Friday, December 26, 2014

Goodwill to all?

Christmas Day

Well, the log was truly thwacked last night and it duly shat its presents to the waiting masses.  And you have to be Catalan to understand that sentence, but take it from me I now am.
            Not, I hasten to add, that I am any more proficient in the language and history and culture of this excellent region, but rather that I am now the proud owner of a hoodie with the numbers 1714 emblazoned on the front and an artistically sketchy conglomeration of yellow and red with a star set in blue.  In other words I am now a fully functioning Catalan Independentista.  Though I have some considerable reservations around that designation.
            It is true that given the present government which is composed entirely of self-seeking, corrupt liars and which is led by a man whom I have designated, ‘Bromo’ (an incorrect, but masculine, perversion of the Spanish word ‘broma’ which means ‘joke’) who takes every opportunity to denigrate Catalonia and the Catalans, independence seems like a wholly acceptable idea.  But I think that the future is, to put it mildly, uncertain.
            The political situation is interesting.   Podemos is the new political party which promises to change the old corrupt Spain into something new.  Their policies are interesting and they seem to be determined to promote ideas of transparency (Spain is the ONLY developed European country not to have a transparency law) and legal equality (Spain has an extraordinary number of citizens who are above the ordinary dictates of the law – Britain and Germany have, for example none.)  The real problem comes with the election next year.
            According to the opinion polls both the major political parties PP (the sort of Conservative party which makes the British version look positively wholesome and guilt free) and PSOE (the sort of Labour party which would welcome Tony Blair as a socialist radical) have suffered quite deserved losses in their possible share of the vote.  The largest political party is now Podemos which was formed less than a year ago as a direct response to the woeful lack of decency that the two main parties displayed.
            If the opinion polls are correct and the population votes in the way that they indicate then Podemos would be the largest party in parliament.  It would not, however, have an overall majority and would need to be in coalition with another party or a series of smaller parties.  PP and PSOE would, between them, be able to stymie any truly progressive policies that Podemos brought forward.  The purity of Podemos would begin to be tarnished as they coped with the very grubby reality of the art of the possible in the murky political atmosphere of this country.
            With Podemos denied a working majority, with the other parties working against it to preserve their own shoddy self-seeking goals, Podemos would soon sink under the weight of disappointed expectations.  If they managed to form a minority government, there would be a vote of no confidence forced by the other parties, a new general election would be called, Podemos would be decimated and the old hegemony of two Old Party Rule would be re-established.  The People, yet again, would be the losers and the old guard fingers in the till politicos would be comfortably back at the trough.
            These are interesting times for Spain – but don’t hold your breath for anything approaching Justice to prevail.  So, at the moment, as I type this, alone in a sleeping flat in Terrassa, I wear my independence hoodie with something like desperation, in the hope that every gesture of possible separation will focus the governments’ eyes and bring them to a realization that the policies which have worked for them since the fall of Franco (god rot him) will not work in the future if they want to secure the unity of the country.
            It will be interesting (not that I am going to listen to him) to hear what the so-called King of Spain has to say in his Christmas Message.  Just think about it.  He is on the throne because his elephant killing, philandering, financially corrupt father made one mistake too many and to save the tarnished concept of monarchy in this country he abdicated in favour of his tall son.
