Thursday, June 30, 2011


With a cruel irony today (the Last Day) dawned overcast, dull and depressing.  But with a pleasing justice the day developed into a gloriously sunny day by the time I had to leave!

Only in this country would the powers that be end a long, long year with a two-hour meeting.  And only in this country would benighted teachers of a foreign persuasion talk enthusiastically (!) right up to the bitter end.  I was driven to read my mobile phone to stave off insanity!

Eventually (a much used concept in my experience of school life) this too ended and after saying goodbye to various colleagues I was free to join the heavy flow of traffic clogging up the motorways of Catalonia around Barcelona.  But who cares when two whole months of holiday stretch ahead!

Lunch today was in a restaurant in Gava that we hadn’t tried before: fideua, rustic chicken and a delicious chocolate cake and the usual red wine and gaseosa and all for €9.  Sitting outside in the sun and no school tomorrow. 

Life just doesn’t get better!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I see the promised land!

The penultimate day!

There are few phrases more heartening to the ears than that.  Obviously “The last day!” or even better “The last day was yesterday” have an even better ring to them.  But at this stage . . . 

I am prepared to wait.

Another vaguely unsatisfying day characterized by a meeting in which we were told that nothing had really been decided.  I love occasions like that – and thank god that my Spanish is insufficient to understand the detail of what is going on!  Sometimes even the most general of outlines evades me; it’s how I survive.

Our school is beginning to pay a little more than lip service to the concept of Project Based Learning – three little words that can strike terror and confusion into the hearts of most seemingly secure teachers in the profession!
As I am friendly with the Evangelist for this approach (indeed I team teach with her) I have been dragged into the maelstrom of approaches which characterize this approach.

Under her fanatical guidance and rabid inspiration I have even been encouraged to do some “planning”; to write rubrics; to consider outcomes and other things which are entirely (or used to be entirely) foreign to my nature.

Of course, our school being our school, I don’t know my timetable for next year; we do not have class lists; I don’t know what courses I will be teaching; I don’t know the dates of the terms.  Still, we will have a week of half days in September before the kids arrive, so it can all be sorted then.  Probably.

With the absence of this somewhat vital information, I have done what I can as far as my new found enthusiasm for planning is concerned and created the folders which are going to contain the information that I don’t know.
More astonishingly, I have registered with the Buck Institute for Education – a known hotbed of Project Based Learning, and have downloaded some of their forms to organize the subjects for next year.  This can’t last, of course – but it’s good fun while it is unreal and not actually in practice.

I have weakened and bought some books and lids.

The lids are probably part of a good idea.  As space in the house is limited I have invested in a set of Tefal saucepans and frying pans with detachable handles.  They are like those Russian matrioska dolls and all fit inside each other; so three frying pans and four saucepans only have the “footprint” of the largest frying pan and the height of their collective bases and one saucepan.  The glass lids are flat with a removable knob.  It’s all very sensible.

Which is more than can be said for the book purchases which are mostly self-indulgent art books bought with the facile justification that I might need some of them for my course of “Making Sense of Modern Art”.  It is a good thing that nobody who knows me has the opportunity to hear me pontificating about paintings – though, there again, who would be surprised!

The other book has been purchased on the half-understood but seemigly enthusiastic endorsement of a friendly Catalan teacher who saw some of my kids’ work on logos for my Media Studies course.

All of the books have been bought virtually sight-unseen from Amazon (post free) with only a picture of the front cover for guidance.  

Buying from Amazon, especially with the one-click option, is such a beguiling way of throwing your money into the gaping maw of a vast organization that I can rarely resist once I get on to the site!  

I think the devil was a bit unimaginative in his temptation of you-know-who with his reliance on the old-fashioned "whole world" technique.  Now if he had offered "one-click purchasing" on Amazon the whole history of theology might have been different.  Or has it all worked out in exactly the same way anyway?

Tomorrow we start the last day with moving our departmental book store to a new location in a different building and end the day with a two-hour meeting.  I hope to god we are let out early for good behaviour!

The end is in sight!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My run of good luck continues with two meetings not needing my presence today!  One cancelled and the other only a threat of possible attendance.  This freedom will eventually catch up with me but I am enjoying this tension-free period while I can.

Another gloriously hot day whose effects are modified by the air conditioning working overtime.

Today has been an unsatisfactory day in school with an insufficient amount of real work being done.  One starts something and then there is another call on one’s time which means that what you started is not finished and . . well, you get the idea.

