The Art of Derek Dohren

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1,114 and counting

Posted by Derek John Dohren on July 9, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Tonight, in a bar in La Zubia, I shall impart my 1,114th English class. That means that in little under two and a half years I have given, on average, 455.72 classes a year, 37.97 classes a month, 8.86 classes a week, and 1.27 classes each day, every day, Monday to Friday, January 1st to December 31st, including Easter and Christmas. I have even managed three classes on that rarest of dates, February 29th.

 

Anyway, whatever. It's amazing to think back at the sheer amount of bum numbing drivel I must have spouted.

 

I've been paid, under-paid, over-paid, unpaid and frankly, robbed (yes, you know who you are you twats, and I haven't forgotten it). I've held forth in academy classrooms, schoolrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, living-rooms, bars, cafes, balconies, roof terraces, gardens, a corridor, a lecture theatre, an art gallery, a playground, a laboratory, a shop, a boardroom, the street, a mountainside, a river valley, and on one memorable occasion a rather splendid swimming pool.

 

I've been frozen to the core, scorched to a crisp, rained on and snowed on. I've mostly arrived to class on time, though have on occasion been a tad late, was once a day early and on one famous occasion simply decided to walk straight past the venue and go for a drink instead.

 

Somehow, I've survived, and will start the next 1,114 classes first thing tomorrow morning.

Barcelona

Posted by Derek John Dohren on April 4, 2012 at 8:05 AM


an extract from my forthcoming book, 'The Cats of the River Darro'


Dead? Dead at fifty? I can't believe it. It's not fair!

Why's it not fair then? Fifty's a good innings. It's more than I give most people.

Yes, but, I was just getting into my stride. I've got an exhibition next week too. Well, I had one.

It'll go ahead without you. They'll do one of those soppy posthumous things. You'll be well received so I wouldn't worry about it. Your abstracts seem to be very popular. It's not my bag to be honest but if the punters like them who am I to argue?

Er, well you're God aren't you? At least I kind of assume that's who you are?

Yes, yes, God, that's me. And you're Derek aren't you? I know all about you. Been following you for fifty years. Most interesting. Suppose you tell me how it was from your side of the fence.

Erm, well, I don't know where to begin. Uhm, I was born in erm, Liverpool and I …

No, no, boring, boring. I know all that. It's in your file somewhere. I mean today. What happened today?

Well, I died didn't I?

Yes but you didn't wake up dead this morning did you? So what happened?

I'm not sure I really know to be honest. I was just going out for breakfast, at my usual cafe, you know at 'Isabel's Ham Friends', and I suppose my mind was wandering a bit.

Yes, and why was that then?

I couldn't get onto the bridge.

Ah yes, Santiago Calatrava's bridge. It's rather a splendid thing isn't it?

Yes, I always enjoy walking over it, er always enjoyed walking over it. Well, anyway, it was cordoned off this morning. Apparently someone had tried to top themselves by jumping off it.

Yes, dreadful business. I put a stop to it. Sent one of our chaps down at the last minute. Do go on.

Well I saw the guy, the suicider, and it freaked me out a bit. He was standing there with the guardia policia. He was an English looking bloke and he was wearing a hat that made his head look a funny shape. We kind of made eye contact, just for a few seconds and it was really weird.

Why was it weird then?

I dunno really. It was like we both knew one another. But I mean it's impossible. He was familiar but I'm sure I've never seen him before in my life. It's hard to explain. It just freaked me, that's all. And there was another bloke standing there with him. He had dreadlocks.

Ah yes, Norman.

Norman?

Yeah. Our man. Like I said, I sent him down at the last minute. It would've have caused a huge administrative foul up if the guy had jumped you see. It wasn't his time.

Oh I see.

Well, after that, I suppose I wasn't really concentrating much on anything.

No, I suppose not.

All I remember from then on is that I was crossing the road and suddenly, out the corner of my eye, saw this huge thing looming towards me at a rate of knots. Someone screamed, the whole world was spinning, and well, here I am. And come to think of it, where the Hell am I exactly? Is this Heaven?

No it's not Heaven but we'll come to that. You've got to get through immigration first. So, you were run over then?

Well I'm sure you know. I mean, you're God.

Yes, of course I know. I also realise all this is a bit tiresome but it's just for the books. We have to go through the formalities you see.

Okay, well I think I was hit by a truck because I wasn't looking where I was going because I was freaked out by some selfish suicidal idiot I saw on a bridge who was talked out of jumping by a dreadlocked man named Norman who, apparently, was one of your guys, whatever that means.

Hang on, hang on. Let me just write that down. Okay, yes, well it's almost right. It wasn't a truck. It was a segway. An only lady, ironically on her way to the same cafe as your good self. She hit you full on. She was very upset. Segway's a complete write off.

A segway? I'll be a laughing stock.

Yes, you will unfortunately. I can't do much about that. You have to admit it is quite funny. In fairness it wasn't entirely your fault. The old girl got distracted. She was looking off road at a couple of nuns eating ice-cream. Quite disgraceful I know, but taking holy orders doesn't seem to be what it used to be. Some of them have got iPods you know. Anyway, enough of all that. I need you to tell me your impressions, you know, of life. What did you think it was all about then? What did you make of it?

Well I don't really know. It's all devilishly complicated isn't it? Now that I'm here I'm looking forward to finding a few things out. I'm amazed that there's a Heaven for starters. It's great news.

Yes, well don't get ahead of yourself. There is indeed an after life and a Heaven but there's also, ahem, 'that other place' you've read about, down there, you know that place we don't like to talk about. You're in a holding area right now so I can assess you. I don't want to worry you, Heaven knows you've enough on your plate at this difficult time, but it could go either way.

I see. So this is my 'judgement' time?

Yes it is. And I always like to begin by asking newcomers to give me their thoughts on everything. Just now you said you found life 'devilishly complicated'. What did you mean by that?

Well, if I'm being honest …

Yes, I would be if I were you.

Quite. Well, it just seems to me it's so hard to understand everything. Why isn't it all simpler? You know this whole 'does God, er that is, do you exist or don't you' malarkey. And why can't there just be simple rules, a list of dos and don'ts that we can all follow? We'd all know where we stood then.

Ha, you mean like the Ten Commandments? I tried that didn't I but you lot couldn't hack it. Ten simple rules, written in stone no less, given to Moses clear as you like, but they were too hard for you. I must have used too many big words.

What? Well, some of them were okay, the ones about murder and adultery and that but some of the others, well they were a bit iffy weren't they?

Iffy? Whaddya mean, iffy?

Those ones about not coveting your neighbour's possessions or having false icons and telling lies and things.

What's wrong with them?

Well nothing, but well they're a bit hard to stick to aren't they?

Ha, so rules are okay as long as they're easy ones then. Is that what you're telling me?