            There is no provision for abdication in the Constitution of this country so PP and PSOE in an unwholesome and indicative clandestine alliance made up some pseudo-constitutional form of words and gave the throne to the crown prince.  No reference was made to the people of Spain and ignoring an on-line petition which demanded that the whole concept of the monarchy be put to the people in whose name this lanky scion of the discredited Bourbons purports to reign.
            So, thanks to PP and PSOE, the previous king, financially and morally corrupt as he was and is, gets indemnity so the paternity cases against him continue not to be heard in the Spanish courts; his financial machinations continue to be impenetrable because of the complete lack of transparency in dealings with the Royal Family and he has faded into almost complete invisibility so that the untarnished bloom of the new long King is allowed to blind people to the obvious inequality and injustice that the whole system flaunts.
            The previous king, in a notorious and mendacious broadcast which has been much replayed, stated that ‘justice is the same for all’ – a laudable, if laughable statement as the king and the people who promote him are clearly above the law.  The most glaring example of injustice was the position of the Infanta.
            The Infanta (the old king’s daughter and the present king’s sister) together with her ex-sportsman husband have been accused of theft.  The presumption of innocence is difficult when the evidence that has been made public is overwhelming, but the Public Prosecutor has been a staunch ally to this beleaguered royal (! sic!) and while saying she has to pay money back (i.e. guilty) she was blinded by love and trusted her husband (i.e. innocent).  When she was (amazingly) forced to go to a closed hearing in court, her responses to questions were a few hundred variations on the ‘I don’t know’.  Anyone other than a member of the royal family would have been accused of contempt of court, but her admission of what amounts to idiocy was seen by the Public Prosecutor (i.e. the person who works on our behalf to prosecute those guilty of crimes, like the Infanta) saw only charming naivety and glowing innocence.
            Basically she got away with it.  The country fumed but could do nothing.  The judge had been overruled and the concept of ‘justice is the same for everyone’ was clearly seen as the lie that it is.
            But, and this is why the king’s broadcast will be interesting, the judge refused to be overruled and has demanded that the Infanta return to court and answer to charges that, were she to be found guilty, would carry a sentence of four years in jail.  So the king has a choice: either ignore what is happening to his family and you show your regal arrogance or make a reference and reignite the obvious lie of universal justice.  It is a no-win situation for him and his type and I am glad that he has an impossible choice to make.  Although, to be truthful, the most obvious lies and sleight of hand in this country seem to work.  Look at the number of proven thieves who still operate at the highest levels of political society in spite of the glaring light of publicity showing exactly why they are where they are!
            This is hardly the stuff to be writing on Christmas Day, but given the state of Spain, what else is there to write about?
            Well, loads if I care to think about it.  Like what we are going to have for lunch.  This is going to be a family affair with something like 16 people sitting down to the meal.  All in Toni’s sister’s house.  All participants are supposed to bring something to eat.  I have bought the booze.  Which, considering the number of people would normally be woefully inadequate.  I have bought two bottles of Cava, two bottles of red, two bottles or white and a bottle of liqueur.  I have bought no beer, or Fanta or any soft drink.  And those, I hope will be what most of the people there will be drinking.  I have bought decent bottles (i.e. about three times as much as I would normally spend) and I intend to savour it!

