Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stop all the clocks!

The putting back of the clocks is a time of considerable stress.

Not only for those unfortunates who forget and find themselves an hour out for an uncomfortable day but also for those of us with what might be described as a plenitude of time pieces.

My latest watch is one without a central knurled knob to change the hour. Instead this function is done by the pressing of various buttons in combinations which I have completely forgotten. I will now discover if my placing of all instructions in the same box has actually been something which I have kept to. My plan was to put each new set of instructions in an A4 envelope of their own and place all the envelopes in a box which, while it might be consulted infrequently, would contain everything necessary for a calm technological life.

Computers are the worst. When you get a new program you often find a disc, an instruction book; guarantee cards; repair centre lists; special offers and sometimes leads all packed together. These are now in their own A4 envelope waiting for disaster to drive me to consult the arcane words of the instruction booklet to find salvation.

I hope.

Meanwhile I think that I will wear another from my extensive collection of wrist associated chronographs which is easier to adjust than my present choice.

Today has been a varied day in terms of the weather with periods of bright sunshine alternating with overcast conditions. It is, however, still warm.

The arrival of The Family gave me a chance to get into an open shop and buy something to go with Toni’s birthday gift of an internet radio: a Wi-Fi pair of headphones.

As usual (as you would expect from gadgets) I already have a pair of Wi-Fi headphones but they have suffered the vicissitudes of normal wear and tear and have fallen off my head when I have forgotten that they were there and they are now intermittently effective. They have given good service and I suppose that I should be grateful that they have lasted as long as they have.

I tried to make the pair I bought work after a couple of hours and then read that they should have been on charge for at least 15 hours. I hope that my impetuosity has not done terrible things to the batteries. Given the parlous state of the supply of the material necessary to make the bloody batteries we really do have to take care of what we have got!

Toni is still not well; which is a worry. Hopefully he will be fully restored for the “Holiday” tomorrow and the sun will shine.

At least Barça won, and against a team like Seville which means that one of the big games is out of the way and the trail is still awaiting for Real Madrid.

I really never thought that I would either know about such things or be even tangentially interested in them. Times change!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Long Weekend

My weekend started on Friday night with injected drugs.

I wonder how many people are able to match my experience – though I think that their drugs may be more recreational than the anti-flu jab that I had!

Once again the health service in this part of the world lived up to its promise: I had an appointment for 4.15 pm and I was seen just before 4.15 and left within a couple of minutes of being seen after my injection had been administered.

My egress from the place of learning on Friday was swift, so swift indeed that I was able to sit down and read a few more pages of “Earthly Powers” by Burgess on my Kindle.

This interminable, verbose, self indulgent and prolix jeu d’esprit of a writer’s life cobbling together fictionalized portraits of real people and events to create a rambling, well travelled screed in which scandalous, thinly veiled portraits of the good and the great were illustrated in self congratulatory prose left me, ultimately, cold.

In the hands of Nabokov this would have been a quarter of the length and more intellectually satisfying – perhaps pandering to the readers intelligence rather than Burgess’s parading of his own!

It will not stop me reading more of his work; perhaps the long overdue reading of The Malayan Trilogy is called for. I will certainly be tempted if I can find it free as an electronic book.

At the moment my “library” in my Kindle is full of classic, impressive tomes which I am sure that I will not be tempted to read, but are too good not to add when they cost nothing. Perhaps I should set myself a target of at least one World Classic a term.

At the moment the Kindle Store is particularly insistent about Trollope and Sophocles being a major part of my immediate reading. Dream on!

Tomorrow, Toni’s illness permitting, The Family will descend with chestnuts (roasted) and small pine covered pastries for whatever fiesta such things are supposed to celebrate. I am all for these festivities because we have an extra day for the weekend - and four day weeks have a nicer sound to them than the full whack.

I have yet to see a single penny resulting from my last birthday, though I am working on it.

En passant, why does an electronic transfer of funds from one of the richest banks in Britain take four working days to get to a rich bank in Spain? How do the bloodsucking, shameless, crisis-inducing bastards get away with it? As these evil manipulators of other people’s money must deal in millions of pounds every day, they must make substantial amounts of money from a three day delay. God damn them all to hell!

When the money finally gets to me I fear that my resistance to the blandishments of the iPhone will be paper thin: indeed as thin as the notes that will buy one for me!

I consider that I have held out against buying an iPad with a fortitude which does credit to my name – admittedly with printed sheets entitled “12 Reasons I Will Not Buy an iPad” tucked inside my mark book to bolster my strength in time of temptation.

Today I bought the Spanish version of “Stuff” the gadget magazine and that still rates the iPhone 4 top of the available smartphones. It is only a matter of time!

Meanwhile I am preparing to enjoy Sunday – which is a sure sign that Monday is a holiday!

All I ask is a little sun.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The future is too far away!

Someone mentioned the “J” word in the staffroom today and was told off quite severely.

There are many things that can be said with impunity within the sequestered confines of our private space but talking about “July” is not one of them.

In Catalonia we teach until the end of June and then we have a (fully justified) two clear month holiday. There was some talk of having a week at the end of February when the rest of the country will be taking its “White Week” to go skiing, but we preferred to work on and keep the two months release sacrosanct.

We are only allowed to talk of the Christmas holidays as they are within a (barely) tolerable length of time. Once our little one day extension to the weekend is over we face the horror of a November with only the relief of weekends to keep us sane.

At least in my case there is the delight of a visit to the UK and the celebration of a civilized tea party for the natal celebrations of my aunt. Luckily as this momentous event is on a Sunday it will impracticable for me to fly home on the same day and so I will be forced to take a day off school. I see no reason why I too should not have something to celebrate to allow me to feel a certain sympathy with my relative!

December is a marvellous month for us with a three day holiday incorporating La Constitución; La Inmaculada, and a linking dia libre elección. With the weekend this gives the delight of a five day break! And then the Christmas holidays start on the 23rd of December and we do not enter school again until the glorious 10th of January next year! That (including weekends) is a period of release of eighteen days! One feels that one ought to go somewhere warm – even though the days here are far from the sort of cold which I have been used to at the end of October.

I think that talking of holidays has given the world a twist and I have just been reminded that I have gained a free period! Life goes on getting better! Though at some point I think I might be asked to teach something to somebody again!

The weather was good enough for me to sit outside in the sunshine and read my Kindle, but it is getting steadily colder and I fear that the days of my continued wearing of short sleeved shirts may well be numbered – though I am sure that I can delay succumbing to that sartorial admission of winter for a little while longer.

