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Sunday, 21 December 2008

So other 'Englishy' things so far have been a visit to Blackheath to have tea and cakes and on to the observatory in Greenwich to sniff in some history. The view from here of London is one of my favourites along with the view from Richmond Hill, the first beautiful one I saw as a child. We looked for Goddard's to have pie and mash in Greenwich but it seems to have closed down so I will have to find out where the others are. I hope the one near the Angel hasn't gone. I miss soup so I have been dining out on this and being overwhelmed by the different foods on offer especially in the markets. Rummaging is a must and so far we have bought an Aubrey Beardsleyesque ( if there is such a thing ) print, a magnifying glass and a butterfly. How did we live without them?

A visit to the local park with our friends' daughter was such a treat. More tea and cakes in the park cafe and no sign of any graffiti. It's a pity the journey into London on Friday was marred by the sight of so much rubbish everywhere stuck in trees and along the roadside. Farmer's markets, duck ponds, squirrels, Waitrose, Victorian and Edwardian houses, more pleasantries are being soaked up and there's more tomorrow...................

Saturday, 20 December 2008

We are back in the motherland and the first thing that hits me is the amount of times people say sorry or offer pleasantries. It just makes me want to kiss them all. The other was the madcap journey from Victoria to London Bridge in an attempt to get to Blackheath. An hour and a half to get across the river and a reminder that as much as I love my home town I will never live here again unless I can have chauffeur. There is also no point trying to get everyone onto the transport system. There is no more room as this was proved when a girl tried to get on the train yesterday armed with a guitar and proceeded to assault us all including a pregnant woman with said instrument

Arriving late to our friends we did that thing called having fish and chips which will last us for another year. It's so nice to be here and I look forward to doing more 'Englishy' things in the days ahead, like an early night for a start...............

Thursday, 18 December 2008

STEAK AND COCKNEY PIE

I carve ( crave too ) peace and quiet and wonder why I settled for a country unable to sort out its inner and outer turmoil. So it is much to my chagrin that I appear to be going deaf. This would seem to be a blessing but it has arrived in the form of tinnitus, something I have always had and blame on a very loud nightclub circa 1989. The ringing was always going to be a part of me and I often wondered if I would be crooning 'do you hear bells baby?' in my old age but it has now taken a sharp turn and only amplifies the sounds of classes 3 and 2 both As and Bs. I hope this is just another phase.

I know among others two Basques who have names that I can't help pronouncing with a cockney accent. Aynoa and Imanol. If it is too difficult to work out it sounds something like 'I know 'er' and 'im an all'.

Talking of cockneys I will be back in olde worlde London towne within the next 24 hours or so and wonder if I will have time to write this blog if I am to attend all the shindigs I have been invited to. It is going to be a struggle to find the cafes of my youth as it seems the majority of them have gone. The New Piccadilly, Norrman's ( spelt like this ) in Bayswater, The Polo in Soho.
I think The Maison Bertaux next to The Coach and Horses is still there and I have made a pact with the devil that I will not be parting with my money in any rip off coffee houses.

Last night I paid Mercedes and Piti a visit to warn them I won't be here for couple of weeks and feel free to make as much noise as they want as if it would change anything. The tele was on as it always is in her household and I found myself watching a watered down Spanish version of Jeery ( another one I'm keeping although it is too obvious and I can't be the first...) Springer. In fact it was quite civilised considering the subject matter. Ranging from transexuals to men with what is known here as a 'micropene'. Little Hampton I think we would call it. I did ask Mercedes if she thought the people had any shame and she said the whole village would know and couldn't imagine the consequences. Anselmo, Mercedes' husband looked on aghast and when it was all over he said something on the lines of 'anything goes nowadays'. I wanted to say that I had seen it all before but I had to remind myself where I am and how Spain has certainly caught up with the rest of the world when it comes to what used to be known as the fringes or freaks of society. All this at eight o'clock of an evening and I hadn't even had my dinner.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

GET AWAY FROM IT ALL

As the title suggests one would think that coming along to Aragon would solve some of the dilemmas of modern life. Going back in time sounds wonderful. Sometimes it feels like thirty years and others centuries. Middle ages even. Yet I find myself being followed. It is often subtle but sometimes it might present itself as it did the other day in Zaragoza in the form of a calender. A crowd had gathered at the entrance to Corte Ingles, the big depratment ( quite like this, not going to correct it......) store that makes me feel as though I am in an upmarket version of Daniel's of Ealing circa 1969 at times despite the omnipresent Tommy Hilfiger and his ilk. Not one for crowds I still managed to glean the gist of what was going on. The bomberos or firemen of Zaragoza had decided to strip off and pose in a way that can only be appealing to gay men or women who haven't got a clue. The furore that it created just made me want to run the other way. Maybe towards Africa. How long will it be till it tracks you down there? You'll be living in a cave and your only companion will be a calender of the firemen of Dakar.

On my list of things to do or set up I have also launched one that includes names of shops. For men there should be a clothes shop called Top Wank and its sister shop Stating the Bleeding Obvious. It is only a matter of time.

As Friday looms I have to start telling myself that a plane will need boarding and hopefully without any of my usual paranoia and muffled histrionics. If I had my own way we would walk everywhere or failing that go by train. As we have limited time and one of the things Henderson has his own way with is getting on that plane and enjoying the speed and take off with such glee that it only adds to my existential angst and confims that I am not of this world. Once back in the native sod it will be interesting to see how the 'and there's worse to come' attitude will affect us as we find ourselves cocooned in people's houses. I want to see how many days I can stand before I start begging everyone to go for a walk.

Monday, 15 December 2008

A RIGHT PAIR

Somehow I survived the warzone that is class 3A/B. I have developed some new tactics to lessen the shell shock I often find myself experiencing as I close the door on that chapter of the day. A few deep breaths and mutterings and I can usually put it all behind me. Having a coffee afterwards I did see a woman, a very fat woman, wearing a top of some sort with the words Come As You Are written across her chest. On entering the flat Piti started howling at the moon and the effing bleeder's wife next door put her tele on full blast. I realise I haven't mentioned the bleeder and his esposa much if at all and daren't as it opens up a catalogue of mind boggling events that nobody would believe. This is the chap who flew down the stairs head first in the Da Vinci bar, spent five months in intensive care and once out went straight back to said tavern. A true Aragonese. Would do it all again.

Meanwhile, I realise we will be off this Friday to the motherland. This invokes joy and a certain fear of green and clouds that soon passes. In Nigeria they have a word for foreigners or white folk when they arrive. Oyibo. Oyibo has landed. Like an alien. I feel like this whenever I go back to Britain. You see me wandering around supermarkets staring at all the products in awe. I also do really annoying things like refer to DVDS as videos. Much to the chagrin of younger folk. It's like calling the radio the wireless which I still do.

On an even more trivial note and revealing more about our relationship I've just remembered I also know the word broekhoest in Dutch which means a 'trouser cough' or fart to English speakers. Whilst idling away the hours I have also come up with two more programmes, Just a Clue and I'm Sorry I Haven't got a Minute. If I haven't mentioned it before I would also like to see a programme called Who Wants to be a Multi-Millionaire? Or in the case of Madoff, Who Wants to be a Multi-Billionaire? The first will involve some sort of taster and the second will take place in Spanish streets to see how many people will stop and waste their wonderful time. The last will surely be held at gunpoint.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

I hope this isn't going to be a once a week blog. There are no excuses as I am not bereft of anything to say or write about. There are lots of excuses like I was too busy drinking or watching the Montreal Comedy Festival or chatting with friends over coffee or visiting those with children and being dragged up and down a hallway five floors up by a one year old with the vim and vigour I don't recall ever having but must still possess as he kept me at it for two hours.

Meanwhile, I pondered my failings in my Dutch lessons with Henderson. I realised I have only learnt the words ' I love you', 'a lot', 'can I have a beer please? 'very nice' and 'towel' which if looked at from a perverse angle says a lot about our relationship. A bit like peering into the contents of someone's shopping basket and seeing they are buying washing powder and a bottle of gin.

