Thursday, 30 April 2009
They say that a week is a long time in politics. We're veritably at the 29th century after 100 days, I suppose.
I could go on and on about today, but there are so many other bloggers banging on about Barack Obama and the importance of the 100-day hallmark, that I shall refer you to the BBC News Feature and The Guardian's report from two days ago.
He's done a lot up until now, but let's not forget there are 1461 days until 20th January 2013...
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Four days ago, veteran actress and entertainer Bea Arthur lost her battle with cancer. Over four decades, she delighted people of all ages, best known as Dorothy Zbornak, leader of the gang of The Golden Girls, which aired between 1985 and 1992.
I was brought up partly by my grandmother. I remember her enjoying the fun yet inoffensive antics of the Florida retirees who aired primetime on Channel 4. The laughter proved infectious, and though I would hardly list it as a great favourite of mine, I certainly remember the programme, its characters and the wonderful actresses who played them with great affection.
Due to her success, she took a back seat and performed roles in programmes she was offered and considered worth her time, playing crazed Feminist computer the Femputer in Futurama; babysitter to Malcolm in the Middle's youngest delinquent, Dewey; as well as Larry David's mother in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
You can read the BBC News report of her death here, and her obituary in The Guardian here.
Ms Arthur, you will be greatly missed...
1813 - Rubber was patented by J.F. Hummel.
1852 - The first edition of Peter Roget's Thesaurus was published.
1916 - Irish nationalists surrendered to British authorities in Dublin, ending the Easter Rising.
1918 - Germany's Western Front offensive ended in World War I. For the sake of posterity, though, the war would continue until 11am on the 11th day of November.
1945 - The German Army in Italy surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, leading to the end of the World War II. Meanwhile, in a bunker in Berlin, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were married. Hitler designated Admiral Karl Doenitz his successor.
1945 - The Nazi death camp, Dachau, was liberated.
1952 - IBM President Thomas J. Watson, Jr., informed his company's stockholders that IBM was building "the most advanced, most flexible high-speed computer in the world." The computer was unveiled April 7, 1953, as the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine. The Computer Age was upon us.
1974 - U.S. President Nixon announced he was releasing edited transcripts of secretly made White House tape recordings related to the Watergate scandal.
1975 - The U.S. embassy in Vietnam was evacuated as North Vietnamese forces fought their way into Saigon.
1980 - British-born film director Alfred Hitchcock dies in his Los Angeles home from renal failure.
1990 - The destruction of the Berlin Wall began.
Duke Ellington (b. Edward Kennedy), Jazz Musician and Composer: 1899 - 1974
Francis Rossi, one half of the dreadfully talentless Status Quo: b.1949
Kate Mulgrew, Actress, best known for her role as Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager: b.1955
Jerry Seinfeld, Comedian and Actor, best known for portraying the semi-fictional version of himself in the sitcom of the same name: b.1955
Daniel Day-Lewis, Oscar-winning British Actor, best known for films My Beautiful Launderette, A Room With a View, My Left Foot, Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood: b.1957
Michelle Pfeiffer, Actress, best known for films Dangerous Liasons, The Witches of Eastwick Batman Returns and the 2007 musical adaptation of Hairspray: b.1957
Uma Thurman, Actress, best known for films Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and the 2006 musical adaptation of The Producers: b.1970
Andre Agassi, Tennis Player: b.1970
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Probably one of the most disturbing collection of moving pictures EVER: Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Show
I get the argument some with religious convictions - and those non-religious persons with simply a homophobic agenda - have: The Bible/Torah/Koran/Other Holy Book says Gays are perverted and wrong; children should be brought up in the light and way of goodness and truth (i.e. the religion of chosen Holy Book); ergo, Gays should not be allowed anywhere near children. I get it: I certainly disagree with it, but I get it.
However, one has to ask the question of who else should be kept from raising children. I mean, the little ones have susceptible, malleable minds and are eager to learn from whomever is willing to teach them (studies have also proven that children have excellent critical faculties, and only need them to be massaged in order to grow up to become great thinkers and debaters; but that is another discussion altogether): surely the gays are not the most dangerous group, let alone the only ones, who could damage the pyschological well-being of a child?
If you haven't already watched the above video, do so now, even if for five minutes.
See what I mean? I'll say no more...
"The US President, Barack Obama, went to Trinidad and Tobago, met his Caribbean counterparts for the first time, and apparently convinced his audience that his country wishes to correct the blemishes of the past in order to create new links with the region..." - The US being nice to Cuba? Somebody pinch me...