A little while.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For this relief?

Bone deep tiredness has overtaken not only me but also the rest of the school; at least the teaching part of it. We are indeed ready for the extra day off next week on Monday.

As befits my advanced age I have attempted to get an injection against flu. This is not as easy as one might think as the times for injections are times when I am in work. Luckily (though that is a strange use of the word) as I have a few early starts in school I am able to aggregate that time and leave early on Friday last period. If I am quick I should be able to leave school and make it for my appointment for the injection. Just. It will be a suitably breathless start to a long weekend.

My swimming continues, although I am still unable to work out the correct etiquette for claiming or sharing a swimming lane in the pool. Two lanes I have discovered are for “up” and “down” respectively and are as frustrating as one would imagine as some “swimmers” refuse to allow one (me) to push past and take a little less time to complete a length than some limb flailing ineptitude generally accomplishes.

The lanes on either side of the pool seems to be for the “lurking” swimmers who hog the end of the pool and do nothing but gently bob up and down and look daggers at anyone who attempts to swim.

The other lanes appear to be for bona fide swimmers who actually attempt to complete lengths. They sometimes have a flamboyant single swimmer in them using a style of propulsion in which flailing limbs attempt to take up as much of the width of the lane as possible. If one (me) has the temerity to try and share the lane there is usually a silent struggle for territory which usually results in an uneasy truce with resentful passing of combatants with the real possibility of damage from a trailing leg.

At the moment the outdoor pool is still open for hardy children and other of a masochistic tendency. As autumn inevitably progresses into winter there will be more concentration on the indoor pool and the struggle for swimming room will increase to the point of intolerability.

This is for the mediumly distant future, while the extra day of the weekend is in the reasonably immediate prospect.

Perhaps I can catch up on my sleep debt.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sweet sounds!

There is something prosaic about the Word “lump” – but when it is placed in front of the word “sum” then the combination takes on a sort of mystical beauty.

I have now started my seventh decade: a time when in the normal course of events a British teacher should thankfully consider his professional duties done and relax into the affluence that a grateful government showers upon a faithful servant. Leaving the biblical fantasy of that last statement to one side, I have now reached the magic age when I fully intended to retire. Again.

But. Already (!) two months of term (and the year) have gone and the long haul to the summer doesn’t seem so impossible. Really.

The real key to my continued employment will be the real amount of money that the pension actually pays month by month. That, as they say, is for the future – but is a financially more interesting problem as it is dealing in positive amounts of money.

And here I must put in a word for the charming ladies in the call centre of First Direct – my telephone bank.

When I called up to see if the Lump Sum (it surely deserves capital letters) had been paid into my British account, I asked the lady to give me the balance in my current account. She told me the amount and I gave a little squeak of pleasure, at which point she said, “Shall I read that again?” Which she then did in what I can only describe as a sensuous voice.

Our conversation developed a slightly raunchy tone and the lady (!) suggested that she could probably make a living by reading out large sums of money on a dedicated phone line. After much giggling, chortling and laughing Toni asked who I had been speaking to and was a little mystified by my response of “My bank!”

On my Kindle I am presently reading “Earthly Powers” by Anthony Burgess and, as usual with his novels I am making a collection of the words that I have had to look up. So far the list includes: “prolepsis”, “deist” (which I knew, but not to use convincing in a sentence to show its meaning); “onomastic”; “velleity”; “exiguous” (see explanation for “Deist” above); “oenophile” (which I remembered when I looked it up); “supinated” and “omnifutuant” (for which I still have not found a meaning, as the print in my two volume Oxford English Dictionary is simply too small) – and I am still only half way through the novel!

At the moment the book is reading like Nabokov with added vulgarity: not a bad mix!

Exams have been marked though not necessarily handed back. Monday was the Day of the Long and Pointless Meeting. I started teaching at 8.15 am and left school at 7.45 pm. The meeting which started as soon as the last lesson of the day had been taught lasted two hours forty minutes and was of almost unendurable boredom.

By way of compensation we have an “occasional day” or something which means that this weekend is three days long with Monday being blissfully free of teaching!

Time to regroup!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shine on October sun

Another fine day which makes me worry more and more about using up the climactic credit for the weekend and the celebration of United Nations Day.

The thought of a meal out is the only thing keeping me going as the paper sheaves of scrawled mountains of examination scripts is beginning to build up to that sort of height that engenders morbid depression.

It is at times like this that I refer myself to the Collected Wisdom of David – a colleague of some years standing in the school and country. His single most useful dictum was (and indeed is) “Remember Stephen; you are not in Britain.” You have absolutely no idea how many times I have turned to this simple, yet life-saving saying and managed to stay just the right side of sanity!

On previous occasions when what seem like completely arbitrary deadlines for marking to be completed have been ridiculously near to the day on which the examinations have been taken and when I have despaired of getting the marking done another of David’s sayings has come to the fore and helped me through, “Stephen, it may look impossible – but it will be done!” And it always is. Or has been.

The Kindle continues to please but it has a marked lack of flexibility in getting to the book that you want to continue reading or in finding another book than the Sony version of the eBook. As usual I am only scratching the surface of what the gadget can actually do and, in much the same way that I use the computer as a glorified typewriter, so I am using the Kindle only for its ability to store eBooks. Give me a month or two and I might have pushed my knowledge a little further!

Meanwhile: where is my red pen!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Delighted thoughts

There is definitely a new spring in my step since the receipt of the email outlining the reality of the money that comes with a pension. Can it really be this simple? All you have to do is pay vast sums of money for thirty years and a grateful government showers one with cash.

Well, perhaps not quite.

There are taxes and tax codes which (when was the last time this happened!) are set at “Emergency” level until the government decides just how much you have to give back!

From what I can deduce from the documentation that came with the email, the date on which one is paid relates directly to one’s birthday: so I expect my first “pay” cheque on the 23rd of November. Or something. It will be fun waiting to find out how much and when.

Tomorrow the examination season starts. This is one of the convulsive testing periods that the school decides on. The kids become fully paranoid for a week or so and then everything reverts to the normal pace of life until the next examination convulsion.

Some of our pupils have a remarkable capacity for writing notes; learning notes, regurgitating notes. I wish I could say that this links to education in some way, but that would not be true. There is a glorification of rote learning of those things which are “for the examination” which is, to put it mildly, depressing to witness.

The school does train the kids to get the marks which are necessary for their future development within the system but when you come to evaluate the system then you might be left with one or two questions about its essential worth.

The art history class which I share with the art teacher is, however trying to be something different with a far more practical approach and an experiential feel which is much more satisfying to be involved with.

