Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K0eknfuix8

Actually, it was Friday Morning, 4 A.M., but try telling that to Paul Simon. Besides, you get my point: nobody in their right mind should be up and about at such an unearthly hour, should they? Unfortunately for yours truly, however, my son had been accepted for this year’s Erasmus Programme at Howest University in Belgium, and what seemed like a good idea at the time felt like an altogether different proposition when the Big Day finally reared its ugly head. 

Rehearsing for the early morning airport run. Please note actual size and weight of cases may vary considerably

And so it was that last Friday we found ourselves racing through the beautiful Basque countryside at the dead of night, headed for Bilbao airport where my son’s 6 o’clock flight to Brussels awaited him. (Or so we thought, but that’s another story.) As it turned out, we had a wonderful journey: the roads were quiet; the cyclists were still in bed; the police had taken the night off; and there were no kamikaze cats to be seen or flattened anywhere.

That said, the main reason why I say we had a great journey is that we talked to each other non-stop for the best part of an hour. We covered all those topics that only we modern men of the world can fully relate to: the weather – did you pack an umbrella? I asked ... beer – this is not the year to go teetotal , we agreed ... football – did you see the match last night? I wondered ... girlfriends – I no longer have the time or energy for them, I confessed ... geography – do you know where you’re going,  Daddy? ... drivers – did you see that idiot? ... money – it doesn’t grow on trees, we concluded ... break-ins – where are the police when you genuinely need them? ... music – I expect they have guitars in Belgium, I speculated  ... breakfast – I’m feeling a bit peckish, he said ... endless lists – any list is better than no list, I argued ... And so on and so forth, I wrote.


Having deposited my son at the airport and wished him a safe flight to Brussels (via Barcelona, a heated chicken check-in and an overnight hotel, I discovered later), I returned to the car, though not before paying €1,05 for my hour’s parking. Now that’s what I call a bargain! Is Bilbao the only airport in the world that doesn’t rip off its clients? But I digress. And not for the first time. Nor will it be the last, I fear. But where was I?

I soon found my car. It was in parking space 1361, between parking spaces 1360 and 1362, exactly where I had left it. (Tip for chauffeurs: make a note of your parking space before you enter the departures lounge. Tip for daughters: it’s also a good idea to remember what your car looked like.) I put on Rattle That Lock – the first track being 5.A.M. by a happy coincidence –, and drove a ridiculously long lap of honour around the car park, obediently following the direction of the arrows. My law-deriding wife would have been furious had she been there to witness my momentary lapse of reason.

Eventually, I chanced upon an exit barrier. I thought long and hard about smashing through it at three kilometres per hour, but I’d already paid, so there didn’t seem much point. And as I drove home,  rattling that lock and racking my brain, it struck me that I hadn’t had such a good conversation with my son since ... since when we’d bought him that blasted iPhone! In a rare moment of enlightenment, the penny dropped: my son’s friends have got better things to do than send smiley icons and thumbs up to each other at four o’clock in the morning.



In the absence of anybody else to chat to, my son decided, reluctantly or otherwise, to give me his full undivided attention.  Had we been travelling at any other time during the day, I would doubtless have had a zombie for company. No disrespect to zombies intended.

‘Did you see the match?’
‘...’
‘I said, Did you see the match?’
‘Eh?’
‘The match. Did you see it?’
‘What match?’
‘Chelsea-Liverpool.’
‘...’
‘Well?’
‘Sorry, Daddy, I’m chatting to Mikel.’
‘Which Mikel is that?’
‘Eh?’ ...

‘Thank goodness for meal times!’ I hear you exclaim.
‘If only we had them!’ you hear me complain.

Personally, I blame the parents for letting things come to this. Well, parents and the inventors of WhatsApp, let’s say. Especially the latter. Either way, the conclusion is clear, at least as far as my own family is concerned: we need more of these early wake-up calls if we are ever going to defeat the dreaded iPhone Zombie Syndrome. I wonder if my daughter fancies a trip to the coast tomorrow to see the sunrise? 

I’ll let you know how I get on.

One of the advantages of getting up at an ungodly hour is you can enjoy a full Basque breakfast before crawling into work.
Freshly squeezed orange juice, toast, tomato and coffee for a very reasonable €3.50.

