Although I am now sitting in a highly privileged position, on a lofty hill overlooking the whole of Barcelona there is something about the colour of the mist (I am being generous here) over the city which is not exactly comfortable. I only hope that the pall does not extend this far up!
I am accompanied by that dull drone of distant traffic enlivened by individual exhausts and the rattle of passing motorcycles. Although this is a southern country there is not as much use of the horn as you might expect from watching films which use the stereotype of the hot blooded Mediterranean type using the horn in much the same way as northern folk use the clutch!
I am outside on a bench with my back against the wall of the staffroom watching the school wake up. The sun is hidden behind a mass of pines and so I am in the shade, but in a couple of hours it will be baking on the terrace.
Gradually the number of children flung into school an hour or so before their classes actually start by parents who apparently can’t wait to get rid of them are polluting the drone filled silence of the morning and behind me I can her the first resentful croaks of my colleagues staggering towards their first coffees.
On Thursdays and Fridays my lessons are all packed together in a most unsatisfactorily compact way which sees me rushing from one building to another in breathless confusion.
Smaller children have now added their piercing voices to the background soundtrack of the school and the first thump of a kicked ball is a descant to the high voices.
The smudge-brown blanket of pollution has prettified itself into a sort of pastel yellow and the first planes of the morning are sailing serenely (at least at this distance) across the city.
And now it’s time for my first cup of tea as I face a day of five lessons on the trot, a departmental meeting and an evening event of the school’s Literary Competition. A thoroughly depressing prospect!
I am now not sitting on a sun-drenched bench but rather in a stuffy classroom with only visual rumour of the panoramic view that I could be looking at. I have lost one lesson only to have it replaced by sitting in front of a first year class watching them filling out a Spanish language exam. And I am still debating whether or not I will be justified in staying away from the meeting tonight.
This is the annual jamboree connected with the awarding of our International Literary Prizes (all capitals). I do feel a bit of a heel even in thinking of not going because the administration is connected to a member of the department and she does look for support for her colleagues. I think that probably the best I can do is to leave school as early as I possibly can and then make my way back in later this evening. The problem there is that driving on the northern part of the orbital motorway is not exactly a delight at that time in the evening, and the only time that I attempted it I was almost late. Though there again, I do not have a function in the event and it is merely a question of showing my face.
I have time to think about this because I have to stay for lunch and a departmental meeting in the afternoon, so there will be time for even more reflection and cogitation before I eventually decide on some typically selfish form of action!
Thinking about it, that last statement is unfair – after all, how many bloody years have I been in the teaching profession; I am surely entitled to some cut slack or whatever the phrase is! Though, that doesn’t work in the case of teaching. The customers keep changing and the ones at the end of a career are as deserving of a professional service as those at the beginning when enthusiasm makes up for lack of experience.
I suppose that a possible test might be to consider whether I would like to be a colleague of me or to be taught by me! A daunting thought and one that requires a certain amount of mental gymnastics! And one that I would be ill advised to go into as it might reveal (candid or guarded) far too much of my well-hidden essential personality!
After all my thinking I actually went to the Literary Prize Giving and listened to an astonishingly inappropriate talk on the brutal book “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote for a group of young writers. Capote had visited the Costa Brava at some time and this, together with pictures of the graves of the slain characters in the “novel” confused rather than elucidated the central point of the talk. Still, I recognized the guy from the television and he did at least speak in Spanish rather than Catalan, so I bumbled my way along understanding imperfectly while maintaining a mien of intellectual appreciation!
I fled as soon as was decently possible and we later went out for dinner in one of the restaurants along the paseo. My pizza was excellent rivalling the efforts of the Maritime in time gone by, the Maritime I might add which was closed at a worryingly early hour. To be fair I was bone weary, so it’s a little unreasonable to expect catering staff to be any more enthusiastic at working at that hour than I was. But that’s life.
A worrying development in my life, which shows that I have my priorities in the right order and only worry about important things in life, is that my watch appears to have lost time.
My new watch appears to have lost time.
Admittedly the power source of this timepiece is light falling on some part of the machine that turns mere light into electric power, but the one thing that was clear was that The Time and the time on my watch were different. And one couldn’t really say that Catalonia has been deficient in the provision of light in the last month! I now recall with concern comments on the Amazon website which stated that the recharging ability of the watch was variable and even when left out in strong sunlight there was no guarantee that it was fully charged. I have been lulled by faultless operation into accepting that its time is absolute and my faith is now completely shattered. Again. That’s life too!
Days have slipped by and no fingers on keys!
This weekend has seen the last of my revision. Monday the exam. As part of my preparations on Saturday I drove the route that I will have to take on the Exam Day by driving from School to the British Council. Twice. The first time I made a mistake by following the instructions to the letter and later realized that there was a degree of flexibility that I should have observed. Which I did the second time around!
There appears to be parking near the British Council, but I should have enough time to panic and find somewhere else if the two places that I have noted as possibilities fail to live up to promise.
Tomorrow is going to be a long day. Up at six-thirty and then teaching until five past one. A drive to the British Council and the Exam. A drive to the centre of Barcelona and an opera (Rheingold – just the sort of light relief that I will need!) and falling out of the Liceu at gone midnight to drive back to Castelldefels to go to bed to get up the next morning at six-thirty. And this is supposed to be fun!
At least the weather has been decent – even if there have been more obtrusive wispy clouds than have been strictly necessary – and I have generally been able to take some advantage of the Third Floor and positions myself in the requisite position aligning myself with my favourite star.
The days pass and we are now over half way through April; May is looming and then it is June and escape!
More nearly and importantly in the short run, the website for my next course will open in two or three days time and after tomorrow I will be able to start work and build up a time buffer before the official start of the course on the 4th of May.
My experience with my present course has Shown Me the Way to get back into the swing of the OU and its ways. I think that I will get more out of this course than I did the last because I am a little more canny about what is important in the OU World! At least I hope so. This course will take me over the next 20 weeks and up to the examination in September. October is the start of my third course and I am still debating about what to take. My preference is for a second level creative writing course which will take me up to my first second level art course in 2014.
But first the bloody exam!