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Monday, 22 February 2010

BOTTOMS UP

Our mayor seems to be keeping a low profile again. He can be usually found gracing the pages of the local chronicle, attending all the social events society has to offer or spotted leaving his armoured car with bodyguards in tow as he flits about town. It comes as no surprise and is possibly due to the fact that he owes me money, or rather the council does. This blog is not the only storytelling I indulge in and have a track record of. In the local library I have been entertaining the little ones on the last Saturday of every month with stories in English. This has been going on since last October but pay wise not so. I have been told that the council are slow to cough up, but can you imagine a 'funcionario' not being paid and the stink that would be kicked up? This morning I rang the library and they told me to ring the local cultural centre which is called the 'Matadero', the slaughterhouse on account of it having been an abbatoir at one stage and now people just end up dying on stage, and they sent me to the council who sent me to the treasury who told me that my money was 'pending', which of course it is. I suppose some people might think that having chosen to live in a country where I am not native involves a certain amount of giving in or acceptance. I've left the situation with the word 'pending' in my ears and it will be interesting to hear what words Henderson has to say when he hears about my lack of assertiveness on this episode.

I'm not sure whether to continue writing about the effing bleeder AKA El Borracho de Mierda. It will require a lie down before during and after so perhaps leave it for now eh? I really don't get people who don't enjoy a drink. Unlike a couple I met in South East London who are now in their seventies or eighties who like nothing better than a skinful but know how to entertain. I'm thinking of opening a pub in homage to them. The Rose and George. Last time I saw them I had to hide a bottle of whiskey in that cupboard that lives under the stairs in 1930's British houses because the alternative was to push throught the night with these two doyens of hedonism and wait for the ambulance to arrive.


Talking of doyens, I was watching the BAFTAS not long ago and towards the end an award was given to Vanessa Redgrave for her lifetime achievement or something like that and she went on to give a speech which reminded me so much of leisurely chats with one Mr Isherman at The Duchess Theatre London. I think she may have modelled herself on him or maybe it was the other way round. Anyway, the bit I'm getting at is the way the TV cameras often appear to be scouring the faces of the other actors sitting in the audience for help and suggest to me, the viewer, that all is not well with whoever it is up there stealing the scene and any moment someone will snap and leap on stage and drag them off while they witter on about Dickie and Terence and the rest of the gang.

I don't have much in common with Margaret Thatcher. Come to think of it, if she were here I would probably throw her from my balcony but like her, appeasement is not in my nature and I thought this when I heard a whimper from upstairs this morning. I feel the same when I enter classes 4A and B and also I shall feel this way on Monday evening when we have the dreaded community meeting. This all seems rather trivial when viewed on an international scale and I wonder what will hapen to The Flacklands or rather the other more well known Falklands ( I've got to get this spell check working again I suppose ) as I write this. There are times when I feel like heading there for some peace and quiet but I am not sure if this will be for long.

This blog is going to be the longest so far and not because I have anything to say but because I seem to have a huge blank space that I can't eliminate and I am now going to have to fill it in with more ramblings and trivia as I can't publish it looking like this. Well, here goes, let's see if I have enough rubbish in my head to write about something to get to the ned of the page. Or the end of.

Just found notebook and said ramblings include such nonsense as 'Low Carbon Cars, Fact Fiction or Folly?' This is followed by 'Molecules and the Tree of Life. Surprising revelations'. Underneath this I have written Brain Train Britain and Music to Moulin Rouge and Beswick Cow. It's like when I wake up in the morning with the letter B written on my hand or this week it was the number seven accompanied by the letter L. Any ideas?

I've just remembered that on my trip to Zaragoza I went to the tourist office and during the conversation about the tower nestling in the corner of the plaza I realised the young man attending to my needs hadn't asked me where I hailed from. He also gave me a map and info in Spanish. Maybe he thought I was Spanish was the first thing to spring to mind but this was all shattered when I returned home and went to the Eroski supermarket and enquired about my thousands of Travel Miles. The nice young girl there told me to get my desired Hoover via the internet as ringing meant getting through to an answer phone and with an accent like mine the machine would never understand. A few days later when entering a lift one of the locals enquired as to where I was from and even tried to help by asking me if I was Romanian.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

LAZY SUNDAY AFTERNOON, I GOT NO TIME TO WORRY.....

