Monday, December 28, 2015

More of the same!

I may not live in Britain these days, but I do hope that the vile Conservative government has not taken a leaf out of the viler PP government in Spain and refused free medical treatment to their citizens working abroad who have returned for the Christmas holidays to see their families in Spain.

I am sure if the mean-minded and pettily vicious IDS had anything to do with it then he will have lost no opportunity to urge David Cameron (assuming DC has managed to drag himself and half the Cabinet away from the Christmas Festivities provided by his friend the vile Rupert Murdock - though I have to admit that mere derogatory adjectives fail to capture the true rotten flavour of that octogenarian 'American' – to persecute (you still with me on this epic sentence?) those in a less fortunate situation than his affluent self!

How has Cameron's attendance at the court of one of the most unpleasant media oligarchs in the world today, especially after Murdock's recent court cases and evidence to parliamentary committees, gone down with the British public? Has he been taken to task for openly consorting with such an unsavoury character? Has he been asked why he thinks he can treat the public (who have been misled, lied to and ripped off by this ogre of the airways) with such cavalier contempt that he can ignore the disgust that we feel to see him (even him) in such low company? It is truly amazing what an overall majority can do for your view of the poor bloody infantry that actually put votes in the ballot boxes, as opposed to the rich and unscrupulous who couldn't give a shit about us, but have plenty of money to put into party coffers.

I relish a story told to me by the late Dave Phillips who related the experience of a hapless Conservative candidate canvassing in a Labour stronghold in Wales. He knocked on a door and told the man who answered that he represented the Conservative Party. The man looked at him and asked him to wait for a moment while he fetched his son. He reappeared with his son and then spat at the Conservative and said to his son, “That's how you treat all Conservatives!”

Now, as a wishy-washy liberal, I cannot possibly condone spitting, not only is it a form of violence, but it is also unhygienic! But, god knows, I do understand the vehemence of the response to the generality of Conservatives (with some honourable exceptions who escape my mind for the moment) especially during times of crisis and real human need when it is all too easy to illustrate the complacent attitude of those in power in the Conservative Party (in whatever country) and with money, with those outside who have little or none.

The political situation within Catalonia is just as complicated as that in Spain. The present President did not have a majority in the election to retain his majority and so will have to pact with another party if he is to be re-elected. The problem is although Mas (the President) is plausible, he is also an old school politician whose past includes his being very, very close to an ex-President who is now being prosecuted for fraud and deception. The sort of fraud and deception that the political parties at the time knew about, indeed there is even a piece of film where one politician warns him that his 3% 'commission' that he took would come back to haunt him. Now it has (and the rest of his mafia-like family too) and Mas must have known about it and said nothing. At this stage in the development of Catalonia to have a president who is likely to be charged with something in the near future is not something which we need to be landed with. A left wing party has stated that they would oppose his establishment as president and they have held strong up till now and resolutely refused to back him. The result of this is we in Catalonia do not have a president, in the same way that Spain is without one too.

CUP (the party which opposes Mas) has had a convention today in which some 3,000 members of the party have voted three times on whether to support Mas. The first two votes were 'No', and the third was an exact tie! It all sounds fishy to me, but there you are! We are living in more than interesting times!

Tomorrow the old President of Spain (who remains in office until a successor is elected) is having talks with C's and Podemos. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that and what the leaders of both parties have to say at the end of their meetings with Bromo. We can months of meetings and suggestions before the limit runs out and we have to have another election. I still do not trust either of the main political parties, PP and PSOE, not to sink their differences and unit to preserve their status as the 'power' in Spain in a desperate attempt to keep alive the phantom that bipartisan politics is still a possibility. They are both corrupt and have a lot to lose if their stranglehold on the country is weakened and from their shameless activity in the past they show quite clearly that they are prepared to do anything they possibly can to keep their parasitic suckers deep in the public purse. Anything is possible.

