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Monday, 30 May 2011

and here he is.....

EL PENCIL ES MAS PODEROSO

Henderson can't get over me voting for the CHA. 'You'll be dancing and singing the bloody Jota next!' he cried from the kitchen. 'We'll be shouting at one another from different rooms soon', I bellowed from the bedroom. For me that's the beginning of the end. He said voting for the CHA is a bit like voting for the BNP, his argument being that only Aragonese people would get all the jobs if the CHA were in power. I like to think otherwise as there is a Japanese man called Tokio somewhere here in Aragon doing the rounds dressed in his Jota gear and ululates as best he can some traditional songs. Maybe I could become some sort of Aragonese mascot so long as I don't have to wear a hankie on me head.

Mercedes and Mrs C next door are as thick as thieves these days. She popped by last week and as she entered her new friend's flat I heard Mr C who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's say 'don't you bring that fucking dog in 'ere!' About half an hour later she left and Mr C was screaming 'she better not be leaving that fucking dog in 'ere!' On another occasion she left and called behind her 'the dog doesn't bother YOU does IT?' sarcastically and Mrs C replied 'No, not at all, pobrecito, poor thing'. Birds of a feather and all that. Well, at least I won't have the pobrecito shitting on my floor and up the sofa and then wiping his arse on my carpet anymore.

Loads of things have happened in the world lately. Apart from the obvious I learnt that Barak Obama has Irish roots and out of curiosity got the map down and had a look if it was anywhere near the two villages where my mum's family live and sure enough it is between the two. Moneygall is in between Roscrea and Nenagh but not necessarily in that order, Hoo Ha!

Last and least there is a man called James Brown. No, not the hardest working man in showbusiness, or the journalist, but a hairdresser no less who called a black TV presenter a nigger several times at the BAFTA's. This Mr Brown claims he was drunk, a bit like John Galliano, a designer, who recently told some fellow drinkers in a bar that their mothers and forefathers would all be fucking gassed. Charming.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

A few more....














A few of my favourite things.

















LOST IN TRANSLATION

Last night I could hear shots and explosions which could only mean three things. That Barcelona had won, there were public executions going on somewhere, or civil war had broken out. Apparently the police in Barcelona wanted the youngsters to piss off so the cleaners could move in and tidy up for the predictable celebrations that night when Barcelona would slaughter Manchester United. It was the typical scene, police in riot gear manhandling the kids who got a beating and some disturbing scenes of a cop firing rubber bullets.

Regarding the botellon the other night, or rather morning, the headline that accompanied the article on it in the paper was Una Noche Complicada which I thought could include most of my nights out too. For once there were numerous complaints and phone calls to the police as hundreds of students went and got pissed and due to the rain did all the usual illegal stuff and lovemaking in doorways. The photos of the wreckage left after this, legal, botellon left me in no doubt that we never had it so good.

As for my complicated night out, I remembered the next day that some bloke from the CHA, the Aragonese political party here, handed me a paper napkin with the words Rum Tum Tugger on it and demanded in that Aragonese way, what it meant. Explaining that the words were impossible to translate as they didn't mean anything he insisted so I started to say that Rum was a drink in Spanish called Ron and then I stopped and I thought, 'why am I doing this? Again'. I've lost count of the times people here have thrust bits of paper under my nose with pieces of prose, titles of songs, words from adverts etc. I said 'it's just a name of one of the cats in a TS Eliot poem'. He didn't understand that bit but did say something about 'don't you know it is a poem by Tesse Liot?

I'M ONLY HERE FOR THE FEAR

In th early hours on Friday I was serenaded by the screams coming from what must have been one of the biggest botellons, piss ups for quite a while. I am tempted to say 'vaya crisis', 'bring on the recession' but what to do in times of crisis but drink, stand in doorways and smash up things that don't belong to you as folk round here have been doing since the time of 'espanYa va bien'.? As in previous botellones there were hundreds of people walking around screaming and enjoying the rain which put a stop to my idea of throwing a bucket of cold water over the ones underneath my window who were making what sounded like animal noises. A couple of times I thought I could hear people being murdered but I did nothing but roll over with the apathy I have learnt to get a decent nights sleep here. The alternative being the only one concerned and the only one ringing the police.