But enough disinterest: what about me!

The finding of a portable internet radio for my birthday is proving to be an almost insuperable problem. My shop of first and last resort (El Corte Ingles) has show itself to be woefully lacking producing a single radio as the total of their stock! Not what I expect.

And, as I was having an unsatisfactory conversation with my GPS, which was not doing as I was ordering it to do, I made a wrong turning and explored yet more of the traffic filled streets of central Barcelona on my way to the largest El Corte Ingles store.

Although I did not find a suitable radio, I did wander into the “Gourmet” shop within a shop which is a feature of the store. This miraculous niche of comestibles is filled with the most irresistible smells of cheese, wine and spices. The shelves are overcrowded with eye-poppingly expensive jars and boxes of delectable foodstuffs and it is as difficult to emerge from this haven of taste without a purchase as it is to go into an Apple store and leave the ipad unbought. But if I can do the latter then the former is definitely within my reach.

Not that I am counting, but there are now five days to the magical date when I could, should I choose to do so, walk away from my scholastic responsibilities and . . . but I would never do that. I do have some shreds of professional pride left. I think.

But, there again, there are the Saturday morning meetings to discuss examination results! Pause for thought.

At least tomorrow is not an early start: a whole half hour’s lie in!

One takes one’s pleasure where one finds it!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Passing Time Pays the Pension

The pleasure that gadgets give they can take away in spades, so to speak.

I have been sulking for two days over the internet radio.

This radio is my birthday present from Toni and it had to be collected and checked out to ensure that it worked properly. It was collected and over five hours of concentrated attention did not get it working. It will not connect to the internet and that is something of a disadvantage to an internet radio.

It has now been repacked in the Amazon wrapping and taken to the post office and is, even now, on its way to Scotland where lives the army of Amazon workers who deal with the mountains of returns that such an operation must engender.

The radio looked and felt very much like the old fashioned tiny portable radios of yore and, if it had worked, would have been appreciated as much as I used to treasure the minute machines of my youth. But it didn’t work and I have rejected it. If Toni can’t get it to work then it simply doesn’t work.

The only positive thing that I can take from the Dark Days of Internet Intemperance connected with the Malign Machine was the second gadget that was available for me on the same day as the radio.

I am now the proud possessor of the latest generation Kindle e-thingie. I know that I will use it as a glorified book and I have already started loading free books into its electronic storage that I will never read. When do normal people read Sir Walter Scott nowadays? And I have blithely loaded Aristotle, Aristophanes, Darwin, Faraday, Hobbes, Hume, William James, Kant, John Stuart Mill, Poincaré, Thoreau and others of whom I have never heard but their books were free! I now have 134 “books” (some of which are little more than short stories) and the one that I am reading is “Shatter (the Children of Man)” by Elizabeth C. Mock; to which your (and my) response could be “Who?”

I fear that much of my reading from my new device will be of people of whom I have never heard. Mainly because I am far too mean to pay real money for a book whose only existence is electronic and not hard covers and sensual pages of real print.

Early attempts to get the device to go on to the internet were successful, but it appears that early success does not mean continued success and recent attempts to get on to Google have been signal failures. No doubt Toni will rectify this lack and point out how simple it was to do it at the same time.

I have been fairly faithful to my one revelation in information technology: I am a user and not a programmer.

This is a simple, yet vital insight and saves the individual from hours of pointless dabbling in the arcane mysteries of whatever the gobbledegook is that programs are written in. Machine code I believe it is called. Well, for me, machine code is for machines and those who aspire to that state; I prefer to luxuriate in the more understandable realms of what those denizens of the lower depths manage to create for we “surface eaters” in the technological world!

The days slip away bringing me ever nearer to the fabled date of United Nations Day 2010 which used to be a date when like Aaron and unlike Moses I would slip over to the other side and see the milk and honey of the Promised Land.

Well the date is going to come and go and I will still be in employment – which was not the original plan. But there is something to be said for going in to school bright and early (8.15 am start) on Monday 25th of October knowing that I don’t really have to.

I will place the sweets in each staffroom (a tradition which is rigorously upheld by each person who has a birthday during term) and explain the significance of the birthday. My colleagues however look towards retirement as being at age 65 so they will only expect me to start thinking of leaving education in the autumn of 2015!

There are people in school who have worked out that, with commitments and children, they will have to work until they are at least (at least!) seventy years old!

Needless to say that is not (even remotely) my intention.

Cleaning tomorrow!

The days have passed in a welter of technology: failure with the radio but something of a glowing success with the Kindle.

I have now started to download books from my computer on to the device and, at the moment, that appears to be going smoothly. Admittedly the format of title and author does not seem to match that of the books already on the machine but I can surely deal with that.

I am still getting to know the little quirks of the device and I am not able to navigate around it with the same speed and facility that I can with the Sony e-book, but I am sure that will change in time.

All this is small change however when I consider an email which I received today, Sunday.

This little missive was one of those Rites of Passage moments which define the future.

Today my pension was finalized. What that means is that the total amount of the money that I have been paying out for the last 30 years is at last coming home to roost!

The low value of the pound means that what would have been quite a healthy amount of money when I first arrived in Spain a few years ago has now been diminished somewhat. When I first came here the euro was trading at 70p to the pound; now it is 83p – almost a 20% reduction. Or if one wants to think of it in more positive terms almost a 20% increase in pound terms to my miserable teacher’s salary in Spain! I think these sorts of sums are a prelude to financial madness so I will merely accept whatever the government has not yet stolen and be thankful that there will be a nice little monthly salary coming in whatever I do over the next year or so!

It is a wonderfully relaxing moment when you consider that you have reached the stage when you begin to reap the benefits of 30 years of enforced saving.

I suppose that it is traditional at this time to cast the mind back to the person who made all this possible. The Welsh Wizard (or the Poison Dwarf depending on your point of view) instituted the Old Age Pension and for that, whatever faults Lloyd George had (and they were many) he must surely be among the blest for that single liberating action.

I feel warmly towards him anyway, even if what I am going to start getting in seven short days time is an occupational rather than a state pension. The principle is the same and I have always rather liked Lloyd George for his assurance, political acumen and blatant dishonesty!

Saturday saw The Family descend bearing foodie gifts of utterly delicious mushrooms and artichokes. Now, in Catalonia is the season for basket wielding citizens to start combing the woods for the best and most succulent mushrooms they can find. In restaurants the mushrooms are exorbitantly expensive but eating as a family is very much cheaper and just as (if not more) delicious!

