Saturday, September 1, 2007


This is a brief post just to say that I am here in Madrid, comfortably ensconced (sounds like a wall fixture, doesn't it?) in the fine Hotel Ateneo, just a stone's throw from the school and the city center (defined as Kilometer Zero at the Puerta del Sol, just a strawberry's throw from the bear statue). Where apparently my ability to write syntactically acceptable sentences has vanished temporarily, but everything else is hunky-dory.

The bus ride from Salamanca to Madrid was comfortable and uneventful, though I shudder to think what it would have been like if I hadn't unloaded those 56 pounds of books earlier in the week. Unlike some airlines I could mention, the bus company provides a free headset with each seat.

Although I did wander through FNAC earlier this evening, readers will be relieved to hear that I maintained strict discipline throughout and contented myself with just pawing the books (lovely, lovely books) without actually buying any. It remains to be seen if this same discipline can be maintained for an entire week. Personally, I wouldn't bet on it, particularly since, tomorrow being the first Sunday of the month, all the shops will be open.

I did donate all my recently read Penguin Classics (The 39 Steps, Riddle of the Sands, Railway Children, Aspern Papers, Three Men in a Boat*) to the Don Quijote library, so maybe there is some hope for me.

*: OK, I didn't actually finish this book, which seems fundamentally unreadable. Besides which the name Jerome K. Jerome always conjures up images of Danny Kaye being silly. (Yes, the Danny Kaye show was a staple of Irish television in my youth).

Friday, August 31, 2007

Adiós to Salamanca

summer and winter costumes

Summer and winter outfits

Cocina vanguardista

Cocina vanguardista

Enforced quaintness

Ear, nose & throat and ???? doctor

Every sign on Salamanca's streets, whether municipal or private, is written using the exact font and paint color shown in the picture above. At first it seems charming, but eventually the cumulative effect of so much enforced quaintness is kind of sinister, in my opinion.

It's the end of August, this is post # 250, so this seems a good place to call it a night. The next post should be from Madrid again.

Hasta mañana.

More regrettable doggerel

This one definitely is inspired by current events:

The train station john's kind of icky
But convenient if you want a quicky
You can go just to cottage
Or engage in some frottage
Though the floors are deplorably sticky.

This one too:

Ode to a recently departed royal couple

Knight errant of the football field
Of course I mean you, David Beckham
Your twinkle toes like weapons you wield
But your knees, it's like you're trying to wreck 'em.

The City of Angels welcomes you with open arms
And your lovely wife too, Victoria "Posh" Spice
And I'm sure everyone hopes you can keep out of harm's
Way. And your glamorous consort too because she seems so very nice.

And though it's true that when you left Spain, no tears were shed in Madrid.
Nor, for that matter, was there any evidence of rampant grief in the streets of Valladolid.
I'm sure that, although people in Spain thought your wife was a bitch,
That you will show them what they missed when and if you finally manage to strut your stuff on the soccer pitch.

The plain people of Ireland: Oh 'tis limericks you want, is it? Here's a nice clean one for you:

When I think of the hosts without no.
Who are slain by the deadly cuco.
'Tis quite a mistake
Of this food to partake
It results in a permanent slo.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The bunny cycle (a tribute to William McGonagall)

Jared: you bear full responsibility for this post.

One of the threads over on's TableTalk forum challenges participants to write a poem as bad as the work of William McGonagall
(arguably the worst poet of all time - to judge for yourself, follow either of these links):
McGonagall poems
McGonagall website )

While I don't think I could ever reach the level of atrociousness that came so easily to McGonagall, it certainly is fun to try. So, I'd like to share with you two of my efforts. Collectively, I think of them as my bunny cycle. For reasons which will be clear below, there will (mercifully) be no more poems in this particular cycle.


I like to see the bunnies romp
They fill me full of joy
And circumstance and lots of pomp
It's like having a bright shiny new toy
But when the bunnies eat the lettuce
I hope they won't forget us
I frolic in the dappled sun
Like Gerald Manley Hopkins
Though really what I want to do
Is dress like Mary Poppins

Fuzzy Bunny
(The Bunny Cycle : Poem # 2)

At times when I'm feeling down and think I should end,
This farce of a life, because everyone looks at me funny.
The only thing that keeps me going is the thought of my little friend
Yes, you've guessed it in one: I'm talking about Hector, my fuzzy bunny.

He has a little hoard of carrots, which in Spanish are called zanahorías,
I used to think he had just one or two, but lately I was surprised to find out how many more he has,
Yes indeed,
Hector is a great friend to me in my hours of need.

