Saturday, January 29, 2011


Today I went in search of very special paper goods: a Frida Kahlo paper doll book, and some Charley Harper stationery.

First stop, El Papel Protagonista. The what? Well papel can mean role, as well as paper, and protagonista, well, you know...

And for those who really like to know these things, I give you the Diccionario Espasa concise inglés-español © 2000 Espasa Calpe:
papel sustantivo masculino
1 paper
papel de aluminio, aluminium foil
papel de fumar, cigarette paper
papel de lija, sandpaper
papel higiénico, toilet paper
Fin papel moneda, paper money, banknotes pl; papel pintado,wallpaper
2 (trozo, hoja) piece o sheet of paper
3 (documento) document
4 Cine Teat role, part *
5 (función, cometido) role
6 papeles, (documentación) documents, identification papers
♦ Locuciones: perder los papeles, to lose one's self-control, ser algo papel mojado, to be useless


So, a friend invited us to a dinner party last weekend, inspired by The Frida Kahlo Cookbook. No, I didn't know that she could cook either, and in fact, it turns out that she couldn't, until her husband's ex-wife taught her... Imagine the publisher's dilemma - The Lupe Who(?) Cookbook or... Anyway, mine hostess cooked a delicious meal, which included chicken in a piquant mole sauce (as in guaca-, not Badger, Ratty, Toad & -), chicken in chocolate sauce (uhuh), savoury rice, and a black bean and tofu salad suffused with coriander and swirled in a deep glass bowl.
Delicious. One chicken would have been enough, but everyone wanted some of both! So if you're a fan of Mexican food or Frida Kahlo, and you see Frida's Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo in the bookshop, go right ahead.

And - another guest brought the perfect gift for mine hostess. This,

from El Papel Protagonista, in Plaza Santa María Soledad Torres Acosta, 2 (yes, all one address) opposite Callao. It is also the perfect gift for another friend, so off I went. The tiniest shop, with the most delectable selection of gift wrap - both paper and fabric - and stationery that you could imagine. And the owner really looks after his customers. Love it! (And the Chinese shop next door is worth a visit too - wood carvings as well as kitsch, and friendly, helpful staff.)

If you like paperdolls, here be treasure.

Next stop, Panta Rhei, an excellent graphic arts bookshop with, unfortunately a half-broken website. On c/ Hernán Cortés, between c/ Hortaleza and c/ Fuencarral. This shop is fantastic, with a basement level too. Lots of good stuff, and, again, helpful staff.

I didn't get my Charley Harper, though they had a very good selection, because it came to a choice between these,

and this!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I'm tired this week. Good, relaxing, tuned out weekend - dinner with friends, a couple of small special exhibitions, sleeping in til 11 Saturday and Sunday. Woke refreshed on Monday morning. 8pm Monday, dead person impression. What?

Tuesday. Non-stop. Good, satisfying non-stop. Colleague became absolute favourite colleague of all time by putting a counter-coma cup of tea in front of me at 7pm so I could go celebrate my husband's sensational pie-making. Very very nice evening chatting with interesting people I rarely get to talk to.Bed just after 11.

So tonight - Wednesday - long, tricky day, complicated stuff ending in work emails from home, prepping tomorrow's 8am class. Staggered off to bed towards 11. Goodnight.

1am - awake.
One important omission remembered - go brain, contingency plan, details.
One brainwave - go brain, big picture, details.
And it's 1.45....... 1.55...... alarm set for 6.45.
Dog tired. Why am I awake?!
And it's 2.04.....5.....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Broke-Ass Grouch Tells It Like It Is

A friend posted this link on Facebook:

Memo to ecovores: It’s cheaper being green

Listen up, locavores, opportunivores, dumpster-diving fermentation fetishists, and Dave Matthews Band fans: A great many of us live by the same ecologically sound principles that you do. We, however, are not doing so because we nurture an abiding desire to "create choices" for ourselves or to "live intentionally." We don't have any more than a passing interest in "sustaining biodiversity." We are known as poor people. (Follow link to the rest of this article.)

I'll have to go and look up the people this middle-aged, educated, professional, unemployed divorced mother of three addresses in her first sentence, but I do get her point. Not to mention admiring her hard won, take-no-prisoners, attitude.

This was my comment:

Ouch. There was a feature on Gente (Spanish state TV vox pop programme) last week on "ángeles de los sin techo" an outreach team from a religious order that goes out nights, offering hot drinks to homeless people to give them some defence againt the night temperatures.

One of the brothers said that some of the people they see are architects and engineers. A lot of my (ESL) students are architects and engineers, from undergraduates to people with 20 years' experience. They are unemployed, but forking out for intensive English courses to enhance their prospects of working in the US, the Middle East - wherever the opportunity might arise. This was us and a lot of our friends in the 90s recession. All things pass. BUT!!!

Mind you, my grandparents met in the US, where he (English) and she (French) had moved for new opportunities, and my parents and my mother- and father-in-law all moved to other parts of Britain because that was where the work was. And my generation and the one reaching adulthood now have grown up that we have choices - that we can be flexible and respond to change, reach for opportunities. But it's one thing to jump, quite another to be pushed. And to feel yourself pushed into a corner.

