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What Would We do Without Wooded Banks

The Arga along the edge of Pamplona’s older parts just outside the old walls. A flock of cormorants roost just around the bend here.

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            What Would We Do Without Wooded Banks?

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Walking a dammed riverbank, autumn evening,

Scanning still water for a hint of beavers,

Seeking signs of these elusive animals, 

Watching for ripples in the reflection of the gloaming.

See a shimmer sent out to midstream but

Just a wind eddy as aspens shiver overhead,

Their yellow leaves tied tenuously to baring branches.

Below, a pale place in the gloom of the bank shows 

The scene of beaver eating on a poplar bole,

But no body approaches, so I pause and pad across

A footbridge to pause and snap a photo of autumn:

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The trees arch out over deep water, and I wonder

What life could live in a river without the banks 

Well wooded? Where would these cormorants aloft 

Alight for the night? The herons roost? Dropping 

Guano to recycle. Kingfishers eye the minnows below

Before dropping down to snatch the flashing fish, 

Well fed on fallen leaves and dung. What would become 

Of them? What would hold the water when it rises, 

Hold holts for otters to hide within? How would 

We hope to halt in our walks, to take in these 

Scenes of such reflections, all glittering and glinting, 

Hinting at the invisible, holding hope? 

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And only 

When darkness descends over thoughts do I 

Give up on the hunt and head home.

when the banks are well wooded, there’s plenty for beavers to eat. and for everything else

Sometimes I see a tweet from home of the destruction done unto rivers and the shredding of any foliage along their banks. Here, there are beavers back from past extinctions, and it can be a nuisance if they bole an old poplar on a part of the riverbank well-frequented by walkers and with few other trees to shade us, but a bit of chicken wire protects the most important and moves the beavers off towards this end, where there’s plenty to eat and a few trees felled will only add to the diversity of the river.

Passing in the Night

So despite our quarantine, and shut bars etc., we can at least leave our homes so far during this second wave, and that’s a lot. A walk, a stroll, a chance to stand and smell fresh air (when you can lower the mask, of course) to stare up at the sky and relax your eyes, is not to be dismissed anymore.

And it’s a delight to know the natural world is still spinning on despite our stupidity.

I don’t have any shots of the cranes at night because I just watched rather than fumble with phone, but I have posted some shots from other days – one of the cranes going low over town during the day, and of course, our constant companions all summer in the south, Jupiter and Saturn. Mars is in the east these days. It’ll never be easier to see so look up this weekend.

Sunset with Jupiter and Saturn already bright in the sky on the left.

            Passing in the Night

I stare out from the city walls, waiting

For migrating cranes to come calling:

Glimpse against low city-glow clouds.

Bats pass but no birds; Mars my only

Other midnight companion, with

Jupiter and Saturn at my back, a

Spider spinning draws eyes down

From treeline to the damp stone:

Seeing mites crawling across lichens

White in the street light, changes

Perspective. Some comfort comes

From knowing creatures will roam

Over these stones even if crumbled;

And the bodies above me will circle

Unceasingly in their great migrations,

When neither walls nor men yet stand.

The new moon, Jupiter and Saturn in a line across the sky with the citadel of Pamplona in the lower background
Cranes flying over Pamplona centre.

Happy Halloween

Halloween is a strange time for me.

I’ve been in the ER twice on Halloween, back in Ireland, as a kid and a young man who should have known better. Actually, the kid should have known better, too.

But shit happens.

full moon rising over Pamplona, with Mars beside.

It’s also one of the times when I most feel homesick, when I feel most proud to be Irish – those who know me know I care little for sport or other ritualistic nationalistic shite.

I am always aware of the entities that might collide with my life on Samhain.

This year, we’re all wearing masks, and we can’t go and ask for any apples or nuts or even sweets, since this year things are scarier than they used to be, and going to the ER is not a nice idea even for a cough.

I actually have an appointment after nightfall – at the PCR testing point. Not for me, but I’ll be cycling along under the full moon with my mask and perhaps a bit of disguise, just in case the spirits are soaring over Spain.

So stay safe, everyone, and hopefully this nightmare will be over (not before Christmas, though!)

Here’s a poem about twilight, and the tricks our eyes can do, even without the Samhain imagination to help them. There are good things we can see if we try.

And when you look up at the moon, ponder this – which is scarier, the myth of the werewolf, or the truth?

http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/OBrien_David/leaving-the-pack.htm

moon rising over mountains at sunset day before yesterday. This view is filled with swifts in summer.

            Optical Illusions

It is in the gloaming that the eye is

Overcome by the clear view of

Imagination. More than the shapes of

Shadows becoming beasts instead of 

Branches, shades seeming to move

When still steady stones, it creates

Shifting scenes swapping some 

Creatures instead of others. 

The tree leaves sway in the breeze

As if waves were washing seaweed

Sideways to the shore, before me;

Staring up at steely sky turn dark,

The heart-pushed corpuscles in

Retina rush across my vision,

Taking forms of those dear departed,

Heaven-skating swifts, and I wish

They could go on thus until the

Stars transform the sky to diamonds,

Transporting me through the air

Unblinking as if I could follow there.

