as clothing would have been a clue!

Shops, supermarkets, opera houses, restaurants all went through my mind.  Not, you must understand because it was important to know where I knew him from, but because I was irritated by not knowing.  Wherever I placed his smiling and variously dressed face and body, he didn’t fit.  I made notes about him in my little notebook hoping 1) his habitat would come to me through the simple power of writing, and 2) if all else failed I could make a virtue of necessity and write a poem about it.  Neither occurred. 

As is usual in cases such as these it was while I was thinking about something else entirely that I got:  a) new waiter, in b) old favourite restaurant.  Of course!

And what have I got from expending a frustrating amount of time and mental effort in trying to remember something that is entirely unimportant? 

Here is where you, dear reader, can help me.  What have I gained? 

A quiet satisfaction in allaying the fear that my mind is losing its ability to organize information and bring past events to the surface when they are needed?  A triumphant reassertion of my capabilities of being able to deconstruct new combinations and find the essential truth behind them?  A complete lack of understanding of priorities?  A gleeful acceptance of mind-games displacement activity?  The lack of something better to do?

Who knows and, more importantly, who cares!

Sunday, July 23, 2017


A colleague from a school in Spain once told me that he had never built a pool in the grounds of his house because, “it would have encouraged my wife’s family to come too often and stay too long”!

Such shamefully un-familial sentiments.  And ones that I fully share, though not, obviously, in relation to my wife’s family!  As one of the houses built around a shared pool I pay a considerable sum in rent and in maintenance.  As part of the return for the vast outlay of precious euros we have access to what is described as a “private” pool, for the use of residents only.  And friends and family when they come to visit. 

The problem with our pool is that only a limited number of the sixteen or so houses that pay for it, have direct access via their back gates.  The other houses have access via a locked gate that fronts the road.  The description of the gate as “locked” is also problematic.  It has a lock and it should be locked after users have entered, but it often is not, and that gives access to non-residents and also raises a question of general security.

If I find the gate unlocked when I pass, for example on my way to have a swim, I lock it.  My reasoning is that if the pool is public, why the hell am I paying through the nose for what was described as a private facility?  We, the people paying for the pool’s upkeep, should be jealously guarding an expensive element for our enjoyment.

But, like so much else in life, the smooth working of ways of behaving depends on reasonableness.  Which is usually in very short supply.

In the summer months, our pool has (unsurprisingly) its heaviest use.  People swim, lounge around, chat and enjoy the body of water that for far too much of the year is a glimmering object rather than something to use.  Sometimes the pool is crowded with residents, their families and visitors and, as we overlook the pool we have the full stereophonic noise of people finding and celebrating their splashing identities!

I have no problem with this.  What I object to are those people who think that they have some sort of right to use our pool based on a complete lack of shame.

Three generations of an ex-resident’s family now use the pool on a regular basis, on an almost daily basis: they are noisy and obtrusive and completely shameless.  If they were occasional visitors I would have no objection, but they are more regular users than most residents!  And they are not exactly on the breadline; you only have to look at their transport to see that!  They take more than they give, which, as they give nothing is not difficult to achieve!

I surprise myself by how much resentment I feel, yet, because I am British, I say nothing.  I confine myself to locking the gate, which in our little community says a lot and fuming as I look out of my window!

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So far this month we have had (for us) unsettled weather.  Perhaps I ought to explain what that means in a Catalan context.  It does not mean that we have had days of rain, no indeed, but we have not had days of unbroken sunshine.  And it is those days of unbroken sunshine that are the daily currency of my life in this country.  We have had sun-showers and overcast days.  I have returned to the typewriter (well, computer) to escape one such ‘sun-shower’ that lasted approximately twelve seconds and had about thirty drops of rain.  The sun is now back out again.  But the fact that we have had sun-showers at all is something that is not part of my expectations at this time in the year.

I have just been speaking to my cousin in South Wales and she told me that while it wasn’t cold, it was wet - and I don’t think that she was referring to thirty drops of rain!  So, I shouldn’t complain.  But I do.  And will.

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Tomorrow the final opera of the season: Il Trovatore - something to hum along to and for which I do not need to do any listening homework!  Next season promises to be more taxing, though I like the idea of adding new operas to my Liceu experience.  This production is one that uses Goya and inspiration from his etchings of The Horrors of War in some ways, so seeing how this interesting take is integrated with the music and action will be something to look out for.  After all, as with so many operas, the actual story line is not entirely, or even slightly convincing!  The final twist of the that-corpse-was-your-long-lost-brother is something only Dickens could get away with.  But I speak as a reader who cried real tears while reading the pathetic death of the little road sweeper in Bleak House, even as I realized how emotionally manipulated by the author I was being!  In Il Trovatore, the music makes even the crassest piece of action resonate!

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And the day after this high point of culture, a delayed visit to the dentist.   

Never let it be said that I was afraid of a sensational life!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Good intentions, indeed!