There is a very nice friendly man who sells me phone cards on the cheap and he remarked the other day that I was 'muy tapada' which I think means I was well wrapped up on account of the cold. I dearly wanted to utter the words, again of my father, that involve a monkey and balls, but didn't know the word for brass at the time. Henderson, whose Spanish leaves a lot to be desired knew the word of course. Can't string a decent sentence together in Spanish but always knows how to say obscure words.

After chatting with a friend whose 10 year old daughter's answer to the credit crisis is to get rid of money altogether, I thought I might start bartering for things. You know, I'll do a painting if you sort out my teeth. I've also got a plan for old age that if things get desperate, which they might as I have no pension plan or savings, I may embark on a life of crime. Perhaps in the Netherlands where I hear their prisons are very comfy if things go awry and at least I would have a roof over my head. In fact, I think every single person over seventy should just rise up en masse and start fighting back one way or another till it gets so out of hand the police give up. Why should it be just the young who get to toss Molotov cocktails?

Monday, 8 December 2008

HAMMER HOUSE

Yesterday Henderson and I went for a meal in the little restaurant across the road called Vicor. As we were the only ones there, the chef came out and introduced himself and reeled off the menu del dia. After settling for migas and then steak we got stuck into the mystery of where the aborigines in Australia came from. Henderson says that according to Bill Bryson 25 people would have been needed to populate the place and as it was at least 60,000 years ago, 30,000 years before any humans took to the sea, how the hell did they get there? I'm a bit miffed that nobody has come up with an answer especially the aborigines. Is there something they are not telling us? Later the waiter approached us and apologised for the lack of other diners and I decided not to tell him I was delighted that they had all buggered off to the mountains or decided not to eat on account of the credit crisis. It meant a smoke and histrionic free meal.

While on the subject of histrionics it does seem eerily quiet here apart from a few wails from Piti the Priapic Poodle who shall be known as PPP. It is unusual and brings on that feeling when you find yourself muttering 'what are the kids up to?' and then finding them silently making a casserole out of your best jewellery and mud. I am sure if I look hard enough I will find a troupe of Spaniards huddled in a corner with a sack of hammers.

Yesterday was Saint Ambrose who as far as I can tell is the patron saint of bees and candle makers. As a baby he had a swarm land on his face and they left some honey which his father saw as a sign of a greater spiritual calling. I was told that as a child, a neighbour, a delightful old lady on a par with Margaret Rutherford, approached me as I wheeled my pram and asked if she could have a look at my dolly. I said of course, but she was rather shocked when she saw I had filled the pram and packed it down with mud and worms. I rather like the idea of having a saint for prams full of anything but dolls and babies.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

While the feeling of meltdown is still being felt elsewhere the most I can come up with here is the market may stay open till five next week and I did see a chicken cross the road by the town wall. He'd obviously had enough and if he could have he would have given the town the finger like Dana the terrier did recently as she hopped on board the fast train outta here. Talking of fingers, I haven't seen one of our street's characters 'Manolo 'no fingers'. He is a poet and has tacked a sign on his door warning people that one lives there. I no longer see Celestino which is his real name as The Hermanos de Cruz Blanca have upped sticks and gone. It is quite weird not to be able to see them from my kitchen window anymore as it was reassuring to be able to see neighbours. I wonder who will move in or perhaps the council will tear the lovely building down and put up horrible new ones which they like to do.You can look out of the window at any time of day and see others who I have nicknamed or are waiting to be named. There is an old woman who looks serene and as she walked along during one of our blackouts this evening she took on a ghostly quality that I found soothing, her grey hair and coat glistening as the cars drove by. I think I will call her Lady Grey.

Perhaps it is a good thing Woolworths and MFI are up the creek as the last time I went they looked like shops you might find in a communist country or maybe a fascist one. God knows where people buy their furniture here. It is either ultra moderno or from some shop I have yet to find myself in. You go to someone's house and if it is new they take great delight showing you round. This has happened to me so many times and is quite a bizarre feeling as you feel the only other time this happens is when you want to buy a place. If their flat or house is old they don't do this but you can glimpse weird brown and green furniture and everywhere seems dark. Sometimes I find myself in the hallway of a block of flats and I am not sure which country I am in and then usually the lights go out after a few seconds and I grope along as there is no other way to put it till I find the switch which is usually indicated by a little red light. I did this once and when the light came on again I was right at the top of the stairs teetering on the edge of what looked like an abyss from the fifth floor. This reminds me of a death Spanish style story. A couple got stuck in a lift between the fifth and sixth floor and instead of waiting for the fire brigade they prised the doors open and the man managed to jump onto the floor below. He coaxed the woman he was travelling with to jump and to not worry he would catch her. Well he did and they both went flying down the lift shaft as the gap was big enough for both of them. On hearing such awful news I mentioned it to a friend who said 'Si, un accidente impresionante'.

On a lighter note and to avoid nightmares I have come up with another programme. It will be called 'Who is taking the piss' and would be ideal if it could be hosted by David Frost and then he could say 'Let's go and see whoooooooooo is taking the piss' in the same way he used to present that other crap programme Let's Go Through the Keyhole.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

I DON'T FEEL LIKE CHICKEN TONIGHT

I don't know where to begin. It is all too much. Scenes from the Wicker Man were shown on tele this evening. When they are not being shown Henderson is watching True Crime Scenes of people being bludgeoned to death.I'm feeling autistic every time Facebook asks me what I am doing right now and Spanish friends are ringing me up saying 'I'm John' 'cos there is no 'It's John' in Spanish so they have to say the former which drives me mad as I feel compelled to say 'yes I know it's you, we've been friends for years'. When they are not telling me they are John they ask 'what are you doing?' as there is no 'what are you up to' as far as I know in their native tongue. On top of this I have old, gold friends getting in touch which has made my day and finally, Henderson has permitted me to read him one of my favourite books while he cooks, Three Men in a Boat which I said reminded me of the Three Men in a Car on that programme called Top Gear to which he, being a fan, agreed. Then I spoke with Stephanie and she tells me there is a website called Britsuperstore.com which means I can shop for things I can't get here which also means I don't have to ask anyone to send me stuff or bring it when they come, for if you want anything done do it/order it yourself. What else? I found a baker's that sells delicious brown bread. Thanks to Stephanie again. She also told me a wonderful tale concerning her granddaughter Sol during the school lunch hour where the children were told if they didn't pipe down and behave they wouldn't get any chocolate pudding but an apple instead and Sol was thinking 'please carry on misbehaving'. I am intrigued and inspired by her palate as most Spanish kids can only be appeased by something crap to eat despite the 'Mediterranean diet' being sold as something the Spanish couldn't live without.

On top of all this I have been fascinated and somewhat confused to the goings on back in Blighty concerning politicians, policia, Jackie Smith, Gordon Brown et al. I put on some Fela Kuti this afternoon and as always felt spiritually revived and compelled to 'do something' which is a phrase that can't help but make me think of Henderson when he has had a few and I am wearing my hair nice or a touch of make-up or the lights are low and he says 'you've done something'. Which then makes me think of all those phony women in the perfumeria here who, on seeing a woman, any woman, enter the premises feel compelled to lie and holler, 'hola guapa'. If you turn and have a look at these 'guapas' including yourself you will realise they are, the perfume girls, as insincere as the police and politicians mentioned earlier. So, what to do. Do something. Where are the likes of Fela Kuti who said if he were to become President of Nigeria he would enrol the entire population into the Police force and where is there anyone remotely like Bill Hicks the comedian who was surely the second coming but we missed him. Henderson thinks Britain should be kicked out of the Commonwealth if it doesn't pull its socks up. Talking of the Commonwealth, I got a text from a Spanish friend holidaying in the Canaries asking me if Lanzarote was in The Commonwealth. I haven't heard from her since so I don't know who she was up against or if she survived.