The Lockdown Posts

 

While I was in my house for the duration, I posted a message every day on my personal facebook page.

Most had no photos, just text.

 

I am posting them all here for posterity… a little snapshot of two months using humour and faux complaints to entertain those who read my news feed…

 

I will try to add some of the photos for context. The links I sometimes attached are lost, as are the interactions of others – people’s replies on my news feed, which were fun.

 

I started at day 3 of our lockdown, which was Monday, after our schools closed on Friday and the kids didn’t go to school but stayed in their cousins’ and I took them home at 12. We were ready for a few weeks at home. It took a lot longer.

Of course, we didn’t get out back to normal after any weeks. But are slowly regaining our former freedoms. But we will be okay as long as we have the countryside.

 

Hope you have a few smiles.

 

(Day two – over that weekend…)

hope the hell someone shows this to Leo V. And Boris. we’ve only just shut down in Navarra, days later than we should have – and not even properly. still saying we can take students in school tomorrow… stupid people

 

 

(first post:)

from my vantage point of 3 days into lockdown, here’s some info you might find useful…
I have been to the stores twice. they are well stocked.
my family of 4 has gone through 1.5 rolls of toilet paper.

Stay home, but stay calm. Stay away from busy supermarkets.

 

(This was a post from my author page, with the intro..)

this will give us all a lot of time to think…

It’s day three of me staying at home because of the #coronavirus lockdown.
As I went for an now illegal run around the block this morning, I thought about book recommendations – seen a few requests on facebook.
well, I don’t know who has the copyright on The Diary of Ann Frank, but that book should be required reading for every teenager who’s home from school these coming weeks.
I’ve been to the Ann Frank house in Amsterdam. More than two years in that space gives perspective on our current crises and what we’re asked to do to help our families stay alive.
And for the single folks… About a Boy has some good tips on time management.

 

Day four of confinement.
When you calculate how much booze you need for your quarantine, don’t forget to include in your calculations the fact that your kids will be at home with you. Adjust accordingly.

 

(Day 5..)

Happy St Paddy’s Day to everyone from Locked Down Spain! We hope to use these masks for more than just messing when they let us out of our house at the end of this crisis. Meanwhile, it’s day five of our confinement – and the typical Paddy’s Day rain might seem to make it easier to stay inside, but it really doesn’t. Still, we have a tree to look at outside our window, and the distant hills… And I have a bottle of black barrel Jameson…
We’ll remember this Paddy’s day for a long time… no parades, no pints in the pub, but there is still magic and mystery in Ireland. Here’s a link to something you can read to yourself, or your kids.

Paddy's day.

 

Day 6.
You think you’ll be bored…. people will repost a million ideas of virtual museums and educational websites for your kids…
Yuu’ll be too busy to do half what you’d like to do.

Plus, if you have kids they’ll be using your computer for their virtual clases and downloaded lessons and you’d not even have time to attend to your own work from a distance, never mind watch a bit of Netflix.

 

Day 7. It’s my birthday.
The good thing about this is that I can easily avoid all the fuss about it, when I’m not a big one for being the centre of attention.
The bad thing is that there’s very few people to share the cake with, and what with the new rule saying we can’t even use the building stairwell for exercise, as it’s common space, never mind go outside, well, I’ll be adding extra insulin – and kilos!
Oh, and we’re about 4 toilet rolls into our supply….
if you’ve run out of paper books to ready already, why not buy an ebook or two? the best birthday present from afar is a reader’s review

 

 

Day 8 of staying at home…
Get a dog, they say, and you’ll get exercise.
They were right.
Now every time I see someone walk their dog past my window I feel my solidarity slipping away and envy creeping in.
Because walking a dog doesn’t have to have a destination, like going to the shop does, and there are no shops in the park!

 

 

Day 9 now. A full week since my kids left the house.
I always said that apartment living was great – for many reasons. But I’d love to have to mow the grass in my garden today! Or not mow, but play with the daisies.
I have a garden, 40 minutes away, which I hope to see after another week. I’m told the daisies are blooming there!

 

Day 10.
Tickles.
I’ve never tickled my kids so much and so often in their lives as in the last ten days.
It’s great exercise for a four year old and in times of doubt and worry and things on the telly they don’t quite understand, it’s an amazing therapy. So hug your kids – if you’re not isolating from them – but tickle them too.

 

 

Day 11. Hoping to see some shift in the curve soon.
Meanwhile, I’ve discovered why our mothers gave us so many chores to do back in the old days – it keeps the little gits busy for a few minutes, or even half an hour, during which you can actually do something useful! I’m even considering pretending there’s a run on dishwasher tablets as well as toilet rolls so they can wash and dry and put away!

