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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

I'M BLACK AND I'M PROUD

The last days at the camp were best spent amongst other things, dancing around to the tunes of the hardest working man in showbusiness, the late great Mr James Brown. Adriana, seven, from Madrid asked me if I wouldn't mind sending her a copy for her birthday next January. I was so taken with this kid that I made her the copy that night and along with several copies of The Beano I delivered the next day. It made me wonder what things make children so happy. Why we as adults delight in their happy faces. Watching them perform on the stage brought a 'weep I know why' feeling and even Henderson had a proud father look about him. Good mates, love of animals, dancing and not dancing, sweet things, sleep, feeling safe, trying new things, not being bored. Not much different from us old ones then.

I tried an experiment and it worked. I wrote glib remarks, far glibber than the ones I write here, on someone else's blog to see if I could get some interest other than you Laurel, Marge, Gary or Justin if you are all still there/here. It worked but I still need a week to work out how to run this blog properly and not just have it as something to let's face it, entertain myself. If I were to write anything of worth or start to wind up the mayor, the locals, the various political parties etc I might gain a readership but I don't care. Like staring at a fat man in a check suit when you realise nothing matters.

Anyway, the blog has helped me to write other things off piste so that's the main thing. Only to be viewed when and if.

Being at the camp has left me feeling spaced out on my return to our humble little town. The council still hasn't started any of the proposed pedestrianisation. There is a plaza round the corner which has some buildings about to collapse so the council has decided to pull them down before the big fiesta of San Lorenzo. They have also decided to stop traffic through the centre of town on Saturdays or some Saturdays. It won't kick in till after San Lorenzo. It is a pilot to see how folk cope but it is more like an 'easing in' of change as some people don't like the idea of cars being prohibited in the centre of town. For selfish reasons I would like it to happen as my road is part of the big plan here and the Plaza Alfonso El Batallador one of my favourite squares and in desperate need of care and attention. This plan has been on the cards for at least ten years. It will be interesting to see how long it takes. Don't hold your breath.

Friday, 24 July 2009

UNTITLED

Due to unforseen circumstances we both held up the cake shop..............The story behind this is a long one but let's just say this household will be gorging itself on Pastel Vasco, Pan de San Lorenzo, Roscillas, Tarta Queso con regaliz, Merengue de Limon, Bizcocho Chocolate con Albariqoque among others for the next few days. It will also help out with the expense of the fish lunch that was thrown in the bin with tears but not on my part. Confused? Not as confused as I am for as well as cake scenes we have to deal with a family next door that insists on screaming every day around three and the effing bleeders coming home drunk and having their five thousand and thirty fifth argument. They average three a day so after seven years it must run into the thousands.

Anyway, The Irish have left with grey hair and one of them has probably gone bald due to the stress of the summer camp. I am sure some wagons have been leapt back on. I haven't had the time to write as I am too busy heading towards one of two favourite places, bed. The other one being a bar with a good view and no jukebox.The children in the other summer camp seem more chilled out and their level of English is higher so at least you can have a diverting time. I am convinced that the better their English gets the more eccentric they become. They start to display characteristics that are so un-chavlike if there is such a word. Like not shouting and having more patience than the rest. That old chestnut 'reserve' comes into the equation although I am now convinced it isn't reserve or being 'cold' it is respect for other people's space. They are usually the ones to give out to the others who hold the certificate to do exactly what they like when they like.

