Imagine No Long Hours

It’s Día de la Paz next week, which means I’ve had three of my classes this week hijacked by the staff who are keen for me to use my musical knowledge to teach John Lennon’s Imagine, as it has been chosen as the theme for the day. That before this week the only version I knew was Peter Serafinowicz’s uproariously satirical spoof is probably a black cross against my name, but it’s safe to say I now know the original song rather well and rather like it, too (though I can’t help but agree with some of my students who said that a world with no evil, no countries and nothing more to strive for would be a pretty sad place indeed).

After a slightly rocky start, we’re back into a good routine here in Villafranca. Lessons are going as great as ever, that Monday primary class is… still the same as it ever was… and my Spanish is getting closer and closer to the fluency I’ve so longed for all my life. I’m happy, truly. I’m in Spain; I could hardly ask for more.

But routine is routine, and I think it’s just as important to post in equal measure about the day-to-day doings of this particular guiri as my occasional travelogues, if just to prove to you that it’s not all fun and games. A lot of us (myself included) get a little sick and tired of the endless stream of posts that seem to scream  ‘here’s me on a sunny beach in Nice, and here’s me at a Full Moon Party, and here I am with the best friends ever aren’t-I-having-such-a-good-time-go-me’. I’m aware that yours truly is guilty of a few such posts. It’s just as annoying writing them, trust me. That’s why I like to talk about the regular days, too. Because life isn’t really a L’Oréal shoot, with the best bits on display and all the imperfections shaved off, like a Soviet photograph or a Facebook page. Some days good things happen, and some days bad, and whilst both make good writing material, there are also times when nothing happens at all, and that’s just as important to talk about – to add a touch of reality, if nothing else.


I spent the first week back clearing my mind by working my way through the Showtime TV series The Tudors, having bought it over the Christmas holidays. They get better than the pure testosterone-pumped medieval sex romp that is the first episode, honest, and besides, it’s the period and the rise and fall of characters such as Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas More that interest me above all else. Unfortunately, disc three of season three has gone missing which, in my books, means that I can’t go any further until I’ve found it, as to skip two episodes would be nothing short of criminal. I’m a little autistic like that. It’s not that I don’t know the story… it’s just the principle, dammit.


In better news, I’ve joined the lycra hordes and got into a decent fitness regime (at last!). Alright, so I’m not too far gone to have gone and invested in a Lycra suit – I’d rather be seen dead – but at least I’ve got my foot on the ladder, so to speak. And whilst fifty pull-ups may stil be well beyond me (ha ha…), I’ve worked my way up to fifteen, so we’re getting there, bit by bit.

I’ve also got my hands on my first Spanish novel – or rather, one not set by my course, such as La Celestina or Cantar de Mio Cid. It’s called Indalo and it’s a historical epic set in Almería in the final years of the Emirate of Granada, which simply ticks all the boxes. I used to shy away from reading in another language, as I felt it detracts from the full enjoyment of the text. At the same time, a translation often loses much of the original magic of the writer’s own mind, so it’s little better – if not worse – reading one of those, too. But in this case I have no choice. There is no English translation. And the book simply leapt off the shelf at me, both in its cover work and its plot. I’ll get back to you on that once I’m done with White Fang. And maybe I’ll have a go at translating it myself, if just for the linguistic exercise that would offer.


This weekend doesn’t bring much. My Carnaval costume is on its way, there’s a charity meal tomorrow at school in aid of the Syrian refugees, so I’ll definitely be helping out at that, and my hairdresser pointed me in the direction of a bazaar down the road where I can finally practice my Arabic with the family of Moroccans who work there, so that’s all good. Before then I’ll simply have to think up a subtle way to bring up the fact that I speak (rusty) Arabic into a conversation. That could be entertaining in its own right.

I also finally got around to Skyping my dear friend and fellow Arabist Brocklesby yesterday, which warmed my heart immensely (catch up with her adventures over at Langlesby Travels). It’s amazing what a good hour and a half with a good friend can do. I’m planning a crazy trip all the way up to Cantabria to meet her as my first travel plan this term. That’ll take place at some point next February, so that should be entertaining. As ever, I’ll keep you posted.

There’s a saying that gets bandied about much too often about the year abroad, and that’s that it is, by many accounts, ‘the very best year of your life’. That may be so, if you make it so. But it doesn’t just fall into your lap like that. At the same time, you should feel you’re failing if it still doesn’t feel like the best year of your life so far. Mine’s going brilliantly, but only because I love this country and its people to pieces; believe me, I’ve had my tearful moments too. So the next time you see somebody posting about their latest wonderfully jealousy-inspiring adventure, just remember some advice that my mother gave me: everybody goes to the toilet. With that in mind, everything’s suddenly a lot easier to deal with, from globetrotters to interviewers to the man on the other end of the bank email. At least, I think so. BB x

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