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Saturday, 30 January 2010


I thought it was rather fitting yesterday that the school where I work celebrated El Dia del Paz or Peace Day while Tony Blair tried to save his soul for six hours. While he continued to justify his decisions the pupils of San Viator danced albeit a bit North Korea style to the sounds of John Lennon singing Imagine. If ever there was a song to fill me with inertia this one wins everytime but the sentiment was there and I asked some of the other teachers why every day couldn't be peace day when Don Jesus cajoled me into dancing and that's when I realised I am glad it isn't if it means tripping the light fantastic around a playground. I hate the group thing here in Spain as it is difficult when you have lived beyond the fringe for so many years. It did feel strange as we all wafted around the playground with Our John singing over the Tannoy. On a more surreal note, I overheard one boy ask another 'who sang the song?' 'what song?' the other asked. 'The peace song, you know, Imagine'. 'Oh that' he said. 'Un negro'. A black man.

Every week the local paper on the internet tries to glean the mentality of its readership by offering them a question which they can give their opinion with a click on the old mouse. This week they want to find out what the locals think about the idea of raising the retirement age to 67. At the last count 22% thought this was inevitable while 78% thought it was a bad idea as it was an 'aggresion on the rights of workers' or something like that. I suppose it depends on which job you do but most people in this town can't wait to retire at 50 and spend the rest of their life bored or in the bar. I intend to keep working on or at something till I am too old to and 67 seems too young for me but we'll see when I get there and if they still want me, and how much money I will or won't have.

Having said goodbye to my salad days I am not sure if I have entered my cake or wine years or perhaps both. The best cake shop here is called Vilas and I have found out they have WI-FI so it will make a nice change to have cake and coffee before or after writing instead of tapas and red wine.

Lastly, a loudspeaker or Tannoy on top of a van can mean one of two things in Spain,. Either the circus is in town or elections are imminent. If you hear it coming from a school playground you'd better hide in the toilets.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Not much going on in the town apart from the PP ( Partido Popular) retorts on the all talk no action regarding the pedestrianisation I have given up on. Also seen an old blog back in May when I stupidly told some friends they would soon pedestrianise the road we were then sitting in. Not the friends, although getting them to do it would be a lot quicker. It's a road that consists of broken tiles that were set in a previous attempt to civilize the town, perhaps in the seventies judging by the colour. It reminds me of a comment I once read on Andorra. It will be nice when it is finished.

I read in the local paper that the workplace where you are most likely to die in this province is the service sector. This was accompanied by a photo of a waiter taking an order in what looked like the cafe in the park. I can't imagine how they die but I would have thought teaching had a higher mortality rate judging by my stress levels thanks to the unreasonable behaviour of classes 4A and B. Today's second attempt at doing a 'show and tell' turned into a scene from Monty Python.

I mentioned before the 'easing in' of new habits and customs here in Spain. "Easing in' or 'eased in' has to be pronounced with a certain long drawn out voice that makes you sound a bit constipated I suppose or the sound you might make if a shoe horn was involved. Anyway, this 'easing in' also includes learning English and in some parts of Spain this is still way behind countries like Portugal which is next door but never mentioned like an unwelcome cousin.

Forgot to mention that the ice that lay between me and Mercedes has appeared to have thawed a little. I have been dodging her for weeks now running up alleys and darting round corners like some caped maniac. This is one of the perils of living in a village and one of the delights of living in a big city the bumping in or not of people you are keen to avoid. It was inevitable that she would shimmy round the corner, and it is always the same bloody corner, with mutt in tow. The other night I had had a couple of 'sharpeners' and wasn't in the mood but was ready for anything when we collided on the street where we live. Pleasantries were exchanged, questions on where I had been were asked and then she told me of her latest ailment which involves her eyes to which I very ungallantly asked 'are you blind?' I think it is a deep seated memory of an old woman in Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals who had so many ailments which makes me respond in a pitiless (Ha!) way. That or my own increasing pains and love of rehearsing them.

Monday, 25 January 2010


Woke up with the words 'lie low on a lilo off the coast of my imagination' in my head which made sense for a few seconds. Then I wondered if I should title today's blog Mein Kampf or Candide. While most days feel like a struggle the best way to deal with them is to imagine that 'all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds', even if you have to deal with class 4B.

The local rag has been bleating on about what used to be a bugbear of mine but lately involves me not holding my breath. Yes it's that time of year again when the paper reports on the soon to be pedestrianisation of the 'old quarter', which somehow includes our 'barrio'. It is all part of what I call the 'easing in' of things that in other parts of the world are not seen as a problem. The Spanish need to be 'eased in' with many things like when it comes to not smoking in bars. Everywhere else they just got on with it, here it is seen as an abuse of people's rights, those of the smokers. People often feel they were better off under Franco when they could drive without thinking or seat belts and smoke like bastards. The 'easing in' of pedestrianisation here involves many years of writing and talking about it and then threats that certain roads will be cut off to traffic on certain days. When this has passed the council repeats it all again a few times over the years and then they start naming roads. Then the words'imminent' start to appear in the articles. As anyone who lives in this town knows, this could mean somewhere in your grandaughter's lifetime if she is lucky. I found a Facebook page devoted to this subject. It had the rather confusing name of 'are you fed up with everyone talking about the pedestrianisation of our town?' which lead me to think it was for people who had alternative ideas and planned on doing something wild and interesting. It has been on the web for a few years now but despite having a quite a few members few of them had written anything. The latest comment bemoaned the state of the town and compared it to Africa. There was also a comment form someone young who was lamenting the noise that comes from those other bastards who ride around on mopeds and up the noise they make. Her solution was to turn her tele up even though her neighbour would start to complain. And on it goes. I am sure the group was set up with a lot of gusto and ambition but like a lot of things here the idea just fizzled out. Watch and wait.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