Although the ice thawed, communal warming is off again and I think I am entering an ice age with Mercedes. Her husband won't speak to me but manages to grunt an 'ola' when I pass him on the street. Whenever anyone says this to me I often want to cry 'ole!' but so far have managed to keep this outburst under wraps. When people say 'hombre!' when we meet after some time has passed between us I have to suppress an urge to cry 'mujer!' Anyway, the community meeting can't be far off and Mercedes is poised to be 'La Presidenta' for the coming year. This should prove interesting. I remember when the 'effing bleeder' next door turned up at one of the meetings pissed out of his head and ready to rock and roll because he thought he was next in line and the rest of the residents just chorused 'no way!' and he had to leave with his tail between his legs. Pissed but bolshy, he thought he was going to rule us all for 365 days but apparently residents can decide whether a person is fit to run things or not. The 'effing bleeder' AKA 'borracho de mierda' by the other neighbours has 'mucha fama' in this town, mainly for being an absolute drunkard and all the antics that go with, but also because he is supposed to have embezzled Santander Bank while working in one of their more rural branches. A man deprived of humour and possessed with such rancour that some of the male neighbours even suggested giving him a bit of a kicking at one of the many emergency meetings called in the last few years. I realise I have had a sheltered life as I have never really met anyone like this before. Someone who robs a bank while working in one and then buttonholes you in the lift to tell you that unlike him you still have to pay your mortgage off. He stole evryone's post by breaking into their letterboxes and then decided it might be fun to shed some clothes and parade around his balcony in his birthday suit. This was only the beginning of the end. All the residents denounced him or reported him to the proper authorities but getting 'multas' or fines didn't deter him, it only seemed to spur him on in his belief that he could do what he wanted.

And on that note I must stop as I feel too traumatised to continue without applying some eau de cologne to my wrists rather than slash them.


Friday, 19 February 2010

MAD ROBIN

Yesterday I found myself in Zaragoza, a city about an hour away where atheists would probably exclaim 'God is dead' if they found themselves there. I am sure the good people of Zaragoza love their city but it is difficult to find the heart of this strange place. I went on a bit of a wander and I think I may have found it although it was a fleeting moment while I stood beside the cathedral of San Salvador waiting to be saved. This is a city I need to explore more to have anything to say about it. It held the Expo not long ago and evidence of this can be found with its ski lifts, aqua themes and discarded lumps of concrete lying around. Anyway, I timed it all wrong and everything was closed so in a fit of pique I decided to find IKEA with as much stubborness as I could muster from my compadres and ended up on the outskirts of Zaragoza exclaiming 'where have I brought myself?' I must be the only person left in Europe who can't drive and so have no guilt when it comes to carbon footprints but having the IKEA experience has only made me want to learn and burn as many fossil fuels as possible before I die. I was thinking of writing to that Jeremy Clarkson and asking him if that bloke The Stig could teach me. Combined with the lame bus service down in Dorset where my parents live yesterday's experience does make you feel like getting wheels. Anyway, my first experience with IKEA, which let's face it was an attempt to shop away from the petit bourgeoise ones we have here, left me wanting to run back to said dear old provincially squeamish vendors. I can't stand being watched from behind by someone who is supposed to be working while I attempt to scan a bar code and make a financial transaction myself. This was all a failure and I was sent to the back of a large queue with loads of people in front of me who presumably were expected to put their furniture together themselves. It all harks back to the times of knit your own yoghurt and in the end I had a 'funny turn' and left without buying anything. Thankfully this is Spain and I recovered by going to the nearest bar and ordered myself a 'penalty' for once again failing in my attempt to participate in rampant consumerism.

Changing the subject, a colleague of Henderson remarked that he ought to watch Spanish tele if he was ever to improve his dreadful Spanish. 'I hope', I said to him, 'that you told this colleague of yours about the first four or five years here where the choice was flee to the bar or sit through hour after hour of shite that included lengthy discussions on anal sex and or men dressed as eggs being chased around a bullring by a pissed off calf with the mens' families cheering them on'. Men having anal sex while being cheered on by their families probably wouldn't go amiss either. Many a night Henderson would call me away from a decent book to inform me that I 'had to see this', only for it to be some people dressed as skittles being knocked down by an enormous punch bag or worse, Jerry Springer dubbed in Spanish. Thankfully we managed to get a digibox and we can watch the shite that emits from British tele, but it is a better quality of shite and has the added bonuses of Newsnight, Have I Got News For You and a host of other comedy, especially satire like The Thick of It. Sometimes, just to keep an eye on them, I watch Aragonese tele when Henderson is out and everytime I have tuned in there seems to be another programme devoted to that unmentionable, the dreaded Jota, which is, I suppose better than lengthy talks on buggery. It is a song and dance of sorts, something that is supposed to instill or install some sort of pride but ends up not unlike Burns night which Rab C Nesbitt described as 'Nuremberg with kilts'. I would describe the Jota as some sort of gung-ho care in the community with hankie on head. Sadly, there is always plenty of interest in this kind of rustic, hodclopping pastime and one doesn't dare to admit to loathing it as provincial pride is sacred in these parts. I guess I can admit to not liking it as an outsider and someone who believes you can know who you are without resorting to this sort of ridiculous behaviour but also because I was forced to learn Country Dancing as a child, the country in question being England and the teacher a certain Miss Trimble who was authentic 'old school' and whose mission seemed to be getting the youth of that day to be happy while careering round an assembly room chirping 'heel toe, heel toe, off we go, off we go'. It invariably didn't and drove most of us to dubious careers, the fringes or drink.