We have had two great days of sunshine and it has helped us to try and get the house organized.

This is not a pro-active move on our part, but a reactive one to the fact that we are slowly sinking under the sheer weight of things!

Clothing has been sorted and thrown and clothes which have some sentimental value but little sartorial worth have been consigned to history. The T-shirt that Aunt Bet brought me back from one of her trips to the USA which was emblazoned with the subway system of NY has now gone to the skip. To be fair it was threadbare and had long lost its claim to the whiteness which is such an encouraging background for the geometric scrawl of the Big Apple’s underground.

I still have numerous suits, well, four and I cannot remember the last time I wore one. I never wear more than trousers and shirt (with tie of course) in school – though I think I might have worn a suit for the interview. They do take up a lot of space which we do not have and there is a great temptation to just junk them – but of course I haven’t done any such thing. They are waiting, lurking, ready to be donned for a suitable occasion.

Hopefully the next week will not be so gadget filled and I can start using the Kindle rather than playing with it and seeing just how many unreadable (but free) books I can download!

I have also noted that the Amazon Store offers free books which are the first volumes of trilogies in the hope that the reader will have been captured by the first volume and just have to carry on reading no matter what the price.

I have just completed reading Elizabeth C Mock’s “Shatter” which ends abruptly with a declaration of loyalty and the clear indication that at such a juncture there is only the one option of buying the rest of the books in the series. Amazon is wrong on that one. Much though I enjoyed leaving my critical mind outside the pages (well screen) of the book I do not think that I could bear to actually pass money over to anyone to read more.

Balzac anyone?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Clothes do not the Man make!

“Today,” I was informed by an elegant member of my sixth form, replete in an ill fitting set of clothes, “was Suit-up Day.” And sure enough a few member of the sixth form and odd members of other years were wearing scraps of suits: a tie here, a jacket there; a severe pair of trousers cladding spindly legs. It was a bizarre spectacle with the most convincing suit wearer looking like a very restrained undertaker. The sixth former who informed me of the “event” eventually admitted that he must look like “a rugby player going to an interview” which was exactly what he did look like!

As I made my way around the school I was greeted with “Look Stephen, just like you!” with individual students pointing to a cloth hanging of unusual ghastliness handing around the individual’s neck. I hope my condescending look of amused contempt made them realize that emulating a hard wired tie wearer was not as easy as putting any old thing on public display!

We had a visit from the author and illustrator of the children’s book that a small group of 4ESO students has been translating into English. They were both grateful for the efforts that we had made and were generous with their time in answering the questions that the kids had about the process of writing and the choice of subject matter – the disaster in Haiti. I have assured them that the translation will be published (complete with ISBN number and opportunity for inclusion in a CV) and will have to strive to make sure that this happens.

Throughout the day I suddenly remembered that it was a Wednesday and not a Monday which gave a little thrill of pleasure. This happiness however was wiped out by a sudden request that I substitute for a teacher during the last period. My last period on a Wednesday is one of the times that I can leave school early to compensate me for my unnatural start on Monday. I was told that the teacher merely needed me to be there for a few minutes, five – ten at most and then I would be able to leave my half hour earlier as usual.

The five minutes was extended by another thirty-two minutes and I stomped out of school incandescent with fury fearing that I would arrive too late to secure a decent swimming lane in the pool.

Luckily I was able to insinuate my seal like body into a lane which was only occupied by a gentleman of a certain age propelling himself serenely backwards with the aid of flippers.

I immediately claimed the other side of the lane and was able to swim my lengths unmolested.

Having upped my time spent by 50% from 20 minutes to 30 minutes I have now adjusted to the increase and am not working any harder to complete the extra time. I will have to consider making more of an effort and increasing my speed. I should be sweating at the end of my efforts and, although I must swim some 50 to 60 lengths I am aware that I could be doing more. I shall consider such things and not make rash statements about what I might do.

I enjoy swimming and I know from past experience that I begin to detest it when I start timing myself and setting targets and generally making the event a negative one.

The weather has been depressing but the panoramic views that we are afforded from many of the classrooms always manage to show us some scrap of blue lurking surreptitiously on the horizon. I am hoping that the rapidly approaching weekend will give a more settled supply of sunshine.

The next book in the Bristol Airport Extra Plastic Carrier Bag experiment is “We Need to Talk About Kelvin” by Marcus Chown, author of “The Never ending Days of Being Dead” and “Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You” – on the basis of those two titles alone I am already prejudiced in favour of the book in my possession. I have so far read the first twenty pages of the first chapter entitled “The Face in the Window” which has the subtitle of “How when you stand in front of a window the most shocking discover in the history of science – that ultimately things happen for no reason – is literally staring you in the face.” If that is insufficient to get you going then there are two quotations to tweak your fancy. The first is from Paul Valery “A difficulty is a light. An insurmountable difficulty is a sun” and the second by John Wheeler “No progress without paradox.”

The chapter is about light and it takes my scientific knowledge about this subject (based in my case entirely on the plays of Tom Stoppard, in particular “Hapgood”) to another level.

As with the more esoteric poems of W B Yeats, so with popular scientific writing: I understand all the words but not necessarily the order in which they are laid on the page! To be fair to Mr Chown I am still with him and I have started the sub section entitled “Two Places at Once”. I like his style and he reminds me of Professor Nevin, the Swansea economist, for whose homely and easily understood examples which leavened the harder graph-driven pieces of economic theory that I was supposed to grapple with at A Level I was (and perhaps still am) grovellingly grateful.

The fractured Art Course that Suzanne and I am teaching now demands some “texts” about modern art for the students to use as a backup to the practical work which we are in the process of devising. It is time for me to search the books that I have for something suitable in English to encourage the kids to speak.

I am sure that I have something.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bank Holidays are all the same!

The weather today was indifferent to the point of direct insult. When one considers that it was also a Bank Holiday then the effrontery of such blustery, wet, miserable conditions seems like studied insult.

And there is a carpet of pine needles strewn across pavement and road to show exactly how blustery it was last night!

However, it did encourage me to read “The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography” by Stephen Fry.

Perhaps the word “chronicles” should alert the wary reader that what he is going to read is some sort of archaic construct with all the built-in ambiguity and glossed-over historical detail that chronicles as histories usually offer.

Let me first point out that this book is an episodically amusing and lightly written rambling memoir which is easy to read. What it is not and emphatically not, is an “autobiography” in any meaningful sense. “Stephen Fry” the person is artfully hidden among all the anecdotal exposure of personal neurosis and ostensible confession.

