Friday, June 29, 2012

The true end

The penultimate day in school!  O Bliss!  Let Joy be Unconfined!  Well, perhaps a little bit confined because, after all, tomorrow is the last day.

In a half hour or so I should be meeting the New Woman who is going to take my place and then I think I should be able to go home because most of what is going on is for a term about which I will have nothing to do!

I have at last printed out the details of our trip to France and I wish that I could say that I was as prepared with the dreaded packing.  I have done nothing.  Nothing at all, but I always find that adrenaline fuelled packing is much more exciting.  And it is not as if France does not have the odd shop which might be able to cope with my modest demands should I forget anything.

My last professional act will be to talk to my replacement about what she is likely to be teaching next year; my last constructive act was counting books.  That latter activity seems to have been a major component in my teaching life and I suppose that it can be satisfying in a way.  There is something tidy and ordered about putting books into piles and then speculating about what has happened to the books which are no longer there. 

It is my personal belief that schoolbooks are subject to evaporation and it is pointless looking for missing copies as they are the equivalent of the “angels’ portion” of whisky missing from the top of the bottle and they have become part of a diaphanous literary mist that is not perceptible to human eyes.

The pupils have now come in to collect their results.  They wander into the staff room as if it were not populated by hostile life forms inimical to the existence of children – and they survive!  Such a state of affairs is not acceptable but, do as they will, it is nothing to me!

This evening is a mystery.  I know that there is to be a small gathering of the faithful who regard my departure as a negative element in their future life in the school.  I think that they are afraid that they will miss the chocolate in the boxes that I have assiduously guarded and replenished during my time in this place!

I am looking forward to this little gathering and must remember to take a camera.

I did take a camera and took not a picture.  I did eat and drink and chat and a very good time was had by all – especially as the saintly Carlos offered to take Tina and myself by car to the venue and bring us back!  Happiness!

Back to Castelldefels in good time and a resentful rise in the morning to go to school for the last time.  Where the first thing that we did was – a meeting.  Why break a tradition that has stultified teachers’ brains in this place since time immemorial.

To be fair, this was a fairly painless “meeting” with no fewer that ten people speaking at the same time for most of the time!

Now is the melancholy task of clearing the cupboards.  There is something soul wrenching about packing your mug.  It is the single most poignant moment which really says to the world that you are leaving.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I shall now repeat the process in the other building. Which, being done, I do not feel that there is much reason for my staying.

I was told that there were some papers for me to sign in Building 1 at 1.00pm and so I said goodbye to the people in Building 4 promising to return before I left.  One of my colleagues refused to believe that I would return and demanded that I leave my bags in Building 4 to guarantee my word!

In an excess of laziness I drove up from one building to another, failed to find a parking space, did another circuit and eventually parked illegally in front of the school van entrance.

It was all a trick of course.  I was ushered into the staff room to be greeted by my colleagues with a fantastic signed card, Cava and a gift card for FNAC which is a large shop of books and is also packed with desirable gadgets!  I was very touched and told them that the card would be used to part purchase a “smart” camera.  This prompted one of my colleagues to point out that I might have admitted to possessing more than one (but fewer than fifty, come on, be fair!) cameras.  But not one of them is a “smart” camera with Wi-Fi link for doing things and, indeed, stuff!  So buying one is a no-brainer.  At least for me.

After singing (in two languages and sometimes simultaneously) “For he’s a jolly good fellow!” I gave my thanks in a few seconds (ah, how times have changed) and concentrated in rubbing plastic with everyone so that I could get on with drinking my Cava.  A most satisfactory and agreeable end to my teaching career in the school. 

Roll on, as they say, the rest of my life!

But not before I have packed my case.  Toni has ironed nine shirts and folded them to within an inch of their lives and it is now up to me to try and pack the rest.

This has to be done this evening and before Irene arrives.

The rest of my life will have to wait for a while!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Each day a further step . . .

Well, it’s good to know that I can emulate my father’s father in one respect.

In spite of the continuous bombardment which is a characteristic of the Catalan celebration of St John I slept serenely, as indeed is only appropriate for a grandson whose grandfather went through not one, but both Battles of the Somme!