No, that's not what I mean. I er ...

Yes it is. You can all do the big stuff – well most of you humans can most of the time – but you can't do the little things, the fiddly bits.

The fiddly bits?

Yes, yes, yes, the fiddly bits. That's why I had to do away with them, wipe the slate clean and start again.

What do you mean you did away with them?

They're too hard for you to stick to. Oh sure, you decided to enshrine a few of them into your earthly laws and so on, fair enough, but I reckoned you needed a better deal, something you could handle. That's why I sent Jesus down.

Yes, I see.

Do you?

Well I understand the basic idea. The New Testament. That was your new improved deal with us. Jesus took on all of our sins and died for us so we didn't, erm have to worry about breaking rules all the time. And uhm ...

Yes, go on …

Well it seems to me, to most of us, that it's a strange deal.

How so?

Well it seems a little unbalanced. Surely it doesn't mean people can go round murdering each other and stuff just because Jesus has taken on all the blame?

Yes and no.

Eh?

People can if they wish. That's why I give everyone free will. As long as you say sorry afterwards we're sweet.

What! That seems to be a license for everyone doing just whatever they want.

Yes it is. It's not the worst deal in the world is it but loads of you are still not happy with it. There's no pleasing some people. It's not as cushy at it looks though. There are consequences if you decide to do bad things with your free will.

Like what?

Well, we're coming to that. Let's take a look at your rap sheet shall we. I have it here. It's pretty big as you can see.

Ah well from here the writing looks like it's in quite a large font. I'm sure it's not as bad as it looks.

The writing's normal size, and this scroll only covers last Wednesday, last Wednesday evening to be exact.

What? I didn't do anything last Wednesday. Oh, no hang on, yes but everyone else was doing that as well. And I'd had a few drinks. Oh shit.

Yeah, and see that box over there? That's got Tuesday's stuff in it. I haven't had a chance to go through it yet. We've archived off the rest of your life. The IT guys are recovering it from backup now but it'll take a few hours. They've been having trouble with a new database or something. I don't know. They're always spinning me a line. Anyway, that's not important. The thing is there are consequences to be faced. You might have to do a bit of community service.

Community service?

Yep, on a parallel earth somewhere.

You mean there are parallel worlds? Wow, that's amazing. I always thought that idea was a load of bollocks.

Hmm, it's a lot of overheads, I'll grant you that. I'd have done it differently if I'd known the hassles.

Really?

Yeah, but never mind. We are where we are as they say.

So what will I have to do?

Oh you know, a bit of this, a bit of that. I might send you down to an interesting earth I've got where Chelsea needs another manager. You like footy don't you?

Yes, but I couldn't be manager of Chelsea. I'd only last a few weeks before they sacked me.

Yeah, well that happens on all of the earths. It's a software bug.

Would that be me done then? I mean, would that count as my community service.

Don't be ridiculous. You'd have to do a bit more time doing other stuff. If you behave yourself we could give you something a bit more comfortable, something up here in the office. We're always looking for IT guys. I see you've got a bit of previous in that field?

Oh God no. Send me straight to Hell now. I'm not doing that stuff again. Anyway, how much is a 'bit more time' exactly?

Infinity.

Infinity! That's ages.

Some infinities are smaller than others. Don't worry, it'll fly by.

And what are the alternatives?

Alternatives? Listen sonny, you're not in Starbucks.

No, I know I'm not. Sorry. Can I ask a question?

Go on.

Is Salvador Dali here? I mean, is he in Heaven or Hell?

That's none of your business is it.

No I suppose not. It's just that, oh nothing.

It's that painting isn't it, the one in the Kelvingrove? You want to know if it had any meaning, if he had any special insights or anything.

Well, I was just curious that's all.

Remember that student who slashed the painting in 1961?

I'm too young to remember but yes, I read about it. You can still see the scar on the canvas.

That was one of my boys, Howard. A good lad. Took an awful lot of stick for that he did. Bashed it with a brick on his community service. Not exactly what I asked him to do, but free will and all that, you know. We looked after him. Got him a nice job in the IT department. He's a shift leader now you know.

But why? Why did you try and destroy it? It's such a beautiful painting.

Oh the painting's marvellous, yes, but it was all that Glasgow palaver that was getting on my wick, that Catholic versus Protestant thing. I wanted to draw attention away from it. Make them all see what was more important. Now I'm told everyone in the city treasures the painting. They nearly lost it you see. Sometimes you have to nearly lose things to realise what you've, erm, nearly lost. We had to send someone else down in the 1980s though cos it was all going pear shaped again.

Oh yes I remember that. He shot it with an air gun didn't he?

Yes. There'd been a particularly niggly run of Old Firm matches. I'd had enough. Things actually got worse for a while after that. Graeme Souness has a lot to answer for when he gets here. And Frank McAvennie. I've got to be seen to be even handed of course.

Okay, but I'm not with you. Are you saying art's more important than religion?

Of course I am. Religion's got nothing to do with anything important. It's just a man made monstrosity. I don't want people shuffling in and out of dank Victorian buildings all week, squabbling over bits of doctrine and wondering what the vicar's wearing under his cassock do I?

No, I don't suppose you do. That painting though, I always knew it had some spiritual significance. There was always a feeling I had, every time I looked at it, that there was some hidden meaning to it.

Well there isn't really. It's just a good painting that's all. Just some paint on a piece of canvas. I've seen better to be frank. Even some of your stuff from a certain angle, with erm, the lights dimmed a bit. No, hang on, that's going too far. Anyway, we're rather getting off the point of all this. This is supposed to be your judgement. Now, what have you got to say for yourself?

Look, I did my best down there. Whatever skills and talents you gave me I used to the best of my ability. I tried to be a good person. I was kind to animals. I tried, I really did.

Hmm.

And I never really stopped believing in you.

Pfft.

I thought I had a bit more time you see, to work things out properly.

Peter. Fetch me my rubber gloves and the pointy stick. It's time for his medical.

The Girl Who Is Isabel

Posted by Derek John Dohren on November 17, 2011 at 12:05 PM

I used to teach a girl named Isabel. One day, shortly after we'd finished our series of classes, she got onto my bus but it turned out the girl wasn't Isabel at all. Oddly, over the next few days, I kept seeing other girls that weren't Isabel. I don't know why this happened. Isabel wasn't a particularly striking girl and I didn't think she had made the sort of impression on me that would mean I'd keep thinking I'd seen her when I hadn't.


Even so, after that first false sighting on the bus, it seemed that everywhere I went, I would see girls who weren't Isabel. But though girls who weren't Isabel were everywhere I always felt that the one who got on the bus that day was the best at being The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel. She got on the bus every day after that first time.


