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Friday, 27 February 2009

UNIVERSITY OF LAUGH

So Henderson reassured me that Ian Gibson would have to wait a while before he met me. All I learnt from the local rag about his lecture was the well known fact that 'who knows what Spain would have, could have, should have been like if they hadn't exiled or shot all the intelligent people. The country was left to inbreed for around forty years and here they continue to do so. Maybe that is why it is so difficult to have a decent conversation and when the likes of Gibson turn up to sleepy towns like this one the intelligent folk have to sit on the floor to catch up with it all.

As a consolation I took myself and Henderson to one of my favourite places, the museum which is always deserted and has a wonderful air outside which recommends itself in the octagonal courtyard where you can sit and breath in a vibe lacking elsewhere. This is I believe part of the old university. However, inside the museum there is a dreadful dank room, part of an old palace, where King Ramiro the second is said to have beheaded a dozen noblemen or ''rebellious gentlemen' as the guide puts it. It is a room devoid of feeling and bereft of vibrations which is surprising considering the mess he must have made. Upstairs is the same in the Throne Room although it would be a great place to have an exhibition or a party. The story goes that the king had sent a herald to his former master asking for advice. When the herald asked the master he was cutting off the heads of cabbages and told the herald to tell the king what he had seen. This inspired the king to cut off the heads and place them in a circle and hang the last head from the bell pull. This is still known as The Bell of Huesca and people say it is still an expression used today to describe events on such a scale.

At the moment there is an exhibition on The Lincoln Brigade in Aragon during the Civil war with lots of photos especially of Belchite a town south of there which has been preserved as a reminder of the war. It is a tiny exhibition and I wondered if the schools here had taken the school kids around it and maybe do a project. I doubt it. It's easy for the Spanish to hate the North Americans but many of them travelled to Spain to fight the Fascists. There is often an attempt to portray this war as the first where black and white soldiers fought together and the photos are important as we don't often get to see how many black people gave and still give their lives during wars started by white men.

After this exhibition we went to see the rest of the museum where there are a few Goyas and I always fantasise about robbing them and how I will or would do this. I might wait till I am over seventy with signs of dementia. Then again maybe a robbery would be better attempted in The Netherlands where the prisons are better. There is something or rather there is always something amusing in the guides translated into English. Mr. Valentin Carderera 'illustrious artist and historian from Huesca' was 'decisive' in the foundation of the museum thanks to 'an important and disinterested donation'.

Inspired by all this we shall see where tomorrow takes us.


Saturday, 21 February 2009

NOT TINNITUS JOSEPHINE

Someone called Max Ehrmann said we should 'avoid loud and aggressive persons;they are vexaxious to the spirit' and so I have managed to steer clear of the vipers next door and spent the week without tears and vendettas invading my funky cloud. Psychic vampires abound and one needs protection.

Well, if I have understood correctly, the town has lost the chance to host the Dart's championship or should that be Darts' ? It's not darts as we now it but anyway it hasn't ended up here as there aren't enough hotels and therefor rooms to cater for the throng expected. I did write to the local rag to suggest they could always sleep in our new, 35 million euro Palacio de Congresos.

Thursday was Jueves Lardero', Lard Thursday or Mardi Gras or probably Pancake Day when various Christain cultures stuff themselves with fatty foods before Lent. It never ceases to amaze me how the Spanish can queue when a sauasage is for free. Is it the only time they won't push in? While queueing in the dry cleaner's the other day an old women did what is probably an act of genius where she somehow manipulated her body or rather shape shifted or morphed into the person in front. This has happened before and I am still not sure how they do it.

I asked some friends if they had an expression of 'he needs a good kick up the arse' and somehow through the translation they told me here in Spain it isn't a kick but a firework. I have asked others here and they say they have never heard of this. I do like the idea though. That to get up off his lazy backside a Spaniard needs a surface to air missile shoved up his jacksy.

