Thursday, November 28, 2013

Long time passing

Where is the blog?  Where is the writing?  I seem to have been doing little else, but it does not make it to these pages.  Week, almost a week of frantic tapping at the keyboard and nothing to show for it!  Shame on me.

As I now have the memory of a retarded goldfish I will not even attempt to make up for lost anecdotes but live of the moment and luxuriate in it.

The next watch has, today, entered the growing collection.  This one is a Casio (an old love, my first digital watches were Casio) though I note that the name only occurs on the watch face in tiny letters while the title of the watch ‘Edifice’ (sic) appears in gleaming script.

The USP of this one is that it is atomic.  Not glow in the dark atomic (though I trust that it does that in a safer way) but enslaved to an atomic clock somewhere in England and Germany.  I haven’t heard of the places in with either are in and so have promptly forgotten them.  At two o’clock in the morning, so ‘tis said, the atomic fairies come drifting down and make sure that the time is just-so, so that the waking purchaser can be absolutely certain that the time is The Time and there is even a little round window in which the seconds tick on in their numbered way so that the more nerdish wearers can check that The Time is right To The Second.  I know of no one in my immediate vicinity or even wider who needs time to the exact second, let alone my good, retired self, but once available it must be had.

In theory this watch will also compensate for travelling to other time zones and will automatically reset the time for summer and wintertime.  I will merely be happy if it tells me the right day and automatically changes for the month.  I have done nothing about putting the year into the machine and so I know nothing about leap years, but perhaps more assiduous reading of the hefty instruction booklet will empower me to delve a little more deeply than my present stance of being amazed that it arrived telling the right time with the right day, date and month.  If it ain’t broke don’t mend it is sage advice.

Because I forgot the bread on my way back from my swim we went out for lunch in one of two new restaurants that we have discovered opposite Lidl’s.  In the one we went to today we were issued with a small loyalty card which will give a free meal for every ten that we eat there.  So, in a couple of month’s time we will be enjoying a 9€ meal for nothing.  Except the coffee of course.  That adds a Euro.  Excellent value and good food too.

There is much more that I should be writing about but I have written three exercises for the course today (not counting my Morning Pages) and edited them – a process to which I have an almost pathological aversion – so I am just about written out.

Tomorrow I shall explore options for refilling my disposable fountain pens.  I have been led to believe that this is a worthwhile and profitable enterprise because I am innocent to believe what I see on YouTube.  So the buying of ink and the general catastrophe of Ink Everywhere is immanent.

But I live in hope.  As always.  And the watch is working well so far.

Friday, November 22, 2013


A fair amount of writing done today.  Some good, some very ordinary, but all competent.  I think.  The major trouble, as far as I can see is that our tutor is more absent than present.  She may well be reading everything, but her touch is light and I think that we need guidance and in your face evaluation and that is what we are not getting on a week-by-week basis.  We are doing all the work in tutorials, but there is little to no tutor guidance.  I am getting a little miffed and I am finding myself acting like a teacher and doing the evaluation myself, when what I need is informed evaluation for me!  This moan is in the process of development and I will work on it for the next few days – and then probably decide to do nothing.

The answer is probably to write more and be more methodical about the way that I evaluate my own work.  That means going through my notebooks in a more rigorous way and perhaps finding a way of taking the stuff worth saving and finding a way to make is more accessible for use in future writing.  I have to be more methodically professional about this or I am not going to gain as much as I need to from this course.

The more I write, the more I feel myself drawn to script writing rather than the other forms of literary creation.  I have always considered myself a poet manqué but perhaps I have been deluding myself by following the paradigm promulgated by Aristotle in looking at the arts.  Poetry and tragedy are only deemed the highest literary structures because we have lost what the Master said about the others!  This is still relatively early days in the course and I will wait to see what develops – but I am dissatisfied at the moment and feel that we are working in some sort of vacuum. 

Toni has now brought his blanket which is a clear indication that Winter is truly here.  In January we both sit around like monks shrouded in blankets to keep the warmth in.  Dark days ahead.  Or we could put the central heating on, but that seems like such a denial of the advantages of living in a country like Spain in the first place.  We still have not put the central heating on.  Defiantly.

My Great Achievement of today is the removal of the resin from the car.  God alone knows what damage I have done to my lungs with the inhalation of so much acetone, but the majority of what was previously immovable has now gone.  There is nothing like giving yourself a spurious sense of value than doing a simple mindless task and getting a disproportionate amount of pleasure from the simple removal of stains.  It remains to be seen if I have removed a layer of paint or varnish.  Nothing stays the same.

