Friday, November 26, 2010

The day before

The blissful silence of a class doing an examination – or at least as near to silence as a group of Spanish pupils get! They ask the most amazingly nit picking questions of the examination itself and are always driven by an almost overwhelming sense of injustice about what they don’t know.

It is not unusual to hear pupils say to a teacher when they have been told that something is wrong and have therefore been denied the mark, “But, I studied!” as if the mere effort of “learning” should be its own reward no matter the accuracy of that learning!

In English teaching you sometimes have to say that the sentence is wrong because it simply isn’t English. Sometimes the work that we are given by weaker pupils looks as though it has been composed by throwing fridge magnet words at the fridge and then writing down the results.

Although English is a remarkably flexible language in many ways or In many ways English is a remarkable flexible language or Remarkably flexible in many ways is English or English, a remarkably flexible language in many ways and so on, the kids manage to find a combination which even I cannot make work – even going back to the structures and spelling in the time of Chaucer!

As some lessons start at 8.15 am the school has a “breakfast” at 10.45 am when the students are given a baguette of some sort. The staff too are given a baguette which I usually ignore but today the offering was a pizza which was delicious. Unfortunately I also have a library duty which meant that I had to rush the savouring of the delicacy – but at least the taste remains!

I am now about to start a whole sequence of lessons which will take me to lunchtime. Then one lesson after lunch and a well deserved escape to complete the packing for my trip. I am relying on there being a decent branch of Tesco in High Wickham to stock my wardrobe with cut price clothing which seems to be in short supply in Catalonia.

Revisiting a store like Tesco makes one realize how far short the other supermarkets in Catalonia fall short of what we Brits have come to expect from a one-stop store. Catalonia has a whole selection of massive supermarket chains but they do not seem to me to have the same emphasis on quality and range that one expects from Tesco, especially.

The tragedy is that I have one piece of luggage and that is always smaller than one expects when it comes to buying things that you can’t get here, or which are far more expensive than an “own brand” equivalent.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The dry decision

Another bright and sunny day.

I know that I shouldn’t dwell on such things, but I still haven’t lost my simple delight in a rainless sequence of cold, but bright and cheerful days.

Today a discussion with the equivalent of the sixth form about the crisis in Spain and a clear division of opinion about the seriousness of the situation.

One boy asserted that much of the problem in this country is psychological – an interesting position to take in a country where there is 20% unemployment and talk of a further cut in the wages of “civil servants” such as teachers!

No-one to whom I have spoken has the slightest faith in the present government and they are acutely embarrassed at the mawkish and faintly embarrassing figure that their prime minister cuts in conferences abroad and world leaders seem to go out of their way to avoid speaking to him.

The situation of Ireland has made me (if not the people in this country) a little jittery about what might happen to Spain. One of the sixth formers said that the economy of Spain was based on tourism and construction and that one has declined and the other has largely been terminated with half built buildings dotted around the country and the city.

The financial background of our kids does have a fairly wide spread from those whose parents are the movers and shakers of the region and beyond, through the prosperous professional to the indigent professional (or teachers) and downwards! I have to say that the graph of the financial situation of our kids is slanted more towards the “haves” than the “have nots” but some of them could well be adversely affected by the continuing crisis.

Meanwhile I exist in a situation where my present salary and the “pourboire” I get on the day before my birthday in each month do not add up to what my salary was when I left Wales. A shocking state of affairs! But the sun does shine.

I have made an almost certain decision to pack, at least partially when I get home this evening; there is surely nothing worse than destroying one’s Friday evening by frantically putting the wrong things in a case which is too small. Though I have to admit that it is something which has been customary for me in the past. I’m not sure that something in which I am not panicking at the last moment actually counts as a “true” holiday!

I have also realized that I have not confirmed anything with my cousin and that I should have done that before now, but I will have to allow that little oversight to act at the “panic” part of my excursion.

In my mind I have a whole series of things that I want to do and objects that I want to buy and I am worriedly certain that I will not have time to get everything done. The compulsory visits to Tesco and M&S are more like a homage to things that are no more for me than a clear destination for things that I need.

The word “need” in itself is an interesting one as far as I am concerned. I “need” things like computers and other gadgets. As long as they come with flashing lights; shiny metallic surfaces; sleek design and complex instruction booklets – what, after all is the point of a gadget if it can be understood and mastered in a few minutes – then I am happy.

Even lever corkscrews, though admittedly simple and elegant in design and simplicity itself to use, have vagaries in their practical application that take many, many bottles to discover.

Not everything can be encompassed in the tissue pages of a multi-lingual tome where the sometimes rarefied use of English (at least) makes it appear to have been translated by a monoglot Serbian from the original Alpha Centurian.

The Internet has now provided the gadgetophile with access to others with his (and it’s usually a “his”) affliction and solutions to problems from any geek with a camera; a predilection for YouTube and an earnest hope that something he does will “go viral.”

I am still scratching the surface of my mobile phone (well, rubbing my finger across it, it is tactile after all) and it is doing very little more than my last mobile phone (significantly, I actually typed camera, but the two are virtually synonymous these days!) and I am stymied by the limited access that I have to the Internet from it. As it is “free” I do not have a contract to access the Internet from everywhere and that is something of a major limitation.

On my last phone I was able, with the inadvertent touch of the wrong key, to find the damn thing connecting to the internet at exorbitant cost. Now, as much as I try my present phone I can only get a connection with the Wi-Fi at school and home! The more sophisticated the more complicated!

Now I must do some packing. I really must – even if it is only for three days!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Am I missing someting?

I am thinking of writing a poem about my school and I shall entitle it “Does it have a mark?” This is because the status of learning in our establishment is directly related to the mark that one might get for shoving it into one’s head to allow one to regurgitate it on paper at a later date. And then promptly forget it of course.

One of the weaker years in our place is particularly concerned that they are not subject to “unfair” practices which will force them into the intolerable position of giving some of their precious time set aside for cramming to something which may not be in the exam and therefore, by virtue of not being examined, not being important and therefore can be dismissed from serious consideration.

Achievement has been narrowed into what can be examined and education is basically a mark out of ten.

It is exhausting to do something so essentially empty and the thanklessness of the consumers doesn’t make such a thankless task any the easier.

Ironically as I sit and fume at the impertinence of needy pupils the first of the welcome emoluments from my decades of toil should be pouring (well, dripping) into my bank account. I expect that my first cheque will be horrifically small as so-called “emergency” taxation is ripped from it but that must surely be repaid at the end of this financial year which is not too far away in April 2011.

I am sure that I should be taking some advice about what is going to happen over the next few months as the reality of what is occurring is going to affect my decisions about what to do next academic year.