 

Day twelve!
They say this is going to go on till the 12th of April now… That’s a long time if you think about it.
So we don’t.
We count toilet rolls – about 7 gone, but I really don’t count toilet rolls. Why would I – there’s plenty in the shops now.
We don’t count beers. But when I went shopping on Saturday afternoon there was a serious dent in the supermarket’s supply – only a few crates of San Miguel and of course lots of the fancy expensive beers we should also be drinking right now because if anything this has taught us is that life’s too short to skimp on good beer.

 

 

Day 13.

It’s amazing how fast the days go by, really. But the death count keeps going up, though we’re supposed to see a drop in infections now soon (everything is soon, but not soon enough). The police are having a field day fining and arresting anyone out without what they say is a good reason. One Ould Granda was buying speed for his granddaughter – well, we can’t argue with that. But one lad was arrested for going out to buy beer – apparently not a necessity (well, only if you’ve got wine and spirits left at home) and now they say you’ve to spend at least 30 euro at the shops to justify the trip. So no popping out for eggs unless you add a bottle of vodka or two to the list…
In my humble opinion the cops would be better employed helping out in nursing homes, which are in a terrible state from sick workers and lack of funeral home workers up to the task of dealing with the dead – which the workers aren’t supposed to touch, apparently.

 

Day 14.
There are many lessons to be learnt from this experience. Our children are teaching us one important one:
Accept the situation and make the best of it.
As long as you have your loved ones, all will be well.
One day at a time, take the time to smile.
The world outside will be waiting for us.

 

 

Day 15.
This crisis, like every crisis, reveals to us the Haves and the Have Nots.

in this case, it’s those who have a balcony from which to applaud the health services, versus those who don’t and so don’t appear on the news singing.

Those who have a south-facing window which gets some sun versus those who are giving their kids Vitamin D supplements after two weeks indoors.

Those who have computers and internet so their kids can do all their assigned work versus those who are lucky the government is putting some revision lessons on TV.

Those who have a flat where you can swing a cat versus those who are watching tv because the only place to sit down is the sofa and the only way to avoid arguments from being in each other’s faces all day.

 

 

Day 16.

And.. for the first time
in forever…

I don’t give a fuck about the clocks going forward.

 

 

day 17.
now we know why those movie characters in jail were always doing push-ups.
The smaller the place of confinement the greater the urge to exercise.

 

 

Day 18.
Despite the applause etc., some bitterness is showing through. Some finger pointing goes on without trying to consider special circumstances – reporting old couples going for walks together when one has Alzheimers and needs to get out, or complaining that some nuns were playing football on the TV, when they were in their own garden and members of a closed order who haven’t been on the street in decades, never mind ten days…
There’s a message going around that kids with blue armbands are outside because their autistic – just so that the hotheads and finger pointers won’t lash them and their parents out of it for showing their faces on the street like they’re conspiring to kill us all.
Take a breath, and pause to ponder – is there possibly a good reason these people are outside? Yes, there probably is.
Unless they’re teenagers snogging. Then definitely rip them a new one.

 

 

Day 19
Hamelin was a sad place.
Pamplona is almost as sad, but with some common sense, we could make the streets alive again.

 

 

Day 19. This shit sure does feel long now. Imagine how it feels to a 4 year old, or a toddler?

 

 

its day 21. yesterday I repeated 19.. shows how this thing is going!
anyway, today they brought the army into Pamplona.
Yes. The army.
I watched a patrol walk past my house. 8 men, in formation, looking around and up at the balconies.
I can’t see why they were walking down my street.
Ostensibly they’re here to help.
I don’t know how. I didn’t see them disinfect the bins downstairs. There are no old folks home on my street. Parking their trucks in the square where the children play isn’t going to help the kids get through this confinement any better, unless they’re going to volunteer to take our kids out for supervised walks to some green space.
All that I know is going to the stores now will involve being stopped by soldiers.
The residents of the city centre are not impressed by their arrival. Anyone who understands politics in Northern Spain will know why.
I fail to see how anyone in the government thought this was a good idea.
I’ve great respect for the army. They can help out a lot, when deployed properly. but as a Paddy, I have learnt about bad deployments. and a city (with no greenery to speak of inside the walls) under lockdown where people are already restricted from doing more than letting their dog shit and getting a loaf of bread once a day, is no place for army deployment.
But I’ll get back to Netflix now.

 

 

day 22. three weeks and they just announced 3 more – until April 26th.
Tired of watching how badly those supposedly working for us are doing things so shitily. There have to be more tests, yet I near from biologists that local governments won’t shell out a tenner to have people tested accurately, instead going for 17euro fast tests from China that only test for antibodies. They told us masks weren’t necessary, but we all knew that was just to stop us rioting in the streets because there were no fucking masks. We won’t get our kids back out in the sun and grass until things are organised right. And I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

 

 

Day 22. Sunday, wrote Mr Kipling…
I wonder how many other parents are thinking about faking symptoms in order to self isolate?