On the bus one day I found myself sat a few seats behind The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel. As we reached the city I glanced out of the window and saw another girl who wasn't Isabel. It was the first time I'd ever seen two of them at the same time; two girls who weren't Isabel. The shock of it was that this second girl really was Isabel! She was walking up Avenida Cervantes with a friend. Interestingly, her friend didn't look anything like her.


For a split second as the bus went past, the three of us lined up in a rather splendid isosceles triangle formation: The Girl Who Is Isabel, The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel, and me, as unlikely a geometric shape I ever saw. Since that day I haven't seen The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel as she hasn't got on the bus. Nor have I seen The Girl Who Is Isable as she hasn''t walked up Avenida Cervantes. I also haven't seen any other girls that weren't Isabel. These non-sightings haven't happened on the bus, the avenidas, everywhere. It's as if the triangle thing has finally settled something.


Except to say that it hasn't. Not totally.


Though I'm sure The Girl Who Is Isabel is fine I do find myself thinking now about the girl who used to get on the bus, The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel, and this has led to a worrying development in the whole sorry business.


 

This morning a new girl got on the bus. At first I thought it was The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel but it wasn't, it was a new girl, The Girl Who Isn't The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel. She didn't even almost not look like her. So now I'm pondering things. Am I going to start seeing loads of other girls who don't look like The Girl Who Is Isabel, and who don't look like The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel, but who do look like The Girl Who Isn't The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel? Or am I not?


 

If The Girl Who Is Isabel turns up again it could get very complicated.


And what if the three of them ended upon the bus? If The Girl Who Is Isabel, The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel, and The Girl Who Isn't The Girl Who Wasn't Isabel all ended up on the bus at the same time, with me. What would happen?


First question that comes to mind is, how would we form an isosceles triangle?


I'd like to think we wouldn't even try but it all makes me wonder if anyone's ever looked at me and thought I was someone else and not me. I'm not The Man Who Looks Like Isabel, I know that much, yet there may be girls out there who look like Isabel who have seen me and think I look like someone else.


I may well be known to some people, to someone or other who looks a bit like Isabel but who isn't Isabel, as The Man Who Isn't Manolo, or The Man Who Wasn't The Man Who Isn't Manolo. Or worse still, The Bloke On The Bus Who Doesn't Know Who He Is But Who Knows He's Not Isabel.


Changing my bus route won't fix the situation but I think I'll walk into the city instead from now on. I'll still take a very similar route, not the proper bus route but The Route That Looks Like The Bus Route But Isn't. I risk unwittingly forming a parallelogram with three other people as I hit Avenida Cervantes just as a bus is going past but that's a risk I'll take thank-you very much.


Should I see The Girl Who Is Isabel I will confront her, get it all out in the open. She's the one who started all this malarkey. I'll ask her what she thinks she's playing at and who the hell does she think I am. And what does she know about geometry, and does it freak her out that so many girls look like her, except her friend.


The problem is that I've now forgotten what The Girl Who Is Isabel looks like. How will I know if I run into her? My mind's so full of all the potential dramas that may occur whilst travelling on foot along The Route That Looks Like The Bus Route But Isn't. And I've got another student. Her name's Isabel. I haven't met her yet but I can't begin to imagine where this is heading.

 


Reel Around the Fountain

Posted by Derek John Dohren on October 11, 2011 at 6:50 PM

 

One of my pivotal reference points of the 1980s is The Smiths' song Reel Around the Fountain. That's what was playing in the car when we crashed on the M62 near Burtonwood services. We were on our way home from the 1984 League Cup Final replay at Maine Road, Manchester. Even now, I can't have a car crash without thinking about that song.


We'd beaten Everton 1:0. Graeme Souness scored. We were stranded on the motorway and got a lift home from Eddie, my mate Ken's mother's boyfriend. He was a Bluenose and gutted about the match yet Ken phoned him up and told him what had happened. Eddie drove back out just to pick us up. Us, a bunch of gobby Red Shite, the last thing he probably wanted to see in the entire whole world. Served him right. Even now I can't see Graeme Souness without thinking of Eddie.


I'd damaged my glasses in the crash. They'd flown off my head in the impact, just at the point where Morrisey witters on about falling out of bed twice. Ironic? No, not really, just the random machinations of planet earth. Shit happens, but thankfully there's usually someone worse off. I needed new specs anyway and that's me all over. Some of us are glass half full people. And some of you aren't. I saw it as an opportunity. Still, even now I can't fall out of bed without thinking about those specs.


I tried to pull a guy out of the wreckage. He was one of those worse off people I was on about. He was caked in blood. He may have been dying. He asked me to leave him because the pulling hurt too much. I think he had to be cut out of his wreckage. Give him his due, he was laughing about writing off the missus's car. You see he was a Red and she was a Blue. A mixed marriage then. She was going to be livid. She'd say he'd wrecked her car and died on purpose. Even now I can't think about dying without thinking about not being able to not die.


I don't know for certain but I suspect Morrisey was oblivious. And sure as Hell he'd bank a royalty cheque one day that would include the tiny fee he'd get from Radio City for that particular play. And not just Morrisey in fairness. The rest of the Smiths were all in this too. I don't imagine they gave even a single thought for poor Eddie's plight that night. But in fairness, are Morrisey, Johnny Marr and the other ones, actually footy fans? Even now I can't bank royalty cheques without remaining callously oblivious too.



They built a whole Ikea superstore at the very spot where we crashed. I went back once and there was no plaque, no acknowledgement. It's as if Reel Around the Fountain had never been written. Perhaps if we'd crashed to William It Was Really Nothing things'd have been different? In an attempt to forget I took to wearing contact lenses.It didn't work. Every time I put them in I thought of my old glasses.


But I left the M62 behind. Life does move on eventually. I moved to Scotland and began crashing on the M8, just by those big gas towers. 'Glasgow's Miles Better' a sign there said. No it wasn't. I crashed twice in two days in the exact same place. In the same bleeding lane. In fairness to him Graeme Souness had no hand in either incident and I was thankfully able to console my new glasses (I'd taken to not wearing the contact lenses on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – the days of the crash) with the information that I'd had glasses that had suffered far more in terms of severe car crash injuries. Even now I can't turn the gas on without thinking about Graeme Souness.


I still wear glasses but I've given up listening to The Smiths. I haven't seen Eddie or Graeme Souness for years. I gave up on Glasgow too. It was miles better as it happened but I wasn't to know that at the time was I? It's water under the bridge now though. I can't see water under a bridge without thinking about other places being miles better.


And do you know what the odd thing is? If I Google Graeme Souness I get 628,000 hits but if I Google Eddie I get 248,000,000. I may of course be spelling Eddie's name wrong and maybe it's Eddy. I haven't tried Googling Eddy. Googling The Smiths would be complicated because of all the people in the world called Morrisey. Even now I can't spell things wrong without thinking about Google.


