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, PoincarĂ©, 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?

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