Meanwhile the sun shines and all is not well with the world – although it would be if I could have the money without the drudgery of the work that goes with it. Alas, I have found to my cost that money does not come to one unasked, as it were!

Tonight should be the evening in which the Follett book is finished off and then will rust gently in its undisturbed corner for the rest of its existence until it falls into dust having been read once. Alternatively, I could take it in to school and get a few more reads for my money out of a novel that I should have ordered in its electronic form anyway.

Decisions! Decisions!

Monday, November 22, 2010

As if a Monday as not enough

It takes a certain sort of individualistic flair to fall “up” the stairs, but I managed to go it yesterday and in the process Split the nail on the index finger of one hand and jarred the middle finger of the other. Both “injuries” are of the type which does not merit compassion only faint ridicule, but both are irritatingly uncomfortable and remind you of their presence at ever opportune and inopportune moment. Typing is one of those activities that combine maximum utility with a fairly low level of discomfort given my throbbing fingers; but I tend to think that such exercise is, in some way, “good” for my trifling injuries and will ensure their disappearance in extra quick time.

I have discovered that falling and landing on your middle finger is not the most enjoyable of experiences but it does reinforce those half remembered lessons in physics about the increase of force when momentum is concentrated on a small point!

I am now well into the Follett novel and am becoming increasingly irritated by the way in which the author gives extra historical information for the benefit of readers who might lack the necessary general knowledge to follow the text. As his novel is set in 1914 and we are now firmly in the trenches there is a lot of scope for explanation, which he never fails to give.

I know that general knowledge is obvious to those who know and incomprehensible to those who don’t. You either know the three rivers that flow through Cardiff or you don’t. If you do then the information is obvious and if you don’t then the guesses get more and more wild.

Follett’s book is for a general readership and its swathe of geography and history is “breathtaking” (as I am sure the advertising states) so there is a necessity for illumination at certain points but it is nonetheless irritating.

The joins in the formula for writing a book like this are also showing and, although I am devouring the damn thing, I am feeling slightly cheated at the same time. I can see no discernible difference in the structural form of this book from the other two that I have read. To be fair to Follett: why should he change when he has had such notable success in the past? Why indeed and, after all, in spite of my misgivings I did buy the book and I am, in spite of what I am saying, enjoying the book.

Although cold we are enjoying bright sunshine and, yet again, I look wistfully at the panoramic views which sweep down to the Mediterranean and wonder what the hell I am doing here.

Tomorrow, as far as I can work out from the information given to me by the kind people in the UK, will be the first time that I begin to get back some of the money that I have been putting away for the last few decades. It will be a revealing moment for me to find out exactly how much my profession thinks that I am worth after giving an inordinate amount of my time to the education of the young!

I think that it will be another of those “wait-a-minute” moments that will give a new reality to my present way of living.

These questions are more pressing because (partially because of the “wasted” sunshine) I sense the sort of negativity in the staff today which makes me ponder more urgently the application to my own situation of many of the relative pronouns which I have been suggesting that the kids might like to learn!

I listened with disbelief to the pronouncements of the Bishop of Rome about contraception. In the real world I think that his attitude is viciously out of kilter with the demands of the world today, but I also felt a sort of sneaking delight unravelling why he said what he said.

He seems (translation is a tricky thing) to have said in his “book long interview” that male homosexual prostitutes can wear condoms to prevent the spread of disease, specifically that of AIDS. But female prostitutes? Apparently not. The theological justification is that there can be no chance of conception when two men are having sex so that the contraceptive device does nothing to interfere with the conception because there cannot be one. Whereas, on the other hand with female prostitutes there is a chance of contraception and therefore . . .

This puts me in mind of what I have read about the high days of Byzantium when it was said that it was impossible to have a hair cut without engaging your barber in a discussion about the niceties of theology about the divinity or otherwise of Jesus; co-substantial: co-eternal; being one with the Holy Ghost and God the Father etc. taking first place as the number one hot topic to produce a lively conversation while the hair fell!

The truly horrific death rate from AIDS in Africa cannot, of course have any bearing on the debate about contraception in the Roman Church (a nicely ambiguous sentence there!) because the important practicalities have to be based on Jesuitical (naturally) reasoning which uses nit-picking theology rather than the needs of a dying continent!

A much more civilized meeting after school with a colleague preceded by a selection of tapas ranging from stuffed vine leaves to crystallized fruit – a simple repast with actual work afterwards! The things I do for education!

I am now steadily working my way through the Follett novel, though I have steadfastly refused to take it to school to read in the moments that are not filled with teaching or preparation. Such activity is frowned upon in school as every available moment in our ridiculously long day is expected to be filled with school work. However, as far as I am concerned reading is furthering the subject content which is essential for my discipline. Or something.

Only a hundred or so pages to go and we have only had half a dozen remarkable coincidences so far, so plenty of room for a few more before the saga comes to an end!

And still no real preparation for the jaunt to Britain!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Time passes again and again

Already the morning has gone and I have done nothing about getting my stuff together for the journey to Britain. Not only the physical impedimenta that is necessary for modern travel but also the psychological help which is essential for those benighted souls who are flying into Luton (breathe in not in Garth) rather than a real airport.

The only time I have been to Luton was when a flight was diverted there. The placed was like a morgue and I was glad to get out of there. Perhaps things have changed.

I can hardly contain my excitement at staying in High Wickam – a new geographical experience. Not to mention collecting my delayed birthday present of my “treated” laptop which should (I have complete faith) allow me to see British TV programmes via the internet and the Pauls’ digibox. Time will tell.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Too much already

The absence of Thursday and Friday are explained by the horror of having the school day extended in each instance. Thursday was the occasion of the presentation of certificates to those pupils who had passed the various Cambridge examinations that rule the school with a severity which makes the rigidity of steel seem like the merest wisp of muslin.

As this ceremony (at which I was the official photographer) did not start until seven in the evening the time after school was spent in desultory conversation and despairing attempts to try and finish the latest book which I have been loaned, “The Constant Gardner” by Le Carré.

This book is not quite the normal thriller in that it is set in Africa and concerns the crusade of a young diplomatic wife against the machinations of international pharmaceutical companies as they try and “trial” a new drug to combat typhoid by using it on poor Africans before it had reached the stage for large scale deployment against the disease. The fatal side-effects are suppressed and the novel is a story of greed, corruption, murder and deception which makes for compelling reading.

This is one of those novels where the guilty party is made clear almost at the start of the book and therefore the interest is seeing how the obvious wrong may or may not be righted. I don’t think I give anything away when I say that this is no fairy story and the central characters are flawed by intensely real characters about whose posthumous and living reputations the reader is made to care.