Friday, 17 July 2009

BRING ON THE OLD RAZZLE DAZZLE

I think I need what has become the word of the week, an Amanuensis or slave secretary. Having been entombed in a giant white pyramid that can probably be seen from space with 40 amateur actors and all the dress rehearsals that go with it I don't seem to have the chance to write or have a life even. Well, today all the histrionics and attempts to copy Laurel and Hardy were thrown aside and the pupils put their hearts and souls into putting on a lovely show which seemed to delight their parents and leave me thinking if I can do this I can do anything. This is after being snubbed by some parents of a surly pupil who left me feeling like the stage villain and being asked to get the kids to perform the Macarena with speaking parts when all I thought I would be doing is teaching and getting thm to perform the Hungry Caterpillar. I hate performing in front of people and got that awful stage fright mixed with the feeling that the floor was moving about two minutes before reading out the story. The only reassuring thing for me during moments like this is the fact we will all be dead in a hundred years time. It all reminds me of those heady days working in the West End theatres and having a theatre manager who would often be short staffed and that was just his state of mind. Like the summer camp I worked with many who were unable to string a sentence together in English but the show would still go on.

With all the drama I forgot to mention the recently christened and now very recently deceased Midge. A couple of weeks ago I found myself sitting up in the wee small, unable to, but with a cup of tea sitting on the sofa with the morning light and first blush of and all that creeping in when I suddenly saw a small object race across the floor. My initial thought was I had developed the DTs and shot off the sofa to check the small orb and my heart rate. We have a resident spider so I thought it must be him. A few nights later I thought I saw it again and put it down to campus fatigue. It wasn't till a few evenings later when Henderson screamed out that we had a mouse in the house, in the same way he did when a lizard entered and I was made to feel as though I had invited it in for tea, that I knew it wasn't my usual paranoia. It has taken a while and a lot of cheek and cheese, but sadly, last night he got it. Despite the mouse droppings and knowing we absolutely can't have him I felt a pang of sadness and loss that only an English person or Bhuddist would feel towards such a small thing.

There is a woman called Arlene Phillips who has been a judge on some dancing programme and she has been dumped for someone younger to represent the show. She is the sort of person that probably went to the Lionel Blair School of Thought. You know, Tap Dance Your Way Through Life or something like that. She was on the TV during my breakfast and was heard to say something like 'if only people would dance at least 30 minutes every morning they would have such a better day and all that'. Well I can and I do and then I feel exhausted so don't listen to her. I hope I never hear Heads and Shoulders Knees and Toes ever again.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

CAMP AS A ROW OF.

Class started on time but then the cleaner asked if the kids could take the sheets and pillowcases off their beds so that was another twenty minutes gone.I'm trying to do The Very Hungry Caterpillar the stage version and of course no one listens. Kids are falling off the stage, they are touching equipment the electricians have left lying around. The builders are drilling next door and upstairs and it smells as if something is burning. We went back to the classroom and the builders had taken the door off its hinges so the kids decided to hide behind it, then poor Enrique who is nine and on medication knocked a glass over and then sat in a corner picking some of the sixty insect bites he has received in the last week. The dust from the building work started to leave a thick film of dirt and dust on every surface so the kids had to clean the tables and I swept the floor but it was a waste of time as later the dust was back. Then there was a punch up between Macarena and Javier. That was after Luis had scratched Javier and Javier booted Luis. There was an argument about a certain bird of prey called a Quebrantahuesos ('bone breaker') or Bearded Vulture which lives in the Pyreness and whether it drops its prey from a great height or only the bones. That went on till I told them to put a sock in it and for that I am a Fascist and a 'Bruja' a witch or just a plain old cow. The Irish teachers are all in shock and worried they are going grey. There is also a conference going on at the camp with 300 Chinese Christians and the kids are running around making 'slitty eyes' and telling me it's 'horrible' this 'invasion' from China and how the Chinese have probably brought Bird Flu with them and one boy was convinced he had it and kept showing me his hands as they had little bumps on them. Meanwhile a girl had developed a strange rash on her chest and another was asking me how to pronounce words she had written down and another was screaming in my ear. All this in one morning and this is how it is every morning with slight variations. I keep trying to reassure the Irish that this is 'normal' and nothing compared to some of the camps I've done here with some real horror stories but they just tell me they feel like zombies and want to go back to Ireland as soon as poss.

