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Sunday, 28 June 2009


Thanks to the heat and flies the decorum classes were put off for a rainy day. Instead we played, danced and had fun. I have done many summer camps in Spain and seem to be a dab hand so I don't like it when interference is felt in the form of being told what to do, especially if it means I have to teach kids manners and how to peel fruit. It is a bit rich inviting kids from Asturias, Madrid and Valladolid to of all places, Aragon, famous for its obstinacy and brutish ways, and then tell them 'we are going to teach you the right way to behave in polite society' when living here sometimes feels as though I have stepped into a time machine and gone back to the Stone Age. It is also a shock to be around kids who don't snatch the register out of your hands, address you as 'oye' or 'chica' or 'joder' or the dreaded 'queeee' which is emitted here 'eehhh?' I wonder if there is room for classes in 'why it's a good idea not to run people over while they are on the zebra crossing'.

So all is great and we are in an agricultural institute opposite 'La Granja' which is where George Orwell spent many an hour trying to figure the Spanish out. This place is mentioned in Homage To Catalunya and there is a palpable atmosphere here with an abundance of birds. As we drove over the little bridge behind La granja a Golden Oriole flew in front and landed in atree where we could see its beauty. Meanwhile about fifty storks looked as though they were grazing in one of the fields nearby. Many of them no longer migrate to Africa and have changed their habits and decided to stay here.

Friday, 26 June 2009


I thought I woke up to the strains of Piti this morning but it turned out to be the wails of Michael Jackson's mourners. None of them knew him of course but being a fan and young does strange things to you. I remember being about 14 and finding out I wasn't the only weirdo who fancied Rowan Atkinson. Never has my gusto for something or someone been massacred as much as the discovery that day that there were others.

Getting back to the dog upstairs, I did see a programme about the RSPCA who were having words with a man back in Britain who looked like an extra in Little Britain and his mute wife who sat around all day in her dressing gown and curlers. Common practice here too I note. Anyway, this bloke had two dogs and one bullied the other so he kept it outside in a shit hole basically. Even when he was told to clean it up he kept repeating 'what do you mean?' as if it was a lovely place for man's best friend to hang out in all day. To skip most of the horrid story, it wasn't a dog's life. The woman from the RSPCA said she would take the dog from him if he didn't sort it out. Compared to the life of Piti I think he had it OK. I found myself shouting at the tele again and telling the RSPCA woman to come over here and have a butcher's.

Later I had to go to the offices of my new employment which involves working in a summer camp. Without giving too much away in one go it looks as though Monday is six hours of 'good manners', etiquette, or, as it is known here, protocol. They want me to teach the kids table manners, how to peel an orange (?!) and the rest. I suggested as a joke that maybe I could do a finishing school and put books on their heads etc and both bosses agreed this was 'genial'. I have decided that I might just go the whole hog and put on a garden party where I get to dress up as the Queen Mother or Princess Margaret and end up under a tree with a gin, a packet of Marlboro and a box of Ritz crackers. I'm a dab hand at these 'campo veranos' and might even put in a few stories this way in the next few days of past soujourns of sitting in corridors trying to wield power at four in the morning while keeping a watchful eye on any Lotharios who thought it might be a good idea to nip into the girl's dorm for the night. Or the time I nearly throttled the 'director' of the concentration camp which masqueraded as a summer one a few years back. Thinking about the 'how to peel an orange' class, the only time I have ever come up against this was when a friend was admitted into a mental hospital circa 1990, on account of her not being able to among many things, peel a plastic orange, say the year backwards or say who the Prime Minister was. Perhaps I should just use this version in my 'decorum classes'.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


When you learn a language it is interesting the order in which you pick up vocabulary and verbs. You start off with the obvious, necessary verbs and words you will need to ask or explain something and it grows from then on. When you work with children you find you learn words like octopus, cloud and wave and verbs to do with someone else ruining their life. It gets difficult when you realise you don't know how to say the verbs to miss or to deserve or take advantage. So it was with Alejandro the other day when I read a line from PG Wodehouse's Summer Lightning and the sentence 'when they saw young Parsloe coming, strong men winced and hid their valuables'. The good thing about a verb like wince is you can act it out which I did and then the pair of us continued in this vein everytime we mentioned undesirables.

