Friday, February 28, 2014


I have been to the swimming pool three times today.  And not swum a single length.  I got changed at my usual time and attempted to go to the pool, but was met by a locked door and a notice which I had presumably ignored the day before informing me that the pool would be closed for essential maintenance.
            The rest of the day was taken up with abortive attempts to get the pool to give me a realistic time of when the pool would be open again.  Foolishly, and forgetting what country I was in, I believed the time that they said it would be open.  It was not.
            Neither was the second time that it was supposed to be open and my next visit confirmed that the place would not be open until the next day.  It shows how little I have accepted the way that this country works that I believe that the pool will actually be open tomorrow.
            This means that I have not had my swim today and over the last few days and for lunch tomorrow I will have eaten far too much to be on course for my weight loss.  Ah well, next week is another opportunity to turn from the alluring highways of calorific delight to the austere slog of the mud-heavy winding lanes of cottage cheese deprivation!  I am not looking forward to my weigh-in on Sunday morning.  Action will have to be taken!
            Meanwhile the phoney war of waiting for my results from the last assignment continues.  I have worked out a strategy for the rest of the course, but the strategy does depend on the results of the assignment.  If all goes according to plan then I will probably enjoy the rest of the course.  If there is a problem then there will have to be a radical rethink.
            Whatever, I am looking forward to the rest of the course whatever strategy I have to adopt.  There are only three months of the course left and there is a great deal of work to be gone through before the end!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Old Times!

Sitting by a floor to ceiling window on the first floor of a small restaurant looking out on to the square which contained the church of Santa Maria del Mar was, I suppose, a prime position.  It was cold though.
            This was my outing with Suzanne, who I haven’t seen for some time, so there was a lot of catching up.  My contribution was based on life in the real world; Suzanne’s was to do with education.  I love listening to people talk about education and teaching (not, by any means the same thing) because of my practical distance from it.  My only concern is with the children of the UK becoming tax paying citizens and therefore helping to fund my pension.  The kids around the world can do as they please; they are nothing to do with me, O Vienna!
            This is not absolutely true obviously.  How can a teacher of umpteen years experience say such things?  I do understand that what happens in the rest of the world effects what happens in the UK and therefore has a direct influence on my pension.  But it is hard to sympathise with the pampered youth of today without thinking of the indirect taxation they pay as they spend their parents’ money.  The more the merrier, say I!
            Suzanne and I talked non-stop, often at the same time and, to be fair to the pair of us, we ranged far and wide in our topics – though, also to be fair, it the topics did tend to come back to teaching more often than not.  But that is something that you have to accept if you talk to a teacher – education is life and life is teaching.  It is simple and unassailable and has to be accepted because that is how it is.
            It was difficult to hide my delight in various instances of schadenfreude that were offered by Suzanne’s descriptions of life in the school.  O the joy of not being there to act like my curmudgeonly self.  Victor Meldrew has nothing on me when I get going about the inadequacy of management in Education!
            If that sort of revenge were not enough, I also gave Suzanne a copy of the poems that I have written as part of the course.  These were presented in a booklet, the scars of which production are still with me.  The booklet was wittily entitled “Poems, of course” and she will have to read them and give me some sort of feedback.  My friendship comes at a price!
            As Irene will find when she comes to lunch on Saturday.  She too will have a copy of the booklet and that will wipe the smile off her face!
            Meanwhile the days pass and the latest mark will be revealed – and my strategy for the remaining assignments.  I am already making plans for the rest of the course, but the plans will be as nothing unless I can see a productive way forward.  The hell with experience and the joy of learning: it is all about the marks!

On a different, yet related subject.  I have been searching for a particular book which I am beginning to suspect I gave to Oxfam in the decimation of my library before I left the UK.  I sincerely hope that I have not and that the volume is lurking behind some unrelated books which I have not yet moved.  But the feeling is growing in me that it is one of the spurned volumes.  This, more than ever, reinforces my belief that no book, no matter how tangential to my life, should ever be thrown away.
            I have run out of places where it can be and the partial organization of my remaining books which took place some time ago makes it even less possible that the one that I want is ‘hidden’ in some way.  It is, however, a very pleasant and enjoyable frustration to go through my library trying to find what I want.  I am always amazed, and not a little disturbed by the strange juxtapositions that I discover as my eye sweeps along the spines!  I would be sad to have everything arranged in a totally logical way.  A library should be full of surprises!  And mine certainly is.

