Friday, September 23, 2016

Too many new words!


This is my last weekend of freedom before my various courses start in earnest.  To be strictly accurate on has sort-of started and the other is lurking in the near future.  I have received all the books for one course and half the books of another.  Usually, of course, the receipt of printed material would encourage me to break out into my “Libros! Libros! Libros!” song (believe me the lyrics do not get much more sophisticated) which greets any package with pages, but my jolifications have been somewhat more muted for these offerings.
            The reason is that the two (count them) courses that I will be taking this academic year are both a belated attempt to improve my woeful Spanish.  This means hard work, rather than the usual voluptuous sinking into the printed word.  It means rote learning and forcing my memory to accept a whole new vocabulary.  Given that each new word in English (let alone Spanish) only lodges in my mind after the mental equivalent of using high explosives to make a space for the new information, I shudder to think about what my calcifying brain will have to do to accommodate and entire language!
            Still, the effort must be made, especially as my convincing display of verb-less fluency in the tongue of my adopted country makes most people who don’t speak Spanish think that complete proficiency is a mere nuance more in my efforts to become a consulting member of the Spanish Academy.  It would be somewhat satisfying to construct a sentence with all the grammatical parts in place rather than slurred in the Impressionistic approach to communication in a foreign tongue that I affect.
            The faux-fluency (see above) means that I am in the second level of classes for my course in Castelldefels, rather than where I deserve to be in the class of rank beginners.  This is all fin and dandy, but we had to complete an exercise on (gasp!) verbs, today, in the second lesson – and my woeful inadequacy was shown up in a series of tentative, rubbed out, unconvincingly rewritten, rubbed out again and then copied answers!
            My plea to the teacher to be instantly demoted to the class of the more comfortingly inarticulate was greeted with a blank refusal and an encouraging smile.  The way, seemingly, is now set for a true linguistic via dolorosa for my bleeding pilgrim feet to follow from now to next May.
            On the other hand this course is as cheap as chips, with the local council subsidising the cost of materials and tuition.  I cannot believe that the €50 that I have paid is for anything more than the first term, though even €150 for a year’s classes of two two-hour classes a week seems something of a bargain.
            Especially when you compare it with the other course that I am taking which is with the Open University – and which is well over ten times as much.  I am hoping that these two courses will run in something like tandem and get me to the level of A2 in Spanish by the summer of next year.
            The designation I am aiming for is not an arbitrary one.  A2 is the minimum standard necessary to apply for citizenship in Spain.
            Given the implications of Brexit and my determination, short of expulsion, not to give up my access to Mediterranean sunshine and free health care, I feel that I have to be pro-active about what might happen in just over two years time.
            I might add that I have absolutely no intention of giving up my British citizenship.  Whatsoever.  No matter what bunch of self-seeking, idiotic, self-serving, selfish bigots are actually governing (ha!) the country, it is mine own.  Like Prospero with Caliban, we are indissolubly linked.  But, on the practical side, once the UK is out of the EU (and I certainly do not trust any of the Conservatives past, present or future to look out for me and mine) I will have to shift for myself.  And one of those movements might be to apply for joint citizenship.
            The language is only half the challenge.  Another part of the examinations to become a Spanish citizen involves a test of knowledge of Spain, the Spanish People and Its Institutions.  Having just come back from an exhibition in the Museum Nacional d’Art de Catalunya of the work of Lluïsa Vidal – Pintora del Modernismo I do feel that that box is ticked.  It turns out, however, that the test will not only be on High Art, but also the so-called popular arts of pop singing, and probably even bull fighting!  I have to admit that, apart from the excellent group Mecano, I am not exactly ‘up’ with yoof culture in Spain.  I look forward to the “All You Need To Know About Spain” book for budding citizens!  I can’t wait to see what they say about Government and Justice, especially as both concepts are little more than farcical jokes at the moment in this politically benighted country!
            Just as with a range of Catalan artists that I have come to know and now can recognize and enjoy their art, so too I hope to find a whole new way of looking at this country as I make a determined effort to become au fait with its geography, history, religion (ugh!), politics (ha!), bull running (ugh!), architecture, film stars etc etc etc.
            I did take a look at some of the questions that applicants for British citizenship were asked and, if the Spanish equivalent is anything like those, then there is no way that I can feel jocose about my present knowledge being deep and wide enough to get me through!

            Last night I went again, after a lengthy absence, to the Barcelona Poetry Workshop.  It was, as it always is, a delight to be with people who do not sneer when you try and write poetry, and are respectful (or at least quiet!) when you recite it!
            The theme for the evening was poetry and paintings and I was encouraged enough to draft out some ideas based on my experience of the Rothko Room in the Tate Modern.  The poem and some ‘explanation’ is available at and is called, imaginatively enough, The Rothko Room, Tate Modern.