Reel Around the Fountain: It's a funny title to crash your car to. And I should know. Or rather my brother should, it was his car. And he crashed it. If ever we play Everton in a League Cup final replay again it'll throw up old memories, rip open the scars. I don't know if either my brother or my current glasses are up to it to be honest. These days me and my glasses listen to Extremaduro and watch Youtube to see fourteen year old girls auditioning for X-Factor. They never sing about fountains, none of them. You'd think Ikea had never been invented. Even now I can't invent things without thinking about Simon Cowell.

 

The Cats of the River Darro

Posted by Derek John Dohren on August 14, 2011 at 12:00 PM

The cats of the River Darro see

From ancient banks that lie

The passing of humanity

Alhambra’s glassy eye


Politicos in corrupted deals

Above that meal of bones

The English teacher dares that she’ll

Upon those cobblestones


And starry lovers are so surest

Down where this water laps

Near shopkeepers who rip off tourists

With their books of maps

 

The artist who paints despair

Sets up amongst the weeds

While in the Moor’s labyrinthine lair

Hang Catholic strings of beads

The Year of the Rabbit

Posted by Derek John Dohren on August 9, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Ok, so this is my idea, right. You know the way everyone’s getting really fat?


Are they?


Yes you know, in general, people are getting bigger aren’t they?


Hmm, I suppose.


Well, it’s a story about how the whole world’s getting fatter all the time, you know, loads of people are overeating and putting on weight. It’s a story about that, so it’s really relevant to what’s happening now across a lot of the world, right, but it’s set in the future, maybe like a hundred years from now.


Oh, ok.


Yeah, and there’s this guy in the story, he’s the main character right, and he’s really important, ok, only he doesn’t realise it.


Why’s he so important then?


Well, I don’t wanna say too much but the point is this guy’s dead ordinary except he’s nowhere near as fat as everyone else, and that’s because he has a secret. But like I say he doesn’t realise he has this secret and that it’s important.


It sounds pretty lame to be honest.


No, no it’s good. But rather than me waffle on I’d prefer you to read it and let me know what you think. I don’t wanna give too much away.


Ok, but this guy, the one with the secret, is the secret just that he doesn’t gorge himself on junk food all day?


No it’s not that. You’re over simplifying things.


Am I?


Yes, this important bloke, he’s not actually that slim. In fact, he is a bit on the plump side but he’s just not as fat as most people that’s all.


And this is because he has the secret to staying slim?


Well, partly yes.


Partly?


Yes.


So if he only partly knows the secret how come he’s slimmish? Is having part of the secret enough to make you not as fat as everyone else or is there another reason why he’s not so fat?


You’re being a bit pedantic mate to be honest. It’s not like that.


Pedantic? No I’m not. Why’s he not as fat as everyone else if this secret is only part of the reason?


Well, he does a bit of jogging as well.


Jogging? So they still have jogging in the future then?


Yes of course they do.


Well it doesn’t seem to be working for them does it? I mean if they’re all really fat and that.


Yes, but hardly anyone does it. The main guy does it a bit and it helps a little but it’s not really significant. We’re getting a little off the point. It’s not important.


Well I think it’s relevant. How often does he go jogging then?


What?


Well, if he only does half a mile, once a week, it isn’t going to help is it, but if he’s putting a good few miles in, say three or four days a week, it’s bound to make a difference.


Well yes ok, he is doing a few days a week.

What days?


What?


What days does he jog? Does he go often?


Erm, only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Iptdays.


Iptdays? What’s one of them?


It’s not important. As I’ve told you, it’s set in the future. I don’t wanna give too much away but there’s been a new day added to the week and they decided to call it Iptday.


Iptday?


Yes


Have we lost one of the other days or is it now an eight day week?


I just old you, it’s a new day that’s been added. They have eight day weeks, but it’s not really important.


Well I think it is.


No, it’s not. Look you’re missing the point. Forget Iptday, it’s about this guy and he has a secret and it’s really brilliant the way he discovers it.


How come the only bits that sound mildly interesting are the bits you keep saying aren’t important? I still think it sounds crap. I wanna know about Iptday. When does it come? Is it between Wednesday and Thursday, is it an extra weekend day, or what?


I’m not exactly sure to be honest.


Ha, what do you mean you’re not sure? That’s ridiculous, you wrote it. You must know.


Well, once again, it’s not really important.


But why do it then? I think it is important. It’s crucial in fact.


Well I was trying to make the future seem a bit more interesting, you know. We didn’t always have days of the week did we, and now that we have them, there’s no reason to suppose they’re just gonna just stay the same.


Yes there is! That’s garbage. There’s only the same number of hours in a day, and days in a year and so on. You can’t just go adding days to the week. It’s all to do with the sun and the moon and the earth and all that. You can’t just add days.


Well what about cavemen and that? They never had days?


What?


When we lived in caves, people weren’t like really p1ssed off because it was Sunday night and they had to go to work in the morning because it was going to be Monday were they? They didn’t really bother about what day it was.


Maybe, but that’s not the point is it? They still had days. They were still living under the same sun, in the same solar system with hours of daylight and darkness and so on.


Well, whatever, you know what I mean.


No I don’t. You can’t just add days, and you can’t take them away either.


Well I think there’s been a nuclear explosion or something.


What?


In the story, there’s been a really big terrorist explosion and the earth’s rotational speed or something has shifted and they’ve had to bung in another day because all the hours are cocked up.


You’ve just made all that bit up haven’t you?


What bit?


About the nuclear explosion.


No I haven’t.


Yes you have. Ok, where and when did this explosion happen, and why?


In Greenland, about the year 2059.


Greenland?


Yes, melting ice sheets revealed huge oil reserves and the Chinese invaded it.


The Chinese?


Yes, look, it’s not important. We’re getting bogged down. This bloke, right, he does a bit of light jogging but that’s not really why he ...


No sorry, I don’t care about this guy now. I wanna know why the Chinese are in Greenland, why there’s been a nuclear explosion, and who’s idea was it to bung in an extra day, and who decided on the ridiculous name of it. I mean all the other days of the week are planets or something aren’t they? What’s Iptday supposed to mean?


What?


The days of the week, they’re named after planets. We did it in school. It’s about the Latin names, so you have Saturn is Saturday, Monday’s to do with the moon, erm Friday’s Venus or something...


Listen mate, I’ve no idea what you’re on about and look, it doesn’t matter. It’s not the point.


Are the Chinese fat as well?


What, you mean like now or in this book?


In the book! They don’t strike me as a race of people who are prone to getting fat, even in the future.


Well that’s where you’re wrong see. We’re all just people aren’t we? We’ve all got the same organs and stuff. Even the Chinese. And like I said, in the book the whole world’s got this obesity thing going on, a bit like what’s happening now, only more so.


Why don’t people just eat less?


It’s not as simple as that is it?