This book charts another eight years to extend the autobiographical writing of “Moab is My Washpot” which fleshed out his childhood and adolescence. They are eight significant years which saw Fry established (or well on his way to being established) as a National Institution much like his revered idol Alan Bennet – but a more knowing and more studied version than him.

This is an oddly coy book too; famous names are dropped into conversations: most glaringly when a casual reference to “Paul” commenting on Fry not singing turns out to be Paul McCartney and another Paul on page 366 turns out to be Paul Whitehouse by page 394. Perhaps Fry has borrowed the technique from Alistair Cooke who regaled the 50th anniversary of the Cambridge Mummers (as related by Fry) with an anecdote about a young architecture student who came to audition for a part. Cooke told him to carry on with his studies as ‘“I’m sure you’ll be an excellent architect.” He did indeed get a First in Architecture, but whenever I see James Mason now he says to me, “Damn. I should have taken your advice and stayed with architecture.”’

Such things I can take from Cooke but not from Fry. This book hides much, much more than it reveals and Fry’s repeated “honesty” begins to irritate rather than illuminate.

The cover photo of Fry shows him in his customary garb looking straight out at the reader with a trace of a smile as if daring the reading to put any significant detail on the featureless wall that acts as a background. I certainly didn’t.

Two days of the week have now gone and the real struggle tomorrow will not be rise and start life at an unreasonable time, but rather to keep remembering that tomorrow is Wednesday.

It is also the day when the author of the children’s story that we have translated is supposed to be coming to see and speak to and with the kids who have done the translation. This has been much delayed and I am not sure that there will be much to say, but it is a courtesy that is worth making to bring the two sides together. I have no idea whether this lady speaks English or only Spanish. If it is the latter then I sincerely hope that there will be someone other than my good self and a gaggle of students in the room where the meeting is supposed to take place. I fear that the discussion may be a little lopsided otherwise! Which may be interesting in itself though I feel not ultimately productive either to my status as a stumbling teacher floundering publicly in the language which I have been translating or for the kids as they struggle to ask questions which do not question the literary worth of the story which they had been translating.

We are building up to another marathon session of examinations which should come to a climax during the period of my birthday. I have noted this auspicious event in many different ways but never with a red pen on student’s work.

My present from Toni has been eventually ordered on line and my present to myself has now also been processed: both should be here by the beginning of next week.

The biggest birthday present of all, of course, is the magic age which means that I am entitled to my lump sum and pension and the illusion of freedom until I see just how little my pension gives me and I realize that the job (however poorly paid) is an essential part of my present life style.

My Mr Micawber response to the economics of real life has never really been of help in trying to work out the truth about how much actual money is needed to fund my sybaritic life style. I do not intend to change the habits of a lifetime and suddenly become sensible and start treating money as if it was significant; I am sure as someone said, “Something will turn up!”

As will tomorrow for which I am not prepared – though a casual glance at my timetable for Wednesday shows that I can busk my way through the day! The only important thing I need to remember is a towel for my swim after school.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hotter holidays please!

Another sullen day. Catalonia, it would seem, has taken up the climatic response to Bank Holidays that characterizes Britain and given poor weather for the workers!

Although it is threatening there are still areas of blue in the sky which give some hope for improvement later in the day. I am a great believer in the “micro-climate” form of self delusion, whereby the sufferer believes that his own little patch of a country has a different and more equitable weather system that that by which he is surrounded.

I am suffering from what is known as the “Eventual Sunshine Syndrome” where however bad the day, the victim believes that there will be a compensatory glimpse of sunshine to keep alive the vitamin D in the body.

Apart from the cretinously inane barking of the ill-controlled dogs next door, owned by the family of phantom bollard destroyers, the neighbourhood is curiously silent suggesting that the rest of the world has a Puente (bridge) of today to link to the real Bank Holiday tomorrow, thus giving a four day holidays if you count the weekend.

Bank Holidays in Britain are merely the excuse for workers to be paid double time (I trust) and, apart from the banks, shops are usually open. Not so in this country. A sepulchral calm descends on us and the shops are as closed as if it is a Saturday afternoon. Yes, I know, but this is a foreign country and they do things differently here. They may be closed in the afternoon but they are open in the evening.

When shops fail then there is always recourse to The Book. I have now completed reading Bill Bryson’s “At Home: A short history of private life” and it was everything and m ore that I had hoped for.

I have been a fan of Bryson ever since I read a piece of his writing in Granta – the magazine for new writing. The stuff in Granta can sometimes be just a little earnest and depressing so it was with unexpected joy that I read a piece which was informative, well written and very funny.

At first, second and third glance “At Home” would appear to be written pretty exclusively for me! It is, as all of Bryson’s writing is, well written and amusing, but this book is literally packed with “unconsidered trifles” in the main text and in the irresistible footnotes that function for me in the same way as Class A drugs!

Taking the Norfolk rectory in which he lives as his structure he tours the house and each room affords a wealth of historical information about how and why the rooms came into being and what they tell us about ourselves.

Basically this book is a constant delight. Where else would you find a description of the essential nature of the Erie Canal in the development of America with the comment that “Probably no manufactured product in history – certainly none of greater obscurity – has done more to change a city’s fortunes that Canvass White’s hydraulic cement.”; the description of the Eiffel Tower, “So there is a certain irony in the thought that the greatest edifice ever built of iron was also the last.”

Just to demonstrate the treasure trove nature of this book I have just asked Toni to give me a number at random for a page of the book and I will extract the interesting morsel.

Toni chose page 9 which tells us that the idea for the Great Exhibition of 1851 was the idea of a civil servant named Henry Cole “whose other principal claim to history’s attention is as the inventor of the Christmas card – as a way of encouraging people to use the new penny post.” You might be able to resist such information, but for me it goes straight to pleasure centre of my dilettante mind!

I recommend it without qualification. Enjoy!

The sun has struggled out from behind the clouds and bathed our disbelieving faces in some welcome sunshine, but the weather forecast is not good and a general weather alert has been issued for Catalonia. God help.

I fear that we have reached the stage in the year when cushions etc are never going to dry out fully if left out on the terrace. Sad.

Meanwhile one of the tasks that I set myself has been completed: going to the town hall and explaining that the bollards which stop people parking on our drives have been destroyed and subtly trying at the same time to give the impression that the neighbours are the culprits. Which they are. When the town council employee to whom I was speaking tried to blame “young drivers late at night” as the possible miscreants I was quick to disabuse her and re-orientate the blame in the right direction – although using weasel words to avoid making actual, specific accusations.