Sri Lanka Rebels Call Ceasefire
"Tamil Tiger Rebels fighting government forces in north-east Sri Lanka have declared a unilateral ceasefire..." - Except terroist ceasefires rarely last.
"Ill" Worker Fired Over Facebook
"A Swiss woman has lost her job after her employers spotted she was using the Facebook website when she had claimed to be too ill to use a computer..." - Why didn't she say she'd fallen down the stairs! Sloppy...
UK Super-Rich "Hit In Downturn"
"The UK's super-rich have seen their wealth fall in the past year during the economic downturn, according to this year's Sunday Times Rich List..." - Aww! WHAT a shame...
David Cameron to Demand "Culture of Thrift"
"David Cameron will today underline his commitment to impose a "culture of thrift" on Whitehall if the Conservatives win power in a keynote speech to the party's spring forum in Cheltenham...." - Hmm, shorthand terminology for less funding for public services, and policy initiatives. Return to the mid-nineties' poor school and hospital funding, anyone? Vote Conservative '09!
Iowa: State that Made Obama Gives Its Verdict on Him
"It was in Iowa that Barack Obama won his first, stunning victory over Hillary Clinton to take a huge step towards the Democratic nomination and the White House. Last week, he returned to the rural, mainly white state to unveil his plan for a greener America - and found that many Iowans like what he has done, but fear for their future..." - Well, there you are then.
Chiwitel Ejiofor: The Star of Africa
"The finest Othello in a generation, a scene-stealing villain in Ridley Scott's American Gangster and now a brilliant portrayal of Thabo Mbeki - no wonder Chiwetel Ejiofor has the acting world at his mercy. Here, the south Londoner talks to Gaby Wood about his African roots and the end of apartheid..." - This man WILL win an Oscar, soon; believe me. He's AMAZING!
Eat Shoots and Leaves
"Like most things, salad is at its most tempting when it's young and bursting with life. Just add a few tangy chunks of feta cheese, says Nigel Slater..." - Ever since my healthy eating initiative began, I've become a salad fanatic. Quite a few useful tips, here.
Video: Seven Jewish Children
"Watch Caryl Churchill's play, Seven Jewish Children, which was written in response to the situation in Gaza in January this year..." - For an alternative production, have a look below.
1478 - Pazzi conspirators attacked Lorenzo and kill Giuliano de'Medici.
1514 - Copernicus made his first observations of Saturn.
1607 - The British established an American colony at Cape Henry, Virginia. It was the first permanent English establishment in the Western Hemisphere.
1929 - First non-stop flight from England to India was completed.
1937 - German planes attacked Guernica, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War.
1982 - Argentina surrendered to Britain over the Falkland Island Crisis.
1986 - The world’s worst nuclear disaster to date occurred at Chernobyl, in the Ukraine. 31 died in the incident and thousands more were exposed to radioactive material.
Charles Richter, American seismologist and physicist, inventor of the Richter Scale: 1900 - 1985
Roger Taylor, Drummer for Duran Duran: b.1960
Saturday, 25 April 2009
It isn't every day a boy brought up in deepest darkest Hackney has the opportunity to meet one of the most successful and popular, not to mention thought-provoking, Latin American authors of a morning, for a chat about youth, literature, and the state of a nation in transition; but that is exactly what happened to me this week.
I must admit, I'd never even heard of this man before the class began. There had been mention of him and his visit, when handing out the study programme for the Latin American Short Story course I'm taking this semester, but I had a presentation to prepare for the prior lesson and the visit had completely skipped my mind. Nevertheless, after two minutes of listening to him, I knew I was in the presence of someone truly inspiring.
Antonio Skármeta was born in Chile to Croatian immigrants in 1940. He lived through the radical social and political changes sweeping through South America during the late 1960s, and enjoyed the groundbreaking changes made by the Socialist government of Salvador Allende from 1970 until 1973. As part of the new generation of the cultural élite - made up of a younger, more liberal-minded and socially-conscious group of students, teachers, industry workers and politicians - Skármeta's early work is brimming with the energy and hope reflecting this optimism. Unfortunately, it wasn't to last. On the 11th September 1973, everything in Chile changed. General Augusto Pinochet led a coup d'état which swiftly and violently replaced a democratically-elected left-wing government with a strictly traditional and fiercly right-wing military dictatorship. Like many other writers, Skármeta left his home country for the duration of the dictatorship, only to return from his self-imposed exile in 1990, when democracy was restored. He continued writing, of course, his most famous work being the 1985 novel El cartero de Neruda (Neruda's Postman), which was adapted for the screen as Michael Radford's Oscar-winning film Il Postino (The Postman).