Tomorrow is a writing day in which I have to work my way through a whole range of exercises that my colleagues on the Forums seem to have ignored.  I’m harking back on the same theme – this is arid so I should stop and go to bed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Winter Wear

I am wearing jeans – it must be winter.

My sad abandonment of shorts is a reflection of the reality of the falling temperatures and a reaction to some funny looks that I was getting.  Now, much to Toni’s disgust, I am only continuing to wear my sandals as a nod in the direction of hotter weather.

We have had a radiator on for the last few days in the living room and the bed has steadily increased its weighting by having Nana’s embroidered quilt and the winter duvet added to the summer duvet.  No doubt the central heating will be the next thing to go on – though the ancient and rundown system that hasn’t been renewed for umpteen years is hardly the most efficient way of heating a home that is built for the summer.  Which seems unending months of coldness away.

My swim this morning was in a crowded pool, which for swimmers means that all the lanes were taken, though the right hand side of the pool is un-laned and therefore available for general frisking.  This is the first time that the pool has been so ‘full’ since I started swimming.  I have previously had to share an extended lane which means that swimmers have to keep to one side or the other or alternatively adopt a clockwise or anti-clockwise system to keep everyone happy.  I am invariably not happy with this arrangement because it means that there is a greater risk of hitting your hand on the ropes (which are surprisingly unyielding to my lane just for me, and usually that is what I get.

I am certainly swimming for longer and adopting a stronger stroke and of course the moral worth that you get from exercising like that is considerable.  As always the fact that a school in which I have taught being adjacent to the pool and clearly visible at one end while swimming is a constant source of delight for me.  There is nothing quite so stimulating as taking exercise when you can relate the time being thus spent to an old timetable.  It allows one to savour every moment and every bubble.

Having my cup of tea outside after my swim was an act of defiance rather than pleasure.  Whereas dinner this evening, in the pitch black of a night where 8 pm seems like midnight, was delightful.  We had it inside our favourite (soon to lose that appellation) restaurant La Fusta.  The meal was frankly disappointing; every aspect of it can be bettered elsewhere.  Though the Sangria was excellent and will have to be put down to the 20% leeway that my diet can take each week!

And now back to the forums to find out if anyone has responded to my latest piece of writing. 

It’s all go in the OU!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dampness behind!

I’m not sure where the last four days have gone.  I had thought that I might have completed some cogent words during the Everlasting Rain, but obviously the dampness soaked my soul and dissolved any inclination to share thoughts. It is now sunny.  Cold, but sunny.  I am therefore somewhat reconciled with the world and prepared to overlook my dilatory approach to the course that I am supposed to be following and will promise to make it all up by more application today.

The length of this entry is augmented by what I wrote the day before yesterday or possibly merely yesterday when the full aftermath of Culture finally struck me.  Who knows?  And fewer care.  So, on with the show!

It’s George Frederick Handel not Georg Friedrich Händel.  As any fule kno, Handel is a British composer, though I am not sure that they had naturalization papers in those days, but British undeniably.  And the Liceu should have known better than to apportion some sort of German name to this quintessentially British composer.  Take The Messiah for example, admittedly it was premiered in Dublin, but British god damn it!

‘Agrippina’ by Handel was an unknown opera for me, I have heard of some of his operas but I had seen none.  Performances of The Messiah yes, but a full-blown Handel opera no.  A virgin experience with only a little dabbling on the Internet and listening and watching a few attempts on YouTube to prepare me for the fray. 
It was a first for the Liceu too, a first performance since the piece was written in 1709 – which tells you something.  Maybe about changing tastes and maybe about the essential quality of this piece.

I would be the first to admit that there are some ravishing parts in this opera, some duets and a single chorus that are show stopping.  There is humour and social comment and, by god there is recitative.  A lot of recitative.  In my view far, far too much recitative.

For me the production I saw last night (and part of this morning – we didn’t get out until quarter past midnight!) by David McVicar had some good set pieces, a few excellent ideas and a lot of attempts to make recitative interesting.  Well, it really isn’t – not in the quantities we had to put up with.

The singing: Sarah Connolly as Agrippina was fantastic, she had stage presence and a rich, fluid and spine tingling voice and when she was paired with Danielle de Niese as Poppea the effect was electric.  The blatant scheming of Agrippina contrasted well with the slightly dippy, sex-kittenish but by no means stupid Poppea and their attempts to outdo each other in craft as well as in voice was simply astonishing.  They were a joy to watch, especially when they were given acting to do as they commanded the stage.