            To hell with Dewey-decimal and laud above all the Heath-Robinson approach to book classification!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Technology Strikes Again!

YouTube, as is generally accepted, in the fountain of all wisdom.  I have now been trained by Toni to stop asking him questions about, well, anything and to turn to YouTube instead because, simply, all the answers are there.
            And indeed they are – as long as you ask the right questions.
            My latest attempt to give myself a nervous breakdown was to try and set up a booklet.  Now this has been a bane of my professional life for as long as I can remember.  I am very much a booklet teacher.  If it is worth doing, it is worth making a booklet to put it in.
            One of my truly great achievements in the School on the Hill was forcing the powers that be to buy me (not the bloody school) a long arm stapler.  This amazingly important element in life made my booklets just that little bit more professional by having the staples vertical to the line of the spine.  The usual effect is of a slanted staple because the arm of the thing is far too short.  Not with a long arm version.  I jealously guarded it and never, but never loaned it out.  Some things in school only survive through the caring selfishness of determined individuals!
            So, I attempted to put the poems that I have now written as part of my OU Creative Writing course into a booklet.  This should be easy.  A few clicks and the job should be done.  Having never (never) managed this successfully before I had a certain gritty determination about doing it properly this time.
            As part of the scheme I have bought a printer which prints on both sides of the paper.  The perfect accompaniment to booklet production.  My previous attempts have all been on the cut out and stick on previously constructed templates with page numbers carefully written in to avoid confusion.  This time it was all going to be done by the computer.
            So YouTube was prodded into action and I made notes and printed out instructions.  Thus primed I went to my computer and found that I had a different version of Word.  A later and more sophisticated version possibly, but certainly not the one in the films.  So back to YouTube, and remembering to mention this time around that this was Word for Mac.
            Low and behold, no sooner asked for then, as if my magic, some hapless music teacher promised to tell all.
            My heart sank when he started his little lecture by saying that Mac had no facility for making booklets.  He then compounded my depression by saying that all could be made well by simply downloading a program.  This is always the prelude to hours of frustration as the program hides itself away or is haplessly corrupted or simply doesn’t work.  Nevertheless, goaded by desperation I put all my faith in his hesitant delivery and empty of hope I typed in a wan request for the program to appear.
            Much to my astonishment it existed and downloaded.  So far so unnatural. It was then time for it to work.  And it did.  Up to a point.
            It took me five hours to get the sodding thing to print out in the way that I wanted it to.  Five hours.  Not, admittedly constant effort – part of the time was Toni trying to calm me down as yet another set of pages came out of the machine wrongly.
            The only thing that is keeping me sane is the determination that the next time I have to make a booklet it is going to be easier.  Please god!
            And the staples.  I ended up using a pair of dividers to poke holes in the spine and then fitted the individual staple in them and pushed the ends down with a ruler.  So much for technology.
            But I do have a booklet ready to give to Suzanne when I meet her tomorrow after school.  She asked for the poems and it will take the restraint of a person who is not like me not to moan about the length of time that it took to make the booklet.
            I think that she is expecting me to read them out while we sample a few tapas and a bottle of Cava.  I hope that there are no other humans listening to us as I do so.  Though my poems are not really the reading out loud in a public place sort of stuff – but what the hell, culture is culture after all.
            The next assignment if Life Writing – and that can be addressed in poetry as well.  As I keep thinking, a lot is riding on the outcome of the present assignment.

We are also getting nearer to the moment when I have to decide on my next course – which will start in October.  It has to be a third level course and I need 120 credits to finish my degree.  In effect that means two years of study at level three and then I am done.  My Modern Art course will be 60 of those credits and then I have to do something else.  It might even be literature – a reversion to type!

Our lunch today was in the little restaurant opposite Lidl.  I had a small slice of tortilla followed by lightly fried calçots with special sauce; medallions of hake in a creamy sauce with asparagus, peas and peppers; flan de mató, with red wine and Casera – for €8.95!  Toni’s meal was even cheaper – nothing.  This restaurant has a loyalty card which means for every ten meals at ‘full’ price you get one free.  In effect it means that each meal costs about six and a half quid, with wine.  And it was sunny.