Lastly, our chemist's sends me e-mails and they vary from mini lectures on gluten and its dangers to marital aids and theirs, but I misread one of them today and thought it said how to prevent or get rid of 'pijos', ( snobs, Essex girls depends on many things...) I have re-read it and it is not pijos but piojos, which I think is lice. I might turn up and pretend I think it is for the pijos and start bawling from the back row.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

MIGUELS IN THE MIST

Reeling from the shock and awe of my neighbour's childrens' party which came to an abrupt halt at four o'clock in the morning last Sunday when I threatened them with the proper authorities and maybe a pot plant or two I have only just recovered and am once again wondering if I can continue to live in a country where if you ask someone to turn their music down you are told you are a son of a bitch who doesn't like children for how dare I try to sleep at a reasonable hour while adults decide to use their offspring's birthday as an excuse to get pissed and have a fight and generally be as anti-social as possible. I'm beginning to think living in Peckham might guarantee a good night's sleep. The drama didn't stop there as all week I have been threatened by this familia and have had all sorts of insults hurled my way including one that suggested if I rang the police to complain about the noise they would ring the police and tell them my partner was a wife beater.

It's the sort of thing that might turn you into the sort of person who decides 'that's it, I will not talk to the staff and I shall become a complete fascist and snob and just hate everyone because they are all thick and anti-social and that's how it is'. I wonder if there are chavs and gentuza in Newfoundland. I guess there would be.

So, very upset, frazzled and realising why the Spanish don't complain or if they do it is to the sky I think another plan is needed and quickly. I was thinking of going to the police but past efforts to get them to do something about the potential ASBO aspirants around here have been met with laughter. I can see why some folk pick up arms. Maybe grenades?

I am still dreading the community meeting but have promised myself to sit back and watch it like I am making an anthropological study. The carnival also beckons and plan B is to get the hell outta here to a small village in the mountains and hope I get snowed in.

Massive improvements from Classes 3A and B apart from one Laura who took it upon herself to write 'English is shit' on the blackboard at the end of the lesson. I wouldn't mind but she wrote it in Spanish. I watched her run away to the safety of the canteen where I slowly pursued her and took her back pointing out along the way that I didn't care what the other teachers were prepared to put up with but she had to learn that I wasn't going to put up with her shit. I doubt if the message will last although she begged me not to tell anyone else especially her mum.

Finally, as I am about to go out for a drink even though it is before midnight, I hope to see the exhibition on the Lincoln Brigade tomorrow so there is something to look forward to and take my mind off the soul destroying antics of those nearby.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE

There are quite a few businesses going under here in the town and province but some of them probably deserve to especially the shops which have never heard of customer service and employ sour faced harpies who insist an old mohair shawl is a Pashmina. The usual screams and cries that have kept me awake for the past few years every Thursday and the rest of the weekend have died down for the first time and the absence of blood, shit and vomit is surely hard evidence that no one has got any money. I speak too soon as I hear the pitter patter of tiny hooves as a sounder of wild boar charge up and down the stairs next door and now I can hear the resident DJ or is he an MC? It sounds like a mobile roadshow Latin style which means unrecognisable shite for music and the DJ's muffled requests for Juanito to move his car out the way. None of them can hold their drink and after a few shandies we can expect the police to drive by and have a look at a muster of Ecuadorians stripped to the waist trying to stab one another and leave bloodied handprints up the side of the wall of the Hermanos Cruz Blanca. It's only a matter of time before I emigrate to New Zealand but then I would have nothing to write about.

Today is Saint Valentine's day so I shall try to be more loving towards my fellow man but it is difficult when you are surrounded by people and animals in more need of therapy and drugs than yourself. I could spread the love more if I were snowed in while staying at the hotel in the Balnearios de Panticosa up in them there hills. If this happens on the day you are supposed to leave you get to stay for free till they dig you out. It also happens to be Saint Cyril's day but I checked him out and was put off by the words devised Glagolitic alphabet.

Carnival looms and so far none of my pupils have decided to dress up as black people choosing instead to go as babies and managing to bag some incontinence pads from the hospital where their father works. The friend from London who often turns up for carnival was asked why he liked coming. He replied 'it is the sheer political incorrectness of it all'. This year I think Henderson and I will be found up in the mountains cold but happy away from the social row. The last time I dressed up I woke up in a house in London which used to be a monastery,the owner being the son of the man who invented Charlie perfume, dressed as some sort of female Robin Hood including tights. I shall never forget my efforts to get back to my flat unnoticed in Clerkenwell on a normally deserted Sunday morning and turning a corner and being confronted with the Italian community carrying the Virgin Mary and all the histrionics usually involved during this kind of scenario.