Which is more than can be said for an under sung Ottone by David Daniels whose portly form cut a rather sad figure on the stage and was in contrast to the more authoritative figure of Franz-Josef Selig in the character of Claudio the emperor, whose rich tones and enthusiastic acting made him a compelling character.

Nerone, played by Malena Emman overacted shamelessly in her attempts to portray an upper-class brat dabbling in love and cocaine – but her voice was amazing.  I would have preferred a counter-tenor in the role, but with sheer hard work and vocal brilliance she made it her own and by the second act I had come to accept her interpretation.

And interpretation is the rock on which this production flounders.  What was it meant to be?  A comedy, tragedy, social commentary, what?  There were roles played as if they were out of pantomime: Pallante as a tubby general acted and sung with authority by Henry Waddington and Narciso as a sort of mad scientist with madder hair overacted by Dominique Visse in a voice that was frankly weak.  While other roles seemed to be connected with serious power play of life and death, the actual soldiers in this piece were like something out of Monty Python with camp movements more musical hall than military.

The setting was simple monumental with moveable tombs at start and end emphasising that all these people are dead long before we learn about them.  The largest single piece of stage machinery was a steep flight of moveable steps surmounted by a throne and I worried throughout the long evening fearing that one or more characters was going to make a headlong descent!  The lighting was hit and miss and the costumes generally modern.

At its best this production was lively with, for example a brilliant scene set in a nightclub bar with Poppea and Ottone resolving their differences in a far more engaging way than the ‘talking in your sleep’ device of the original.  This must also be the only time that a star harpsichordist has taken the guest spot and accompanied a more than half drunk singer while providing the necessary umph for a couple to do a sexy dance to his music.  He had a well deserved round of applause at the end of his stint!

The band the Orquestra Simfonica del Gran theatre del Liceu under the baton of Harry Bicket was great and their reception at the end was tumultuous – as well it should have been.

In conclusion this was a long, long night in which there were many pleasures but, alas for me, insufficient to justify the length.  There is great music here, but you have to wait a long time in between delights.

And its been raining for three days and we just had a little more after a sullen day which has spent its time threatening to rain.  This is not what I am used to and I have no intention of getting used to it either – though that expression of rejection depends on money or an act of god to get it right.

Rain could not dampen my spirits as I got to Barcelona early enough yesterday afternoon to pay a visit to the glass and marble shop on the corner of Plaza de Cataluña and throw more of my money at the personable youngsters to smile their way around the tables on which the merchandise is tauntingly displayed.  I now possess an iPad Air to go with my MacBook Air and everything else by Apple that I have bought into.  To justify the unjustifiable I have given my old one to Toni who will probably know more about the machine in a couple of days that I will have found out in a few years.  Ah well.  It works and I am happy.  Who can ask for more?

Today has been a day of tiredness – recovering from the opera last night and the expense not only of a new iPad but also of the cost of putting the car in a place where it is safe and reachable at the end of a performance.  I console myself by thinking that were I to put my car in a similar car park in London, which would have to be in Trafalgar Square to be comparable, it would cost a bloody sight more.

As even my Morning Pages were restricted today I should knuckle down and get something more done after dinner.

Which I didn’t do because it is now the same time as the start of this piece.  Ah, what looking at a few episodes of Doctor Who on the New iPad Air does for me – suddenly time is no longer linear and can be twisted like a juvenile design idea expressed via a 3D printer.  One of my more convoluted similes that, I think.

Anyway, the sun is still shining through the clouds are full of sky (and yes, I do mean it that way round) and it promises to dry out at least some of the overwhelming wetness that has been a characteristic of Catalonia for these last three long rainy days.

Sad though it will undoubtedly seem to those who do not share my interest, I am missing my New Watch (returned) and am pining for something exciting in the wristal area.  I have retreated to the default position that I had with the buying of Sci-Fi books of old: specific author; second hand and under 50p.  Using the bones of that idea I am determined that no new watch will be worse that the one that I am wearing at the moment, and by worse I mean having fewer features.

The list of features that I regard as essential is as follows in diminishing order of necessity - and yes, I do recognize that that opening was self-contradictory. 

1               It must tell the time
2               It must be waterproof
3               It must have luminous hands
4               A sweep second hand
5               Day and date
6               Numbers instead of dashes preferred
7               Metal strap preferred
8               Date must change automatically over months
9               Link to atomic clock (this is the last one and               bumps the price up)

It does mean that I can look at most watch shop window and find nothing that meets my requirements.  The ninth point, particularly excludes virtually everything I see.  Which is good.  For the time being – though Amazon is no more than a few clicks away.

Now to get on with my life.