Finally, I have a confession to make. I am a bird fancier. Of the feathered flying kind. I spotted a Plumstart today on my terrace which may or may not be the one that got stuck in the ventilator a while back and yesterday I lost count of the Red Kites, vultures, storks, eagles and the rest on my travels.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

DOG DAY AFTERNOON.

Yesterday I spoke about hysterics here in Spain but to give them their just desserts I think The Brits are in need of a lambasting too. I witnessed a dilemma today. A clip of Gordon Brown being interviewed by a man known as Piers Morgan. That short clip makes for toe curling viewing and about as promising as an invitation to share a lift with Bob Crow who I believe is the union leader for the Underground. I used to cringe at the antics of David Brent in The Office but I think wince is the word I am searching for now whenever I see any of these, what my father would call, 'orrible bastards. The only use these three have is to act out revenge fantasies.

Maybe revenge fantasies gone wrong cause all the accidents we have here on zebra crossings. I found out today that a friend's husband was run over or knocked over by a lorry on a zebra crossing in town. He is OK and has a few cuts and bruises and the whole episode seems to have a certain jolliness about it which is hard to explain but let's just say people start laughing whenever something like this happens here. I do get concerned by the amount of people I know who have been in car accidents or know of people getting run over. It's like a national sport. The friend added that the road where it happened has 'poco luz' or little light or perhaps a bit dim like most of the drivers it seems.The most 'alucinante' story I read in the local paper involved two blind people getting knocked down on a zebra crossing outside the doctor's and the driver's excuse was he had been 'dazzled' by the sudden light from the sun. Never mind that he was driving south in the evening.


I have mentioned the antics of classes 4A and B as being a bit like something out of Monty Python or The Marx Brothers and I am wondering if I should get them to do The Parrot Sketch especially as they are Aragonese and used to saying 'no it isn't' to everything. Ya veremos. We will see. On the subject of comedy, I am beginning to think that Benny Hill was in cahoots with Franco. When the subject of comedy comes up in any of the adult English classes Benny Hill's name is the first thing that students of a certain age come up with. If you ask them what they think of British humour they often say we are humourless. I suppose we have Benny to thank but it's probably like a lot of knowledge, if you don't have access to it or are not sure where to find it you remain ignorant. In the beginning I would doubt myself until it dawned on me that information or lack of it or lack of interest was often to blame when students would give their version of everything. What's worse is when people are proud to be thick or think reading a newspaper or trying to understand another language is a bit bourgeoise or 'pijo'.

Talking of thick, or maybe it's just selfishness, the subject of Piti is once again on the horizon or should I say bouncing off the walls and entering every dimension. I rang Mercedes and she hung up. I rang her again and she continued to hang up until she managed to switch her mobile off. I left it a few minutes and rang again with the intention of telling her I would call the police if she didn't come home and sort him out. She beat me to it by telling me when she finally answered that she was going to call the police as I was hassling her and ruining her life. There is something amazing about Spanish people. I am not sure if selfish is the word I am looking for or whether if ASBOS existed here 95% of the population would have them. I told her that I would ring the police to which she informed me that she had asked them already and the noise didn't matter so long as it wasn't at night...............................Well, I have been here long enought now to know that aint true and that there is a law that says you can't make noise at any time of the day. More than one policeman told me that and I also spent sometime chatting with a woman from the council and a lawyer on the subject. They all said the same thing, that although this law existed most people didn't have the bollocks to call the police and would rather suffer than pick up the phone or even try to have a word with their neighbours who make noise. Sometimes people don't want to say anything as they don't want to fall out with said neighbour. So, just pretend to be friendly and nothing is the matter then. I told Mercedes that I had all the info and that her dog couldn't go on howling at the moon like this but she carried on telling me that I was wrong and she was right. I told her I was ill, she told me she was ill. I told her I didn't have to put up with this dog and she told me that she didn't have to put up with me complaining about the dog and ringing her up and I guess wasting her wonderful time because of course, my life doesn't matter, or at least that is how you might feel when something like this happens. Make of this what you will but never ask anyone here for directions or what time it is 'cos you will be wasting their wonderful time so imagine asking them to please pipe down for a bit. Suffice to say you have to either shut up and put up or make their life more miserable than your own to get anything done. This is hard for a Brit who isn't anti-social and has a certain 'decentness' about them. Of course 'decentness' is not an English virtue but I see little of it here and Spanish people agree with me when I touch on this subject. Until you have lived abroad for a while and had the experience you just end up sounding like a whinging POM to all. Henderson just thinks he is a missionary.