The number of armaments used for this celebration gives the lie to any idea that there may be any sort financial crisis lurking in or around the area.  The amount of money that must have gone up in smoke would have stabilized a reasonable sized bank – but of course they don’t need any extra money, as they have been gifted billions already.  The air of financial unreality continues.

The day started with a “good” lie-in as a way of getting me used to the new way of waking which will see me never having to get up at six-thirty in the morning ever again, unless I want to.  Having and wanting are very different concepts!

The “extra” week that we have to work comprises mornings only – as long as you count working until two in the afternoon as morning.  

I am assuming that there is going to be less traffic so I can leave the house substantially later than usual.  Nothing is going to kick-off until nine o’clock so there is every inducement to leave leaving the bare minimum of time to get there.  And if I am held up by traffic then, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.  In very much the same way as Management showed last Friday!  The resentment eats on!

Today has been a gloriously hot day and the parking has reached the very height of holiday inconsideration.  If (and that is a very big “if”) we had active traffic police and traffic wardens who actually came anywhere near the beach where the real horror parking takes place then the financial deficit of Castelldefels could be resolved in a single hot weekend!

As The Family descended we had a barbecue with Carmen’s potato salad and cod salad – both of which are delicious and refreshing.

Which is more than can be said for the England-Italy game which is dragging its weary length along.

Since I wrote that I went to bed rather than watch England fail to progress and fail to win a penalty shoot out – again.

The news this morning (it’s now Monday) let me know what I already knew – and I have found out that the incompetent wasters are actually paid money for their performance!  Incredible!

The atmosphere in school is, amazingly, one of barely concealed panic as the computer system which deals with the results of our myriad examinations does what it does which is not necessarily what we want it to do – result: misery!

And yet, there is for me an escape clause (apart from the complete lack of interest in keeping going a system bent on failure) because I am not going to be here next year and therefore can softly and silently vanish away for the Snark was a Boojum you see.

I shall attempt this silent vanishing in about thirty-five minutes time when, for the next three, solid hours, the hapless staff are to be given a talk on “Motivation and Responsibility”.

I did not go to the meeting.

Tuesday was notable for an early exit from school, a quick swim and a meal with Julie at lunchtime.  Alas, Toni was not well so there were just the three of us but a pleasant time was had by those not in bed!

Wednesday had meetings like other organizations have people playing patience on computers.  

I avoided one but was caught by the second.  This was one chaired by Suzanne so things started on time and finished when they were supposed to.  It also had teachers talking to each other about something practical – it’s amazing how productive teachers can be when they are given something real to do!

The real and serious business of today was not to do with education, but with my visit to the Tax People.

Toni made an appointment for me for 1.30 pm some time ago to try and sort out my tax affairs as the Internet seems decidedly uncooperative in sending me information about what the Tax People want to take from me.

I left an hour to get to the office near the Cornella branch of El Corte Ingles and I used my GPS to get me there.  It didn’t.  I remembered from my last visit (squalid and unsatisfactory) where the building should have been and, after a desultory piece of aimless driving chose a car park which I considered to be in the vicinity of where I wanted to be and, amazingly, found a space.  This was too good to ignore and I parked and prepared to find the office.  My hour had been reduced somewhat and it no longer seemed like a generous amount of time to spend.

I asked the first person I met, who was giving directions to somebody else at the time and so was obviously the right sort of person to ask.  He told me that the office I wanted was “straight ahead” and would take me ten, no five minutes to walk.

Such advice I take with considerable bags of salt but, it was remarkably accurate and I was soon walking through the unpretentious door of the massively pretentious building into the air-conditioned cool of taxpayers’ money being squandered!

I explained to the security person that I had an appointment and, in spite of the fact that I was carrying a brief case she ushered me through without passing through the metal detector – perhaps it was because I was carrying a brief case!

I reported to the front desk and noticed, to my horror, serried ranks of chairs filled with glum looking people.  I again said that I had an appointment and my identity number was fed into a ticket machine and a ticket was duly spewed forth.  I was told to wait until my number was called.

I walked despondently towards the Chairs of Tantulus and, before I could sit down my number was called!

