Friday, May 30, 2014

And, breathe!

Humanity can breathe a sigh of relief – life, as we know it can continue.  Toni has passed the present set examinations and is now free to breathe again for what is now officially The Summer.  God knows it makes my life easier as well, as the thought of coping with re-sits is something I cannot contemplate with any degree of anything approaching equanimity.  But he passed and passed well.  Thank god there was only a week between the examinations and the results!

            My course has also ended, but I have to wait until ‘mid to late July’ for my results.  At present the forums are filling up with students writing their ‘Dear All’ posts, thanking everybody they have ever written to and looking forward with increasing trepidation to the rest of the courses they have to do.  As the Creative Writing Course that I have just completed was a Level 2 course, most of my fellow students will be going on to Level 3 courses – the equivalent of third year university studies and doing a couple of courses to complete their degrees.  I have arranged it so that my last two years will be filled with the history of art.  The first year (starting next October) Art in the Twentieth Century and then in October 2015 – when, incidentally I will start drawing my State Pension – I will complete my degree with a course in Renaissance Art.  I think.  But computations in how you Build Up Your Credits are way beyond my simplistic approach to mathematics and so I may be wrong about how much longer it is going to take me, but when all is said and done, who cares?  It can take as long as it likes as far as I am concerned as I am doing it for my own satisfaction and not for some work related necessity.

            To celebrate Toni’s success we went to La Rincon de Lola and had an excellent four course Menu del Dia with wine and a glass of Cava at a price I will not write down so as not to irritate readers who are not from Spain.  The weather however has been awful, even allowing for some brief glimpses of the sun, it has been quite unlike it should be at this time of the year and totally unacceptable.

            I am determined in the next course that I will make use of the Facebook page which is devoted to the subject I have chosen.  To this end I have revived my presence on Facebook and am trying my best to come to terms with how it works.  Unenthusiastically, at the moment – but I am sure that I will be filled with the excitement of new social media before long.

            Meanwhile, I will content myself with waiting for a more conventional media to come my way.  On a casual basis I decided to take a book list that came my way a few hours ago seriously and have ordered all the art books on it, plus a few extras.  I really must sort my books out this summer.  At last.  Or not.  At this rate the months from now until October are going to be too few to pack in the reading I will have to do even before the course starts!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Justice and my bond!

I am not one usually given to the base feelings of envy, but today I have to admit that I was consumed with it.

My emergency doctor gave me a prescription for my cough, cold, sore throat etc which comprised one measly, tiny pill and a huge lozenge of Paracetemol.  Which I took and which did nothing at all to relieve my symptoms.  Today, Toni went to our normal doctor and was given the lozenge and two (count them, two) puffers to deal with his symptoms which bear an uncanny resemblance to mine.  Where I ask you, is the fairness in that!  Toni’s sore throat improved immediately on application of said puffers while my throat remains as rosily red and hurting as it ever was.  I demand equality and more puffers!

I have, however convinced myself that my course of ‘treatment’ is more in keeping with a sort of Protestant/Puritan delayed gratification approach which is more in keeping with what I sometimes think my character demands.  I shall solider on in quite articulate misery.

When I asked Toni to provide the subject matter for the next poem he immediately replied, ‘Bronchitis’ and then gave an impromptu rendition of a haiku on the subject which perhaps was more of a Ginsburg approach to that delicate poetic form than that of a Zen Master.  I have taken Toni up on this though and am working on something which, albeit obliquely, is related to illness.  I am only at the notes stages at the moment, but I am happy with one or two images and they can be the stimulation that I need to get the thing done.

Our tutor group forum is silent as the grave and I do not think that there are going to be any stirrings until the EMA date has been passed when there will be the usual expressions of relief, followed by thanks to the tutor and students and then the desultory enquiries about what courses are going to be taken next.  I tend to think that I might be alone in my progressing onto the Modern Art History module – which will be slightly strange as there have been a few people who have done the last three courses with me.  Now the parting of the ways.

I am typing this on the third floor and I can hear Toni coughing down stairs – perhaps the puffers have not been quite as efficacious as I thought.

I would like all and sundry to recognize that I have been for a swim conscientiously during my ‘illness’ and I want credit for that!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Let's all cough together!

Despite the most advanced medical knowledge being but a click away, Toni is still convinced that the reason we are both wracked with coughing and with sore throats which give new meaning to course sandpaper is that we had lunch a few days ago sitting in the outside seating of a restaurant watching the Med.  Admittedly it was a trifle windy, but it was gloriously sunny and himself was in the shade.  Almost.  Today I went to our local medical centre and was seen almost at once, though not by my doctor, and after a more thorough examination than I have had for a long time, I was pronounced to be suffering from a virus.  This was after a cursory look at my throat had elicited the single word ‘Red!’

            So I am now back to my normal number of pills to be taken daily – though at least the last two additions are for a week only.  I sincerely hope that the ‘week or so’ description of this nasty visitor will prove to be true and that next week I will be free to watch my last opera without the attendant misery of suppressed coughing.

            It will be instructive to see what Toni is given for his symptoms, which are exactly the same as mine, as he goes to our regular doctor tomorrow.  I await the reading of his prescription with some interest.

            My reading of the History of Art books which have been recently delivered has calmed down a bit.  There is only so much reading of dated artistic manifestos one can read at a single sitting.  I am waiting for my ‘pop shit’ book of modern art to reignite my enthusiasm.  Such drastic simplifications of art history are interesting as much for the specious generalizations and half-truths in the name of education as they are for the poorly chosen illustrations.  But, perhaps I am prejudging and I am always prepared to revise my opinion given the actual appearance of the book in my hand!

