Gràcia

Well hi there, Blog.

A lot of the graffitti here is thankfully more "art" than "marking your territory like a dog."

It’s been over a month, but you might be pleased to hear that good stuff is happening, and a lot of the stuff troubling me last month has disappeared, leaving much more minor problems to fix. First off, I found a flat. I signed a contract, I moved in, I bought a bed and some basic furniture, and I now live in Gràcia. For those of you who don’t know Barcelona, Gràcia is my favourite part – quiet in the day, fun at night, trees and narrow streets and sunlit plazas without the smells and petty theft of the old city centre. It’s also MUCH MUCH quicker to and from work, and I even sometimes have time to go home for lunch.

Also, I have more teaching time than I did, and can afford the rent on my new place. Which, by the way, is only mine. Sharing a flat is so much a part of life in Barcelona that when I tell friends I have a new place, they say, “What are your new flatmates like?”, and I get a little thrill when I get to tell them that I have privacy, independence, my own space…

Also, despite all the busy-ness with this, my writing hasn’t stopped. It hasn’t flourished... but I suspect that now I have a chair and a table (and no internet connection at home yet), I’ll be writing a lot more. In fact, watch this space, because I might instigate a personal NaNoWriMo as I have in the past – by which I mean, I give myself a month to write 50,000 words. Of anything.

So now the only problems are things like getting an internet connection working at home, and buying furniture, and getting a couple more private classes. And you know what? These problems are fun! So, life is good.

Here’s a pair of haiku for you to kick us off:

“Prolong this winter – ”
knowing you will leave in spring,
I thank the frosts.

Though time will not slow,
you watch clouds form from my sighs,
and make memories.

And second up. I had a little go at writing a Ferlinghetti style poem like I mentioned back in January.

When I’m old
aaaaaaI will cross the road just before
aaaaaathe light starts flashing green, then red
aaaaaaaaaaaaso the busy busy cars
aaaaaastop impatiently
aaaaaaaaaaaacaught between their self-inflicted stress
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand real,
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame-inflicted respect
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa(‘coz I’m old and slow)
aaaaaamaybe I’ll stumble
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafor kicks.

But I won’t do it now
aaaaaaaaaaaaaas they won’t wait yet.

a
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Hopefully I’ll see you all in a week or two, rather than the month-long wait you’ve had since the last post.

Bad Fiction please

Ho hum, Blog.

When you last met your intrepid hero (i.e., me), I’d just moved back to Barcelona. I’ve now been back for a month. Things are progressing, gradually, but perhaps a little too gradually for my taste. I’ve building up work hours and now that I’ve got (nearly) enough hours as a solid base, I plan to fill the rest of my timetable with private classes.
As to finding a place to live, I’ve not gotten far. I’ve seen a few places, but none quite good enough or cheap enough… so I’ve gone back to finding more work so I know what I can afford…. well, I’ll get there slowly.

The one thing that’s gone appallingly slowly is my writing. Even though I’m getting hours of train-riding time (and consequently, a fair bit of reading done), my writing is progressing at a snail’s pace. When I have sat down to write, the products have been a bit depressingly bad.

I’m still getting accustomed to my new Mac, and that is definitely half of the excuse. The other half is that, even though I haven’t been teaching full weeks, I’ve been leaving the house at 9am and getting home at 10.30pm… so I’m not finding the energy to sit down and write.

My new plan to increase my writing output is to read some truly BADLY-WRITTEN fiction. At the moment, I’m reading some good books, and I’m enjoying them, but there’s nothing better than reading a good story badly written to bring out some indignant inspiration in me: “I could do better than this!” “And this author got PUBLISHED?? Then I can DEFINITELY get published!” That should work. With that in mind, please send me some recommendations.

More to follow on this post.

Happy New Year – Orange and Ferlinghetti

Happy New Year!

And with the new year, my new old life, as I’m calling it. New computer, old city, old friends (but not that old), and new home. New plans, old advice. I could, put probably shouldn’t, go on.

As I mentioned in my last post, this all centres on my return to Barcelona.I lived here from September 2007 to March 2010, and now I’m back. Just briefly, some weird things:

I keep saying (or starting to say) the Japanese expressions for “good morning”, “excuse me”, “just a second”, “thank you” “please” “and”, “but” and “ummm….” (the last one is “e-to”, and I even funnier looks for that one than the rest.)

