Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tell us how to do it?

The sun slunk out this afternoon to show the Pauls what the weather could do if it felt like it!  Although there was a brisk wind it was hot and very un-British.

Today it is Paul Squared’s opportunity to cook for us.  We had a more than satisfactory lunch in St Boi but the real event is to be “Spanish Chicken” cooked by Paul.

You have to admire someone who comes to a country and then vaunts his culinary prowess by asserting that he can cook an eponymous national dish!

The ingredients were collected by Paul and myself from the Carrefour in Prat and we were beguiled by items other than the ones that we had come for and it was only with a real effort that we remembered that we needed chicken for the dish!

The real problem was the paprika in its smoked variety.  The first person I asked for paprika in the supermarket reacted as if I had suggested I hook up with her mother in some sleazy threesome rather than asking for a fairly run-of-the-mill spice!  I eventually got the help of an eager little old man to help me in my search.  Unfortunately his enthusiasm was only matched by the fatuity of our efforts.  Nevertheless, other spices were bought and they will do.  Probably.

My enthusiasm about the improving weather and the prospect of a delicious meal is limited because of the terrible realization that I have to go back to school not on Monday the 8th of April – but rather on Wednesday of this week.  In a mere three and a bit days’ time; let’s be precise, from this exact moment in time I am 84 hours from having to get up to go to school!  Holiday virtually over!

Still, June the twenty-somethingth is getting nearer by the day when blessed release will be granted!

I don’t suppose that I should, but I am very tempted to count the number of weeks left!

But I won’t.

Barça are playing a bottom of the table team and only drawing.  They are playing dreadfully and the poor goalkeeper had to save two successive shots one from his own team and the other from the opposition!  At least they are equal starting the second half.  I trust that they have had a pep talk and will do very much better than during the first depressing forty minutes!

Nothing from the OU Tutor today, hopefully I will have my work returned tomorrow and then the revision work via our Tutor Forum starts.  I must admit that I am looking forward to the exercises to stimulate me to something more interestingly productive than tired re-reading and trying to spot key OU-ish words to use in the exam!

The Pauls are off back to the UK tomorrow after a truly flying visit.  Still, they are coming over during August for longer and we will hopefully have more sultry weather to encourage them to visit the beach and even throw themselves in the sea!

Monday will see us revisit Terrassa to see the Monas made by Toni’s sister and to watch the kids demolish them.

I must also remember that I have little eggs to give the assembled boys tomorrow morning.  Such vicious fun!  And I am already practising my very best guilelessly innocent tone of voice asking, “And where is mine?” and then the pathetic, whipped dog face when it appears that nobody has thought to get me anything. 

I love it!

Thursday, March 28, 2013


“There’s a dead dog in your swimming pool,” is the sort of statement that people say that they have found in a foreign phrase book.  When will you ever use such a phrase?  Never.  Or, in my case, this evening.  Not by me, admittedly, but by a bemused Paul.

I treated the comment as mildly humorous and went to the Third Floor more as an unthinking response rather than in lively expectation.  And there was nothing there.  But a little movement to one side and emerging from the shadow of the tree, there it was looking more like a slightly twisted doll than anything else, but unmistakably a dead dog doll.  In the swimming pool.

Investigation was called for and I hot footed it down from the Third Floor to Ground Zero to be met by two rattled friends still reeling from attempting to get a closer view and being attacked by a ferocious dog launching himself towards them only being repulsed by our flimsy bamboo fence.  Toni moved away quickly and Paul fell backwards – luckily onto our gloriously artificial grass and was no more than shaken.

All was made clear.  Obviously the ferocious cur that attacked Paul Squared and Toni was crazed with fear that his heinous crime of offing the poor crippled dog (I jest not) moving gently at the bottom of the pool had been discovered!  Guilt screamed from every leap!

It is easy to reconstruct the events. 

The dogs having been left (yet again) respond by escaping from their pens.  The gate to the pool is flimsy and the plastic “fencing” recently propped against the gate totally insufficient to prevent a large, determined dog from getting out. 

Having made his egress the smaller dog, crippled in both back legs is well able to follow.  Once at the side of the pool any movement with the unsettling weight of dead legs could have caused the dog to topple in.  Or perhaps a boisterous bit of play by the larger could have pushed the smaller in. 