Er yeah, I think it is really. This guy, the one who’s a bit slimmer, I bet his secret is that he doesn’t stuff as much saturated fat down his gob as everyone else. And he does a bit of jogging, a mile or two on Mondays and Wednesdays and perhaps a tough five miler on Iptday.


No, that’s not it at all. You’ll have to read it. Listen mate, it’ll blow you away.


It doesn’t have time travel in it does it?


No, I can’t really do that. It drives me round the bend. And it’s clichéd.

Oh aye, you’d never write anything clichéd.


So will you read it for me then? Check it over and see what you think?


Will it take long?


What?


Will it take long, you know, to read? It’s just that I’m supposed to be going out for a Chinese.


You’ll get fat eating that stuff.


Probably.

Waiting for the Spring

Posted by Derek John Dohren on July 23, 2011 at 5:26 PM

July’s a horrible month in Granada. The sun beats down mercilessly from dawn til dusk and if you happen to allow yourself to get caught outside mid-afternoon then it’s damned unpleasant.


But the weather’s not the worst of it.


Granada’s a university city with a fluid population and July happens to be the time when the bulk of the students studying here leave, returning to homes in all corners of Spain. Some of them of course leave for good having finished their degrees. Working here as an English teacher makes it inevitable that these students provide us with much of our work and it’s equally inevitable, that some student/teacher relationships morph into real friendships as the seasons roll on through autumn, winter and spring. Saying goodbye to a clutch of such friends all in one go is profoundly depressing.


And of course it’s not just students who flee the city in their droves at this time of year. Longer term residents also like to get away, up into the hills or down to the breezier fresher coast for the summer. Gap year travellers and tourists also know it’s not the best time to be here. The weather may be pretty intolerable but it’s the loss of friendships and the breaking up of routines that hits those of us who remain hardest.


Mad dogs and Englishmen it seems, are the only ones dumb enough to still be trying to eke out an existence here just now. I went through all this last year and vowed I wouldn’t do so again, yet here I am, trapped and vowing once more to make sure it doesn’t happen next year.


The cumulative drip drip of lost friends now means that when I walk through the city I feel a poignancy at every turn. Here is where I hugged a good friend goodbye, over there is where I last saw so and so, and that plaza over the road is best avoided lest I get all teary eyed again. Daft I know, but July here is like that.


By the time we get to August it won’t seem so bad. The heat will be slightly more bearable purely because we’ll have become hardened to it and the knowledge that autumn is looming will concentrate the mind. In September new students and potential friends will arrive and the city will renew itself. It’ll be a kind of ‘spring’, a human spring. Nature’s seasons will find themselves out of step with the seasons of the city.


But next July, really, seriously, I want to be somewhere else.

Happy New Half Year

Posted by Derek John Dohren on July 1, 2011 at 7:52 PM

The wheel of change has spun once more for me here in Granada and as usual I’m left trying to make some sense of passing events. It’s not so much that things change (and they do, whether we like it or not), but more the way these changes manifest themselves that has me holding up my hands in surrender at life’s vagaries.


My recent financial meltdown has meant I’ve been unable to make trips back to the UK for my nephew’s wedding and for my daughter’s graduation, two of the biggest waves in a turbulent sea of change. Though losing my apartment was also a difficult break I’m hoping I can soon view it as the lowest point in my current fortunes. The only way is up as they say.


Not that it’s all been so bad, not by a long way. In the past couple of weeks I’ve also gotten myself covered in fruit fly bites, acquired a rather natty new hat, lost 12 students but gained 14 new ones, given up my two cats for adoption though hopefully a better life, made a clutch of new friends, moved house twice and lived in three different pueblos. Through it all I’ve had confirmation of just how many true friends I have in the world. There’s nothing like a crisis to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Not all bad by a long way.


Many of these happenings seem to run par for the course in my life these days but the confluence and timing of all these tumultuous events staggers even me. I’ve always felt an odd fascination with June 30th, pivoting the year as it does and this year it’s come and gone in prefect synchronisation with my topsy-turvy life. Coincidence? Well, not totally. Of course, I wouldn’t make any claims for such an arbitrary date on a calendar having supernatural significance, but it’s a fact that summer time here in Granada is a time of decay and renewal, and perhaps marks the city’s real ‘new year’. Maybe there’s been way too much of it for me but this is a natural time for change.


Though, on balance I’ve much to be happy about my overriding emotion as I type all of this up is sadness, sadness because tonight I said goodbye to my favourite student. We’ll keep in touch for sure, but life rolls on relentlessly and our paths are set firmly in different directions. And as I look back over these past few weeks I can count three other friends who have moved to pastures new. It’s very much a case of out with the old and in with the new and on top of all the other shenanigans in my life it’s difficult not to get a little depressed.


It’s been a tough year and May and June in particular will not go down as two of the best months of my life. I do however rather like the idea of June 30th sitting astride the year as a kind of watermark, splitting the year into two. For me, I’d like to read this split as marking the not so good half of the year and the really good half that’s still to come and as the wheel of fate remorselessly turns I will continue to face the consequences. I’ve long since ceased however, to worry about trying to make any sense of it.


Happy New Half Year to you all.

The Executive's Speech

Posted by Derek John Dohren on June 14, 2011 at 5:30 PM

I recently watched the Oscar winning The King’s Speech. For a story with such a thin plot, little or no action, and grating upper class English accents, it was an utterly absorbing and strangely compelling film. I loved every minute of it and would happily sit through the whole thing again.


I assume the intention of the filmmakers was to firmly align the sympathies of the viewers with Lionel Logue, the king’s Australian-born speech therapist. If so, then it certainly worked in my case. Whether this was more so because I now work in a vaguely related field I don’t know, but I found myself recognising one or two of the dilemmas faced by Logue in the face of the hugely demanding task he found himself landed with.


This week I was called upon to provide a crash course in English conversation to a high flying executive who has to make a business trip in a fortnight’s time and who wants to ‘make a good impression’ with his pronunciation. He doesn’t stutter but though his basic vocabulary knowledge is reasonable his pronunciation and use of grammar is poor. In many ways it’s an impossible job, and one that you can only do so much with.


But like Logue I found myself summoned to the side of a very busy man who appears to have little room for manoeuvre.


Where to start? At the beginning I suppose, but normal rules are out of the window. There just isn’t the time and I found myself like Logue, trying to establish some kind of cross cultural rapport to smooth the waters a bit. If my man gets through his business socialising without causing an international incident or insulting the Germans then I’ll consider it job done.


I don’t have a tricky stammer or the Queen Mother to contend with of course but then Lionel Logue never had to coax consonants out of a Granadino. I’m not sure which is the easier task.

Wonderful Life

Posted by Derek John Dohren on June 2, 2011 at 7:42 AM

Have you ever seen the classic Jimmy Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life?


No, you haven’t?


