A Poem for Fabio Thomas

A Poem for Fabio Thomas.

Fabio with your plucky little ribs like the strings of a guitar,

walks down the street like a guitar on wheels sliding down a hill.

Your hollow wooden body, that starts wide, then gets much narrower,

before it gets to your head at the top, which is like a headstock on a

guitar. Fabio, with his perfectly aligned pegs on the side of his face.

Constantly tuning himself in and out and off and on.

Fabio with your voice gentle and melodic, not quite as soft as

a violin, but similar, much like the gentle rhythms of a guitar, in fact.

Your skin always perfectly varnished, done by the guitar man

from the guitar shop, who you get on with really well

because you’re both interested in guitars.

You’re just Fabio- that guy we love, the guitar playing lumberjack

who smokes roll ups and likes american stuff. And Jimi Hendrix, who you

have a massive poster of in your room, because you say he was particularly

good at the guitar. Fabio whose favourite thing to do is have a massive spliff

and play the guitar with his friends who also love guitars.

Just Fabio, always with a plectrum behind your

ear at parties. Ready to get the guitar out and play jazz or whatever

music you listen to because you think the guitar in it is really good.

I remember when we first met in Arizona when you jumped out of that Jeep

and played a merry tune on your guitar and smiled,

then we drove off to live the American dream, and I didn’t like it

but you did because you love that shit and you’re always

happy when you’ve got a guitar, because that’s just you man.

Tamarite V

I came to Spain thinking I wouldn’t mind learning a bit of the second most spoken language on the planet. In theory the combination of three weeks exposure to a Spanish population that speaks next to no English and an open mind, would be enough for me to happily pick up at least a conversational level of Español.

This theory did not translate well into practice. I will offer my reservations as best I can.

First of all, there are far, far too many syllables. What I love about English is that so much of it consists of short, sharp one syllable words that bite, punch or kiss. Words like run, jump, punch, live, die, hot, cold, sky, fire, ice, fly, eat, drink, love, hate, boy, girl, day, night, cat, dog. The list of words like this in our language is practically never ending. In Spanish, none of these words have one syllable. I’ve only encountered two actual words which do have one syllable, these are sol meaning sun and sal meaning salt. I have found that the increased amount of syllables needed naturally causes speakers to rush their sentences, sliding all of their words into one dragged blur of a sentence, like one of Picasso’s brush strokes, very fast and very incomprehensible.

Too many vowels as well. Almost every word in Spanish ends in a vowel which must be pronounced. Spanish is a language that is completely dominated by vowels, mostly a, e or o which are their personal favourites. To put so many vowels in a word willy-nilly constitutes word-abuse in my opinion, because there is so little diversity, many words almost identical, like ano and año, which mean very, very different things.

Words rarely end in consonants, and most consonants in words are merely there just to gloss over. There are no hard consonants like the k at the end of quack, or the t at the end of cut. In very simple terms, it seems like we use the vowels to get us to the consonants, and they use the consonants to get to their oh so precious vowels (if you like vowels so much, why don’t you have sex with them?). It’s a shame really, because it’s a very restrictive way to use language. There are twenty one consonants in the alphabet, and only five vowels. English exploits this difference, Spanish seems to ignore it.

Almost every word will end in a vowel, most likely a as in Luna, or o as in Bastardo. So why the need for the extra syllable, you ask? Oh, because the entire language is enslaved by a masculine and feminine word rule, of course. Almost every noun has a gender, which determines not only how the word is spelt, but which word (of which there are a plethora of gender dependent variants) will precede it.

I can not learn to respect, or begin to understand this. Where does it come from? Why does every object, from a solid object like a table, to an abstract noun like anger have to be treated as if it has genitals? It sounds like a joke, to give a table a gender. It’s preposterous. It sounds like the people who developed the language were doing it as a prank on their own people, some kind of hoax. Or that they had a deeply strong desire to deter people from other languages bothering to learn it.