I remember a novel where one of its futuristic details was that the “problem” of Africa had been attempted to be solved by the wholesale nuking of the continent; “The Constant Gardener” does not add to one’s optimism for the future of the continent, and it seems to encourage the depression and all pervading sense of failure that comes with a survey of corruption, war, misery, starvation, political disaster, civil war, exploitation, nepotism – and any other kind of abuse that makes up the present complexion of this disastrous continent.

And yet the individual striving for justice and right is always (however self deluding it might be) uplifting. For a while, until reality forces itself back into the picture!

Well worth reading – and a major motion picture if I am not mistaken. And if I am then it should be.

My lust for electronic, portable and sophisticated has been satisfied by my purchase, at absurd and completely unjustifiable cost, of a new mobile phone.

It is not an i-phone. I have spurned such obvious pabulum for dedicated gadget freaks and gone for the more elevated option of a Samsung Galaxy S. If nothing else the screen is bigger than its all conquering rival and I know (because I have watched incomprehensible videos on YouTube) that is also has other “things” that the unmentionable does not.

For me the USP is the way of inputting text.

My last phone had an on-screen keyboard, but my spatulate fingers only approximated to the relevant keys and I often ended up with the unintended gobbledygook of frustrated miniaturized technology rather than the usual gibberish of unedited flow of consciousness typing!

My present phone uses a truly disturbing form of input where a lazy drawl of a finger approximating to a selection of the keys necessary to form the word, produces, you’ve guessed it, the word!

In as disturbing a display of prescience as I have seen outside those little electronic balls which ask you to think of an object and then in a series of questions to which you only answer yes or no, works out what you have in your mind, the keyboard finger slur does actually get the word more often than not!

This phone (like “The Other”) lives or dies by its use of “applications” which are as bread and mother’s milk to your average teenager but as terra incognito to me.

There is a button, usefully marked as “applications” which, when pressed, reveals screenfulls of gaudily coloured and artfully designed masterpieces of the world of the logo which invite me to delve ever deeper into the electronic universe inhabited by the young.

I noted in the advertising for this machine, which, had it been human would have been burnt at the stake until relatively recently - and in some parts of rural Norfolk and most of the southern states of America up to and including the present day – that many of these “applications” are “free”. This, to my untutored and naïf mind suggests that some, or indeed many of them are not free, and I have a numbing feeling that I am going to tap my life away by carelessly loading something which will drain away my money while I gaze on in helpless misery doing the electronic equivalent of sucking my thumb.

For reasons which are in some vague, indefinable way linked to the Defenestration of Prague; the Begums of Oudah; the Rise of the Protestant Hegemony and The Industrial Revolution mixed with a half understood version of Puritan Calvinism, I have bought my phone thus making it (in a pleasing oxymoron) “free.”

I am not sure what advantage this gives me other than encouraging me to spend vast sums of money on the machine. The “point” of this particular phone is that it has to have almost constant access to the internet for most of the fun bits to work, but as I am “free” I do not have a contract to give me phone access – but that is something I will have to work out as I get to know what the thing is capable of.

I do recall that in my last phone it linked to the internet at any casual clicking on inviting buttons, and I am sure that my present phone will do the same. If I let it. I have no knowledge about how much anything is costing and with a pay-as-you-go attitude, linking to the internet is very much supping with the devil for which long spoons were invented! What I have to do is find the electronic equivalent of the “long spoon” – and before anyone tells me that can be found by not buying a mobile phone which relies on the internet to function, please remember that love of gadgets often moves beyond ordinary logic!

Today it has had the actual temerity to rain. Admittedly it was not for long and the pavements soon dried, but I take it as a piece of effrontery which can easily be linked to today’s temperature which seems to me to be quite unnecessarily cold. We have had to resort to the demeaning expedient of turning on a small portable radiator and talk about hanging curtains to block off the heat sucking extractor which is the open stairs.

I have the uneasy feeling that the suggested solution of a curved rail on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs with curtains depending from it may give the living room the look of some sultry bordello! I await more concrete plans with a certain apprehension.

Tomorrow I should prepare my bit and pieces for the epic voyage to the UK for the celebrations of Aunt Bet. As I am spending both nights of my stay in deepest, darkest England I am also packing my trusty (!) GPS even though I think that I have a GPS as part of my new phone. It is remembering the small things that is the sign of an experienced traveller – on that basis I am little better than a stay at home! Not only that, but with what little I remember to pack I find myself leaving small reminders of my stay where ‘ere I stop! I suppose it is my way of doing my bit for the alleviation of the financial crisis by spending more to replace that which I leave!

In theory I should be able to download books and music to my phone thus obviating the necessity of taking either with me on this trip. I am not yet convinced but I will see if it is possible in the few days that I have before I go.

Time to experiment.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What money will buy

There being nothing wrong with my mobile phone, I have bought another.

That sentence has all the simple elegance of Austen; though she might have used a semi-colon rather than a mere comma. And it is a sentiment that all gadgetophiles might read and think it states nothing but a completely understandable and ordinary sentiment.

I do not yet have the thing in my hot little hand as it is the “phone of the moment” and, before you ask, not anything as vulgar as an i-phone, but something which is, allegedly, bigger and better.

That remains to be seen, as does my use of the thing. My present phone is woefully under-used with my attempts to delve deeper inflicting no more than surface scratches on the goodies packed inside. On the frustrating basis of ineptitude I have bought something even more sophisticated and powerful. There is a certain sort of twisted logic there if you search for it. At least if you are me there is!

Even the Spanish and Catalan papers had pictures of a couple who had just announced their engagement. The disinterested part of me that tries to be fair is happy that they are happy: the rest of me (the vast majority of me) is appalled that such an undistinguished pair have achieved international, world-wide notoriety because the male part of the couple is the son of a broken marriage of an adulterer father and a publicity seeking mother; whose almost completely talentless grandmother (married to an insensitive, accident prone, bigoted Greek husband) achieved prominence because her diffident, stuttering father was forced into prominence by the selfish philandering of her arrogant playboy uncle . . . I could go on, but you get the general idea.

I understand that there was journalistic over-kill in the UK about this essentially empty event; at least I was saved that by being in Catalonia, but it was nevertheless depressing to see photos on the front pages of respectable newspapers.

I can only assume that with the world wide crisis in the financial world; cholera in Haiti; a growing critical situation in Morocco; the continuing (alleged) corruption in FIFA; the election campaign in Catalonia; the disaster of unemployment and one or two other stories that come to mind, it was, nevertheless a “slow” news day which gives two nonentities the absurd level of coverage that they have been given.