Or I should say he used to be because recently a spurned admirer broke into my apartment and there was quite a hullaballoo
The upshot of which was that Hector ended up as part of a delicious bunny stew.
All of which, as I'm sure you can imagine, left me feeling very triste.
So now, if you will excuse me, I think I will go slit my wrists.

Furry grim reaper redux

Oscar's got some competition. You will remember the story I linked to about a month ago about Oscar, the hospice cat with the uncanny ability to sense the imminent death of patients. Well, it didn't take too long for the dog-lovers of America to come up with their own harbinger of doom. Meet Scamp:

Dog of death

I am indebted to my good friend, Paul B., for bringing this story to my attention.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Una ciudad rota por el dolor

Today's main story in El País is heartbreaking. During last weekend's game, the 22-year old star player for Seville's soccer team, Antonio Puerta, collapsed on the field, due to heart problems, and was rushed to hospital. After several further episodes of cardiac arrest, leading to multiple organ failure, he died yesterday afternoon. The city of Seville is indeed, "felled by grief" - pictures of the funeral at the El País website are simply heartbreaking.

I am reminded to count my blessings. Further comment seems impertinent. May he rest in peace, and may his family find some comfort in the huge outpouring of grief and support from the people of Seville.

Four stone lighter

After class today, I made a trip (two trips, actually) to the local UPS office (aka Mailboxes Inc) and watched them pack up all but three of the books I had accumulated since coming to Spain, as well as the two pieces of art I bought during the excursion to the mountains near Granada.

art from the albujarra (1)

art from the albujarra (2)

All told, the two packages to be shipped weighed in at just under 26 kilograms, or 56 pounds. Or, in Irish terms, four stone (1 stone = 14 lb).

So that's 26 kg of stuff I won't have to lug back to Madrid, or to and around Ireland. You don't want to know how much it cost to have it shipped, but frankly, it was worth it. I already feel as if I've been relieved of a great burden.

Perhaps because - quite literally - I have.

(Note to self: stop buying books. Yeah, right. Like that's ever going to happen.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Les Roses

Abandon entouré d'abandon,
tendresse touchant aux tendresses...
C'est ton intérieur qui sans cesse
se caresse, dirait-on;

se caresse en soi-même,
par son propre reflet éclairé.
Ainsi tu inventes le thème
du Narcisse exaucé.

From "Les Roses", by Rainer Maria Rilke

Set to music by Morton Lauridsen: (the link is to an mp3 file - if you have difficulty playing it in your browser, you can always right-click and save - the file size is just under 6Mb)


one track from this amazing CD:

Lauridsen Lux Aeterna at

Text for all of the rose poems may be found at the following link (scroll about three-quarter way down the page)

Rilke index

Sad Cypress

In the Retiro 1

Come away, come away, Death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away, breath,
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.

My shroud of white stuck all with yew, O prepare it!
My part of death no one so true did sha
re it.

Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strewn:
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown.
A thousand thousand sighs to save, lay me O where
Sad true lover never find my grave, to weep there!

From "Twelfth Night"

The plain people of Ireland: Well, sure that's lovely and everything, and a few lines from the Bard always adds a touch of class. But, what in God's name are you on about? Is there a point here?
The management: If you'd just hold yer whisht and not interrupt, I'm just about to explain.

The plain people of Ireland: This should be good.
The management: As I was about to say, before I was so rudely interrupted, up until this past Friday, I always thought cypress trees looked like this:

So, you can only imagine my surprise when I found out the other evening that they can also look like this:

skinny trees of the Alhambra

That is to say, the tall skinny trees that I always thought were poplars are actually cypresses. Sure, they're dotted all over Spain. And in the South of France too, if this picture is anything to go by:

That's all I had to say, really. Oh, and that cypresses are an ancient symbol of death, which makes the Van Gogh painting all the more interesting.

The plain people of Ireland: But sure poplars and cypresses are easy to mix up. Are you sure that all the pictures on this page are cypresses?
The management: Now that you mention it, no. Perhaps some of my botanically inclined readers will help out with a comment.
The plain people of Ireland: So, to answer our original question, there really is no point to this vague rambling post.
The management: That's enough bloody cheek! Didn't ye get to read a fine bit of Shakespeare and look at a masterpiece by Van Gogh? What more could ye want, I ask you!

Final itinerary update

In the end, it proved remarkably hard to take the final step and actually make travel arrangements that involved leaving Spain. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I gave in to the temptation of adding yet one more week of classes, at the school in Madrid, ending on Friday September 7th. Then I booked the flight from Cork to London, needed to connect to my flight back to San Francisco on Monday September 17th. And - finally - my flight out of Spain, from Madrid to Dublin, on Wednesday September 12th. I will spend two days in Dublin, catching up with family and friends, before taking the train down to Cork (or possibly Killarney) on Friday 14th, spending my last couple of nights in Europe in Cork.