Wince I did when I caught sight of the increasingly worrying spectacle known as Mr Harley Davidson AKA Mr Personality. A sight that was at the same time toe curling and wince inducing. I didn't know whether to curl up and moan like a dying animal or pretend I hadn't seen anything. It's the sort of feeling you get when you see a grown man dressed as Darth Vadar or Varder/Vada if you're going all Parlare. So, there he was vardering on across the roundabout at Plaza Santa Clara dressed to the nines, looking like he could do with a wash and wearing one of my bete noirs, those leather fingerless gloves that always remind me of my music teacher who wore the woollen version. As we drove round said roundabout his back pocket revealed a hanky dangling out a la Al Pacino Cruising style. I don't think this is the desired effect and I think someone should tell him before he finds himself on one of his concentraciones further afield. Henderson told me later that Mr Harley has been seen walking into the Bar Rugaca with his Nazi helmet under his arm but his bike parked in the garage back home. This didn't go unnoticed as half the bar felt compelled to tell him what a tosser he had turned into.

To end, my siesta as usual was accompanied by the weatherman back in Britain. As I drifted off I heard the words ' Jug of Pimms' which had Henderson sitting bolt upright. The last time he did this he was fast asleep snoring like a good 'un on a flight back from Bangkok. The stewardess was meandering her way up the aisle asking each passenger if they would like a drink. I vadered with expectant glee as he snored on and the hostess got closer. As each passenger wanted something soft the snores got louder until a man three seats back uttered the words Gin and Tonic and I've never seen anyone wake up so quickly and say 'me too'.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


To be able to walk away from all the racket and be in nature with just the birds tweeting in your ears and a weasel trotting ahead is one of the simple pleasures enjoyed here, but it was soon marred by the sounds of the dreaded Jota emanating from a Peugot 107, one of the smallest cars in the world and inhabited by a huge old man equipped with songsheet bellowing away without a shred of guilt. His misconduct didn't go unnoticed but he only looked up briefly and plugged away.

Meanwhile, Piti and his owner have fled but not without making a song and dance of it. Leading up to their departure there was a lot of commotion as dear old Mercedes had to go to the hospital in Zaragoza to have if I have understood correctly, nerves removed from her face. Her absence caused the beast to have moments of sang froid and restless foot tapping all leading to the inevitable. Her return resulted in him having an apoplectic fit while I was still recovering from mine. People ask 'do you miss him now that he has gone?'

Anyway, been meaning to mention the wonderful day out at one of my favourite places not far from here called The Rio Alcanadre where there is a waterfall and lots of leafy glades and no unhinged dogs. While lying beneath the trees and at one with all I spied a vulture a stone's throw away sitting atop the rocks that make up this part of The Sierra Guara. Dozens of Beeaters, swifts and a woodpecker at it. Kids jumping into the river from a great height.People siesting in hammocks. Two men playing chess. Kids in dinghies and others leaping off the waterfall. A picnic and love for your fellow man. Wonders will never cease.

Saturday, 20 June 2009


The War of Attrition continues between me and Mr Personality AKA Senor Harley Davidson and his girlfriend Gerald, Piti the Priapic Poodle, The Ecuadorian Folk Ensemble and Mr DIY himself two doors down. The latter thought it would be a good thing to start hammering at ten o'clock last night and pick up where he left off this morning with a drill my dentist could do with, seeing as she has been unable to extract my molar of late and said I should come back in September for the third time. If I need reinforcments I thought I might recruit some small children seen last night in the park and dressed against their will in traditional Aragonese costume singing the dreaded Jota. Anyone unfamiliar with the Jota should be aware that as far as tunes are concerned this one could be best described as the sound of a castrated goat about to have its throat cut before being tossed off a church tower and landing in a vat of boiling oil. Hold that thought for a moment and mix it with the sound an Iman makes at the call of prayer from a minaret but this time he's got half his body stuck down an industrial mincer without an anaesthetic. I was wondering how much it would cost to hire The Drums of Calanda which I am sure I have mentioned before as the perfect solution for noisy neighbours. Hire them to play those drums till their hands bleed when the neighbours need their beauty sleep.

