Thursday, September 10, 2009


The neighbours from Hell have returned!

This tragedy linked to a cramp in my right calf has taken away the first transports of delight at the prospect of a long weekend.

Tomorrow is a bank holiday in Catalonia (which probably explains the reappearance of our Stygian nemesis) and is a civilized gesture by my adopted country to make the blow of the kids appearing in school on Monday a little more bearable.

Today was notable because I finally signed a permanent contract at my school. As far as I can tell in Spain that means that if they sack me they have to pay a statutory amount of money. A permanent contract does not guarantee permanency in any way - as employers have what to British sensibilities seems like astonishing powers to get rid of staff with the minimum fuss and risible cash outlay! Spain, like France I understand, has a social security system which makes it much more lucrative for the employee to be sacked than to leave employment in any other way! This makes little sense of someone brought up in the British employment market, but, as I am constantly told, this is not Britain!

The signing of the contract does mean that I am now a full member of staff and the permanency also has implications for my financial status. The number of times that I have been asked for the sight of my contract in banks and other institutions would cause consternation in Britain where contracts (especially in teaching) are documents which usually fail to appear for months or even years. In Spain contracts are documents which are much more important and much more visible.

Toni phoned today from Terrassa and announced a three day invasion by a section of the family (with child!) which is fine and dandy but presents book problems.

I have started going through my books and trying to find volumes whose absence will not cause too much pain. I have managed to fill one Pickford’s box and am well on my way to filling a second. To achieve this I have decided to extract all the school examination related commentaries and after much soul searching I have decided to rationalize my Shakespeare holdings. For some of the bard’s plays I have as many as six or seven editions as well as numerous ‘collected plays’ volumes. It is an easy target and I need to find more.

The boxes of ‘rejected’ books are, at the moment cluttering up the guest bedroom: the guest bedroom which is going to be used tomorrow! The empty boxes can be easily disposed of but the filled ones are rather more difficult to tidy away. The lingering effects of the cramp in the my right calf make running up and down stairs with heavy boxes of books on twisting stairs something of a no-no, and the ‘oubliette’ of the cupboard under the eaves is already bursting at the seams. Things are reaching crisis point and the whole situation is exacerbated by the fact that I am still paying for a ridiculously limited number of boxes in Bluespace. Limited they may be but there is nowhere for what they contain to be contained in the house.

In some ways this is good for me, because it makes the impending arrival of hordes of children in my classes in school of distant secondary (pun) importance. I had hoped to have got everything out of Bluespace by the end of July and now it looks as though it is unlikely that I will ever get that space empty! I am going to set myself the limit of the end of September – even if my mother’s (and Toni’s) happy vision of books burning becomes a reality to make more space.

Sitting in my study on the third floor and away from the quite wonderful looking book room on the floor beneath I can take a more measured view of the spatial disparity between what I have and what I want to display. I know that my magpie mind rejoices in reference books and I have a range of reference books which would put many local libraries to shame. At once time not only did I have, for example a dictionary of computers, but I also had different editions of dictionaries of computers. I had the very first dictionary of computers that I bought which offered definitions of terms like ‘graceful degradation.’ In case you are interested this term was applied to a program which, when it was corrupted had a way of shutting itself down in a staged way to protect as much of the original program as possible. To me the term suggested a decaying mansion in the Deep South of America where an old Southern family was slowly slipping down the social scale as successive members of the inbred clan fragmented into imbecility and sexual excess.

A wonderful term, but no longer used. Now the correct term is ‘fail soft’ – a phrase not without some interesting resonances but which lacks the musical magic of the original: from ‘Gone with the Wind’ to ‘Terminator.’ It may be that even this term has now been superseded and ‘fail-fast’ has taken its place.

This shows one of the reasons that I have kept successive reference books: I like the ‘historical’ overview that sees ‘facts’ change over time. What British person has not at some time drooled over old maps showing the extent of the so-called British Empire? Who has not sniggered at pictures from the 1950s and 60s at ‘technological innovation’ which now looks positively medieval? Just because something is out of date, it does not mean that it is not interesting. I have indulged myself by allow the accretion of ‘historical’ reference books to fill my shelves and, while some of them will certainly stay (‘The Bumper Boys’ Book of Facts’ for example) others can (regretfully) be consigned to oblivion. I think.

I will have to do some sorting of the remaining books in Bluespace in Bluespace itself and only bring those volumes which I cannot do without. The rest will have (somehow) to fit under the eaves until they can be disposed of either to the second hand book shop in Barcelona or to other institutions. I could even think about putting some of the volumes on line and see what the web can do for me!

Considering the problems in the world today my difficulties with books really do seem gloriously self indulgent.

So what else is new!
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