Later that day I told a student who happens to be a soldier in the Spanish army that I had glibly mentioned in another blog 'how long will it be before the police or army are called in?' to which he replied 'oh, don't you know about the 120 odd folk who have been injured in Barcelona?' The police there, or Mossos D 'esquadra, steamed in as police do when told to clear an area and managed to beat up a few youngsters. Even later the same day I was given a leaflet by a girl who was carrying a daisy, compelling us all to go down to our little square with some flowers in support for or rather against the violence in Barcelona and to manifest the idea that a better world is possible All very nice and what I would expect young people to do as when you are young you believe a better world is possible and you may go on to be someone who enables things to improve.  Problem was, they hadn't thought it through and on the leaflet it told us all to be there at 7 o'clock. It was now five to eight.

Much much later and after a supper of lamb's tonsils amongst other delights we found ourselves in the Bar Rugaca, where we famously didn't go for about six years on account of Babby, the head waiter, who gave us a roasting for teaching an imperialist language etc. We have started to go back as it is a nice bar, the only problem being a lot of the fauna that go there can't wait to say something like the comment last night that my Spanish was better three years ago. This remark wasn't helped by another woman entering the conversation and being told ' speak more slowly, as she (me), won't be able to understand you. I added that I could understand every word perfectly to which I was asked  to 'go on then, say what she just said'. This conversation ended with me walking away telling them I wasn't going to talk to them if they were going to be like this and within seconds there was such an eruption of madness with the husband asking me why I had upset his wife who was by now in tears that I could walk away or protest even. He even said I was mala which made me laugh even more. I think it's a Catholic thing as I felt absolutely no guilt and even added that I was Jewish to get the point across but by then people were shouting and screaming as if I had just massacred their families. So, another six years of self barring. Reminds me of the good old days in the Coach and Horses back in Soho, London.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

SHUT ARRIBA OR CALLA UP

Henderson has been telling me all along 'don't encourage them' meaning stop giving them, our Spanish cousins any means to do his head in anymore than it has been done in already. People here want to know what I think and being so isolated, unable to understand English, and therefore unable or unwilling in some cases to read or watch anything outside the Spanish press they often seem shocked that stuff is being reported 'de fuera' or abroad. In the past I have suggested they read, not just every kind of alternative to what they don't read here but most can't be bothered. I am sure it is different in Madrid and Barcelona for example but it isn't in this small town and I imagine it is the same in other small towns across Spain. The amount of general ignorance here is astonishing and any mention of this or attempts to change or instill some sense of what the hell is going on has often been greeted by claims that what we are saying is something anglo sajon, that our world view, ideas and everything are tainted by our Anglo Saxon upbringing. Our culture, our set of beliefs handed down to us by our parents, schooling etc have been ridiculed from the first day we arrived and now I see protesters in the main square calling on a new type of democracy and I wonder what they will come up with. My voice and thoughts won't be heard. It is difficult to get 4A and B to shut up and listen on a good day and even as I write this I wonder if despite the lack of excitement in my weary bones, that maybe something big is in store. It's probably Anglo Saxon paranoia.

SHUT ARRIBA

As the protesters continue here and in Madrid I wonder how long it will be till the police are called in and then the army and then civil war. The main gripe is the two main parties are corrupt and there are no alternatives or that something revolutionary is occuring. Is this really happening or am I getting old? Someone older than me, an economist called Jose Luis Sampedro believes something will come of all this, something good, a change, that it has to, but what? Something so visionary that someone with an ego like mine can't envisage. On Sunday I voted for the CHA as they had written up their manifesto on a pamphlet that was easy to grasp and most of it I am in favour for except the bit written in Aragonese. All those folk who didn't vote could have made a change and then at least we could have given the winning party the benefit of the doubt, that is to say, let them see if they can run things better. Madrid feels a million miles away here in this sleepy town and I can't feel anything revolutionary happening here at all. All the things H and I have been complaining about since we have been here and we have since shut up about despite friends saying 'no, you should get involved' ( so they didn't have to?) seem to be the same things the protesters are complaining about. Sadly, most of my time and energy went trying to sort out the anti-social behaviour of my neighbours, a feat that nearly broke me and had me running to Dorset. The Spanish are anarchists by nature and don't listen to one another or anyone for that matter and so I think things could get interesting here.