Closer to home I think I may have imagined it but Manuel Fraga came to town yesterday. Not as exciting as Big Bum Bertha but enough to raise a few goosebumps as he was responsible for the 'Spain is Different' excuse that Spaniards like to espouse whenever things go awry. Yes, and he said something on the lines of 'Franco wasn't a criminal that I know of '. Well I have heard it all now. All this to take in on a Saturday.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

THE WICKER MAN

Even though he is dead Franco is still the adopted son and perpetual mayor of this town. It sounds a bit too much like our mayor who is becoming more like Lord Summerisle and The Caudillo's love child. To be fair he does have a passing resemblance to Don Quixote, our mayor, not Franco. So apparently the council has decided that Franco is not going to be any of the above and so have revoked all this. Seeing as the last time Franco visited the town was in 1953 and he has been a long time dead since 1975 I am sure he won't mind.

I talked about the Opus Dei recently and standing outside their church was not the first Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came moment I have had here. It was a lovely sunny Sunday in our first flat here and somebody upstairs was playing marbles or rather playing marbles Spanish style, for hours on end on a cold ceramic floor without any purpose except maybe drive the whole block insane. I have spoken of the acoustics of Spanish flats before but this one was the most surreal as you could even hear a workman making indentations on a wall with his thumb. Anyway, after listening to Henderson screaming his head off I went up to have a word. We didn't know anyone then and while I was waiting outside to have the word some other neighbours were peering round a door whispering to me in such a terrified way that anyone would have thought the Nazis were coming. 'Don't go in there' they were pleading but in I went and told them they were torturing my husband and would they kindly put a sock in it and shut the fuck up. When I came out the other neighbours bundled me into their flat and told me 'Don't ever go in there again, they are Opus Dei'. They then went on to tell me about the husband's shenanigans and the wife's depressing choice in underwear.

I guess The Opus Dei are the poor man's Masons or just another excuse for a bunch of losers who are bereft of some sort of class system. Being middle class is something new here and some people will go to weird lengths to prove they are not a peasant.

As a child I was surrounded by books and I was fascinated with two reference books, one on entomology and the other dermatology. I used to enjoy frightening myself by opening the page at random to see which insect or skin disease would shock me to my core. So it is now whenever I have the misfortune to hear the ITV news or pass the headlines of most British papers as they all seem to announce ' and there's worse to come.........' It makes me realise that most Brits wouldn't last long here if they think it is bad in Britain. Writing a complaint letter here just induces howls of laughter to the person you address it to.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

GRAVITATE v. GRAVIATE

As somebody who is still getting used to this blog lark I have just discovered that today's blog as it was part of a draft I had saved last week has gone back in time to last Sunday. Anybody still interested in the ramblings of a mad woman will have to go back and have a butcher's if they can be bothered.

Never short of something to say I will carry on while I am in writing mode. I am surrounded by tons of Post It notes with instructions or reminders that vary from Tibetans v. Pensions and Feral Kids v. Impertinent Ones. There is also one that says 'Hypothesis....group of foreign delinquents.....' and I am now reminded of an article in the local periodical that after several burglaries in the Ramon Y Cajal area the police have come up with this excuse.

It has been awfully quiet on the neighbour front and I read today in the 'society' pages no less that 5,000 Ecuadorians descended on Torreciudad, the BIG Opus Dei church not far from here or the Temple of Doom as Henderson pointed out when we had the misfortune of ending up there on a day out that went very wrong. 'Like entering a huge coffin' were his words and I must admit I got the sense of 'Childe Roland to the dark tower came' as we stood outside tossing a coin. The pilgrimage was to celebrate The Virgin of Quinche and the blessing of vehicles (?), and I was relieved to hear they had taken their instruments with them including among many, the cow bell.

I am often invited to events in London which alas I am unable to attend and was fascinated with one called You Me Bum Bum Train. I am still not sure what it entails but it has been described as 'leaving you psychologically bedraggled, mesmerised or uplifted' which is how I feel on an average day here. Another invite is The Texas Chainsaw Mascara where 'Nightmare musical kitsch sits next to a blood curdling screamalong' which is why I don't go out anymore.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

'I think we are in for a long hard winter....'

I hear the council are finally going to splash out and change the Christmas lights they have hung up and been hanging onto for the past fifty years at least which were beginning to depress me after seven. The putting up of said lights always involves an over zealous police man with a whistle. The first time I saw this I thought something terrible had happened.

Strolling along the streets of this 'city' I found myself doing that thing again. You know, saying stuff that wouldn't look out of place if my dad were walking alongside. ' And they say there's no money about' would be the remark as the town spills out from every bar despite the cold and crisis. It's still tapas week or tapa depending on how much money you have, and it's not stopping everyone from spinning around in their Barbour jackets while stocking up at the local perfumeria and cooing over their well heeled children and debating which bar to go to next. It amazes me the fervour this festival attracts. The bar owners are beside themselves as they were expecting a low turn out with all the doom and gloom around. I got a text from Steffers and we are to meet in the Tomate Jamon early tomorrow to bag a table and hopefully have lunch with some mode of decorum. Strategies are needed when it comes to food and I still haven't quite mastered it.

In the last week I have been asked by three people for money which is quite common as Christmas looms. Henderson gave me a ticking off for giving a man he described as a junkie the euro from my shopping trolley which the man begged me to give him. I've never really known exactly how I feel about the argument that you are only encouraging people to drink more or take drugs but who knows what they have been through and I don't think we should be heartless to the penniless. Earlier I had seen a boy and girl sitting on the pavement smoking and trying to play the bongos and it reminded me of a time long ago when I would be found in a similar plight not minding the smoking bit or the boy bit even, but detesting the bongo part. I am convinced this bongo playing plague started not in the sixties or Africa but in a club in Soho in the nineties called Violets which was named after Ronnie and Reggie Kray's mum. A club that looked like a scene from Tony Hancock's The Rebel crossed with What's New Pussycat.It wasn't a club to be taken seriously and was a bit of a laugh really but it inadvertently spawned the desire to make noise for the sake of it by thousands of young men all over Europe.

I have a terrible affliction, well, many, among them Spoonersim ( dyslexia as well it seems ) but the latest development seems to be an inability to coordinate the names of the television programmes as Henderson whizzes through them to see what's on that particular night. This is how I came up with the Muslims Do The Funniest Things but today it was for a moment that I thought Gary Linekar was The Devil's Whore. This also happens when I am scanning the headlines of the newspapers via the Internet and today it was Gordon Brown and The Skull of Doom. In the supermarket I was sure I had seen a product called Porn Copper but it seems too obvious. It would be easy to blame the drink but I am afraid it has always been like this and shows no sign of getting better.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

AR SE HOLES

The Aragonese are as I have pointed out before, famous throughout Spain for their intractability and here is an example of a conversation I couldn't imagine having anywhere else. Note my ability to integrate and be intransigent.

Me on the subject of the never ending acts of 'gamberrismo' around town: It's a pity there's so much vandalism and graffiti here because it could be such a nice little town.

Student: It's a city.

Me: What is?

Student:It's a city.

Me thinking the town has grown by 2,000 in the last few weeks: Oh, it's not a town anymore?

Student: Ana, it's a city.

Me: So there are 50,ooo people living here now?

Student exasperated: It's a city.

Me: I wouldn't call it a city.

Student: Yes, it's a city.

Me: OK, it's a city with a village mentality.

Student: It's a city.

Me: Perhaps we should just leave it as a village.

Student: OK, you think what you like.

I'd like to point out that the student is very nice, we get on unless it involves the town in question and its position in the grand scheme of things and normally displays a wider vocabulary.

Talking of the town it seems that the whole place is just a chain gang of hole makers be it holes in the ground or those that involve paper punches and the never ending world of Spanish bureaucracy. Whilst dealing with another piece of paper today I was also spoilt for choice regarding noise. The pervading sound of the neighbour's cow bell not, as you might imagine, attached to a cow seeing as we live in the lovely Pyrenees, but the Ecuadorian equivalent of the triangle perhaps was all I could hear until I opened the window and could listen to the rest of the band. Earlier some workmen came round to put up scaffolding and when I returned three hours later they were taking it down. Wrong house perhaps? Outside I had to dodge various men up ladders, up machines used for fixing guttering and lorries on the go moving earth to make a huge hole next to the other new blocks of flats. There is always a man or sometimes men not connected but out for a stroll, standing staring at the hole regardless of its size with their hands behind their backs and mouths open.