To lighten the mood I reminded them that being in the camp meant they didn't get news from home so they had been spared the story of the Irish man who chopped down a tree and saw Mary Mother of God in what was left of the stump. At a push it looked like the outline of a nun but still people came from miles to touch and kiss it.

It has been so hot about 35 degrees or more depending where and when you are standing and a couple of times I got that sensation of falling or fainting and had to catch myself quickly. Roll on next week.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

HOLY COW BATMAN

A man was gored to death yesterday by a bull in Pamplona or perhaps it should be the bull gorged itself on the man. Either way it is certainly a way to go. Died in his sleep is for neurotics like me. The thing that always amazes me is that the Spanish tele will play the scenario over and over again, even reversing the footage back and forth making it look like a programme by Harry Hill or Benny Hill for that matter. One of the presenters was chuckling away at the incident although I can't see what's so funny about it all. Later I read some of the comments from people who had written into the various British newspapers who wrote about the death and it was full of glib remarks like 'serves him right bloody idiot', 'one for the bulls' , 'wish more had been taken' and 'Spain should never have been allowed to join the EU'. There were also some comments about the loss of life in Afghanistan and today I heard eight more soldiers have died in the last twenty four hours. It's amazing and interesting what people will risk their lives for and even more 'halucinante' what is considered brave or stupid.


Talking of stupid I watched the Jonathon Ross Show last night. I'm not a fan but even he seemed frozen to the spot when one of his guests, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood who is also famous for never watching the tele, invited herself on the show as she felt it was absolutely imperative she warned us all of something. It turns out that she has recently discovered via James Lovelock that the earth is heating up, that we can reverse it and if not, in the future there will be about a billion of us left to survive and all the rest of the horror that goes with it. I think the message here is that if Vivienne had watched the tele she might have known what we all already know and think about each and every day as we keep switching lights off, recycling, changing our lifestyles etc. For God's sake tell us what to do and we will do it! I guess the other message is if you are thinking of becoming a fashion designer be warned. I've met loads of them and they are as thick as some of the locals here and dress as bad too.

The following guest was James May from the Top Gear Programme. A man who thanks to technology has flown 70,000 feet in the air and 'seen' space. He also saw the curve of the earth and wept and knew why when he got what he called a 'hippy moment' as he gazed down from up there with all the emotion you would expect if you had the chance to see it. I hate flying but I would love to be able to do this and whether you like it or not, the message here is we need people like James May and his colleagues as they make the best and most imformative programmes on what hopefully will see the demise of the petrol run car. You will thank him.


Tuesday, 7 July 2009

YOU WANTED TO PLAY SILLY BUGGERS PART ONE

Today Henderson said he wanted to watch the Spanish tele and this can only mean one thing, San Fermin has started. This has become a yearly pilgrimage where he roars with laughter at the 'pocas luces' who think it's a good idea to run with not the brightest of animals but one of the heaviest while I have to leave the room or cover my eyes as the advancing years permit me to see it all too clearly without opening them. That the world is full of people who are determined to win The Darwin Award. When I was given the all clear I couldn't help notice some young men quickly drag away a supine figure lying in the middle of the bull ring. He looked as if someone had left him there the night before and probably had. Either that or he was dead, nobody seemed to notice. While making the coffee Henderson thought I needed to know that the man on the tele had said ' and here's Fulanita counting up the casualties (pause) ... she's still counting' or words to that effect.

Despite having a lot on my mind I still find room for some things that seem to be unexplainable. Like what happened to the girls who were supposed to have blown up a house in Willesden with a homemade bomb last year? A man was killed and it was all to do with some love rival. Why can't I find anything on the Internet?