Shock propelled me towards the stairs down into the heart of the building and to table number 33.  Which was unstaffed.

I sat down and almost immediately some teenager sat down and, after unconvincingly saying that he spoke some English, we continued in Spanish.

Let me cut to the chase.  I had a rebate!

I think.

If this is so it is the first time that I have joined the great majority of regular tax payers who seem to get something back at the end of the year!  I was the only person (just about) in the staff room last year who actually paid in to the tax man at the end of the year.  I feel that I have now joined a sort of national club – it is another stage in my assimilation to Spain!

Tomorrow there will be but two days left in school for me – though of course I am technically employed until the end of August – and I get to meet my replacement.  Probably.

I really need to get my head round the fact that I am going to France on Saturday (three days time) and I have done nothing to get packed or get organized for this jaunt!

I must now (Now!) get the details printed out so that Irene and I can at least tell people when we are going and more importantly getting back.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Last Trumpet


OK, that might be the word to describe the eventual death of the universe, but when it is applied to education, one of the many meanings is surely the positive one connected with retirement.

Today is the last day with the kids – and, yes, I do understand that a true school teacher does need that volatile semi-human substance to justify his pay packet; without kids there is, after all, basically no job – but who of the didactic persuasion can fail to rejoice when realizing that the paid obligation to implant ideas in the young is drawing to an end.

I have often felt like some sort of Russian spymaster during my career carefully nurturing concepts like “sleepers” placed in the minds of pupils hoping against hope that they might be “activated” at some hazy time in the future.  This is all self-interest of course as pupils are the financial guarantee of my pension!

In Spain this comforting logic goes awry.  I have not worked here long enough to justify a pension; my time here cannot be added to my British pensionable years; I get nothing back from my efforts and therefore, the kids will be working for other peoples’ pensions.  I did not enter the profession to have a study in selflessness!  But I trust that my colleagues

The day is bright with a morning haze and, on cue, bizarrely, just as I typed the word “morning”, “Morning Mood” from the Peer Gynt suite issued forth from speakers around the school playground as the “Voice” of our fiesta tested the sound system with music!  Coincidences like this simply do not happen in real life!  What are the chances?  Though, thinking about it, perhaps I have a magic computer and I should now type something about “money” and hope for the best.  On a more sombre note the music has now changed to “The Death of Ase” so perhaps I should move on!

It is now half past twelve and the Tombola stall has been sold out mainly due to the frenzied efforts of two possessed students in 2ESO who took aggressive marketing to new levels – especially when encouraged by me!  For the second year running while I have been involved in this stall we have got rid of everything that we were given to sell.  And I am now able to sit in the staffroom and wait for the other, less fortunate aspects of our fiesta to catch up with us!

I have been speaking with another teacher who is leaving this term and she has been quite emotional about the experience.  This makes me feel like a complete fraud as I too feel emotional, but not quite in the way in which she showed!

I am a little disturbed by the fact that everyone assumes that I will be going home and leaving Castelldefels as soon as I can.  They fail to understand that I have an internet radio and am able to listen to the weather forecast for each day in Britain and, like any reasonable person I do not choose to be there in the anything but clement weather which seems to be getting worse as we go further into the summer.

And, by the way we’ve had the longest day, so the nights will be drawing in from now on!  And I’m not even in the holidays yet.

The much awaited seafood meal at the end of the fiesta in school yesterday was, it turned out, a bittersweet affair.  The meal itself was excellent and, fortified by the “punch” that is also a feature of this lunch we all settled down to listen to the traditional end of year speeches.

Those people who had been in the school for 25 years (dear god!) were given their bunches of flowers and a teacher who has been ill was listened to with enthusiasm.

Then we came to the other teachers who were leaving and in an uncharacteristically mean-minded way we were all dismissed in the second half of a sentence!  I cannot pretend that I did not feel slighted – who wants to be a muttered reference at the tail end of a meandering platitude?  What must have gone through the mind of a female colleague who had been there for almost a decade invites speculation!

In the strange way in which these things are done, although yesterday was the official end of the course, it was not the end of term.  We have a further week of school in which various pieces of administrative tedium (including a marathon five hour mind bendingly moronic meeting on Tuesday) are spread through the week of long, long mornings which lead up to Friday and my final departure from the school. 