The fact that this man had lived through such political upheaval, and was telling a group of assorted students in Madrid his story, was interesting and inspiring enough. However, Skármeta's sheer energy, intellectual ferocity, love and enthusiasm for his work, as well as his wit and amiability made the hour-and-a-half seem like not enough time to truly cover our shared interests. We talked a lot about themes and issues relating to literature's concern with man's struggle to discover, define, and ultimately come to terms with his identity; and the subject of youth and the part youth culture had to play in this search was crucial to the discussion. We briefly looked at how these themes were explored in a few short stories of his (lest we forgot what the title of the course was); as well as touching on the fear and paranoia engendered by the dictatorship, and the paralels with Spain at the same time (though Spain's long dictatorship was to end officially in a few years' time, Chile's had only just begun, and cemented itself over the 70s and 80s). It was clear that Skármeta enjoys talking to his readers, especially young people, and doesn't patronise in the slightest. When doing further research, it came as no surprise to discover he has a background in teaching: lecturing and giving classes in Chile, Germany and the United States. I came away from our meeting feeling enthused and encouraged to go and explore his literary world, as well as what I myself might have to offer creatively. I have already used the words "inspiring" and "inspirational" far too many times, already, but thae truth is I really cannot think of a better way to describe this amazing man.
At the end of the class, I quickly thanked him and asked him if he could recommend one work of his which encapsulates his interests, preocupations and view of the world, and he took no time to cite El cartero de Neruda. I am about to begin reading it, this week, and a great deal of his work has been published in a variety of languages, including English, so if his writing is anything like his personality, I would definitely recommend anyone to give Antonio Skármeta a go.
Six days ago, one of the most violent, disquieting, visionary novelists put down his pen for the final time. JG Ballard, author of several novels, most notably Empire of the Sun and Crash, both of which were adapted for the cinema (the film version of the latter being the 1996 film by David Cronenberg, and NOT the 2004 film about racism in Los Angeles); he could be compared with Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) and Philip K Dick (A Scanner Darkly and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, inspiration for Ridley Scott's Blade Runner), in viewing nightmare futures in which the fat and dull masses live off a diet of self-obssessive entertainment while being easily controlled by a small and corrupt élite.
Only a few days ago, I spotted Ballard's novel Empire of the Sun outside the El Corte Inglés department store near my house, still popular with readers today and speakers of languages other than English. It might be interesting to note that my Ballard's novella High Rise - in which a group of tennants in a newly-built high-rise living block become trapped and dehumanised by the convenience of the technology and ultimately revert to basic, animalistic behaviour - was cited as a reference point for the 1987 Doctor Who story Paradise Towers, featuring similar themes and with a similar tone (barring Bonnie Langford's character, of course).
His obituary on the BBC website can be found here, while his obituary in The Guardian can be found here.
Mr Ballard, you will be greatly missed...
Thirteen days ago, one of the precursors of the study of what has become known as "Queer Theory" lost a long battle with breast cancer. It is unlikely most of the readers of this blog will recognise the name, yet any academic studying theories relating to gender and sexuality will not only recognise it, but is likely to have studied her works thoroughly. One can include her in the generation of post-68 scholars who encouraged different ways of approaching a text, and might arguably say she was part of the generation which allowed for a more positive and inclusive attitude towards the LGBT community.
Her work, Epistemology of the Closet, is regarded as a masterpiece in the field, while I myself found her earlier text, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, a very useful source of critical approach when writing an essay on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, as part of my studies last year.
It is perhaps not particularly shockng, but shameful, that I couldn't find any trace of a report of her death in either of my usual sources - the BBC News and The Guardian websites, and the closest the latter had to offer as an obituary was Silvia Posocco's short piece in memoriam to the critic. I actually found out about Sedgwick's death via my good friend kaos|theory, and an excellent tribute written by fellow blogger Don Diego (who is an excellent blogger anyway). However, The New Yorker website does have a report here, while a pretty decent obituary can be found here.
Ms Sedgwick, you will be greatly missed...
Ten days ago, the all round bon vivant and good egg Sir Clement Freud, died and has left an irreplaceable hole in broadcasting. Grandson of the famous - or infamous, depending on how one views him - Sigmund, his hangdog face and mournful voice - masking a surprisingly cheery personality - made him recogniseable and popular, first in a series of dog food commercials, and later on the radio and television panel game show Just a Minute, of which he had been a regular contestant for over thiry years, and is indeed now the last of the "classic" line-up of contestants to have died.