---------------------------------------

‘Daddy, you have to give me ninety-seven euros.’
‘I don't have to give you anything.’
‘Yes, you do.’
‘What for?’
‘Sixty euros for the ticket, seven euros for—’
‘What ticket?’
‘For the concert. Social Distension. Don't you remember?’
‘Are they any good?’
‘Of course. All my friends are going.’
‘All five hundred of them? And the tickets cost sixty euros?’
‘That's a good price, Daddy.’
‘Where is it?’
‘Bilbao. That's why you've got to give me seven euros for the bus.’
‘I don't have to give you anything.’
‘Yes, you do.’
‘Anyway, that still only makes sixty-seven, not ninety-seven.’
‘Plus twenty-five for the sweatshirt.’
‘What sweatshirt?’
‘A Social Distension sweatshirt. All my friends are buying one.’
‘Why don't you buy a T-shirt?’
‘I've already got the T-shirt.’
‘Did you ask Mummy?’
‘Yes.’
‘What did she say?’
‘ “No way. Try Daddy.” ’
‘Look, I'll think about it. OK?’
‘OK, but I need the money tomorrow morning, so don't think too much.’
‘Right. So that’s sixty euros for the concert – they had better be good –, seven for the bus, twenty-five for the silly sweatshirt—’
‘It's not silly, Daddy.’
‘That's ninety-two, not ninety-seven.’
‘You're forgetting my pocket money, Daddy.’

fifty shades of Spain, chapter 15, "Father And Son"

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Human


What’s your favourite film? If The Shawshank Redemption isn’t in your Top Ten, I can only suppose you haven’t seen it yet. If that’s the case, I suggest you proceed immediately to YouTube, Netflix or wherever so that you can see what you’ve been missing out on for the past twenty years or so.


OK, and what if I asked those of you who saw Shawshank to name your favourite scene? There are so many, it’s virtually impossible to choose just one, isn’t it? Most of you, however, will surely remember that prison rooftop scene, in which Andy risks his life by interrupting a conversation among the guards to offer his expert financial advice.

Fortunately for all concerned, our hero lives to fight another day, but the question remains, Why on earth did he do it? To get in with the guards? To impress his fellow inmates? The narrator thinks the reason is somewhat simpler: “I think he did it just to feel normal again; if only for a short while.”

And that’s why I still scribble one or two lines every month: to feel human for a few minutes. I find it very therapeutic. Whatever that means.


Enjoying a quiet pint in Shrewsbury with sister Sue and one of her Pokémon friends
--------------------

‘Hello?’
Colin’s Condoms?’
Conundrums.’
‘Whatever.’ Colin’s caller went straight to the point …
‘How come it’s always the man’s fault?’
‘How do you mean?’ asked Colin, knowing exactly what he meant.
‘Everyone talks about “human error”, right? But you never hear anybody blame a mistake on “huwoman error”, do you?’
‘I think you’ll find “human” is an all-embracing term, encompassing both sexes,’ said Colin, surprising himself with his first intelligent observation of the day.

dayrealing, chapter 4, “Human”
--------------------

As Colin saw it, some people are born competent, while others are born incompetent. Colin was in the second group. As if to prove his point, he’d sat down the other day to start drawing up a list of his Basic Incompetences. Colin loved his lists: there was something therapeutic about writing lists, even soul-destroying lists like this one.

dayrealing, chapter 5, “Heart Of Gold”
--------------------

Despite its silly title, The Shawshank Redemption had always been Colin’s favourite film. Ever. He had long been a sucker for prison movies – Escape From Alcatraz, The Count Of Monte Cristo, Papillon, Porridge … – but The Shawshank Redemption would always hold the number one spot for Colin. Unless a better movie came out in the meantime, that is. Imprisoned unfairly, fighting against injustice, falling foul of a corrupt system, tormented by evil bosses … Colin was Andy Dufresne. Not literally, of course; the main differences being a) Andy was a very clever competent chap, b) Andy escaped and c) Colin was not Andy Dufresne. Obviously.

dayrealing, chapter 6, “Living For The Corporation”


Friday, July 22, 2016

Read My Mind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc8hbSM1zVo

Any idea what yours truly is doing in this photo?


a) consulting the dinner menu before the waiter returns to take my order?
b) examining my wife’s manicure set with a view to identifying the nail clipper?
c) reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky?

Yes, you guessed it: I was looking for the nail clipper. Incidentally, if you chose a), you really should try living in the Basque Country for a few years. But what if I had been reading Dostoyevsky’s harrowing tale?


And therein lies the real problem for Kindle lovers and e-book addicts in general: nobody will ever appreciate what magnificent literary tastes we have. Non-Kindle converts will tell us how much they love “the feel and smell of a real book”, how they like to “thumb and turn the pages”, how they need to “touch base with the physical world”. And similar bollocks.