Oh, ok then.


Well, anyway, Stewart plays a character called George Bailey. When his father dies George takes over the family building society business and continues to provide financial assistance to the residents of the small town they all live in.


There’s a great scene in the middle of the film when, owing to fall out from the Wall Street Crash, a run on the bank sees the business in imminent danger of total collapse. The unscrupulous fat cat leader of a rival, much larger bank, is hovering to hoover up the pieces but George refuses to lie down and accept the apparently inevitable.


He talks to each of his customers in turn and virtually begs them one by one not to withdraw their entire account but instead to just take what cash they really need to get them along in the short term.


At the end of a very long day the bank is left with a single dollar bill and the business has survived the crisis.


Today is my George Bailey day. I have settled a couple of urgent bills and each of my bank accounts have just enough in them to stop whining for the time being. I have food in the kitchen, money on my bus card and still have two weeks of rented accommodation to live out. I also have four Euros in my pocket and I have a class to teach this evening which will add a few more – so in that sense I’m even better off than old George was.


Sure, the next crisis is probably already winging its way over and I’ll have to deal with it as when it arrives but for now there’s a sense of calm – a lull between storms maybe, but a lull nonetheless. And I’m going to have a nice cup of tea to celebrate.


In the film the bank workers dance around the office with the dollar bill before lovingly putting it into the safe, where they hope it’ll reproduce. It does, and they all survive long enough to deal with the next crisis.


It’s a rare film that actually makes you feel sympathy for bankers but I guess that was the genius of its director Frank Capra. Whither the directorial genius today who could make us feel similarly enamoured towards the greedy, faceless breed who run our modern banks?

Slaying Dragons

Posted by Derek John Dohren on May 10, 2011 at 3:34 PM

‘Teenagers’; a word to strike fear into the heart of most EFL teachers, most certainly this one. Now, I admit, there’s a huge difference between the ages of 13 and 19, and between girls and boys. All life is there, somewhere, so let’s be more specific – I’m talking about young teenagers here, and usually boys. You know the kind. In between bouts of being mute, deaf and comatose, they are at best monosyllabic, unless of course they’re sniggering at something rude you’ve unwittingly said, in which case they turn into seven year old girls.


Teaching a pair of brothers (13 and 14) is like trying to nail jelly to a wall. As well as all of the above there is often a festering sibling rivalry, maybe even ‘hatred’, to be contended with.


However, any malicious thoughts they may hold for one another pale into insignificance alongside the degree to which they both detest your guts. You know that if your guard is let down for a nanosecond they’ll be picking over your corpse and rifling through your pockets before you can explain the difference between a schwer and a monothong.


Now, Pedro and Francesco come from a good middle-class family, and must appear to outsiders as ‘nice’ boys but I’d only been teaching them a fortnight and it had been a living hell. My nerves were already shredded.


I’d been talking about animals and had moved on to introduce vocabulary dealing with animal body parts – shells, claws, stripes, that sort of thing.


I was asking for examples of animals in each category and already Pedro was about to slit my throat, so offended and disgusted was he with my mere presence in his house. I imagined him coiled and ready to whip out the insect repellent the next time I so much as looked at him.


“So”, I said, gamely carrying on. “What about wings? Which animals have wings?” I pointed to a picture of a flying bird, resting my finger helpfully on one of the wings.


Thus far, we had covered ‘fur’ and ‘spots’ and on both occasions Pedro had offered up ‘cows’ as examples. I had accepted spotted cows but drew the line at cows having fur. I had upset him but I had to push on with the lesson regardless.


“Birds”, said Francesco.


“Yes”, I said. “Birds. Anything else?”


Pedro glared furiously and leaned forward before spitting out the word “parrots”. I could easily have let it go of course, congratulated him and moved on. He had at least not said ‘cows’ so we were making progress, but I felt a stirring of rebellion. “Well, a parrot is a bird, and we already have bird, so ...” My voice trailed off, realising much too late it had probably invited death, death within the next few minutes in all likelihood. Dismissing cows was bad enough, but cows and parrots was going too far.


In desperation I tapped on a photograph of a bat, an animal we had been discussing in the previous lesson.


“Bat”, said Francesco dutifully.


“Yes”, I said. “Bat. Bats have wings.” I flapped my arms to demonstrate.


Silence.


I was about to move on to the next body part when Pedro spoke again.


“Unicorns”, he whispered, his voice barely audible, yet laced with a terrible menace.


“Unicorns?” I asked. “Erm, well they have a long horn on top of their heads ...” (another mistake – we hadn’t done ‘horns’ yet and my hand gestures were unlikely to go down well with two teenage lads) ... “so er, do they have wings?” I mumbled on.

Silence.


“Ah yes unicorns. Of course, they have wings don’t they”, I finally, and cowardly answered myself. I wrote down ‘unicorns’ on our sheet of paper.


I attempted to move on but before I could, Pedro spoke again.


“Dragons”, he said.


He said it with such finality and flatness that it brooked no argument. It wasn’t up for discussion. And in fairness to him, dragons do have wings. I was almost impressed by his left field thinking. I wrote ‘dragons’ and offered no comment. I noticed my hand was shaking.


“Ok, which animals have scales?” I prompted, pointing to a picture of a very scaly snake.


“Snakes”, said Francesco.


“Yes”, I said. “Snakes. Anything else?”


After a few seconds I got ‘lizard’ and ‘fish’ from Francesco. Job done I thought and I glanced at the next body part, ‘gills’. This was better.


However, before I could say anything Pedro piped up again.


“Dragons”, he announced coldly.


He was still on the scales. Though we’d already had dragons there was nothing in the rules to say you couldn’t put an animal in two categories. And dragons do have scales. Again, I wrote it down. I made no comment.


“Gills”, I said. “What animals have gills?” I was only prepared to accept fish and then move it on. Cows, dragons and unicorns would not be permitted. Time was short.


“Fish”, said Francesco, pointing to a picture of a fish.


“Yes”, I said. “Fish.”


“Mermaids”, said Pedro.


I laughed. I think it was nerves, though snatching a quick glance at Pedro it was clear there was absolutely nothing in this whole sorry charade that could possibly warrant even the raising of a smile.


“Yep. Mermaids have gills”, I said. “How else would they breathe under water?”


Silence.


“So, Pedro, do you see a lot of unicorns, dragons and mermaids in Alhendin?”


Continuing, awful silence, kind of like the silence I imagine must have pervaded the room (for a few seconds) when someone told Hitler in his Berlin bunker that the game was up in 1945. Silence full of the noise of impending death and mutilation. In this case, mine.


“Or cows”, I blundered on. “Do you see many cows here?” It was probably the most inane question I’ve ever asked anyone but my tongue and brain were no longer speaking to one another.


And then a remarkable thing happened. Pedro smiled.


“No”, he said. “There are no cows here.”