Still, all things do pass. And although (%(&$·%/(())!!!) it appears that they can bloody well come back again, I've discovered that it's true what they say: what doesn't kill you makes you strong. I'd add that what doesn't quite crush you teaches you about yourself and other people, and expands your understanding of life's possibilities, as well its pitfalls and your potential pratfalls. But by God it hurts at the time.

So my heart goes out to Susan Gregory Thomas, a.k.a. Broke-Ass Grouch, and her children; and to all the other people in a similar position, who thought they had done it right, and were secure, and could provide for themselves and their children, and are finding out how wrong they were. Or at least, that they need a whole new game plan, and another for back-up, dammit.

(Poem #1969)

The Word
 Down near the bottom

of the crossed-out list

of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"

and "broccoli" you find

that you have penciled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word

is as beautiful, it touches you

as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present

he had sent you from some place distant

as this morning -- to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,

among your duties, pleasure

is a thing,

that also needs accomplishing


 from The Word, 
by Tony Hoagland 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happy New Year

Not a wish, but a fact. ¡Qué bien!

Now then, Fate, God & Mammon, though not necessarily in that order.

Part the First

Last year was... interesting... For me, pivotal, I think. I'm a slow study, but I usually get there eventually. And now, I'd say I'm there. First year of rest of life. This year should be... interesting... !

Last year? Seven or eight months of sorrow, worry, frustration, anger and loss inextricably entwined with new certainties, closer relationships and budding contentment, lived in an atmosphere of deepening economic gloom and W.T.F?!?!?! social uncertainty. And it was a good year for the air industry too...

By the end of August, I'd quietly reached the point where I wouldn't touch a newspaper, period; or read any novel unless I'd read it before (ideally at least three times) and could therefore trust it to soothe - or unless it came in a reassuringly ChickLit candy-coloured jacket with an improbably thin and perky cartoon Twenty-Something nipping across the front with Betty Boo eyelashes, Cherry Lips lips and a designer carrier bag, blithely confident that her cut-out-perfect Jackie O bouffant hairdo would protect her if the huge, embossed alphabet-soup-style title and author's name dangling above her should tumble and fall - as if it possibly could!!

But October brought good things, fresh hopes, new energy. November did not disappoint. And December: December was wonderful. Perfect. Perfect! And now we've got a shiny new year to play with, and I feel so good about it. I would say, 'Bring it on!', but let's not tempt that stuff that goes around, just in case it decides to come around again.

Part Deux

I mean. 2010. How many grim events and developments can you actually fit into one year? Boom-time for examining entrails and planetary alignments, given that neither Jehovah nor Mammon have quite the cred they used to.

I'm leaning towards Zen by now, though this may be a symptom of advancing years. History presents several got-it-alls who arrived in their middle years, looked around and chucked it in (a variation on 'Turn on, tune in, drop out.', I reckon) for something less-is-more; or at least discovered a hole in their lives that wealth and power could not fill. (I don't think I've reached this stage yet!)

Even so, there's Siddhārtha Gautama, the prince who founded Buddhism.

And Chandragupta Maurya and grandson Ashoka the Great, first emperors of a united India
with gratuitous photo of Shah Rukh Khan in the 2001 film. (Any excuse!)

Ooh! And Spain's own Felipe II. Only known in Britain as Mary Tudor's husband Philip, this is the man who had El Escorial built - palace and monastery.

Somewhere to get away from it all.

I'd love to believe in God and an afterlife, especially now that people I love have started popping their clogs like there's no tomorrow - which unfortunately, I believe... sigh...

However, I've always liked this poem by Arthur Hugh Clough,

"THERE is no God," the wicked saith,

"And truly it's a blessing, For what He might have done with us

It's better only guessing."

"There is no God," a youngster thinks,

"or really, if there may be, He surely did not mean a man

Always to be a baby."

"There is no God, or if there is,"

The tradesman thinks, "'twere funny If He should take it ill in me

To make a little money."

"Whether there be," the rich man says,

"It matters very little, For I and mine, thank somebody,

Are not in want of victual."

Some others, also, to themselves,

Who scarce so much as doubt it, Think there is none, when they are well,

And do not think about it.

But country folks who live beneath

The shadow of the steeple; The parson and the parson's wife,

And mostly married people;

Youths green and happy in first love,

So thankful for illusion; And men caught out in what the world

Calls guilt, in first confusion;

And almost everyone when age,

Disease, or sorrows strike him, Inclines to think there is a God,

Or something very like Him.

Ah well. Just have to wait and see, I suppose.

Of course, the likes of Ashoka and the Buddha are probably outnumbered by The Men Who Would Be King, Emperor or President for Life. And women who want shoes! shoes! shoes! (or ingots) and are prepared to take the rough:
Mr Philippines 1965-86 and Mr Tunisia 1987-2011

for the smooth:

Anyway, although I like shoes almost as much as the next girl, and wouldn't object to having a couple of ingots in the bank, 2010 was a year made for stocktaking, and I did. And 2011 shows signs of being a year for building, and possibly a little light tree-shaking. At least in our small corner of the multiverse.


In his (1966) speech Leary stated:

Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.

Leary later explained in his 1983 autobiography Flashbacks,

'Turn on' meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. 'Tune in' meant interact harmoniously with the world around you - externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. 'Drop out' suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. 'Drop Out' meant self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean 'Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity'.

So now we know!

P.S. I just came across an old blog post, from September 2008. What a difference a couple of years make.