Monday, 23 May 2011

TRY TO CONTAIN YOUR ELVES

Not much to say or report except the tents are still in the main square and will remain until someone gets a job, or gets hungry or gets bored with living on the tarmac. Everything H and I have been trying to point out for the last ten years has finally sunk in and people are camping out all over Spain. For years people here friends included were miffed that we had spotted all the downsides to living in what is essentially a fantastic country even though it is at times like stepping onto a Monty Python film set. I guess we are dealing with it better than others if only because after such a struggle to make ourselves heard or understood we gave up and decided to just enjoy ourselves, because it is, always, later than you think. Between the uptight Brits and the just woken up Spanish I find myself saying things like 'suerte' 'que te den' and have adopted a happy go lucky cheeriness that I always hoped would come with age and experience and thankfully, sun.

I forgot to mention my lovely lunch I had last Saturday with Stephanie, another teacher here. In between mothfuls ( mouthfulls even..) she told me she was suffering from that dreaded pain that Shakespeare said no philosopher could cure, toothache, and we discussed alternatives to teeth, or at least the ones we have, typical British or European wine stained ones. She told me George Washington had wooden ones and then a grasshopper landed on her shoulder and I suggested she go the whole way and get an eye patch. All this talk was being washed down with copious amounts of wine, all the while Stephanie adding a spray to kill the pain for the toothache and telling me it had a bit of a kick to it. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside the Pedro el Viejo church, one of the oldest Romanesque churches in Spain, perhaps the oldest, where we witnessed a really cute, old Fiat draw up with the driver honking the horn and a beautiful girl stepped out in her wedding dress. She looked adorable but in typical wedding fashion the guests left a lot to be desired. All ill fitting trousers and dresses in colours that would have been lovely if they hadn't, in S's words, 'singed the retina'.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

TRY TO CONTAIN YOURSELVES

Just in from the voting booth. Of course it wasn't a straightforward procedure with me entering a huge sports hall and going up to the first desk to be told that this desk wasn't for my district and to go over to the lady in the red which I did. The lady in red was lovely but her colleague got foreigner shock or if I am not mistaken was a bit miffed that a foreigner had the right to vote. He started grilling me on where my 'papelita' was and I asked 'what papelita?' thinking 'God no, there is some piece of paper I haven't received and now I will have to brace myself for chaos', and he said ' the papelita with your vote'. 'Well',  I said, 'this being Spain I thought I would have to prove who I was first and your colleague sent me over here so yadda yadda.' Maybe I am wrong but it is the vibe you know and his hands were trembling. A nice man came running over and explained I would first take a papelita of my chosing, you know the papelita with the party you want to vote for and I thought 'this is new, the last time I voted I put a cross next to a name'. I felt like some old bint without a clue as I perused the various papelitas representing all the political parties bursting out of a rack that looked like it belonged in a doctor's surgery. I found mine as it was also placed below the rack with two or three other parties who may or may not win. On my return to the urn I noticed one of the folk sitting there was wearing a big piece of card round her neck with the word CHA emblazoned across. Surely that's not right? Advertising a political party in such a blatant way on voting day? In the middle of May! Was the lady in red deliberately provoking me too I wonder? Anyway, the lady in red then panicked a bit and her shocked colleague couldn't find the other papelitas to let me procede with my vote. They kept repeating the words 'where's the one for the foreigners?' To reassure me all was well when they found it she said 'ca va' which is what people do here a lot as they presume I am French due to the French sounding surname I possess I suppose. As I left I thought that this kind of voting, taking a slip of paper from a glut of them and popping it in an envelope was open for corruption as well as confusion but then I wonder about how corrupt and confused my mind is to think such a thing.

Friday, 20 May 2011

PREPOTENTES

Last night I went past the main square to listen to the protest which might be banned this weekend according to a law that says there can be no campaigning or any form of propaganda on the 'day of reflection', the day before voting day which will be this Sunday. Then I had a gander around the Izquierda Unida's concert and declined the free beer but in general I felt a change of mood. Typical Spanish style, everything left to the last minute but with a great sense of spontaneity that somehow works.

On the subject of vans for the various political parties here I notice Izquierda Unida has a beat up old car which almost had an old lady centrada across its bonnet as she attempted to cross a zebra, a bit like one of the old folk who got run over on a zebra crossing a few days ago and has since died, but don't worry, the council have put a speed bump in front of this zebra and could well do with putting one in front of my front door as another van came cruising along the pavement and nearly had me again splattered on my way out yesterday and not for the first time.