Whatever happened, once the small, old, crippled dog was in the water there was no way that he would be able to get out again.  It was only a matter time before the inevitable. 

And I hope all of the preceding works in the mind of the owner!

When I approached the fence the hysterical barking and the accompanying wailing from Paul and Toni dissuaded me from venturing beyond the limits of my demesne.  However, the sight of the cadaver from a more advantageous viewpoint emphasised the reality of the fact that there was indeed a dead dog in the swimming pool and that was not something which could be tolerated.  Even if I had no desire or intention of doing anything to remove it.

My first impulse was to phone the RSPCA and get them involved with the express intention of bringing home the guilt for the death to the inadequacy of the measures to keep the dogs safely within the garden of our neighbours.  Dogs will be dogs and their human owners need to take responsibility, and when they don’t then they must be made to pay.  And pay heavily.

I am quite sure that the telephone call from the police that our neighbour received informing her of the death was deeply upsetting and her grief is sincere but I do hope that she realizes that her own negligence is the cause and she must live with it.

Meanwhile the little realities of the event meant that I actually spoke to our neighbours on the other side and had a conversation longer than anything I have had with them over the last few years!

I am not sure what we can do to match or surpass this little tragi-comedy for the next day of the Pauls’ stay, but we are now going out to eat and that should be a much calmer experience!

Monday, March 25, 2013

First Day

Any day which allows me to lie out in the sun and have to use sun cream has my vote.  Today was such a day.  Lying down on a little used sun lounger and listening to my mobile phone’s music relayed through one of those little round expandable speakers with the prospect of lunch with Irene – what could be better.

Lunch was excellent and conversation better.  Though my fears about the scheme which I have been told about with three or four per cent interest on your deposit each month at compound interest seems to be a little less real now that depositors have been told that access to their money is delayed until a second audit has been completed.  Ponzi Scheme screams out it warning and my sympathy goes out to those who invested – although there is still time for my fears to be proved groundless.  I hope, for the sake of some of my friends, my fears really do prove to be groundless!

I have now completed all the set work of the first of my OU courses and from here on in it is revision all the way.  I am hoping that our Tutor Forum will now spring back into life with some tutor led suggestions for the finer points of our revision.  That at least will sooth tattered nerves as they develop over the next few weeks!

With any reasonable luck the weather should hold for the next few days with sun and high cloud – at any rate it should be markedly better for the Pauls than in Britain.

Tomorrow, Opera – Madame Butterfly. 

I must remember to take the tissues!

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Although I count the moment I stepped through the Green Door and left the school the day before yesterday afternoon just after 2.00 pm as the first start of the holiday and yesterday, Saturday as the second start of the holiday, I consider the first would-have-been working day (or the fourth start of the holiday, don’t forget Sunday) as the real beginning of the vacation. 

My joy has to be tempered by the fact that the Easter Break is also the time for the Scumbags to move into their “holiday home” next door for the period up to and including Easter, so the next couple of days will see their much hated dysfunctional personalities (if that is not too flattering a description of their execrated presences) noise their way into our lives again giving us valuable limbering up time to cope with their lowering, extended visit in the summer.

Still, lunchtime on Saturday and they had still not broken the tranquillity with their shrieks, clumpings, arguing, singing (!), smoking, smashing, crashing, entertaining (!), talking over, talking through, talking mindlessly and with the simple fact of their existence.  All of which is objectionable and vile.  But they were not there yet and we were enjoying the delay, no matter how short it might be.

I started the holiday by paying a visit to the local pool and did my lengths.  As I have no glasses (or at least no glasses that I am prepared to wear) I am reduced to using my contact lenses.  The battle between my eyes continues with my brain stubbornly refusing to play ball and read through one and use the other for distance as the optician intended when I was given the new set of contact lenses.  I understand that other people’s brains are well adjusted to this sort of juggling – well, mine isn’t and I have always failed to budge it when I have attempted this in the past.

This time I am going to be a week or two without glasses and so I will, of necessity have another period in which The Change can be attempted all over again.  I have no lively expectations of success, but I will manfully persevere and then admit elegant failure in the usual way!

I think that I will try and wear contacts next term as well and see how they cope with study in my next course. 

Which can’t start soon enough for me!

It is now Sunday morning and the Scumbags moved in yesterday afternoon to general gloom and despondency.  

