Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing and Drinking

The non-delivery delivery service actually delivered today so perhaps I should stop bad mouthing them because they have done something like their job recently.  Admittedly it is always the same little man, who smilingly hands over the parcel, but it is getting through and I am getting the stuff in almost the number of days that they promise.

Today’s goodies were ink and mugs.  I am a born again believer in double walled glass mugs and have bought two more to prove it.  I have justified the expense by telling myself that the mugs come with filters so that I can make myself increasingly exotic brews.  Which is true as it happens and I have been quite happily producing unique blends of clashing teas to frighten my pallet. My tongue is going to have to be scraped soon if I am to get back to the organic bits actually created by my body.  God alone knows what it is doing to the enamel of my teeth but I will have to be extra assiduous in my dental hygiene until the fad has exhausted itself and I am back to the tried and tested leaves.

The ink (3 bottles of Parker Quink Blue Washable) are on my side table next to my reclining chair in the living room and are probably going to be an accusation against my inaction for some time to come.  In my defence I have bought two hypodermic needles, which is part of the master plan to get ink into the disposable reservoirs of my pens as a laughable attempt at economy.  To be fair, the only reason that I use disposable fountain pens is that I like the nibs that they use, and the flow of the blue ink is better than any other.  Whether I will be as pleased with the Parker ink is yet to be seen.  And that depends on how capable I am at following the inky instructions half understood on YouTube about getting the nib unit out of the pen to allow the ink to get in.  I do however have a few pens on which to work so there is room for spectacular failure before undoubted success.

My swim today was in an empty pool.  For the whole duration of the swim I was the only one.  Indeed for much of the time there was no lifeguard either, so I was in glorious isolation apart from the CCTV which was recording my every stroke.

Being alone in the pool is not the same when there are roped off lanes.  There is nothing quite so enjoyable as diving, or falling in my case, into the smooth surface of an empty pool.  Your ripples define the surface and you crease the sort of weather patterns of rippling contours on the map of the water.  With lanes you restrict your disturbance to a corridor with very subtle interference patterns spreading out.  But even in lanes it is good.  My swim was not particularly fast, but it was strong and steady and accompanied as always by a bewildering succession of pieces of music being played through my cheekbones.  Delight!

As far as my OU course is concerned I have adopted a “I’m going to do my own thing” attitude and produced a number of pieces of writing which I have posted to a deafening silence from the other nineteen members of the tutor group.  I officially don’t care.  I have decided on the work that I want to do and if there are people to comment, good, and if there aren’t, equally good.  Otherwise I am going to be consumed with petty resentment that is going to do me no good at all.  I have enjoyed my writing today and I think that it has some merit.  So that is fine and I am satisfied.

Christmas continues to be felt by its absence, apart from the kind card senders who post their pictures to me with little hope of a return envelope.  Bless them and I have put up the four cards and very nice they look too.

Castelldefels has its few scrappy lights outside the town and some pretty effective one in the main shopping streets.  The central Christmas tree is an electric cone which looks pathetic in daylight and like a shopping centre second-rate decoration at night.  I still have not put up the Christmas tree at home or the Belen.  This weekend is I think an appropriate time to do that.

I have purchased (at cut price) a twisted metal welded box light with three little LEDs in it.  It looks good on the table and I have added a dimmer to make the light acceptable.  In a similar thrust for aesthetic satisfaction Toni has spray painted his watch with chrome as part of a three-day painting programme to transform his timepiece into a thing of glory.  It will, I have been told, have a green strap and lacquered metallic shining by the time it is ready to be presented to the world as a watch reborn.  I am biding my time and thinking of all the ways in which the enterprise can fail, and voicing only a few of my concerns.

With my new CDs I am now almost back to the Baroque in loading them into the computer and I am listening to them on my iPad through the magic of computer sharing.  Quite how that works with the iPhone I am not sure I have just tired to load a track that I am quite certain is in my iMac and I can’t find it.  This is why I should be taking up the classes which are given in the Apple Store in Barcelona.  In the New Year I will go.  Promise.

Tomorrow is the buying of the Christmas presents.  I have warned Toni and tomorrow has been set aside for this to happen.  I still don’t know exactly what we are doing for Christmas Day, but the lack of certainty adds a certain quality of tension to a day which is usually all too predictable.

