Thursday, March 20, 2014

Still here!

Sitting in yet another hotel in Barcelona: basic, utilitarian – but en suite (I have my limits.)  This time it is in preparation for a performance of Tosca.  Now that my time is my own, I have adopted the luxury of getting myself a room in the city so that I do not have to traipse off into the midnight traffic at the end of the opera.  This room could hardly be better situated: it is within yards of the Liceu, hence its name Hostal Operaramblas.  It may only be two stars and there is no TV in my room, but location, location, location!  I might even book for the next one while I am here.
            And that is another thing.  As The Rough from Reading will be descending on the exact date of my next opera performance I have had to change my ticket.  Pre-crisis this would have meant a payment of some sort, but not today.  Today the Liceu is pathetically grateful for any and all opera patrons, especially ones like myself who have paid for the most inclusive ticket at the start of the season.  For we ‘royalty’ of the opera world, nothing is too much.  So my ticket was changed with no charge.  Some things are better during a crisis.  But not many.
            I am relaxed about getting to the opera even though it is quarter past seven and I have not had a shower.  I need a shower because of the bus journey.  I had to stand most of the way and the seats (when I finally got one) seem to be designed to destroy the bones in your spine.  Even as I type I am aware of a sharp ache courtesy of Barcelona transport.  And that is before I get to my seat and have an overlay of further pain from the design of the sitting device that seems to be common in most places of public entertainment.  At least I will not have to stumble far to get to a bed and relax.
            I could, of course go to the appalling Indian restaurant which is opposite the Liceu at the end of the performance, but I have been there before and to say that the food is disappointing is to be too generous.  Anyway I had an excellent lunch which put me in mind of the sorts of bargains in the food line that I used to get when I first arrived in Spain.  The meal of appetiser, salad, paella, round fishy things (the word for which has temporarily escaped my mind, but will return), a sort of cheese dessert, bread, wine and Casera – all for €8.50!  Astonishing.  And it was Toni’s turn to pay for the tea and coffee in the shopping centre so, all in all an excellent meal.  I am sure that it will last for Tosca and a bit beyond.
            Now a shower and to get ready, or put a shirt and tie on and onwards and upwards to melodrama and music which can reduce me to tears.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Breathe again!

It has been some time since I felt the throat constricting fear that comes with an indication that one’s intellectual worth is about to be tested. 
This is another way of saying that, checking my emails I noted that there was a communication from the Open University informing me that my latest tutor marked assignment was marked and available to be checked.  As a favourable result of this assignment was going to be an indication of the way forward (aka The Way Forward) for the rest of the course it was important.
            The throat constriction thing was also accompanied by an indrawn breath and a tightening of the chest.  I was disappointed to discover that I was so hackneyed.  It was, therefore, with a certain degree of trepidation that I went through the unbearably slow process of logging onto the OU website and waiting for the result to appear.
            This writing is not so confessional that I would have gone on to explain to all and sundry that the result was not the one that I wanted, so the more perceptive among you will have worked out that things, as it were, worked out.  Not entirely satisfactorily as I was four percentage points away from my ‘smug’ result, but well within the ‘generally complacent’ area.  This result means that my vague plans for the future assignments in the course can now be firmed up and the direction of my writing is now assured.  Or at least as assured as it can be given the hard fact that I haven’t actually done any of it yet.
            I have one poem on the go and the bones of the thing are there and I should get at least a first draft of it by the end of the day.  The finished article then may or may not form one part of the extended work for the next assignment.  The work is still all to do, but the direction is relatively clear.  And that is all I need to get on with it.

On an altogether more prosaic, yet more important front, the central heating system – if our ‘system’ deserves such an appellation – is leaking big time.  Given the quaint rules of renting in this god-forsaken country, everything in the house appears to be our responsibility.  No matter how antiquated the stuff in the house is, its working is firmly the responsibility of the tenants.  I do not know what rights we tenants have, but they are as nothing compared to the Rolls Royce rights of our British equivalents!  Toni will have to phone up and find out if the blood sucking bastards who own this place are prepared to do anything to justify the vast sums that we pay them every month.  I do not hold out any positive hope.  But summer is not yet with us and some form of heating is essential.
            Perhaps this latest in our stand-offs with the renting agency will be the straw that breaks etc. as we do have to think about somewhere cheaper and ideally on one level in the not too distant future.
            I must say that the idea of moving fills me with absolute depression as it has taken me all this time to get what is left of my books into something like order.  The thought of mixing up the books again and setting them out is more than I can contemplate with anything approaching equanimity.  But the time will come when we have to consider the unthinkable and find somewhere else.

My mind turns from such awful realities to the delights of Sci-Fi.  I have been watching the 4th series of ‘Torchwood’ where ten programmes formed a high budget drama ‘Miracle Day’ set largely in America.  No matter how absurd the story I am always taken by the ideas in Sci-Fi and the central conceit of this one – that people stop dying – was an interesting one to say the least.  A strong cast produced an enjoyable romp which also allowed Russell T Davies to indulge the gay aspects of his main character Captain Jack Harkness to a rather more explicit level than in previous episodes of this Doctor Who spinoff that I have seen.  Some of the action seemed to me to be gratuitous, but it was Sci-Fi and I am more than forgiving in this genre. 
As a bonus at the end of the series, I discovered a hitherto unwatched episode of David Tennant in ‘Doctor Who’ on my iPlayer.  Who can ask for more?

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Time weighs heavy on me!