There is a relatively new English academy here which goes by the name You Talk. I can't help but think of opening one up and calling it You Shut Up. The idea being the Spanish will never learn English as they don't know how to listen to what the other person has to say and when they do have the oppportunity to speak in English they usually crack after three minutes and raise their arms in the air and shout 'joder, te digo en espanYol es mucho mas facil' or something similar. One of H's students told him he went along to a freebie given by the academy where they were going to have natives speaking and anyone who wanted to put their English to good use could go. He reckons about fifty bods turned up and after five minutes were all rabbiting on in Spanish and not really listening to anyone in particular.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Today we had a meeting at the school where I work and as always I started to prepare myself by acting out what I might say if asked about the discipline or lack of for example. I was thinking something on the lines of 'well, you know how Spain had forty years or so of Fascism? Well, now it is approaching the tail end of forty years of anarchy'. I always want to say something glib like 'they might be a difficult bunch but it's better than getting stabbed in Poplar'. At least children here resemble my idea of what a kid should look and behave like, but attitude problems, verbal abuse and trousers hanging off the arse amongst other imports are already creeping in.

Yesterday I found myself doing H's favourite pastime which is hanging out the kitchen window watching the world go by when two men I took to be brothers, as in some blokes who may or may not work for Hermanos Cruz Blanca or one of the other many religious organisations here started shouting up at me to open the door. They seemed relatively 'normal' so I did and soon realised they were Mr C's brothers when they started asking me if Mr C was alone in the flat. One of the brothers started to bemoan that 'she', the 'wife', couldn't leave 'him' locked up in 'there', 'like a dog', the irony being lost on everyone but me and Piti upstairs. In a few minutes one of them told me 'they' wanted to put Mr C in a home and then asked if 'she' goes out at night to which I launched into one and said 'they' had no idea what has been going on for the past ten years. The conversation was short as Mrs C or 'she' as she is known to his 'family' rolled up and 'I', having put up with their shennanigans for so long was not about to get too cosy with the rest of the clan. It's all starting to get a bit Alan Bennett latin stylee.

Also, H was reading out the details of Mr Strauss-Khan the IMF chief who allegedly assaulted a hotel maid. Said details were long and started to include other allegations, and in my so-called puritanical mind were all rather sordid and disgraceful, but the bit that summed it up was when H paused, looked up at me and said, 'he's French'.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

CANFRANC PART THREE

Actually the earthquake wasn't yesterday but the blog doesn't post stuff you saved in a draft with the date you saved it so sorry about that. However, two days ago a woman had her head cut off in Tenerife by a madman which gave us all nightmares and the Daily Mail a reason for living. I took myself as far away as possible to the mountains on the Canfranero again with a friend, Rosa to sit for a few hours watching the landscape roll by with all its poppies against the yellow, green and purple grasses. A continous bucolic scene which ends with an amazing destination, good company, fantastic lunch, walk along the Paseo de los Melancolicos, drinks in the bar, train journey home with views that make you feel you are suspended in space and finally bed and a sleep not matched since childhood. I even got to the bottom of the anchor H and I found a couple of years ago in the small park in this village. ( See blog 26th April 2009.) This was the place where I turned a drinking tap on and couldn't turn the bloody thing off. H and I left the village in a hurry and now, two years later and just as egocentric, I viewed the park in dismay. There wasn't a blade of grass left and there was a line of destruction from the drinking fountain to street level. In the tourist office I asked what happened to the poor park thinking they were going to say some idiot left the tap on for two years but it was just some laying of cable and don't worry the council will sow some seeds and all will be well again. I then asked what the anchor was all about and the mayor who happened to be there told us that a man from the village had worked for the ferry company that served the Med and at some point, probably his retirement, he was presented with the anchor and then, as you do, he dumped it in the park for future visitors like me to ask about.
There was an earthquake here in Spain yesterday. I know this because my mum told me on the phone from England while Henderson fiddled in vain with the tele here trying to pick up something he wanted to watch in English. Meanwhile I checked El Pais and saw by the various photos of dead bodies that it was true. I am sure that loads of people are even more convinced that the world is going to end or, as I read recently, 'mother nature is not happy with us'. Well, she never has, before, during or after.