Those children seen last night on stage dancing and singing folk songs in the local park while the wine fair went on a few yards away reminded me of some far off time when some of my school teachers thought it would be good idea to teach us something 'traditional' and got us to come back after hours to school and practice 'country dancing'. 'Which country?' does spring to mind but I do remember the words 'heel toe, heel toe, off we go, off we go' which sounds like some sort of drunken, hunting song you might sing on a winter's morn with a flask of whiskey and a Jack Russell in toe as you chase Mr Fox through the Dorset countryside. Suffice to say those extra curriculum classes lasted about two weeks.

Finally, the weather descriptions from the weather man or woman back in Blighty get better by the day. I should make a list. My favourite is 'much of the same' but today i heard 'some rain for all'. This contrasts nicely with the doom and gloom of the news. In the Spanish press my favourite was the true story of a man who run or rather drove amok knocking down it seems, several policemen in the spate of 24 hours before one of them shot him. It seemed there was no stopping him at one point as he carried on aiming his vehicle at any Guardia Civil looming before him. When the village folk found out they were heard to cry the Spanish equivalent of ' he was an accident waiting to happen'.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


No wonder this blog never gets written with all the Vermouth, Pimms, white wine and brandy in coffee that I seem to be putting away. Somehow things do get done like battling with a parasol that needs to be wedged in with old photocopies of English idioms on account of Henderson not buying a base to support the beast. I spied the phrase 'do you always stick to your guns if you think you are right, or are you willing to compromise?' on one of the papers.This reminded me of just about every conversation I have ever had here. Last night I was told by Spanish friends to change my photo on Facebook which is of a bull that has had enough and is leaping into el publico and shows a bunch of suited and booted geezers shitting themselves. For some Spanish friends this photo is awful and I should change it at once. The Spanish and especially the Aragonese are known for their stubborness but few have come up against the tenacity of someone from The Atlantic Isles. To show how difficult or impossible it is to be understood here the bull is a good point of reference. Even though I thought the photo was stating the bleeding obvious others see it as disgusting, but not for reasons you would imagine. When pressed, I realised that as the photo shows the bull leaping into the audience from behind it shows it's arse which was also dirty and this was the complaint, that it was 'dirty', 'disgusting' and was showing the animal's arsehole ( Facebook/Arsebook goes amiss...). As a Taurean and well known for leaping on people if they stick the knife in I thought it was rather novel, and reminded me of my fellow fire horse Eric Cantona when he leapt into the pit and kicked a hooligan. It never ocurred to me that people would think this big arsed beast would be perceived as something horrible to the eye. Which sums it up really. OK to dress up like a nonconformist, which, let's face it, is another name for a poof, flare the old nostrils and slaughter a poor animal in the name of entertainment than show it for what it really is, morally repugnant. The' it is culture' argument doesn't wash as so-called female circumcision is cultural for some. Henderson has the idea of hijacking a bullfight wearing nothing but a pair of wooden clogs, and, armed with a rifle he says he would shoot the bull, turn round and holler, 'there, that's how it should be done'. One can only wait.

Talking of hollering, I thought of a cure for the loudness that is de rigueur throughout the land here. Import some sergeant major from the Irish Guards and get them to sneak up on an overbearing native and let rip into his ear. There, that's the way to do it. I'm not sure what cure is needed to solve the insatiable inability to say what needs to be said in five mintes instead of five hours. I don't mind if food is the subject but if it meanders off into how someone got from A to B with not much in between I class this as unreasonable behaviour and hackles and rise are words I start to harvest, not to mention thoughts of manslaughter.