It was a pity that the meal was before the struggle for the booklet.  But the memory of it lessens the pain a little.  And I had a good swim – even if somebody had the effrontery to come into my lane to do a bit of swimming.  It only lasted for ten or so lengths and he departed to waters calmer.  It is a good thing that I was not wearing my glasses or I could hold a grudge.

Tomorrow we are promised rain.  And I will have to wear shoes to go into the centre of Barcelona.  Life can be hard.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Passion for poems

The day did not start well; I was forced to go into the all-people lane for my swimming, all the real lanes having been taken my others.  This meant of course that I swam grumpily.  This means that I powered my way up and down in a careless way.  Unfortunately there were no other people in my line of swim to be careless about – but the attitude was there, even if the way in which I could have shown it was a little lacking.
            My stroke is certainly more powerful than it was and I swim a damn sight further in my strictly controlled half hour than I ever used to.  The impertinent people in the other lanes were no match for my speed.  There is much to be said for being a young retired person – at least compared with the others who are in the pool at the same time as me.  I am the young tyro swimming with a vigour that my fellow swimees can only think back upon!
            I will need to do an extra swim of three this week as I have given in to low impulses and eaten a beef burger, two chicken burgers and a plate of black rice.  To add insult to injury I have also had a glass of beer.  That glass would have been churlish to refuse as it was given to me by the place where I bought the beef burgers.  Free, gratis and for nothing!  And following the traditional Rees philosophy I didn’t refuse a good offer.  It is nice to see that my legendary charm can still work its magic on the odd occasion.  And to hell with the calories!

According to Spanish time, the deadline for sending in the latest TMA has now past and tomorrow I will post my submission for the assignment on the forum in the hope to prompt my fellow students to post theirs.  Share the pain!
            I am working on a sequence of nine poems which are related to the Muses.  This is not my choice, you understand, but one of the exercises in the Big Red Book which is the bible of our course.  I have already written a few poems based on the Muses (again an exercise not choice) but this present sequence will be a more controlled piece of work.  I hope. 
Some of the work has been done by producing Freewrites (a particular torture, the use of which still does not convince me) which are pieces of writing which are closer to flow of consciousness pieces than any form of structured expression.  The idea is that you write them and then ‘excavate’ taking out of them any gems that you might have produced.  You then work up the gems into something which is worth reading. 
That is the idea; it doesn’t always work out in reality.  But it is a useful starting point.  The poems I have to write are short.  Though there is no indication about what ‘short’ might actually mean.  I will find an interpretation and then will post them on the public forum to general consternation!

It says something for the situation in Spain that we turn to the horrors of Kiev with a sense of relief.  From the top to the bottom of high society in this country there is corruption and a total contempt for any who can be defined as ordinary – or not part of the rich and political who rule this country.
            The farce of the Royal Family continues with the Infanta’s evidence to the judge about her alleged (Ha!) corrupt deception containing 500 variants of replies to questions of the “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember” type.  This is, of course a form of contempt for the legal system – but being the Infanta she stands a bloody good chance of getting away with everything.  Our repulsive president or prime minister or standing joke has already said that he thinks that she is innocent.  Justice!  Ha!
            A lying member of PP (the party of government) has been shown to have a Swiss account with one and half million Euros in it which obviously slipped his mind as he denied having one in a televised interview.  He has resigned (!) which is almost unheard of in our corrupt system but not because he is a liar, but because he can’t stand being hounded by the press!  Poor thing.  If it wasn’t for the press we wouldn’t be able to pronounce the word ‘Justice’ let alone mourn its absence in this benighted country.
            The head of the Civil Guard has been lying his head off about what happened in the Spanish enclave in Africa when his police fired at immigrants swimming towards the Spanish beach.  He denied they did any such thing of course, but luckily we have mobile phone evidence which shows him to be the lying rat that he is.  Has he resigned?  This is Spain.  And that is your answer.
            A variety of corruption trials drag on with the criminals pointedly not going to jail.  One lives in deluded hope.
            I might mention bankers, but they are no worse than the scum in Britain and just as greedy about using our money to finance their disgusting lives.
            It goes on and on relentlessly, but Spanish prisons are never going to be overfilled with the guilty politicians, bankers and businesspeople who seem to be negatively charged against the power of the bars that should enclose them.

            But the sun shone today and I cannot be truly bitter when my favourite star shows itself!