To the shops!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


I have excuses.  

The .4 of a kilo extra since last week.  Disaster.  

But, as I say, I have excuses.  

Yesterday I went, with Irene to the shopping centre connected to EspaƱol’s ground – ostensibly for the buying of Christmas presents.  I had no lively expectation that I would make any purchases but I was tempted by the chance of a chat with Irene and going out to dinner.

The shopping centre was packed and I was lucky to get a space in the massive underground car park, at least within a few minutes after crawling along in the traffic jam to get into the place in the first place.

The shops appeared to be horrific.  We went into a cheap clothes shop and it was like a vision of hell with hordes of people and narrow corridors of passage between shelves and tables stacked with rubbish heaps of items.  After pushing our way around for a little while, I suggested to Irene that I start queuing while she completed the gathering of what she wanted.  This is the delight of having a mobile phone with a library on it – queues are never that much of a problem!

My idea was to go to a restaurant, after we had exhausted our patience shopping, that we didn’t manage to get into the last time that I was there.  Toni and I were told that the place, Morder y Pasta, or a title something like that was excellent value for money.  The fact that we couldn’t get in because there was a vast queue and I was not prepared to wait, in spite of the two kids who had accompanied us bursting into floods of tears at the idea that they would have to eat elsewhere!

Toni and I walked off and we were eventually joined by others who saw the sense in not allowing the very young to be dictators.  Especially as the little buggers had no intention of paying for anything!  Something I always remind myself of.

Anyway we didn’t go and so this was my chance (without kids) to go and find out if the hype was justified.

The place was closed and after asking a passing cleaner, she told me that it only opened at 8 pm.  Later than other places.  We decided that we could do just a little more light shopping and then we should be able to time our completion with the opening of the restaurant.

We arrived ten minutes early and found a vast queue.  Though not as vast as the one in which I had previously refused to wait.  Trying to ignore the increasing wind chill factor we eventually got in and found that we had to pay first!  This, we were told was because once we had got past the till all the food and drink was ‘free’.

The place was quite large with lines of joined tables set in frameworks which came up to about shoulder level to separate them off into sections.  We were ushered into a small corner and then we started to get our bearing and start the meal.

Which was an utter disaster.

The place had all the ambience of a hangar.  The people were noisy and the architecture seemed to force the sound down so that normal conversation was impossible.  The beer ran out within twenty minutes, the sangria was liquid sugar and the white barely drinkable.

The food was unspeakable.  None of it was hot; everything was luke warm and tasteless.  Even the boiled eggs tasted a little strange and their outer surfaces were suspiciously slippery.  It was just awful – I even left my apple quarter eaten, as it was tasteless.

But the range of luke warm tasteless food was remarkable: meat, fish, pizza, salad, sweets, ice cream (which I also didn’t finish) beer, wine, soft drinks, fruit juices.  Everything was there but nothing was quality.

I did eat my money’s worth (€13.95 per person) but I will never go there again and I have put the blame for my weight increase squarely on the food that I ate defiantly and the wine that I endured there.  It’s not my fault.

I have now taken a more Draconian approach and flung away some of the little treats that I had been harbouring in the kitchen.  Now the most exciting thing left for me to eat is cottage cheese.  Life, ‘tis said, is hard.  And with Christmas approaching I am even more concerned about getting below my present stubborn level of kilos before the new year.  We shall see.

The course continues with very few people posting the writing that they should be doing at this stage, presumably everyone is trying to get the next assignment out of the way so that they are not working over Christmas.  Fat chance.

Tomorrow the ink arrives to be the fairly essential ingredient in my drive to refill my disposable fountain pens, though perversely I have now decided to use my computer to produce my Morning Pages because it is much easier and more fluent like that.  Perhaps I will have to go back to the steam driven form of production if only to justify my purchase of imported ink!

I do tend to write poetry with pen or pencil rather than computer – but the poetry section of the course is some months ahead at the moment.  The pens will keep.

There are always excuses or reasons or explanations.  They keep life going!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Music to the rescue!

New CDs – and delivered early.  Rather too early, but at least they were brought to the house which is more than one so-called delivery service used by Amazon ever does!  With self-restraint bordering on the fanatical I actually did not gloat over them until I had completed my Morning Pages.