 

 

Day 23. Went shopping. Didn’t need bog roll because even with all four of us crapping at home we’re still only about 20 rolls in.
There are some shortages – people are taking my advice and drinking good beer, but there’s still lots of San Miguel despite everyone drinking at home rather than their local…
Cup-cake holders and other baking supplies are scant – but that’s my fault for not realising I could distract my oldest for hours by letting her have at with the kitchen.
only one minor incident with the microwave and a plastic bowl so far…

 

 

Day 24. Some unfortunate news from the UK,
and from Ireland…
People are already starting to get angry with others about them sunbathing or going to the beach. I’d advise everyone to be thankful for the permission to get out of their house in the first place and not invite the powers that be to start restricting movement more than necessary – they’ll be happy to oblige if it gets to that.

 

 

day 25.. the curve is starting, starting, to turn here. it’s still higher than I thought it would be after this long. No sudden drop after 14 days by any means. We’ll be inside another two weeks. But then, perhaps, we’ll get out. Doesn’t seem so long. Two weeks. no problem. we’ve done more than three.
And I might actually get some time to read since we’ve Easter Holidays!

 

 

Day 26
Newton had a nannie.
This is something any scientist worth the name has figured out in in this quarantine.
As for Shakespeare, well that lad might have written King Lear during lockdown for the plague, but he wrote a whole lot of other shit when he was allowed out and about, so we can conclude that he had a fecking nanny too. Or he had no kids.

 

 

Day 27?
This is going to be a lot longer than most Good Fridays.
Traditionally, I would scoff at Ireland having their pubs closed while here in Spain we can go for a beer.
Ireland started opening their pubs last Good Friday, so I stopped…
It was nice while it lasted, lads!
Here, meanwhile…
We don’t even have that crazy procession tonight – seems the pillowcases on their heads don’t let them avoid the physical distancing rules.

 

 

 

day 28. 4 weeks in. well, I don’t feel like I got a lot done in that month… read Gulliver’s Travels. Only travelling I did.
Reading The Shock Doctrine. Not happy reading, but important for the times we’re living and going to live.
Nearly edited a dystopian novella – adding some sentences relevant to our pandemic (it’s set in the future, of course) and… well, I suppose keeping the kids fed and watered more-or-less entertained while my wife tries to concentrate and also fulfilling my teaching workload counts too, right?
Oh, and we watched Tiger King and lots of news. too much news… not new news… stupid people telling us bullshit news.
what’d ya do in the pandemic Granda?
watched a lot of news, kid!

 

Day 29
Happy Easter!
As if any of us needs more chocolate.

But it could be worse…
Could be vodka.

Only kidding!

It’s vodka as well.

 

(there is no day 30, it seems…. Unless FB deleted it, like they deleted other content, conts.)
Day 31. A month.
I just want to point out that these old memes, from the old days (last month) said living ALONE… and in the friggin’ WOODS.

They never asked who could do it in their FLAT with stressed out spouse and bored/frustrated/worried kids who have to be homeschooled while you yourself will be working from home at the same time.

So, after my month, I think I deserve the Million Bucks!

that is all.

 

 

Day 32.
This is the part of the movie where they skip forward weeks or months, and come back when my quarantine beard is an inch longer (or I’m mad fit from all the zumba) without all the boring shite in the middle.

we could have a fluttering of the calendar, days falling away until mid May…

Or a montage.

Even Rocky had a montage…

 

 

Day 33…
This is not The Martian.

There is no fast forward.

We have to suck up every boring day of same old shite for however many years this lasts…

Today’s quibble:
I used to hate running.

Now I’d be happy to go for a run.

All my hate has been transferred to Zumba.

 

 

Day 34
So a couple of days ago Mariano Rajoy, the former president of the country, was filmed breaking the quarantine laws – out walking in his neighbourhood every morning as blatant as you please. This is the person who would have been in charge of this state of emergency if it had happened two years ago.
He sets an example, though, of how politicians, especially the right wing, could not give a fuck about us, or the rules they make us abide by. They really believe they are above us and the law.
We are the ones fixing this problem, by our sacrifices and they merely make life harder than it needs to be by their incompetence.

 

 

Day 35…
In the before time, I used to watch the part of the news where they talk about the stock market, and ask…

Who needs to know this?

The trends in the IBEX, FTSE, Ibex 100… that’s all just meaningless information to most of us.
It’s only relevant to a few lucky rich people.

Now, I ask myself the same question when they show the weather forecast…

 

 

Day 36…
You’ve probably noticed this by now everywhere, but it’s funny how when we were kids we had various chores….

One was to help put away the shopping after the weekly supermarket trip.

Another was we’d to wash, dry, and put away the dishes after dinner.

Now these two have multiplied by one another, and we’re washing, drying, and putting away the fecking shopping.

And we can’t even make the kids do it, much, either…

 

 

Day 37
we have positive news here in Spain… the govt. has decided to let us take kids outside for walks from next week. Kids who’ve not left the house (flats) for a month and a half.
They’ve yet to say exactly what time table and how far we can go, but they reckon between 10am and 12pm, less than 1km from home.