I have been given a comment number which I can use to trace the progress of my complaint.

I have to say that the way in which our town organizes the first-contact to find out about anything connected with the civic services is both efficient and friendly. I will now await the consequences of my visit. I am ever optimistic!

It would be good to see those responsible for the destruction and removal of the bollards charged with criminal damage – but I am sure that our neighbours will get away with it. However, if the bollards are replaced and knocked down again then we will resort to denunciation.

The weather forecast has emphasized the approaching rain so I think that I will go to the Third Floor and take was vitamin D I can while I can!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

In this best of all possible worlds!

There are those who aver that programmes like “This house is a ruin” are unspeakably vile and useless. These programmes are where a gaggle of self congratulatory mawkish opportunists descend on some unfeasibly large family living in squalor; rip their house down and rebuild it in as consumeristically vulgar a way as possible and then stand back and collect the communal tears of gratitude before moving on and wiping their victims from their minds, before settling vulture-like on the next bunch of wastrels.

This programme is the apotheosis of the “deus ex machina” much beloved as a narrative device by Dickens where, having got his hero into an impossibly difficult situation, resolves it by having a long lost uncle or distant relative suddenly appear, promptly die and leave all his money to the hero so that he can live in genteel, jobless comfort.

In the same way “This house is a ruin” showers consumer durables on one deserving family to the greater glory of the television company which produces their meretricious trash and to the accompanying glory of the system that produced the poverty in the first place.

Useless, vile and positively bad one may think. But not by me.

As soon as the programme started on the television I made my excuses and decamped to the Third Floor. I would, I thought, reclaim my Bryson book (“At Home: A short history of Private Life”) which I had lain at the side of the sun bed as I lay out in the gentle heat this morning. As I opened the door to the terrace rain started and I was able to rescue the book with only a few drops of moisture on the back cover. So expeditious was I that there was not even a suggestion of the horrible warping that detracts from the pleasure of page turning if what you are turning is like a thin piece of corrugated cardboard.

I am prepared to bet that saving my book is the one positive effect of the programme. I am sure that they do not revisit their victims and show how they are coping a year or two on. How the family, suddenly at the cutting edge of technological innovation, copes with things going wrong and breaking. I wonder what the repair and replacement policy is for poor families suddenly gifted with high value, high maintenance equipment with a very finite life!

But they can rest assured that they have one grateful “viewer” because as soon as I saw the programme I was driven from the living room and was able to save my book two floors above. Well done! And thank you!

I refuse to see today as merely Saturday; I prefer to think of it as Day 1 of a four day holiday. As I have already done a little light sun bathing one aspect of any real holiday has been fulfilled already and I feel myself positively refreshed in my determination to get some “tasks” done.

By way of a change we went to Cubellos for lunch. This is a smallish town whose name has been hijacked and affixed to a sprawling new (seemingly relatively empty) residential development stretching along the sea coast.

We chose a restaurant next to the beach with a clear view of the sea and also with what seemed like a reasonable menu del dia for €10.50. It was a meal of mixed fortunes. The paella starter was shockingly bad with the rice dry and the whole thing absurdly salty. The wine was watered! But the chicken main course was tasty and succulent a piece of fowl that I have eaten in years. The sweet was as immediately forgettable as one would expect with a normal menu del dia.

The fact that we were sitting outside in a brisk wind but also generous sunshine and a view of waves crashing (for the Med) on a breakwater was almost enough.

Our way back was interrupted in Sitges for an orgy of buying in the cheap German supermarkets which included (as by law you must) an Object of Doubtful Use But Bargain Price.

Today this took the form of a box containing three or four door hooks of the sort that fit over the top of the door and which you therefore don’t have to screw in: a good thing when your property is rented. These have already been “installed” and look to be more than decorative. Give me a few days and I might be able to upgrade adjectives to the coveted “useful” status!

Tomorrow The Family descends. If the rain does as well I may have to take semi-permanent refuge on the Third Floor!

I have just checked the weather and, although there is scattered cloud, the rain has stopped and I can clearly see stars or planes, or possibly both – I am no expert in this area of ariel identification.

This could mean that tomorrow, like today, could defy the gloomy prognostications of callow weathermen and be bright and sunny rather than stormy.

One plan for the morrow is to go into the Garaf National Park and search for mushrooms. This is a national pastime and there are television programmes devoted to sad folk with wicker baskets pouncing on various fungoid growths with expressions not unrelated to some sort of sick pleasure.

As I am sure that this activity necessitates walking; and walking in places where paths are bent grass rather than carefully laid paving stones, I am not totally convinced that this sort of thing is necessarily better than finishing off my Bryson.

Still, as one says about all those things that one will not want to do again, “It will be an experience, won’t it!”

Which sentiment, when you think about it, is hard to gainsay.

Bring it on!

Friday, October 08, 2010

To refuse is churlish

If one may paraphrase the words of Noel Coward (and who wouldnt?) “Extraordinary how potent cheap chocolate is.”

These words came to mind when a small bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk was thrust into my hands from a pregnant colleague whose lust for the dark stuff knows few bounds.

As a devotee of the more enterprising flavours of chocolate in the cheaper stores I have been generous with my offerings to frantic staff as yet another test has to be marked.

I have introduced numerous disbelieving colleagues to the delights of dark chocolate with chilli and even darker chocolate with black pepper. The latest discovery was very dark chocolate with a “suggestion” of sea salt which I gave to pregnant colleague as a gift just to see her reaction. The mere suggestion that I might have such an exotic blend was enough to get the Cadbury’s bar; I can only imagine what her response will be when she actually pops a piece into her mouth.

It turns out that we have Monday and Tuesday off and she has taken the opportunity to book a flight back to raid Mothercare – I hope that she brings back a selection of the more notorious chocolate bars for which our country is justly famous.

I well remember the fury (probably whipped up by the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and other distasteful rags) when some obscure committee of the EC gave a pronouncement which decreed that all British “chocolate” did not contain a sufficient quantity of coco beans to deserve the title of chocolate and therefore had to be re-labelled as “chocolate type confection” or some such nonsense. Talk about straight bananas!

I prefer quality dark chocolate with coco content of 80% and above but who can deny the “potency” of a single square of Dairy Milk!

The taste is not that of a “chocolate type confection” but of childhood and comfort and security and memory and all the other soppy words that relate to something which is so much a part of you that it is hard to put into words. Dairy Milk is Proustian and no mistake!

The day seemed interminable with kids and teachers thinking only of the extra days that are to be added to the weekend to give us a mini break.