His BBC obituary can be found here, and his obituary in The Guardian can be found here.
Mr Freud, you will be greatly missed...
Monday, 20 April 2009
So, I saw something interesting, this evening, when I went out for a stroll in my adopted home city. I live pretty close to one of the old main streets - La calle de la Princesa - leading into the centre, and there is a big department store (El Corte Inglés, if you must know: think Selfridges/Bloomingdale's but a little cheaper) sitting on the corner of the road at the end of my neighbourhood block and Princesa. It's a popular meeting spot, and one often sees people waiting for friends and such.
Tonight, El Corte Inglés were promoting the start of Book Week in Spain with an outdoor discount stall, so I thought I'd go down and have a look, like the crazy rock-and-roller that I am. After leaving pretty unimpressed with the glut of typical lifestyle bestsellers, popular fiction authors (not that I have anything against that, I just know I can get it cheaper elsewhere) and translations of novels originally written in English on offer, I decided to head back. As I walked up the street towards my house, I heard a rattling of wheels, as if someone were rolling a suitcase. Sure enough, when I turned round to see, there was someone rolling a suitcase: a clown, in full make-up, costume, wig and comedy nose. On his way home, or maybe to another gig, he walked along the road slowly and I felt that classic sympathy engendered by the vision of a middle-aged clown juxtaposed against the backdrop of an ordinary weeknight in a capital city. For this entertainer, bound to feign happiness and amiability for the sake of his career, had no need to be dressed up, no obligation to the people around him, but he'd kept his mask on: literally.
I suspect that it is probably my pseudo-philosophical side kicking in, but I felt we all shared something in common with the clown. Dressed in the uniform of his life and career, carrying his tools and other baggage behind him, tired and intropective at the end of a busy day, what made him any different from the banker, the teacher, the policeman and indeed the student out for a walk?
This is why I love city life. Ironically, a pretty bizarre, extraordinary and unusal sight made me realise how similar, mundane and normal we all are, despite our superficial differences.
Alternatively, I just saw a clown on the way home from work, still dressed in his costume, and there's no more to it. You decide.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
It occurred to me, today, that by the end of next month I will have spent seven months living in Madrid; only one month of classes will await me, and one final month of exams and assessment. By July, I will free to roam the earth as I please. Whither shall I go?
You see, the truth is I have not only become accustomed to living here, but have very little waiting for me back at "home". Since I have no plans for summer besides working my arse off to start working out of my mean old overdraft, and preparing for my final year at university, being stuck in a very-likely-judging-by-recent-years rainy London for two and a half months while I do it is looking like a rather grim prospect.
The alternatives are hardly much more enticing. Apart from London, my options are confined to Brighton and Madrid. Now, you might think that is a spoilt answer, and you'd be quite right: not everyone can say they have three cities to choose from to spend the summer. However, as I mentioned before, regardless of where I am, I will still be doing the same thing: working to raise money, and reading for the next academic year. If I go to Brighton, I may have the extra burden of searching for somewhere to live, as well. Not that I intend to stay in my currently overpriced flat if I decide to stay in Madrid. However, finding somewhere to stay for a couple of months would be less difficult than arriving back in the UK and looking for something straight away.
This is, of course, all conjecture (word of the week), and academic, since I've yet to begin actually exploring my options. As this semester begins to draw to a close, though, I have been shocked into thinking about what happens when I return to the UK. After that comes the final year of university: I will have nine months left of full-time education, after which point there will be nowhere left to hide from the real world. The end is nigh: not only of my foreign gallivanting but also of my years as a student. What then?
The plan used to be so simple, in my head, a few years ago. Go to university, go to drama school, get an agent, start working at the Royal Court Theatre, move on to the RSC and the Old Vic, peaking at The National Theatre (not to mention the odd role in gripping BBC dramas and an Oscar-nominated turn in Hollywood), and die happy with a full career behind me, maybe getting my own small obituary in The Guardian. Life, however, got in the way of those plans. As I saw my older friends go through the rigorous and soul-destroying process of applying for, auditioning for and being rejected from drama schools, and after the summer of (hell) 2008, I was left wondering whether I have the skill or the stamina for the actor's life. I've spent pretty much my entire time in Spain talking about how I "used" to act and how much I "miss" it, but not getting involved because I'm terrified of being rubbish; and, of course, the longer I go without, the more I run the risk of actually being rubbish, and the greater my fear, leading to even more procrastination. It's a vicious cycle! By the time I finish university, who's to say I'll have any shred of ability left? In which case, how dare I audition for drama school? And if that is the case, what do I do with my life?!