            So far I have done quite well on the present front.  The hoodie previously mentioned combined with quite acceptable aftershave, including the one advertised by the impossibly sculpted ex-Australian football player hefting a trophy on his naked shoulder.  I am sure that I could have made something of advert and the bottle in the shape of a silver handled cup as essential part of my Media Studies lessons in the School on the Hill.  But those days are well and truly and thankfully past and now I can merely speculate and squirt.  Which sounds a bloody sight worse than I intended when I wrote it!

            I have my art books with me and I should be drafting my TMA, but it is already the afternoon and we have to start thinking about getting ready for the Christmas Meal.  Which is in someone else’s house, which is another Christmas gift as there is not the putting away and clearing up that comes with a personal involvement of house provision!

            I have also bought a rather pesky poem with me which refuses to resolve itself into something that I can regard as acceptable.  Perhaps a different environment will give my poetic muse a kick up her refined backside and get the words working!

            Worth a try – and that goes for everything else as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What holiday?

Anti-Christmas Comercialization

The comic opera that is the government of Spain continues, with an impunity that takes the breath away, to cavort across the nation with barely a nod towards what even the most debased would consider the barest moral niceties.  The proven corruption of what appears to be the majority of the government, the continual stream of stories which show the contempt that those in power have towards the people who elected them, the cosy to the point of live-in partners that this joke party has with the major firms in Spain – pointless to go on.  The more financial and power manipulation disgrace comes to light the more the government carries on in its own defiantly corrupt way.
            The latest horror from this bunch of freaks has been a Draconian set of laws which try to ensure that there will be fantastically punitive fines for those who protest, take photos of police abuse, stop the banks repossessing the homes of those that the banks themselves have impoverished – enabled to do that by the use of our money to stay in business.
            Spain, these days, is a cynic’s delight!  Take your pick of the political character, the political party, the firm, the public character and there will be disgrace aplenty to keep your bile duct operating at full strength.
            In Catalonia we have the sad picture of an ex-president, together with his Mafia-like family clan being taken to court for industrial hoovering of cash from his time in public office.  Toni feels personally let down by this traitor as he believed in him and voted for him.  The amount of money that this piece of filth and his equally dirty family has salted away in a variety of foreign banks is so vast as to be in the realms of fantasy.
            A further irony about this Catalan case is that the prosecution is proceeding at a very speedy pace – as opposed to the multitude of cases outstanding which point to the wholesale corruption of the governing party.  This, of course merely boosts the (already gigantic) Catalan sense of persecution by the Spanish state.  Every day that the living joke that parades around as President of this country is a day when yet more Catalan separatists are made.
Still, my poetry is going well – they do say that the arts flourish in difficult times.  If that really is the case then we should be seeing a Renaissance taking place in Spain.  I have yet to see the fruits, except of course in the case of my poems!
            Plans for the next book are well advanced and I have been to the publishers to check that they can do what I want.  All I have to do now is write the poems to put in it.  A minor point!  I am determined that this book is going to be somewhat different to the last ones as I intend to give it a stronger structure than in the last ones.  And that is more difficult than I thought it was going to be.  I’ve tried a draft structure with what I’ve written at the moment and that was hard going.  I am well aware that next year is a bloody sight nearer than the date suggests.  There is always a feeling that January is a long way away, even when it is just around the corner!  However, I have given myself a deadline of the summer to get the content of the book ready and to have it ready for publication for a significant date in October of next year.  That seems like an expansive timetable, but I am acutely aware that time slips away with gathering speed!
            I am now in the midst of writing the next tutor marked assignment for the Open University course and have the delights of an on-line tutorial this evening to look forward to.  The writing has to be submitted by the 8th of January which seems in the far distance, but, and especially during the Christmas period, that distance has a way of becoming illusory.
The part of the holiday period spent away from home in Terrassa will probably be from Christmas Eve to My Name Day – that should both of us enough time to get down to the details of our studies.  Toni has examinations in January, so those are concentrating his mind wonderfully at the moment to the exclusion of more festive thoughts.

            As we are going to have a domestic Christmas meal the food is going to be provided by the participants.  I’m buggered if I am going to make anything so I am getting the booze.  This is far less intimidating for a group of Catalans than it would be for a similar British occasion.  I took the opportunity to go to the little wine shop that I have discovered in Castelldefels and from which I got a truly excellent Cava from a little family winery.  I have taken all of the recommendations from the little man in the shop and have two bottles of white, two bottles of red and two bottles of Cava.  I will probably be the only person in the meal who will be able to give an opinion about all of those.  Not because they will all be too drunk to articulate, but because I will be the only person to sample them all!  There are advantages to having a surrogate Catalan family at times like this!
            I have also bought an interesting bottle of some sort of liqueur that will be an exploration for all of us.  My intention is to get a set of disposable plastic shot glasses and force the rest of the family to sample it.  Wish me luck because I will probably end up necking it for shame’s sake!

            We have bought no presents.  None.  At all.  I am not panicking because all of the presents that we need to buy are for Toni’s family.  They will have bought for us and so we have a moral obligation to get something.  But I am not panicking.  Not at all.  There is plenty of time.  Plenty.  I mean, it’s only the 18th.  Christmas Eve is a week away.  No sweat.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Libros! Libros! Libros! Libros para me!