Those are becoming more problematical.  I am completing them as per instructions, but there are not what we in the OU call ‘freewrites’, that is a sort of free flow of writing where it goes where your imagination and subconscious takes it.  You keep writing at all costs, even if it is only the same phrase over and over again until inspiration takes off again and the imagination flows onto the page.  The theory is fine and I have done some so-called freewrites, but the Morning Pages are degenerating into complaints about the dogs next door and loving descriptions of my morning cup of tea.  There is not much narrative headway to be made trawling through that sort of ordinariness.

I will have to steel myself to write any old rubbish in the hope that somehow my imagination and deeper impulses will eventually turn mere words in to magic phrases that I will be able to use in my writing.  I am not 100% convinced by this, but I do not want to have the same soul destroying experience of going through page after page of drivel that occupied part of my evening today, again.  Ever.

My MPs are going to have to be more akin to prose poems if anything worthwhile is going to come, or rather be pickaxed out of them.  Tomorrow the start of a new approach.  This fits in nicely with my New Approach to the lack of support from the other members of the course, as I unfairly refuse to remind myself that they might have demanding jobs, and by the way Stephen, just how methodical were you when you did your first OU courses all those years ago when you had a full time job and were fairly heavily involved in Union activity as well.  Fair point.  But I don’t care – I need feedback and I need to change the way that I write so that I can create the short stories that I know are waiting to emerge from the remains of what I am still proud to call my brain!  Onwards and upwards!

I have only opened one of the boxes of CDs so far, the one with the rather naff title of ‘The History of Classical Music on 100 CDs – From Gregorian Chant to Gorecki’ issued by Deutsche Grammophon (2013) 00289 479 1048 GB 100.  It calls itself a ‘Limited Edition’ – if it is then it should be grabbed at once by everybody with even a shred of interest in Classical Music. 

This publication is the sort of thing which appeals to me – you can imagine how quickly I bought the (hardback) copy of ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ and how things like ‘1000 Paintings You Have To See Before You Die’ is the sort of thing that I find impossible to pass without purchase.  So sucker I might be, but this present box set is an absolute treasure trove.  Yes there are ‘famous bits’ galore, for example the single disc dedicated to Jean Sibelius comprises the 5th Symphony, Valse triste, Finlandia and Tapiola – hardly the most taxing pieces of his oeuvre, but representative and something to get you started if you didn’t know the composer.  And as the orchestra is the Berlin Phil and the conductor is Karajan, not a bad band to have to listen to.  Now I have great reservations about Karajan as a conductor of Sibelius, but he has an interesting take on the music and, after all, it is not as if I do not have one or two other versions to compare and contrast!  Carl Nielsen, my other great Scandinavian enthusiasm doesn’t make it into this history and Gershwin does.  Perhaps that’s fair, but in only 100 discs it is always a question of what you leave out when you have put in the people who it would be criminal to ignore.  But what you do have here is a range of recordings which cover something like one and a half millennia and that is richness indeed.

I have only heard fragments of these recordings so far, well, I’ve only had the thing for just over twelve hours, but how wrong can you go when you are being offered the riches from Deutsche Gramophon’s amazing back catalogue.  Don’t delay, buy today – and at bargain price from Amazon!

My stomach has not recovered from eating the pinchos we had for lunch.  I think it is such a long time ago that I had red meat that my digestive resources are finding it hard to cope.  I do hope that this is the case as I think that I could survive quite easily eating only chicken and pork rather than beef and lamb.  I am certainly eating more fish that I used to, although I am not convinced that smoked salmon is quite as healthy as the poached cod that I once made for myself with Toni preserving a look of haughty distain throughout.

Sunday is approaching which is my traditional weigh day.  What will the scales say this week?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Now things: new approaches

My new wallet is very smooth and shiny.  It is like one of those wallets that bloated plutocrats bring out of their inside pockets when they have delved down through the layers (the outermost fur-trimmed) to get to their wealth to bestow a farthing on some deserving crippled orphan.  Apart from the wealth bit and the fact that my outer garment is a product of C&A (though none the worse for that and made out of windproof, breathable something or other material) the parallel is exact!  Apart from giving farthings to orphans as well.