I walk out of a metro exit and feel so confident in my knowledge of the streets and slopes of Barcelona that I walk the wrong way for a street or two.

I see beggars in the street. Not THAT weird, but then, I only saw two in 7 months in Japan. I give them money, and then remember that I don’t have a job or a permanent house and am living on the goodwill of friends… so I should probably save my cash!

Here’s a little haiku for you:

Slouching by a bin
I peer for pips by streetlight
and tear at orange flesh

I’ve got some short fiction brewing, but rather than rush it so I can post it, I thought instead I would post a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I’m living just outside the city right now, and catching the train in, so I have plenty of time for reading this book my friend Raoul lent me. I’ve yet to read a poem in his collection “A Coney Island of the Mind” that I haven’t gotten something out of. Some of his poetry is designed with jazz in mind, and all of it is cleverly formatted across the page. Usually he’s more light-hearted than this poem that I’m reprinting (without copyright permission – sorry! But it’s advertising, right?). And I apologise; usually a new year poem is more cheery than this.

In a surrealist year
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof sandwichmen and sunbathers
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadead sunflowers and live telephones
aaaaahouse-broken politicos with party whips
aaaaaperformed as usual
aaaaain the rings of their sawdust circuses
aaaaawhere tumblers and human cannonballs
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafilled the air like cries
aaaaaaaaaaaawhen some cool clown
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapressed an inedible mushroom button
aaand an inaudible Sunday bomb
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafell down
catching the president at his prayers
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaon the 19th green

aaaaaOh it was a spring
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof fur leaves and cobalt flowers
aawhen cadillacs fell thru the trees like rain
aaaaaaaaaaadowning the meadows with madness
while out of every imitation cloud
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadropped myriad wingless crowds
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof nutless nagasaki survivors
aaaaaAnd lost teacups
aaaaafull of our ashes
aaaaafloated by

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I chose it because it reminded me of the museum I visited in Hiroshima. Which I suppose I can give a positive spin by saying that I’m moving forward with my new old life, learning from the lessons and experiences of the last year.

‘Til next time!

Anniversary, Road Trip, and a New Adventure

Wow, Blog, it’s been a month. But what a month. First Easter at home, then a Road Trip with my twin that went from Shropshire to London to Plymouth, then after a ferry from Santander to Barcelona. Then 4 nights in Barcelona, before a mad dash through France to catch the ferry home.

I'm the shorter one

Somewhere in the middle of this internet-short, adventure-heavy excursion, a milestone passed. This blog has been around for a year, and it’s still going. Whether or not it’s going STRONG is open to debate, but overall, I’m quite pleased with it. You would think at the end of a year, it’s time to look at the package and review it. Fix it up, make it better. And you know, maybe I will, but not yet. One thing that may come about, though, is a great deal more of my personal information.

WHY? you ask (with dramatic flair). This is a blog about your writing! you might feasibly continue. Well, that’s true, and I have no intention of changing that. However, despite being about for a year, most of my readers are my friends, and since none of my current friends are going to Japan with me, they might want to know what’s going on in my life out there. So there’s going to be a new Category on the side. It’s going to be called “Japan”, and it’ll go with the “Background” stuff. If you’re interested in just the writing, then go to the “Poetry”, “Short Stories” or “Stage” sections.

Writing is still happening, but at a temporarily slow pace. Expect a comeback sometime soon. And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who bother to follow this blog who aren’t my mother or twin (who have an obligation to keep up-to-date).

I fly to Japan on Wednesday morning. Between now and then I need to bring some semblance of order to my life so the only things I need to worry about in Japan are Japanese… urk!

See you on the other side of the world!

Groanworthy Jokes and 3 Minute Haikus.

Hello, Blog.

I looked back over the past couple of weeks and thought – Oh, I’ve not been very productive. But that’s not entirely true.

First off, I’ve been writing reports. In Spanish. And some reports in English. It’s been moderately time consuming. I’ve also been creating (and marking) my own exam papers. This term, more than previous ones, I made an effort to create a fair few of the questions myself, rather than just cutting and pasting them from teacher book exam papers, and I’m quite happy with the results.

