Monday, September 30, 2013

Cough drink, revise!

A new level of sophistication achieved today when, after a day of coughing and revision we went out to have a few tapas and I had Vermouth with my meal.

I did not realise how hidebound the drinking of the damn thing was until I had made a number of faux pas.  I ate the olive immediately, used my fingers to squeeze out the lemon and then used the cocktail stick to bob my ice cube around to get the right level of coldness.  Toni watched my loutish provincialism with undisguised contempt and, if it wasn’t for the quality of the food, there might only have been one insulting topic of conversation!

I can only put my boorish behaviour down to illness.  I have now coughed my way through a week and a couple of days and Toni has come to the end of his tether and demanded that He phone the doctor!  I lay back and let him attempt to say my name in a suitably Catalan way to the automatic system.  Didn’t work and he was eventually put through to a real human and I had an appointment in little over an hour’s time!

I was seen and dismissed with prescriptions for two “puffers” within two minutes of my appointed time!  I now fully expect to be back to full working order well before I have to heft the pen for my three essays for the final of A151.

In an attempt to get myself well situated for the start of the course on the 5th of this month I have read through the first week’s work and have grasped the exercises that I am expected to do and have done first drafts of all of them, so I will have something to say when the forum for my tutor group is up and running.  Even though I will be in the final days of revision!

My feelings of contempt grow ever stronger in relation to our so-called government.  Rajoy had an interview in America (safely on the other side of the Atlantic) in which a plucky (or ordinary) interviewer asked the be-whiskered buffoon certain questions relating to El Caso Barcenes; the use of illegal money and the destruction of evidence.  His response was much, much less than convincing with his greatest defence being that “nothing could be proved” rather than everything was lies.  The complete tosspot even tried to get his non-answers censored in this country!  And failed.  But nothing happens and everyone in this toxic government acts as if nothing can touch them.  And the sad thing is that they are probably right!

My belief in the concept of “justice” is this country is, you might say, getting more and more attenuated as each day passes and the lousily guilty are allowed to parade themselves on the television screens flaunting their continued freedom.

If justice was allowed to take its course then I think that, from the King downwards a whole layer of the ruling criminal confederacy would be inside.  But nobody expects justice to be done.  Justice is a joke.

However, the sun continues to shine and therefore all is good with the world.

Though the academic future that I was expecting could be modified a little because there are changes to the MA in Art History which is my eventual aim with the OU.  I have sent for information and I will have to work out how the changes in the course will affect my plans for the next few years.

Next weekend I expect to be well enough to go and have our delayed Arabic meal with Irene.

And the middle of next month Andrew is arriving for a long weekend.  Which is enough to concentrate our minds to decide which are the most impressive restaurants to which to take him!  Decisions, decisions!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Never too old or too lazy to learn!

One book down; two to go!

Revision continues with my chosen method of re-reading all three books with a trusty highlighter to hand!  In the World of the OU having the right vocabulary, using key words with impunity is the key to passing!

One of my favourite words from this course (which I forgot but I have rediscovered it by assiduous use of the internet) is “skeuomorphic”. 

I came across this word in relation to ancient Greek vases (or “pots” as we experts usually call them!) and a discussion about how valuable they were, rather than are now.  Some experts maintain that people with money used metal vessels while the poorer classes were reduced to using ceramic versions.  However, the ceramic versions mimicked some elements of the more expensive gold or silver pots.  When cheaper things mimic the more expensive they are referred to as “skeuomorphic” items.  Now you too can add this invaluable word to your vocabulary.  Let me know if you find an opportunity to use it!

We are almost at the end of September - and I have to admit that it has been an exceptional month as far as the weather has been concerned.  And therefore not conducive to intensive revision!  Like all the best vampires I am concentrating my intellectual effort after the sun has set.

There are some thirteen days left to the exam, and eight before my next course starts.  I am well on schedule and I will be glad when the exam is over and done with and I can concentrate on my writing.  The keenies on the course are all writing as though words are going to be rationed and to give themselves an added advantage in “getting going” before the course actually starts so they will be semi-hysterical by the time that they are actually asked to do something!

I know the OU students of old.  Thirty years ago (!) I did a history of art course, one of the requirements for which was a week-long residential school in Westfield College in London.  This was a delightful oasis of academe behind some grubby main road, but after getting there and meeting my fellow students I lost my nerve and demanded that Clarrie, Andrew and Stewart come and get me and take me away from them all!  They did come and they did take me away and ply me with drink and then, in an act of calculated cruelty they took me back!

The thing about summer schools in the OU is that whatever your initial impression and misgivings might be, you are sucked into a strange communal life and you cannot imagine anything better!

Now with the computer and forums the sense of isolation is not so central to the experience and anyway, summer schools have become optional extras nowadays so a particular edge has been taken off the whole experience.  Thank god!

Now that the subsidies that helped me thirty years ago are a thing of the long past, anything which reduces the substantial costs of studying with the OU seems to be to be a good thing.  There are no OU tutors in Europe outside the UK and my tutor group will be mainly composed of students from the North of England which includes the rest of Europe in its remit!