Maybe I'm letting my fear and paranoia run away with me, or maybe I have a point. In any case, the time to think about it all has come, and think long and hard I shall. Any suggestions are welcome...
PS: I'm not going to become a rent-boy or get a sugar daddy; the hours disagree with me...
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Insomnia, Faithles (1996)
Deep in the bosom of the gentle night
Is when I search for the light.
Pick up my pen and start to write.
I struggle, fight dark forces
In the clear moon light
I can't get no sleep.
I used to worry,
Thought I was goin' mad in a hurry,
Gettin' stress, makin' excess mess in darkness.
No electricity, something's all over me, greasy;
Insomnia please release me and let me dream of
Makin' mad love to my girl on the heath;
Tearin' off tights with my teeth.
But there's no release, no peace.
I toss and turn without cease,
Like a curse, open my eyes and rise like yeast.
At least a couple of weeks
Since I last slept, kept takin' sleepers,
But now I keep myself pepped.
Deeper still, at night I write by candle light,
I find insight, fundamental movement.
So when it's back this insomniac take an original tack.
Keep the beast in my nature under ceaseless attack.
I gets no sleep.
I can't get no sleep.
I'm not going to think about you any more.
I've had enough of waking up
And hearing your name
I'm not going to look at you in the corridor,
When you smile I'll not respond.
It'll never stop and start
Like the beat, beat, beat of the tom-tom.
Don't flatter yourself; there's no song for you.
I hung up my pen a long time ago,
Just like he did.
But when they begin the Beguine...
Enough is enough is enough is enough.
Thackeray's more important,
And Trollope, too.
I'm NOT Cole Porter,
So DON'T rain on my parade.
The first real crush I ever had was on a boy called Josh. He was a year younger than I and so beautiful: mixed-race (my favourite), friendly, fit, and walking the ambiguous line separating the masculine and feminine. While I was studying for my A-levels (pre-university qualifications, for those of you who don't know), I would gaze at him across the dining hall and theatre auditorium slowly undressing him, holding him close to me and... well, I'm sure you can imagine the rest. I wasn't helping myself by listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Dionne Warwick and Diana Krall enchantedly singing lyrics of desperate and uncertain love. I remember borrowing a CD of Ella Fitzgerald singing the songs of Cole Porter. The combination of my obsession - I mean, crush - and Ella's voice giving life to Porter's lyrics nearly drove me mad. I couldn't risk trying anything, and I only told two people, one of whom was a teacher, and my only other outlet was to write.
You may not have heard of the name Cole Porter, but I'm pretty certain you've heard his work. "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)", "Begin the Beguine", "Night and Day", "Anything Goes", "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" are just a few of his most famous songs - for which wrote both the music and lyrics. If you're ever in love - or think you're in love - I urge you not to listen to his music!
Thank goodness I'm now an emotional vacuum with a heart of blackened stone...
Monday, 13 April 2009
Day 5 – Friday 10th April
Well, I fucked it up, today. Apologies for the strong opening, but there’s no other way to explain it. Firstly, I spent the entire day indoors, moping and generally feeling empty, useless and sorry for myself (it happens, sometimes). Next, after a right royal cock-up on my part, I managed to walk around the entire Alhambra twice, looking for the others but not finding them. They were left sitting in a restaurant until they were asked to leave, and thought I hadn’t even bothered to find them. So, in the end, we didn’t go to the Alhambra, even though I had bought us tickets, and I’ve managed to make myself the bad guy by not being attentive enough. Way to go, Sanya...
Day 6 – Saturday 11th April
So, if I fucked it up, yesterday, I have majorly – possibly irreparably – ruined things, today. Put simply, this may actually be the end of my friendship with these people; and all because I have no discipline.
After being partially forgiven for what was essentially the fault of no one and nothing but bad luck, yesterday evening was tense, but warmed up over the course of the evening. We ate in an empty bar, discussed what we had done – or rather, Sophie and James told me what they had done, since I had no story worth telling. I had been expecting more friends from university, who by chance had decided to visit Granada at more or less the same time as we would be there, and so I went out that evening to meet them. Sophie and James decided not to come along, since they were tired, and didn’t want to miss the bus in the morning because of a hangover. I, on the other hand, was far too concerned with going out, enjoying myself (i.e., getting drunk and disorderly) and being with people I hadn’t seen in nearly a year to bear in mind that I would have to catch an early bus for a long journey the next morning.
