Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Back to the heat!

Back in Catalonia it is even hotter than in the UK.  This surely must be the only time that I can remember that I can say something like that and not be bitterly ironic!  The weather in Wales was wonderful and it continues this side of the Pyrenees as well.

As always there is an odd sense of dislocation as I re-enter the world of Castelldefels and realize that the round of friends that I ate, drank and chatted to is now a cramped flight away.  But not too far away and one of them will be arriving soon to stay for a week.  And next month Paul comes to stay.  So I will have plenty of opportunities to do what I did over the last few days!

Meanwhile the OU work (which waits for no sluggard using the excuse of journeying to a foreign country) continues and the pace has stepped up.  I have at last written the second piece that I was supposed to have and have edited right, left and centre.  There is still a lot to be done, but it does look doable!

The moneymaking scheme of charging for erstwhile free parking has swung into operation today.  No resident’s ticket of course, but new information pointing out to us that a new (and expensive) headquarters for the implementation of this PP inspired money grab was open and ready for business.

Equipped with various documents and Toni we drove off to the office acutely aware that we would be parking on fair game spaces.  The office looked thrown together and was staffed by one harassed, though outwardly calm Spanish speaking lady who was having to try and placate people who were fearful of being submerged by a flood of tickets because of the lack of the magic card proving that they actually lived there.

No duplicate or copy was available and we were sent away with the wildly unconvincing assurance that we would not be fined.  Not be fined by the squadrons of uniformed children who were gleefully setting out with their portable ticket printers ready and willing to attack anything without the badge that they had not issued.

After much huffing and puffing and muttering dark imprecations against our totalitarian local government we made our disconsolate way back to find nothing in our mailbox.

At least nothing for about ten minutes when scooter mounted post people started ostentatiously stuffing official looking letters through the box.

I now have my vision obscured by a shoddy little card lurking in its cheapo self adhesive holder on the right hand side of the windscreen.  Shoddy it may be, but protection it certainly is.

I am waiting for a call from The Family to get them from the cinema where they have been eagerly waiting to be scared by a late night screening of a horror film.

I chose the OU over the outré!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Company and The Company

Olives, scallops, black pudding, home grown salad, steak and Pembrokeshire potatoes, cheese and apricot tart accompanied by pink Champagne and cool white wine.  The meal was something of a success, but the real delight – as always - was being able to chat with friends.  Now that is something that I really miss.

And talking with new friends.  When a partnership breaks up and a new character is involved in the break-up there is a time for re-assessment and review.  Meeting the new partner for lunch yesterday must have been much more trying for him than it was for me.  Being paraded in front of new acquaintances and feeling that you are being compare with what has gone before must be nerve wracking.  However, the meal went very well.  We went to Jamie Oliver’s and I had a small portion of scallops and squid ink dyed spaghetti that was more than acceptable and left room for the next meal that I was due to have before the evening’s entertainment!

When we left Jamie Oliver’s we went to an adjacent pub where I had my first pint of SA for many months.  I had every intention of limiting my intake of Skull Attack to just the one-pint, but the company and the cooling weather and the insistence of my companions saw me weaken and almost match them pint for pint.  I suppose it is one way to cement a relationship!

Alison was duly met in Barroco’s and we had another meal before going to “Macbeth”.  This National Theatre production was a live broadcast from a deconsecrated church in Manchester where the action was largely set in the nave of the church with the live audience on steeply raked seats at each side giving the appearance of a jousting arena.  This was a widely and enthusiastically awaited production and I hated it.

The direction was shared between Rob Ashford and Ken Branagh and at times I wondered where it was.  I could see no real connecting idea which linked the action of the play and the speed of delivery of lines meant that much of the detail which could have expanded the meaning was lost in a welter of English.

The church setting was referenced from time to time but not enough was made of it in my view and I kept feeling omission rather than accretion as the action progressed.

The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth was unconvincing and in spite of a few moments of action I felt it lacked passion.  Lady Macbeth (Alex Kingston) worked hard, but her key scene, the Sleepwalking Scene, was performed on a sort of raised stage and looked more like some sort of puppet show with extreme actions and a multitude of voices so that it became something of a farce rather than the chilling re-telling on the whole murder.

Because of the accelerating pace the internal logic of the progression of action was largely lost for me and the declamatory style of delivery emptied the words and lost sense.

