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"

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Grow Old With Me

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rgHYP0dD_4




I did a really silly thing the other day. You see, I received an invitation to enter the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2016 Short Story Competition on the topic of ‘ageing’. I was won over in equal measure by a subject dear to my heart (‘ageing’), combined with two correctly used apostrophes in the same mail (Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook). Also, I will readily admit that I was curious to see whether I could still produce anything remotely creative after so many years away from the keyboard.

At the same time, I decided to raise the challenge by leaving my comfort zone and attempting to write a serious piece for the first time in my life. Out went the awful puns, the pathetic jokes, the painful dialogues and the stupid punchlines. For once in my life, I would follow Stevie Wonder’s my wife’s advice and write something simple that people could actually understand on first reading.

More than anything else, however, I admired the sheer nerve of an organisation who brazenly announce in the competition rules that, “The Bloomsbury Publishing Group reserves the right to change the rules of this competition without notice.” Can’t get more reasonable than that, can you?

If this were a Hollywood movie, I would win first prize (£500, plus a place on an Arvon writing course), my writing career would take off, and I would never look back. Unfortunately, this is just another blog post, for which I won’t be winning any prizes, and nor indeed do I deserve to; as I’m sure you’ll agree if you manage to get to the end of my humourless story.

Be that as it may, thanks for reading, whoever you are, and never give up on your dreams!


Grow Old With Me

BRADLEY made straight for the living-room and crashed out on the sofa. He was getting too old for all of this, and he wondered how much longer he would be able to make his daily walk down to the newsagent’s. In theory, the exercise should have done him good, but his aching limbs told him otherwise. As he lay there recovering his breath, he took stock, not for the first time, of his life’s achievements to date. It didn’t take long, of course, for there had been very few milestones worth mentioning along the way, except that yearly milestone which came round all too quickly and only served to heighten his depression. Tomorrow was the Big One, and there was no turning the clock back.

One of life’s greatest challenges is accepting that you are an insignificant speck in the universal order of things, that the world can get by quite happily without you, and that nothing you do will ever change this sorry state of affairs. Sure, they will pretend to miss you once you are gone, and a few tears will be shed along the way. Sooner or later, however, it will be business as normal, and smiles all round as if nothing much has happened. And, indeed, nothing much has, has it?

Feeling thirsty, Bradley headed for the kitchen to get some water, but he only got as far as the mirror in the hall. Who was that grumpy-looking oldie staring right back at him? Where had that fun-loving youngster gone to? Naturally, he knew the answers to these questions, but they offered little in the way of consolation. He was on the way out, and it promised to be a lonely, miserable ride. He was getting old, and he was terrified of dying.


--- --- ---

ANGELA jumped out of bed and peeped  through the curtains. It was a glorious day, and it had only just begun. From her bedroom window, she enjoyed a fine view of the park across the road. The first joggers were already out there by the lake, doing their stretching exercises. She hoped to be joining them soon. After the latest scare, Doctor Jones had advised her to slow down, but his words had fallen on deaf ears. Besides, she had just ordered one of those smart wristband things as a birthday present to herself, and she was very much looking forward to trying out her new toy. With any luck, it should be arriving this morning.

            First things first, however. Today was a special day too for dear old Bradley, and she was determined to make it a day for him to remember. He had been down in the dumps recently, Heaven alone knows why, though she hoped this was just a temporary phase he was going through. Recently, he hadn’t even wanted to accompany her to the newsagent’s, which was most out of character for him. He was no longer eating properly, either. It was as if the silly thing had lost the will to live. 

            As Bradley lay there snoring, lost in his dream world, Angela crept out of the bedroom, tiptoed down the stairs and entered the kitchen to prepare their breakfast. Or Bradley’s breakfast, rather. Angela would have hers when she got back from the park. Now where had she put that card? She had bought it with the paper yesterday when Bradley wasn’t looking – or was pretending not to look – but she had evidently hidden it too well on arriving home. She opened the kitchen cupboard. Ah yes, there it was! She’d left the card up there on the top shelf, next to the crunchy biscuits that she had been saving for today. They were his favourite.


--- --- ---

BRADLEY returned to Earth with a bump. Had somebody called him? He rolled over and noticed that Angela had already got up. Downstairs, getting breakfast before her early-morning run, he supposed. Well, good for her, but he was in no hurry to join her. He was already dropping off again when he heard his name being called out for the second time, and this time there was no mistaking it. Fearing the worst, he scrambled down the stairs and charged into the kitchen. Angela was sat on the floor, looking rather shaken.