The night itself started off well. I finished off an entire bottle of wine to myself, and I should have left it there. Instead, after moving on from the meeting point to someone’s house, I began to start mixing my drinks. From there, it all goes hazy and downhill. I remember ending up in a club, being sick in the toilet, being thrown out and kicked (so I’m told) in the back by the bouncers, calling the police and speaking to them about it, before heading to the house of someone I barely know to sleep. I’m told I was so drunk I couldn’t even remember where we were, nor I could I work out how to get back to the hostel; I can well believe it, since I know I had a map of Granada in the inside pocket of my jacket. Unsurprisingly, I overslept, and woke up to find a stream of calls and a text saying “Somebody had better have died, Sanya.” I wish I had. When I got back to the hostel, I received a well-deserved bollocking from Sophie, and the two of them left. That was the last time I saw them, and I now have no idea where they are, or what they’ve decided to do. I feel so ashamed of myself, and angry at having let them down so much and so many times. As Sophie rightly pointed out, this is not the first time I’ve fucked her over during the holiday, and it wasn’t the first time I’d fucked her over during our entire friendship. Right now, I have a feeling things may be over, for the time being. I’ve already decided to get in contact with the two of them, after Tuesday, and insist I reimburse them the trouble they will have gone to. I know the fault lies with my lack of discipline, and that it is not a money issue, but as far as I’m concerned the least I can do is foot the bill for what was solely my fault. As far as our friendship is concerned, it’s probably best I keep away from them for a while, if nothing else, to allow them both time to recover from it all.
Right now, I’m in Motril, near Granada, with my friend Virginia, who has kindly offered me a bed for the next two nights. On Monday morning I catch the bus back to Madrid, from where I’ll be able to try and begin arranging things. I feel just awful, and I don’t even know what to say to them or do next. Of course, this whole episode should serve as a lesson, but one I should have already learnt a very long time ago, and which makes me think that maybe I’m not as good a person as I’d always hoped to be. Anyway, there is little else to say, now, so I might as well wrap this up.
Day 7 – Sunday 12th April
All I’ve been doing, today, is thinking about what I’ve done, or telling people about it. I can’t really shake this feeling of shame and anger at myself, and I don’t really deserve anything else. I am worried about Sophie and James, but as she told me on the phone, when I tried to find them, she can handle herself, she survived in South America without me, and she doesn’t fuck things up. Nevertheless, I still wonder if they did manage to find something, and where they are, now.
It isn’t really just that I was serving as translator and something of a guide which makes me feel so bad (even though, of course, their semi-dependency has a major role), but more that they had relied on me to deal with the internal travel arrangements, and some of the touristic plans. I bought the bus tickets a week and a half before they arrived; I nearly made us miss the first bus; I left it too late to buy the Alhambra tickets and only managed to get a supplementary tour of the gardens, which I then made us miss; and because I got pissed in a club, we missed the third bus, effectively ruining the holiday completely. I had already seriously compromised it, before it had begun, but to completely destroy it – and abuse the trust Sophie and James had in me – is what really shocks and hurts me most. I keep on writing about how angry and ashamed I feel. That’s because it’s true: those people are two of my best friends. If I can’t treat them with the basic respect they deserve, then who else can expect it of me?
I’m actually so fed up of the whole thing, I just want to go back to my house in Madrid, and start trying to make things right. I know it will take a long time, and that it may mean we are never as close, but I would feel at least like I was attempting to prove how sorry I am for it all. And to those of you who are thinking: “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill, stop exaggerating!” just imagine me doing it to you, and how angry you would be with me. And then imagine yourself doing it to your best friends, and how angry and ashamed of yourself you would feel. I’ll leave it there.
Day 8 – Monday 8th April
I’ve been sitting in my house for the past half an hour, now, just thinking about how much I’ve wrecked things. My friends – my best friends – came all the way out here, after planning for four months what we’d do and where we’d go, to effectively see me. What do I do? In short, make them hate me; spit in their eyes and laugh at them for being stupid enough to care about me. Or that’s how it must seem. The truth is, I do care for them both very deeply; as the time for their visit drew nearer, I was becoming more and more excited at the prospect of seeing them again. The first half of the holiday, though not exactly successful, was at least fun and relatively smooth, barring mistakes made by myself which ultimately led to the failure of the last four days.