As a remembrance of times past I did a small amount of book counting – not as much in my last real school but enough to let me re-live the delightful experience of doing low-grade clerical work around which so much of teaching is based!

Today dragged much more than yesterday and at one point I found myself sitting on a junior child’s chair in our book room reading a Jacqueline Wilson book about a wimpy boy and his large friend Biscuit and the rough and tumble girlfriend and the bullies and it was set in Wales.  Gripping stuff, and I have brought it home to read the last few pages.

The book has moments of genuine humour and some insight but it is written for young children and the pleasure in reading it is limited.  I still lost myself in the narrative; I forgot that I was sitting in a small room in a school in Barcelona and that I should very probably be doing something else – I was reading.  It’s what I do.

Our lunch today was not as good as yesterday: tomato juice; scrambled egg with asparagus and prawns; salmon, rice and vegetables.  It sounds better than it ate, but still reasonable value.

Domestic painting continues apace, and indeed continued while I had a very lazy swim.  Today was hotter than yesterday and even I felt the need to come into the shade!

I have been looking at books to buy for some of my courses next year.  In theory I should be able to get money back for some of them, but I don’t hold out much hope.  I think I am using my courses as an excuse; though, naturally I don’t see anything wrong with that!

There really is going to have to be something of a sort out of the books this summer, together with a determined attempt to put them into a logical order.


Monday, June 27, 2011

It gets easier!

In keeping with one of my mottos, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” I did not look at the timetable for the remaining days of term.  Which was just as well, as having read it would have ruined my mini-holiday over the extended weekend: two meetings top to tail during the day!

Having settled down into a mood of terminal grumpiness, imagine my ecstatic delight on finding out that my sullen presence was not required in the first (and shorter) of the meetings.

With an elation that is not a common adjunct to the task I then set myself, I started clearing out my staff room cupboard. 

Half an hour later and a whole sack-full of paper placed in the bin - nothing had changed, there was still no space for anything. 

I think that I will have to use my other cupboard in the other staffroom to store some of the literature that I have adapted for school use.  When I say “adapted” I actually mean eviscerated.  No matter how great the writer; no matter how delicious the style – I can make the storyline almost understandable to learners of English.  Luckily students of literature are unlikely to read my blasphemous efforts so my reputation is secure.

I am now in a meeting which is discussing the fates of pupils in the lower school.  I wonder what my colleagues think I am doing typing away here.  Everyone is talking at the same time about kids who are not worth the effort.  Some of reasoning being employed by colleague would have done credit to some of the less scrupulous members of the Society of Jesus!

Perhaps it is tempting fate, but we are making good speed through what can be a meeting of coruscating boredom.

We have now reached a pupil with few redeeming graces; she is lazy; sulky; disruptive and a thorough waste of space.  Horrifically it is being suggested that she be kept down a year thereby destroying the normal working of yet another class.  God help!

The meeting went on and on and I ran away for the last quarter, giving my proxy vote to a colleague with whom I team-teach.

Lunch, an ordinary menu del dia made up for the misery of the morning: a tapa of delicious tortilla with pepper; a starter of puff pasty filled with sea food; a main course of chicken with a creamy mushroom sauce and a sweet of copa de crema which you have to eat to understand.  All washed down with a respectable red wine unrespectably diluted with gaseosa and a café con hielo - €13 the lot!  And we ate outside under flawless blue skies and school had finished at 2.00 pm.  Life is sometimes good!

The pool is now becoming a very important part of normal everyday life with the water retaining the heat of the day to maintain a very pleasant temperature.  Unfortunately the equitable conditions encourage people other than myself to impertinently use the pool.

I resort to my usual tactics and swim in purposeful straight lines, using crawl my nails glint in the sunshine ready to slice anyone who gets in my way, switching to breast stroke my frog like kick maintains a cordon sanitaire around my surging form.
Tomorrow we have a computer course.  My memory from last year was of a similarly innocuously entitled course which lasted for four straight hours.  No break.  No respite.  No pity.  And in bloody Spanish!

The one tomorrow at least has one break and I intend to take supplies and an electronic book to keep my equilibrium in place.  I have also bought an iPod Nano (7th generation): one of those impossibly small tactile squares which can store music, podcasts, photos, films and other things which are clearly against the law of god.
It seems to have been designed specifically to assist in the maintenance of sanity of hard pressed English teachers surrounded by machinations of those not of his nationality!