And yet, it was on the news that 60% of citizens reckon we should keep the kids inside…
WTF?
Who are these people?

 

 

Day 38.
A sad day in Pamplona. The festivals this year have been officially cancelled. We knew it was coming, but it’s a hard blow. It’s a lesson for us all that whatever we used to take for granted, and assumed would happen every year was really a luxury we should be grateful for the little things we still have.

ps, the clock counts down to 12pm on July 6th…
https://www.diariodenavarra.es/…/suspendidos-los-sanfermine…

 

 

day 39
Earth Day.
Well, fifty years on we can see a clear progress
in the wrong direction.
But this time now, is hopefully a wake up that all we have, and all we need, is the earth.
I see a lot of people who are not used to thinking outside the concrete box realise that going for a walk is the best thing they could ask for.
And today, despite the problems they and other migrants are facing, I saw the first swift of the season. Something that made my quarantine lighter.

The Little Alleviations

There are things that make this almost okay:
A kite fly past; the sight of storks soaring over
Distant river plain; bats, breaking out at twilight
Across the buildings; blackbirds warbling from
Rooftops, bursting forth louder than before due to
Absence of traffic drowning out twittering; blue tits
Appearing on balcony railings while waiting claiming
Arrival of swallows and swifts gliding above turtledoves.

 

 

Day 40. a “full” quarantine, as the bible says.
went to the doctors today (eye check up) and got to actually walk through town. So I took the route through the park and it was a beautiful sight!
The lawns haven’t been mowed in weeks!
I’m delighted.
The only things missing were kids, running and jumping and falling and hiding in the long grass, plucking and blocking dandelions.
I hope to hell they leave it like that for next week when the kids can get out.

 

yamaguchi 1

 

Day 41 (delayed)
sometimes the internet just doesn’t work.
And I wonder how people would deal with this if it happened back in the 80s.
Probably fine. We were used to being bored back then.

 

Day 42 (late, also)
It’s amazing how many stupid questions students still send after six weeks of this.
Sunday morning answering emails from Saturday midnight
And my doctor said, “on holidays,” when I told her I was a teacher the other day.

 

 

Day 43.
Finally got time to write this idea about lessons to be learned these days.

(a link to Lessons Learnt)

 

 

Day 44
The birds are singing more and louder in the cities now that the traffic has died down.
But by Jaysus, it’s still not the same as the chorus in the countryside.
A feast for the ears.

 

 

Day 45 (late again! I am as bad as my students!)
Since Sunday we’re allowed out for exercise. A freedom we truly appreciate.
Yesterday we went for a walk outside the village, through the country.
But to our surprise and disappointment, we found that in our absence, while we locked inside hoping spring was flourishing in blessed isolation, the local council had decided that the brambles and bushes along the field access paths should be cut back. In April.
Clearly in Spain there are no rules about not cutting hedges during nesting season.
The really stupid thing is that this area has a lot of erosion. Those walls of soil under the fields are only held up by the roots of the bushes and will crumble during the spring and summer storms if we get a good downpour.

We’re getting lots of storms this week, and I can only hope that new growth can cover the bare earth before it’s washed into the river.

 

 

Day 46.
Missed yesterday, but hey, you didn’t notice. and when you look back on this, it’ll all blur into one long weekend in your memory.
Anyway, I’m reading this book. It’s taking a long time because I’m so super busy (as I’ve already complained about.) I’m on the bit where both American and British Governments had inquiries to find out what the hell went wrong, who was responsible and how to make sure it didn’t happen again (which it didn’t until roll on roll off put profit over safety again)…
It’s an appropriate comparison to our current situation – dipshit businessmen in charge, (on both sides of The Atlantic) no thought for safety over profit, wilfully ignoring warnings, and even going gung ho, full speed ahead into the danger zone like they were fucking indestructible.
Except there’s a titanic – or two – going down every day now.
And at least in the Titanic, old folks were taken care of.

 

 

 

Day 47
It’s May Day, international worker’s day.
Many of us are at home, not working anyway. Some without pay.
But lots are out there, working away the same as every day these last two months.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could swap jobs for today.
If the delivery workers and amazon warehouse staff and nursing home care givers could stay home and the oil company executives and airline CEOs and cruise ship owners could take their place – not that they need anyone in charge right now.
It’d give the former group some time to practice lobbying the government for bailouts and subsidies and grants and interest free loans; which seems to be all the latter group are good for.
And then, perhaps, the front line workers, with the ear of the politicians, might get the decent wages, the worker’s rights, the PPEs that are actually needed to keep our society stitched together.