That is, in fact, the best word to describe what I have done: I’ve failed. I’ve failed my friends, by being stupid, careless and selfish; I’ve failed myself, by not showing enough discipline; and I’ve failed at maintaining another close relationship, because I couldn’t be bothered to consider anyone but myself, throughout. I know I seem repetitive, but the same thoughts keep circulating; and, of course, the more I think about it, the worse I feel. Ironically, people have told me it will be solved by time, and my proving that I have learnt my lesson, but I don’t know if I it can be. Ten-year friendships don’t just end on a whim, and are likely to have been through quite a bit of turbulence at various points – believe me, we’ve all been through so much together – so anything which threatens to end it must be significant. Which must mean that maybe this is too deeply-ingrained for me to ever be able to overcome: perhaps it is too late for me to change personality, and therefore, perhaps I don’t ever deserve to ever be forgiven for all of the shit I have dumped on Sophie especially, over our friendship.
The truth is I don’t know what to do. I know what I can do right now, and in the near future, as I’ve already explained, but after that my mind draws a blank. How can I ever even think to expect any of the privileges of friendship, after this? When I say privileges, I don’t mean anything superficial, I’m talking about the closeness, the honesty and trust, not to mention the love – the genuine love – I know I feel for them. Is this what it feels like to hurt someone you love? If so, I never want to do it again. Are those my only motives for not wanting to hurt people: because it makes me feel bad? If that is the case, maybe I should keep away from building up any close relationships, and not allow anyone to care for me.
I had been hoping to end this journal on a bittersweet note: having spent a week with Sophie and James, and coming to the end of the time we had before returning to our current normal lives. Instead, it just feels bitter. I don’t know. I just don’t know, anymore.
Having said that, it's here, now: the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth...
Day 1 – Monday 6th April
After a two-hour delay, the blame for which was nearly pinned on them, Sophie and James (or Stupendous to those of you who are unlucky enough to not be his friend...) finally arrived in Madrid. I have been living in Spain since September 2008; I have spent six-and-a-half months in this country, without having been back home, not even for Christmas. I haven’t seen a single friend from home – barring Lauren, my housemate – since then. Imagine the excitement we all felt on seeing each other. Two of my best friends coming all the way to Madrid to begin a week-long road trip around Spain.
We had planned to spend all of Monday in Madrid. However, since I only had around six hours to show them the dizzying heights of my second home, it was something of a whirlwind tour. After lunching on a feast of pasta and pancakes, we toured the city centre, starting at the Plaza de España, through to the Royal Palace, and on to Puerta del Sol via Calle Mayor and Plaza Mayor. From there, we walked down to the Cibeles Roundabout (think Piccadilly Circus, but with lions), passing the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Paseo del Prado (leading to the Prado and Reina Sofia Art Galleries) and the Banco de España Building. Finally, we took the metro back home, unfortunately meaning my guests missed the chance to see the Retiro Park and Gran Vía, but missing out on something gives us an excuse to return, surely?
Dinner was served by yours truly, and we were off to bed early to prepare ourselves for the bus ride down south to Seville.
Day 2 – Tuesday 7th April
Guess what happens when an overly-tired Sanya tries to navigate his way to a bus station for which he already knows the route? That’s right; he takes his friends and himself onto the correct line on the journey, but in the wrong direction. Fortunately that faux pas only set us back about five minutes, but we were in danger of missing the bus: silly Sanya.
Apparently, the view en route from Madrid to Seville is beautiful. I, however, wouldn’t know, since I sent most of the journey in slumber. It was hardly peaceful, though, and we had quite a walk to the hostel, meaning that I spent the majority of the evening tired. I suppose the main reason is that I have lost so much sleep over the course of my Year Abroad, and the fact that I never really got a real break in between the end of the exams and the beginning of the new semester; it has all started to catch up with me. We met a few nice people from around Spain and the rest of Europe. One lone traveller staying on the same floor, Ryan, became something of a fast friend after a couple of conversations in the hostel.
Travel days seem to be better for relaxed evenings, and this one was spent sharing raunchy poetry written by the Earl of Rochester and plan-making. Tomorrow, we explore what this city has to offer. Or, rather, I will be taking the others around the city, explaining what I can remember, probably finishing off with a stroll through the María Luisa Park and along the Guadalquivir River (Rhyme Alert). Sounds like fun.