Still, and I am counting, there are only three days to go!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Holiday: A Taster

FRIDAY 24th JUNE 2011
A definition of “pleasure” for me is constantly to remember that today is Friday and not the weekend and that, more importantly, I am not in school!

Last night outdid the 5th of November by the sheer perseverance of people throughout the night, the whole night and continuing into the morning, of setting off fireworks whose raison d’etre was to produce a bang.
When I went to bed, amid flashes, explosions and distant sounds of revelry, I lay my head on the pillow and wondered, “How am I going to get to sleep?”  I was about half way through that sentence when Morpheus claimed me for his own.  And I slept peacefully through the cataclysm that is St John’s Eve with a tranquillity which thoroughly irritates lighter sleepers.

As a concession to ¡Fiesta! I actually stayed in bed till ten this morning; which is three and a half hours later than I usually get up!  I am not very good at the “lie-in”, I never have been.  It is something of a duty paid to holiday that I do it all – but even during the long holiday I never become acclimatised to wasting the morning!  The afternoon, yes, but the morning never!

Toni continues to paint and things are looking somewhat brighter.  It is hardly surprising that wood, this near the coast and the salt laden sea breezes rots fairly quickly.  Paint at least delays the inevitable destruction and makes the old and worn out look bright and superficially acceptable!

After the triumph of the Garden Peacock, I am now turning to the multi-level cactus garden.  The latter will incorporate discarded elements from a disassembled water feature and a certain amount of new buying.
The evening was spent in Barcelona in Les Caracoles – a restaurant just off the Ramblas where my cousin and a group of friends were meeting for a meal.

It was an excellent meal and the company was stimulating.  I came into Barcelona by one of the slowest and most frustrating buses in Catalonia which stopped at every bus stop to pick up the single person who was placed there just to irritate me.  It also stopped at every single bloody one of the traffic lights (and there were many) which impeded my progress.

On Toni’s advice I booked a cheapish hotel room opposite the Liceu rather than try and make it back to Castelldefels after a late meal.

The room in the Hostal Paris was basic; my miniscule room had a shower and basin but no loo.  The bed was rather short for me and the air conditioning was programmed to turn itself off after a short period of operation so that there was no appreciable diminution in temperature.  It was on the third floor and there was no lift. 

But it was in the centre of the city, within an easy walk of the restaurant and it cost €35; it made sense to me at that price and it might be somewhere to consider if I have to go to operas during the weekend in the next season.


The thin and short bed did not invite lengthy occupation and the only thing which kept me in it was the time of the first bus back to Castelldefels.

This time the trip back was with the quicker bus and so we were able to begin our rounds of the supermarkets to get what we needed to continue our process of mild transformation of the house at a reasonable hour.

Finding the fitments for the mirror was impossible, but the wood and cacti with other bits and pieces were easily purchased.  Wandering round overpriced garden centres was just like old times back in Cardiff.

As indeed was the eye-wateringly high cost of a collection of parsimonious water using weeds and a few stones!

Toni continues his anti-mosquitoification of the house with more and more inventive ways of securing our insect free peace.

A peace which has been rudely shattered by our obnoxious neighbours on one side entertaining a degenerate section of their unspeakable family; on eth other side by the moronic dogs; further down a man who can only communicate at a shout having a party for some unformed human and culminating in the screaming dogs at the end of the row!  There is plenty of material here for any Grumpy Old Man to have a field day!

SUNDAY 26th JUNE 2001

The Cascading Cactus Garden is now complete with the peacock standing proud on its plinth in the centre.  Words fail me - as I am sure they will not fail visitors when they view the Designer Corner of the demesne!

I don’t really know what Japanese knotweed looks like, but I think that our little garden is riddled with it.  I say this because we have a species of creeping plant which is like something out of a science fiction story.  From extensive casual listening to Gardeners’ Question Time on Radio 4 when there was nothing else worth listening to, I know that Japanese knotweed is a pernicious pest and spreads.  On those two criteria we have it.

I remember being told that a Bizzy-Lizzy was totipotent, so that any part of it stuck into dirt would produce a plant.  I used this attribute to produce multiple plants which I fed with Plantoids and fabricated a generation of spindly, sick-looking plants that would have done credit to any of those in-bred drawling families of the decadent Deep South!

