Monday, June 25, 2007

Brief hist

I've posted, interimly, the rather elaborate notes on Euripides that I've been gathering for the past few months.

Also, some poems by Richard Makin on Intercapillary Space.

Currently in progress: reviews of John Wilkinson's Lake Shore Drive and Peter Riley's The Day's Final Balance.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

from a holiday notebook


They straggled up the stairs again, discussing the word helioblau and the rather laboured passage in Patrick O'Brian about the captain of the Iris trying to head-hunt a mate called Blew (to join up with Green, Brown and White).

"Anyway, looks like the used tampon has gone." (It had been on the fourth floor steps for several days)

"Yes, so it has. Someone's done the dastardly deed."

A pleasant feeling of cleanliness came over them. The 'dastardly deed' was nudging the tampon into the stairwell so it plummeted into the understorey car-park where they never went and could thus be forgotten along with whatever other nameless filth lay down there.

"But perhaps the conserje is conscientious and would soon whisk it away?"

"Significant how those words sound alike: conserje and 'conscientious'. You feel he must be. You feel his life is tormented by conscientiousness. Whether he is or not, he's got no time for us, he saw straight through us, that much is a fact."

"Like yesterday when you remarked about how your creases have increased. The wind freshens. Everything keeps on getting baggier and that's what you have to sail with."

"That was discourteous of you, to - my God I'm not up to the stairs today, I'm sure they've put in an extra floor - to - impose your meditation on me though it has nothing to do with whatever we're talking about, therefore - making me have to concentrate only to find out what a vacuous flop it was. Your notion of philosophising is to let go and flounder."

"To scud - that means to just go with the wind. I learnt it in Patrick O'Brian. I now know that the only thing Tabitha can do with wind-surfing is to scud. It's not too clever on the open sea. Miss the harbour arm and it's next stop Ibiza."

"If she could go more than 10 yards without falling off that would be a real danger."

If you want to know what these two old boys looked like, they were exactly like the disreputable, scraggy pair of burglars in Gunnar Persson's comic strip Kronblom, which appears in the weekly magazine Allers. One has a potato nose and the other an accordion nose but otherwise they are as like as two prunes and in their worthless way they get on perfectly.

They have a friend called Tabitha who has to put up with a lot. When Skalle announced "I think I might have swordfish today", she said "Yes, get it and I'll stab you with its beak."

"Do you know Heinrich?" asks Skalle unexpectedly.

"I've seen him under a parasol, a whole lot of them in a ring, with their side-partings and trim beards, ropes of pearls, humming Lago Maggiore im Schnee, reading Jack Higgins and Marianne Fredriksson, ordering Schnitzel mit: Zigeunersauce, Jägersauce, Champignonsauce, Hamburger Art, Wiener Art, Cordon Bleu... what is the other one?... oh that's it, Pfeffersauce."

"Heinrich looks ill. Under his arm he was carrying a rainbow-coloured jigsaw of A Tropical Island Sunrise. I still would like to climb the Jungfrau from Interlaken, up to a point - the point where it gets a bit dodgy, I suppose."

"How readers of alpine air and blue-water sailing become slowly smelly in a comfortable round-shouldered jacket and bald armchair."


It's local election day on Sunday and there are small vans cruising with loudhailers playing tape-loop promises and there are colourful posters everywhere and especially along the Paseo de la Libertad where there must be 100 meters or more of poster space. The parties don't use it for big posters, just for dozens or even hundreds of small posters that are identical and are pasted up in a mosaic of say 4 high x 30 wide. It works better for an audience of strollers; the same message stays in view for a long time but it remains intimate in scale, it does not blare at you. For a visitor or child the visual effect is beautiful and fun, like the table towards the end of a game of Monopoly or Risk, all filled up with colours. The space each party gets seems to be proportional to its expected (or perhaps previous) share of the vote. There are lots of parties but the ones I've written down are:

The PP (Partido Popular). More or less the Conservatives, I think. They are the party currently in power here and the slogans reflect that: Mas Torrevieja. Ahora mas que nunca. Confianza en el futuro. ("More Torrevieja. Now more than ever. Confidence in the future.") They are in favour of continuing the system of trasvases to draw water from further north into the arid Segouro basin to supply the huge demands of the coastal urbanizaciones. Unsurprisingly the trasvases are deeply resented in Castille and Aragon.