The combination of more syllables, more vowels and therefore less consonants, and arbitrary masculine and feminine words, was enough to put me off learning this language. If one was omniscient and one was to create a language from fresh, the ultimate language, one would create nothing that resembles this nonsense. Spanish, you might be the best of a bad bunch, but I’m sorry, you are quite frankly, naff (which is obviously a word you could never have in your language).

Tamarite IV

Tamarite IV marks the penultimate episode of the Tamarite saga, and similarly to the second it and the final one it will consist of a series of notes about random events and thoughts.

*

After three weeks I knew almost all of the children of Tamarite. I was effectively a celebrity. I was watching How Not To Live Your Life as an activity with one of the kids, and the mantra ‘always think with your balls’ seems to have rubbed off on him. He has told his friends about the phrase and they all seem to say it now. I’m happy I taught him something of value.

The older kids are at that age where they haven’t smoked weed yet, aren’t entirely sure what it is and are therefore absolutely obsessed by the idea of it. Presumably they think ‘getting high’ is among one of the coolest things one can do. When I walked through Tamarite the kids would surround me and demand that I say ‘Smoke Weed Every Day’ in the voice of Dr Dre, which I did reasonably well once and they found absolutely hilarious. Most of the time I would decline to do it, and they would follow me round, saying ‘oh please Jim, say smoke weed every day, please!’ I would perform for them the odd time, of course just to make the happy. Which reminds me…

**

One of the highlights of my time in Tamarite was when I was invited to a meal with the other Au Pairs at a farm in the neighbouring town of Esplus. It was a pittoresque farm, surrounded with apple orchards in which white horses were grazing and rooster gangs roamed free. There were telephone masts in each corner of the property, each one with a nest on top, and a stalk stood completely still on one leg, watching over, feathery sentinels.

In the early evening we bathed, and then played badminton in the swimming pool before it was time for dinner. We opened a bottle of Rioja, and made a real mess out of the cork, half of it crumbled its way into the wine itself. There were flies everywhere, in your hair, on your lip, on your plate. One of them landed right in my glass of red and entered a pitiful cycle of treading water/drowning among the powdery islands of cork. It took me several attempts to fish it out with my finger, and I ended up having to press its wet, filthy body up against the side of the glass. If it survived the drowning, and the crushing against the glass, it had surely drank itself to death, not a bad way to go. I drank the wine anyway so as not to be discourteous.

The food was all right. Now if there’s two things the Spanish love other than fags and beer, it’s bread and flesh. The meal consisted of Sausage, Salami, and Serrano Ham. The bulk of it however, was tortilla -known as Spanish Omlette in the UK. With a load of salt on them these things are bang on the money. After a bit more wine, the party began to take a change of direction. We were told we could put our own music on, so I stuck on that Sing It Back remix and we all sat at the table with the rest of the corky wine. A girl says to me, ‘I didn’t think you’d like this music?’

‘Oh yeah, what music did you think I would like.’

‘I don’t know, rock music?’

All of a sudden, the host- Suzy comes out of the house holding a tray full of paraphernalia, and asks ‘would anyone like to roll a joint?’ She then takes the tray closer and reveals that it’s got a box on it full of all the necessary utensils, and piles of tobacco and dried cannabis sitting there, harvested and waiting to be turned into a spliff.  Suzy tells us it’s homegrown, none of this super genetically modified, will make your kids grow two heads, skunk stuff that they smoke in the UK. The weed was really smooth – the way God intended, and needless to say it complimented the music wonderfully. We had arranged a lift back pretty early, and it soon came. We all went our separate ways, wishing the evening could last longer, but delighted with the time we had spent. Dr Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg would have been proud.

***

I soon grew to appreciate the Spanish custom of going to the swimming pool every day. I grew to love a glass of lemon iced tea in a plastic cup with ice in it. By the pool you can lie on your towel, read, sleep, reflect, listen to music, drink, play cards- which are five of the best. I would even jump in the pool occasionally, and try my arm at swimming.