We've only been back a week or so and we have had two saints celebrated. Tomorrow is Saint Vincent which reminds me I had better wish our friend Vincente from Bilbao a Happy Saint's Day. Meanwhile, The Spanish appear to be burning someone at the stake while I sit here in one of my favourite bars, Pinxos, and resume two of my hobbies, drinking and writing. As my friend Les Mascarenhas says 'who do you think you are? 'ernest bloody Hemingway?'

A rest is needed if I am to continue avoiding Mercedes who I think will never forgive me for sorting out one drama in her life namely Piti the Bloody Poodle. Other episodes I need to recover from include certain members of Classes 4A and B who have succeeded in turning me into Basil Fawlty again. 'No Cleese in class' Henderson keeps warning me but I nearly thrashed them again with a big branch. A new private pupil is becoming a bit of a problemo with his teenage angst and attitude starting to grate. 'Don't do it' are the words of advice from Henderson and I am beginning to follow them. It always amazes me how different pupils can be despite their similarities in age and upbringing. Some make you feel as though the sun has come out to shine while others fill you with inertia.

Living here in the foothills of The Pyrenees is often lovely but there is always a sacrifice or forfeit. Lack of a support network that often takes years to build up and is always taken for granted till you realise you don't really have one is somehting I miss. Sad as it sounds, I am grateful for Facebook as it has helped me to get in touch with so many like minded souls I left behind in London. The family is still intact in countries like Spain and makes for a better society on the whole, but if yours isn't here it can be difficult at times. On a positive note, Britains have managed to build up institutions and networks all over the world that are there if needed. The trick is to not isolate yourself too much from a culture that despite what people back home think, is often very civilised and comforting to know and embrace the new one with gusto.

Saturday, 16 January 2010


Two things struck me on my recent sojourn to Britain and that is how fat and aggresive people have become since my last visit a few months back. On they keep going so much so that they seem to line any space they occupy. Like the woman who wound down the car window and started to bellow at another who made the mistake of stepping out in front of the car in which she wasn't even driving. My fading memory is of me standing outside a curry house and the fat woman screaming about what she would do to the other woman never mind that it was dark, snowing and the car was in the wrong and oh yes, I could see some small petrified children in the back seat who looked as though they had been kidnapped. The next day there was a bit of a kerfuffle on a 261 bus outside Sainsbury's in Lee. As I steppped off the bus I could hear a passenger telling the bus driver that he hadn't even 'dignified THAT with an answer'. I presumed this was part of the Respect programme that is all the rage in Britain. As my foot left the bus the doors slammed shut and it, the bus, began to shout 'call the Police, this bus is under attack'. Everyone on the bus just leaned back and lined the walls with their apathy and looked out at me with an apathetic look which had a glimmer of 'don't bother' about it. I did ring the police but they didn't come and the youth got off the bus by opening the doors and then started to wrench the wing mirror off with all the strength he could harness.

Another thing that always makes me feel a bit alien and wondering why I hadn't noticed it before is the advertisments for beds as soon as the Christmas dinner is over. I have never met anyone who has bought a bed, they just seem to appear and no one remembers buying one. Those adverts sent one half of the couple we were staying with into an apoplectic fit when his wife said the reason we were sleeping in their bed was that they needed a new one and the one she had seen was 1,500 quid. There was one particular bed advert that started with the words 'do you need a new bed?' which I began to dread as much as another ad which had a man singing 'Go Compare' everytime it came on and I still don't know what he was trying to sell.

The time spent with the children of family and friends at Christmas was the best albeit short and I think I might be turning into one of those aunts whose moral obligation is eventually to take her nephews and nieces dog racing and maybe casinos. Children often only remember the food when you ask them how their day has been and need reminding of the other bits which always prove interesting, in one case the knowledge that astronauts have to wear nappies in space was remembered after a trip to The Science Musuem. I guess adults are no different as we can often only remember the drink.

So I guess I should be grateful that I returned with my life and have been greeted by a bunch of saints namely Anthony and Vincent. San Anton Abad or Anthony the Abbot, Anthony of Egypt will be celebrated once again in the morn with a blessing for the animals at the end of my road. A big bonfire and jacket potatoes always guarantees a crowd in Spain. Not much has happened here apart from the brouhaha at the local hop on New Year's Eve when about 140 coats went AWOL and the police were called in to investigate or rather 140 locals went and complained. I bet that kept them on their toes. It reminded me of my coat that went walkies and how I ended up going home on a freezing night from a bar here wearing someone else's. It was quite a nice coat but the sleeves were somewhere around my elbows so not a good swap. The nest day I got a call from my boss telling me my coat hand ended up in Monzon a small town miles away but the owner of the other coat worked locally and was waiting with mine to hand it over. I stuffed hers into an old plastic bag and when we met I am ashamed to say that she had lovingly prepared mine by folding and wrapping it neatly in some luxurious carrier.