Monday, November 28, 2005
* … or for another eager Spanish student ordering at the bar: vino tonto (stupid wine)
* ‘v’ is pronounced ‘b’ in Spanish, and I have seen signs for both AutoVia and AutoBia. It’s possible that the latter is a Euskera (Basque) transliteration. In this semi-autonomous part of Spain – País Vasco (Basque Country, note the B/V thing again) – signs are sometimes in Spanish, sometimes in Euskera, and sometimes rendered together (as you find for Welsh/English in Wales). I’ve often seen the Spanish terms obliterated on the dual signs. Either way, it’s confusing for the innocent tourist, who is not sure if they’re encountering a new place, or a Euskera traffic instruction. In San Sebastián (aka Donostia), the maps are in Spanish but the street names may only be in Euskera. This compounds the problem of Spanish city street names only being placed on small placards on buildings, so it’s very hard to navigate from a car.
Saturday’s weather was not promising at first, but began to clear and brighten as we walked into town and towards the water. From the aquarium, near the foot of Monte Urgull, I could see a large swell rolling into La Concha, and further on, as the bay met the Atlantic, a small crowd had gathered to watch the sea battering the sea-wall. Frequently, some huge quantity of water would spray upwards as much as 20m above the walkway. I stood near the railing for a short-time, but photographs at that range generally came out as a wall of white.
Retracing my steps, I could look across the wetsuit-clad surfers at La Concha and see snow on the mountains to the west: the first snow I’ve seen since leaving the Pacific Northwet, two and half years ago.
Friday, November 25, 2005
By the time we reached Bilbao, it was starting to get quite chilly, so we were left with a quick spin around the city centre. El Corté Ingles was starting to put up seasonal decorations, but Bondi was more interested in fueling is thirst from a fountain near one of Norman Foster´s subway entrances - or "fosteritos", rising like the chrysalis of a giant sandworm from out of the pavement.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
After school, I headed for San Sebastian’s remaining “high point”: Monte Igeldo, standing taller than Monte Urgull on the western side of La Concha. Topped by an undistinguished hotel and amusement park, the views are really quite spectacular. We rode a funicular railcar up the hill: Bondi and I being the only passengers. At the top, with not more than a half dozen people floating past the closed thrill rides, I’m faced with the most terrifying prospect of all: no coffee is available anywhere up here this afternoon.
Monday, November 21, 2005
* Tintin in Tibet, a Young Vic production, starts at the Barbican in London, Dec 14.
* Sir Ian McKellen (undoubtedly as the Widow Twanky) in Aladdin at the Old Vic, 7 Dec – 22 Jan
* From a bio of the late, great Dave Allen, comes the story of young comedian floundering at the Edinburgh Festival who asked a member of the audience his name. “Dave Allen” came the reply. The comic blundered on: “So, Dave, what do you do?” There was a pause. “I’m a comedian. What do you do?”
* Dorothy Parker: “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, come sit right here by me.”
As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - do not be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare sensation
touches your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon - you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbours seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind -
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.
Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so that you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.
Bondi seems to have really enjoyed these two days. Sometimes we run along together, and he turns, looking up at me with a “I’m glad we’re doing this” smile.
* Bloody High Ups
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I heard the last track of the New World Symphonies album last night. I recognised the piece Convidando esta la noche was the music played during the opening of the concert spectacular celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Salamanca Plaza Mayor, which I wrote about earlier. I have about a dozen short video sequences of that event, which appears not to have any televised news coverage, and many more photos than I published in the blog.
It was written by Juan García de Zéspedes (1619-1678), so predates the Plaza by about a century. The album sleeve notes say it "features dance patterns of African origin in the form of the guaracha, a dance still popular in Cuba. The synthesis of the sensuous, homophonic, ‘European’ sections and the exuberant cross-rhythm of the dance verses is particularly effective. " The Choral Wiki has sheet music , and a short sample of another recording, by SAVAE.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
It's still pissing down in San Sebastian. Finished Coe's The Closed Circle this morning - nearly as satisfying as its prequel, and definitely as much of a page-turner.
Cheered up by delivery of 4 new Hyperion CDs: Marc-Andre Hamelin's disc of Schumann piano works, and disc of piano concerti by Rubinstein & Scharwenka. Some little known violin concerti by Coleridge-Taylor & Somervell, and another fantastic disk of baroque music from Latin America: New World Symphonies.
I need to work out a plan for December-January: will spend some time in UK re-learning English and applying for a longstay French visa (which takes months!). Would like to spend more time in Edinburgh and also revisit Wales for more family tree research. Bondi will need to see vets for maintenance and to keep current with rabies shots.