Meanwhile, back in the unreal world I nearly got run over, for a change, on a zebra crossing by a van driven by the PP, or the Popular Party, or People's Party as it is sometimes referred to in English, oh alright, a bunch of right wing fascists according to some. Never mind that the van had 'Centradas en Ti' written on the side and I almost became centrada on its bonnet. This van is hauled out every election and plays the same old tune, from its loudspeaker which resembles a tune you might have heard in a cinema during the 70's accompanying one of those adverts before the film. Its kind of upbeat and cheery and has me and H entertained as it passes by the kitchen window. Then there are the PSOE, or Socialists or Failed Communists who get schtick from the IU, the only ones who speak any sense until they say something totally opposite to your point of view which makes you feel even more alienated from the whole bunch of various mugs staring out at you from billboards often with a red nose drawn on or some uncomplimentary comment underneath. Theres a whole line of fizzogs gawping at ya from outside the casino and I must say it is tempting to get out a permanent marker but what to say what? There's always the CHA. Their candidate or one of their spokemen lives across the road from me and he may or may not be related along with another CHA politico to Mr C next door. I know this as Mr C used to drive a smashed up Opel Corsa with a sticker in the back which said 'Charra me en Aragonse' which roughly translates to 'Talk with Me in Aragones' and a friend said there was no way he would have this sticker in the back of his car unless someone related had given it to him. So that's where I went wrong then.

As for Piti, everytime he sees me he has his tail between his legs which he does pretty well for a dog and his owner gives me the cold shoulder which sounds like a good title for a song. Perhaps I will sing along these lyrics when the PP van next goes by. Talking of Mr C, he has been, according to one neighbour, diagnosed with Alzheimer's which I can only presume is the polite way or only way of dealing with him being a chronic alcoholic whose missis wants him dead so she can get his flat. She has been very quiet so far and a model neighbour and so thats what you do. Drive your spouse mad and get them incarcerated one way or another or so it seems.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

WHO WERE YOU?

I've been a bit busy living and trying to make sense of this mental world we live in but I feel I understand it a bit better now. It started with Saint George who is known as Jorge here and on his day the done thing if you are under twenty is to ascend Saint George's hill which is next to Saint George's hospital, get pissed and be sectioned by eleven o'clock the same morning. Anyone with a sense of decorum descends on the nearest bar or restaurant which is why we started in Bar 27 and ended up in Casa Frauca last weekend. Spain has excellent restaurants and seeing as today is the first of May and tomorrow is my birthday we ended up this weekend in Lillas Pasta for the first time since we landed here. This restaurant lost its Michelin Star or award or whatever it is recently but that didn't put us off and we dined like kings and drank like tramps and still had time for a siesta.

On the subject of Kings, we bumped into the parents of a pupil last night in a new tapas bar. We were doing what everyone does here which is go on a tapas crawl and the parents were so excited to talk to us about the wedding. 'What wedding' was my mother's reply a few days ago when my aunt mentioned she was going to a party for the wedding and I must admit I had been a bit vague about the whole occasion but I was surprised when the parents said they had watched the whole shebang on Spanish tele. Being a bit of an idler I am too lazy to hang up the bunting and too inert to be against anything anymore. That comes from living here, and protesting about everything as a teenager. Henderson and I kept a watchful eye on the so called masses and for some reason we singled out Will Self the writer and social climber who through the medium of snide brought out the worst in us. We did the obvious and turned his surname upside down for the best part of the day. Others who got it in the neck were the so called Republicans who seem to think the poor masses who they are above, have been brain washed somehow when they, the observers of the hoi polloi have probably never attended any event outside London where deckchairs, flasks of tea, Union Jack memorabilia and ruddy cheeks abound. Well, if you don't like it you can always move to France.

Meanwhile, back at the Circus of Death we have the beatification of a pope which attracted even more of the easily led in a place with the highest crime rate and lowest age of consent. The Vatican has allowed Mugabe to come along for this knees up on account of him being Catholic and the Vatican not being in the European Union where he is sometimes banned.

Last but not least I have had my beady eye on David Cameron whose wife according to my now awake mother, 'wasn't even wearing a hat' when the happy couple got spliced. I saw him during the nuptials do a weird double take as he sang Jerusalem I think. It was quite a disturbing look as if he had seen a ghost and I could make it my mission to find out what or who it was that spooked him but can't be bothered. He also told an MP recently to 'calm down dear' which made me think he was a bit camp and the women he said it to had a lucky escape as she could have had a one legged Torrente type in an electronic wheelchair shout out 'hola guapa' as he sped by me the other morning.