‘Sorry about all that noise, Bradley. And all this mess. Can you believe I dropped the sugar bowl? Anyway, breakfast is ready. Oh, by the way, happy birthday,’ said Angela, handing him his card. ‘Shall I open it for you?’

The picture on the front of the card was of a Basset Hound playing with a bone. Bradley was looking somewhat tongue-tied, so Angela continued, ‘I’ll read it for you, shall I?’ Angela opened the card and went on. ‘Happy tenth, Bradley! Here’s looking forward to our next ten together. Lots of love, Angela.’ It wasn’t the most original of birthday greetings, but nor did it need to be. ‘Fancy a biscuit?’ Bradley was in Seventh Heaven.

--- --- ---

ANGELA was still tidying up the mess on the kitchen floor when the doorbell rang. ‘Ah, that’ll be my parcel,’ she said, running to the door with Bradley in hot pursuit.

‘Happy birthday!’ said the postman, handing over the letter.
‘Oh.’ Now it was Angela’s turn to look tongue-tied.
‘Are you all right, love?’
‘Yes, I’m fine. It’s just I was expecting a different parcel.’
‘I’ll take this back to the depot if you don’t want it.’
‘           You’ll do no such thing, young man,’ said  Angela. ‘Give it here.’

Back in the living-room, Angela opened her letter as Bradley looked on in curiosity.

‘I send you my warm congratulations and best wishes for your one hundred and fifth birthday on 10th January, 2016. Elizabeth R.’

Goodness gracious me! Could it really be five years since the last greeting from Her Majesty? Angela glanced across at the framed letter sitting proudly on her mantelpiece.

‘I am so pleased to know that you are celebrating your one hundredth birthday on 10th January, 2011. I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a special occasion. Elizabeth R.’

‘How time flies, Bradley! Now hurry up and finish your breakfast. We’re going for a jog, young man.’

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


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

Until now, Colin had always had a healthy interest in death. He asked himself the usual questions, and came up with the usual answers: Where will I go when I die? Wherever they decide to dump you; What will happen when I die? Some people will pretend to be sad, and then they’ll get dinner; Will I be missed? Only if you had a dog. All in all, death was a rather depressing topic; especially your own.

dayrealing, Chapter 33, “Kill The Director”

Friday, January 29, 2016

Slip Slidin' Away

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_H-LY4Jb2M

Slowly but surely, I am making progress on the audiobook version of "dayrealing - the trials and tribulations of a stressed-out teacher in a spaced-out world... in ten tortuous, torturous hours".

I spent ten tortuous, torturous hours trying to decide whether to put a comma between "tortuous" and "torturous". Pacing is very important, you see, and, by a happy coincidence, the final audiobook will run to exactly ten hours if all my Excel sheet calculations are correct; and if I get my pacing, breathing and screaming right.

Having pointless objectives in life keeps me going. And yet, who cares if the final running time is 9 hours 37 minutes or 10 hours 23 minutes? Well, I do for starters because "in ten tortuous, torturous hours... and twenty-three minutes" sounds pretty crap; to my ears, at least.

I hope to have everything ready and on the market by April at the latest. This depends in part on whether and/or when the Holy Trinity of audiobooks, ACX-Audible-Amazon, approve my submission. I'm quietly confident they will, but it's by no means a certainty.

Here’s a rather silly excerpt from Chapter 41, "Don't Fear The Reaper":


Transcribing the screams of a reluctant birdman hurtling headfirst down a water slide at the speed of darkness is never easy. Colin’s went something like this:

‘W-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-h!
  W-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-h!
    W-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-h!
    W-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!
  W-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-h!
W-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-h!
O-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w!
  O-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h!
    O-n-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!
    O-y-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-s!
  O-s-h-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-t!
O-w-o-w-o-w-o-w-o-w-o-w-c-h!’

The seagull had landed.




If you would like to hear what was left of my voice after that scream, please click here for the unedited version:



If you would like to download the first hour or so of "dayrealing", please click here:


If you would like a free copy of the audiobook when it comes out, please click here. Alternatively, contact me via Facebook or the comments below this post if you prefer.

Thanks for reading and/or listening!