The PSOE - the other main party, I think more or less equivalent to Labour and now in power nationally. They are committed to local de-salination plants to supply fresh water for the Costas, though opponents warn of dire environmental impacts out at sea. Slogans: Gana por el cambio. Tu voto puede. ("Win by change. Your vote can do it.")

PSD (Partido Social Demócrata). Looks like typical third party? Slogans: Nuevas ideas, nuevas formas. Una nueva forma de hacer política. (New ideas, new ways. A new way of doing politics.)

Los Verdes. Quite popular among the Northern European ex-pat community. (I saw them signing people up at a boot sale.)

Communistas. Left.

Blocque Izquierda Alternativa. Left.

Esquerria Unido. Left. Slogan: Recuperar Torrevieja - es possible.

Partido de Elche. Local Independents. Slogan: "Not left, not right. Just Elche."

CLR (Centro Liberal Renovador). This party made a strong pitch to the British and Germans, stressing the indifference to Orihuela Costa displayed by the current Orihuela leadership: appalling jams along the coast road, etc.

Friday, June 15, 2007

R A M O N      T E      K I E R O

Hello, I'm back. Proper composition to resume very soon. In the mean time, here are some versions of poems from the Rimas of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870).


    When I stare at the blue horizon
    vanishing in the distance
    behind a veil of dust
    golden and troubled
    I think I can break away
    from the wretched earth
    and fly with the golden haze
    as slight atoms
    dispersed and unmade

    When I stare into the night in the dark
    depths of the sky
    and the stars trembling like ardent
    pupils of fire
    I think I can get there
    rocketing to where they shine
    and flood myself in their light with them
    in brilliance burning
    blend in one kiss

    In the sea of doubt where I sail
    I don't even know what I believe in
    still these yearnings say to me
    that I carry something
    divine here within


    "I am ardent, I am dark,
    I am the essence of passion;
    with yearning for pleasure, my soul is full;
    is it me you're seeking?"
                    "No, it isn't you."

    "My bent head is pale, my plaits golden,
    I can rain on you sweet thoughts without end;
    of tenderness, I have a treasury;
    is it me you're seeking?"
                    "No, it isn't you."

    "I am a delusion, an impossible,
    a vain phantom of mist and light;
    I am unbodied, I am impalpable;
    I cannot love you."

                    "Oh come, come you...!"


    La bocca mi bacciò tutto tremante

    On her skirt she held
            the book open;
    against my cheek flickered
            her black curls,
    we did not see the letters
            at all, I think;
    however we maintained
            a deep silence.
    For how long? Not even then
            could I have said.
    I only know nothing was heard
            but our breath
    which mounting escaped
            from dry lips.
    I only know we turned
            both in one movement
    and our eyes found each other
            and there sounded, a kiss.


    Dante's creation, the book was;
            it was his Inferno.
    When we lowered our eyes to it
            I said shakily:
    Do you know, a poem can
            subsist in a single line?

    and she replied, glowing:
            I do now!


    lay gleaming in her eyes a tear,
    and on my lips a phrase of pardon.
    Pride came... - dried it up at source.
    - and the phrase on my lips, died away.

    I go by one road, she by another;
    but to think of our mutual passion
    I still say: Why the hell did I keep quiet?
    and she'll say: Why didn't I weep for him?


    You were the total storm, and I the high
            tower that defied it.
    Either you blew yourself out, or else you demolished me...
                It could not be!

    You were the ocean, and I the lofty
            rock that wouldn't be rocked.
    Either you broke on me or else you ripped me out...
                It could not be!

    You were gorgeous and I was haughty; accustomed
            the one to sweep away, the other to stand fast;
    narrow the field, inevitable the shock...
                It could not be!


    When they told me, it felt like ice
    like a steel blade in the guts.
    I leant to the wall and, for that moment,
    had no idea where I was.

    Night fell on my mind.
    Rage and piety drowned out my soul.
    I understood then why it sobs, the night,
    I understood then why it destroys itself.

    The cloud of pain went by.... painfully
    I managed to stammer forth a few words.
    Who brought me this news? A real friend...
    and he did me a good turn. I thanked him.

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