A departure made much, much easier with the casual dismissal of our years of service yesterday.

Today has been taken up with a visit to Barcelona with Irene who needed the time to have some “her” time to make up for the stressful week that she has had.  We both found something to buy: in her case a few English learners’ books filled (hopefully) with ideas for her summer classes; I found a modifiedly (and yes, I do know that the word doesn’t exist) great bargain of 52 CDs for €39.

I was not allowed to purchase this collection of Classical Greats by the lady in charge of the till in El Corte Ingles because there was a special offer of 21% off.  This turned out not to be a simple sum to do and it necessitated a further purchase for the reduction to take effect. 

When I tried to buy a fairly expensive double CD I was told, in no uncertain terms, that this was not the most cost effective idea.  I was directed towards a bin of CDs where Engelbert Humperdinck was not the composer of Hansel and Gretel but rather the woeful failure of Eurovision.  I eventually ended up with a double disc of Rolling Stones music which I got free and got a reduction in the discs that I actually wanted to buy.

The end result is that I got 52 discs for about €33!  That’s about 50p a disc.  Bargain!

There is, however, a catch.  Some of the recordings date back to the 1940s and the most modern disc dating to 1974 – making it a spritely 38 years old.  As there are conductors like Sir Adrian Bolt I will regard the recordings as of historical interest and enjoy them at that level.  There might also be something to appreciate in the background noise which I have now almost got used to doing without on modern recordings!

Spain’s win has been accompanied by a rumbling of explosions which are continuing to celebrate St John’s Night.

Sleep is going to be difficult to impossible.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The end again!

What a sad anti-climax: my last ever real-ish lesson was supervising a class of 2ESO who were finishing one examination and then (supposedly) revising for another.  And not even for a full lesson, but rather the dragging, unsatisfactory trailing off of a class finishing at different times and attempting then to look as though they were gainfully employed.

And that is it!

My strict professional duties have ended and now there is the over-long, resentful trailing off of term into a series of meetings trying to hold back the imaginations of teachers who will be way away from this place with only the physical husk of teachers left sadly rocking and nodding like Chinese good luck figures while the soporific drone of fugitive didacticism floats somewhere outside the realm of consciousness.

The school is now virtually, thankfully, empty of students who have gone to various locations around Barcelona and only one group of students is intentionally here constructing our World Famous “Tunnel of Terror” in the 2ESO classroom!

I am safely tucked away and recovering from having put in just one, single set of results on the computer!  I was under the strict supervision of a colleague (who is Wise in the Ways of Information Entry) and I still made basic mistakes.  But on the other hand, I couldn’t care less, as these pointless pieces of fantastical flummery are the last that I will ever put into a wheezing computer program.  Although, I have vowed never to say never as far as education is concerned – this is, after all my third or possibly fourth attempt at retirement!

Generally speaking, the fortunate few who are left in school are frantically marking, as the final day for results entry is tomorrow – or rather Saturday in the afternoon. 

I regard the assumption that a weekend is part of a teaching week as repugnant to my whole world view while, far from braying their horrified rejection of such an outré concept our staff wearily shrug their collective shoulders and with a rueful grin and a backward movement of the head wryly tut their disapprobation of such a “naughty” management as if they had caught the senior staff with sticky fingers stealing a cooling jam tart from the rack in the kitchen after Mum had just brought the goodies out from the oven!

I am now sufficiently recovered to attempt to enter another class.  Though I am also conscious of that being something which I might regret.

Another class was entered and then I fled home to La Ruta de Tapa and normality!

The one we did yesterday (stay with the wayward chronology of this writing) was in a new location for us and had the added advantage that it was more of a wine shop than a café and it sold bottles of Libilis – the fabled wine that Suzanne and I discovered on a foray to Barcelona.  I bought two (expensive) bottles and have put one in the fridge just in case.  This is a strange wine which is sweetly dry and has to be drunk at a temperate close to freezing to be enjoyed at its best.  But, at its best, it is truly delicious!