A lot of women find as they get older the dreadful realisation that they are repeating sentences their mothers say and they vowed never to. I don't have this problem as I find myself repeating stuff my dad says like 'is it me or am I getting old? ' which he has been saying for about 40 years. I caught myself muttering 'artful as a wagon load of monkeys' as I chased two of the 'punkies' the other night after they decided to illustrate their thoughts on our communal front door with the threats of 'Marcos I will kill you' and 'Pijos del punk'. It didn't occur to me at the time when I confronted them that they might, as Henderson pointed out, have hit me or worse but I wasn't in the least bit scared and let's not forget they run away from me, a small, middle aged,rather elegant woman ( as I like to imagine that night ) waving her handbag shouting 'cobardes' or cowards. Chasing them as far as my eyes could see I wheezed back home to find two neighbours both male and in a state of excitement after seeing my valiant, admirable or stupid behaviour and both said 'if we had been here a few minutes earlier..........' What? that we could all have enjoyed stringing the 'punkies' from a lamppost? The most we could do was call the police who asked for my name and identification and went off to look for the scallywags. Nothing will come of it and the town has become such an eyesore that no one even notices the graffiti anymore. It will be a nice town once the council get round to cleaning it up and the holes get filled in.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

COMING ALONG TO ARAGON

As Sunday draws to a close I realise I haven't done any of the things I promised Henderson I would do, like sort out the 'trastero', the room where everything you might need one day lies among the bottles of wine waiting to be drunk. A pile of cardboard boxes wait to be taken to the Santa Rosa school for young ladies and gentlemen in order for them to appreciate what I learned from Blue Peter but God knows what their parents will make of it. Maybe now that they realise the boom is probably over here in Spain and their children stop asking me why I wear the same jumper two days in a row they will be able to start using their imagination. Having an imagination and being genuinely creative is still not something that goes on here in many schools. The art of conversation as opposed to shouting and learning to enjoy silence need to go on the curriculum too.

Had lunch with Stephanie and we have decided that between her 'dispensa' , my 'trastero' and Mercedes' 'storeroom' we should be OK if the proverbial hits the fan. I'm starting to feel the chronic obsession with death stops a lot of people from enjoying life. I came here to get away from the perpetual anxiety I had in London about what if something awful happens on The Tube and what have you. I remember this got so bad my doctor, one Doctor Cheese sent me to have cognitive behavioural therapy which did pay off but only after Doctor Twitchin told me that even when anxiety escalates nothing can really happen unless you have the misfortune to be sitting next to a holy warrior.

Today I was delighted to get an e-mail from an old friend who lives in Portugal and like me pines for the motherland. The yin and yang of where to set up, set roots and where to go when you've had enough. Where to have your ashes thrown. I feel I have one foot planted in each country. When I talk to people back in Britain they are aghast when I tell them I quite often want to come home. They seem to think crime only occurs in Britain and Spain is such a simpler place to live. In the seven years we have been here I've lost count of the amount of times we have gone to the police as a community or to report vandalism to the car. It can't be the same clever bastard who spends his or her spare time kicking the wing mirrors off every car parked on Calle Torre Mendoza.

I saw our president today and asked him politely if he could replace a light bulb in the hallway. He told me that if I didn't tell him these things then how was he supposed to know if the light bulb had blown. When I asked him what was going to happen with the words 'Marcos I will kill you' on the front door he seemed to have quite a defeatist air but I might have misinterpreted it as a 'can't be bothered' attitude. We shall see. I am sure I have got the wrong end of.

I came home to find Henderson in his pinny cooking tagine and he also had managed to knock up a beef and ale pie although he confessed to putting Guinness in it. What with his Toad in the Hole planned for next Wednesday that is us pretty much sorted food wise for the week. This often induces a frisson of the fear type when the subject comes up round Mercedes' house. Her husband is very disappointed in Henderson for displaying such effeminate qualities. Our other neighbours, the effing bleeders as they are communally and for all I know locally known caught sight of Henderson one hot summer's day resplendent in vest and sarong. "Now we know what you are', the female of the species cried and continued to scream 'maricon' for a good ten minutes.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

TAPA OR TAPAS?

While two million suckers ring up the Bulli Restaurant to get a seat the annual tapas competition gets into swing here. Opening night was at the latest hotel with the usual mob including the Queen of Ligging, our mayor. He was found stuffing his face with a vol au vent or two while the rest of us tried to get a drink. Mr Mayor was overheard, over a deconstructed tortilla, saying that the tapa in question was in his estimation, 'estupenda', and the roof of his mouth told him it was of the best or highest quality and was, culinarily, very good. Fair play, but he didn't stop there. These small delicacies he went on to say, were, 'just one more element of improvement for the town, blah blah, can only be a good thing, promotion is what we need', you know the usual shite about how we can put our town on the map. Meanwhile, Mercedes upstairs can't go out in her wheelchair for tapas 'cos she hasn't got a pavement to ride on. I remember a night at the local theatre where he did go on about how great everything was and how the amateur dramatic society was probably the best in the universe and when someone starting clapping before he had finished I remarked to the woman next to me that I thought it a bit rude, the clapping bit of course. 'If somebody doesn't take the initiative he will go on all night' she replied.

With the mayor eating his head off, the rest of the townsfolk did the same and it was the usual gang warfare as they battled their way to the bar as if there were no tomorrow. People who had been let out for the first time ate and screamed like wolves as I and my companions tried to make ourselves understood without resorting to the same. I dug my heels in and refused to budge just to see if the rumpus would spill out into the street.

While I was contemplating the possibilities of this, several drivers were driving around town in a state of inebriation and were the next day quoted in the paper as driving in ' an irregular, hasty and audacious manner' which could put the rest of us at risk. With the town in a state of frenzy the police decided to surprise and arrest someone who was lurking in my road carrying one of my favourite words, 'estupefacientes'. That's drugs to you and me.

With everyone spinning around town I feel a night in wouldn't go amiss so it's off to bed with Kingsley or Jeremy Paxman or both if they are lucky. Let's hope the monkeys next door as Henderson has started to call them, don't wake us up with their incessant wailing and moaning and tossing of fruit peel and skin onto our terrace.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Can it really be a week since I wrote my last blog? Friend from London has obviously gone back and we've returned to life in the 'big city' once again. I asked Friend from London what he liked about Spain and he reckons going to a bar where grave diggers, lawyers, surgeons and men with limps who managed to climb Everest rub shoulders and drink together. He also likes Carnival too and when asked why replied, 'it's the sheer political incorrectness of it all'.

Talking to a Spanish friend about bringing up children I realised there isn't really a word for this in Spanish as you have to say 'educar' which also means to educate. He agreed with me as regards teaching your kids basic manners and all the rest of it which I like to think most people around the world try to do but in the next breath started saying how expensive it was to 'bring up' your children and I realised he had missed the point. I dare not bring the subject up again after what has been in the British news the last few days regarding parents and their offspring except that the same sort of thing does go on here albeit without the Daily Mail to remind us which I am not sure is a good or a bad thing anymore.

Henderson arrived home in a state of shock and awe at the latest antics of his fellow citizens. He couldn't work out why there were so many people in the local Mercadona with queues going out the door. The supermarket were giving away free baguettes, you know, the ones you could stun someone over the head with the next day, and the locals were wild with excitement. Give them a free baked potato and a cup of hot chocolate and the same scenes will be repeated.

There is the annual tapa competition which starts tonight. I agree with Babi our local Citizen Smith that you'd think the Spanish had never eaten a tapa before the way they engulf the bars when this scrum is on.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The local paper seemed to be bemoaning that President Zapatero hasn't been included in the phone calls made by Obama or to Obama to congratulate or whatever it is they do. The Spanish take things to heart ( ha!) and this hasn't been the only thing lately that makes them feel left out. As I find it quite difficult to take any of them seriously anymore I am not surprised their leader hasn't been called or invited anywhere.I think what I am trying to say is they quite often do my head in. Difficult bastards are the words I am grasping for.