Friday, 13 February 2009

UNTITLED FOR NOW

Oh dear. Various exploits, a need to be outside and a wonderful cold which needed feeding in the same way you might nurture a Dundee cake before Christmas has lead me once again, nowhere. The blog remains unwritten and the too long short story I wanted to send off to the Writers' and Artists' comp. has been pushed aside with the vain hope it may be entered into the Bridport one instead. These and various bursts and snorts whilst reading Gussie Fink-Nottle's drunken prize giving are not good enough reasons for not writing but at least I am capable of saying that P.G. Wodehouse should be compulsive and compulsory reading if only to induce the feeling that in an ideal world everything would be all right................................

Yet no amount of P.G can save me from the modus operandi of classes 3A and B. It had a slight variation the other day in the shape of Carlos who in true Aragonese style refused to give me the tennis ball he'd been playing with for twenty minutes despite warnings and then kept a conversation of two sentences those being, 'Give me the ball' and "will you give it back?' for a good five minutes. I'm not sure if it was the 'will you give it back?' that inspired me to open the classroom door on retrieving the ball and lobbing it as far as my wearied self could permit which was in this case as far as the dole office that stands next to the school, the one that burnt down a few months ago, and which I presume is where Carlos is heading in a few year's time. I imagine here he will sign his name which will be followed by an exclamation or question mark. The look of shock on the faces of the other reprobates assured me of a class that resembled some kind of normality and Carlos can at least reassure himself, thank his lucky stars and starts in life that it wasn't him that I turfed across the playground towards the labour exchange. Apart from Carlos the school itself leaves a lot to be desired and I am not sure if I want to get started on this one except one would have to travel far, say to Omsk, to see misery on this scale.

On a lighter note I have just been reading about something that might be the perfect murder, although only in Spain. It is something out of an Almodovar film. A young man has just been let off for murdering his father because he wasn't, while he was killing him, ' the owner of his actions' or rather, he wasn't all there on account of the magic mushrooms he had wolfed down before he bumped off his dad.The story ended that the murder took place in the early hours a couple of years back in September at the start of the fiestas of Saint Matthew in case you were wondering.

Lastly, one of the reasons I can't continue to write is due to a certain vicar called Peter Owen-Jones who has captured my imagination with his Around the World in Eighty Faiths which is now on the tele. More of him at a later date.Toodle pip.x

Saturday, 7 February 2009

NAME AND SHAME

As well as community meetings there are any number of reunions going on at any time in this town. They usually involve a certain amount of stored up annoyances and thorns in flesh. The latest is the distribution of female names for streets. While this was being thrashed out another was being held on why there are still streets without names and how is the post going to arrive?The former argument had the meeting's members splitting hairs over the present streets and how most of them are named after virgins and what are we going to do about this? Nest door they were more concerned with why there has never been a street or square named after the town.

There are lots of excuses for not writing, but as I stared at my vino tinto and slippered feet last night I should have known any attempt to get words down would be thwarted sooner or later by histrionics of one form or another. Earlier Mercedes my neighbour and owner of the infamous Piti threatened to brain me and Henderson with her walking stick for not being in when she needed us most. Leaving her keys at home and then returning she remembered we had another set on account of Piti's anti-social behaviour and Henderson's means of keeping him in check. Us not being at home meant she had to schlep across town to Ramon y Cajal, the street named after the nobel laureate, son of Aragon and supposed greatest neuroscientist of all time who was imprisoned age eleven for blowing up the town's gate, to a bar where her husband Anselmo thought he had found the perfect hide-out from it all and demanded the other set from him. Later when Anselmo returned I could hear a scenario building up when the street door wouldn't open and Mercedes had to go downstairs and let him in. Locking herself out again and then coming to me to borrow the other set of keys only to find the originals were stuck in the keyhole on the other side. The other side being that bit of home that is often so near yet so far. Locksmiths were rung, Mercedes went to one neighbour and Anselmo with me and my plans to poison Piti were called off when his face appeared registering disbelief. Later when the locksmith had gone and everyone had returned to their own homes in time for supper I realised Anselmo is probably the only man in this town to have watched Top Gear and Eastenders which he seemed to suffer with a certain amount of calm. I thought at one point he may be hypnotised until he turned and said he wasn't interested in anything on TV unless it was football or a war film. I also heard him mutter something about if it had been him locking everyone out he would have been out on his ear and I find my sympathies lie with him and not for the first time.