Today is the end of course for the pupils and there is a fiesta in school.  Normal lessons are suspended and various exciting activities come to the fore.  I am linked with the tombola which is not a competition but more of a second hand stall where my ability to get rid of the “stuff” is legendary.

The highlight of the day will be the meal at lunchtime when we will have a seafood extravaganza followed by the formal part of the day when the people who are leaving are subjected to speeches before they get their presents.

In my case, alas, I fear that I have not been in school long enough to merit the traditional gift from the school, so I expect kind words and a handshake!

Today is also the last day that I have to get up at six-thirty to get up – at least in terms of formal education.  Happy days!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How long can a day last?

The days, and especially the nights are punctuated by explosions as we work our way towards the day of bacchanalian revelries that characterizes the Day of Saint John.  This is the day of fireworks and it is traditional to spend the night on the beach around a fire and (gasp!) drinking!  Drinking more than one glass of beer or wine!  Catalans!  But it is true, as I have seen it with my own eyes.  The beach the morning after looks like a bomb site with bottles, rubbish and bodies laying around in all sorts of attitudes of drunken stupor.

Lighting Fires On The Beach has, of course been banned, but that does not stop intrepid revellers from disobeying the rules and providing employment for the officers of the law and the beach cleaners.

This is the last week of contact with the kids for me.  Five more days and that part of my life is over.  A further week with my colleagues probably going from pointless meeting to pointless meeting in one of those managerial spasms that assumes that a teacher without classes to go to is up to mischief and must be kept on the educational straight and narrow by continuing membership of ad hoc committees!  For me next year extends itself into the future and September will have no horrors for me.

Yesterday, or perhaps the day before yesterday, at the end of school I went up (dutifully following Frank) to the tunnel way to Terrassa.  This was remarkably quick and probably remarkably expensive, as my little device in the car clicked up another fee to travel on the roads.

It was a rapid visit and as soon as we hit Castelldefels we went out on the tapa trail in the centre of the town.  The first of the two that we had was in a place that had been closed the last time we attempted to visit it.  This time it was open and the tapa was cod wrapped in humus coated with sesame seeds resting on a bed of red pepper mousse with garnish of pickled baby tomatoes with a sprig of greenery.  Spectacular and tasty! 

The second was in a bar we have frequented before and this time we were treated to a quite substantial tapa of minced meat wrapped in cabbage leaves and served with a vicious chilli.  There was a blob of yogurt to make up for the chilli – which turned out to be necessary!  Full marks for the quantity but I fear that the quality was a little lacking.  The meat was relatively tasteless and the whole things were far too salty for my taste.  The yogurt was nice.

So far we have been impressed with the invention shown in the tapas this year and we are looking forward to completing the first twenty-one of the tapas as our first entry in the competition for gourmet meals for two in the prize draw of the completed “passports” for those who have completed the regulation 50% of the locales printed on the entry form.

I intend to sample all of the tapas and therefore gain two entries to the prize draw – as well, of course as gaining a wider appreciation of the culinary quality of my town.  Any visitors will be dragged into this enterprise as well as we will have a “visitors’ passport” for them to use which we will also enter for the prize draw too!  We have, I am glad to aver, no shame!

I have now been marking, for what seems to have been most of my life which also seems to have been concentrated into the temporal paradox which has been the last few days.  I have now, however, completed the majority of the horrendous marking and there is only the “light” marking of odd papers which come my way.

The true horror now starts when I try and put these marks into the computer for the day-long meeting on Tuesday of next week – which is an authentic horror in itself!

The days are ticking down and freedom is getting ever nearer.  Well, freedom of a sort, who knows what the future AS (After September) will bring!  But I look forward to the New Life and all other thoughts that can be capitalized!

Other teachers are now getting their final examinations and are looking browbeaten in their desperation as they ply the red biros with ever growing fury on an undiminishing pile of papers.

I am trying to remember all the haunts where I might have secreted useful teaching material in an attempt to erase all traces of my past activity before the last week of term. In theory that Last Week (more capitalization!) will be a time during which I will have masses of free time because I do not (surely!) need to attend all those interminable meetings giving helpful advice about the following term.  Which in my case I will not experience.  It is during at least one of these meetings I will be able to get started on all those petty tasks that usually lurk until the beginning of the term and then jump out to irritate and waste time which is suddenly more precious than gold!