Let’s face it, the monarchy of Great Britain has been, since The Glorious Revolution an increasingly empty institution having all the rhetoric of authority but none of the real power.

All its existence demonstrates is the effective negation of the reality of a meritocracy in the United Kingdom. It is a living contradiction of what democracy is all about. It has no place whatsoever in the modern world.

When Big Ears and the only “noble” virgin over eighteen that the authorities could find were married I went to the USA to escape the maudlin, sycophantic, grovelling and suffocating coverage that was given to the great non-event. To my horror I discovered that there was actually more television coverage in New York than there was in London!

I hope that Barcelona will have much more restraint than that!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Get with the Age!

I have made a fundamental error in buying the new Ken Follett novel – not necessarily in terms of its literary worth (that remains to be seen) but rather in terms of its actual form.

I bought the book from a bookshop in Castelldefels and I am now the proud possessor of a massive wedge of reading. I have read the first few pages which start the history of the Williams family in their small South Wales Valleys home just as the youngest of the family begins his career down the mines. The link has been made from this humbled family to the important people who live in the great house (Ty Gwyn!) in the neighbourhood . . . and I know with a sickening certainty that I will never read this book again.

Even at this stage of the reading I can see the same old formula beginning to work its way through the narrative in the same way that it did in the other two books of Follett that I have read. But it should be entertaining. Just like the other two.

But, back to my mistake. The problem is, of course the format. I am going to have this lump of literature lurking in my library taking up valuable space whereas if I had bought the book electronically and downloaded it to my Kindle it would have cost about a third of the price I paid and only take up a miniscule electronic space.

I need to get into the electronic frame of mind and realize that books which I want to read are available at a reasonable price. It will take a sea-change in my attitude because the only books which I have downloaded to my Kindle and Sony e-book readers have been free. I have yet to pay real money for any e-book, but the time is coming.

I have done a little desultory hovering with the new device in order to break it in. It seems heavier and altogether more fierce than its slimmer and lighter predecessor. That machine has been relegated to the higher regions of the house to be gently ignored.

An early finish tomorrow and then two days of meetings after school – just to make the weekend more welcome!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Money and machinations

Our school has scheduled a meeting lasting for at least two hours after school on Friday.

And this is being greeted with delight because it was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday morning!

I will be there in spite of the fact that I should have left the school over an hour before the meeting is scheduled to start as my payback for an early start for two mornings and will also have stayed in school on Thursday for a presentation evening. It is at times like this that I look again at my salary statement at the end of the month and wonder if it is all worthwhile.

There is talk (I suspect breathed abroad as a worst case scenario so that the reality will seem much better – see Friday late meeting instead of Saturday meeting above!) of a further cut in governmental salary by some 8% next year! I assume that this is merely a typical horror story thought up after half digesting governmental gossip – but if it isn’t then there really will be riots in the streets!

In the complex way in which we are paid part of our salary is paid by the “Foundation” which runs our school and the rest is paid by the Generalitat. The proportions depend on the level of teaching of the individual working in the school. All Junior and ESO teaching is paid by the Generalitat while the nursery staff and teachers who take the equivalent of the sixth form are paid by the foundation. I therefore have two pay slips to reflect that my pay is made up of contributions from both the Generalitat and the Foundation. As the proportions differ from teacher to teacher it would be divisive if the teachers with a higher proportion of teaching in the Generalitat funded areas were to suffer a pay cut while those in the Foundation were to be paid in full.

As it is, the Foundation is paying everyone as if the cut had not been made – but it does mean that there has been no pay increase this financial year and it looks as though that pay freeze is going to continue for the foreseeable future. This is a state of affairs which is not acceptable and eventually the strains will tell and the whole situation will far apart.

With something approaching 20% unemployment we are constantly reminded how lucky we are to be in a job. I keep telling everyone that compared with the pay rates for teaching in the UK the amount of salary that we get is laughable and we should feel no real gratitude for preserving a pay rate which is little short of contemptible.

However, in comparison with the majority of jobs in this country, teachers are not badly paid. I have no information about the pay rates in the state sector, but I am told that within the private sector our pay is par for the course.

I fail to see that the cost of living is substantially cheaper here than in the UK so the diminished salary lowers the standard of life that a teacher can expect.

I realize that I am in a slightly (!) different position from that of the majority of my colleagues but even so I try and understand what might be happening in the economic and political sphere of my adopted country – and I worry!

As far as I can see (and don’t forget that I am myopic) there appears to be a great deal of turning a blind eye to the realities with which we are surrounded. Life seems to be going on in a fairly even sort of way, but I do not feel that there is much reality behind the complacency.

Ireland is presented as the country (after the fiasco of Greece) to pose the most potent threat to the stability of the Euro Zone – but Spain, in spite of its economic “miracle” in the past, is not so far behind.

Well, all I can say is that I have done my bit by offering to invest in the Catalan Government’s Bond Issue – I only hope that my money is a damn sight safer than it was in the “safe, steady, unspectacular” funds that I was recommended to invest in a few years ago!

But, when all is said and done, it’s only money! And this afternoon I have the delightful task of spending some on one of those items which brings no delight to the hardened spendthrift – a cordless vacuum cleaner!

There are some things which shouldn’t count as “spending” or should be classified as “bad spending” in much the same way as Anthony classed calories as “good” and “bad” with good calories found in things like chocolate, cream and alcohol and bad calories found in foods such as cabbage, carrots and tofu.

For me, for spending to be good there has to be an element of frivolity to it. There is no excitement in paying the electricity bill in spite of the fact that it powers so many of my essential gadgets; but the buying of gadgets is in itself a noble, nourishing and wholesome exercise of financial control.

The only way in which buying something as everyday as a hoover could be considered as anything other than a chore is to lash out on a robot version of the cleaner – but even I regard that as an extravagance too far.


The hoover has now been bought and, even as we speak, is on charge for the 16 hours which is necessary before its first use. Given the number of stairs and the paucity of power points in the house, it is necessary to buy a cordless machine. On the advice of Toni’s sister I have purchased a Rowenta Air Force 24V machine which, the label informs me, gives the (highly qualified) “equivalent performance” of a 2200W cylinder machine.

Given its price it ought!

This is one gadget that I will not be rushing to try out!

The hysteria is already beginning to build about the forthcoming Barça-Real Madrid match. My response to this eagerly awaited event is to go to Britain to escape the worst of the vitriol that will be spilled in the psyching out which goes on before the whistle blows to start the match!

The silence from Britain about my birthday present (the treated laptop which will allow me to see British TV programmes) is a little worrying. I am expecting to pick up this “magic” laptop on my trip to England programmes having been, as it were, programmed into it which will allow viewing of the first decent television I will have seen for some years in this country!