The Stain Fades
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It seems to promise more: The Stain Fades.  Perhaps the vindication of a long accepted injustice; the regeneration of an intellectual effort denigrated in the past; the justification of a personal attitude castigated by society; the discovery of a really good detergent - anything, other than the whitening reality of the sanguine remains of a cheap bottle of red wine fallen from an inadequately fastened back pack.

Today, The Stain is only readily appreciated in its concentrated, foreshortened form when glimpsed from the top of the road bridge over the motorway.  As I swoop down on my bike, the proximity of my artwork is also its virtual disappearance: the more you look the more it isn’t there.  Which certainly adds another dimension to the already dimension-rich meanings that I have tried to drag from my store of pretentious artistic justifications for causal accidents.

We have had a few sun showers and this has added to the spectral appearance of a once assertive stain.  Now, as we pass in the car, I can only point to where the stain was rather than its actual reality.

The last time that I passed over it on my bike, it was more of a suggestion of what it used to be.  I don’t know if even the last tiny shards of broken bottle are still somewhere on its putative expanse, or have they been wind swept into the gutter - or found their way into the tread of passing cycle tyres or the soles of passing shoes?  I was, however, gratified to find that my stain had acquired a sort of decayed wreath - which was still there today!  I have not investigated this new accretion, as I do not wish to make it more prosaic by accepting mere reality to define my description.

The Stain is not the only ‘land work’ to which I lay claim.  Every time I return from the swimming pool I have to cross the main road to the cycle path.  To do this I have to mount the pavement and then use the zebra crossing to gain my way home.  At the point where the pavement has been smoothed down to allow access by wheelchairs a small blob of concrete has hardened on the curved surface. 

Every time I pass it I think of a description of time in relation to god.  I think it is an Islamic writer who tries to give a sense of the timelessness of god by explaining how little our concept of time means to him/her/it/them. 

The picture of the top of a rocky mountain being swept by the wing of a passing bird once every thousand years is created.  When that mountain has been worn away, the age that will have to have passed for that to happen will be but less than a moment to god.  Since I have been cycling past the concrete knob has not diminished appreciably, in spite of human activity, weather conditions and my kicking it once to see how firmly fixed it was!

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My attention has made it my own, I maintain.  I did attempt to write a poem about it, but the more I wrote the more it seemed to suggest the worst excesses of a certain Vogon space captain, and so I have given the writing a rest, but my attention never fails to look for degradation.  And to try and make something of the fact that it seems impermeable!

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As you may well be able to tell, this writing is little more than the usual displacement activity which stops me doing a few more of the 100 ejercicios para repasar ortografía y gramática that should be helping me improve my Spanish, but the exercises are getting more difficult and are asking me to use verbs - and not in the present tense!

And the sun is shining and the terrace is waiting to accept my prone body on a sun bed.

Life always gets in the way of good intentions!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Only connect, if you can be bothered.

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There is something unacceptably cruel about an unexpectedly delayed dental appointment.

I turned up at midday, on my bike, to be met by blank incomprehension about my check-up that had been arranged almost a year ago.  Eventually my name rang a bell in the receptionist’s mind and she wittered on about not having my telephone number to let me know that circumstances had changed and that my new appointment was for Tuesday of next week.  They do have my telephone number, indeed they have both of them and my address, and my full name and probably my NIA as well - so they could have used the telephone directory or looked me up online.

But people don’t do that nowadays.  If your mobile number or email (which they also have, come to think of it) is not immediately to hand then contact is impossible.  I call it The Full Dishwasher Syndrome.

The FDS is when you cannot fit anything else into the dishwasher and you find that you have one cup left over?  What does one do?  From experience you know that the higgledy-piggaldy approach to randomly piling things together will result in imperfectly washed items that will also have retained water because they have not been placed in their correct, drain-ready position.  Better to leave the extra item to one side so that it can be added to the next load.

Or you could (as you used to) wash and dry it by hand.  A squirt of washing liquid (or a mere drop of the more expensive stuff), some reasonably hot water, a quick brush over, rinse and a fresh tea towel to dry.  But that doesn’t enter one’s mind.  FDS obliterates the idea that washing dishes can be done by hand: the lone, dirty cup becomes A Problem.  “My dishes,” so runs the mantra, “are more hygienically dealt with by the dishwasher.”  The machine is more thorough, it works at higher temperatures than your hands can stand, it produces cleaner results - even as it washes off some decoration and leaves streaks on glasses and fails to remove some stubborn stains.  No matter - dishes are washed in the dishwasher.  It’s a fact.

Just like clothes are washed in the washing machine and dust and loose dirt is picked up by the Hoover and getting to places is by car and . . .

It is only when you consider how your life is lived that you realise that it is very different from the way that your parents lived.

In no way do I consider myself to have had anything other than a comfortable and privileged upbringing, but we did not have an electric record player until I was 10; we didn’t have a fridge until I was 12, which was around the same time as we got our first television; we had an outside loo; our first automatic washing machine was when I started secondary school; dishes were washed by hand; our first telephone had a ‘shared line’; our first motorised transport was a Bonmini three-wheeler. 