At some point, well, the 27th of June, I have to go to the tax office and make a play to try and get some form of rebate – just like everyone else I know: apart form my good self.  I am truly the only person I have heard of who does not get a sum of money (no matter how small) back from the tax office at the end of the year!  I think this may say something about the general organization of the finances of this country and the parlous financial state that it is now in!

Meanwhile the sun shines, time ticks on and I am generally happy!

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Every so often (but not for very much longer) one has a heart stopping moment when the world seems to slip out of your grasp and chaos is come again!  This morning was one of those times when I opened my bleary eyes and saw after a moment’s pause that it was daylight.

Daylight!  Bright daylight!  Late!  The lurch to panicked action was, thankfully only momentary before I realized (or at least I thought I realized) that it was the weekend and I did not have to stagger away and make myself presentable for the pampered darlings of the rich.

Although I sank back onto the pillow with considerable relief, I also had a nagging doubt about the day.  In the deeply ingrained sense of puritan denial that is a birthright of all true Britons I suspected that the concept of the “weekend” might have been something planted in my mind by the Central Protection System of the brain trying to protect me from the ravages of marking.  Or, more likely, it was a cunning double-bluff from the Delayed Gratification and Associated Guilt Centre of the brain lulling me into a false sense of security only to snigger with delight when reality punches you in the stomach.  Either way I lay in an uneasy crouch waiting for what I accept as actuality to make a play for my emotions.

I decided it was Saturday and even felt confident enough about it not to check the day on my newish watch with which, I have to admit I am already bored.  Although the watch is all white leather and metal trimmings and truncated oval and digital, it doesn’t quite have that “summer” look that I was seeking for the next few months.

However I lay in until the demands of age and liquid dispersal demanded my movement and, as I never fail to tell myself lying in bed until 8.30am is a lie-in of two hours for me!

As tomorrow is Toni’s nephew’s birthday, today was waiting for a section of The Family to arrive to buy the youngster’s present.  This has taken the form of a Barça shirt – the new Barça shirt.  This child sized scrap of material cost an astonishing amount of money and, even more astonishingly if we had had the version which had two adverts on the arms it would have been double the price!  For bloody adverts!

I, however, kept my mouth shut.  Where Barça is concerned silence is golden and allows life to continue whereas . . .  So the shirt was bought and a number (at extra expense) was added to the back.

I have to admit that the form of the number was quite stylish and elegant with a small Barça shield emblazoned on it as well – so easily worth the money.  (See above.)

The party for this very young human is going to be held in some sort of farm building in the country.  My mind immediately sprang to the conclusion that this location was to lessen the environmental impact of a whole group of young humans screaming and wrecking in the same area.

I refused to go.

The only reason to tolerate these gathering of feral egomaniacs is if you are directly related by blood to at least a few of the participants in these occasions that remind people of the importance of family planning.

I am not related by blood to anyone there and I am shell-shocked enough as it is with the weight and extent of marking which I drag around with me at the moment without undergoing the further torture of a so-called “party” where shrieking banshees howling their injustices to the world make Goya’s Black Paintings of witches covens look like delicate representations of genteel vicarage garden tea parties.

Toni’s mother tried to persuade me to go by saying that the “party” was going to be held in a big field and that there would be no necessity to be near the perpetrators.  I am not, however taken in my such Jesuitical casuistry.  I know from harsh experience that any meeting of adults is only as mature as the youngest child in the gathering.

I have sat with responsible adults watching with spellbound wonder a small child fail to walk properly.  

The only thing that kept me sane was watching with incredulous scientific detachment the looks of “genuine” interest and satisfaction on the faces of the other grown-ups at this display of uncoordinated ineptitude.  I, of course, kept a smile of innocent wonder stapled hypocritically to my face during the whole “performance” so that no casual glance of a besotted adult would see anything other than radiant satisfaction illuminate my countenance.

A party of a whole collection of neophyte humans acting with the certain knowledge that they are more important than me – not really to be countenanced!

So I have a weekend at home reading and watching programmes on the IPad and reading the Guardian and The Week also on the IPad.