As the minutes tick on to the fateful weighing time, I can feel the confidence of lightness deserting me.  This week has been a catalogue of weakness in the field of calories and I feel the sins of accretion weighing heavily on me.  The scales will point the finger of scorn at me and I will have to rethink my approach, as the fateful first of April approaches and my target feel somewhat distant.  In effect I have 29 days to lose an unfeasible number of kilos and I have absolutely no intention of starving myself to achieve an arbitrary target.
            That last paragraph is an almost perfect example of self-justification as I accept the consequences of my future actions which apparently are impossible to change by any actions I might take.  I’m good at things like that: presenting the future as a fait accompli to accommodate my lack of will power!
            So far, I think it is true to say that I have not gone through a single week without a glass of wine.  Hardly the confession of a person with a drink problem, but significant when one considers that there is always the non-calorific alternative of water in its natural or fizzy form.  But that takes us into the argument about the relative differences between living and existing!
            There are now twenty minutes left until the fateful hour of eleven-thirty when my bare feet (shoes weigh) make contact with the cold metal of hard reality and the wheel spins to the stark truth of failure.  Last week the weight loss was 100gms.  This week I would be happy with one, but . . .
            Now I feel better, having written up the approaching debacle so that it appears to have a literary significance tinged with theoretical musing and real fear.  It is no longer failure, but rather an emotional event!
            Fifteen minutes to go.  The last sips of my milk-less Chinese tea and then the long climb up the stairs, making a call into the bathroom because, as Tesco keeps telling us, ‘Every little helps’ – looking at that slogan now it appears to be completely lopsided and illogical, but that’s marketing for you.

            Well.  400gms.  Loss!  I have absolutely no idea how that happened.  I must be doing something right, although I am realistic that I am not going to make my target at this paltry rate of weight loss.
            Tomorrow the pool should (should) be open again for me to do my lengths, although I am not optimistic.  Why should the lady on the counter have given me a card and told me to phone before I turned up, if she was certain that the work on the filtration system would have been completed by the stated time?  This is the third delay and I have no reason to suppose that it will be the last.  I would very much prefer that the filtration system is perfect and wait for that to happen than come down with typhoid!  Or worse!
            So the easy weight loss days are over and we are now into the stubborn fat which is taking its time to go.  I will persevere and hope for the best while eating more and more cottage cheese!

This week should see the return of my tutor marked assignment and its mark will determine my future strategy.  I have made some rough notes about the content of the future assignments and I hope that they will be used.  If the mark is poor then I will rethink.  But I am getting tired of the speculation and would prefer the real thing to aid my decisions!

There is an exhibition in France that I wouldn’t mind seeing.  It is in the Monet museum and is of rarely seen Impressionist paintings in private collections.  It probably is worth going to see if I can get a flight at the right price.  Worth looking into.  And Irene will come as well if I can find flights which allow her to do her classes.  I think that the way to approach this is to think of a maximum price that I am prepared to pay and then go from there.
            Culture calls!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

What's the next dish?

I am beginning to measure my life in a series of decent meals at low prices.  And that surely cannot be right.  There are more meaningful ways to evaluate a continuing life than in terms of food.  Surely.  But this lunchtime we, with Irene, had an excellent meal followed by a glass of mediocre iced coffee.
            The meal, however, was a mere prelude to the action of the day: buying Irene another computer.
            It is always a delight to see people other than my good self-indulging in repeat purchases of the same item.  Because of course, the item is never exactly the same.  You can buy, for example, watches – but the delight is buying a timepiece which is unlike the previous one in some way or other.  They may have the same function, but they display different design solutions to encapsulate those problems solved.
            Having seen what appeared to be an excellent buy in a less than excellent shop, both Toni and I were eager for someone (anyone) to buy it.  The it in question was a 10.1” laptop computer with 500GB hard disk and other bits and pieces, together with a touch sensitive screen.  And all in an attractive package at a more than attractive price.  Luckily Irene appeared just when it appeared more and more likely that I would have to buy the damn thing for myself!
            Irene was immediately smitten with the machine and even bought a more than stylish bag to go with it.  All for €300 and a bit.
            Toni leapt into action and helped Irene set the machine up and, after the usual frustrations, without which you could never be sure that you had bought an authentic Windows machine, it was ready to go.  Toni, with the Puritan insistence of a born-again-program-for-freer also installed Open Office via our Wi-Fi and the machine was fully operational.
            I have a universally recognized knack of getting other people to spend their money.  In a different life I am sure that I would have been a totally unscrupulous entrepreneur, but in this one I am merely a vicarious expenditure fiend, feeding off the spendthriftiness of others.
            It is very hard to see others enjoying the delights of purchasing up to the moment electronic equipment, especially of the computer variety, without thinking back over the vast sums of money that one has spent over the years and the development of these infernal machines and then thinking how unfair it all is that someone today can spend a fraction of the total sum of money that I have spent and get substantially more for their money.
            I still remember buying a laser printer which cost (in those days) four hundred quid.  I must have been insane!  The only thing that it did was print pages of type.  Nicely admittedly, but solely.  And the cost of the cartridges was unbelievable.  Where is that machine now?  Junked!  The double sided printer that I have downstairs does everything other than fold the paper into neat origami shapes, has a colour touch screen, individual ink colours, is Wi-Fi operated and links to god knows what media – and cost a quarter of the amount for the laser printer.
            As Toni keeps telling me, as if it were an insult, I am a prime example of a buyer caught up in planned obsolescence idiocy.  To which I reply that virtually everything I have is Mac and Apple which shows, to say the least, a certain imperviousness to commercial masochism.

Tomorrow is weigh-day and I have no high expectations from that event.  I have not been able to go swimming for a couple of days and have been told that the pool will remain out of action until Monday at least!  So much for their protestations of speedy clear up!  I will therefore be able to blame my lack of loss on the unreliability of pool management.  There is always someone who can take the rap other than oneself!  And anyway, there are other weeks for fat evaporation until April Fools’ Day and the final weigh in this part of the Great Experiment.