Throughout the month in 40 hours

Hellooooo!

It’s nearly exactly a yearsince I left Spain for Japan, so I suppose it’s only natural that at this time of year, while I’m living in Spain ago, I’m thinking of Japan.

Of course I’m loving Spain right now. And why shouldn’t I be? The improvised comedy AND stand up comedy groups are just taking off, the weather is amazing (it’s like a sunny English May right now), I’m working a full working week and only 3 hours of that week are really frustrating hard work. Well, it’ll become more briefly for the exam season, but I can hack it. I have a nice flat, I have an established network of crazy people I call friends… it’s all good.

But of course, Japan was a great time of my life too. I stayed quiet on the whole earthquake, tsunami and radiation crisis in Japan because it’s so close to the bone for me… I worked in Fukushima, 55km from the nuclear power plant, for 3 months last year, back when nobody had heard of it, even people living in Japan, and it took 2 minutes to describe where it was… now everyone knows. It was 5 days before I could hear from some friends to even find out that they were alive… others are close enough that they are worried about drinking the water. But despite all of the fears, all I felt was a desire to get out there again. The more I read of how the Japanese were dealing with the crisis, the more characteristics I recognised in people I know there. I miss them, and it. I want to move, to be there again.

My guess is that this feeling is coming as a result of feeling so settled down. The more I feel at home here, the more I feel an urge to travel. I see photos of friends in Japan, I itch to be there. I hear stories of fun times in Madrid, or Sevilla, or London, and I want to jump up and join in.

I often feel like what I really need is a teleporter. I know a lot of people can identify with this, so that they can have more time. But for me, I’d link it between my flat in Barcelona and my friend’s flat in Tokyo, so I could cut out all the stressful, exhausting, expensive flying and jetlag, and just be where I want to be, whenever I want to be there.

You’ll notice there’s no teleporter to England for me. Well, England is just a 3-hour flight away from Barcelona, and for me, that’s fine. I see more and more that, while England is beautiful in a way that really speaks to me… the 21 years I lived there are enough. I have great memories. I only need to visit it to see and spend time with all my friends and family.

SO clearly the only solution is to become a rich and famous writer who lives in both countries.

To that end, I’ve started my own personal writing challenge this month. Rather than the NaNoWriMo, which rewards a massive word output, I’m going for a “time spent” scheme. I have to write, in a non-work-related way, for 40 hours in 30 days. This started on the 24th. So that includes making a blog post. It’s obviously about poetry and short stories and flash fiction. But it also includes any writing I do in Spanish, and any Spanish homework I have. Because for a “permanent” Spanish resident, my Spanish has a LOT of holes, and a low level of grammar, and I need to push myself (and be pushed pretty hard by a private teacher) to get to a level where I can spend the whole evening in Spanish without feeling lost.

So far, so good, and I expect you’ll be seeing some of the (non-Spanish) results of this new project pretty soon.

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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!

The Spanish and The Japanese

Hey Blog.

Last time I was here, I promised a bit of a scoop on how Spanish students (and people) are different from the Japanese. Well, it’s been over a month since I promised that, so I’d best get down to it.

I’m a very busy chappy these days. I’m working from 9-6, which is a darn-sight harder than I’ve been used to in Spain. It’s also work where I constantly have to think, to focus and concentrate and do it right. So it’s different from the potato harvesting I used to do, where I could just switch off my brain and keep going ’til my arms get tired. And although it’s not as hard work as some of the summer camps I’ve done have been, it’s more continuous. At least at those camps, I got a lot of time off, could properly relax, and then at the end of the month, it was over. Here, it’s three months. When I reached that one month point and realised how much I had to go, I sort of slumped down in to it.

Now, however, the end is in sight again – it’s about a month to go to the end. I talk negatively, but I love my job. I love teaching, and doing a job when I can see a noticeable change and improvement in my students. And I love teaching students at a university age. 18-22s are easier to teach than kids, and more fun to teach than adults. My students – they’re serious and fun-loving, they’re intelligent, perceptive, thoughtful, and friendly. It’s because of them that I’m seriously considering taking another contract out here.

So, I talked a bit about how the place is different out here. But the people? Well, if anything, they’re more different…

Continue reading “The Spanish and The Japanese”

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!

Rain

Yes, Rain. In Spain. And before you even start, I’m not on the plain.

Torre de Hercules, La Coruna
Torre de Hercules, La Coruna

I’m in La Coruna, which is the North-west coast of Spain, in the lovely Celtic Galicia. They speak a variety of Spanish here called Gallego. I got a student in Barcelona to give me a few expression in my notebook, and I’ve tried using them in various situations, but I’ve just had bemused looks from the locals. Oh well.

My kids are doing their final exam, and I have kindly stuck on some music for them during it. Only two of them remain at this stage, but it’s all gone reasonably well. According to them, I am both the coolest and best teacher in camp, because I taught them to play poker (using pencil sharpeners as currency) and because, when one kid got out the guitar in front of the whole camp, I was the only one to stand up and join in with Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” I am now sick of this song. I loved it, even on repeat, for a good month, but this camp has just overdosed me. Strangely, these Spanish kids also love “Summercat”, by Billie Vision and the Dancers, which was my song of Summer ’07. This love had nothing to do with me, but it reminds me of old times.

Anyway, I’ve been given an honourable mention in the blog of my good friend Ted, who is on his way to being a professional comic book artist and writer. Pop on over, he’s got lots of lovely artwork, and he updates every day.

As I anticipate more people looking at my blog this week, I’d better whip out a good bit of poetry. And as it’s rained so much recently, I’ll go for something I’m actually pretty proud of. It has its faults, but in this particular case, I refuse to list them as I think its merits outweigh them. Almost the entire thing was written in one go, which is often a good sign. It’s only been tinkered with, since, and never massively rewritten.