It was deeply disappointing, but I think that the idea of producing a live broadcast to a variety of national and international cinemas is a wonderful one and I will certainly be looking out for further productions and hoping that they will be shown in Barcelona.

The drink with Alison (who had found out about the production and who had bought the tickets) was a somewhat subdued affair as I was beginning to feel the draining process myself and tiredness clumped up towards me.

Today is a calmer day with only lunch with Hadyn planned and then tomorrow I get the flight back to Barcelona.  For a rest!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Out & About

The heat continues and people wander about with bemused expressions on their faces and the haunted eyes of those that know that this cannot last.  The Heat Wave has now surpassed previous torrid times and is officially a record of some sort.  They should try living in Spain where such heat is an everyday occurrence, though as I have mentioned previously the Spanish talk about their weather even more than we do!

Dulled by alcohol from last night I was able to find comatose relief on the quivering mixture of jelly and marshmallow that is my bed.  This was after the funeral which went as well as such things are able to go.

The range and depth of colleagues both currently teaching and also those beatified by retirement was remarkable and although the chats were short they were gratifying.

Lucy was visibly encouraged by being surrounded by friends and family and she was able to get through the day with resilience and courage.

I was roundly berated by my godson for my lack of presence in his life and the fact of my not even being there for his christening where I was represented by a proxy.  As my godson is thinking of entering the ranks of the clergy I have to say that the absence of my cynicism and cruel questioning of the tenets of religion has allowed him to “grow up in the faith” – so job well done, say I!

I took Paul back to Port Talbot and left him with the stern injunction to find his way back to Cardiff in the very near future.  That way lays his best hope, as the chances of finding a job in Port Talbot are not bright.  Still, he is going to come out to us in August and Toni and I can work on him then so that he returns to Wales determined to succeed and with a clear plan of action in his mind.

Today has been a return visit to the Culverhouse Cross Tesco where, as the last time I went to the in-store Optician last May the staff were efficient, helpful and courteous.  My eyes have changed and I might have to revisit the doctor in Spain and ask him what he is dong about my diabetes which is part of the reason for the fluctuations in seeing.  However, for the present the prescription is going to be made up, the glasses changed and everything sent to Paul 1 for him to send on to me.

From Culverhouse Cross to Maesteg via the old A48 rather than the motorway thanks to a wrong turning out of Tesco and a nostalgic yearning to re-drive the old route to my grandparents.  It is, it has to be said, a thoroughly pleasant drive and it is easy to see the progressive gentrification of The Vale of Glamorgan as what I remember as slightly tatty, but imposing houses are now restored and augmented.  Even the little valley towns and villages, shorn of industrialization and mines, look quaint and pleasant – though god knows what the level of unemployment is in these towns shorn of their economic purpose.

Uncle Eric was as responsive as ever and regaled me with stories of his chaotic ramblings through northern France and Belgium as a member of the PBI, subject to the vagaries of clueless officers and the usual mystifications during war.  His tale of the peregrinations from Abbeville and back again trying to avoid being killed by the Germans and living on half a tin of bully and two squares of chocolate and going without food for three days and trying to stop tanks with training ammunition and low powered rifles made for fascinating listening!

Eric is now the last surviving member of his 1926 primary school class and when I said that I would see him again the next time I was in the country he intimated that our next meeting would be of an entirely different nature.  I chivvied him with my expectation that he would make triple figures, but his expression of disgust suggests something else.  Still, I value my chats with my uncle and I do hope that they continue for some years yet.

Back to Cardiff and Llandaff to see my aunt and a thoroughly snide and catty conversation.  Her description of not attending a Memory Clinic was refreshingly irreverent and although she is tied to a broken body her mind is as sharp and scathing as ever!

I am now waiting for the next part of my stay in the UK when Diane will come calling to carry me off to Cyncoed for talk and table delights!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Here we go again!

The opening bid of a thirty-minute delay in my flight has been announced.  Thirty minutes is not enough to drive people to despair, indeed it has been accepted with barely a whimper. 

I fear that thirty-minutes is only the start and we will be presented with incremental increases so that there is not armed rebellion.  Far more of an incitement to violence is being near a curly haired man who has ostentatiously spoken on his mobile phone for over an hour without speaking into the phone itself but rather into some ethereal microphone giving the appearance of melancholy madness and talking only to himself.  The only thing that has now stopped him is the fact that he has to get on a plane.  Whereas I am doomed to look around at the sad remnants of humanity stuck here for even longer than we feared possible!