Monday, November 14, 2005
I’m still rather put off by the way business is done in Spain. The flat that I’ve rented is clearly ill-suited for the casual tenant (no microwave, kettle or blankets; and a weird collection of kitchen utensils, including a bunch of teaspoons that seem to have been operated on by Uri Geller, and are no longer up to the stresses of stirring a cup of tea), Solved the blanket issue for now, by layering my unzipped sleeping bag between two thin bed covers, but missed a day of classes due to cold from one freezing night.
Shades of UK credit card restrictions: local branch of French department store FNAC won’t accept non-Spanish ID such as my driver’s license, as photo ID for credit card usage.
The weather has been highly variable this week. Wednesday wind gusts en route to school were enough to blow a new umbrella into a twisted mess of wire and fabric. Thursday looked fabulous (from my blanket-free bed, see above), and then Friday afternoon was pleasant enough to take Bondi down to La Concha beach. He’s become a whole new dog here, much happier, and definitely more playful, perhaps due to our new less-confined living quarters.
The constant Seattle-like drizzle has a Euskara (the Basque language) name, txirimiri exemplifying their love of onomatopoeic and jokey words. Similarly Kukuxumusu "the kiss of the flea", a Pamplona-based clothing company with a hilarious range of clever Far-Side-ish cartoons. One of my new classmates, an Israeli-American chef, worked for a spell in Seattle, and is not too impressed by the possibility of similar winter weather here.
Strolled around the Old Quarter on Friday evening. Bondi drew a crowd outside one bar, with his “little match girl” begging routine, while I supped on tortillas and tinto. Since returning to the north of Spain, I have frequently been asked if I’m on mescaline … or at least it sounded like that, until I worked out that I’m being asked if Bondi is a mezcla (mix / mongrel; or as we say in Australia, a bitzer: bits o’ this and bits o’ that).
That morning (Saturday), we drove down to the Gros neighbourhood, near the Playa de la Zurriola, the beach east of the river. A few surfers were braving the rough conditions, which saw large waves crashing up the river mouth and over the wall near the Kurzaal concert hall. I’m waiting for another sunny day to walk to the top of Mt Urgall, betwixt la Concha and the river, for a view over the city.
The weekend has been pretty relentlessly rainy, so aside from a few long city walks, have been concentrating on my homework, and finishing off Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. It’s a very well-timed work (or polemic), but even though written in the first person, I didn’t think it was very successful in pulling me into the narrator’s personal world. I definitely got the ‘larger’ world but was pulled along more by the turn of events than any close empathy with the protagonist.
Next off the shelf is Jonathan Coe’s The Closed Circle, sequel to The Rotters’ Club. I found it in the English lit section of FNAC which is much larger than any other domestic bookstores (not many of those of any size in San Sebastian) and thus not as confined to Dan Browniana and Harry Potter tomes.
Still very cautious crossing roads here. I’m used to American or Australian soccer mums in 4WDs looking the other way (or dialing in a third party on the cellphone) as they plough through a pedestrian crossing…but here… Here they are looking for the whites of your eyes, either before impact or later when scraping out their tyre tread.
Also having a bit of a DVD binge, catching up on a few unseen flicks (do they have a name for chick flicks here? chica plicas perhaps? pelicula = film) like Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Desayuno con Diamantes = Breakfast with Diamonds), Billy Elliot (Quiero Bailar = I Love to Dance), Will Smith’s Yo, Robot, and the very funny Shaun of the Dead (Zombies Party = Bernard’s Dinner). I saw that the local name of Rosemary’s Baby is Seed of the Devil, an immediate plot giveaway. I wonder if The Sixth Sense is called Bruce Willis is Dead Too! ?
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
I have a 25 minute walk to school each morning, then a 90 minute grammar class. I'm mainly trying to wrap my head around usage of preterito indefinido and preterito imperfecto, plus trying to remember the actual verb forms for each. Then, there's a half-hour break to get coffee with class-mates at a local bar, before returning for our conversation class. Today we played charades, trying to guess the (Spanish) names of various famous films, which can be a little awkward when the translation is not literal e.g. Out of Africa becomes Memories of Africa.
Last night, Bondi & I had the opportunity to walk through more of the city. As it's getting darker sooner, we'll probably have to wait until the weekend for a proper look. Fortunately his leg has much improved with lare quantities of glucosamine/Chrondoitin supplements (seemingly unknown and unavailable in Spain). Unfortunately his skin condition is worsening/spreading, so I hope I can source medicated shampoo from somewhere soon.
Until then I may be at home watching the first 2 seasons of Newsradio on DVD, and pining for the remaining 3 seasons.