At least you got flowers with those, which is more than you get with the insidious growth of our ground-covering pest.  Like some of the more flamboyant lizards’ dismissive attitude towards their rear ends, it seems quite prepared to sacrifice whole visible strands of itself in order to protect the essential areas of growth – which are usually nowhere near where you are doing the damage.  And I am convinced that any part of the bloody thing once it touches anything remotely approximating to earth seizes the chance to propagate itself and spread like “innit” in so-called Modern English Usage.

Today is gloriously sunny and very hot and the inevitable hordes have descended to shatter our coastal idyll.

I have driven out to the supermarkets (closed) and the town shops (closed) to try and get a few bits and pieces that are necessary for the tidying up of the house.  The only places where anything other than a beer and a coffee can be bought are in the Chinese Shops (open) where I have been prepared to compromise on what I wanted to buy and come away with reasonable alternatives.

The centre of Castelldefels in front of the church has been cordoned off and a massive piece of Papist art has been constructed or drawn in what looks like coloured sawdust.  As a concession to the secular, much of the design is floral and the central motif comprises doves in flight.  On the dais, which is the sort of open-air stage for community events, an altar has been set up the backdrop for which is a representation of the chalice with the wafer with the name of Christ “IHS”.  There is a massive hanging of the same image on the façade of the church and I assume that the congregation will ritually destroy the art as they assemble to hear mass.

There are various flower festivals in Spain where incredibly intricate patterns made up of flower heads are constructed along the streets, are admired for a moment and then destroyed by tramping feet.  Presumably it is yet another version of the transitory nature of life highlighted by the church to encourage the “faithful” to book a place in the Eternity Hotel before it is too late.

The centre of town was relatively quiet but the beach part is anything but.  There are queues of cars waiting to get to the sea and start their hopeless pilgrimage around the Via Doloroso of parking areas before finally settling on places which defy comprehension. 

There are people parked on pavements, thereby reducing the width of the road to one uneasy, and very narrow lane; there are people parked on zebra crossings; on areas marked with do-not-park lines; on roundabouts (!); in driveways; double parked next to rubbish bins; There are droves of people who, when they finally get back to their cars will realize that they should have put their wing mirrors in before they left!

There has been a Great Cleaning today, and I have been told, in no uncertain manner, that This Is How It Is Going To Be In The Future.  Everything In Its Place.  Dream on!  But I have to admit that things look good – it’s a pity that it takes so much effort to keep it looking like that!

Because of the deadly parking today I have gone to our local ‘pollo a last’ and we have had a superb meal with grilled vegetables with the same sauce that they use on calçots: delicious!

Now we have the final task of the holidays: putting up the mirror.  Given the difficulty in finding the fittings to secure it to the wall, getting it straight should be downright impossible.  Then there is the position on the wall, not only in terms of height, but also in where to place it.  Toni’s plan it to have it centred on the table, but I can see it all coming down to a battle of wills!

Tomorrow the week of half days (minus one) begins which take us to the end (hallelujah!) of term at long last.

There are other meetings lurking somewhere in those four days but with any luck, I should not be involved.  My task, rather, is to find out exactly what I am teaching, even if the idea of actually having a realistic timetable at this point in the year is something beyond the wildest dreams of Catalan educationalists!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Counting is fun!

Today is the Day of the Course; and I am determined not to be overly cynical.  Not overly – but one does have certain standards that one has to keep up and I do not feel inclined to be too sympathetic to a man who is going to encourage me to be self critical when the term is virtually over and all the kids have left.

I cannot imagine that anyone actually wants to be in school and the idea of thinking coherently and theoretically about education is anathema at most times, but at the fag end of the year it becomes whatever word is that which is stronger than “anathema”.
The reality was that we were subjected to three solid hours of the course without a break!  Words fail me.  At least it wasn’t for the full five hours that we were supposed to be in school. 

Only five hours – rather than the usual eight.  We were able to leave at 2.00 pm.  That was when I had completed the recuperation marking that I had to do form the pupils who failed their summer exam.  Never a dull moment!

Today is the eve of the festival of Sant Joan (Saint John the Baptist) and is the night on which Catalans throw sobriety to the winds and stay on beaches throughout the night letting off fireworks and drink like the Brits!

I have just come down from the Third Floor where I spent many happy minutes watching with untrammelled delight the hundreds of thousands of euros disappearing in the twinkling of an eye.  Fireworks are truly one of the most satisfyingly unjustifiable transitory delights ever!

As it is traditional to drink Cava and eat cake whose name sounds disturbingly like the slang term for cocaine – a good time was had by all.