“Tentacles”, I said. “What animals have tentacles?”

The Granada Insider

Posted by Derek John Dohren on September 27, 2010 at 5:32 PM

Site update: the Granada Insider Articles is a new page containing links to articles I've written for the monthly magazine here in Granada.

Intercambio

Posted by Derek John Dohren on September 21, 2010 at 5:33 PM

I was taken to task by one of my intercambio partners last week over the British person's over-use of his/her pleases and thank yous. Yes, we go a bit crazy with them I have to admit - the laughable example given was 'can you pass the salt please' (apparently something we always say at the dinner table) and humurous to Spaniards who feel we have nowhere to go should we really demand something that requires a proper please or thank you. We then feel the need to thank the person who has passed the salt. This is considered odd.

 

All well and good of course. I mean, I agree. It does seem a bit silly when you think about it.

 

Ahem.

 

I sat and listened to a group of rabid teenage Spanish girls last night engaging in what can only be described as a riot. I was informed they were merely having a disagreement. I shall be asking the question in future intercambio sessions: where do the Spanish go, verbally, when they are actually angry?

Andalucian Life

Posted by Derek John Dohren on August 30, 2010 at 7:36 PM

As the 7th month of my arrival arrives and duly passes I thought it a good time to post some reflections:

 

Top thirteen things about living in Granada:

 

1. Proper seasons. It snows in the winter and it's boiling in the summer.

 

2. Acceptable political incorrectness. Men open doors for ladies and ladies like it; men give up their seats on buses for ladies and ladies like it; The other day I was on a bus out of La Zubia when the driver slammed the brakes on to leer out of the window and wolf whistle at a beautiful girl he'd seen walking down the pavement. Delighted with the attention, she smiled and waved back and we carried on the journey. No one was sued; no one went apolplectic with rage; no one got sacked. In fact, it was an uplifting, life affirming moment.

 

3. The respect for the individual. Old people, young people, middle aged people, are all treated with equal respect here.

 

4. Afternoon siestas, dreaming of where to go for this evening's free tapa.

 

5. Full moons over the Sierra Nevada.

 

6. Smoke filled bars. I don't smoke and abhor the habit but I love smoke filled bars. I also love smoke free bars. I love the fact, that in an adult society, one is allowed to choose between the two options.

 

7. An absence of health and safety Nazis. You trip on a dodgy piece of paving stone or fall off a ladder then it's your own fault for being such a stupid prick. Tough shit.

 

8. Shakira. She's on the Latino Channel all the time. I'm sure she fancies me. They way she looks at me in those videos is pretty conclusive.

 

9. Beautiful girly girls wearing summer dresses and being all girly - with the complete absence of tattoos, blubber, and Bob the Builder type arse cracks.

 

10. Senseless drinking until all hours without the merest hint of childish violence or anti-social behaviour.

 

11. The general lack of inclination of all Andalucians to bother themeselves learning English.

 

12. Proper wildlife. Snakes, irridescently coloured dragonflies as big as your fist, orange and green lizards and wild boar.

 

13. The Super Sol. The world's best supermarket.

 

 

Top 13 really bad things about living here:

 

1. The houses are freezing in the winter.

 

2. The telly is absolutely shite - even the Latino Channel.

 

3. The lack of empathy people actually have with one another. Sure, there is respect for the individual, as long as you don't interfere with anyone else. But if you got into serious bother you'd be left to die in the gutter and no one would bother their ass about you and when you died you'd be left to rot until the stench got so bad someone would have to come and scrape you away, but only because they'd have to.

 

4. Barcelona and Real Madrid. Jeez, it's worse the fucking Scotland. Real Madrid v Getafe? No thanks, I'd see a more competitive match watching Tiger Woods take on Stephen Hawking at golf.

 

5. The Sierra Nevadas - booooooring. I've seen more interesting hills in Holland.

 

6. Free tapas - some of it is undigestible garbage.

 

7. 'No pasa nada'. The Spanish equivalent of the Jamaican 'no problem'. "Oh sorry, your roof has blown off and you're about to freeze to death. Well I was on my way over to fix it and I saw a beautiful senorita and we got talking and, you know how it is, and well, no pasa nada ... "

 

8. Shite electricity supply. "You want more than three devices plugged in at a time? Ha ha. No pasa nada."

 

9. Pathetic macho behaviour amongst juvenile males. Ok, certainly nowhere near Italian levels but ref that little prick who gobbed at me from his scooter in Plaza Nueva the other week - why don't you move to Rome and be done with it, you odious little tool? I'm sure mummy will come and help you settle in if it's all a little to hard for you. And listen you tit, I remember your face and I got your number plate. I'm going to kick your sorry head in next time I see it.

 

10. Utterly unhelpful shop assistants. Get one syllable or vowel wrong in your pronunciation and you're screwed. I'm now self-barred from five cafes because of a slight error in my diction when requesting a cup of tea.

 

11. The Coviran, Granada's own supermarket chain. Sadly, it's never open.

 

12. Fiesta days. Want to put more credit on your bus pass? Want to top up your mobile phone? Like to buy a new pair of underpants? Needing to purchase a loaf of bread? Well I'm sorry, you can't for another 47 days because it's the feast of Saint Bollox, patron saint of discarded chewing gum, and everywhere's shut until December.

 

13. Slippy pavements.

sects appeal

Posted by Derek John Dohren on July 3, 2010 at 5:15 PM

Pretty girls approaching you on the street to chat you up can mean one of only two things: they're trying to sell you sex or they're trying to sell sects to you. Sadly, in either case, I'm a dead loss. If it's the former I have no money, and if it's the latter, well I still have no money.

 

It's a testament to the pulling power of pleasing your God that a pair of female Mormons can make a pitch for your soul look just ever so slightly like a pitch for your pants - at least long enough for you to momentarily drop your guard (if not the pants) and make the fateful mistake of engaging in conversation. Oh lordie, get me outta here now.

 

Clearly some of those who profess to do God's work on the streets are not afraid to take tips from that most ancient of professions. And why not? Sex sells everything these days from cigarettes and alcohol, to deodorants, cars and houses, so why not everlasting life?

 

It was somewhat disarming then to be stopped this afternoon along the Acera del Darro by what can only be described as two outstandingly beautiful girls, only to then be asked for directions. I felt cheated somehow. I was ready to sell my soul, to drop my morals there and then. I've still got no money mind but I do have an ever increasing wonderment at the effortless beauty of youth.

