Thursday, January 30, 2014

The things I do for Knowledge

Amazingly I have already packed my case.  The more cynical among you might say that for a trip that is going to last some 48 hours spread over three days the ‘packing’ element might be, one might say, light.  But this is not to take account of my almost pathological hatred of the whole enterprise.  Packing that is, not necessarily the whole travel thing. 
I keep telling myself that the experience makes it all worthwhile.  Even in that centre of corruption in the quintessential country of corruption.  Home to the disgraced husband of the Infanta and her brood, getting out of Spain because whenever they walk abroad in their home country the general population calls, ‘Chorizo!’ which is the Spanish slang term for ‘Thief’ because, of course there is a large amount of circumstantial evidence (!) which would point to certain irregularities in the financial way that they have lived their high-style lives.  I must stop that sentences otherwise I will get into trouble – both political and grammatical!
So Geneva, home of tarnished Spanish royalty and FIFA.  Funny how disgraceful selfishness and a complete disregard for the finer feelings seem to gravitate towards places like Geneva!
With the exception of the OU, of course, naturally!

I have been frustrated in my attempt to buy another watch.  I know, I know – but this one was something of a bit of bling.  The modern fashion in watch design is to add ceramic to the mix.  The one on which I had my eye was in white ceramic with a mix of steel and around the watch case, sparkling almost diamonds!  Believe me it looked better than it sounds!
I actually saw someone else buying this watch and was immediately taken with it.  But he took the only model that the shop had and so they very kindly offered to get me one.  Today I had a message telling me it was in, and waiting.  With the patience and reserve for which I am justly famous I actually waited until after my swim before I rushed to the shop to claim what I was more than prepared to pay far too much money for.
Seen, liked and bought.  It was as the lady was about to remove a link to make it fit for my slim wrist that I innocently asked the question, “It is waterproof, isn’t it?”  To which the harsh response was in the affirmative with the horrific qualification, “But not for swimming.”  Collapse of stout party. 
I have vowed that I will not go back on the features that I have gained in my last watch purchase and so, with great reluctance, I had to forgo the pleasure of (as Toni might phrase it) ‘wasting’ money.  I have been sulking throughout the day.

We went out to have tapas at our favourite haunt in Castelldefels of La Fusta.  Bitterly disappointing, only the patatas bravas were up to standard, everything else was not what we expected.  If forced us to have an extended conversation about how we would design our new house after winning 57 million euros in one of the many lotteries than Toni, with a faith which ought to move mountains and bring the Spanish political system back from the dysfunctional Swiftian horror fantasy that is our everyday experience, should ensure that the next draw will be the big One for him.  But, alas, it never is.  However, speculation about how my library would look and where to put the second Jacuzzi is always comforting when faced with eating second-rate tapas.
Whatever I think of mildly unacceptable Spanish snacks in one particular restaurant, I can’t but think that the next few days are going to see me think very fondly of that half-baked experience as I sample the delights of Swiss cuisine.
I shall retain an open mind and hope for the best.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's all in the stroke

The swimming pool this morning was a mass of humanity (in it’s widest sense) swarming with kids and a bizarre class of more aged water leisure practitioners who were standing in the pool in lines while waving those tubular flotation thingies presumably for the benefit of their health, or possibly merely to frighten the unwary.  Even though the pool looked full a swimming lane was clear and so I was able to plough my furrow with impunity.
            My fairly newly developed extended stroke is coming into its own and I am fairly powering my way down the pool.  My new technique is to break my traditional rhythm of breathing on my left arm stroke by adding three extra strokes before the breath.  This means that my head is down for longer and the speed is increased with very little extra effort.  The breathing, retaining the breath until after the second left arm stroke and then exhaling the breath over the next three strokes until the next breath, is still something for which I am counting.  Eventually it will become second nature and I can begin to think about whether I really ought to find someone to teach me the tumble turn.
            The fluency of my swimming is obviously interrupted by the fact that I touch the end of the lane and turn myself round and then set off again.  This is hardly efficient, but I have made little effort to develop anything more sophisticated.  There is a gentleman of, shall we say, late middle age who does the most inefficiently cumbersomely magnificent tumble turns that my clumsy turns seem polished professionalism by contrast!  However, he is at least making an effort and I still hesitate to humiliate myself by turning and finding my feet are nowhere near the wall of the pool.  This I have already done on various occasions when the spirit moves me to assume a higher professional profile and got a mouthful of water as an added bonus for my effort as well.  Perhaps I could leave that as a task for the summer.  And for a teacher.
            Perhaps I could ask one of the lifeguards to give me a few hints, though trying to understand Spanish or Catalan for such a technical effort might be effort that I am not prepared to make.