From the 10th of October I will be adding some of my writing exercises to these pages as a way of getting the habit of writing uppermost in my mind.

Even though I am revising, I have written my haiku for today – devised I might add while swimming!

Tomorrow book two – a probably a different colour highlighter!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wet and working

When something is worth doing, it is worth doing twice.  Which is my way of saying that I had a swim in the morning and in the evening.  And did revision.  And other things which have slipped my mind.

I have to admit that my swims reduced my coughing to nothing.  Virtually.  And the second swim was during a rather congested time in the pool, so I had to share a lane (never a good thing) with the original swimmer and possessor of the space flinging his arms about with a proprietorial flourish pushing me to an uncomfortable nearness to the floats.  Ironically I thumped him with a trailing arm.  Touché!  And I wasn’t even trying, but keeping to my narrow allotted space with scrupulous exactitude. 

You can always tell when you have won the battle of the lanes when our “opponent” is reduced to breaststroke.  This stroke is impossible to restrict to your space unless you adopt a strange vertical stroke which has noting to do with traditional breaststroke and more to do with a sort of elongated doggy-paddle.  Which people do not do.  If you are continuing with your front crawl then any limbs from your companion in the water are fair game for your scything!

Although I am ploughing through the OU books that I have studied, and frankly enjoying what I am reminding myself of, at the same time I feel the almost irresistible lure of the next course and the semi-hysterical students who are using the forums as though the English language is going out of fashion!

I have been reduced to hiding the books of the next course away so that they are technically out of my reach until the real start of the course next month.  And believe you me; this strange compulsion is something which is common to all OU students.  Pity it didn’t happen in the same way in my university.  Though, there again, I cannot pretend that I didn’t have a good time there too, but in a different way I think!

Back to work tomorrow and that involves thinking about the evolution of the modern museum. 

I love it!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


The very weather seems to be conspiring against me when it comes to the necessity of revision.  The weather has been delightful and has encouraged me out on to the Third Floor where the spirit of review is willing, but the fleshly succumbing in a horizontal mode to our nearest star is an innate weakness in me!  However, I am buckling up my intellectual sinews and attempting to make an effort to get down to it in earnest.

It was a salutary reminder of reality that a friend when told that the exam was on the 10th of October said, “Oh, yes, in a fortnight!”  Clinical, accurate and frightening.  I remain to discover if this wake-up call inspires me to productive action!

I have been studying the past examination paper that we have been given to calm our nerves.  It does appear that I will not be able to bluff my way through this one and they will require a fair amount of specific information – I may even have to remember the exact dates of King Philip II of my adopted country, as he and El Escorial are key elements in the discussion of relics that I intend to have on the 10th of October in The British Council!  Or at least one of them – god alone knows what the other two “discussions” are going to about.

Going on the last examination, I fully expect there to be some sort of discriminatory questions (aka “trick” questions) which will send despair and confusion into the minds of the hapless writers attempting to give coherent responses.  Having learned my lesson from The Last Essay the answers that I write will be the result of assiduous mining of the phrasing of the question itself – and liberally sprinkled with OU key words!

The next course has virtually started with much writing of haiku on the pre-start forum.  And no, I am not going to write out mine – though they were of surpassing exquisiteness!

I have also been allocated a tutor, which is another step towards the start of the course, though the web site only opens officially tomorrow.  The course is not supposed to start until the 5th, though if the last one is anything to go by we will be expected to work from the first day of the open forum and not wait for the official opening.  Which is a pity, because I will be doing “other things” and will not be able to play as full a part in the opening as I would like.  Although as this course is creative writing I could always channel my paranoia about the examination into art!

I have just received “The Blunders of our Governments” by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe, a disconcerting explanation of just how wasteful and idiotic governments can be with our money.  The authors try and be fair saying that as governments go ours is not too bad; and as far as corruption is concerned the sorry tale of MPs expenses was headline news because such stories are not everyday in our country.  In Spain, however  . . .

The stories of waste are relayed with a prose style which is easy to read and quite colloquial at times and injects a note of humour into stories which would otherwise make you weep!  At the moment I am reading about the abortive introduction of ID cards.  I have already sighed my way through the fiasco of the Millennium Dome; the centralization of records in the NHS; the horror of the PPP of the London Underground; Black Wednesday and, my personal favourite The Poll Tax.  This volume will sit proudly beside my “Great Planning Disasters” book which also makes salutary reading.  In the introductory chapters it was also nice to get a nod to Profumo and Blue Streak which are scandals just at the limit of my political memory!

Even though the weather is still reasonable and sunny, my body has decided that it is well on towards the winter season and I have developed a stinking cold!  The only good thing that I can say about it is that this morning I was able to stay in bed for an extra hour or so feeling sorry for myself rather than getting up and going to school at the crack of dawn.  Because I would have gone to school and felt rotten for the whole of the day.  Which I did at home, but it is much more restful and numerous cups of tea made it all appear much more civilized.

Tomorrow more revision.