And it can all be slept off tomorrow – though in the evening I have to go into Barcelona to meet my cousin for a meal – and it will still not be the weekend!

O the joy of four-day weeks!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I see the light!

TUESDAY 21st JUNE 2011

A glorious day – made even better by the lack of certain of our more problematic classes who have been taken or are going to be taken to the beach for a wonderful day out!  O Joy!

Unfortunately there are still classes left here in school so that my day is again going to be taken up with arid supervision of kids who are more than 90% on holiday and are certainly not orientated towards things academic.

The remaining teachers are wandering ghost-like around the place with vacant expressions and a more than vague feeling of unease.  This is, in part, explicable when you consider that the day after tomorrow we have one of our marathon courses which this year is going to be about self-evaluation.

This course is going to be led by an outside expert (you will have noticed that I didn’t even put inverted commas around that word, I am not as cynical as you might think) in a foreign tongue, so I will have to do my best to remember all the guff I was told when I last went through all this years ago!

If you spend more than ten years in education you get used to seeing old ideas repackaged and thrown your way, as the “latest thing”.  This inevitably will blunt your professional enthusiasm – the cyclical nature of innovation in education is one of the more depressing aspects of the whole experience. 

Please note that I said “one of” not, emphatically not, “the” most depressing aspect.  I always recall the observation of my father (inter alia) that “Teaching is 25% satisfaction and 75% degradation” and, while one can always quarrel over percentages, its truth will be universally acknowledged!

I have just been interrupted by one of my upper sixth pupils, an able but lazy student, who has taken an arm-huggingly, sentimentally eye-moistened leave of his teachers. 
I wish him well and will miss him but he, like so many others who have passed through the school, will come back to visit. 

Remember some of the kids here have spent up to sixteen (16) years in this place!  Starting school here at the age of three and leaving only to go to university! 

The idea of having spent 16 years in my school (any of them) is more horrific than I can contemplate with any degree of equanimity.

Because the dynamics of the school have been unsettled by the unsettled sequence of events that mark the end of term and year, I have got the day wrong and have been confidently planning my day as a Thursday when it is, stubbornly a Tuesday. 

The good news is that it should mean that after the next lesson I should be free for the rest of the day.

I realize that such a remark is a two-fingered snook at fortune and I await with weary resignation the collapse of all my plans for indolent ease.

The basic problem with this place is that there are no convincingly secure hiding places to avoid the almost intolerable peer pressure which demands that all teachers should be seen to be working when sitting in either staff room.

Surprisingly I have now lost a “gained” free and look well placed to lose a second.  Life is never as you expect.

I have just come from an impromptu showing of one of the X-Men films out of which one boy walked brushing past the teacher in charge and saying to me, en passant,  that he wasn’t going to waste hours of his life watching it.  I suppose that he has a point, but it is also a fact that one can dissect any crappy film and gain some sense of intellectual satisfaction from it or at least from the process of analysing it. 

After all, quite apart from the technical aspects of the film itself which are endlessly interesting such as editing, camera shots, colour, lens choice etc. there are the locations, costumes, props, music, lighting and we haven’t even got to the acting and the story line. The political, social and increasingly economic concerns are always interesting not only as elements within the film itself, but also in its shooting, production, advertising and distribution.

If archaeologists can go into raptures over a single human tooth or fragment of jaw or some mundane domestic artefact, then any student of film should find more than enough to talk or think about in any film ever made!  

Take the whole series of “X-Men” films, you do not have to strain too far to see them as part of the continuing discussion of science in evolution; of the outsider in society; of the concept of the übermensch; of the conflict of god-given versus man-created; of the fear of the unknown – and so on ad infinitum.

The Father figure of Charles Xavier is merely a variation on the character in “Trilby” mixed with the inevitable dash of “Jekyll and Hyde” combining to create yet another variant on yet another re-working of the “Frankenstein” myth.

Each of the “characters” in the films can be traced through myth and tale as well as through the rather more recent genealogy of Marvel Comics!

The action of the films is a basic Boys’ Own Story with a superficial overlay of popcorn social concern and politics – just enough edge to cause no concern whatsoever to the establishment.

There is always something to think about which is better than the rubbish that you are watching!

Which doesn’t justify the arrogant walking out by a disturbing student.  When his action was reported to the head of studies he audibly groaned and visibly shrugged his shoulders in disgusted exasperation.