I am at present watching the queue for the flight to Belfast which is almost comical in its stereotypical ethnic appearance with skin either defiantly untouched by the sun’s rays or rosy from reckless exposure – contrast with the few obvious Iberians travelling with them.  Actually, with more people arriving the stereotype has been shattered and my previous comments smack of prejudice.  Ah well, anything to fill a line and keep my fingers occupied – and my mind - so that I don’t keep thinking that there is at least (at least) another hour to wait before we take off at the most optimistic expectation.

Yet again the two-hour leeway that airlines ask for passenger arrival seems ludicrously vicious!

Although I didn’t manage to get a seat with leg room a very accommodating young man with shaped eyebrows told me that there was an empty row at the back of the plane and I was therefore able to spread out and have a reasonable experience during the long, long flight.  It was also made more tolerable by my purloining of a rejected copy of The Independent which, with difficulty, I managed to use my origami skills to make into some sort of shape which could be read in the cramped confines of a budget airline seat.

Accommodation in the Campanile Hotel is both better and worse than I expected.  The room is more than acceptable with large bed and en suite; however any use of water anywhere in the edifice produces an irritating lift-like whine which is something up with which I will have to put.  At least there is Wi-Fi, a kettle and coffee and tea.  The rooms are on the American Motel model with access from an external balcony and they are spacious and adequate.

The meal (be fair I had had nothing since a bowl of muesli for breakfast) was less than spectacular but three courses for sixteen quid: carrot soup; summer chicken bake with slow something or other rice and an ice cream with caramel topping and a cup of coffee you were supposed to sip at the same time.  I also had two pints of bitter – the first of which didn’t touch the sides.  Now that is something I do miss.

Which is also what happened with Louise who, for the second time in two visits by my good self was out!  To be out on one of my State Visits might be regarded as unfortunate; to be out on two smacks of carefully planned cutting.  An art that I thought was dead and gone in this debased age!

Ceri and Rhys were in however, as was Heidi the dog – though I have to say that the first two greeted me immediately and it took Heidi an hour to make her way towards me and demand the sort of scratching that she has had on every other previous occasion that I have visited.  I am going back for dinner on Saturday and it will take another hour for Heidi to realize that I am the same sucker that finds her itching point so exactly.

The great achievement of this holiday is a part justification of the latest in the long line of timepieces that I have, perfectly justifiably, bought.  The one I have at the moment is, for me, an old watch: my Citizen Eco-Drive Perpetual.  The last time I came to the UK I merely turned the watch back to get the UK time.  This played merry hell with the timepiece and it took ages to get it back to some sort of date/day/time coordination.  This time I programmed the thing and I have actually got the watch working on Local Time – and it is still showing the right day!  Result!

Of course there are some beggared imaginations that would intimate that a much simpler watch would only need a small turn of the knurled knob to set the time back and forward.  I spurn such simplistic defeatism!  What is the point of buying a gadget-filled watch of enormous complexity (which compensates for leap years!) if you do not have to study a manual of more than Byzantine sophistication to get a straightforward adjustment facilitated!  Some people!

It works and I am justified!

However this achievement may rate in annals of gadgetry, I have a more pressing and domestic problem: the ironing of the suit.  Having bought a case which complies with the ever more stringent demands of budget airlines I have (well, Toni has to be exact) shoehorned suit, shoes, tie, cufflinks (thought I don’t know where they are at the moment) and all the other necessities for a decorous appearance at the funeral tomorrow into a space which, while certainly not nutshell-like is near enough to it to be known to the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  What I drew out of the tiny container looked like Barbara Cartland before the plaster.  Everything is wrinkled.

The solution is an iron which has been given to me by the man at the reception/bar/restaurant, together with a dinky little table mountable ironing board.  And when I find the plug I am really going to do something about the crumpled appearance of my formal wear.

The only thing which looks good is my tie.  This is a tromp l’oeil confection of what looks like a series of slanting, undulating, black and grey metallic ribbons.  I also have a black tie if I think the final appearance is a little too gaudy.  But the cufflinks (if I can find them) do match, so surely that makes it tasteful.

To work.  To iron.  To be ready.

And then to sleep!