Saturday, June 29, 2013

What next!

Rampant corruption in this country has reached a high point with the hustling away to prison of the ex-treasurer of the ruling PP party.  SeƱor Barcenas is one of the most famous people in Spain at the moment as his face is on the television every single evening of the week.  He has been accused of being the author of some damningly revealing handwritten accounts which show that the members of the government have been paid vast sums of money for various trifling items like suits all paid for by commercial organizations which have benefited enormously from raking in cash from public works awarded by the government.

Barcenas has been found to be couriering eye-watering large sums of black money from Switzerland (!) to Spain in favour of PP – the totally discredited ruling party.  His explanations have been treated with contempt and he has been caught out by a judge in his explanation about millions of euros that happened to be lying around.  The tissue of lies that he told resulted in his being sent straight to prison – but not before he had let it be known that he had made a video which is lodged with a Notario (see previous blogs about the vacuity of these particular money grubbing shits) to be played in the event of his death in prison.

I have to admit that I laughed out loud when I heard this latest piece of melodramatic rubbish.  However, the mere existence of this “bomba atomica” indicates as clearly as if he had stated it that the corruption within PP is widespread from top to bottom and that the powerful in the party can be destroyed by the revelations that he could make.  It can get no more farcical.  Except this is Spain, and anything is possible.

I have to reiterate that had the series of scandals hit the governing party of any northern European country it would have had to resign.  It would have been hounded out of office by newspapers, radio, television and public disgust.  But here, the members of the government, however shockingly inept and mendacious, stay and hope that everything will go away. 

The philosophy is that everyone is doing it so why shouldn’t I, and why are you making a fuss!  It is deeply shocking and, more than that it is positively shaming to have to listen to the blatant lies of our so-called leaders.  They are despicable.

Lunch with Irene, who was dismayed by the news from Cardiff and asked me to convey whatever sentiment I thought most appropriate to the main parties involved.  It is early days, and one can only hope for the best and a positive outcome from a very negative set of circumstances.

The weather has been good.  Ish.  A sort of casual haziness that just stopped it being glorious.  The swim was refreshing.  Which is not good at this time of year!  And it’s supposed to be positively cloudy tomorrow, though I tend to rely on my firm belief in the concept of the microclimate to keep me warm.

On the OU front we have now been given the groups in which we will be working and I can foresee some problems but I am determined to be positive and hope for the best!

Tomorrow I must do some “revision” as I have been looking at the sample examination paper that we have been given and it requires a lot more quite specific information and does not lend itself to the quantity of intellectual “busking” that I was able to do in the last one!

My chosen technique of consolidating the notes that I have made is to use Excel as a way of keeping key terms together with some brief explanation if necessary and then using the important concept to form a “word cloud” which is a useful aide memoire and is a clear indication to me to flag up gaps in specific knowledge.  Well, it worked in the last exam and I intend to use it in this one, but I need to get the notes consolidated before too much of the course has gone to make it far too daunting a task! 

Preparation is all. 

I hope.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Grey warmth

A grey start to the day but it got better an there was an opportunity to use the new cushions for the sun bed – the previous version having been condemned through the sheer weight and destructive power of perspiration!  This one at least has removable covers so there is the theoretical possibility of the covers being washed.  Occasionally.  Perhaps.

I am continuing my reading of Patricia Cornwall’s book that postulates that Jack the Ripper was the British painter Walter Sickert!  I have to admit that she is building a convincing case at the moment, but I simply do not want to believe it.  There is much more of the book to go and I don’t like him that much as a painter that I am prepared to ignore unflattering evidence.  Not of course that I would define the quality of a painting by my knowledge of a biography of the artist; but it is tempting!

My OU course continues with much reading about early books and the way that they were produced.  Fascinating with, as usual, the twist that the OU always gives to what appears at first glance to be fairly neutral information!

No news about my Grown Up Camera and I begin to despair.  What I thought was a cheaper alternative to Amazon has turned into a marathon of waiting.  It may have been cheaper than Amazon, but I would have got my camera in a few days and I still have not got it after a few weeks! 

A lesson to be learned there.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

There's always something

Light-hearted jocularity and facility with language do not adequately cover long distance misery.

Yesterday had its moments of delight but the overarching ache of sympathy for unhappy friends tainted any transitory pleasure.  And the not knowing precisely what is going on and how they are coping is another source of worry.

When the palpably real takes on the appearance of a tawdry soap you have to keep reminding yourself that the people involved are not characters bending to the whim of some omniscient author, but flesh and blood whose lives you know and with whom you have history stretching back decades.

I am blessed (or cursed) with a vivid imagination and last night was spent reviewing possible scenarios which might play out and indeed are being played out as I say the words.  And none of them was good.  I obviously want both of my friends to be happy.  But that seems something of a remote possibility at the moment. 

At times like this we teachers have the accumulated wisdom of past Morning Assemblies on which to draw.  And as someone who listened with attention to each of them (uniquely in my professional experience) I have an extensive range to go back over.  The one which seems most apposite at the moment concerns the king/emperor/sultan/caliph (I have heard this in many versions) who ordered his Jeweller/chancellor/advisor/etc. to make his something which would make him happy when he was sad and make him thoughtful when he was happy.  A ring was produced which had the inscription, “This too will pass” - which happily fitted both the conflicting demands.  “This too will pass” helps superficially with the present situation but what happens before it passes is what is concerning me at the moment.

I shall do what I always do in such situations, and indeed in life generally and escape into digressions.