Rain

Why, when often we shrink
from the cool chill down-the-back of the neck,
damp on the head, hunched up,
cold unbidden tears of our red cheeks,
soaked through to skin, shivering –rain night car

why, when driving through a dark-orange night,
a thick sheet of gliding water on glass,
the dancing pairs of will o’ the wisp lights
the beating crackle that feels as though it will
break through, a rush of terrible exposure –

in both, a sense of shelter. A longing, yearning,
cosy comfort, lost or maintained.
So why, one day with you, does the world spin?
When we shed our coats and dance,
our squelching feet laughing in celebration.

Pigs Can Fly

I know I use this as a place for literature, not personal updates, but I’m supposed to be mark an exam and writing some reports, so I think I’ll update you with some important news here.

I work at the largest summer camp in Europe. I think. If not, then it’s the largest one that teaches English. Anyway, a lot of kids have been getting fevers and not feeling very well. As a general precaution, the more serious kids are sent to the nearby hospital, and at Friday lunchtime, we learnt that one of them had swine flu.

Since then, 38 kids have been tested, and 33 of them have been cleared of anything. 5 are still undergoing tests. The problem is, with lots of kids coughing and dealing with ordinary types of flu, parents have panicked and come running to pick their kids up. Between yesterday evening and this morning, my class has reduced from 15 bright and eager-to-learn faces to 4 kids, sullen about how many have left. And I’m sullen as well. 2 of those have parents visiting tomorrow, to see how their kids are doing. They might be taken home too. Which would leave me with a class of two….

I’m fine, by the way. Even my heightened sense of hypochondria can’t detect anything wrong with me. I’m just sad that so many parents have withdrawn their kids from my class. My Drama project was going to be group singing, but now I think they’ll object to the 2/4 of them standing on the stage and singing. So it can be a play… I suppose.

I’m a little concerned that, with such a small class, my kids will get moved to the room of a more veteran teacher than myself and that I’ll be turfed out, and I’m more concerned about how to restructure my classes to include games for tiny numbers of kids, but I’ll cope.

That’s all for now, I’ll keep you updated in my next post.

My Class
My Class

Dog This Big; A Tragedy

Hey all. It’s Saturday, and I’m putting a blog up. Yes, that’s right, a day earlier than I said I would. I think this is in part due to the cooler air up here in half-sunny half-cloudy Galicia. I’m based in La Coruna – check your maps, it’s the north-west corner of Spain.

In the last week, I’ve taken buses from coast to coast of Spain, and hopefully, there is a poem on it’s way about that. I also got a nice poem started sitting in a park in Madrid. Madrid has some lovely parks, by the way. But it was 39 degrees Celsius.

Anyway, enough faffing. I have a theory that the oft-promised short story will appear as soon as it’s not promised, so it definitely won’t be appearing for at least two weeks. Things will come when they come.

Luckily, I have a trusty co-author who I can turn to in times of need. True, Lily has now disappeared out of my life for a couple of months (and I will miss her dearly, as demonstrated my how much I kept hugging and kissing her before they left), but before she left, we got a story done.

Continuing on from the huge media storm after her first literary success, Lily has petitioned me to once again co-write a masterpiece. This time, like all great authors who wish to make each of their works stand out, she has chosen a different subject matter, and while some of her themes remain the same, her new approach to these common threads present a stark and astonishing new light on the nature of human life; its joys, its fears, and doubts, but also its transience, and futility. Yes, that’s right, she’s tried her teeth out on a tragedy.

Dog This Big; A Tragedy

Once upon a time, there was a girl called

The co-author strikes again
The co-author strikes again

LILY
and her friend
HANNAH
(spelt with an H) (Lily is spelt with an L)

There went on holiday to France. in a town called Bookmarks. They had two bookmarks. One for Lily and one for Hannah.They went to the town in a big van, with big bookmarks.
The kids were on their own, coming home.
Lily was holding Baby Sam.
They had a cochecito. (little pram)
Lily was pushing the cochecito with Baby Sam in it, and she was happy.

There was a naughty doggie in the town.
A big big old doggie, like this (arms stretched wide)
He was blue and white and yellow, and his name was… Clarjoo.

The dog was chasing them. He was scary.
And the doggie tried to eat Lily and Hannah, and then he got them.
Then they got eatened.
And he ate Hannah. And then he went to sleep, and there was no more Hannah and Lily, because they died.

And their daddies looked for them everywhere, but they couldn’t find them, because they
got eaten. Because they died the doggie’s tummy.
They’re dead.
The dog was very giant, like this much.

“Where’s Lily gone?” said Daddy. “Where’s Hannah gone?” said Hannah’s Daddy.
“Where’s Lily gone?” said Mummy. “Where’s Hannah gone?” said Hannah’s Mummy.
“And where’s Baby Sam and the cochecito?” said Yaya Lisa and Poppa Ray.

Then, Mummy and Daddy and Hannah’s Mummy and Daddy and Yaya Lisa and Poppa Ray said “Where’s
Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam and the cochecito?”
And then, they saw a big dog, the woofie, he had a really really big belly,
because he’d eaten Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam and the cochecito.

“Oh no!” Said Mummy and Daddy. “This dog has eaten Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam and the cochecito!”

“What a NAUGHTY doggie!”
“We want our children back”
“We’re going to make new children.”
“How will you make new children?”
– “But if we make new children, they would die again.”
“Also new children, won’t be the same, and we love Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam very much.
And we quite liked the cochecito too.”

And all the mummies and daddies and Lisa and Poppa Ray got eaten too.

That’s the end.