 

 

Day 48

Spain has allowed adults to go out for exercise for the first time in two months.
If you live in a town with more than 5k people, your windows are 6-10am and 8-11pm.
Smaller than that, you can go when you want.
In the before time, we had been hearing of the problem of depopulation.
However, that might slow down now.
Telecommuting is now much more viable, houses with gardens rather than poky flats without a balcony are a godsend to mental health in lockdown, open spaces mean you can avoid your neighbours – which is why we have an open timetable (and few visits by police to make sure you’re not walking in the field behind your house a few days earlier than the restrictions were lifted).
I think this pandemic will make many reconsider rural living.

these are what I woke up to today…. first from my window, second the wall of our garden, when I went for my jog. viva the countryside!

website 11

 

website wall

 

 

Day 49
I have still not had to buy more toilet paper.
I have had no problem buying more beer and wine.
Whiskey levels are still looking good.
But I was running low on one vital item… TEA Bags.
Irish tea bags.
In the before time, my parents would have been visiting me here this weekend and resupply me, but of course, that trip didn’t happen.
However, fear not!
My brother and sister-in-law have sent me a care package!
I got tea bags and Tayto crisps (yeah, I was hoping for King, but don’t tell them that) soda bread mix, Keanes crisps, AAAAND a packet of Cadbury TWIRLS!!!
Hurray for them, and for the post office.
It really feels like being in prison now!

 

 

Day 50
After having classes with all my school groups, and chatting, I have discovered something I kinda guessed at, but was hoping would not be true…..

Nobody took the opportunity of the last 7 weeks to read a book they might not have read otherwise.

Those who read, read some more.

Those who don’t read played a shit load more video games.

 

 

Day 51.
They say we will have school opening in September with half the kids in class. That means kids have to rotate, one day on one day off, or something like that.
However it turns out, teachers are going to have to reinvent their classes again.
And the government better shell out for free internet access and laptops for all students,
Because if I am spending my life correcting work from off days, like I am spending it now, as kids send in work days and weeks late.and I have to keep sending messages and mails to ask them where their work is, and report to tutors for kids MIA, I will come down hard on the kids who’re not keeping up their end of the bargain.
There will be no excuses of “I had to share my computer with my little sister.”

 

 

 

Day 52

If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.
They say.

Today I have nothing to say.

(Here I posted photos I’d taken in the village.)website 7website 6

 
Day 53
I have nothing to say today, either.website1

Some more photos…
Day 54

How often to we look down and notice the struggles that go on below us?
How often do we consider just how small are our troubles in the context of the world?

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you have to zoom right in to see the struggle ensuing.

 

Day 55 (late again, but god I’m busy!)
Interesting article about the impact of having a garden or not in the Financial Times.
We need to get ourselves, and especially our kids, out into the greenery, however we can.
Here are a few photos of some poppies popping up in some barley, a paddock so full of orchids I had to pick my steps to avoid stepping on them, and the victims of the drying ponds (it rained last night, but too late for many) some of which I rescued and put into a little pond I made out of a plastic tray.

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Day 56
This is the last day of our confinement.

Tomorrow we can go to small shops, bars and visit friends and family – all within our province of Navarra.

I’m going nowhere… it’s Monday, so I’ll be chained to the computer as usual.

But things will be different… A birthday party in the village can be celebrated by all the kids, since there are fewer than ten of them here!

Parents will watch from a safe distance, and wash everyone before and after!

It’s a new kind of life, but it’s life.

 

 

(The final post, more or less….)

 

A study of the Spanish population shows that only around 5% have gained immunity from Covid 19.
It’s going to be a loooong road, folks.

 

 

 

 

We continue on still, with restrictions being lifted slowly, but we won’t be going back to normal. Ever.

But we will go onwards to something new.

 

Wildlife… it’s just too much work.

In light of the UN report on species extinction just unveiled, many people are talking about how worrying it is that we have so many species close to the brink of annihilation due to our activities.

And at the same time, it’s hard to move people towards doing very much in the way of helping reverse the trend.

Nature is seen as something outside our own environments, nowadays. It’s an abstract idea, or at best something we visit. We’ve become used to not having it especially present in our daily lives. Even a fly entering a classroom is viewed as an event.

And because we’ve gotten used to living without nature, we don’t value it very much, and often see it as an inconvenience.

Where we do allow it to exist in our city, it must be controlled and tidy.

Pamplona is a very green city, with plenty of parks and farmland around us, and mountains visible from almost every street, yet even here, wildlife must conform. The ducks in the park have few places to nest because any undergrowth is cleared, the scrub needed to house any other birds than pigeons, sparrows, magpies and a few blackbirds is practically non-existent outside building lots left abandoned until the apartments pop up in new neighbourhoods.

Take a simple city lawn. As soon as the dandelions bloom it’s time to mow. Citizens complain if the city is slow to mow, since the seed heads look untidy.

I passed a lawn full of dandelions, daisies and clover yesterday.

There wasn’t a bee to be seen. The horse chestnut trees are blooming right now, their scent amazing. But there are very few bees to be seen or heard pollenating them.

 

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a large copse of horse chestnuts full of blooms, but I saw more trees than bees in the five minutes I stood watching. Note the absence of any undergrowth.

Coincidentally, upon arriving home, my neighbours warned me of a swarm which had just settled on the Persian blinds of a nearby (empty) flat, and were going to call the city council to come and remove them. It’s all right having some bees up high in a tree, but down here amongst the houses, they induce fear.