     This wallet is larger than its predecessor and has more space for the important, daily bits and pieces that limits the unsightly scrabbling about for some card or other when suddenly asked for.  It even has some sort of pocket to allow the coins to be more readily accessible than the coin pocket in my jeans which, when I attempt to extract some coins for payment of coffee or bread makes me look like some sort of failed flasher as I fumble inexpertly around my groinal area.  Though thinking about it flashers are probably expert and professional in their manipulation of . . .  and I really don’t think that sentence had any real chance of a successful and tasteful conclusion.

     So smooth, unscratched and slippery the new wallet just about fits in my jeans pockets and is doing its job well so far.  I am trying to celebrate its arrival because the rest of the money from the unexpected/planned release of hidden cash is doing no more than residing uneasily in my bank account waiting for my sticky fingers to ‘do’ something with it.  It is not enough money to necessitate financial advice, but it is too much to blow on a new gadget.  What a conundrum for a spendthrift like myself - forced not to be a wastrel by the fact of the money being the wrong sort of amount.  But I am working on it!

     There is the mearest chance that my new CDs will arrive before the weekend, but I am not holding my breath about that.  Like Miss Flite in Bleak House, I am in daily expectation of something good turning up (cf. Micawber) and I will expect more than I ever get – which is a damned good philosophy which in turn will lead to constant disappointment which, after all is life is it not?  I seem to have fallen into a Dickensian way of writing there, which is probably nearer to my natural style than anything else and which is not going to give me any advantages in my present writing course!  Charles I here abjure you to stay away from my pen!

     I have already done my Morning Pages and produced one piece of course writing and now there is the inevitable waiting for a response.  Last night I decided (officially) to take a different approach to the course and set aside from real consideration the necessity of waiting for the response of others and just get on with the course in my own sweet way.  I am spending far too much time worrying about the lack of participation of others and not enough time trying to develop my own writing style – if that means that much of the course must be done in isolation so be it!

     There are various rules about sharing and showing your work in progress in the OU on this particular course.  It is recognized that a Creative Writing course is, of necessity collaborative and it is possible to share assignment work with other students but only within your own tutor group.  Anything shown outside this charmed circle cannot be considered for academic assessment.  This is fine as long as your tutor group is responsive, if it is not, not.  Although people respond sluggishly in our group, I am not satisfied by the quantity or quality of the response.  In the last exercise, out of a group of ten, only four people regularly posted anything.  This is not satisfactory.  It is not fun.

     The solution, or at least a partial solution, is found within another group which has been set up outside the jurisdiction of the OU while remaining associated with it.  I am not sure about the exact status of the group but it does seem to have a quasi-official blessing.  So students are able to submit work for feedback and still use the work thus assessed as part of their assignments.  I am waiting for a response from the person (also a student) who has organized this mythical group and then I will get started and find out if this is what I need.  I await with some degree of impatience!

     Diverting to more important aspects of my life: we had lunch in one of our now regular restaurants where we have been issued with a loyalty card which means that we get a free meal after we have got ten credits.  This effectively means that we get 89c off each meal, 10%.  The meals are excellent value with a nibble at the start, two courses and a sweet with wine or a drink of your choice.  I had salad and chicken cooked in beer followed by apple tart.  I must admit that I had a pacharan as a digestive as well, together with a fairly successful attempt at a cup of tea – all for around nine quid!  You can’t beat it!

     Today has been a fairly miserable day as far as the weather has been concerned with white skies and cold temperatures – but no rain so far, and I count that as a success!

     Just back from a ‘tea jaunt’ in the car leaving Toni to walk back (his preferred form of exercise) wrapped up like a Christmas parcel.  He has so many layers of clothing on that he can barely breathe.  He reminds me of accounts of readings given by Charles Dickens (stay away from my pen!) of extracts from his novels where many ladies would faint away at the exciting bits.  I am sure that Dickens was a fine reader, but the response from the ladies was more to do with the corsets that they were wearing restricting their breathing than with the excitement of the death of Nancy at the hands of that bounder Bill Sykes.  Anything more than regular shallow breathing when bound up like an Egyptian mummy was not conducive to consciousness.  I hope that nothing too exciting happens on the Paseo during Toni’s walk home!

     This evening is going to be given over to more writing and if no one sees it on the Forums I don’t care.  I have a whole range of ideas to try out and see whether my writing style can adapt to take account of them.

     On with the inking!