Getting back to the streets, I have just remembered there is a street here called Disappointment Street and another called Sigh Street which I think sums it up and instead of names of women the council should be thinking of streets with a less sombre feel about them. Names in keeping with the Aragonese spirit like Pugnacious Avenue or Stubborn Lane or No Tenacity of Purpose Crescent.

Finally, I can say with some expertise which comes inevitably from being a Brit abroad, that the Brits are a hapless lot who don't seem to recognise the important things in life and don't seem to know how to deal with the weather without whingeing. It usually concerns weather and always reminds me of some folk complaining about how their holiday in the Caribbean was ruined thanks to a storm. I do wonder about my fellow countrymen and women when I find myself listening to them suffering on account of the heavy snow they are experiencing. I have no sympathy at the moment for Hurricane Katrina it 'aint.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

CUANTO TIEMPO SIN VERTE

I can't believe I have neglected my blog for so long and am delighted I have a follower and comments in my absence. Also being stranded in the mountains waiting for the snowplough man to plough through a vat of absinthe when he should be clearing the roads doesn't help to get anything done, especially if you decide to join him.

On my return I discover my nemesis or nemesisis ( nemesi?) are still howling away. Between the mayor, classes 3A and B and Piti the poodle I feel like a cross between Michael Palin in GBH and A Fish Called Wanda with a bit of Herbert Lom thrown in. I hear the Palacio de Congresos has finally been put to use in the form of a Police conference about what to do during 'big events'. Big events being concerts and football matches for those locals zipped up at the back. I can't recall a 'big event' happening here but I have touched on the town's ability to think itself bigger and better than anywhere else in the universe. I can't think who would be troubled enough to go to this conference unless it is the police force and that would explain the recent crime 'wave' we have had this month. Then I read that no, actually crime is down according to someone who is a sub-delegate of I guess local government. One Ramon Zapatero tried to reassure peeved locals with the latest figures comparing crime with last year's but he couldn't deny that most folk can't be bothered to call the police as nothing is ever done. Our mayor who is a co-president of the local Junta claims the police will be 'modifying' some of their 'work criteria' in an attempt to bring security to the streets. There will be more police on the beat he reckons. Vamos a ver.

And so they were this morning as they spent forty mintes trying to tow away a car that had crashed into, knocked down and parked over the bollard that had been planted outside our flats by the council several times in an attempt to prevent people from parking there. I was spoilt for choice beteen this and the alcoholic tramps who turned up to watch and the irate woman driver who found herself trapped in the ensuing traffic jam and spent her time honking, shouting at the police and rummaging through her shopping bags and admiring what looked like the weirdest high heeled shoes I have ever seen. I wondered what had possessed her to buy them and how happy the owner of the car being towed away once was when he lovingly placed a green Champions League beer towel across his dashboard not knowing what the future would have in store as he did so. He was later seen sprinting down the street and doing the inevitable which is give the police a bollocking and 'what about all the other cars parked on the skew whiff?'

As each day passes I fear the dreaded community meeting. As if I don't have enough to worry about this annual event ( big one, may need riot police) starts to rumble before it kicks off sometime later this month in the local community hall. Like a plane journey I wonder if I will survive it and if I don't I hope someone out there stands up as some kind of witness to my anguish. Trouble is brewing and the natives are not happy. Everytime I see one of them in the hallway they are livid and possess the kind of stare which only furthers my apprehension. Buds were not nipped with the 'punkies' and their cohorts, the letter boxes remain broken and Piti is asking for a poisoning or beating of some kind if he doesn't shut up.I can see why people take up arms.

Talking of which, I am surprised no one has taken out the likes of Gordon Brown, Fuld and Greenspan. How long will it be before some disgruntled jobless nutcase decides to shoot them and those at the Royal Bank of Scotland who still have jobs and are set to get millions for fear they may change those jobs and go with other banks and thus ruin this one?

On a lighter note today is Saint Agatha or Santa Agueda, the patron saint of breasts and women in general. It was a year ago that I found myself in the arms of mountain women and caught up in a conga snaking around to the strains of the local 'orchestra' by villagers who seem to leave their homes once a year to go mental on this day.