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

Inside my recording studio

View from my recording studio

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Let's Keep The Curtains Closed Today

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7dGIC9bnCo



When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end. 

(Shakespeare's Sonnet 30)

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

‘Just write down the first thing that comes into your head.’
‘Like what?’
‘Well, like that, for example.’
‘What? “Like what?” ’
‘Yeah.’
‘Not exactly Shakespeare, is it, Reggie?’
‘What do you want to write like Shakespeare for?’
‘I don’t. I want to write like David Foster Wallace.’
‘Well, there you go, then.’
Writing a story wasn’t nearly as easy as it was cracked up to be. Mick must have written the equivalent of War and Peace ten times over in his head, but the moment he sat down to put his thoughts to paper, he invariably drew a blank.
‘Just write down the first thing that comes into your head,’ Reg had told him.
OK, here goes . . .
‘Once upon a t—’
Gosh, this was pathetic!
I’ve started, so I’ll finish . . .
‘Once upon a time, there was a would-be writer who didn’t know where to start. Nor did he know where to finish. All he really knew for certain was that he wanted to write. So write he would.’
So help me God.

No one will read this rubbish!
Rule number one of writing: don’t write for no one; write for number one.

fifty shades of Spain, chapter 2, "This Is How It Always Starts"

Sunday, November 29, 2015

These Are The Days Of Our Lives

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB4K0scMysc


Oh dear! It’s the end of the month again and, as always, I have nothing remotely worth telling you. I’ve written nothing, sold nothing, done nothing, posted nothing, contributed nothing to society and, in brief, made no progress whatsoever on whatever it is I had been meaning to do when I began writing ‘seriously’ seven years ago. I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping, though that is, of course, quite usual for me. So, anyway, in the absence of anything to report, I thought I might bore you with a few lines on what I get up to during the week. Fascinating, eh? I’ll try and keep it brief because, let’s face it, how complicated can being an English teacher be? If you only knew...

I’m one of the privileged ones in my company. My first class is at eight o’clock (in the morning) and just a couple of miles down the road from where I live. Fortunately, I have a car. Many of my colleagues are already in class by half past seven (or earlier), often teaching in freezing classrooms in godforsaken locations  where nobody in their right mind would dream of setting foot at such an early hour in the morning. I too did more than my fair share of the graveyard shift in the past, the only advantage being that there is no shortage of parking spaces available at a quarter past seven in the morning.


As you can imagine, that first class tends to be the highlight of my day, after which it is all downhill. I’m incredibly lucky with my students – and  incredibly unimaginative with my choice of adverbs – because, on the one hand, they always pretend to be enjoying themselves; and, on the other hand, they rarely remember anything that I ‘teach’ them, which means I can regurgitate the same exercises week after week, year after year. ‘Don’t you ever study your notes?’ I’ll chide them, knowing full well what their answer will be. Anyway, everybody seems quite happy with this state of affairs in the tacit knowledge that the real point of these early morning classes is to warm up for the day ahead.

After my first class, I’ll grab a quick coffee and get to the office for about 9.30. Some kind soul will usually have already turned on my computer for me, so I really have no excuse for avoiding those dreaded emails any longer. Officially, you see, I am also director of studies, which suggests that, when I’m not teaching, I should be “directing studies”. And so the emails pour in about teachers who didn’t show up for work today (they overslept); teachers who are threatening not to show up for work tomorrow (they want more money); teachers who can’t understand why they haven’t got a contract (we forgot to do one); teachers who don’t know what they have to do (we forgot to send them the programme); teachers who don’t know where to go (we didn’t tell them); teachers who urgently need books (we forgot to order them). 

Then there are the mails from customers or HR directors who urgently need a 20-page report by midday because ‘the auditors are coming this afternoon’ (a likely story); customers who want to know why you billed them for classes they never received (it was worth a try); customers who want a training plan for Pepe who needs to be fluent in Italian by Christmas (because we never say No to a challenge); customers who have thirty people to be tested immediately and who want to start classes next week (or tomorrow if possible). And so on, and so forth. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. After all, I am paid to cause solve problems like these, and, as I say, I am one of the privileged ones: I have an interesting job, a fair salary, good holidays, delightful students, supportive colleagues... and countless headaches. Thank goodness for Ibuprofen, I say.  

At some stage during the day, I will be off to give further classes, sometimes in the local university, at other times in the farmhouse where we give immersion courses. The latter is always a welcome opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Basque scenery whilst listening to Meat Loaf’s warning that objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are.