At present I am supervising the 4ESO which is our last class before they enter the equivalent of the sixth form.  I have to say they do not bode well for our senior school next year!

So, from looking towards a pupil free day I have now lost the equivalent of three periods sitting with pupils who have lost the will to study. 

We are not dealing with the crème-de-la-crème here, but rather with the people who are taking recuperation exams to allow them to continue their studies next year. 

They show little concern because they know full well that they will have to do appallingly badly not to be allowed to come back next year.

We do have pupils retaking a year and this means that some of our pupils may have been in this school for up to 18 years before they finally leave.  I believe there was one person who was here for almost 20 years!  Even convicted murderers manage to get out of prison before then!

Two hours supervising the 4ESO is not my idea of fun.  And it was followed by another hour of supervision.  Disaster!  As I prophesised at the beginning of the day, my life of ease was nothing but an illusion, rudely shattered on the shards of young voices!

At least the swim was good when I got home – though the beautiful day had subsided into a humid slightly overcast afternoon.  And there were two people who had the sheer effrontery to be in the pool when I made my way to the shower before my immersion.  What is more they stayed in the pool, chatting in the shallow end as I made my way up and down!  Some people have no manner of breeding at all!

With myopia and earplugs you can enclose yourself in a watery world in the swimming pool and Others become vague shapes more noticeable for blocking the tracery of light from the rippling surface on the tessellations under the water than anything else.  And I out-swam their stay and claimed the pool for mine own!

Tomorrow is fin de course – the end of the academic term and year for the students –we “celebrate” by having “fun and games” with the students and then get rid of them at lunchtime and have a seafood spectacular for staff.

Last time I was in charge of skipping – I kid you not.  Lengths of rope were strewn around a part of the playground and, in spite of other more productive uses springing unaided and immediately to mind, pupils, teachers and parents were encouraged to show their prowess and dexterity by avoiding the swinging rope.  Needless to say I sat immobile in my proprietorial chair and spent my time encouraging others to shocking displays of cringe-making ineptitude.

By the time we were finished we seemed to have acquired more rope than when we had started.  One of those little conundrums which enliven one’s life.


Where do you put the emphasis on tombola: surely on the “bo”?  Not in this part of the world where the word is mangled with the emphasis on the “tom” – and what is more it isn’t even a tombola.  There is an element of luck in my version of the thing: you pays your money and you takes your chance, your ticket might get you anything from a bottle of ketchup to a doll.

Here the first thing that parents see when they come to sample the delights of our institution in fiesta is a string of trestle tables, paper covered and laden with the unwanted jumble from our kids.

Everything is priced in tickets that are purchased in specific strategic locations and then spent in various “fun” places around the campus.

On our tombola stall the potential punters merely asked the ticket price and then decided to pay or not.  A simple system insuring that real money was only handed over in designated places.

We actually sold out thanks in no small measure to my paranoid insistence that we get rid of as much junk as possible as soon as possible.  I instituted “special offers” which galvanized the punters into accepting rubbish as if it had a real value!

Most of the stuff we sold was of questionable value with the highlights being bags and clothing from a major international store one of whose owners sends a child to our school and is generous at occasions like this.

The most offensive item on sale was a glass version of the Eiffel Tower with which I managed to stab my thumb and decorate the white paper covering of the table with a dash of crimson!  You really can’t make such things up!

We finished half an hour before time and I got the kids to clear up and stack the trestles and the tabletops and I was back inside the staffroom with time to relax and look forward to our special meal.

Which was composed of seafood and which was delicious.  The crustaceans were washed down with Cava and orange juice and even the inevitable speeches didn’t take away the warm glow of satisfaction from such an excellent repast.

A little later than I expected I returned home and found that Toni has constructed a mosquito screen for one of the windows and was busily at work on another.  As we had to go to a hardware supermarket for some essential supplies I was able to look around for essential elements to make my illuminated peacock a little more startling.

Thanks to Toni’s suggestion I was able to find a plinth and base which now is laden with peacock, lights and high expectations for a startling display tonight when the solar lights do their stuff and catch the jewelled glass of the bird in their rays!  It makes a statement of sorts at any rate.

Today the children left.  School is now bereft of pupils and all is well with the world.  To compensate for the excess of joy that such an absence brings we have a course to enable us to complete a personal evaluation of our professional competence blah blah blah.  Or am I being too cynical.  I am certainly too old and too experience to go through this palaver all over again.  But I will and I will try and contain my evil thoughts and not let them show in my smallest gesture either facial or body.  This won’t of course work, but it will be fun trying!