Meanwhile the summer camps continue. I'm now at both and I am not imagining what I have said before about the miniature 'Fatos' that seem to prevail at one of them. I also had my powers of observation confirmed. A talent or a curse I have inherited from my other who was trained by The Mossad. There is a guy working at one of the camps and I told Henderson that I thought there was 'something' about him. We often wonder about some of the other people who work at these camps and often they are young women from England or Ireland travelling around Europe or practising their Spanish but occasionally we get male misfits like the guy last year who was dreadful with the kids and got the sack after playing a 'game' where they had to look into his dirty laundry bag complete with his smalls amongst other anti-social pervy acts. This time my perception was that this new guy was ex-military. I was convinced. Nothing wrong with that. Just a thought. Then Henderson asked me to guess what this guy did before and that it wasn't the army. 'Not a policeman?' I was heard to cry. Yes, an ex-copper. The plot thickens..........................


Monday, 6 July 2009

UNTITLED

You get accustomed to your surroundings and the way of life here and this is a good thing I suppose, until you do a summer camp and the other teachers who are new to this game start pointing things out that you now accept as 'normal'. This happened yesterday when we greeted the new pupils at the summer camp being held at a school called 'Piramide', Pyramid, on account of its spectacular architecture, and a Mauritian girl started to ask me if I had seen the state of the floor at the entrance. I hadn't as most floors look like this most of the time. In fact most pavements too where I live. She had had to bring in some rugs from her house where she now lives here in Huesca to cover up the lump of concrete pretending to be a floor. Then she asked if I had seen the ceiling. Most of it wasn't there and it wasn't until Henderson pointed out that he was surprised we had walls that I began to question how native I have become. Outside I noticed that most of the paving stones and other parts of the school looked as though they had been deliberately dug up in a bid to create work. It must be part of Zapatero's Plan E as this town has received most of the financial assistance from the government to what is it? Kick start the economy? Save jobs? Create jobs? I still don't have what I call a pavement on the street where I live. About three inches of concrete where people in wheelchairs and mums with pushchairs hang on the side everytime a car screams by. I remember when I first came here about eight years ago being worried when a kid ran into a glass door and knocked part of it out and when I told the teacher I was assisting he just gave it a quick kick and pushed it back into place for the next accident.

The same was with the way we greeted the parents and pupils. Again, it wasn't till a Welshman asked me why we had to have three different tables to deal with the formalities that I realised this was another example of job creation civil servant style. The parents and their kids were greeted by several monitors and the director of the camp. Then they went to one of the tables, depending if the pupil was a boy or girl. Here they had to hand over their mobiles, any money and to get their name badge. This was explained by me and another teacher on the other desk but sometimes it was explained by about five different people all appearing out of nowhere and putting the badges on the kids or writing their names on the envelopes, or sticking labels on the mobiles, something one person could do easily. A hindrance in other words and and a wonderful example of how not to do things. Then I had to tell them to walk over to another desk where they had to give their medical card and any medicines to another person. It is all reminiscent of any trip to do any paperwork here in Spain where you are sent from one department to another before you finally get the thing you want.

Having said all this, the Spanish are masters at getting it done albeit at the last minute, or the last hour as people say here. I remember a story about the mayoress of Valencia at midnight ordering some workmen to carry on planting some flowers or stick something together and the next day everything looked fine and wonderful. It does leave you worried about the walls though.........................

Sunday, 5 July 2009

IN LA GRANJA WITH THE GHOST OF ORWELL

I still can't look at an orange without feeling perturbed. The dread felt when you are expected to do something against your will and then the relief when the day ends and you escape, hinged and intact. Despite my reluctance to look at citrus fruits I was advised to drink some lemon drink when half the summer camp fell ill and the boss Carmen found herself rushing off to 'urgencias' with her small car loaded with me and green faced nine year olds. When it was my turn to see the doc and explain how I felt I wanted to just say, 'look, there's nothing you can do is there? This is just a reaction to the heat we are living in'. She listened to my chest and back with the stethascope which Henderson says is the biggest con as unless you have the lungs of a miner nothing can be gathered. She also looked into my eyes with a bright light, asked me the usual and sent me on my way with a bottle of the dreaded lemon drink and advised a lie down. A room in the summer camp was provided and instead of classes I lay listening to the sounds of so many birds and the chatter of the kids as they recovered quickly and set off for more fun and games. I could hear them from my darkened room practising their English as they sauntered by. The shutters were open slightly in the room and so a small chink of light played with their shadows as they walked by the window. It was an eerie moment as it looked like their souls were dancing along the walls. Or maybe it was just my heat exhaustion coupled with a permanent, vivid imagination.