Now, at last for some reading.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

City walks

To my infinite shame I lost an entire museum on Saturday.

I was, as one always is, confident about the location of the gallery that I was supposed to visit to check out the exhibition of photographs which will be the eventual destination for my Media Studies group. That confidence was ill placed.

I knew whereabouts it was having visited it a few times in the past, but my approach (arrogance! arrogance!) was down a slightly different approach road and my patience (and bladder) were both giving out when I decided to cut my losses and have lunch. After attending to the bladder!

Lunch was in a small run-down Chinese owned restaurant which offered a very reasonable menu del dia (without drinks, but on a Saturday) and at least it looked clean.

I cannot say the same for the toilet but, at the stage that I had reached I would gratefully have used a North African place of easement.

The food was adequate with a blandly gentle chicken curry and a couple of mini bottles of drinkable red wine to give the whole experience a dose of the style which was lacking. My asking if the gallery or museum of modern art was near elicited nothing more than blank incomprehension and it took a little more aimless wandering in circles before I discovered that I was within in a street of the place all along!

I got in to the exhibition using my out of date “I am a teacher” card and attempted to buy the catalogue using my bank card. This was impossible so I had to scrabble together all the cash I could find to pay for the €24 catalogue. I couldn’t actually make it to the full total but the kind lady at the desk actually let me off the last few cents.

I am now armed with telephone numbers and names to try and arrange the visit. And a visit is certainly a good idea. The exhibition is “World Press Photo 10.” The photographs which make up this exhibition are press winners in various categories and they make fascinating, if sometimes disgusting viewing. They range in subject matter from the quotidian to the appalling. There are graphic photos of a ritual stoning which are deeply unsettling.

My favourites were (leaving out photos of penguins which have an unfair claim on my attention) one of a walrus (or some such creature) photographed face-on with a aerial circle of flipped sand and a photo of a ship sailing through an ice channel; the composition, view-point and the colour of the water make this compelling.

There are many other images, perhaps too many, which demand attention and it is disconcerting to wander through the subterranean gallery and move effortlessly from subject to subject with emotions and responses pulled in so many different directions.

If you are in Barcelona or if the exhibition is going to come to your area it is one not to miss.

The Family had descended by the time I returned to Castelldefels and the redesign of the space in the living room was able to accommodate them much more easily than before. We are now considering different curtains and perhaps paint to make the room unrecognizable for future visitors!

The youngest members of The Family took their toll and the weariness extended itself to fingers as well as mind – which explain the missing day.

Although not hot the day has been sunny and, although it is early evening as I type, I am doing so with the door to the terrace open and the sound of the sea crashing its way in. I am, of course, in T-shirt and shorts.

I was the only person in this sort of attire as I waited in line to get the pollo a last for lunch. Spaniards are great believers in the significance of the months of the year and what season should be indicated if you are living in a particular month – this is in spite of the temperatures which indicate something else. I go on heat rather than orthography and will respond to precious sunlight whenever it makes its gracious presence felt.

The War III

The second post along our drive ways has now been unceremoniously snapped off. I checked the rubbish, but I fear that the criminals threw it away last night and our ever efficient refuse collectors have taken away the evidence.

So, these people (and, let’s face it we know who they are) have destroyed the posts which protect our driveways from strangers parking there so that they can have an easier approach to illegally park their cars there. That may be a clumsy sentence but it does tell you who the people are who are guilty of criminal damage and theft.

The end result is that the removal of the posts at the edge of the pavement now gives an uninterrupted stretch of precious pavement and drive way which is an open invitation to those people who find it impossible to park more than 50 yards away from where they want to be.

The behaviour of the people close to us (ah, ever nearer to an identification and denunciation) has made access points to our property into parking spaces. God rot them!

I have done my homework as set by Suzanne and watched the film “The Mona Lisa Smile” (2003) starring Julia Roberts and directed by Mike Newell.

Set in 1953 it follows the introduction of a new art history teacher played by Julia Roberts into the conservative girls’ educational establishment of Wellesley. As is usual in this type of “charismatic teacher causes ructions” the norms are questioned; a liberal mode of expression is established and chaos ensues.

The hypocrisy of the establishment is established and in the end, to give at least a modicum of reality to the situation, the “offending” teacher is forced to leave and find pastures new.

I don’t think that there was anything in this film which added to the Romantic and easy psychology of “The Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams. All of these films are built on the principle that The Establishment thinks that knowledge is dangerous and the ability to think is seen as the destruction of The System.

These films are, of course made by the system and form part of the “comfortable” questioning that gives the illusion that even if things are bad we talk about them and that is a significant part of the solution.

It is now time for me to start reading the new Ken Follett book which looks more like a breeze block than a brick!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Books make things better

A long day with a lost free period and half of a supposed “free” lesson gained from examinations lost as well. Together with teaching and the writing of examinations questions it was a relief to go home early as “payment” for my two early starts on the last couple of days.

Our jaunt into town for a Friday evening drink was enlivened by our finding a café which we had not been in before which offered a bocadillo and a drink for €3. I was able to have the unlikely combination of a black pudding sandwich with a glass of champagne! Ah Spain!

As we were in a different part of Castelldefels I was introduced to an organic shop in which I bought some organic goat’s cheese and a book shop in which I bought two expensive but well illustrated and interesting art books.

The sight of the new Ken Follett book made me wonder if they had it in English. Not in the first books shop but apparently in the other shop in the chain. This shop, duly visited, not only produced an expensive copy of the book but also another excellent book on Catalan artists.

I shudder to think how much I have spent on books this evening. Which, of course, is not even remotely true. The three art books that I purchased are exceptional value for money with excellent selections of paintings to compensate for the language that the text is written in! The book on Catalan art gives more information about a whole range of Catalan artists from the classic personalities like Rusiñol, Casas (my personal favourite) and Fortuny to the modern trash like Tàpies. I have spent most of the evening gloating over the substantial pile of books that these hefty tomes comprise.

I have bought the Follett because this massive volume is supposed to mention Cardiff. I have read books for worse reasons!

Tomorrow into Barcelona to have a look at the news photo exhibition prior to taking the media studies group there and perhaps another light splurge of casual spending!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The art of frustration

The exhibition in Caixa Forum was bitterly disappointing. Entitled “Human, all too human. Spanish art of the 1950s and 1960s” it was a sparse display of mediocre paintings in a range of tired styles.

It did have some Dalí etchings and a couple of third rate Picassos while the rest was a selection of sad and uninteresting examples of faded avant guard self indulgence masquerading as cutting edge art.