After I discovered that swimming with your mobile phone in the pocket of your bathing trunks was not a good idea and looked around for a replacement, I settled for something which was not (under any circumstances) an iPhone and would keep me quiet until I found something which would truly replace my Yota phone which, uniquely in my phone experience had two ‘faces’ with the back one being the equivalent of a Kindle!  Ideal for me.  Well, after one Yota phone stolen and the other drowned it seemed like the communicative gods of commerce were telling me to look elsewhere.  And look I did, until I fell under the spell of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
            This phone is, I imagine, a thing of beauty: big, blue, with screen to the edges, a pen to write with, waterproof (see above) and with a decent camera.  It was of course (I am after all Marion Rees’s son) eye-wateringly expensive – but, I thought to myself, soon the untold wealth of my State Pension is going to come tumbling into my grasping hands and, anyway, I do not smoke and therefore it is OK to splash (unfortunate word in the case of my phone) out.
            Unfortunately, although paid for, I do not have this exclusive piece of ostentatious materiality in my hot little hands.  Hands that could be hot because the one thing that people know about this phone is that the battery has a habit of bursting into flames when it is being recharged.
            That, of course, is a gross simplification.  There have been just under (?) 30 cases out of a million or so units manufactured that have malfunctioned, but that number is more than enough to create absolute chaos.
            The Note 7 was the flagship phone for Samsung; its release date was days before the new iPhone and it was backed by an intense advertising campaign.  Utter, complete disaster.
            I should imagine that the release of the Note 7 will be a key element in business schools around the world as part of the How-Not-To-Do-It class in the course.  It will be there with “New Coke” and “The Edsel” as horror stories to frighten neophyte businesspeople.
            The financial repercussions for Samsung were catastrophic with an unbelievable sum of money being wiped from the shares.
            As far as I can understand one battery manufacturer is at fault.  Perhaps.  The units sold in China are fine, the ones elsewhere might explode!  As part of the general hysteria I have read of a newspaper in Samsung’s home country suggesting that part of the problem has been used by the Americans to further their own company’s fortunes!
            My attempts to find out what exactly was going on after the release was abruptly cancelled and units started to be exchanged was frustrating.  Helplines were anything but, and I only got some sort of reasoned response by phoning a sister company in the UK and speaking to a very helpful young man who shared my exasperation as he had purchased the same phone for his parents and even he, working for the company, had been unable to get his hands on any.
            You might ask why I am still allowing people to hold my cash when they haven’t delivered the goods.  Well, that is difficult to answer, but the phone does look good (in pictures) and it does do what I want it to do and it is waterproof.  So I can wait a little longer rather than compromise.  Again.

            We in Spain have been given a date of the 7th of October for the phones to appear.  I will wait and see.  And decide what to do on the 7th.  But, it is very pretty, so . . .

Friday, July 15, 2016

Boris the Barbarian


“A flat and rather dull comedy” which details the antics of a “dullard diplomat”.  Not, actually, a description of May’s appointment of the Loquacious Lout to the Foreign Office and what used to be regarded as one of the Major Offices of State, no, the quotations refer to a black and white film which came to mind when I was first informed of the Bumbling Blond’s accession to political prominence: Carlton Browne of the FO, starring gap-toothed Terry Thomas as the “dullard diplomat”.  The film is a farce, so it is entirely fitting as a reflection on Boris the Barbarian and his laughable role in the new government.
            Thanks to Brexit, any admission of British nationality to those of other nations not afflicted with self-destructive traits provokes bewildered smiles of amused sympathy.  The appointment of Boris to any post in government, let alone that of Foreign Secretary degrades an already farcical situation to the level of unthinking slapstick.
            Surely there is some sort of petition on line (which I would rush to sign did it exist) demanding that May rethink this risible appointment and restrict his antics to his well-paid column in The Telegraph where his words will do less harm than face-to-face insults to heads of state.  What a condition this country has been reduced to when an over-privileged lout can be promoted way beyond his ability to appease the less than savoury narrow minds of hard core Conservatives.
            On a day when the full toll of senseless death from the slaughter in Niece is still being reckoned we need politicians with some degree of gravitas and moral rectitude to act as leaders to bring people together, not egotistical wreckers concerned only with their own well being and status.  How can a person like Boris say anything in a serious situation without trivializing it?  How can he voice heartfelt emotion when he is clearly incapable of seeing beyond the parameters of his own personality?  His appointment is an insult to the office and a clear mark of contempt to the people of Britain.  May used words that show that she has at least heard of the concept of a “One nation” approach.  She has warned that the Conservatives are seen as the “nasty” party.  She has spoken of inclusivity and reaching out to the under-privileged.  The appointment of Boris would indicate that what she has said is mere verbiage, lacking substance.  She is, in fact, taking a leaf out of Boris and Cameron’s own book, and doing something which bolsters her own position in the party at the expense of the country.  Boris is a sop to the right-wing Brexiteers, gives cohesion to the party that engineered the chaos, strengthens May’s hold on power and rubbishes Britain in the eyes of the world.
            Carlton Browne of the FO has a happy ending. I only hope that reality follows fiction, because what is happening in Britain now would be difficult to make up.