            I am prepared to put the effort in for the Magnum Opus Poeticus.  More work was done on this today, though most of it, nay all of it was more in the way of preparation than anything else.  I am getting nearer to what the poems (I have decided on a sequence of seven) should contain, but that need polishing and then the real hard work of getting the content starts.
            At the moment I am beset by cliché and all my original ideas seem more tired the more I think about them.  The process of refinement should produce something of more interest and I am keeping my powder dry to get me through the Day School which looms.
            Diane, who has been with me through three OU courses, now, seems prepared to make arrangements of our evening meals for the two nights that we are likely to be in Geneva.  God bless her!
            It will be illuminating to meet my fellow students.  The last time I met students on OU courses was in the eighties, and in Britain.  I wonder how the present crop of students will be different.  Or indeed be the same.  Instructive is the word that comes to mind.
            I will have to pack tomorrow, as I have to be at the airport by 10 in the morning for a half past twelve flight.  I will also have to print out some maps and information about Geneva.  Not that I will have much time for sightseeing.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Back again!

Although I am still not convinced by the shrinkage of various unimportant, indeed superfluous parts of my body, I am conscious that hitherto unwearable pieces of clothing are now able to contain the said body.  Belts, new belts bought and never used because the holes were not in the right places, are now, magically able to take a buckle – even when around my waist!  Something must be happening.  But not fast or obvious enough for me!
          The poetry section of the OU course is now in full swing and indeed the Day School in Geneva (no less) is almost upon us.  As indeed is the next tutor marked assignment; which asks for a large number of lines of poetry.
            I have planned out the framework of a sequence of shortish poems.  All that remains is to think of a subject and then to write them!  No sweat!
          Last night I went to the next in the sequence of operas as part of my season ticket.  This one was Bellini and The Sleepwalker.  The story is of utter inanity, but the music glorious.  In this production the contest was won by the tenor who got a well-deserved ovation after one of his Big Numbers.  I’ve just realized that I have left the cast list in the shirt pocket of a garment that I have put ready to be washed and therefore can not give names to roles.
            The sopranos had their usual battle over the love a totally unworthy male and, in my view, the loser (in the battle of love) had my vote.  To be fair it was easier to portray a thoroughly selfish, unprincipled vamp, than a weak, mewling sleepwalker, but still the music was on the side of the wimp and she does win the unworthy male in the end.
            My particular experience of the opera was made even better by the fact that the gentleman sitting in front of me, did not return for the second half and therefore my view of the stage was superb.  Indeed there was a partial cordon sanitaire around me as I was sitting next to the aisle, the seat to my immediate right was also unoccupied and I was able to place my coat there rather than on the floor.  I understand that there was an actual theatrical patron sitting behind me!

The great achievement in my life over this past month has nothing to do with my academic life, but rather with the simple problem of living within a limited space – and I don’t mean my body.
Over the period that Toni was in Terrassa visiting his mother I attempted to bring some order to the library.  As this doubles as my so-called dressing room the two aspects of my life-style do not co-exist easily and the room as been described by one anonymous observer as ‘a disaster area’.  While this is a totally unjust appellation, to quote our revered Prime Minister (and walking joke) Rajoy, “It is totally untrue except for some bits.”  The some bits were getting out of hand and so I determined to give Toni a surprise on his return and bring order to chaos.
            It took five days or unremitting labour of trying on clothes, rejecting clothes, bagging clothes, throwing out some clothes and generally finding myself totally fed up to the back teeth with the numerous items of garmentry that passed before my eyes.  And even now the ‘job’ is not entirely done.  But I am able to walk to all my books in the ‘library’ and the next stage in the mythical ‘Ordering Of The Books’ comes a step closer.  At least I am able to get to them now.
            One result of the Grand Clearing is that, for the first time in forty years, I now possess but one, solitary suit – an all-purpose weddings-and-funerals number.  I have one half of a Nehru suit, which I am now able to get into!  Pity the other half of the suit is nowhere to be found.  Still, even this problem will allegedly be solved with the buying of the new some time in late spring or early summer.
I remain sceptical about my weight loss, but we will have to see what comes of my present approach and hope for the best.

Meanwhile my search for subject and content for my poetry sequence weighs on my mind.  Lightly, to be sure, but the load is significant.  I am looking forward to the struggle to creation!
It will be interesting to see if the Day School adds anything to the process.  Given the cost of going there, I sincerely hope that it does!  If not, well, at least it is a visit to Switzerland, which previously had only figured in my limited journeying as an unscheduled or at least unexpected stop in Zurich airport by the ever reliably-unreliable Tarom Airways when Romania was still in the evil grip of Ceausescu and I was supposed to be going to London.  Airports, as every seasoned traveller knows, don’t count.  But a Day School by a Lake (with a capital L) does.
Another experience to add to the list!