If all this sounds like someone who shouldn't be living here if she/he doesn't like it don't get me started on my comrades back in Old Blighty as they deserve a good bashing too and the longer I am here the more I am prepared to put up with that extra loud comportment if it means staving off a typical Brit, although the cruelty to animals does depress.

Monday, 15 June 2009


While many thoughts end up here I did wonder why anyone would want to give Carol Thatcher the time of day especially Clive Anderson. It was unbearable listening to Loose Ends yesterday and along with Nick Griffin, Piers Morgan et al I think the least said and all that. There are very few intelligent people in the public eye these days and are often found with the public ear. One warms to the narrator of The BBC's South Pacific, the anthropoligist Dr Alice Roberts searching for our ancestors and of course, the only two with any credibilty, Ian Hislop and Paul Merton.

Governments are often wondering why the gen. pub drink too much but with all that is going on I am not surprised. On the 19th and until the 21st of this month there will be a wine fair in the local park here so you can count me in. About thirty bodegas will be represented by their wines I hope.It's a bad translation but a good one too when something reads 'it will be the scene of a complete party'.

We went to the cherry fair in Bolea and along with the usual boxload of cherries we came home with ropes of garlic and stag sausage. As usual, the gypsies sought out Henderson and he told me as a child his family would never cease to be amazed at the way they would gravitate towards him especially when they went to markets. He's not alone, a friend from Montenegro who would often go missing as a child had a mother who could guarantee she would find him up to his eyeballs in mud playing with the local gypsy kids.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


It's the Queen's birthday today or one of them. If she can have two then so can I. Rather than sit and watch The Irish and Coldstream Guards and listen to When Irish Eyes are Smiling I treated myself to a bottle or two of some unknown beverage that has taken my fancy ever since I spied someone drinking it on the terrace the other day. Apart from wine, red drinks don't often appeal but this one hits the spot. A lot of wining and dining has been going on in the last few weeks and coffee mornings might be on the agenda now that I have the time. This kind of behaviour doesn't go unnoticed by the locals most of whom think if you teach, you now have three months off with pay. They have no idea of my Cassandra instinct for the gee-gees or that you can place bets on the internet. Long may they remain in ignorance.

To give an idea of the time warp I live in I saw a dog on a string the other day. Homeopathy, now regarded as a pseudo science in Britain has just arrived and is on sale at the 'with my money' chemist's. The man with the special flute and knife sharpening skills who wheels his bike up and down the street is a refreshing change and reminds me of my childhood when gypsies were the norm and all sorts of characters could be seen around the London streets. The little gypsy girl who asked me about the dead bird seems to have taken an interest in or a shine to me and always says hello and has a chat. Whilst out with Henderson who is proud of his Romany ancestry a fellow gypsy greeted him as if they knew each other from time.

A complete change from all this happened yesterday when I found myself in a barrio which made me feel as though I were in a David Hockney painting. The painting in question is called A Bigger Splash and I had been invited to a private swimming pool where the houses seemed Californian and the sky vast and blue. When I left this place I felt I had been on a retreat even though I didn't actually leave the town.

Briefly, while Tehran gives birth to angry young men, the editor of Vogue gets angry over size zero models, a new word appears in English every 98 seconds, Canada used to border with Zimbabwe, Huesca has a 'dispute' over who can come up with the best beef sarnie. So much so that ten bars will compete to see who can come up with the tastiest. Watch this space.

Monday, 8 June 2009


I am now convinced that Gordo is being slowly tortured by Mandelson as I am sure Mrs Brown is begging him to step down as it becomes obvious over half the country have no faith left in him, The Labour Party or the Conservatives even, as we watch The BNP and UKIP on the rise. I have been reading about the threat of the Labour voting working classes moving towards the BNP for about four years now. They were warned. Now The BNP has its foot in the door in Brussels and an estimated four million squids to get them started. Not to mention the 80,000 a year wages.The right wing fascist parties in Spain don't seem to be as prominent or believable for the moment anyway but where Britain leads.....