            I am however writing poetry.  I have decided to keep on working until the official end of the course – or until I get my results, though the basic idea is to go on writing poetry for ever.  My chapbook ‘Poems – off course’ is now almost ready for production and merely awaits the final poems before publication.  That all sounds rather grand as if Faber and Faber were waiting eagerly for my final poetic effusions before rushing it out into print.  Alas, that is not so and the only printer involved in the double sided wonder in our living room.  Still, it’s a start and I will print a reasonable number of copies so that friends and relations can read and, with any luck respond to what I have written.  If things go as I want them to, then I will produce a chapbook each year.  That should not be beyond the bounds of possibility and will be a fitting response to the course that is ending.

            Although I did not go to my poetry group this week (preferring to cough in my own comfortable bed rather than a strange one) the poem that I have most recently completed, ‘Away’ is a response to a freewrite in a previous meeting.  As always for me, the response is a little oblique, but there are one or two parts of the poem that I think work well and I am pleased with what I have written.  The course has changed my approach and I think that I am more confident than I was before and I am more assured in my choice and manipulation of experience.  I can say things like that to my heart’s content, but it is the response of readers that is the key, and that I am looking forward to.  Good, bad or indifferent I think that I have shown over the last ten months or so that the Creative Writing Course has lasted that I can respond to analysis and I think that my poetry is the stronger for it.  Roll on the readers!

            We are getting nearer to Toni’s exams on Saturday.  His illness comes at exactly the wrong time and can only add to the stress that he already feels.  It has not helped either that for the first time since he started this course he got a mere ‘B’ for one of his assignments to spoil his run of unblemished ‘A’s’ that he had previously.  This has exponentially increased his pessimism about what the exams will hold.  Especially as one of the exams will be using a computer – and the students have not been told what type or sort of computer it will be or what sort of software will be loaded into it.  I think that the amount of preparation for the exam that the students have is woefully inadequate, but I say nothing in case my concerns merely add to the gigantic concerns that Toni has already.  I will be glad when Saturday has come and gone and the summer can start!  At least in this university the results are out in a week – quite unlike the more leisurely and academic time that the OU takes.

            So, tomorrow Toni and the doctor and then up to Irene to get her car back from the garage and, of course, work on the next poem for the ever-growing book.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Times ahead!

A generally glum day in which the only bright spark was that certain persons have left the area – even if only temporarily.  Toni and I both continue to cough and resent the dull to sharp ache we have in our respective throats.  Didn’t stop me swimming, I only hope that the salt water electrolysis system that they have in the pool was able to cope ruthlessly with whatever germs or viruses I have coursing around my system.  And the chicken we had for lunch was overcooked.  So, all in all, not a good day – but, the Briton in me rises to the surface and says, ‘Well, at least it didn’t rain.’

            As you may well be able to imagine, I am having various panicked thoughts about the end of module work that I have sent off so many days early.  I am having to steel myself not to revisit my work and tinker.  I cannot pretend that any changes I now make can be graced with a word like ‘drafts’, such nervous taking away of a comma and putting it back again is the literary equivalent of thinking about changing a tie and not doing it.  Or something even less real.  I will leave be what I have written and trust in the OU gods to do their stuff.

            And to this end I have started on another poem.  I have done my freewrite and, with trust pencil in hand I have written a couple of pages of more directed free association – if that isn’t a contradiction in words.  Well, it’s what I do to get started and that bit has now been done.  I will leave what I have written until tomorrow when I will ruthlessly cut virtually everything and (at least in theory) find something worth preserving which will be my guide to an altogether more productive slew of writing filled pages.  That, at least is the theory.  Doesn’t always work, but I can see one or two ideas that might be worth taking further already so I am prepared to leave things in lively expectation of better phrases tomorrow.

            I also have to think more closely about my involvement with the poetry group in Barcelona.  I am having serious doubts about its actual and financial value – but that is also something which will need to be thought about tomorrow when, with any luck, the nagging cough will have subsided into irritation and therefore can be safely ignored.

            I have ordered another book for the Art History Course that starts in October that looks to be something of an idiot’s guide to the movements of the last century.  I know that I have seen cheap versions of the book remaindered in Book Shops in Barcelona, but I really need it in English and so have sent off for it.  I think that I will have to do a trawl of my bookcases and get all the pop-shit stuff together and immerse myself in popularist generalizations before I get to the more rarefied stuff which is the basis for my course.  I have bought quite a few books on the ‘I need them for school’ basis which will form a painless way of getting up to speed on a whole range of schools, styles and artists before I delve into the nitty-gritty of the competing ideologies dressed up in the sometimes-impenetrable vocabulary of artists and critics.  I seem to recall a ‘Bluff Your Way in Art’ book which was an essential reference work when I was last teaching the History of Art!

            My books are still not in order, though the chaos is less pronounced than it used to be.  I at least know where what I call ‘concentrations’ of books on various subjects are to be found and, anyway I have always enjoyed browsing my way through my library.  I look forward to discovering ‘lost’ volumes as I attempt to bring even further order to my library before the start of the new course.

            Tomorrow I finish a draft of my new poem and find out if Irene needs me to take her to a garage to get a replacement for her faulty car.  And the debate continues about my presence in the Poetry Group this Wednesday.  Should I go or not.  Decisions.