I don’t know where bees used to live in cities, but there were more of them, and they must have lived somewhere. Now, though most people appreciate the work of bees, a hive is only acceptable outside our daily surroundings.

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the dark patch on the very top of the blind is a swarm of bees slowly moving into the space for the Persian blinds to roll up into.

The local newspaper has been busy talking about a bear recently released in France which has the temerity to enter Navarra and attack some sheep flocks. The bears have declined in the western part of the Pyrenees to such an extent that only two males, father and son survive. Two females from Slovenia are hoped to start saving the population, but bears are only tolerated if they stay well away from humans and their buildings.

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There might be some basic understanding that bears should not go extinct in the Pyrenees, though they are close to that right now. Bears are still tolerated in the Picos de Europa, further west of Navarra, but here the local farmers’ union is opposed to this attempt and recovering/rewildling/conservation/call-it-what-you-like-putting-bears-ahead-of-sheep.

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The first photo is today’s back page of the local paper. I will translate the last few lines… the farmers union call on the Navarra Government to ….. “demand the French authorities cease their actions of reintroducing a wild species in a humanized terrain. “We are not in Yellowstone,” they conclude.

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What else can one say about that?

Nothing comes to mind that I could print in that paper.

Bears, you might say, are a pretty big nuisance when they want to be.

They kill sheep, which, whatever one’s personal opinions of them, are the basis of a type of farming that some still cling to. And I will grant that, despite my immediate question as to how they’re alive and thriving in Asturias and Slovenia – surely they’re an inconvenience there, but a tolerated one, by farmers who are used to doing a bit more work to look after their stock.

And yet, another iconic species is also slowly disappearing in Navarra, according to the same local paper.

Storks.

Now, doesn’t love storks?

They bring us babies, they don’t attack sheep…

And yet, their population is declining in Navarra, too.

Why?

Because they are annoying, inconvenient.

Or at least, their nests are.

So nests are destroyed in the towns and cities where they’ve traditionally nested. Some have made nests in large trees, where these are still available – it’s common for mature trees to be heavily pruned in cities, and really old ones are felled as soon as they show signs of rot for fear of falling and causing damage or injury.

And a pair that can’t build a nest is a pair that has to go elsewhere, or doesn’t breed.

There are seven fewer pairs than last year, for a total of 939.

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This photo is from the linked article, taken in an abandoned factory. When this is demolished, where will the storks nest?

There are many reasons for our ecosystems collapsing. Wilful destruction, wilful ignorance, and wilful rejection of any inconvenience it might mean to our lives. The last is what most of us will be guilty of.

Climate Breakdown: explaining it is easy when the examples abound

I’m teaching Climate Change in my first-year classes at the moment.

No matter what the topic, I always like to use examples to make things clearer to the kids – references to things in their own lives. I often refer to TV programs, movies, songs.

However, some of my references are dated – movies made before they were born, which, while classics, haven’t always been seen. In my English SL class last week, when describing the meaning of “a the height of one’s career,” I used a TV presenter, who first shot to prominence on the Spanish equivalent of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The show was called 50 for 15, referring to 50Million Pesetas – a currency that disappeared when the kids were toddlers.

But teaching Climate Change, I was struck by the fact that I don’t have to reach back very far to come up with an example of what I mean when I talk about the changes that are happening/ could happen in the future.

For example, California – it was burning a few weeks ago; latest news out of there is a terrible mudslide. Opposite types of natural disasters in a short timeframe.

 

Even here in this very city, though, the oscillations are becoming ever more obvious. And rapid.

I described how Spain was experiencing a drought late last year. Reservoirs were down to 10 or 20%. On the 3rd of January, I was in a jeans and a sweater, enjoying the sunshine. I was sent a video of a snake the same week.

This poor frog was squashed by a car just outside the village that night – what the hell was a frog doing out on Jan 3?

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On the 5th, it started raining, then snowing.

I posted this photo on my facebook page, joking how I’d always wanted a garden with a little river flowing through it.

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It was gushing out of the gully under the rocks you can see behind the fence in this photo.

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And some of it was filling the groundwater so much that I’d springs popping up in the grass.

This looks like a cowpat, but it’s actually mud pushed out of the ground by the water flow.

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Pamplona was covered in snow.

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The aqueduct of Noain outside Pamplona.

The reservoirs refilled past 50% in a few days.

And now it’s mild again.

So the kids get it. They understand Climate Breakdown. They can hardly not when it is staring us in the face like the barrel of a shotgun.

Question is, what can they do about it?

Because the previous generation who knew about it haven’t been able to do very much, yet.

First Birdsong

This is a little embarrassing to post.

As a wildlife enthusiast, I should not admit to not taking my kids out into the wild often enough that my son has heard his first birdsong only after he’s been walking for three months…

But life is hectic with a one-year-old and a five-year-old doing dance and swimming lessons in winter, and even though Pamplona is a small city with wildlife all around (including BEAVERS in the river not 200 yards from my house as the crow flies) it’s damn hard to get out of the brick and concrete on a daily basis.