What none of these romantics will admit, of course, is that their main reason – dare I say, their only reason – for not embracing the e-book revolution is that they want others to look at them and think, “Wow! I wish I were reading that book!”; “Dostoyevsky? That guy must be really smart!”; and so on.

Fortunately, thanks to Kindleractive Electronic Cover Technology™, Kindle owners no longer need to feel like second-class readers.


Simply press the Kindleractive button on your Kindle to let your fellow poolside users know what masterpiece you are reading today.


Beware, however, of the deadly Kindleractive Trojan virus which, once installed in your Kindle, will destroy in one fell swoop what little street credibility you might once have enjoyed:


‘Never mind all this Kindleractive nonsense!’ I hear you saying. ‘What’s with all this Dostoyevsky stuff? You’re not going through one of your silly existential crises again, are you?’ Well, no more than usual. No, the point is, a few years ago, I very unwisely decided to buy Fyodor’s masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov. “The most magnificent novel ever written,” said Sigmund Freud; the book that would “teach you everything you need to know about life,” added Kurt Vonnegut. As it happened, I hated the blasted book and would happily have thrown it out of the window had it not been on my Kindle at the time. Come to think of it, perhaps that’s the real reason why some bookworms still refuse to read e-books?

That said, I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment forgiving, so I decided to give Fyodor one last shot. On this occasion, however, I set my sights lower and plumped for Crime and Punishment. “Start with this one. It’s the easiest,” said Amazon Customer. Whether it’s his easiest, I couldn’t say, but it’s certainly his most entertaining. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading.


---------------------------------------------------

After a while they came to a fork in the road. Who left that lying there? Colin wondered. There was no sign of a knife or spoon. Colin was beginning to feel a little peckish. It was way past his dinner time.

‘What’s that noise?’ asked Mal.
‘Just my stomach rumbling. Sorry. Is there anywhere we can grab a bite to eat?’
‘If it’s not sex, it’s food. Is that all you Earthlings ever think about?’
‘No,’ said Colin, lying through his teeth, and somewhat taken aback by the ferocity of Mal’s sudden outburst.
‘Don’t you ever spare a thought for the starving millions, Colin? Well, I’ve got some very bad news for you. Welcome to the Land of the Starving Jillions, sunshine.’
‘ “Jillions”? Is a jillion bigger than a zillion?’
‘Stop trying to change the subject. Now where was I?’
‘We were discussing large numbers.’
‘Down here, there’s no breakfast, no lunch, and no dinner. Got that?’
‘How about afternoon tea?’
‘No afternoon tea, no morning tea and, no, before you ask, no evening tea, either.’
‘But— But what do you live on?!’
‘ “Live on”? “Live on”?! Did you hear that, Louise?’
‘Shall I saw his legs off, Mal?’
‘Maybe later, Louise. Let’s wind him up a bit more first, shall we?’
‘Whatever you say, Mal. Just give me the nod when you’re ready.’
Please, God, wake me up.
‘I know exactly what you’re thinking, Colin.’
‘No you don’t.’ Does he?
‘Yes I do.’
‘Prove it.’
‘You’re thinking, “Please, God, wake me up”.’
Bastard.
‘And now you’re probably calling me a bastard, aren’t you?’
‘No.’ Bastard.

dayrealing, Chapter 42, “The Passenger”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rewind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1eEC4foVtI

It’s just one blow after another, isn’t it? First, in a moment of madness, Britain votes to leave the European Union. Next, the most corrupt political party in the history of this blog, namely the “Partido Popular”, an oxymoron if ever there were one, gains 14 seats – yes, gains!! – in the Spanish general election. Then, finally, as if that weren’t all bad enough, England has just been knocked out of the UEFA Euro 2016 by mighty Iceland.

Don’t you just wish we could turn the clock back a week and try again?



Come to think of it, can we make that fifty years? For what it’s worth, I’ve started an online petition demanding a rematch with Iceland, though I don’t hold out much hope.

Indeed, there is only one thing that distresses me more right now than this catastrophic chain of events. Yes, you guessed, it’s people’s stubborn refusal to use apostrophes correctly despite my rants over the years on this topic. It seems like only yesterday when I exploded for the first, but unfortunately not the last, time:

[July 2011] “I can’t stand it anymore. My blood boils every time I see them: the five most abused, misused and misspelt words in the English sandwich. Er, language, sorry. OK, here goes ...

5. its / it’s / its’
Its refers to possession and means “of it”.
It’s is a contracted form of It is or It has.
Its’ is not an English word and means nothing.

Wrong: *Its important to know its’ meaning.
Right: It’s important to know its meaning.