Back at the ranch, and time permitting, I’ll try and create a worksheet for future classes. This is the nearest I ever get to being creative at work and, basically, keeps me sane. Here’s an extract from my latest creation, “Doctors, Operations, etc.”:

Choose the best word to complete the sentence... 

  1. I went to the doctor's to have my ears _____.
 removed  /  syringed  /  vacuumed  /  waxed


  1. They advised me to have the mole on my back _____.
 fed  /  removed  /  shaved  /  waxed


  1. I'm thinking about getting my ears _____.
drilled  /  holed  /  pierced  /  screwed


  1. The dentist said I needed three _____.
fillings  /  pastings  /  stuffings  /  toppings


  1. They said I should have my chest _____.
X-factored  /  X-plotted  /  x-rayed  /  X-waxed


  1. Doctor Scalpel is in the operating _____.
room  /  stage  /  studio  /  theatre

  1. ...

And it goes on in similar vein for another 44 questions. I look forward to using this worksheet in all my classes over the next week or so. After all, what subject could possibly be more important than one’s health and well-being?  

All being well, I’ll call it a day sometime between half past six and seven o’clock – at a quarter to seven, for example – and head home via the supermarket, fishmonger’s or wherever I have been instructed to go before reporting home for dinner duty. But that’s another story, so I’ll save it for a rainy day.

Thanks as ever for reading.

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

94
–¿Puedo ver su tarjeta sanitaria?
–Soy británico, no la necesito.

–Can I see your health card?
–I’m British, I don’t need one.

95
–Bien, bájese los pantalones, por favor.
–¿Para qué? Mis piernas están estupendamente.
–Haga lo que le digo, ¿quiere?

–OK, drop your trousers, please.
–What for? There’s nothing wrong with my legs.
–Just do as you’re told, will you?

96
–¿Cuándo fue al baño por última vez?
–¿Y a usted, qué le importa?

–When’s the last time you went to the bathroom?
–Mind your own business!

97
No le puedo ayudar si se niega a colaborar.

I can’t help you if you refuse to cooperate.

98
–¿Cuánto tiempo me queda, Doc?
–Querrá decir, ¿Cuánto dinero me queda, no?

–How much time have I got left, Doc?
–You mean, How much money have I got left, don’t you?

99
–Tómese estas pastillas.
–¿Para qué son?
–No pone.
–¿Qué clase de médico es usted?

–Take these tablets.
–What are they for?
–It doesn’t say.
–And you call yourself a doctor!

100
El problema con vosotros los británicos es que no tenéis sentido de humor alguno.

The problem with you Brits is you have no sense of humour whatsoever.


Spanglish for Impatient People, Lesson 10, “At the doctor’s”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mr. Blue Sky

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98P-gu_vMRc

Deserted Fields, Somewhere near Shrewsbury, August 2004

‘What’s the weather going to be like today?’

With these words, my wife greets me every morning, followed by, ‘Where’s my coffee?’ and ‘Pass that towel, will you?’

‘Rain,’ I’ll reply. Or, ‘Dry but cold’. Or, ‘Hurricane on its way,’ if I feel like living dangerously. Of course, so long as there genuinely is a hurricane on its way, I have nothing to fear; but God help me if the day turns out to be a scorcher and I’ve sent my poor wife to work disguised as a windshield. Naturally, the Internet is to blame, and in particular, AEMET, the Spanish Meteorological Agency, who never get it right; at least, as far as my town is concerned. 

Deserted Streets, Aretxabaleta, December 2014
For reasons known only to themselves, the happy-go-lucky people at AEMET always forecast sunny spells for Aretxabaleta at some stage during the day, even if anybody with one eye and half a brain can see that there’s no way those black thunderclouds will be going anywhere for the next 24 hours. That said, the more fool I for throwing caution to the winds and telling my wife she can wear her favourite sandals to work, to leave her brolly at home, and to have a nice day, darling. After all, the Internet never lies, does it? 


Even worse, however, is that for a short period in my life – twenty years or so – I actually took these blasted weather bulletins seriously, only to pay the price for my naivety. On more than one occasion, I found myself freezing to death at my desk, wearing just a T-shirt, summer slacks and sandals, simply because those b******s at AEMET assured me that it was going to be a belter of a day. ‘Aren’t you cold?’ my friends would ask, at least giving me a welcome opportunity to explain that we Brits are made of sterner stuff than my sensitive Basque colleagues. Conversely, on those days when I went to work armed with scarf, gloves and duffel coat, the sun would come beating through my window as I melted in my chair.