I saw an advert today that was loosely described as a comedy festival by using words like ja ja ja ( ha bloody ha ) and the G-7 of humour, and asked if there 'was life after the Expo?' If the lack of interest from the girl at the train station in Zaragoza is anything to go by then I doubt it. Meeting a friend there who had come over from London the other day I realised how I don't even notice the lack of care and pride that can be seen on the daily round. The most startling once it had been pointed out to me was the street furniture, bollards in this case that had been pinned down by a couple of screws or none at all during the festival, and had now been tossed aside into a corner near the entrance to the 'lovely' new station, the one that someone has drilled holes in all over it for aesthetic reasons obviously and for reasons unknown has lost most of the corners. I thought about going back to take a photo of the spheres and send it to the various dignitaries with 'Que Cojones' attached. What a load of bollocks in other words.

This is partly why I can't take anyone seriously. It is a nice place to live but don't expect anyone to 'get it'. I feel sorry for those that might or could, especially the pupil the other day who told me her teacher likes to stick a video on during their 'alternativa' class, a class that replaces the option of studying religion. The teacher also tells them they can do their homework so long as they are quiet and don't interrupt her viewing of the film.

Another pupil has told me there is a third or even a fourth way to tell the time in English but couldn't remember what her teacher had said in the lesson. We went through the various ways of telling the time even though I told her one way would be enough to be getting on with but she still insisted there was another way and I wasn't saying it. I even found myself saying things like it's five and twenty to nine just to get to the bottom of the story.

Friend from London has brought a book that I am off to read. Everyday Drinking, The Distilled Kingsley Amis which of course will be accompanied by a snifter or two.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

I was woken up in the early hours to find Henderson pinning a chopping board against the wall and beating it about the face with a ladle. I later found out it was and still is his preferred method of controlling the family of Ecuadorians next door when they 'play up' and the chopping board is, he claims, some sort of barrier method that prevents the instrument from piercing our paper thin walls and addling, if there is such a verb, the brains of said familia. As I have said on other occasions, there are limits when it comes to expressing the arts and no doubt we can rely on the wheeling out of the Ecuadorian Minister for Culture to defend everything Ecuadorian, but the music? The padre of this brood often accosts Henderson in the street and starts a sentence with 'nosotros' and Henderson, always in a hurry to get somewhere, fails to hear anything else. This father has the misfortune of having 'son of a ' written all over his phizog and so far hasn't started anything with me. The woman who lives above him has accosted me however to complain of his family's antics morning, noon and night and I have offered to call the landlady but then she runs away scared, not wanting to 'get involved' I suppose. It seems everyone here possesses that intractability that Gerald Brenan admired so much. Meaning, impossible.

Regardless of the noise next door I did get some sleep but was perplexed to find the letter R written on the back of my hand when I woke up. This is not the first or last time and B often features. Later on I remembered it was for a French film that goes by the name Ridicule which I love and need to get hold of. Talking of ridicule, those at the 'top' the new 'elite', politicians, comedians, celebrities of all levels all clamouring to be heard, to be funny, clever, rich or privileged in Britain seem to be having a bit of a rise and fall but as we all know, nothing much will change from any of this least of all my return to halcyon days.

We live in a 'hoya' which I suppose means a basin. When you approach the town from a southerly point you can see this as the road descends and the mountains appear. Sadly this means that quite often rain descends over the whole town and gets 'stuck', the same with fog. Going on the character of the locals they seem to have been living under a cloud for some time.

We have been invited to the premiere of a short film called 'Runner' which Henderson participated in as a voice over or rather they needed a native to say the bits in English. This is all part of the annual 'Periferias' which this year's theme is The Future. As we are some thirty years behind and quite often one hundred this does seem to be a bit like a child in the 1970's idea of with everyone flying and wearing tin foil. Thye couldn't afford George Clinton and The Mothership so they roped in someone called Black the Ripper. As always these festivals are littered with English words some I have never heard of like chip hop, glitchcore and dubstep or maybe I am just too old to care.The feature film which follows will be dubbed. Blade Runner. I won't be staying to watch that part of the festivities

For the finale I have found out that Starsky and Hutch is known in Spain as Starsky Y Hutch. Y being the and of the duo.Fair play, but the words are all 'run' together and the programme is known as Starsky Hutch. Like 'Punkies' it loses something.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Finding myself in a smoky bar that goes by the name 27, not just in the middle of nowhere but the middle of the middle of nowhere, surrounded by Spanish men of various shapes and sizes but all jumping and screaming at the television because Zaragoza were playing against what I presumed, not being a big football fan, were Everton, I realised I had finally integrated and no one could accuse me otherwise. Why even the landlady told me she was 'better thank you and isn't it getting cold?' and 'sorry', but she had 'to put the washing on'. After the first four glasses of wine the football began to look the same but I did learn Everton is a player and the opposing team were Xerez or I suppose Jerez which is sherry to you and me.

So our trip to the mountains was once again a good move but we both feel it should be permanent but realise in an ideal world we would like to be able to say 'adios' to either the 'Big City' or the village if either started to get our backs up. The worst scenario would be if we were stuck with a bunch of villagers brandishing anything aflame and having no place to run. At least in the 'Big City' we can get on a bus. Nevertheless, there is a pleasure in the relaxed, unassuming, self deprecating way of life we end up leading every time we go there. I particularly enjoyed the bit with the vermouth whetting my appetite before the lunch which never fails to please. A Michelin star restaurant where the owner prefers not to display the plaque outside for fear she may one day not deliver.

For once there was little noise but I always seem to have an ear cocked and I did wonder at five in the morning if they kept an elephant upstairs. It reminded me of my stay in the hospital when every night someone seemed to be moving the furniture around, namely the bed and stomping dramatically. I later found out the seventh floor is the psychiatric ward.

My cards to Ricky in London have been going AWOL and I am worried he might have my old postie who used to bury the post in his back garden on account of his alcohilism which now looks appropriate as a new word, that of being an alcoholic and nihilistic. Our postie here or posties have been, so far, wonderful, even coming up to me in bars and asking me where they should leave such things as my London Review of Books etc as they don't fit in the letter box. We had to have a special letter box made, by Henderson, as the effing bleeder next door was stealing the post and then announcing it was him whilst travelling in the community lift by telling everyone how he didn't have to pay his mortgage but he could see we still had too. Much of him at a later date as there is only so much time in the world.

Sometimes there is no time to write as one is to busy living it. 'It' being life. Sometimes there is only so much time to explain to a seven year old that the word pink is not pronounced the same as pig. In the end it is better to get them to play the machine game. This can be played in any language and provides hours of fun especially for the long suffering parnet (as they shall now be known) or teacher. Just ask them to imagine they are a machine. I don't know, but the best one was a fridge and the winners that day were six seven year olds where four held hands and the other had to open the 'door' revealing the sixth inside shivering.

Talking of pronunciation, I am worried that some Spanish English teachers are dictating in English as part of their students' lesson. Maybe this explains why nobody understands me when I say pig or pink. This is often the excuse, that the native is not talking 'properly' or saying the words in the way they are supposed to be said.

I asked Henderson his views on American English while he was showering. All I got were the words oxymoron, pigeon, George Bush and the electric chair.

Friday, 24 October 2008

IN VINO VERITAS

A friend of mine gave her son some wine recently while on holiday in Spain hoping that he would be introduced to the pleasures of drinking as opposed to finding out the contrary by getting shit faced down the Ilford Palais on a Friday night. After a small glass he turned to her and said 'Mother, I defy anyone to tell me that alcohol doesn't enhance life' or something like that and I am inclined to be with him on these words of truth. Last night my lips were once again in union with a glass or two and I can honestly say I felt the best I have since coming out of hospital three months ago. Almost as good as the first cup of coffee I could have after being starved for two weeks.A crack team or think tank as they are known, of 400 people came up with five steps to happiness which I like to think I and probably most people put into practice but it is never enough is it? Why not bring the steps up to ten and place a bottle or two at the top. Most of those that reach a hundred ( years, not steps ) are all drinking and my sister who works in an old people's home said they all have a secret stash of sherry somewhere. When the government or someone worries about our drinking habits I often wonder why they are so surprised we drink so much. When Henderson asked me if I thought he drank too much I told him I thought he didn't drink enough and wondered how he copes.