The weather looks awful, but we are relying on the eagerly believed delusion that Castelldefels has its own micro climate which might see some sun drying the tempests that have been forecast for the whole of the “holiday” period. I may have to adopt the unflinching approach to weather that I displayed during the less clement days of my highly expensive stays in Grand Canaria over the Christmas period. I can remember lying on my sun bed with more hope than heat on some days. On one particularly bad day I lay with gritted teeth during one rain shower thinking back to the innumerable assemblies to which “This too will pass” was the aphoristic highlight.

To be fair it always did and I was always able to march into the staff room in January with acceptably crisped arms and face!

I must remember that I still have the Fry and Bryson books to read which is a sure way of making me forget about the weather until a loo break forces me to consider the climatic reality with which I am surrounded.

Knowing that one has a four day break ahead gives an added impetus to one’s swim and I think that the first few lengths were completed with a richly languorous stroke which suggested space and time available more clearly than returning home and merely flopping into an armchair.

We had a meal out before which I was able to buy a new belt to replace the one which has served me faithfully (and is one of the few that can get round my waist) for many years. It was with a sort of regret that I threw it away in spite of the fact that it is out of shape; lacking some of the loops and has lost most of the surface sheen and looks frankly leprous. Belts are like dishcloths and are not to be thrown out unless some cataclysmic change occurs.

I also took the opportunity to lavish money on some eau de toilette which only needs a few squirts to achieve the required degree of opulent olfactory niceness rather than the stirrup pump which is needed for the cheap stuff which I have used lately. That is now gone and Chanel can now take its place!

The petty inconveniences of my day faded into insignificance after listening to a phone call from Paul about his week as headteacher in his new school. I do wonder how my colleagues would react if they had to teach in a school to which the police had to be called in to sort out disputes and restrain pupils and parents alike!

Still such thoughts will not sully the silky surface of my holiday mind as I read and study the sky for opportunistic breaks in the cloud!

I might even consider “tasks” if the weather is really bad!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I know my rights!

All the old prejudices are resurfacing.

All I want to do when I go to the swimming pool is swim. Not in itself an unreasonable desire: the clue is in the title of the building. Another clue is found by looking at the pool itself. It is neatly divided up into lanes with colourful floats clearly delineating the long thin divisions up and down which people are encouraged to swim.

And swim I do in spite of the irritating distractions that fling themselves into my path. Unfortunately I have cut my nails so I am unable to cut those flounderers who get in my way.

Today I chose the end lane next to the steps. This is a narrower lane than the others and only allows one swimmer to plough the watery furrow. I duly ploughed with the sort of determination and savagery that discourages any other mere paddler from daring to encroach.

Not so some sort of female child (in a totally unnecessary bikini) who cavorted in MY lane in what can only be described as frivolous and provoking manner. When I had reached the end of one length I turned and saw futile splashings at the other end of the pool. Nothing daunted I commenced my take-no-prisoners crawl and made for the hapless human.

The child had the bare faced audacity to swim towards me in a thoroughly uncoordinated parody of the forward crawl stroke that I was executing with grace and elegance. Just before the inevitable crash she had the cheek to swim under me in an ungainly frog-like kick stroke which, in my experience, has usually led to the crushing of various male appendages of passing importance. So as I was passing over her I instinctively adopted the save-the-bits convulsive crouch which took away somewhat from the dignity of the swim.

As the child showed no signs of being cowed by the increased intensity and splash of my next length I gave up and moved to the next lane.

In the complex hierarchy of the pool the lane into which I retreated was designated the “up” lane of a two lane complex with, as you may have guessed, the lane next to it designated the “down” lane.

Somewhat thwarted by this retreat the little minx then stood on the ledge at the end of the pool in her lane and swung her legs under the floats into my new lane!

Needless to say my next turn included a chopping motion of the arms which effectively removed the offending limbs from my section of the pool.

All was now fine.

Fine, until my empty lanes were invaded by a lady of a certain age but ungainly stroke whose progress up the pool could be described as “stately” in terms of speed but certainly not in execution. As is common with women of that sort she refused to let me pass as the stronger swimmer and kept to her snail like crawl through the water.

This was not a problem. With two swimmers in a two lane circuit it is easy for the faster swimmer to cut under the floats and leave the slower swimmer still making for the end of the pool while the stronger swims a shorter length to have a complete length available at the next turn.

All was fine.

Until the male equivalent of the woman appeared and joined our little circus.

He was a head-up and slow progress swimmer who made my cutting of lengths more difficult because I might loose the woman but a few strokes brought me up to the flailing feet of the man. He even had the overweening pride to cut a few lengths himself and thwart me! I was reduced to swimming breast stroke.

Although I have improved this stroke it is not my favourite and I find it draining and frustrating. I have no other real strokes: my back stroke is something of a joke and my butterfly has to be seen to be derided. My attempt at what I take to be side stroke fails to convince so the crawl is the only form of locomotion in the pool which does not destroy what is left of my street cred. after users of the pool have seen my swirling orange bathing costume!

My leisurely breast stroke did, however give me an opportunity to relish the Apocalyptic Swimmers who were destroying the lane next to me on the “down” side of the circuit. I have capitalized the swimmers because I am convinced that they form a world-wide club.

These swimmers are those, usually men though not infrequently women who have developed a leg action which I find impossible to duplicate. In essence it demands the raising of one foot out of the water and then smashing it down on the surface of the pool to create a spume heavy fountain effect which makes the slap of the tail fin of a disappearing sperm whale look like a discrete and furtive exit.

The water explodes from the surface and lashes swimmers on either side of the foot flapper. The hands of these people tend to be somewhat random as well and often encroach into the water of surrounding lanes.

The only approach to dissuade such people is a carefully calculated kick disguised as the requisite foot action to the breast stroke. As I was not wearing contact lenses and as the glass in my goggles had not been cleaned for a week, I felt that such precise counter measures were too risky for the myopic.

The real challenge of swimming should be to keep up a steady rhythm and not drown by the end of the period that you have set aside for the exercise; but I find dealing with my fellow swimmers to be much more of a burden. But it does pass the time!

I lost a free period today in the nicest possible way. The missing teacher was supposed to be taking football and when I appeared the first period had passed and I was told that the kids in 4ESO knew what they were supposed to do. I therefore fetched a chair, sat in the sun and watched in a disinterestedly paternal way the kids get on with it. As lost free periods go, that one went well!

Dinner was in a “new” bar in town to which we had not previously gone. We had three tapas and they were more than enough. The house wine was young, rough and assertive, but it went well with the tapas: small pieces of pork in an almond sauce: patatas bravas and bunyols with cod.