This had all the trademark pretention of a collection of an institution which wanted names without caring about the quality. I didn’t really like any of their purchases (or indeed borrowings) and we walked through the exhibition at a brisk trot.

Thank god that the nibbles and glass of wine in the café of Caixa Forum were more than acceptable.

The most remarkable aspect of this trip into Barcelona was trying to find a parking space.

I discovered a whole neighbourhood of small streets on Montjuic that were astonishing not only for their verticality but also for their narrowness. I eventually parked, after squeezing past an amazingly inconsiderately parked car and finding myself in a cramped street with a large free parking space.

It was but a short walk to the exhibition from the first normal parking space I have ever found in Barcelona to the exhibition. It is only a pity that the works of art did not match such a unique occasion.

Leaving the parking space necessitated a great deal of very exact driving along a narrow street filled with parked cars. They had all thoughtfully turned their wing mirrors in which just about allowed me to make my stately progress back to wider streeted civilization!

By the time I got home I was exhausted.

An exhaustion which was built on a number of hours later when I got up for an early start in school.

I have at least marked the papers from the test which was held yesterday: a depressing experience.

I also went through the English translation that the kids did of a children’s short story for the umpteenth time incorporating a second set of suggestions from other readers. I think that I am now done with the project and it is for others to take it further and see whether there can be an English printing of the text. As it was written to provide funding for the disaster relief in Haiti it would be a good thing if it could be sold more widely.

This has been a full day during which I don’t seem to have stopped working. It has therefore been a crushingly tiring day – but one in which the work completed has been productive.

My journey home was uneventful that my arrival in the immediate area of the house was interesting as, suddenly and without warning, a road that I have used since arriving in the area has been made into a no entry street for cars.

The road outside the house is still blocked off with the arbitrary trenches now filled in and the quantities of concrete slowly hardening. I think that the road surface is going to be even more eventful to drive over than it was before – and believe me it was a bumpy experience.

I think that they (whoever “they” are) are planning to do something to one of the major slip roads which link us with the motorway out to Barcelona. Tomorrow should be interesting!

And it is the start of the weekend as well! If only to recuperate from the journey to and from work!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to get there

Living where I live at the moment is like being inside a three dimensional Pac man game.

The local council (in its infinite wisdom) has decided to “do something” to the roads in the immediate vicinity of the house.

There doesn’t seems to be any rhyme or reason to their destruction as in some roads a trench like section has been excavated for no other reason than it looks logical and tidy. The holes seem to have no relationship with subterranean services or sewerage but they are at least geometric.

We have, of course, of course, naturally been told nothing about what is going on. We have had no information about which roads might be fully closed or might be partially inaccessible. We have been told nothing.

This means that every journey is one at the end of which you have no idea about how you will get back to your home. Sometimes barriers are left tantalizingly open to tempt the bold driver into a labyrinth of further barriers and trenches where a single false move will entail very expensive extrication.

A few days ago I found that all access roads to the house had been blocked off so that the only way to get home was by driving the wrong way down a one way street: backwards.

Roads look as though they have been “treated” by French student revolutionaries who are cutting off access by the police. Barricades have been erected and are more than effective in confusing the population who are only trying to find their own little domestic security.

And it looks as though there is no end in sight. The area of operations seems to have extended itself to neighbouring streets and driving anywhere is fraught with exciting horror.

As the excavations increase so the incomprehensibility of their purpose becomes more glaring. I tell myself that there must be a reason and then I hear the sage advice of my colleague reminding me that I am not in Britain and my expectations should be consequently modified!

Who knows what will be a no-go area tomorrow – or even this evening!

This afternoon: Culture. And perhaps a little refreshment before the return to the dark depths of the rubble strewn neighbourhood in which the re-arranged living room invites calm contemplation after the rigours of being part of the transport “video game” which is our transport system at the moment.

I sometimes fantasize about what would happen if, at the end of a Language Control, which is what we call the regular examinations that the pupils have to take, I told the pupils to put their pens down and wait for their papers to be collected.

In fact, of course, I know exactly what would happen: they would not put their pens down and they would whisper to each other answers which they would then scribble down in a last desperate effort to gain a few extra marks.

All their papers would have to be cancelled and I would have a much easier marking job.

If you take your eyes off the kids for a moment: they cheat. They twist in their chairs to show their papers to a friend or they twist their bodies and their necks to look at someone else’s paper. They consult scraps of paper or furtively look at hidden books. Whatever tricks there are – they use!

We even had a case of a Tipped bottle with a specially prepared label which, although it looked normal, was packed with scientific information where manufacturing information was on the original!

This thought comes about after the depressing display of vulgarity at the end of an exam today. I got the class settled and started before the other two classes had begun; I gave clean instructions as to the time limits and gave warnings throughout the exam about the time remaining. With ten minutes to go I urged them to check and gave a five minute warning. At the end of the time I attempted (!) to collect the papers. In as childish a display of petulant selfishness the kids (because kids they are) begged me to “start at the other end” to give the individual more time; they started writing desperately and winged when I tore their papers away from them; they began (Oh the old story!) to complain of unfairness. A few of them even had the temerity to walk to the door to see if the other classes had finished – conveniently forgetting about the extra time they had had at the start.

As you can probably tell, I was furious with their juvenile behaviour and even the blessed thought that I can, if I so choose simply walk away was not enough to placate me.

As if to exacerbate the situation it appears that we are an examination short and so will have to construct a new one tomorrow. Sometimes the money I earn in this place seems far too expensive.

Then calmer, possibly more mercenary, councils prevail and I subside into my jovial acceptance of the vagaries of the clientele with which we have to deal.

The only trouble is that I am still left with a sheaf of examination papers to mark.

Never mind Culture this evening: it’s the only thing keeping me going.

That isn’t strictly true but I rather like to emphasise the “saving” nature of the arts – it justified the amount of reading I do!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sun and shade

After an absurdly glorious dawn where the bases of the clouds were illuminated by a numinously golden light, the reality of the day has confirmed that autumn has arrived.

A fire drill forced us all out into the cool air of the terrace looking down onto the playground and I, for one, was glad that I had put on my jacket to observe events.

This is virtually the first time since the end of the summer that the month has made itself felt in low-ish temperatures during the day. Yesterday was a little subdued, but it was quite pleasant wandering around in T-shirt and shorts, although I am not the one you should ask about feeling the cold as I am notorious for giving the “wrong” answer when ordinary mammals ask, “Is it cold outside?”

It has been decided that the re-arrangement of the living room should go ahead with the threat of an “accent” wall painted in red as the design equivalent of a slap in the face. The trip to IKEA has now been scheduled and the catalogue number of the piece of furniture has been noted.