We do go to village on the weekend, where there’s plenty of birdlife (kites and bee-eaters etc…) , but the evening birdsong is not something I’ve experienced with the kids recently.

 

First Birdsong

 

I consider myself privileged

To see hills at a distance from

My window over the garden,

Graced by more than mere sparrows;

 

But my son has just heard birdsong

Today, for the first time, I had time to

Take him to city’s edge and embrace the

Twilit twittering of tits and thrushes

Scolding one another in the gloaming,

And experience, absent the ubiquitous din,

A blackbird’s sonorous cry to spring,

And say, “listen, hear the birdies sing.”

 

 

90 Years of the Sun Also Rising

In Pamplona at the moment, we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the publication of Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises (a.k.a. Fiesta).

 

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There are several activities organised, and a large exhibition in the Plaza del Castillo of photos from when he visited Pamplona – of him, and taken by him and his friends.

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Some of the places he stayed are still here, under different names to those used in the novel, some have changed.

It was interesting to see that Heminway, though he never ran with the bulls himself, did get gored by a baby cow, which they release in the plaza after the encierro.

 

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I was struck by a quote they have printed on one of the posters, which he wrote to a friend: “Pamplona is the most enjoyable place you’ve ever seen.” It was true then and it’s true now.

And my good friend JD Martins would agree.

 

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Have you had One Night in Pamplona?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lines written in Pamplona

In the thick of the festival of San Fermines now.

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A couple of dangerous and incident-filled bull runs the last two days. Reminds us that this is not a joke, and it reminded many of us of the way the bull runs used to be – before anti-slip coatings and better street surfaces.

I’ve been busy with kids and having meals with friends on our street, and have only gotten to see the fire works once, the bull runs on the telly, and haven’t been near the bull ring yet.  It reminds me of a poem I wrote during my first San Fermin festival – exactly 20 years ago (my mother-in-law was astounded when I told her we met that long ago!).

Lines Written in Pamplona

 

I have held my red bandana aloft,

Tied it round my neck

And worn it proudly:

Opened champagne at noon;

Held a candle at midnight.

Sung and danced and drank and walked and watched

And smiled in between.

But to experience San Fermin;

You need to have no need for sleep,

A body unaffected by alcohol,

The pulling power of James Bond,

The stamina and sperm count of a bull;

A bottomless stomach, to hold all there is to taste,

The ability to float above the crowds, so dense;

And omnipresence.

 

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Yes, that was in the days when you could take a bottle into the packed Plaza Consistorial – and I was a young man!

Now I spend the afternoons doing thinks like bringing my kids up on the big wheel and having a picnic as the heat of the day dies down.

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And another poem, before my first ever San Fermin lunch, of which my son just shared his first ever this year – he’s 7 months.

Lines Written in a Spanish Home

 

A stranger sitting at a Spanish table,

Eating things he never thought of

In ways he never knew,

Listening to the lunchtime

Talk of the household,

In another language he does not know;

But understanding something of the banter,

Wishing he could speak;

Thinking;

If, he could

Live like this.

 

5/7/96

 

 

San Fermines 2016

Things are all set here in Pamplona for this year’s famed “running of the bulls” festival.

The barriers which will keep the bulls from the public on their way through the town are in place, the TV cameras are set up along the route, the stages are constructed in various plazas.

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La Plaza del Castillo, with San Fermin figures over the band stand and the stage ready for concerts.

 

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Bull Run Barriers along Santa Domingo and the Town Hall square, with some tourists taking in the scene.

 

Today is the day of the Peñas. This afternoon we were treated to a parade of giants, and this weekend many folk are getting a head start on the carousing.  I’ll hear how hard the party is later tonight as the stragglers stagger home past my bedroom balcony.

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Giants dancing along Calle Estafeta.

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The corner of Mercaderes and Estafeta will have bulls rather than giants taking the corner come Thursday morning.

I’ve written about the fiesta before, but a few things are worth mentioning this year –

The new city council have taken the pains to put recycling dumpsters in place as the replace the vacuum refuse disposal system for the festival, which is a great thing for the environment, considering the enormous tonnage of trash produced during the festival.

They have also decided to spray hydrophobic pain on the walls of many streets to discourage the out of hand urination that takes place  – believe me, I’ve seen some stuff, and it’s just ridiculous, so I hope it’s a help, so when we walk through the town with our kids in the morning, we’re not jumping streams of urine.

Last, but not least, my good friend JD Martins has a great novella which will give you a glimpse of the whole thing in 25 thousand words, with a great story and some sexy scenes to boot!

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And as one of the characters says – if you want to run with the bulls, you have to stay more than one night. Study the route, figure out where you want to run, read about it, watch the videos of the previous runs, and get to bed early the night before. It’s no joke. You wouldn’t want your One Night in Pamplona to be your last night on the planet.