I am glad to report that I am typing this in the office on the third floor with the portable air conditioning machine going at full blast: long may such October days continue!

Tomorrow we can look forward to a long weekend as Monday (and possibly Tuesday) may be fiestas and bank holidays.

I think I shall sleep!

Oh Joy!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Seeing is believing!

If you ever want to feel sympathy for a pupil, simply look at the way that their parents park.  And then imagine what it is like to be brought up with role models like that!

More than anything else (with the possible exception of behaviour in a supermarket queue) this is as clear an indication of real character as you are likely to find on open display.

It is impossible to for me to find any further derogatory comments to make about the selfish, dangerous and the-world-only-exists-for-me attitudes that predominate in the mornings when the affluent deposit their offspring at our school.

Today I saw an example of double parking over a parking space – which has to be something of a first, even with the grotesque approach to parking that our self-centred parents have!

I think that it is a deleterious part of the journey to school that I have to pass parental parking before I start my day. We should be paid extra for the emotional wear and tear that comes with observing the truly selfish approach to road use that characterizes some of the more thoughtless clients of our establishment.

While the rest of the day was exhausting the evening was truly stimulating. When Irene called we make for our usual watering hole which is the local restaurant on the sea front. To our horror it had stopped serving meals by 8.30 pm. Disaster faced us until I remembered an almost forgotten determination to visit the Indian restaurant in Port Ginesta. This turned out to be an unexpected delight: from the spicy popadoms to the fresh juicy prawns in the biriani it was all excellent. And spicy. That probably explained why we were the only two people in the restaurant for most of the evening.

Our waiter seemed equally uncomfortable in all the languages that we could muster and I suspected that he was a relative of the owner who had just paid him a visit when we arrived and was pressed into service as they actually had customers! He did however, answer “Yes!” in resounding English to all our questions and orders. A place to return to!

I have now finished the next book in the summer reading library of one of my colleagues. “The White Woman on the Green Bicycle” by Monique Roffey.

This is set in Trinidad and the four sections of the book are dated 2006, 1956, 1963 and 1970. They chart the fortune of a couple, George and Sabine Harwood, as they cope with and in Sabine’s case fail to come to terms with living in Trinidad as white settlers.

The political overtones and the discussion of colonialism were interesting, but the book reminded me strongly of “Wide Sargasso Sea” and I am sure that there was a direct quotation from the novel at one point. The book uses multiple narrators and also the device of quoting from a series of unposted letters that Sabine writes to the charismatic political leader and eventual prime minister of Trinidad, Eric Williams after the British hand over power.

The echoes of “Wide Sargasso Sea” do this novel no favours as the power of Rhys’s work is through powerful selected detail, searing characterization and suggestion. There is too much in “Green Bicycle” which is derivative and overwritten. This novel takes over 400 pages to make fewer points than Rhys.

And it’s yet another reason not to visit Trinidad!

The pupils who have spent a month in Canada returned to school today and will rejoin my English class tomorrow. It will be interesting to see and hear what impressions they have brought back from this first attempt at a one way exchange with a foreign school.

Meanwhile we are that much nearer the weekend. Which is a good thing!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Absence makes the ear grow quieter

There is much truth in the old saying about the hammer hitting your head; it is indeed worth being hit just for the absolute delight of it stopping. So with children: two small kids are worth tolerating if only for the seraphic peace which comes with their removal!

To be fair the kids of whom I speak are delightful - if evil. The smile that the smaller of the two can give melts hearts and curdles milk; but then what child worth his salt cannot reduce blood relatives to a state of gibbering soppiness at the elegant curve of a lip or the arch movement of an eyebrow. I am not a blood relative and can therefore take a more measured approach and can watch anguish and anger over a carelessly spilt bottle of chocolate shake be transformed in the twinkling of an eye by the twinkling of a juvenile eye!

Admittedly we had ten to dinner, but only two of them made the crowd!

My class doing a translation of a children’s story from Spanish into English has now produced the finalish draft and the writing will now have to be considered by others in the school. The original story was published to produce funds for Haiti and it is hoped that the English version will appeal to another section of the buying public who will not only want to read the story but will also feel that warm glow of self satisfaction that only comes with doing good unto others!

For my own part, with the exception of Winnie the Pooh I do not think that I have ever read a children’s short story as many times as this one in the whole of my life.

The end of this class will mean that the children who have been working on the translation will now rejoin the class from which they were taken and the team teaching of the History of Art will now commence with the Art Teacher and me! This should be interesting!

The rest of my teaching does not occupy my mind much and I look forward more to the summer reading books that one colleague is allowing me to borrow one at a time. I am also conscious that I have my stash of books from a last foray into WH Smith’s in Bristol before I got on the plane for Barcelona waiting to have their pages turned.

So many books; so little time!

The ordering of the internet radio has turned into a fiasco with emails flying right, left and centre about the validity of my card. The fact that the expiry date has changed has thrown the whole of the organization of Amazon into complete confusion and I have clicked so many buttons that I am sure that I have paid for the damn thing three times over already and it is still not listed as having been sent!

Each moment that passes seems to mock me with its golden radiance: the sun grows in strength and potency and we have even had to turn on the air conditioning in the staff room. And I am not out on the Third Floor wallowing in the unseasonal heat. It is too, too cruel and my skin is becoming pastier each time I look at it!

Perhaps I should be aiming to swim in the outside municipal pool – though I hope to god that they have closed it thus allowing me the luxury of feeling that I would if I could but I can’t sort of thing.

I am steeling myself to visit the municipality to denounce the actions of my neighbours in destroying the poles which have recently been set in the pavements to discourage the indiscriminate parking in streets close to the sea.

I have, I must admit, little intention of being explicit (in spite of the witness that I could call!) and merely want to suggest in a directed way where the guilt for this criminal damage should lie. But I do want the posts replaced as the depredations of the neighbours have opened up a whole section of the road which now positive invites cars to park illegally and block our driveways.

This will be another test of my scanty Spanish and god alone knows what the poor people in the town hall will understand by the time that I have finished with them.

As is usual for me, my Spanish is given a status by other people (who can speak Spanish) which it in no way merits. My linguistic status is officially designated as a “false beginner” but that doesn’t stop people speaking to me as if I am completely fluent.

While I am in school the chances of my taking lessons are virtually nil and when I leave school I will not be able to afford them. And before anyone suggests that I do all this learning of the language myself I would ask them to take a good, long draught of reality!

Roll on the Kindle and a daily dose of The Guardian!