In a sort of “end of era” way this new piece of Swedish chipboard will replace one of the remaining furniture memories of Maskrey’s of Cardiff when at last the swivelling television stand will be put out for collection.

A lost day.

Those who have been to IKEA; bought from IKEA; built from IKEA know how time becomes somewhat elastic as the diagrams are studied in preparation for construction.

I suppose that it was something of a triumph that the visit to IKEA immediately after school; the purchases; the return home and the construction of the furniture only took us until midnight.

Considering what we have gone through in the past this was relatively plain sailing.

Yes, trying to identify oddly shaped tiny screws; differentiating between screws of almost identical size; finding the pieces of chipboard with the five holes in the pattern of four and . . . well, anyone who has built anything from that store will know the petty annoyances and faint impatience that is engendered by their construction and which has the power to destroy families and break friendships!

I think that the final hitch that almost finished us off was discovering that the unit (which was supposed to be bright red) and was actually a depressing, dead looking russet brown with a long scratch on the top surface was actually that colour and in that condition because it was covered with a bluish protective adhesive plastic sheet. It was trying to get this off which nearly precipitated fatal hysteria.

Scrabbling at virtually invisible edges of transparent plastic coverings in the early hours is not my idea of fun – still, if I had wanted fun would I actually have gone to IKEA in the first place?

Anyway the unit is built and the room has been rearranged. Plus ça change!

Tomorrow I have to go to an exhibition of photographs in preparation for a visit by a media studies class. It is also a day on which the same year group is being given an examination which will have to be marked pretty soon. Just as well I have a free period last thing before I visit the exhibition.

Meanwhile I can sit and type in the light of the reflected gleam from the gloss surface of the recently created furniture!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday Swanning

The War: Part II

The criminals have now tried to make their destruction of the pavement post look less obvious by filling in the hole that they have created by their wrenching the post out of its cemented position. They have used the detritus comprising the semi-set cement and other rubbish on the pavement to make their gaping guilt less obvious.

I shall take another photograph.

The other post (which previously disappeared in the Great Destruction) is also looking less than secure. It would appear that “they” are systematically loosening it, presumably prior to its clandestine removal. At present there is, illegally, a motorcycle parked on the pavement next to it.

I shall take another photograph.

It is now a whole day since the crime was reported and I am eager for the forces of retribution to sweep down on the obviously guilty (allegedly) and meet out recondite punishment; preferably with my watching. With any reasonable luck I might be allowed to wield the salvaged metal post to add a touch of irony to the penalty!

On a more domestic level there is a move afoot to re-arrange the living room. This will necessitate the purchase of some low level piece of furniture to house the video etc and provide a stand for the television.

While, in principle I approve of the periodic unsettling of comfortable surroundings, I am keenly aware that this project will necessitate another visit to IKEA which, while in itself no bad thing, will provide another opportunity to test one’s patience as entire families lay an obstacle course of cunningly placed bodies designed to delay and infuriate a “normal” person’s progress along the serpentine course which the store forces on the impatient purchaser.

Lunch was a triumph directly related to the failed attempt to go to IKEA. This store, in spite of its stated opening hours in the catalogue, was firmly shut today. A depressing visit to local shops and being amazed at astonishing prices for obvious rubbish disguised as furniture did take us near to an alternative hotel in the centre of the town. Alternative in the sense that we can only accommodate two people at a time so any further visitors have to establish themselves in a hotel in the vicinity.

The hotel of choice up until now has been the BCN Events which is situated at one end of the Olympic Canal and is near a large shopping centre, but a healthy walk from the centre of the town.

The Flora Park Hotel is virtually in the centre and we decided, as we were near and frustrated with the quality of merchandise that we had been offered, to try the restaurant.

A triumph! As well as a selection of tapas to whet our appetites and a decent bottle of wine the main dishes were excellent. I had arroz con bacalao followed by a zarzuela of fish. The choice of homemade cake was a little prosaic but the coffee and digestive more than compensated for it. At a total cost of €20 per person it was good enough to consider for future events. We will have to try it in the evening, or possibly try a weekday menu del dia.

The cost of the accommodation was (today) about €60 a night with breakfast: quite acceptable and given the food more than reasonable!

The new hair shaver has been tried and tested. It replaces a machine which didn’t cut so much as tear hair out of the skull while making a sound like the Second Coming. The present replacement is a much more civilized alternative – as indeed it should be given its price.

I am now shorn which probably presages a disastrous change in the summery weather that we have been enjoying recently to something which will prepare me more nearly to what I can expect on my upcoming jaunt to the UK in late November.

The hair cutter has been a greater success than the waterproof mp3 player which should attach to my swimming goggles and give me music as I swim.

My previous attempt to appreciate arpeggios during a serene swim saw me wearing a sort of “blue box” on the back of my head with sensors were pressed against the sides of my forehead. The idea was that the music would be transmitted through the bones of the skull while the head was under water. And this did work to a certain extent, though it has to be said that it worked best with the unsubtle music of pop rather than with the greater dynamic demands of classical music.

The present system uses conventional ear pieces and I would like to say that I had tested it but, up to the present I have been totally unable to load any music onto the system.

I may be forced to the extreme measure of trying to find advice in the videos of YouTube, otherwise the waterproof device is going to turn into another white elephant.

One of my mother induced weaknesses is being exploited by El Periodico which has an offer on cutlery designed by the world renowned restaurateur Ferran Adrià with Xavia Claramunt. At the moment I am the proud owner of a single knife and it looks as though I am going to have to take the paper to get the coupons for the rest of my life if I am to build up a decent canteen! I must admit that I was expecting some sort of short cut where you could pay the money all in one go rather than wait until Christmas to get a couple of place settings!

Christmas is also a time to consider what to do with the holidays. This year there is a generous amount of time available to fritter away money in going to a place in the sun after Christmas Day itself. I rather fancy going to Grand Canaria – if a holiday can be found which is this side of ridiculousness as far as price is concerned!

Meanwhile tomorrow is Monday. Enough said.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

A light Saturday!

War has been declared!

After an excellent Indian meal with Irene last night I returned home to find desecration!

Earlier in the day I had been informed that the Lost Posts of the pavement had been replaced.

The posts had been placed on the pavements to dissuade indefatigable Spanish drivers from parking on the walking space set aside for the use of pedestrians. In the height of the summer when parking spaces are at a premium drivers will park anywhere, and I mean anywhere.

I greeted the arrival of the serried rank of parking dissuaders with delight and, sure enough, they were sufficient to discourage all but the most heartless parkers.