On the subject of vivid imaginings, I had a dream that I had gone to the baker's here and asked for plasters. This is not such a strange request as in this town there are numerous shops which sell their wares and a line in products that have no bearing on the shop name. There is a shop here that only sells bleach and eggs, and I have seen another that sells bread of a certain shape but I have never seen anyone buy the stuff. It might be because, as Henderson once pointed out, the proprietor sits there with his hands tucked under his armpits all day. Anyway, in the dream I asked for the plasters and the owner gave me a knowing look and handed me a brown envelope. As I left the shop I looked inside the envelope and saw a fake passport and several cheques for huge amounts. It all reminds me of a record shop in Soho years ago where you could ask for a certain Charlie Mingus LP and get some hash. There was another record shop that sold dance records of the day and had an old woman sitting behind the counter who knew what you were looking for if you could hum it.

Leaving La Granja behind for two weeks we are now going to be stationed in another school where we will be teaching kids from this province. No oranges I hope and not too many lessons in politeness.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

IS JEREMY PAXMAN A FATO?

I often say I can't speak for the rest of Spain when it comes to the goings on and going ons here. However, I do have enough experience teaching kids from outside this province to be convinced that we may be living in the most backward, ignorant and brutish part of Spain. Many would get the hump over this and argue the merits of the joint and I would agree, up to a point. Until you have seen the startling difference in attitudes directed towards one's fellow human beings you will presume the whole of Spain is littered with boorish oiks and gobby, tunnel visioned smarty pants. The word Fato I have mentioned before and it needs to be reminded to all that down the road in Zaragoza they call the locals here in Huesca this name. Fatuous and full of self importance. Mix this with a narrow minded view of the world and you get the picture. It's a similar feeling that must have been aroused when the Conservatice MP Michael Gove accused Jeremy Paxman of being obtuse on Newsnight recently.

While some folk here might get their jotas in a twist my friend Jon from Bilbao often reminds me that there are plenty of others who are proud of being a burro, or pigheaded to be precise. Another friend, Angeles assures me that there is evidence of this throughout Spain but it seems to excel here. She told me the other day that here if you ask someone not to do something you think is wrong, like throw stuff out the window, bellow in someone's face, snatch something out of another's hands, run people over etc you will often be hit with the response ' Y tu?, and you? Henderson who has lived all over the planet tells me that he has never come up against the old two wrongs don't make a right school of thought as much as he has here. I must confess I do find it all quite draining and am making an effort not to justify, explain or deny my actions to incompetents. We have oiks back home, in fact we call them chavs and we probably possess more than the Spanish so we should be proud but it doesn't mean I can't have an opinion just because I am not from this town.There is an advert around town which roughly translated is all about being respectful to others and the town, not to paint grafitti, wear a crash helmet, you know normal civil behaviour. The ad implies that the other person does all these normal cringeworthy things and leaves the ignoramus thinking 'and me? what do I do?' I doubt if anyone has read it except those who don't need to be told.

When I mention my blog and some of the stuff I write some people here get all worried and say 'oh, you shouldn't write that' and give me an even more perturbed look as if I might get my head kicked in. I find it very empowering and hysterical, the idea that one of these Fatos could believe for a minute that someone whose ancestors fought Nazis amongst other derring does might be lying in bed at night shitting themselves in case said oaf might beat me up one day. Besides, you don't have to be a foreigner and have a point of view to stir up old hatreds and bitterness here. Bring it on.