Who could ask for more!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Misery & Delight!

Wednesday morning is an uneasy time for me.  Given the awful traffic on the motorway that I have to take, it is advisable to arrive at the normal time in spite of my teaching commitments starting at 9.55 am.  This means, of course that I am visibly available to a passing member of management for pouncing upon to cover other lessons.

At present the members of the art department are busily putting up the end of year exhibition and are therefore off timetable.  This means that “free” colleagues have to take the lessons thus made teacherless.  As my Wednesday (with the disappearance of the sixth form) is relatively sparse in teaching commitments I have been feeling decidedly vulnerable.

I made it to lunchtime and was looking forward to a teaching and pupil emptied double period stretch during which I was going to attack the rubbish in my cupboard in building one (the cupboard in building 4 having been virtually emptied already) when a colleague brought me the odious news that the single lesson with the 3ESO which we had been told was going to be taken over by someone talking to them about something and therefore did not need our presence there is not as we have been told.

We have to go with the kids and listen to a talk on drugs.  Shit.  And I was hoping to slope off early so that I could go and have a quick swim and still be able to get home in time to prepare the table for the festivities attendant on Toni’s name day.  Foolish boy – I should have drawn on thirty years experience of happy expectations being dashed by scholastic managerial machinations ever to assume that so jocose a plan could possibly succeed!

But, having completed my marking I do feel up to attempting a partial clean up of my cupboard.

That last good intention has only partially been completed because I obviously had to stump my resentful way off to the talk on drugs.  Which was appalling.  When I arrived in the auditorium the kids had already been spoken to for a solid hour and they had another hour of talking to go before they were released.  Considering the inconsiderate format of the “experience” our kids were generally well behaved – perhaps it’s good training for the series of absurdly long and mind numbing meetings that this country seems to go in for as part of a professional existence!

The evening was taken up with Family celebrations for Toni’s name day.  For me that meant calling in to the supermarket for goodies and then (after not going for a swim) having to go straight back out again when I got home because bread had not been purchased.  So, back to the supermarket and on my return The Family had arrived – a seamless journey to total exhaustion.

The meal was eaten to the accompaniment of the European Football Championship just to add an extra nuance of tedium to the situation because with most of these countries I have no preference about who wins.  Although I did find that remembering the marking in the Eurovision Song Contest added a soupçon of vitriol to my seemingly placid viewing.  Just how long is this torture going on!  Roll on the final and at least some respite from the tyranny of football on our television screens.  Not, of course that football is not a good spectator sport – it is – it’s just that I can think of better things to do and silence in the living room with the television switched off is an important luxury as well!

Today, Thursday, should be the last normal day of teaching for the kids as tomorrow the final (sic.) examinations of the year are going to start.  Ironically both of the examinations that I have to mark are being held on the same day and so I have the maximum amount of time in which to mark them.  I sincerely hope that the statement in the last sentence does not come back to haunt me.  In theory I should be able to start marking the 3ESO examination as soon as it has been completed and although the 1ESO exam is last thing on Friday I should have time on Monday to get that started as well and even completed if things go well.

Then there will be the filling in of the results on various pieces of paper and (sic.) in the computer system.  The last time we did this there were three separate (an very large) pieces of paper on which we had the write the same results out as well as putting them in the system.  One is tempted to ask why, but one knows that that would be the wrong question to ask.

My first gained “free” this morning at 8.15 am has been lost (again) and so I will end up having two periods with the 3ESO to start the day.  What a joy!  And people ask me why I am retiring and won’t I miss it!  How jejune can people be!

I will actually have to do some real teaching today, though I think that this will be in spite of my classes demanding time to “study”.

That word is a difficult one to understand in the context of education in this country, but a very simple one to understand from the kids’ point of view.  For them it merely means making mindless notes and learning them by rote.  They rely on a few studious kids to make written notes and then they syndacalise them throughout the year group so, if the originator of he notes makes a mistake that spreads like a disease and marks vanish into thin air!

My arrival in the house at the end of the day was after an extended swim in the pool and a relaxing cup of acceptable tea and, joy of joys, reading a whole sci-fi story on my phone.  It was a life style which appears increasingly attractive as the days slowly (O! So slowly!) creep by towards the date of release.