I am truly blessed to have friends, colleagues and students who are always forthcoming with advice: ‘Serves you right for using AEMET!’... ‘Personally, I use El Tiempo’... ‘Haven’t you tried Meteoblue?’... ‘Why don’t you use Euskalmet?’... ‘What’s wrong with the sodding newspaper?’...


It’s so easy to be wise after the event, isn’t it? Nevertheless, I suspected that maybe it was about time I checked out the competition, so last Saturday I did just that: I devoted my entire day exclusively to studying the local weather – in between getting breakfast, doing the shopping, getting lunch, washing up, cleaning the car, chauffeuring loved ones, taking out the rubbish, etc. – and comparing how accurate or random the so-called weather experts’ forecasts for my town actually were.  And here’s what I discovered...

AEMET
aemet.es
AEMET, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
I started my investigations at the very top. The Agencia Estatal de Meteorología – 'AEMET' for short; 'crap' for shorter – had it coming to them. I was not remotely surprised to see that they forecast sunny spells towards the end of the afternoon. The morning, on the other hand, would be a miserable grey affair, with not a ray of sunshine in sight:


Time will tell, I thought to myself, and turned to my next victim...

El Tiempo
eltiempo.es
El Tiempo, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
I know it's hard to be impressed by a website that simply calls itself "The Weather", but I am a fervent believer of equal opportunities for all – unless I've got it in for them – and, besides, this site came recommended to me by Nekane, one of the nicest and, more importantly, most sensible people I have ever met. Well, according to El Tiempo, it was going to be cloudy and grey all day, and that was that:


At this stage, my money was firmly on the merchants of doom at El Tiempo. I sincerely hoped the sun would stay hidden all day just to prove my point about AEMET's never getting it right.

And so on to our third contender...

Meteoblue
meteoblue.com
Meteoblue, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
Several people had recommended this site to me, so I thought I should give it a whirl. I'm glad I did because its forecast was exactly the opposite to what AEMET was promising. In other words, we were in for a beautiful  sunny morning, followed by a depressingly grey afternoon:


My research was going better than I could ever have imagined: three sites and three completely different forecasts! In a moment of madness, I switched my loyalties immediately to Meteoblue for the rest of my life. I had a hunch that I had already found my winner.

Alas, The show must go on, I told myself, as I moved reluctantly on to Contestant Number 4... 

Euskalmet
euskalmet.net
Euskalmet, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
Euskalmet, the Basque Meteorological Office, is everything that AEMET, its Spanish counterpart, is not: serious, professional... and totally incomprehensible to the average surfer. Jabier, my dear university lecturer friend, has sworn by this site all his life. Unfortunately, you need a degree in rocket science, like the one Jabier has, to find your way around. For starters, you have to realise that your town is in a "Cantabrian valley" if you are looking for Aretxabaleta. I got there eventually by a painful process of elimination – Are we a coastal town? No. Are we in the mountains? Well, sort of...

Once you have reached your destination, however, and read what's in store for the day, you are still none the wiser. ‘You can expect some early morning mists... mid-to-high cloud cover... getting very cloudy by night-time (when you no longer care about the sodding clouds)... some light rainfall in the late afternoon, evening and/or night... gentle southerly winds turning to north-westerly as the day progresses...’ Are you still reading? I can't say I blame you.

And imagine the reaction I would get if, on being asked what the weather was going to be like today, I replied, ‘Well, darling, we can expect a little morning mist up in the mountains, but don't worry, there'll be a nice warm southerly wind. On the cloud front, it appears they'll be up and down all day, but mainly up. We might even get a spot or two of rain, but don't quote me on that, or indeed anything’. That coffee mug would come flying back in my face well before I'd got to the end of my summary. For all its faults, at least AEMET is willing to stick its neck out and declare, ‘It's going to be a bloody miserable morning in Aretxabaleta’, regardless of the actual accuracy of its forecast.