I've never been one to step from the fringes of society and make that leap into the known. The known has always perplexed me and I try to understand what all the fuss is about. My latest endeavour is with a programme I have mentioned before called The Apprentice with soon to be Master of Hounds Sir Alan Sugar. I remember working for a film company where everyone called each other 'genius'. It was, for me, nothing more than a fashionable alternative to success.It was also run by a despot who would scream and chase us with brooms and chairs whenever it suited him. It might have been something I had been smoking at the time but I was never fazed by any of his bellicose behaviour and would often be the last one standing. Even when I opened the fridge door to be confronted by a bloody and thankfully dead stag's head. I find myself feeling the same kind of indifference whenever I watch this programme but then what would I know about business. I do know the people involved in it especially the people who do the interviews with the hapless bunch of future tyrants and homicidal maniacs have got to be the most perverted miscreants going. So, if you're thinking of going into business or politics be warned. It seems nothing has changed for some people and I wonder who is leaving who behind.

On a completely different note the whereabouts of Piti and his owner Mercedes continued to mystify until this afternoon when he thought it would be a good idea to let rip during my siesta. Other unmentionables seem to be lying low but we still have to endure Mr Personality AKA Mr Harley Davidson, man about town or he'd have them think. Nobody equates this damned motorbike with being gay but it is only a matter of time. Mr Personality hates Americans and is not ashamed to tell you but is quite happy to dress as though he is Peter Fonda in Easy Rider. The whole block shakes everytime he goes on one of his concentraciones with the rest of his girlfriends. It's one of those scenarios your friends think you are making up when you tell them that on taking his sunglasses off he reveals himself as boss-eyed. The Desert Racer Steve McQueen rode in The Great Escape trying to escape the Nazis wanes when compared to this mob parked up outside the drinks machine called 25 Hours.

Saturday, 6 June 2009


The calamity continues back in The Mother Country with The Tories winning up and down the land. Tomorrow sees the European elections here and so we continue. I think I'd rather elect eels. Meanwhile Gordon Brown was booed in Normandy by a number of disgruntled ex-servicemen and I even witnessed him talking about the obviously mentally ill woman Susan Boyle. Who is really running this show? Mandelson?

Most politicians only seem to be in it for the tasty snacks or their desire to let everyone know how morally repugnant they are. Meanwhile back in the real world a flock of sheep up sticks and down tools to start the journey from Belchite in The Bajo Aragon and start schlepping it up to the Valle de Tena. It means passing through our town and heading up towards Apies. There are only 7,000 of this breed, Churras Tensinas. I love a sheep story especially if they are not getting murdered by birds of prey.

Away from all of this the film festival presides as if nothing else exists outside of this town. I did find myself attending the inaugaration of an exhibition on a film called Los Furtivos, The Poachers and attended by the director Borau. This is one of those films I stayed up late to watch probably in the seventies and called The Continental Movie. I guess it is a metaphorical film as it involves forests, incest and general furtive behaviour with a chieftain thrown in for good measure. Franco described Spain as a 'peaceful forest' and this phrase always reminds me of a desperate attempt on my mother's part to avoid the Valle de los Caidos, The Valley of the Fallen, a mausoleum where Franco is buried. We ended up in a forest with said parent bewailing that something awful had happened there and we must leave immediately lest it contaminate our souls. Apart from a heist or an art robbery I wouldn't mind stealing the old dictator's bones and dumping them out in the sea. It could be staged the day before a small band of Franco lovers turn up on his birthday or maybe his deathday and do the Nazi slaute and have a picnic. I might have dreamt it but I think a pink Rolls Royce might be involved.