The only discordant note in this symphony of street furniture was the attitude we suspected held by our neighbours.

Parking within a few millimetres of the post can hardly be said to be within the spirit of the parking restrictions and sure enough, bit by bit the post was bumped out of alignment and then, one day it disappeared. Disappeared after a sound of rending metal after a neighbour attempted to “park.”

Then the metal post at the other end of our sequence of driveways disappeared as well.

I am not one to let such cavalier treatment of a useful deterrent to deviant parking go unremarked and so I went to the town hall and reported the destruction and removal of the posts.

I was listened to and given a reference number so that I could check on the progress of the replacing of the posts.

Yesterday they were replaced and I found the one that was missing, because I worked out how the simple selfishness of the people who took it away would encourage them to dispose of it.

The cement around the post wasn’t even dry so, late at night, the miscreants waggled the post from side to side to loosen it and then when they had taken it out of the widened hole had, with breathtaking arrogance, merely put it out with the rubbish to be taken away in an early morning collection!

A further trip to the town hall has informed the authorities of what has gone on and further informed them that the post is safe and sound having been salvaged by my good self.

One awaits developments with interest. After all this is a case of criminal damage and it would be satisfactory to see some form of retribution given to those who are guilty. I am not holding my breath!

The “already read” name day present was swiftly changed for a rapidly republished novel by the new Literature Nobel lauréate. That chore done the hunt was then on for a waterproof watch.

The problem of the birthday watch only being 3 atm and therefore not suitable for swimming gave me the necessary impetus to look for a new one – leaving aside for the moment that I do already own one or two (or very possibly more) timepieces which have already been proven to be waterproof.

The lure of the new was, however far too strong for me to resist – especially on a Friday afternoon - he said inconsequentially.

Things were looking fairly bleak until I noticed a small illuminated case with half price offers. Never let it be said that I couldn’t be bought by a bargain, so I am now the proud possessor of a Lotus chronograph which I can comfortably take to depths of 100 metres if I should be so inclined.

It cost far more than I really wanted to pay) even at half price) but it serves a purpose and the watch is blissfully forgettable for most of the climactic situations in which I am likely to find myself. Oh yes, and it tells the time.

Lunch today was in a new restaurant, or at least one we hadn’t tried before and the food was perfectly satisfactory with the menu del dia costing €11, but what made it more than satisfactory is that we were sitting outside and I was in a short sleeved shirt and shorts!

Ah bliss!

In November!

Friday, November 05, 2010

The end in sight!

No teaching day which has a lost free period can ever be described as “good” but this is a Friday and the sun is shining and this is my early finish. One has to take comfort where one finds it!

My trip home is going to be enlivened by calling into Alcampo to change the name day book which had already been read: far be it from me not to take advantage of being in a large supermarket not to waste a little money. The Lump Sum (surely deserving of its capitalization) is lurking untouched in my bank account and is piteously screaming to be squandered on something gadgety.

I have in previous periods of financial equilibrium used stationery to quell the irresistible impulse to spend. Many a time and oft a box of paper clips or a packet of self-seal envelopes has placated the devil of expenditure – but in a time of electronic machines all claiming consumer attention such displacement activity seems pedestrian to the point of being a fully paid up member of the group of Captain Swing and I for one spurn to be tarred with the Luddite brush.

The Problem of the Threatened Watch (which sounds like an unpublished Sherlock Holmes story) is one which is preoccupying me at the moment. My Birthday Watch is fine and elegant but it is not supposed to be used for swimming. On past behaviour I will, inevitably, find myself going for a shower at the end of my swim and then noticing that the timepiece has been on my wrist for the whole of the number of lengths.

I have, already, worn it in the shower on a couple of occasions and it does not look to have sustained any noticeable damage and there is not the tell tale misting which indicates that the timepiece has the added lubricant of H2O which, in my experience does not encourage the crystal to vibrate with any added fervour.

I think that I will have to buy another watch which I can then forget about wearing and use the 3 atm watch for special and “dry” occasions!

Spend, spend and spend again.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Snail time!

The week is hobbling towards the spaciousness of the weekend – but the day off on Monday has, paradoxically, made the remaining part of the week seem much longer. Proof, if ever it were needed of the truth of small parts of Herr Einstein’s temporal theories!

Today I expect to invest in the future of Catalonia by buying some of the attractively priced bonds which the Generalitat is issuing in a desperate attempt to get some money. As these offer a relatively high rate of interest my disinterest in the development of my adopted country is tempered by enlightened self-interest at the same time!

Buying bonds which have an odd time limit of one year and two days to produce their return is also another way to keep the cash out of my hot little hands. Money in the bank is a foreign concept for me and in the present parlous circumstances of the financial organization of the world seems to be a deliberate slap in the face of recovery. One feels almost a religious fervour in trying to spend to encourage the frail shoots of economic growth. To save is virtually an act of treason!

My recent reading of “Stuff” has shown that there is a whole world of gadgets which I do not possess. It is comforting to learn that gadgets, like the poor, are always with us. While I have no real enthusiasm for communing with the down and outs in this world I do feel that I could develop a mission to those neglected gadgets which are consigned to the ignominy of lying neglected in their cardboard coffins with the seals unbroken. I feel myself to be a Carter or a Caernarvon breaking through and seeing “Wonderful things!” as each new gadget is freed and brought out into the light of day!

Buying the bonds was not as simple as I thought it would be. The issue by the Generalitat is oversubscribed, so I have been told, therefore there is likelihood that we will be given a proportion of our request if not the full amount.

Talking with the bank, the lady who was dealing with me said that the majority of the issue has been taken up by people in Catalonia. She said that Madrid had not been as forthcoming; she also confided that if Madrid had issued the bonds she would have been disinclined to take them up. “I would subscribe to bonds from your country of Wales before I supported Madrid!” she said. Good to see that national prejudice is alive and well and living in the banking system.

I might also add that the Generalitat is using a vast range of banks to sell its product but not BBVA (aka The Worst Bank in the World) they obviously have some scruples even in the unseemly scramble for cash that this bond issue represents!

The Name Day Jaunt to Terrassa is complete with the presents generally deemed acceptable, though one book will have to be changed as it had already been read by the recipient. Talking of presents: I also had a late present of a couple of bottles of wine with a large cheese – more than acceptable!

I am now more tired than I care to admit and I am trying, vainly, to put out of my mind that my teaching starts at 8.15 tomorrow, which means that I have to get up at 6.30 at the latest.

Perhaps as early a turn in is called for as possible.

That would be sensible – and just think how difficult that last sentence would be for an English learner to come to terms with. (Nothing like ending with a phrasal verb!)