But this was all in the 1950s where I was the only person in my year in school to have gone on a foreign holiday.  I could safely roller skate down the road because most people did not have any motorised transport of any sort and photographs of the time (B&W) show me in an empty road, with few cars parked.  So-called white goods were only starting to become affordable.  It was the time when you had to apply for a telephone and you had Hobson’s Choice about what you got.  There were just two channels on the television, BBC and ITV. My grandparents’ television had a tiny screen and took an age to ‘warm up’ and faded to a single bright spot when you turned it off - and of course it was black & white, not colour.  I still remember my first viewing of a mobile phone: a large wooden box with a normal handset and rest used by a telephone engineer.

Things have obviously changed and we have many more ‘things’ than we ever used to have.  But our ways of doing things have also changed: our expectations and our approaches.

Which brings me back to my dental appointment.  One way of contacting me failed and, instead of trying another (in this over connected world) they gave up.  Because we do things this way and not in other ways.  After all, they could have written - but when was the last time that you had that sort of communication for a previously arranged appointment.  If you can’t Message it, it is not going to happen.   

O brave new world that has such full stops in it!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


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This morning’s information on the OU site that the Assessment Section was down because it was ‘very busy’ indicated that the results of the module that I had taken were going to be released a day earlier than the target date.  And so they were.  So now I have another ‘qualification’ to add to the Castelldefel certificate that gave me a pass at A2 level for last year’s work.

Alas, paper qualifications in a language do not always tell the linguistic truth.  I now have two scraps of paper which seem to indicate that I have a proficiency in the language and, indeed I have been able to ‘speak’ my way through circumstances which have been testing: ranging from local government applications to getting the car sorted out in a local garage; from complaining about obscure prohibitions in an art gallery to finding and getting selections of books photocopied for a long essay in a Barcelona library.  In short, I have coped - though always at the expense of poor natives hearing their language mangled or, as I like to put it, “re-imagined” by my good self.

This situation cannot continue.  I have now been living in Catalonia for years and I should be near to fluent, and the real truth is that I am nowhere near that standard.

Next September will see me starting Spanish 3, an advanced course in Spanish in our local adult education centre and there will be, I’m afraid, no hiding place for inability.  My confident use of limited grammatical structures will be glaringly obvious and I will not be able to bluff my way through the series of tests and examinations that will beset me from early October onwards.

I am therefore attacking my reluctance to settle down to the hard work necessary for linguistic advancement on a few fronts.  I am going back over the work that I should have done as part of my OU course (which I have passed with flying colours, which goes to show what you can do when you are wise in the ways of the OU!) to try and reinforce what basic knowledge is lurking in my brain; I am also going over the work in the text book that we used in Castelldefels last academic year to point up what I am expected to know for the next academic year, and finally, I am working my way through “100 ejercicios” in writing and grammar designed for Year 6 Spanish Primary School pupils!  I am hoping that this three-pronged approach will lessen the humiliation in the first classes in the new year!

Some isolated things do stick.  For example I now know that the word “visón” (which in Spanish is pronounced like “bison” but with the emphasis on the second syllable) means mink.  So I can now translate the title of the Leonardo painting I always recommend to people visiting the Louvre, that in my view is much superior to the selfie-crowded Mona Lisa, and that hangs almost unnoticed just outside the crowded room in which The Picture is virtually un-viewable.  And, in case you were wondering, the Spanish word for “bison” is “bison” - but the emphasis is more on the first syllable.

I have also learned the words for a swift and a seagull, but they have not lodged in my brain as of yet.  For some reason the word for swift (the bird not the adjective) was not in my Spanish Diccionario Primaria Lengua española.  This is an excellent beginners’ dictionary which is entirely in Spanish and which I found in a rubbish bin in the centre of town and rescued.  I can only imagine that some disgruntled scholar was passing from Primaria to Secondaria and threw away the books.  It is in such good condition that I doubt that it was ever used, just dead weight in the bulky backpacks that adhere to kids’ backs.  Well, it is being used now - though I had to find the Spanish word “vencejo” in one of my many other dictionaries.

I knew that “vencejo” had to be the word for swift because I had found it in my “sopa de letras” as part of one of the exercises (number 1 of 100!) in my homework book and I was able to link it to the simple drawing.  In my Collins Dictionary and Grammar I was able to find the Spanish for swift from the English, but the Spanish word was not in the other section.  Odd, but I suppose decisions have to be made about words to be included, and I further suppose that it is much more likely that the adjective (rápido or veloz) will be used rather than the noun.

This is my life at the moment: trying to force into my easy-access memory words that I am unlikely ever to use, but which every schoolchild knows.  God help!

The Stain

Is fading!   

After only ten days it has lost its startling otherness and now looks like some passing shadow.  It is still there and I am confident (barring torrential downpours) that it will last at least another week or so, maybe more.  My determination to documents its degeneration has taken a knock with the reluctance of this program to accept my mobile phone photographs, but I shall persevere.  I have not studied the work of Ana Mendieta in my past art courses not to recognize and value the importance and significance of the transitory and gestural when I see it!