Day 3 – Wednesday 8th April
Being a walking guide and translator is quite a nice job, especially when with friends. Today, we toured Seville for eight hours. I have already been here, on a two-week-long trip across Andalucía two years ago, so I was rather surprised by how much I could remember of the city.
Our main area of interest was the old Jewish quarter of the city, the Barrio de Santa Cruz. For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, Santa Cruz literally translates as “Holy Cross”, which might be deemed a little inappropriate for a Jewish quarter, but there you are. To get there from our hostel, we passed the huge gothic cathedral and its accompanying tower, La Giralda; as well as the old cigarette factory (made famous for being the backdrop setting for Bizet’s opera, Carmen), which now serves as the main building for the University of Seville. Once in the old quarter, we passed and studied pretty much every old building and monument within. Me being an idiot, I have no camera, since it was stolen months ago, back home in Brighton, meaning that all the photos are sitting comfortably in James and Sophie’s cameras. After passing a few hours in Santa Cruz, we moved eastward towards the María Luisa Park, via the truly beautiful and amazing Plaza de España. It is very likely to be the case that every Spanish city and town has a Plaza de España, but most of them are probably squares. Seville is much more beautiful. From above, it is a semi-circle, with a huge fountain in the centre, and a walkway built around the circumference, allowing for people to walk around the perimeter in the shade, or venture out into the midday sun (being Englishmen, we did just that), and experience just how warm it can be in April (around 26º centigrade). The front gate of the Plaza is shared with the back of the María Luisa Park, allowing us to shoot right into it. I had originally expected us to walk around the park, but there was a cheap self-cycle service being offered, so we decided to do something novel. We hired a cycle-car and pretended we could drive, like the cool mothers we are... After that, we walked back to our hostel, passing the Costurero de la Reina (The Queen’s Wardrobe), the Lope de Vega Theatre, the San Telmo Palace, and the Maestranza Theatre and Bullring; with a short detour along the river, Torre de Oro (Tower of Gold – not actually made of gold, of course, but where the riches/loot from the discovery of America and the subsequent empire were held).
Considering our time in each city of our journey is so limited, we managed to cover a good area of the city. It was a shame we didn’t really have time to visit the Palaces and Pavilions of the North Bank of the Guadalquivir, nor the Triana area nor the area set aside for the Expo ’92, Seville’s answer to the South Bank. However, as I said before, not seeing everything leaves you with the chance to return and finish where you left off. Tomorrow lunchtime we set off for Granada. I’ve already been raving about the city to my friends, and they’re probably already sick of me going on and on, but they will soon see I’m not mad, just in awe of the beautiful stop we call next.
Day 4 – Thursday 9th April
Once again, I managed to last about half an hour on the bus before falling asleep; and yet, after arriving in Granada I was still tired.
One conversation I had with Sophie and James was how our friendship had grown and developed over the last ten years. We had met at school, and towards the end of our time there, when we were around 15 years old, we became much closer. Now, all of us are at different universities. Studying different courses, and with very different lives and prospects, but we always come back together and it is as if we are still back at school, sitting in our usual spots by the theatre, or out in the main patio.
Tonight, though, the first real signs of tension began to show. While I wasn’t particularly hungry, the other two were pretty much starving, so we traipsed around the city looking for somewhere decent to eat (the food issue had already been a little odd, since I am low on money, and it hasn’t been easy finding decent cheap restaurants. On Tuesday we ate in Burger King...). After thinking we’d found a restaurant, we sat there waiting: waiting to be served, waiting for our orders to arrive, waiting for the second courses – one of which arrived before the others – waiting for the bill which had apparently been mixed with that of another table, and waiting for the return of the change. Subsequently, Sophie and James left in a bad mood, while I was left feeling completely impotent. I was told to make more of a fuss during the entire debacle, but decided to say the mildest things in the hope that the “softly softly” approach would be the most effective. Although nothing was actually said to me about this, I’m pretty sure this was the cause of tension for the rest of the evening. That and the fact that all my tiredness had caught up with me, and so I was behaving in that typically reclusive manner of mine which probably made me look like something of a sulk and very anti-social. Tomorrow I’m going to take the day off, as it were, and only do the minimum. It might do the other two good to not have me around, for the sake of their own sanity. At some point I’m planning to go up to the Alhambra, that wonderfully inspiring monument which sits and eternally keeps vigil over the city below. That will be our time together.Find out how it all went terribly wrong - or, rather, how I ruined the entire holiday - tomorrow; or the next day, or the next: does it really matter that much...?