One of the astonishing things about yesterday was my trip to the Employment Office.  Not in itself something of note, but as my contract is now over and I have shaken the dust from my shoes in the School on the Hill I now have to register as someone without work.  This is usually a soul-searing experience mixing as it usually does equal amounts of pointless frustration with institutional enforced ignominy.  Not yesterday.  A short wait (including recognition by the white haired security guard – what a memory for faces he must have) and a polite and efficient official and we were done.

Until the next meeting which is today.  For this one I have a “timed” slot and I am almost certain that I have all the requisite papers to expedite things with the least possible fuss.  Bureaucracy here is a powerful and esoteric beast and no matter how prepared to meet him you are, armed with the shield of patience, the sword of photocopies and the helmet of proof of identity there is always some part of the armour that you have forgotten such as the breastplate of Form ALP/39945-A3911 which is only issued on the second Thursday in alternate months in a small office in St Boi between the hours of 8.14 am and 9.37 am (ask for Juan) and without which all your efforts are as nothing.

And this is not a meaningless formality this morning.  It is an essential part of my strategy to live reasonably in this country.  I await the outcome with trepidation and a certain amount of lively expectation – which is my usual way of existence.

My scepticism was fully justified as, it turns out, I am officially On Holiday and until my On Holiday time runs out I can do nothing.  So, it’s back to the office on the 6th of July for another visit and hopefully my status will be recognized by the Powers That Be.  At least we had a cup of coffee and a croissant to give some substance to a futile visit.

Now that my Greek Vase essay has been returned I feel liberated to continue my studies.  Overshadowing the placid acquisition of knowledge is the Fear of the Wiki.  This is basically an exercise in collective writing where eight of us strewn around Europe collaborate to produce a connected piece of writing which is given a single collective mark.  The reflection on this work is marked separately and individually, but the Wiki counts for more than the individual piece.  In the last course the Wiki give me my worst mark, but armed with experience I hope to do better this time round – collaborators willing!

Every aspect of this course so far has been interesting mainly because it caters to my fairly indiscriminate appetite for snippets of historical and artistic trivia and weaves them all together into a seemingly coherent narrative of academic exploration.  The OU is famous for taking the student on a journey which opens up discussions that force the individual to reassess previously held assumptions – and sometimes using the most surprising artefacts to prompt the questioning.  Who would have suspected that C19th Kimberly points (flaked glass spear points made by Australian Aborigines) and a Greek kalex-crater in the BM would combine to make me question the function of museums and the historical process they have gone through in the presentation of artefacts and the societal historical valuation of things that have gone through vast changes in their perception if one studies the object biography.  [I think it is better if you try saying the last sentence all in one breath; it may not make a great deal more sense but you will feel a sense of achievement in saying it.]  And indeed the whole concept of “object centred” and “object driven” assessments of artefacts.

Not forgetting, of course, the wonderful word skeuomorph which refers to an object or to a design which has features which reflect a different form of material used it its previous construction.  For example the digital representation of a notepad on a computer screen making the pad look as though it was made of paper.  You can also see it on some cheap articles which have moulded screw heads to make it look as thought the article had been assembled in a traditional way rather than as a piece of moulded plastic. 

How did I live without this word? 

As soon as you know its definition you see examples everywhere.  Look around you; you are probably surrounded by examples!

More phone calls and I feel a little better.  The situation is bad, but both sides seem to have accepted the situation and are working towards their new reality.  In the circumstances it is the best that could have been expected.

Tomorrow work to be done: the history or printing and bookmaking!  If that is not pushing at an academically open door I do not know what is!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reality bites

My Grown Up camera is slowly but surely getting closer.  Or not.  At least the company which is either in China or Hong Kong or Britain has written to me explaining that my package will be “released” from customs in Britain within the next week.  Why is it in Britain in the first place?  I live in Spain.  Obviously it was far too simple to send it to me direct.  I shall contain myself in further patience.  Perhaps if I play up my retirement I can get another gift to compensate for my frustration.

The meal in Terrassa was delicious as usual made, as is also usual by Toni’s mother’s professional hand.  Three of us drank the Cava with two of us drinking the lion’s share.

The weather in Terrassa was not particularly inspiring and it was not much more elevating in Castelldefels.  This summer is not turning out to be anything like last year.  OK, I realise that, technically, the summer is only a few days old, but one of the reasons for living in Catalonia is that months which cannot be regarded as anything other than Tundra-like in my country can be positively sultry here.  Well, this year has been something of a disappointment and so far April has been the most inspiring month and that, surely is pause for thought.

The news from Britain is not particularly good at the moment with friends having to cope with a variety of problems not all of which are of their own making. 

The distance is a buffer from the tangible pain of the harsh reality that they are experiencing but it is also a geographical gap which increases feelings of frustration because all you can do is sit and listen as stories are told at the end of a telephone line. 

Without the immediacy of proximity there is a sort of narrative unreality about everything which is deeply unsettling, as you constantly have to re-texture the disembodied voices with the context of personal history and experience.  You have to keep reminding yourself that this is not a radio play for voices; it is the real on-going lives of people you love.

Thank god for the Internet and for the telephone (in all its forms) which allow a form of immediacy with the situation which geography denies!

Again, I started the day with an early morning swim in the delightful silence of a child-free environment.  That hasn’t lasted of course, but it is a total pleasure while it does.

But, try as I might, my thoughts keep going back to Cardiff and the people going through difficult times. 

And me in Spain.