 

And so, cashless and denuded of work I trudge on. Any maybe, just maybe things will change again for the better? Promises of work are in the air again, Spain is still in the World Cup, and let's face it, for us men (the weaker of the sexes of course) just chatting to a pretty face is sometimes enough.

spot of bother's all about timing

Posted by Derek John Dohren on June 22, 2010 at 6:05 PM

I refuse to join the naysayers who would have it that they never want to live through another one of these economic crises. As the saying goes 'economic crises come round every 11 years, more or less the same as a typical cycle of sunspot activity' What, you've never heard that one before? Well you should have paid more attention in school then. I don't know if the two things are linked, kind of like El Ninos and the rise to power of right of centre governments, or something. I should think there's a research paper begging to be written somewhere. Anyway...

 

In short it would be a fine wish to never see another such crisis if I was 101 years old and hanging on to dear life in a care home, unable to remember my own name, but as things stand, I'm still of sound enough mind and body for the powers that be to expect me to do an honest day's work. And, yes, if it's all the same I for one would quite like to be around when the next pathetically avoidable, yet still apparently unavoidable, crisis comes along. There'll be another along in about 9 years I shouldn't wonder and I'll still be of pre-retirement age (an age which by then will indubitably be set to 86 for all European Union subjects).

 

Having established the requirement of, and the willingness to, work for my living the only problem I have now is finding, erm, some work to go and do. It's all very well saying you're up for stuff but there's very little stuff to be up for. It's back to carting myself round schools and door knocking I fear. You have to get in people's faces here. Leaving messages and sending in CVs counts for nothing compared to presenting oneself face to face. It's just the way of it out here. The rest is down to luck, and timing.

 

All life is timing if you weigh it up. We've all been in the right places and we've all tried to seize the right moment but only the successful amongst us manage to pull both stunts simultaneously. My timing's off. It usually is. I feel strange empathy with England's hapless footballers at the World Cup. World beaters between tournaments they give the impression they couldn't tie their own boot laces once the serious action starts. That's me, the Emile Heskey of the TEFL world. But I'll press on. It only takes one speculative shot to fly into the back of the net and you're on top of the world again. At least until those pesky sunspots start doing their thing again.

 

Scorchio

Posted by Derek John Dohren on May 31, 2010 at 3:38 PM

It's seriously hot here now. I went into town this afternoon and saw three roadside temparature displays reading 39, 39 and 38 degrees centigrade respectively. That was at 6pm. I hadn't left the apartment before then because it just looked so hot outside. And it's still May, at least for a few more hours.

 

I'm doubting the wisdom of trying to set up outdoor art classes if this is a foretaste of what the next four months holds. On the plus side all the trees along the boulevards and avenues are fully in leaf and are providing some shade. The city council, or whatever it's called, have also pulled canvas sheets across the busier roads from the top floors of the buildings along each side of the road. This artificial canopy is cutting out direct sunlight in many places. Best of all, and a real life saver, is the presence of a wafting breeze, coming down off the Sierras (which incidentally still lie under 3 metres of snow). I hear cities like Cordoba and Sevilla have no such mitigating meteorological assistance and basically if you get caught outside in these places during the afternoon you fry.

 

The temperatures are still dropping to reasonable levels overnight though and once the sun goes down you can get from A to B without looking like you've just climbed out of a swamp.

 

 

 

Summertime Blues

Posted by Derek John Dohren on May 27, 2010 at 5:26 PM

TEFL work is now beginning to wind down for the season. The summer months, August in particular, will see a lot of Granada simply shut down. It will be extremely hot and fairly unpleasant here and many Granardinos simply decamp to the coast for the summer. Many of the bars will close immediately the World Cup is over. It seems counter-intuitive, particularly to those of us from the UK, to shut up shop at that time of year, but I'm told this is the normal course of events here.

 

I'll be needing to tap into a new income stream. The magazine I'm writing for is one of the businesses that'll go into summer hibernation so it's a double whammy for yours truly. The art classes I am trying to get off the ground will need to deliver the goods in July and August. Tourists will still come to Granada and if I can lure enough of them into doing a bit of painting then hopefully by the time September comes around I'll still be clinging on here.

 

Of course there will still be some English teaching opportunities to be had throughout the summer. Not everyone goes away, and not everyone who goes away goes for two months. Many students are also 'mature' and are not tied into school or university terms. They are studying English on their own terms. Though I have already lost two students, and am soon to lose a third and probably a fourth, I have one student who is a businessman and who wishes to continue his studies over the summer. Some students stick around too and use the summer as an opportunity to catch up in areas they've fallen behind in. It's a case of targeting your advertising carefully if you want to pick up the clients that are still to be found.

 

All in all it would seem July and August would be a great time for me to think about coming back to the UK for a few weeks. It's immensely appealing but I fear I simply don't have the funds for such a trip. I'll use the opportunity of having less TEFL stuff on my plate to try and establish the art classes - whilst hoping for the best. Mabye I'm fiddling while Rome burns, but I see little alternative.

 

Perhaps I'll be sticking a fiver on England to beat Spain in the World Cup final?

What are the chances?

Posted by Derek John Dohren on May 25, 2010 at 4:56 PM

Odd things co-incidences. It doesn't matter how minor or irrelevant they are in themselves the sheer co-incidentness of them is startling sometimes. If you get two in a short time that's really weird. Three in two days is hard to comprehend. I'm sure everything can be explained by mathematics and other sciences of course but it doesn't make these things any less gobsmacking.

 

And I'm talking about nailed on, absolutely clear cut, extremely unlikely co-incidences here.

 

First coincidence: A name I had never heard of before caught my imagination and I looked the origins of it up on Wikipedia. It was the name of some medieval saint over here. Within hours, I received a spam email from someone with the exact same name.

 

Second one: During a conversation I was having in a cafe down town someone rode past on a bicycle, bizarrely broadcasting a piece of music from a film we were actually discussing.

 

Both of those things happened yesterday. They both freaked me out.

 

Then today: In Granada this morning I was coming from teaching a class. As I strolled towards the effing bus stop I was mulling over the versatility of a certain English swear word, a word that may be used as a verb, noun, adjective, preposition or adverb. Barely two hours later I came across the exact same thing, written out almost word for word, in a novel I'm currently reading. Believe me, I hadn't been reading ahead.

 

What does this all mean? Almost certainly it means nothing. How can it mean anything? Why should it mean anything? What would be the point? We think, say and do a billion things a day and then immediately forget most of it. There are bound to be occasional co-incidences with certain events and conversations and they will be the ones we remember, the ones that stick in the mind. And yet, when these things strike like that they have a habit of unsettling you.

 

Of course you can't will these things to happen. It's almost as if once you become conscious of the possibility of co-incidence it can't, by some sort of rule of physics, actually happen. God knows I've tried to make myself rich and successful by thought processes alone yet muttering out loud the words 'imagine if I found a 1,000 Euro note on the pavement this morning' have so far yielded no results.

 

I shall go to bed tonight imagining an art collector somewhere is imagining that an artist somewhere is lying in obscurity imagining that he's going to be discovered by this collector. Stranger things happen every day. Sometimes more than once.