Meanwhile, I might chance a swim tomorrow if my coughing gets less, even if it doesn't it might be a good idea. The only horror is that the kids are going to be swarming around and, even more horrifically until the 11th of January! Now that I am no longer in school, I can't wait for the kids to return and get off the streets and out of the shops and into a secure environment where they do not interfere with normal human life!

And I've finished a draft of my latest poem, Standing on thin ice, which can be read (and commented on) at

Any comments will get a reply!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tea at last!

Back home and my first decent cup of tea in what seems like weeks, but was actually just over two days!

And there is, as everyone must admit, that other great aspect of being at home, because there is nothing quite like sleeping in your own bed – especially when you are studiously trying to ignore the fact that various malignant microbes are infesting your bronchial tracts and trying to create colonies in other sensitive parts of your body and make their presence noisily evident.

This Sunday needs me to be doing something mindlessly empty. And my task of choice is putting all my new Christmas CDs from Toni, the 50 CD Deutsche Harmonia Mundi box set of a selection of Baroque and Ancient Music from the label on the hard disc of my computer. I am aware that, in spite of my well-known love of electrical gadgets of all kinds, this might appear as something more Luddite-like than I would like to admit. I have recently (I know, I know) downloaded Spotify and found out that they have a stupefying collection of classical music at various clicks of the fingers. So why, you might ask, am I going through the archaic, and to some of my friends, the insultingly unintelligent approach of actually 'buying'? CDs and then making the situation much worse by laboriously downloading the music on to the hard disc of my computer?

I suppose my attitude is a hang-over from the early days of my computer ownership when I must have been one of the few people in the computer owning universe to have the discs for all the programs on my machine, including, of course, a growing pile of squashed cardboard boxes. My music collection was similarly backed up by CDs, at least it was as soon as CDs became the music system of choice. If I am brutally honest I have to admit that my purchase of an early Philips portable cassette player/recorder did allow me to add a tape version of Beethoven's First and Eighth Symphonies to my collection of LPs, but cassettes were always a fairly noisy alternative to a decent LP and anything I recorded from the radio was merely the excuse to find a budget LP version to replace it. So, although it might take some searching, there is a physical backup for everything (mostly, I am not absolutely perfect) that should have been bought.

Toni's IT course encourages the students to find free-source versions of everything that they need in IT terms and he has passed on his practical knowledge to me – or at least I allow him to load up free-source programs on the machine on which I am typing this.

There are disadvantages, as I have found out. My years of using a Mac when everyone else was using a PC have come back to me, when all the programs which were supposed to work on both machines, did – but only worked perfectly (at least for the state of computers at the time) on PCs. Those days have now come again as the free versions of programs do almost everything that the paid-for versions do. Almost. And that 'almost' is the area of heartbreak and wasted time! Still, I solider on and I have found 'ways' of using the free programs and not quite losing out!

I wonder if it is just coincidence, or vicious intent that so many simple finger moves on the mouse pad on one system are slightly different or the opposite on the other? As I am using both PC and Apple at the moment, it is constantly frustrating to assume that something is going woefully wrong until you realise that you are using four Apple fingers to do something when you should be using three PC ones, and Apple's up is PC's down!

So, I will continue merrily to load up my CDs – especially as this computer has a hard disc of 2TB, so I can load on and up with impunity and not take away valuable space from other things.

I have now completed by re-reading of The Portrait of Dorian Gray – there is so much to be said for carrying a complete library with you on your smart phone when dealing with family get-togethers. And looking at a smart phone screen is so much more socially acceptable in company than reading a book! Even if that is what you are actually doing rather than checking your messages – and why, by the way, should checking your messages be any more acceptable than reading? I thank god for the lack of logic that allows me to read in any and all situations. And long may such rudeness continue.

I have done no work on my poem today, but the ones on my blog might be worth reading at

Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

When the eating had to stop


What will stay with me from Christmas Day this year?

Well, the meal was excellent.  Excessive but excellent, and I frightened myself by my positively Catalan approach to drink this year.  Though I have to admit that there is still the meal for my Name Day, today, Boxing Day to drink myself to stupefaction!  Though I probably won’t.  Sadly.