Fortunately, the eggheads at Euskalmet are thoughtful enough to include a simple diagram for birdbrains such as yours truly. In brief, according to Euskalmet, temperatures would drop, we would have clouds and sunshine (though we didn't know in which order), and winds would be travelling in an anti-clockwise direction:


Thirty minutes later, and even more confused than when I had entered their site, I decided it was time to pull the plug on Euskalmet, and move on to my final candidate...

El Diario Vasco
El Diario Vasco, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
Let's be fair. In this age of instant Internet updates, it's a pretty impossible task for any printed publication to compete with their Net-friendly competitors when it comes to providing a reliable weather forecast for the day ahead. Indeed, I suspect that my Basque daily only offers a weather map because this is what its reactionary readership – average age 83, and rising – has come to expect since it was first launched back in 1934. Publishing a Basque newspaper without including a weather map would be akin to making a Spanish omelette without adding potatoes, to going to your grave without reading Angela's Ashes, to starting a pointless metaphor without feeling remotely guilty. But I digress.

Being a rather small town, Aretxabaleta doesn't even appear on El Diario Vasco's map, so I added it myself – just below Arrasate. You'll see that the DV weathermen decided very sensibly to keep their options open by forecasting a bit of everything:


I couldn't really argue with such a pragmatic approach and, besides, I no longer cared. The church bells chimed seven as I grabbed my mobile and shot my first snap of the day. Let battle commence!...

07.00
Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 07:00
At seven o'clock, it was still pitch dark outside, and, for the moment at least, all five contenders were still in the race. I thought about going back to bed, but Britain didn't become Great with that attitude, did it? So, I spent the next couple of hours watching the football highlights on YouTube.

09.00
Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 09:00
By nine o’clock, things were still pretty gloomy outside. And they were even gloomier inside when I remembered that this was exactly what AEMET had forecast for the morning. Mind you, these were early days yet, weren’t they?

11.00
Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 11:00
Hallelujah! By eleven o’clock, the Basques of Aretxabaleta were basking in glorious sunshine; well, those who had made it out of bed, let’s say. Sure, there were still a few clouds around, but right now Meteoblue was trouncing the competition. This was, quite possibly, the happiest moment of my life weekend.

13.00
Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 13:00
By one o’clock, the grey skies were already back with us; rather sooner than Meteoblue had predicted, if truth be told. In the case of Meteoblue, however, I was more than happy to give them the benefit of the doubt.

15.00
Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 15:00
At three o’clock, there was absolutely no change. It was a depressingly grey day, but I didn’t care too much because this was exactly the result I had been hoping for.

17.00
Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 17:00
Oh no! What was this? Did I detect the sun pushing its way back through the clouds? I sensed an invisible force of evil at work as AEMET fought their way back into the race.

19.00
Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 19:00
Luckily, the threat of late-afternoon sunshine turned out to be a false alarm, leaving us to enjoy a glorious grey evening. Mopping my brow in relief, I triumphantly declared Meteoblue the winner of this year's “Weather Forecast on Demand, Best of a Bad Bunch” contest.

21.00
Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 21:00
Having blatantly rigged the results to suit my purposes, I visited Meteoblue's website, and was delighted to discover that this is a Swiss company, whose forecasts are, by their own admission, much more accurate than anyone else's:

‘Meteoblue provides the best documented weather forecast on the web... Meteoblue users check our forecasts daily – and they like them, because of their reliability... For the general public, we offer a free high-resolution weather forecast that is second to none...’

Need I say more? Probably not, but I will: Doesn't it strike you as odd that the distant Swiss can give an Englishman a far better forecast for his Basque town than our Spanish neighbours ever will?

Thanks for reading!

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‘Lovely day, isn’t it?’ said Colin. He wasn’t going to win any prizes for this conversation. He wasn’t going to win any prizes, full-stop. For all Colin knew, there could be a blizzard outside. He never listened to the weather forecast; it was just too damned depressing. Still, the great thing about being English was your listener never knew whether you were being ironic or not, so Nicola could interpret his “Lovely day, isn’t it?” whichever way she pleased.

dayrealing, chapter 8, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”

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Well, so much for the logical alternatives. What about the illogical ones? This called for some blue-sky thinking. Colin looked up, but he needn’t have bothered for there was nothing to look up to; or at. Nothing, that is, but a universal sheet of … well, of “nothingness”, for want of a better word. How odd. It was as if he had stumbled into some kind of parallel looniverse, rather like those children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It made sense; from a nonsensical point of view, at least.

dayrealing, chapter 41, “Don’t Fear The Reaper”