I thought I had imagined it when I saw a wild boar running amok around the town, but I have since read that it had somehow entered the city walls and crashed through the window of a school and was finally shot or tranquilised by the FIFA agent I used to work for.

Apart from becoming a Formula One driver and succeeding in an art robbery one of my other ambitions is to be drunk in possession of a cow as I think it might be perfectly legal. It would be fun to do the same night as shooting a Scotsman in the walls of York with a bow an arrow and getting away with it. Right now I am wondering if it is legal to shoot my fellow citizens in the same way from my kitchen window as they are the reason the government worries over drinking habits. Why can't they be civilised alcoholics like me?

The Spanish are masters at 'having a song and dance'. Not in the the way we would expect them to but with things like opening and closing doors, on being asked the origin of the words bossa nova, discussing the merits of a tortilla they ate earlier, and my bete noir, anything involving hammers. Just the thought of this tool gives me a headache. Tomorrow we are going to the mountains and there is one part called I believe, Cotatuero or the claves de cotatuero which I like to look at from the comfort of a bar that has a nice open fire while everyone else climbs it or falls down. Someone wasn't happy with the silence of the mountain so took a hammer and nailed bolts into and if it takes your fancy you can go up there in your heels and attempt to walk round it on a ledge.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

It looks like we will be going to the mountains as Henderson, inspired by the phone call of a few weeks back regarding the lamb for the slaughter has bagged a hare from one of his pupils and hopes to get Killer Jon in on the act of hanging,drawing and quartering or whatever it is these country folk are prone to do on a Saturday night. I will be out of the way in the bar by the river with a nice Enate as more snow is forecast and it is another dream to get snowed in and be unable to return to the big city and work.

The big city is not quite and needs a couple of thousand more bods to be so. It is a town with delusions of something, but doesn't realise that outside, de fuera, nobody has heard of it and I often wonder if it really exists. I was warned by an Englishman who sold 'quality clothing' from the back of his van around the villages that the big city folk 'think they are sophisticated and cosmopolitan, but they're not'. I am reminded of this everytime I see a photo in the local paper with 'a group of foreigners' written underneath.

I never really knew what the green eyed monster meant till I came here. There is 'mucho envidia' but it is often mind boggling and involves a sense that other people have more, have it better or easier. Sometimes it involves women muttering under their breath at other women who, I don't know, maybe washed their hair and put on some eye shadow or something and had the gall to marry someone who looks a bit 'foreign'.

Getting back to the village, it is often thought that going to a village of a handful of people would be a quiet,tranquil experience but is often the opposite with drunkards slamming their car doors at five in the morning. Last time I was there I was delighted to hear an owl for the first time in my life at a reasonable hour of around two in the morning. A couple of hours later the silence was no more as a lorry driven by a hell driver came tearing through the valley with such a disregard that all the birds woke up and seemed to scream a collective agreement that now was not the dawn chorus. There is a church which chimes forty o'clock and a dog which pretends to be dead in the middle of the road just to piss off the tourists who form a traffic jam and even get out of their cars and give him a bit of a kick but he isn't having it. Once during a holy communion with the kids dressed in sailors uniforms and pretty dresses respectively with fireworks and the rest, Killer Jon was asked by some Dutch tourists what was happening. 'They are getting married, it is a custom to marry them off young in Spain' he said with an irreverent look he is prone to wear. This is almost as good as my friend Albina when asked, told some American tourists that the changing of the guards was a public execution.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

There are great, unexpected moments when teaching a language. Moments like Maria's when poised with a multiple choice of sentence endings to things like 'The house is on fire', went for 'I think I'll have a glass of water'. But there can't be anything more pleasurable than the moment you've been told that a certain undesirable and mini dictator has been ousted from class. The excuse that 'he's still trying to settle in' didn't wash with my 'either he goes or I do' and the latter seems to have worked and the former, well he's gone to some other part of the school to look for a martyr to crucify.

Hopefully we will go to our favourite village in the Pyrenees this weekend to visit our friend Jon who we sometimes call 'Killer Jon' for reasons that might become apparent at some stage or other. It was to Jon that I confessed I would not be entirely happy unless I did an art robbery or some kind of heist. A good idea to start off with would be to steal the bones of Franco or Franco's bones and hold the government to ransom and, regardless of what the government decided, toss the bones into the Atlantic maybe where the Prestige went down.

A woman in a village nearby has done something that would probably not chill the bones of Franco but certainly has spooked me. Just thinking about it could weigh on one's spirits. She's opened a museum dedicated to Barbie. Not like in a film where it was the Klaus Barbie Museum, but worse I think, the doll. She has collected around 700 of them. I hate dolls and think it was first brought on as a child when I found myself estranged form my parents in the doll department in Himley's the Nazi toy store. There is something chilling about women who collect dolls or shoes. If they weren't they would probably be out on some killing spree.

I'm never sure what Spanish people mean by socialism or communism or if they know the difference or if there is a difference here as so many thoughts and words are used in completely different ways to the rest of the world. A visiting economist told the townsfolk yesterday that 'capitalism will prevail as there is no alternative and the 'socialismo real' was a disaster and sunk' although he didn't say without a trace. He should try to have a drink in Bar Rugaca in the centre of town where the resident barman and only communist I know who takes himself seriously would tell him otherwise. I had to stop going to this bar as even telling him I was Irish (a lie) didn't stop him from lambasting me for speaking the language of the 'imperialistas' and the Americans of the north ( meaning the infidels of) were my cousins and the only sad thing about the Twin Towers was the fact that so many of his profession died.

To end, I saw God knows where a headline that asked ' is it OK not to care about Madonna's divorce?' I can honestly say I will not lose any sleep over it and if she wants to do anything worthy she should adopt me and help me fulfill my dream of becoming a Formula One driver and carry out an art robbery.

Monday, 20 October 2008

What to do with the youngsters of today? 'Beat them' said Henderson, but of course we can't and shouldn't, but after the shennanigans of class 3A this morning I think I might have to go armed and build some kind of fortress round the desk in future. I feel sorry for the younger teachers who look like they are in tears at lunch time. At the beginning of term they are all keen and cooing 'que majo' at each child as they go by, not realising the truth about children. They have forgotten how awful some kids could be when they were young and nothing has changed.

I have in my possession a piece of paper handed to me by an Englishman from one of the hotels here which was a laundry price list. You can get your camisas and camisetas cleaned while you're there for around 4 euros. Pity the items were translated into shits and undershits.

Today I read an article which advised never to economise on socks, wine and chocolate. I think I agree and would include any kind of underwear as you never know, especially when wine and chocolate are involved. I would also refrain from buying anything on the cheap in the way of paper punches, staple guns etc. There are a number of shops here which do a brisk trade in shite and possibly undershite. They are always busy and when desperate I have bought a paper punch and it broke the first time I used it. There was a sellotape holder which can't cut the sellotape but manages to cut my fingers which I bought the same day as the paper punch and staple gun and is the only survivor of the three. I used to work for a FIFA agent here and his desk was full of this stuff especially pens that didn't work and he refused to throw them away.

They said it could never happen but Piti and I have sort of become friends. I love dogs, but he is a poodle. When friends stay and they hear him scrambling around upstairs they say 'ah, he can't be that bad, what breed is he?' When I tell them they all look as if they have been dealt a blow and can only say 'oh'. As Mercedes has broken her leg she won't be going anywhere in a hurry so I have offered to take the beast out of a night. So far we have had a rather pleasant promenade and he stays by my side and obeys me in English. Maybe this is where we went wrong and should have given him a bollocking in the beginning in English and not Spanish.

There have been stories in the press about sightings of UFOs and I wondered if there are other forms of life would they bother to come here as they won't be listened to and won't get a word in edge ways. I can just see a higher intelligent being cursing under his breath and ordering another drink to blot out the noise.