            So, what was there to remember?  The element which is going to stay with us all was the introduction of a new feature at the end of the meal of the Most Hated Present Distribution.  The idea was that everyone would choose something they had been given which they still had but really wanted to throw out; wrap it beautifully and bring it to the meal.  Each person would be given a ticket with a number on it and, starting with the highest number they could make a free choice of any of the wrapped gifts.  The interesting part was that each person could demand a swap with the gift that any person who had already chosen – so you can see the importance of getting a low number.

            The gifts, with one signal exception, were awful and I must admit that I rather deliberately left mine in the house where we had the meal! 

Perhaps the best way to give a flavour of the experience is to explain that Toni was delighted with his final gift, as he was able to swap two dreadful candles in faux bamboo for a pair of underpants!  I think that says it all!

            More presents today – thought I hope the ones directed towards my grasping fingers have a modicum more thought behind their purchase than the horrors we saw on Christmas Day!

            The poem on which I have been working for the past few days is called Standing on thin ice, and I have only managed to get a very rough structure in place so far.  The images are still not working as I want them and the whole thing is still too fragmented but, and this is always encouraging, it is better than yesterday’s version!  Having said that, there is always a possibility that all my work will come to nothing as sometimes I decide that the compositional problems that I have been working on are not capable of the solution that will satisfy and all the work is shelved.  Hopefully not with this one.

            You can check the poems that made it as far as my new poetry blog at

where you can read through what I have written and find some explanatory information about the inspiration and setting for some of the later examples.  Anyone reading my poems is more than welcome to comment on them, and I will respond to any thoughts.

Friday, December 25, 2015

What do you expect?

The Twelve Cartoons of Christmas ran smack-dab into the Flu before Christmas!

Christmas Day – and the cold/sore throat/headache which has been lurking underneath my insistence on good health has chosen today to come to the surface during Day 1 of our annual visit to Terrassa.  Merry bloody day indeed.

            However, such minor inconveniences to enjoyment must not be allowed to interfere with the inexorable progress of Family Entertainment.  The Grand Gathering of the Clans is set for lunchtime and I am hoping that a liberal application of Cava to my internal parts will see me through the experience.

            Christmas Eve, which is when Catalans give presents, was fine with a meal that included my favourite concoction of a salmon, cream cheese, tuna and ham layered bread that goes down a treat – with the previously mentioned Cava.

            The most intriguing of my presents was an ancient looking pot with two spouts and a circular carrying handle on the top.  It was decorated with Catalans dancing and I was informed that it was hand made and of tradition design.  It is of earthenware and the theory is that in some magical way it keeps the water or wine inside cool in spite of the ambient temperature.  As Toni immediately informed me, it will be ideal for the Third Floor and I rather like the idea of drinking water from something that looks like a modified poron.  I realise that the last word of the last sentence may also need some explanation, but there again that is why Google exists!

            I have brought my OU books with me and, perhaps more compellingly my drafts of the poem on which I was working in Castelldefels.  It remains to be see if either of these worthy projects gets a moment of my attention while here!

            The poem is proving to be much more difficult to cope with than the continuing chapters of the OU course books.  In the poem I have an image that I am loath to leave out, but I am not at all convinced by its inclusion at the moment.  It is one of those nice ideas (at least to me) but one which is too strong to stand alone and I am struggling to find a development which will justify its use.  Who was it said that it is sometimes necessary to ‘kill your darlings’ when writing?  Well, this may well be one of those times.  We shall see.

            Terrassa is cold, or rather, colder than Castelldefels.  The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the temperature may well be in double figures, so we can’t really complain.  But one still needs to be fortified to meet the demands of the day and, to my horror, I have discovered that Toni’s mum only has herb and green tea!  Even as I type I am waiting, vainly I fear, for two green tea teabags to give a bit of colour to the minute amount of milk added to the mix.  At the end of this paragraph I will attempt a few sips and hope for the best.