Meanwhile I shall consider the fact that this week and next are four-day weeks and that I am so close I can almost touch the start of the holidays!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Do you actually want my money?

The tedious saga of my attempting to pay my taxes goes on and on.

With the particular help of a battle weary colleague I have attempted to submit my tax declaration on line.  The form is 50 pages long and is virtually impossible to fill out without making errors.  Helpfully (and yes I am using that word with deep irony) a little table appears every time you try to submit it telling you which sections are incorrect.

After two days of work the 50 pages; hours on the computer and a last desperate printing out of the material in a vain attempt to pay on line I am just about to give up.  Except I do not have that option either.

As everything is printed out I could take the material to the bank: if I could get to the bank.  But the banks have now switched to their “summer hours” which means that no one in work can get to them.  Similarly with the offices of the tax people – they are not open when I can get to them.  Impasse.  Or at least Catch-22.

Which has just been smashed by my being allowed out of school to go to my bank and pay the bloody thing over the counter.

As is usual, the person directly in front of me seemed to be putting in the tax returns for Shell/BP/ICI and took the time commensurate with dealing with the affairs of such a conglomeration!

By the time it was my turn to be served and I had un-gritted my teeth I was beginning to wonder if I had time to call into the house for the cup of tea that I had been looking forward to since I left school on my mission of mercy to pay my tax.  I was seen to mercifully quickly with the 50 pages of print out neatly divided into a section to be sent to the Hacienda, a section neatly stamped and typed on given back to me and a third section retained by the bank.  All of this information has been dealt with electronically, but there is still a paper trail to make assurance double sure!  Pointless and witless!  Still, I can now relax about the state being in a condition to carry on, now that it has my €40.02 safely in its grip.

The amount of time, effort, petrol and soul that has been put into paying this amount is out of all proportion to its size – but at least the whole process is over for another year.  I trust!

Our school fun run, or misery walk as it was for some, has now been completed and the phalanxes of police who guarded the route through the repugnantly opulent area in which we teach have gone back to their bars.

Although I shouldn’t say that as we did see the boys in blue (or whatever they wear here) do something else last Friday night: for the first time in my life I was breathalysed!

This was because there was a routine roadblock set up at one of the bridge entrances to the beach part of Castelldefels and all cars were being stopped. 

I used to encounter these barriers after I had been to the opera and was returning to Castelldefels late at night or early in the morning, but all of the times that the police had set these up I was waved through as obviously not looking like the target victim for this tired police sting!

This time I was stopped.  Why, I don’t really know as I was still in school dress and ostentatiously wearing a tie.  Indeed one of the other policemen saw me and then asked his colleague why he had stopped me.  Toni said that he told his superior that I had looked nervous!

Anyway after showing my licence and weathering a barrage of Spanish an English-speaking officer was found who guided me through the rest of the procedure.

I was handed a sealed plastic pocket which held the mouthpiece for the test.  The one thing I was determined to do was make it unnecessary for the policeman to tell me to “keep blowing” which is such a fixed feature on all the television reports which feature hapless drivers in the clutches of smirking policemen.

I am glad to report that my breath was not half exhausted before the ping of the machine indicated that the test was over.

It was duly taken away and after a few seconds I was told that the test was negative and we went on our way, so that the real drunks could be caught later – probably going in a different direction and at a rather later time in the night!

These roadblocks only occur at the weekends in our part of the town and, as we are working up to the summer and a national holiday just before the schools throw out their pupils for the holidays we can expect more of them.

Parking is also reaching new levels of stupidity with last weekend being particularly notable for the sheer lack of consideration which seemed to have motivated most of the drivers who failed to find a legal parking space.

Near the beach nothing is sacred for the determined parker: zebra crossings, pavements, corners, driveways, entrances, exits – wherever you can get a car, there, in high season, you will find a vehicle. 

One which was parked in front of a locked driveway opposite us had its windscreen wipers wrenched out by the end of the afternoon.  I felt it difficult to sympathise.  Though the perpetrators must have been glaringly obvious to the car owner.

I don’t quite know how it has happened but I have done far more than my fair share of supervision today and ended up with a second year class which has a few prize idiots in it.  But, when all is said and done we are in the Last Days – at least with the pupils: three more days left in this week and then a four day week of half days and then . . .

Almost there!