Secondly, I’ve made the discovery that writing poetry on a whiteboard is actually a really good place to do it. I spend so much of my working day using the medium of whiteboards to express meaning, and shuffling things around and making it look understandable that when I taught haikus to my Advanced Class yesterday, I actually found it quite easy to cut and move words around and get what I wanted to say. I think I need to buy a little one for myself.

Here they are.

Continue reading “Groanworthy Jokes and 3 Minute Haikus.”

Jigsaw

Hey guys.

Getting off to a good start this fine February. And it is a fine February – bless Barcelona’s weather. This time last year, we had 5 weeks of rain… but were coming out of a drought, so we grudgingly accepted it. This year, it’s mostly luvverly.

Personal news – booking my return flight to Japan – I plan to stay there for an extra two and a half weeks after this contract finishes. Something along the lines of:

Arrive – 29th April.

Finish work – 18th July.

Fly back – 4th August?

Anyway, here’s today’s poem. I’m quite satisfied with this one, having jotted the initial notes, turned into a loose poem, left to stew, massively rewritten, sought advice, made a few revisions…. final product. I was talking to my flatmate about it, and I think I’m finally starting to appreciate myself as a poet. I know some of you guys have been my fans for a while, but I’ve never really thought myself good enough to submit them to magazines or anything like that. I’m starting to get how my brain works and writes, now, so it’s getting easier to write… and maybe it’s time I started getting myself out there.

Jigsaw

Bought for your lonely hours,
it seems instead to be Our Project
Together. Piece by fractured piece,
we build my painting of your stroke,

a shattering of disparate particles,
rooting for edges in the box,
drawing you closer to the centre,
a slow rebuild to match the old lid.

Luckily for us, it’s true of your mind,
though your hand wilts in your lap
and your eye can’t match the shapes,
nor your former independence –

helped limping to the loo,
you hold court on “when I’m home,”
and “when I cook” and “in my car”
– “these old people here don’t talk”.

Though you don’t hear it,
it cuts us all to know;
some pieces lost
when this worn box was shaken.

Forward Planning

The writer in the new decade

I can’t believe I’ve only been back in Barcelona for a week. I’ve already done so much! I think the milder weather has got me energized; in no particular order, I’ve celebrated Old New Year (it’s a Macedonian Orthodox thing), I’ve been to see my gorgeous godson Eloy (now 1 month 20 days old – my new camera has a Baby Mode), I’ve taught my classes really well, I’ve GOT A JOB IN JAPAN, I’ve been out drinking at a Stammtisch, I’ve played cards with my flatmates, caught up with Lily, and had meetings and a Spanish class.

Me and my godson

You may have noticed one stands out on that list. Finally, the company I want to work for has contacted me and I’m going to Japan at the end of April. Expect this blog to change with it. I am SOOO excited. Japan is an adventure to me, and one that I’ve considered going on for years – if I’d taken a Gap Year, I would’ve gone there. And now I’ll be living there! Albeit for only three months, but maybe I’ll get the bug and stay.

It’s a huge relief, too, because it’s the first time since… last April… that I’ve known what I’ll be doing in 3 months time. Going from impulse to impulse is fun, but it’s nice to have some kind of forward planning for a change. It’s almost like my life has direction or something mad like that.

Despite all this craziness, you’ll be pleased to hear that my creative brain has finally kicked back in – just after New Year, too, and without any resolutions in that direction. My little notebook is starting to gather nuggets of ideas and poems that’ll hopefully be up on here in no time.

Today’s offering, though, is taken from 100 Love Sonnets, by Pablo Neruda, and translated from the Spanish by Stephen Tapscott…. my Spanish wouldn’t do half as good a job. It’s unnamed, but numbered LXXXIX:

a

When I die, I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me once more:
I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep.
I want your ears still to hear the wind, I want you
to sniff the sea’s aroma that we loved together,
to continue to walk on the sand we walk on.

I want what I love to continue to live,
and you whom I love and sang above everything else
to continue to nourish, full-flowered:

so that you can reach everything my love directs you to.
so that my shadow can travel along in your hair,
so that everything can learn the reason for my song.