            I did.  And, while not exactly to my taste, there is enough of a suggestion of that smoky Chinese dustiness to the flavour to make me believe that it is a valid taste experience.  There are also, I now discover after further sips, overtones of cut grass.  Ah well, perhaps it is doing something for the list of symptoms that I started the day with.  One can but hope.

            The political situation in Spain continues to defy settlement with some of the Barons of PSOE (the equivalent of the Labour Party) speaking out forcefully against any possible pact with Podemos because of the insistence of the leadership of Podemos of making a referendum on the future of Catalonia within Spain an essential element for any pact agreement.

            I have a fear that the fears of Catalonia breaking away from Spain may well be used as a (cynical) reason for other pacts.  I also fear that if agreement on a government is not made within the statutory period outlined in the Constitution then the ‘Unity of Spain’ banner may well be unfurled by the two major parties to get their lost voters back and we return to a bipartisan political system which has allowed the two major parties to rip off the public purse since the foundation of democracy in this country after the dictatorship of Franco.  Although the placing of what turns out to be far too much power in the hands of the political parties was understandable as a bulwark against the past, there is a real need now for the relationship between politics and modern life in Spain to be redefined.  The present situation is an ideal moment for that to happen, but the giving up of power is never easy and is never voluntary – so the next few months in this country are going to be replete with screams of anguish as power bases are threatened.

            An important, if not key, player in this new and exciting situation is the so-called King of Spain.  After the abdication of his elephant killing, philandering and hypocritical father, the present ‘king’ was installed on the throne by the machinations of PP and PSOE.  There was no provision in the Constitution for abdication and so the two political parties took it upon themselves to invest the new King.  The request (which I fully supported) for a referendum to find out if Spain actually wanted a monarch was ignored by the king-makers and it will be interesting to see what their creation says in the ‘King’s’ Speech today.
            Presumably the ‘King’ (who appears to be a perfectly charming and tall man) will aspire to find his moment, just as his father did during the attempted coup by the colonels when he told the soldiers to return to their barracks and accept the young democracy.  The present ‘King’ has the Constitutional duty to call on the winner of the election (PP with 29% of the vote) to form a government.  If Bromo is unable to do that, then the ‘King’ will call on the leader of the opposition to try and form a government.  After three months if no government has been formed then the nuclear option is to call another general election.

            The leader of the C’s (a particularly nasty right-wing party) has called for a Grand Coalition of PP, C’s and PSOE to unite as a front to exclude Podemos (which got more seats and votes than the C’s) to defend the unity of Spain.  In my view, such a grouping would be a disaster of monumental proportions with Old Corruption winning and continuing.

            Meanwhile, life goes on of course, and people are more concerned about family, presents, eating and how to get rid of the kids than Grand Questions about the political state of the country.  That may be a cynical view of mine, and it is certainly true that more people are talking about politics in an urgent and exciting way than they did previously, when they merely shook their heads over the new stories of rapacity that emerged in every television broadcast.  The times have changed and I hope to god that the people of Spain do not throw away an opportunity to make the transition to a new and potentially refreshing political situation.

            By way of contrast (or is it a sort of comment on the situation?) I am re-reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray on my smartphone.  While waiting for my padel lesson I pass the time by reading the lapidary prose of Dear Oscar and relish the exhaustingly bon mot stuffed ‘dialogue’ that his deracinated characters lavish on the intimidated reader.  I must admit I am reading it from the point of view of an English teacher, as I remember that the WJEC once set it as a set text.  It was a choice rather than obligatory, but as I am reading the book I am wondering exactly what teacher would choose such a book and, having chosen it how the hell they would teach it to, say, a mixed class of Cardiff school kids?