Well, glad I got that off my chest. If I have learnt anything it is that Aragonese stubborness versus Boadicean tenacity makes for interesting Sunday afternoons, and also, just because I have chosen to live here doesn't mean I have to become timorous and lose the old moral fibre. Especially over a dog.


Thursday, 4 February 2010

LA DISCIPLINA INGLESA

I've spoken about the strange, mysterious noises that emanate from this block and my wonderment at what the hell the neighbours could be doing at 4 in the morning. Well I knew I had fully integrated when I found myself yesterday scraping candle wax off a bidet albeit at a Christian hour. The full details of how this particular mess occured are not sordid enough to reveal but lead onto my puzzlement as to why we have to have a bidet in the first place. I can only think it is to eventually get rid of and therefore employ someone and keep the economy going. A sort of Plan B contrasting against President Zapatero's Plan E. If you ask Spanish people if they use the bidet they give you a guilty look and say of course and when you ask them what they use it for they will tell you it is there to wash their 'partes intimas' but the guilty look betrays them for it is not to wash their nether regions at all and they go to great lengths to tell you otherwise and insist it is there for that reason alone. Eventually they give in and tell you that OK, the most intimate part they have ever washed is their feet but the main reason is to hide stuff which makes you wonder why they don't just have some sort of cabinet. I remember at one dinner party Henderson returned from the loo with a horrified look and whispered to me 'you'll never guess what Francsico keeps in his'. It turned out to be some bathroom scales and a pair of slippers but I think they were just red herrings, a bit like leaving incense lying around or having a Village People LP in your record collection. Other people have confessed to washing the babies clothes in it and keeping towels or magazines. I had a look in mine earlier and it revealed two sponges, a cloth and one rubber glove just to confuse them all. I think the perfect use would be to stick one of those big hams in so it's nice and steady for cutting a slice. A friend tells me it is illegal to not have one in Portuguese bathrooms and another said her mother reckoned it was only Catholic countries that had them but that leaves out Ireland and adds to the mystery of it all.

Anyway, apart from all this I missed a meeting yesterday. I never miss meetings in Spain because they really are the most amazing things to behold. Yet yesterday I did. It must mean that perhaps I have had enough of the bullshit and the inner laughter it gives me, or maybe I just forgot. In said meeting I was told but also imagined that the English classes we are all giving are still somehow flawed and not enough discipline is used. This is where the little laugh that starts somewhere inside and erupts into hysterics begins. Being told by an entire nation that my teaching skills are not good enough is one thing but a Spaniard telling me that I don't discipline the children enough is risible. To cut seven or eight years short let's just say that meetings in Spain never come up with solutions and if they did it still wouldn't be good enough and would demand another meeting to sort out the previous grievance and then maybe add a meeting with the parents 'cos now they aint happy and then a secret meeting where the teachers can all have a gripe and on it goes till you find me in the corner tittering away as it is just what I need right now, a bit of character building to keep the old strength up.

But let's not get bogged down with the histrionics that occur here on a daily basis. I read a headline and no further today that children with a sweet tooth will become alcoholics in later life. Judging from one of the latest English grammar books I have seen I am surprised the kids aren't hitting the bottle before the sweets. In this book there is a topic on the environment. Years ago it would be about the pandas and recycling but this one gave the thumbs up or the odds on for a terrorist attack, a dirty bomb, complete meltdown and other grim stuff in the near future. I said to the pupil that it all seemed a bit depressing and she looked at me and said 'but the world is going to end in 2012 anyway'. Nothing has changed since the scaremongers informed me I would have a few minutes to run home when they gave the four minute warning.