On the subject of drink I have made a mistake with my calculations and Wednesday will not be my chance to have a drink just to take the edge off things but Thursday. Hic hic hooray.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

ANA HAS BEEN UNWELL

With the thought of teaching bright and early tomorrow Henderson and I decided to go to the Connemara to take the edge off things. He nursed two and a half pints of Guinness and I a grudge which was not softened by two chilled glasses of Mosto the nation's favourite grape drink. As is his wont we discussed collective nouns with a murmuration of starlings and a murder of crows being my favourite. Pity the class that is probably still not in bed as I write this is a litter of hoodlums who breakfast on bars of sugar and inevitably bring out a reluctant Joyce Grenfell in me. 'No Jorge, don't stand on the radiator while flinging your pencils at Maria's eyes. Please Sergio, take your foot out of Fernando's mouth. That's right Javier put your pants back on we don't want to see your 'pompis' thank you very much. Yes, I quite agree Nico, it is rather rude of Santi to say you are an unbearable, anti-social son of a bitch but try to ignore his boring opinions'.

My first class here with a different sleuth of reprobates started with me being dropped off by Henderson. A rather cherubic child rushed up to me and asked if he was my dad. Later on Henderson asked if I wouldn't mind buying him a bottle of whisky which he said was for his coffee but was probably due to the fit of pique he had on finding out what the kid had said. The whisky in the Aldi was locked up in a small glass cabinet and when I asked the girl on the till if I could have a bottle of J&B she didn't understand and she kept repeating 'Jota B?' to my 'Si, Jota B por favor' until a rather large queue of impatient Spaniards had formed. Perhaps if I had left out the 'por favor' bit she would have got the jist.In the end she shouted what seemed like 'could assistant number twenty nine come and help the half cut English teacher as she is after another bottle' into the tannoy. When assistant number twenty nine came they kept repeating 'Jota B' between them till the queue was by now apoplexic. Number twenty nine got her keys out, went to the cabinet, got the bottle, handed it to a young man in the queue and everyone said 'No! It's for her', and pointed at me. I almost said 'it's for my dad' but thought better of it as the ensuing saga didn't bear thinking about.

I caught a glimpse as I wafted in and out of the living room this evening of one of those fly on the wall programmes dealing with unhappy, disobedient, rude British teenagers. There were two and they had been sent to South Africa to stay with a family and go to school there where they could learn what most people would like to think is normal behaviour. They took the image of whingeing pom to levels I thought weren't possible, the teenagers that is. When people lament the decline of behaviour and respect in Britain they should think about countries like New Zealand where you often think you are in England in the 1950's. Britain seems to have a lot in common with Spain when it comes to that self centred attitude that shocks many people who had some other idea of both countries. It just manifests itself in different ways. The England or Britain of C.E. Eckersley only exists in books and maybe pockets of the English countryside. Elsewhere maybe go and live in Canada or New Zealand but like everything it won't be perfect and you'll find yourself upset about some affront. The Spain of today manages to preserve an almost medieval way of life but is quickly catching up with Britain when it comes to children dictating how teachers and parents should deal with them. We definitely went wrong when we told children they could call teachers by their first names.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

ANA HAS BEEN UNWELL

Piti the Priapic Poodle has resurfaced much to my chagrin at six o'clock this morning. I sometimes think the Spanish do it on purpose. That they are genetically programmed to be awkward bastards with no sense of time, humour or awareness of others. He kicked off just as the strains of 'El Tubo' were laid to rest for another twelve hours. I still harbour thoughts of turning up outside my noisy neighbours' houses with the Drums of Calanda and have a session till our hands bleed just to give them an idea of my plight.

Our mayor seems to have gone to ground or maybe it's because he knows I and others are lying in ambush. His bodygurads ( I like this spelling mistake too, may keep it as some kind of polari, gay slang for those of you not familiar. I've got loads more, my favourite is greta for anything great) are nowhere to be seen either. Maybe like the North Korean leader whose name escapes me, or Fidel, he is ill or dead and the PSOE are unable to tell us.


Henderson has just informed me that he saw a photo of the mayor hiding behind another person with authority during the inauguration of some new flats. Will these be the flats that are designated for people on a low income but often end up being inhabited by those who are not short of a few bob but have some kind of enchufe which gets them around the need to be poor?


On a lighter note, I bought a bottle of Rioja of the Gran Reserva kind in my local LIDL, a shop that the Brits are now flocking to to beat the rise in prices. A year ago a friend of mine back in Britain wouldn't be seen in such a shop but is now beside himself with the excitement of German chocolates, Spanish wine, foie gras and a satellite dish with change from a tenner. The Rioja is sitting there winking at me. We have a date next Wednesday.

After helping my chemist to have more than his fair share of cars, holidays and the like, I still found myself there today after being 'advised' I should get a scar cream for the ugly looking things on my 'tripa'. OK, fair play, don't mind giving him a few more euros if it benefits my well being, or wellness as it is often said here, until the woman told me a small tube that may help to lighten the scar cost 40 euros. There are certain things that you just know you will never do again after a certain age and are quite happy with this. Risk sports, wear a bikini, drink vodka or try to look winsome are just a few but this has to go onto my ever increasing portfolio of things that one's sights are not set on.

I saved this as a draft and so now it is later on in the day or rather two minutes to midnight and I have not long discovered that my neighbour Mercedes has broken her leg. Her daughter called yesterday and said simply 'just to say you can go and visit Mercedes whenever you want', which at the time seemed odd as I know I can go and visit her anytime and thought no more of it. So it was to my surprise and upset that the fall she had the other day has led to this. She agreed that the above sentence doesn't convey the situation and rolled her eyes in that 'don't ask' way. So our chemist is going to make even more money out of us with our 'Spainkillers'.

I'm still having problemos putting the Bravenet counter somewhere on my blog to see if anyone is reading it. Anyone who is and has got a momento could you please let me know.

Friday, 17 October 2008

ANA HAS BEEN UNWELL

Five more days to go till I can have a 'bebida'. My kidneys have had enough of being on holiday and need some of the sixteen and a half kilos of Somontano grape that was harvested this year.

Reading C.E. Eckersley last night with a glass of hot milk, I came across the sentence 'pullulation of verbal novelties' , meaning the reproduction of useless words in English. Eckersley thought the growth of the English language should be halted but if it had I wouldn't be able to tell my friend Fernando that 'no, your dad is not right when he says there are more words in Spanish than in English'. This is one example of when the Spanish will put up a fight, especially the Aragonese, and especially the ones who don't speak another language but are the gold medallists when it comes to knowledge of one.

Having a peep at the Daily Mail would, I imagine, be like peeping into David Icke's mind. So I dared myself today to do the former and was left in no doubt that if half of it is true I should perhaps not go there for Christmad ( spelling mistake but quite like it. Eckersley would be pissed off ). The words shopping,traffic jam, Curry's and meltdown leave me in no doubt that the British are mad. If only for coming up with this newspaper. When I am in the motherland I love to go shopping to get things I can't get here. Stone's Ginger Wine for instance which I never drink neat.

Speaking with a Bosnian friend of mine I was trying to convey the goings on here and she said 'Oh yes, it sounds like my country. Nothing works and no one cares'. Now when I am faced with the histrionics of my colleagues or friends that such and such hasn't turned up or won't be starting on time or at all I think of these words and find them vaguely comforting. Either that or I say, 'come on, you are Spanish, you must be used to it by now, you've been here longer than me' which invites a glare which I have also found to be soothing knowing it won't come to blows or a stabbing.

I still haven't asked the man down the road why he has named his chocolate cum crisp machine '25 Hours' because I am worried he will let me in on something that would be manna for The Daily Mail.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

ANA HAS BEEN UNWELL

We have new neighbours. They couldn't be worse than Mr. 'Yo No' from next door but they seem to have ambitions to emulate him. They are 'punkies'. Not punks. Punkies. Pronounced poonkies. It is impossible to explain to your average Spaniard that the word 'punkie' hardly puts the fear of God into a passerby. It never ceases to amaze me the proliferation of punks thirty years or more after the act. Now having them as neighbours is another reason why 'getting away from it all' doesn't work, unless you go and live in Canada or a cave.