            The story itself is simple and the mechanics of the plot are melodramatic and rely on the sort of coincidence than Dickens would have relished – that is easily taught.  But the style and the range of reference is much more difficult to teach in any meaningful way.  Well, such concerns are behind me now and only present themselves as abstract conundrums to be teased at leisure.  That is the sort of luxury of feeling which permeates the whole novel!  I am thoroughly enjoying it!

            And now to prepare myself for the Christmas Meal.  What this means, in effect, is ensuring that my smartphone is fully charged so that I can carry on reading when the opportunity arises!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Politics and Poetry - there's a title to put everyone off!

Toni, with all the professional aplomb of a Big Game Hunter, managed to dispatch a mosquito that had the temerity to show its face in the bedroom this morning, after the pernicious insect had taken a sip of my Group A+ for his breakfast! Armed only with his trusty electric tennis racquet, Toni waged a battle which ended with that satisfying phutt! of my vaporising blood inside the fried carapace of the impudent insect. If only the power-hungry squabbling political insects now filling our television screens could be eliminated as easily!

And so, with what you have to admit is a masterly segue from mosquitoes to the present political climate in Spain, I can continue to shake my head in woeful disbelief at what appears to be happening in the country as the politicians scrabble for power and consider their options.

The situation at present is that no party has an overall majority. PP, the right wing Conservative party has the largest number of seats; the second party is PSOE, the Spanish equivalent of the Labour Party. The other two main parties are Podemos, a left-wing party promising wide-ranging changes in the way that Spain is governed. Podemos gained more seats than the newly founded right-wing party C's, which is beloved by anti-Catalans and Big Business.

PP joining with the C's are still too small a combination to command a majority in parliament and so the empty-headed leader of the C's has proposed a grand grouping of PP with C's and PSOE. The stuff of nightmares! From the C's point of view this would be a combination of all those parties who are opposed to the breaking up of Spain and, much more importantly, it would give the leader of the C's an opportunity to pretend that he was in government.

At present, Bromo (the so-called Prime Minister of Spain) is having talks with the leader of PSOE – and those two parties together could command a majority.

If I want to be cynical (and I do) then I could say that the two parties in these talks, PP and PSOE, are the parties who have flip-flopped power between each other and so have most to lose by the break up of the previous two party state of politics in Spain. I would also say that both of these parties are, thanks to their entrenched positions of power in the country, systemically corrupt – with PP being almost comically so. They can both see their cosy relationships with power and money slipping away from them. They have everything to lose, so their frantic attempts to retain what power they can will result, I am sure, in moral compromises that would make a Mafia Capo blush.

With the excuse of 'keeping Spain together' they could use the very real threat of Catalan separation to form a Government of The Damned bringing together the two discredited parties in an un-holy alliance to protect their interests. The whole idea sends shivers of disgust through me!

Any alliance between PSOE and PP will inevitably result in the implosion of PSOE and they would have to be utter idiots to think of keeping Bromo (or even worse the poison dwarf who is his deputy) in power as it will destroy the party. However the blandishment of power has ever been one of the greatest impediments to clear sight!

A more dangerous way forward is one which appears to be getting clearer, moment by moment. Podemos has made it clear that one of the major elements which would have to be incorporated as policy for any pact that they make is the provision of a referendum about independence for Catalonia. POSE has equally made it clear that they are not prepared to consider that. There are no other ways of forming a working majority in parliament than PP/PSOE or PSOE/Podemos/smaller parties, or PP/PSOE/C's – so the possibility of another election looms. Which nobody in their right minds wants.

However, it could be of benefit to the two major parties. They could say that they had done their best to form a government, but the question of the separation of Spain had kept them apart. The election could therefore be presented to the electorate on a 'Future of a United Spain' ticket with the two major parties presenting themselves as different aspects of policy but united by a shared concept of 'Spain'. This is a very risky strategy and it could backfire dramatically – but the media are firmly on the side of the established parties and they can and will stir up a fire-storm of right-wing feeling to try and get the 4 million PP 'lost votes' back.

Bromo is going to meet the leader of C's on Monday – now there is a conversation to miss!