It would appear that the full range of dysfunctionality is not yet assembled with the younger element not having yet made her appearance – probably still sleeping at home.  She is the catalyst which sets the others off on the rants for which they are infamous as they try and “reason” with her to get up, go out, stay in etc.  

So far, so quiet but this is very much the lull before the storm.  

Soon the television will be blaring in the outside seating area so that we can have the full benefit of a commentary on the F1 races; the mother will be smoking by an open window so that the smoke comes directly into our house (the stub ends will, of course, be flicked into our garden); the father will start singing; the daughter will refuse to get out of bed and the aged relative (they always have one or two hanging around) will be the sole voice of reason as the family disintegrates for the umpteenth time.  

Still, holidays wouldn’t be the same without our favourite hate figures concentrating and sharpening our fully justified ire!

And it’s a sullen start to the day with unreasonable amounts of cloud forcing me to have my tea inside rather than on the Third Floor.  But this is Spain, and there is a whole day for the weather to improve. 

And I have faith!

"Sea View” is a much-misused tag.  

How many times have hapless Brits gone abroad expecting a view of ocean or sea and had to end up not with the expansive vista of rolling waves, but rather a small patch of blue which could only be seen by standing on the toilet seat, hanging half-way out of the window and using a small pocket mirror.

Our “sea view” is just as problematic.  

Dianne has a simple rule of thumb about this elusive perk: if you can’t hear it (i.e. the sea) it doesn’t really count.  We can hear it, but seeing it is rather more elusive.

It is only from the Third Floor that our proximity to the Med becomes clear.  We used to be able to see a sort of triangle of blue if you looked down directly to where the sea should be.  On a calm day you simply had to take on trust that the colour was actual “sea view” and not some part of the sky.  If one pushed the definition of the term there were also a few (well a couple to be absolutely truthful) scraps of sea that could possibly count, glimpsed between buildings and trees, but pointing them out was more embarrassing needy than any possible compensating kudos that could be gained.

The growth of the native pines that infest this part of the world even threatened to slim down the recognizable triangle of water and make us visually land locked.

All this has changed. 

I think that there has been some fairly radical pruning of the light-denying evergreen (or unbelievable lack of observation on my part) with the result that we now have a view, not only of the blue but also of the waves and even of sand.  And not just from one direction!  No, from where I am sitting at the moment in the Toni-created “Tea Room” on the Third Floor I can actually see the beach, waves and sea.  Admittedly it is through a small funnel of a sight line where the branches have momentarily parted to allow it, but nevertheless it is recognizable.  Small, but there!

Our triangle has now changed into some heretofore-unknown geometrical construction and that too gives small, but unparalleled vistas to the paseo, road, beach, waves and sea!


Though again, with a brisk wind vegetation usually gets in the way and makes even more problematic what is tenuous at best!  Still, even a glimpse of the (audible) sea is better than none.  And at some point in the holiday I fully intend (climate permitting) to place my body on the beach and soak up some sun.  Throwing myself into the foaming deep – or at least what passes for that in our generally calm, domestic waters – will have to wait for another more congenial month.

This morning I actually put on sun tan lotion for the first time this year!  

I have already used after-sun, as sitting in the playground on Friday morning without a hat was not a good plan.  I now have that summery smell of lotion about me and I feel much more inclined to be positive about the world.  This is in spite of the fact that it has rained in a petty and spotty sort of way today.  I am holding faith with an imaginary weather forecast that I have in my mind that promises golden sunshine for the duration of the Easter Week and beyond.  And I am thinking that the holiday proper starts on Monday – this weekend was merely a run-up to the main event!

The Scumbags have been well behaved so far.  

That may well have been a foolish thing to say, as all the laws of schadenfreude will now come into play, but it is a Sunday and the well-known “Holiday Sunday Effect” is in full swing.  This is the changing of a day of grief that is a Sunday in term time (it being the day before a Monday and therefore another full week of misery) is magically transformed into a day of delight, not only because it is a holiday, but also because the curse of work-related foreboding is banished by the heady vista of freedom!  It is difficult on a Holiday Sunday therefore to be truly miserable because the casual remembering that tomorrow is Monday and It Doesn’t Matter keeps giving little bursts of happiness each time realization hits!

It has, however, rained again.  And heavily.  And it’s raining now!  Again, again!

But tomorrow, as all the best films say, is another day – and frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!