Piti the Priapic Poodle seems to be off the radar these days. Either that or the chap in 2D has wrung his neck. The poodle's, not his own, although I could understand if he had. In fact things seem a little too quite lately. I don't know how long this will last so I am savouring every moment.

On the subject of savouries, there is a shop here called 'Sabores de Ayer' which loosely means 'Tastes of Yesterday', but after tasting one of their 'empanadas' I feel it should be renamed 'Tastes of Last Week'.

Watching the news I became aware of the impending Olympics. I wouldn't call myself a sporty type. I've been known to walk in on a boxing match and ask 'who's playing?'. I almost got my head kicked in at an Arsenal match but they couldn't be bothered in the end being a vague, void lot. Half of them were listening to the cricket at the same time as the match and my crime was to cheer regardless of which team scored. I remember being fascinated with the constant ebb and flow to the hotdog sellers and other distractions and can't even remember who Arsenal were fighting.

I was given a present from my friend Ramon. A first edition of A Modern English Course For Foreign Students by C.E. Eckersley who wanted to 'cover the pill of learning with the jam of gaiety' which is sound advice for any teacher. The book is full of useful information from how to order tea at a ''Corner House'' to why English people send their sons to Eton. I think it is going to be a good read.

Friday, 10 October 2008

ANA HAS BEEN UNWELL

Sometimes I feel our mayor presides over us like Lord Summerisle. Small towns in Spain often have that Wicker Man vibe. There are three other things that are a must, a bar, a church and a crane. I can't find his Lordship in today's Sunday paper which seems odd as he is oft to be found lurking among the various photo opportunities that grace the pages of our local rag.


Walking around town today in Sergeant Howie mode, I couldn't help noticing there was more than the usual amount of imbecilty in the air. A small gene pool and marriages between cousins leaves those of us 'de fuera' meaning 'from outside', or foreigners to you and me, feeling just a tad freaked out, especially when it comes to identical twins. I have never seen so many in one place. It gets weirder when they run a cafe or a shop and they both loom out and ask you if you are 'local', or worse, 'what bra size are you'. There are two sisters who I can't tell apart and found myself asking one of them 'are you sure it is you?' as I only know one of them and thought maybe she was 'the other one' and was just being polite and wondering what freak I could be. As I have said before, Spain is not a country but a state of mind and while I was dealing with the twin situation a midget walked by carrying an oversized carrier bag that was scraping along the ground. On the side of the bag was the name of the shop, 'Tall Girls'. Later on I saw the man who runs a baker's at the top of my road and I have no idea if he is a twin or a midget even as he is always seated in his bakery with his hands clasped firmly under his armpits. He asks 'que hay' when you enter and then uses those hands to pick up your bread. Never again. I think more immigration is needed, not less.

Spanish people ask me how to say 'pijo' in English. This is a difficult one as we have various levels of 'pijo'. If you are not familiar with this word it loosely means snob or posh, but this doesn't really conjure it up for me. In Spain that could mean someone who has the affront to have a shower every day.

There is a shop here that perhaps 'pijos' frequent and which I find myself in for 'research' reasons like the other day when I overheard the sales assistant comment that the rather lovely dress the pijo was wearing was of course 'muy ingles'. The shop in question goes by the name of Adolfo Domingo. Only in Spain would a parent name their child after a fascist. Do Italians still call their children Benito? Perhaps they still do. Franco's first name was Francisco and that hasn't gone out of fashion. As for the shop, they should have just called it Eva Braun's Wardobe.

Lastly, if anyone is still bothering to read this blog, who can tell me if under Franco ( dreadful thought), a Russian salad was called an 'Ensalada Zarina'.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

ANA HAS BEEN UNWELL

With the first flurry of snow up in them there hills I was to be found languishing in the foothills benumbed with our chemist's till ringing in my ears. Only 14 days to go till I can rush down to the nearest supermercado and buy some tastier analgesics in the form of some Somontano or Rioja wine. It amazes me that I have gone without drink for almost three months. You see, it can be done.

I've talked about the idea of 'getting away from it all' and it seems that 'it all' is never too far away. A small town or a village in the mountains will always have elements of a big city, like a horrid, provincial, microcosm, and so it was the other night as I witnessed a young neighbour freaking out on something, two assailants legging it moments later with a holdall up our road and then jumping into a fated, silver, BMW. One of the other neighbours claims he saw them with a knife and the hallway is filled with the smell of spliff and paranoia. Makes a change from the 75 year old in 1D pissing off the balcony, taking all his clothes off and lying down in said hallway for a bit of a kip. And ours is one of the more upmarket 'pisos'.

Talking of upmarket, drugs and paranoia, the dreaded Gran Scala is definately 'on' and will be built in the Monegros Desert in Bajo Aragon. Despite the end of Western Civilisation as we know it, this casino and 'leisure' centre is to go ahead and is unaffected by the present climate as the investors are 'funds and not banks' says the 'chef officer' and 'responsible' (sic) Mark Campbell. So 'gettin away from it all' might mean moving north.

The Dutchman and I have despaired many times over dubbing in Spanish. "Oh, but they are the best dubbers' say some Spaniards when we guffaw over how ridiculous Al Pacino et al sound. One woman told me that she felt English actors where 'wooden' till I asked her how on earth she would know if the voice was some other actor.The best I heard was 'but Humphrey Bogart's real voice is so ugly'. It's an impossible argument until you suggest dubbing Spanish films with English and American actors, then there is uproar. Now the Dutchman tells me that one of his pupils watches David Lynch dubbed in Spanish. Words fail me.

Finally, there are the Dodgems and there are the Bumper Cars. Which one are you? What would it be like if everyone was a Dodgem?

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Today I saw a young man cycling along wearing a T-shirt embazoned with the words 'Bloody Hell' on the back. The Dutchman told me one of his female students wears one with the word 'Available' on the front. I've seen 'Bullocks' and 'Killer Pussy' too. I wonder if British kids are wandering around with 'Que Cojones' written on theirs.

Last night we booked our tickets to fly back to London for Christmas. These things are never easy and we were worried that we had booked them twice as the computer decided to have problemos at the same time. When we rang the bank they had no problem telling us only one transaction had been made and didn't ask for anything but the credit card number. This being Spain we thought we had better check again this morning for you never know and were passed throught to various staff who insisted that they couldn't check for us without a special code which of course we didn't have. At one point we were asked for our DNI and I felt like doing the usual which is to give them my library card number. We gave it but the answer was still 'Que no'. I'm not sure whether giving the DNI gave the man the go ahead to tell us 'Que no' but he did ask if we knew the woman the night before. You know, 'enchufe' as it is called here. Not what you know, for most don't know anything, but who you are 'in' with.

Everything is impossible and possible at the same time. Sometimes I think I am tripping and that our mayor has decided to put LSD in the reservoir. After the bank people we had a run in with some other lot who deal with let's just say, paperwork of some kind or another. It doesn't matter what as it is always the same. It involves being told 'Que no' as you produce every piece of paper you were asked for and then means you have to go up and down to get another one till you finally are told that 'Ah yes, but the date is not correct and this is in pencil and needs to be printed.' Eventually the thing gets done but not before you start to feel like you are on a piece of elastic and find yourself muttering 'please, can I come back now, before I am found dead in another century?'

Something I miss that says a lot about the British character is a good old rummage. There aren't charity shops, jumble sales or car boot sales here as the Spanish wouldn't dream of wearing a dead person's dress or shoes. At least the Dutchman has stopped asking ' What is it, how much and why?' Greasy spoon cafes with Thai food, tea shops and betting shops are also on my list of things to make me feel homesick.

On my way home across Calle Jasmin I saw one of the storks fly down Calle San Lorenzo and straight after a hearse was going in the opposite direction.

I never read my star sign except out of boredom like I did the other day while in the doctor's waiting room. According to the local rag it's dangerous to shower with cold water and I run the risk of an intoxication..........