Anyway, my arrival was met by Toni sitting on the sofa holding something and staring at me in a meaningful way.  I met his meaning with blank incomprehension until Toni rattle the paper he was reading and said the magic word “tapas”!  I then instantly comprehended his previous mute communication and realized that he had the new sheet for the Ruta de tapas for Castelldefels.

For the last three years we have been enthusiastic supporters of this idea.  Some forty cafés, bars and restaurants agree to provide a “signature” tapa and a drink of your choice for the set price of €3.  You are provided with a sheet which contains the names of the participating locales, a map to show their location and a description of the tapas offered.  Each time you try a tapas you have your sheet stamped and, when you have completed 50% of the route you can submit your sheet for the grand draw to win a prize.

Last year with a superhuman effort and the help of friends and visitors I managed to complete the whole route and tasted ever single taps on offer!  A remarkable achievement, especially as some establishments were less than welcoming and amenable to fulfilling their part of the bargain!

The prize was an IPad and I felt that I was in with a good chance.  As well as a chance of winning all people who submitted a completed sheet of visits were given a booklet of tickets to have food and drink at the fair and festival at the end of the allotted time for completing the route.

Not only did I not win the IPad, but also my visit to the festival of food was an out and out disaster.  I was not feeling 100% when I set off for this jolly, but I felt infinitely worse when I got there and, sampling nothing and drinking nothing I made my sorry way home and went instantly to bed where I remained for over 24 hours wallowing in self pity (when I was conscious) and bewailing my state.

This year is going to be different (come hell and high water!) and we enthusiastically started on our camino with a tapa in a new, or at least renamed bar in the centre of Castelldefels.  This tapa was made up of salad, two pieces of bread and pinchos.  Flavoursome and generous it was an excellent start. 

The second tapa was an aesthetic triumph and, unique in our experience, looked exactly like the photographic on the advertising board which each locale has to advertise the event!  A combination of caramelised apple, prawn, artichoke and bread: it looked ravishing but was actually less appetizing than the more ordinary but more satisfying first.

The third was another classy production served on slate, but it disappeared in a mouthful and the glass of wine was a bit stingy too.

But we have started and I look forward to discovering more of the culinary delights that Castelldefels has to offer, as there are plenty of new places in the list this year.

Last year our great “discovery” was the restaurant El Elefante where, after eventually finding the place we sampled the tapa and stayed for a meal – which surely should be the aim of participating restaurants.  This was with Andrew and Stewart whose presence seemed to be a good luck charm as all the tapas we tried with them were exceptional!  The tapa of this restaurant for the present competition (each route follower has to nominate the best tapa they have tried) seems a little ordinary but perhaps they have a twist on the production which will make it exceptional.  Last year I voted the El Elefante tapa as the best and none of the three that I have tried so far matches it.

Knowing that each day will bring a new taste experience is something which helps deaden the pain of the next week when I will have to mark the examinations that the kids in front of me at the moment are sitting.  There is something to be said for touch-typing as I daren’t stop watching these kids for a moment as they take every opportunity of bolstering their future achievement by clandestine opportunistic reinforcement – or “cheating” as we know it!

Their examination paper is thirteen pages long and there are 127 marks to be gained (actually 127.75 but that’s our system for you!) and is one of the longest papers I will ever have had the mind numbing torture of marking.

If things go according to plan, I will start the process today and complete it on Monday, when I will be able to start the marking of the second paper that is going to be sat today which will also end up in my brief case.  This second paper will be even more resented than the first because it may (perish the thought!) cut into my early finish time which is absolutely unthinkable.  I am already planning (if the kids are kept in two classes and not three as is normal) to volunteer to do the early stint so that I can depart on time and not be held back, gnashing my teeth in impotent fury.

There is also the thought that Castelldefels has a “Gourmet” route as well where restaurants offer a three course evening meal for €25.  €50 for a couple or £40 in real money is not such a bargain when you consider that a normal three course lunch (with wine) is about €10 - €14, so the evening meal will have to be substantially better to merit the higher price.  But I am more than willing; in a spirit of scientific curiosity to find out if it is so!