4. your / you’re
Your does not mean you are.
Your refers to possession and means it is yours.
You’re is a contracted form of You are.

Wrong: *Your you’re own worst enemy.
Right: You’re your own worst enemy.

3. their / there / they’re
Neither their nor there means they are.
Their refers to possession and means it is theirs.
There refers to location and means it is not here.
They’re is a contracted form of They are.

Wrong: *There over their waiting for they’re instructions.
Right: They’re over there waiting for their instructions.

2. who’s / whose
Who’s is a contracted form of Who is or Who has.
Whose refers to possession and means “of whom”.

Wrong: *Who’s mistake is this? Whose interested?
Right: Whose mistake is this? Who’s interested?

1. ’s
We do not use ’s to form plurals. Well, I don’t, let’s say.
The apostrophe + s has three uses:
contraction of is e.g. It’s easy!
contraction of has e.g. He’s learnt it!
possession e.g. Is that John’s son?

However, we do not use ’s to form plurals; we use s (no apostrophe).

Wrong: *All monkey’s love banana’s.
Right: All monkeys love bananas.

If the noun ends in consonant + y, we must use ies (but still no apostrophe).

Wrong: *Many family’s are having difficulty’s feeding their monkey’s.
Right: Many families are having difficulties feeding their monkeys.

So, if you’d like to make me happy, next time please, please spell it right. And, by the same token, if you want to carry on annoying me, I’ve handed it to you on a plate now, haven’t I?”


‘Put a bleeding sock in it, Mike!’ I hear you saying. I would if I could, believe me, but I’ve developed this horrendous ‘gift’ over the years of spotting glaring grammatical mistakes from a mile off. So, when multimillionaire authors – or multimillionaire authors’ editors – who really should know better write, “You’re timing is great, McDeere” (John Grisham, The Firm) or “Lot’s of people die when there’s a war on” (Anthony Grey, Saigon), my eyes pop out of their sockets, my skin breaks into a sweat, and my kids want to know when their dinner will be ready.


----------------------------------

‘I’m sending you to Coventry.’
‘Coventry?! Coventry?!!’

Colin had never used two exclamation marks in his life, but there was a time and a place for everything. Now was the time, and Coventry was the place.

Coventry!!
‘Er, any chance of Stratford?’
No answer.
‘You can’t send me to Coventry against my willy, Miss Slapper.’
But she could … And she would.


dayrealing, Chapter 30, “Laughing Stock”


Friday, May 6, 2016

Old Friends

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M24Yhd7N91s

Jose Mari & Santos
I see them in the bar every morning. They’re not the most talkative of couples, but they appear to enjoy each other’s company, even if I have never seen them facing each other, let alone – Heaven forbid – holding a conversation. I know very little about either of them; just their names and a few things that I’ve observed over the past ten years or so.

Jose Mari must be about 72, at a guess  I like to be precise in my guesses , and is becoming increasingly unsteady on his feet. He uses his walking stick to fend off customers who would like to read the bar’s newspaper that he’s just bagsed for himself. Once he’s finished reading, he pulls his stick away, and it’s safe to move in. When he’s not reading the paper, he looks into the distance, and a faint smile sets in as he recalls whatever it is that he is trying to recall.

Judging by the clothes he wears, I think it’s safe to assume that he lives on his own, though I honestly have no idea. I used to see him in church on Sunday mornings operating the projector with the words to the hymns. Recently, however, a younger chap (68-ish?) has taken over that role. I do hope Jose Mari didn’t lose his faith at the same time as he lost his job.

Santos turned 66 last November. Or 67 last July? I haven’t a clue, to be honest, but he’s definitely a good few years younger than his table mate. He also dresses rather more smartly, so I reckon he must still have somebody at home looking out for him. Santos never reads the paper, preferring instead to sit there and meditate on life in his own way while looking down at the floor. 

When he was younger, Santos used to enter the bar and burst into song, terrifying his British fanbase in the process as I tried to concentrate on my coffee and croissant. Nowadays, Santos is somewhat quieter, and the years are clearly beginning to take their toll. That said, he is still known to pipe up on occasions; usually to curse his country’s political leaders, a sentiment almost certainly shared by his fellow customers.

Well, that’s all I have to say about this odd couple who, despite never having addressed a single word to each other, would appear to be perfectly content to just sit there in silence and watch the world go by. Or watch the ground go by, in Santos’ case. And I find their friendship very moving.


----------------------------------------------------

91
Patos, patos y más patos. ¿Dónde están las ardillas?

Ducks, ducks and more ducks. Where are the squirrels?