Meanwhile, as political parties bad mouth each other and squabble, I am pleased to announce that my New Poems Blog is heading towards 2,000 visits! I post new poems as I write them and, although they may be changed in future revisions, they are a useful source base for what I have done and when. These poems also have, at least the more recent ones, a short description of the manner of their production and thoughts about their final forms.

It is an interesting experience reading some of the earlier poems where I become a 'reader' rather than a 'writer' – always a stimulating experience.

If you would like to read my poems please click on the link below:

Monday, December 21, 2015



Spain has voted. And it is time to consider what the people of Spain, or at least those people of Spain who could be bothered to vote, have done.

On the positive side it is clear that 71% of the voters did not want Bromo and his bunch of shameless criminals to continue 'governing' this country. The conservative PP party lost 4 million votes compared with their showing in the last election – which at least is something. It shows that relentless discovery of astonishing corruption does have some effect on die-hard right-wing voters. Unfortunately many of those votes were transferred to a nasty little newcomer party in the form of the 'centre-right' C's.

The situation now is that while PP had the largest number of votes (Shame Spain!) it is nowhere near an overall majority. It cannot even form a government with the seats of the C's and it is very difficult to see any of the other parties wanting to link their precarious vote to the toxic poison of PP.

The appalling picture of what happens to small parties when they give one of the larger parties the working majority they need is clearly remembered from the recent fate of the Lib Dems in the UK. Although Bromo (as I call the walking joke of a Prime Minister we have still) is in no way an intellectual equal of That Woman, he has managed to provoke a similar quantity of opprobrium. He has also surrounded himself with a bunch of grotesques as ministers where, when a group photograph of them is taken, the graphic work of Goya comes appropriately to mind, especially in the etching called, “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”! Still, it has to be admitted, that when I see a group of incompetent, chiselling, mendacious, arrogant, sneering liars, the 29% of voters who lowered themselves to vote for PP must presumably see stability and competence! God help us all!

Spain is capable of odd alliances. Fifteen or so years ago PP found themselves in government thanks to the support of Catalan (!) and Basque (!) independence parties! I think it is highly unlikely that will happen in this election (!) but PP have shown themselves quite shameless in the way that they have treated reality over the past four years and so I firmly believe them capable of anything, absolutely anything to retain power. It is also in their very immediate interests to keep power, as their misuse of government is the only thing that has kept so many of their illustrious criminal ranks out of prison. Who knows what might happen if actual justice was allowed to operate free from the political manipulation of the ruling party? Especially if they weren't if you see what I mean. After the recent local elections when PP were kicked out of what had been strongholds for many years, the paper shredders were working overtime getting rid of the evidence that might (and should) be used against them!

One of the fundamental problems in Spain is a direct result of Franco. When the dictator finally died the form of democracy that was set up gave the political parties what is now seen to be far too much power. They were thought to be the safe repository of the democratic ideal and, to a certain extent that was true. But, over time, the power of the parties led to its own insidious form of corruption and the judiciary is far too close to the politicians; the separation which is necessary for the fair distribution of justice is woefully lacking in this country.

The use of lists of candidates in elections, where the voter does not put a cross or a number next to a particular candidate, but instead chooses a printed list of candidates from one party is also a disaster. The list is a single party's collection of candidates who could fill all the available seats for a particular area if all the votes were just for them. The order in which the candidates are printed is very important as the number of votes will elect candidates in numerical order progressing down the list. It means that candidates feel much more loyalty to their party than to their electorate, as their position on the list is crucial in their election: the higher up the list you are, the more it is like being in a 'safe seat' in the UK. The lower down you are the more problematic your election becomes. You therefore need to work within the party to ensure that your name is printed as high in the list as possible: the party decides, not the people!

So, we have a 'hung' parliament. Bromo, as the 'winner', will be given the chance to form a government and I shudder with horrified anticipation at what shameless inducements Bromo will offer to future partners in crime to get them to shore up his discredited sleaze.

Happy Christmas to us all!