Friday, 5 June 2009


It's getting to the point that I can't bear to watch the news and the so called 'car crash' that is Gordon Brown. The latest minister to resign is Flint by name and nature Caroline. She says that the Prime Minister used her as some kind of female 'window dressing'. With all his faults I don't believe a word of this and with the European elections coming up this Sunday, Flint, rats, leaving, sink and ships spring to mind.

There is another thing I can't bear to watch and it's a programme called The Apprentice about a group of young people so desperate to get a job with Alan Sugar, a successful businessman and friend and advisor of our Gordon. I just can't admire people who want to be in this world of selling stuff and being 'passionate' about it all and have all this drive. The programme shows them getting up at the crack of. and even watching this makes me want to roll over and die. I even thought about a Spanish version which doesn't get past the second programme as we witness one person trying to wake up the other housemates and them all snoring away. This type of programme could never be a success here.

Living opposite The Society of Saint Vincent of Paul one finds it difficult to get through the day without a pang of noblesse oblige . When I went in there the other day to see if they needed any donations of clobber one of the priests gave me a look that I would interpret as condescending but was probably something else. When I turned up the next day with three bags full he couldn't have been more civil and loving and so he should be as a man of the cloth. Henderson is not too happy with the gangs of gypsies and their kids turning up and in appropriate manner screamed at them to move their van load so as to enter the house. He was shortly joined by a stick waving Mercedes and Piti in tow threatening them with the police.

Alejandro, the bookworm who so far has been delighted with my choice of reading material has at the age of fourteen been introduced to PG Wodehouse. I had to explain skeletons in cupboards today and tried to think of something that would go down well with a fourteen year old. The best I could think of was Henderon's true story which involved him finding out via his parents that goats in general will eat anything. He went out of his way to feed theirs with plastic bags to which the goat consumed with relish. When it was found dead the next day Henderson remembers the family aghast around the dinner table all wondering how it could have happened. He was three at the time and so it was a first of many.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


My week has been littered with nuns and gynaecologists, socialists and cigarette lighters, gypsies and dead swallows and now Hazel Blears looms everywhere.I look and I wonder who she will be partnered with shortly. Perhaps that should read Hazel blears......

The nuns, all three of them sat next to me while I was waiting to see a neurologist on the advice of the gynaecological department ( don't ask ) and Henderson was fascinated with them and kept making glib comments on why they might be here. The neurologist couldn't find anything wrong with me which makes a change as everytime I see a doctor they find something else on a growing list of ailments that I could do without.

The elections are blearing and one of the local councillors came running up to us in the park the other day asking us if we smoked and offered us lighters. This seemed to be the way to open up a debate on local politics and I think he was delighted to have a sensible conversation for once. He seemed impressed that I knew the name of the Secretary of State for Infrastructure but then why wouldn't I? I forgot to ask why the council had promised the pedestrianisation of my barrio but it has probably got ot a lot to with all the other lies politicians tell when an election blears......

A dead swallow lay in our street the other day and dead birds especially baby ones have a morbid effect on me as my father bred birds and when I first saw a dead chick it left me feeling probably the same way Luis Bunuel did when he first saw a dead animal although his was a donkey I believe so I guess it was a more traumatic experience for him. A gypsy kid asked me what I was looking at and when I told her it was a dead pajaro she didn't seem to understand me so the inevitable conversation of 'pajaro?', 'si, un pajaro' went on for minutes. A friend later told me it has something to do with the pronunciation of this word but not on my part apparently. Despite the noise, I must confess that out street does lend itself to the more interesting aspects of Spanish Life and I often feel I have slipped back in time. There is a gypsy who walks up and down playing an instrument that has a whistling sound. I found out he sharpens knives for a living and wondered if he could be transported to London and stand outside the Houses of Parliament.

Tomorrow is the film festival and my source seems to have gone underground but I shall seek him/her out shortly and find out the goings on in the world of short film makers. Boom boom.