92
–¿Prefieres en el sol o en la sombra?
–En el sol.
–Yo también. A ver si deja de llover pronto.

–Do you prefer in the sun or in the shade?
–In the sun.
–Me too. Let’s hope it stops raining soon.

93
–Esto parece un buen sitio. ¿Nos sentamos aquí?
–Tú primero.

–This looks like a nice spot. Shall we sit here?
–After you.

94
Cuidado con las caquitas de perro.

Mind the dog turds.

95
–¿Has visto a esa pareja?
–No tienen vergüenza.

–Have you seen that couple?
–They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

96
–¿Damos de comer a los patos?
–¿Con qué? Sólo tengo chicles.
–¿De qué sabor?

–Shall we feed the ducks?
–What with? All I’ve got is chewing gum.
–What flavour?

97
–¿Has visto a mi madre?
–Estaba al lado de la fuente, hablando con los vagabundos.

–Have you seen my mother?
–She was by the fountain, talking to the tramps.

98
–¿Nos puede sacar una foto, por favor?
–Claro que sí. ¿Con o sin las grúas en el fondo?

–Can you take a photo of us, please?
–Yes, of course. With or without the cranes in the background?

Spanglish for Impatient People 2, Lesson 10, "in the park"


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The End

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSUIQgEVDM4



The end of the month, that is; not this blog. Due to circumstances entirely within my control, I have failed to meet my deadline. May's entry will be better, I promise.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Listen To Me

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6loDylLcWig

The Other Mike Church is celebrating! I finally managed to get the audiobook of ‘dayrealing’ recorded, edited, uploaded and approved. This took me the best part of two years, but let’s stay out of the weeds and cut to the chase...

If you’d like to download a complimentary copy from Audible, try using one of these codes:

TLETGN7SW5PW8 (Audible.co.uk)
2MNAG6SPPFULL (Audible.co.uk)
K66HAAS67AJEH (Audible.com)
YP945GZGJWGSR (Audible.com)

Here are the instructions for Audible.co.uk:

1.      Go to my book's page on Audible.co.uk: http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B01CDIU7KE
2.      Add the audiobook to your basket.
3.      If you are prompted to sign in, please create a new Audible.co.uk account, or log in using your Amazon details. Otherwise, proceed by clicking "Do you have a promotional code?" beneath the cover artwork of the audiobook.
4.      Enter the promo code, and click "Apply Code".
5.      A credit for the audiobook will be added to your account. Click the box next to "1 Credit" and click the "Update" button to change the price to £0.00.
6.      Proceed to checkout by clicking “Next Step” and “Buy Now”
7.      Download the audiobook or listen online, as you prefer.

Here are the instructions for Audible.com:

1.      Go to my book's page on Audible.com: http://www.audible.com/pd/B01CDITDKY
2.      Add the audiobook to your basket.
3.      If you are prompted to sign in, please create a new Audible.com account, or log in using your Amazon details. Otherwise, proceed by clicking "Do you have a promotional code?" beneath the cover artwork of the audiobook.
4.      Enter the promo code, and click "Apply Code".
5.      A credit for the audiobook will be added to your account. Click the box next to "1 Credit" and click the "Update" button to change the price to $0.00.
6.      Proceed to checkout by clicking “Next Step” and “Complete Purchase”
7.      Download the audiobook or listen online, as you prefer.

If you try a code and it isn’t accepted, that means somebody used it before you. Sorry! But please drop me a line just in case I can help you.


If you prefer to listen to some samples before downloading the whole sorry affair, please click here:


Happy listening!
----------------------------------

When he was feeling uninspired, Colin would take songs into class, together with gapped lyrics for his students to fill in as they listened. They had done Yesterday only yesterday:

Yesterday, ___ __ ________ ______ __ ___ ____
___ __ _____ __ ______ ____’__ ____ __ ____
__ _ _______ __ _________

Miss Tedley had taken to the task with relish:

Yesterday, ten or thirteen people in New York
Had no water or lights must’ve been no joke
If I grasped it correctly

‘I always knew you were a bit hard of hearing, Miss Tedley, but I didn’t realise you were that bad.’

‘Don’t you like my lyrics, dear?’

‘It’s not a question of liking or not liking, Miss Tedley.’

‘ “Listen and fill the gaps,” you said. Well, that’s what I did. Instructions, dear. Your instructions were ambiguous.’

Seeing that Miss Tedley was the sort of person who could quite happily complete The Telegraph Crossword without reading any of the clues, Colin knew better than to pursue this conversation any further.

dayrealing, Chapter 1, "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"