My books have arrived!  Four beautifully produced, fully illustrated volumes with their accompanying Study Guides and CDs and DVDs.  O Joy!  And the bloody Post Office failed to deliver Toni’s computer, in spite of the fact that it is in Castelldefels.  The one thing that modern internet tracking gives you are perfect justification for losing your temper when things are not delivered.  There is no excuse because you can see, plainly, in computer pixels the information about where the package is and indeed where it has been for the whole of its journey, together with times of when it has moved on to the next stage.

            Because of this informational overload I was able to watch my books move from Wellinborough, a small town no far from my first teaching appointment in Kettering in the middle of England; move on to Birmingham; fly to somewhere in Germany, get transported to Barcelona and thence to Castelldefels.  Wonderful.  And the guy who delivered them to my door actually tried to speak a few words in English.  Who could ask for more.

            My other course, a MOOC with the University of Southampton, has now started and I was able to do the first week of work in a couple of hours.  As this one is geared towards helping me work through the problems associated with an end of course assignment, it should become more relevant the further I get into the work on my major course which still has a couple of weeks before it starts.  I fully intend to get a head start there so that all the unforeseen but totally predictable problems to learning have at least some sort of buffer of time to allow the line to be held!

            Sunday will see me on a demonstration or march protesting about Global Warming; later in the week there is a link up with friends in Sitges; Ceri and Dianne are due soon; the opera season is about to start and I have to do something about keeping up my poetry writing.

            My last poem has winged its way to teachers and their sympathizers in a start of school present from me.  I will look forward to the feedback, though I fear there might be some scepticism as my use of some unconvincing emotional language in the final ‘verse’ – we shall see.

            The swimming pool next to the BSB is closed for routine annual cleaning and repairs and so for the next week I am going to have to brave the less than clement waters of our community pool.  This morning it was not too cold, but as we had a furious storm last night I found myself swimming through a range of assorted vegetation.  Never one to waste an opportunity, I found myself thinking of lines and phrases, words and images to use in my next poem.  I have been somewhat lax and it is only as I wrote the last sentence that I realized that I had not (as I assure you I fully intended) written my thoughts down in the little red book which I keep in a pocket for just such moments.  I will do it (I swear) as soon as this entry is complete.  Probably.

            I hope to god that Toni’s computer, which has been bought at bargain rate on the internet turns up tomorrow as I, rather than the totally culpable Post Office will bear the brunt of his irritation.

            And I need the sun to continue to shine so that my suntan can get me through to December!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Free at last!

There is something authentically disgusting about the mental state of a person who deliberately sits at an open window in her house so that the smoke from her pestilential carcinogenic weed floats effortlessly into a neighbour’s house.  My house!

            Well, the vile smoker has, at last left and gone with her brood back to where she can irritate other saintly adjuncts.  I’m not sure that even makes sense, but it does express something that I feel.  And something that has happened.

            We have just had a glass of Cava (two and three quarters mini bottles for me and a mere taste for himself) to celebrate the fact that now we will be able to sit at on open window without a large fan attempting to blow the noxious fumes away.

            Today is the day before various starts.  Firstly and most importantly, from a purely malicious point of view, tomorrow is the start of term for Spanish and Catalan kids.  And my erstwhile colleagues.  Secondly, from a purely academic point of view, tomorrow is the re-start of the next phase of Toni’s qualifications and the start of a FutureLearn course for me. 

My course proper starts on the 4th October, by which time I hope to have received the replacement books which have had to be re-sent because the Spanish Post Office lost (again) the original consignment – they now have a 50% failure rate for my course material.  Not good.  But, with any luck, the books will be here tomorrow and I will be happily looking through the pictures which, in a history of art course are, surely, even in an OU course, the most important element!

So, just back from going out to dinner, paid for by me because Toni was right about the date and time of the departure of our loathsome temporary neighbours.  A less than convincing meal with tapas which were severely ordinary and nothing to encourage a return visit.  Still, what can be bad when such a negative has been removed!

This is the first of a new generation of writing to mark the start of a new academic year.  I only hope that I get into literary gear soon enough to sustain my interest!