Tuesday, November 02, 2010

To see, perchance to breathe.

It is only on a morning like this when every serration on the back of the dragon of Montserrat is clearly visible that one realizes just how pollution bound Barcelona is.

Yes, the soft patina of pollution gives a warmth and hazy beauty to the city, but when one thinks that one is breathing in the filthy particles that comprise this beauty one is prepared to do without the aesthetic layer and simply ask for pure, clean air.

It may be that the cleanliness of the atmosphere was a function of the extended weekend which stretched to encompass a well earned Bank Holiday – I am sure that the journey to school tomorrow will reflect the increased flow of traffic and the build-up of exhaust fumes so the sharp detail of today will be lost in the smoggy haze of tomorrow. It does at least make for spectacular sunsets!

The new watch which was a birthday present from The Family is leading a hazardous life at the moment. It is waterproof to 3atm which means that it is protected from rain drops and accidental immersion for short periods. I, unfortunately, have never been one to take his watch off when sleeping, washing, showering or swimming. This means that the cheapo watches bought on the beach or environs have always had a limited life as, within days, I will have cheerfully plunged into the pool or the sea and the impressive construction of the cheap watch will have show itself to be a fa├žade rather than reality – and no watch works really well when it is half full of liquid.

So far I have only showered while wearing it and I have to say that it has stood the test well. The real test will be later today when I go for my swim. At present I fully intend to take the thing off (in spite of the strict time limits that I set myself while swimming which need a watch to make them real) but that intention will probably go the way of my intention to take it off for my shower.

My watches have to survive in the rough and tumble of my watery life and if they can’t take the pace then it is better that they go under (!) sooner rather than later when I might be relying on the thing to get me to an airport or an important appointment.

A single day off the week is very difficult to cope with. It may be 20% of the teaching time but it always promises more than it delivers in feelings of freedom and delight. It only makes me more resentful about the remaining days and then it is a struggle to a normal Friday and the accustomed freedom of the weekend.

To be fair the work load to Christmas looks doable. I will be going to the UK on the 27th to pay my respects to Aunt Bet as she continues to journey into her 10th decade; then there is a three day break linked to a weekend in early December and finally the Christmas holidays themselves which start on the 23rd. I prefer not to talk about February of next year; the Winter Week in March is ambiguous to say the least and then there is nothing until the Easter holidays which start on the 18th of April. May is a month not to be considered in much the same way that February is also a cruel month and by the time you breach June the end is in sight and the fear of September is lurking around the corner.

Meanwhile I have to contend with the awful reality that this is only the beginning of November and, however much I might talk about future months, they are an unbearable length of time away.

And there is always reading. The electronic novel that I started has far too much religion in it in a preachy sort of way and is also fairly poorly written. I started it because there is something at the back of my mind which keeps nagging at me that I have heard of “Tarn” before, but the quality of the narrative certainly gives no indication of worth. I have therefore unceremoniously dropped it in favour of a Rudyard Kipling short story called “The Bridge Builders” which was replete with all the self indulgent Indian overtones that one could expect and it virtually read itself. I have now decided to look at “Mogens and Other Stories” by J. P. or Jens Peter Jacobsen a man of whom I think I have never heard. On the strength of my liking for the so-called genre of Scandinavian music I am prepared to give any writer from the northern lands a trial reading!

The name day of all the Carleses is soon to be upon us and that means two more presents to be bought and another trip to Terrassa. Carlos senior is always placated with an historical novel while the younger will be delighted with any stuff related to FCB.

A short trip to Alcampo in Sant Boi and the requisite purchases were made. Then, unfortunately, a “meal” in one of the so-called restaurants next to the store was our next mistake. The meal was disgusting with ersatz meat and reconstituted fried potatoes with an over cooked egg. I have to admit that I ate it all because the meal I had for lunch was a little less than impressive but, even so I felt, to put it mildly, cheated. When I consider that I actually had to pay for the rubbish it almost makes one weep.

Listening (on my new headphones) to good old Radio 3: I was very pleased to note that an odd little piece of Catalan music that has just been played by a British string quartet was something that I actually knew – never let it be said that living abroad didn’t widen my cultural horizons!

Talking of culture tomorrow sees the pupils from the History of Art class giving short talks on a painter they were allocated last week. As these painters range from Peter Blake to Rothko and span the gamut of art from representational to abstract expressionism I expect a wide range of reactions from the pupils.

However rushed and cramped the lessons it is a delight to be able to enthuse about something which deeply interests me like the polemical problems thrown up by the disparate movements lumped together in modern parlance as modern art.

The Taschen two volume history of “Art in the twentieth century”(Honneth and Walther) is superb value (€20!) and lavishly illustrated with an intelligent text. The Taschen site on the web is one of those no go areas for me as the number of irresistible, reasonably (ever a debatable concept) priced volumes of art and artists could drain all of my salary with no problem whatsoever!
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