Which leaves Saturday Sept 8th to Wed Sept 12th unaccounted for. I may just have to go back to Sevilla, still my favorite Spanish city, for one last visit.

But, one way or another, on Monday September 17th, I should be back home in San Francisco. Which, in theory, should mean an end to this blog.

But that seems highly unlikely, to be honest. Buenos Aires, anyone? Though I guess that blog might have to be titled MAINLY ON THE PAMPAS.

Raccoons in Space

Just had to share this particular link (no, don't ask where I find these things - it's best that you don't know)


Good intentions

For the first couple of weeks here in Salamanca, I spent some time idly trying to befriend the little feral kitty that used to hang out in the derelict lot across the street. Cats being the way they are, I didn't have too much success. So, on Wednesday, on my way home from the oral exam, I decided to step up my efforts, and stopped off at the supermarket ("El Arból") to pick up some delicious tinned catfood. To be specific, one container of Brekkies Excel* sabor de pollo y pavo (irresistible sabor y más cómodo : contiene cuchara):

and one container of Brekkies Excel* sabor de buey y cordero:

Someone had already been leaving out dry food (the kind that looks like sheep droppings) for the kitty in question, but I figured that two containers of the moist juicy goodness that is Brekkies Excel would raise my likability quotient considerably.

Unfortunately, when I got home I had to leave for my 7pm class, so I put the food in the cupboard and forgot all about it. Until the next afternoon, when I was putting away the dishes and rediscovered the feline treasure trove. So, mentally practicing my little kitty-Spanish phrases, I grabbed the can of "pollo y pavo"(with convenient spoon) and headed downstairs to make a new friend.

Only to be greeted by a street scene taken straight from a bad made-for-TV movie. Two police cars, an enormous firetruck, complete with flashing lights, and four young, highly embarrassed, firefighters, all engaged in deep scrutiny of the wall of the abandoned building opposite. Where a familiar black-and-white feline figure could be seen, about three quarters of the way up. Upon making discreet enquiries, I was able to ascertain that the kitty had made his way up there earlier in the day (lured presumably by the row of pigeons atop the building frame, who were now looking down on him with a mixture of disdain and amusement) and had gotten stuck. So eventually - perhaps inevitably - a neighbor had called the fire brigade to come to the rescue.

Which is exactly what they did. To the delight and amusement of the assembled onlookers, the ladder was hoisted, the youngest fireman was elected to carry out the rescue, and ten minutes later my would-be feline friend was safely in the fire engine, in which he was presumably whisked off to the refuge for wanton kitties. Leaving me with two cans of delicious catfood on my hands. (I would have taken pictures, but was sternly warned off from doing so by one of the policia on the scene).

If anyone is in the mood for some Brekkies Excel, just let me know. I'll be here all week.

*: Nuevo nombre, mismo producto. Ahora CatChow se llama Brekkies Excel.

Goodbye and good riddance!

Question: Internet Explorer has detected an error and must close now. Would you like to send a completely useless message to Microsoft? We promise that nothing useful will come of it.

Answer: I no longer give a damn. Because, from here on, this blog will be brought to you care of Firefox.

The only real question is why it has taken me so long to make this change. ¡Adíos, Bill! ¡Maldita sea la hora en que te conocí! Me cago en Microsoft y en Internet Explorer.

And, with those slightly vulgar words, let us hope that our long technological nightmare is over, and this blog can get back in business. There is much to relate, gentle readers.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

From the internet café

Well, on this extremely rainy (thunderstorms) weekend en Salamanca, of course the wi-fi connectivity in the Don Quijote piso de lujo is completely shot. My understanding of technology is sufficiently limited that I have not the faintest idea whether wi-fi quality depends in any way on the weather, though - frankly - it seems kind of implausible.

Anyway, here I am, sheltering from the storms in the internet café (deserted, though at 6pm on Sunday, some people are probably only just now getting up), trying to make sure that my credit cards remain viable, by making payments, one of which I notice was due two weeks ago (fortunately it's the American Express card, and - of the three cards I possess - they are the least likely to hit me with a late payment fine).

What news? Well, the celebration dinner on Friday evening was a riot. As was the subsequent drinking session until the wee hours on Saturday morning. But it's been a sleepy weekend. I don't think I realized how keyed up I had been about the exam until I had the luxury of sleeping in until noon yesterday. And 11am today.

Enough, I'm boring even myself at this rate!

Hasta pronto.