I really don’t much care for swimming. I struggle to think of an activity quite so tedious and boring. Now I don’t like jogging either, but at least it offers a wide variety of scenery to look at. Swimming is just intelligent splashing, up and down and up and down the swimming pool. The only thing it’s got going for it is the whole wetness thing, which admittedly does make a change from our mostly dry lifestyles. I now completely understand why as a species we have no fins, -our primate ancestors clearly wishing to avoid the activity of swimming wherever possible, not through fear of being eaten by a crocodile, but through fear of being bored to death.

I can’t swim very well at all, which I accept might constitute part of the reason for my antipathy. I do quite a lot of flapping around, but don’t seem to go anywhere, my body threatening to sink at any moment. It’s very frustrating to thrash around like a shark and get no rewards for it. I usually jump in the swimming pool intent on swimming lengths, swim halfway across the pool to where it is shallow enough to stand, then get bored, forget what I’m doing and stand there daydreaming until I feel like getting out again.

I do mildly enjoy diving in though. It’s not often you get to leap off something face first. It’s not like in England where diving is presumably seen as offensive and not ‘politically correct’, in Spain you can dive to your heart’s content. After a dive you can swim underwater for a bit, and see how far you can travel before having to surface for oxygen in order to avoid death. I was doing a variation of this once, very slowly and casually, swimming towards an empty space by the side of the slow lane. Almost as soon as I got under the surface I hit something. I turned out to be a very bald, very serious man in goggles and weird swimming flippers on his hands. He looked like an overgrown, dilapidated seal with legs. The collision set him off and he proceeded to launch a tirade at me in Spanish. I nodded along occasionally, saying ‘si’ occasionally, despite having no idea what he was saying. I remember thinking after five minutes had passed, what on earth is he finding to talk about for this long? I’m dreadfully sorry- can we please just get on with our lives now?

 

****

 

You  will have noticed that the featured image is of a mountain. We walked for eight kilometres through the Pyrenees mountains, mostly on the sides, among the pine trees that cling to the mountain side like a dark green rug. I saw some very beautiful things there. We followed the path of a stream. It travelled down giant stone steps that look as if they were created for a community of giants, by giants. The water would collect at the bottom of each step, and would take a mesmerising azure colour, and rest momentarily in a miniature lagoon before trickling down through towards the sea. Some people would bathe in these pools, but I forgot my swimming trunks, which was a tragedy.

Once you’ve walked most of the way, you reach a mountain valley, which is all but obscured by the preponderance of green leaves, their colours gilded green-gold as they bask in the showers of sunlight that pour down into the valley from above. In arbitrary places, many all-but-dead trees would poke out of the vegetation, standing there like silver skeletons. Relics of the all-but-dead past, contrasting the impregnable, vibrant life of the present.

 

cof

As we walked the valley dug deeper into the ground, until two rocky mountain walls were towering on either side. I had never seen something so enormous. To be among nature so incomprehensible. To be in the middle of a natural phenomenon of mountainous proportions, something that took millions and millions of years of wind and water and erosion to form, to see the crumbling old patterns of the rocks half way up the mountain was get a glimpse of the truly ancient Earth and it’s lifelong flesh, to see nature’s tyranny upon all matter, to view nature’s perpetual work of art. To walk in the valley was nothing less than to taste a morsel of eternity. To walk in the valley was to come face to face with what will murder us and recast our bodies into new life. To come face to face with the valley that swallows all life and spits it out into trees, water and earth. To walk here was to walk in the valley of all life and all death.

 

cof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tamarite III

Last Friday I got a call just as I was getting out of the shower. I picked up and heard a depressing voice asking me if I wanted to go to a ‘party’, I asked “who’s this?” and then when I got the answer I hung up at the first opportunity. The next day I went to the beach with my family in Tarragona and at about eight o’clock I checked my phone and found I had received seven missed calls from a blacklisted number. But being unsatisfied with the seven failed attempts to make a connection, the caller came up with a master plan. They decided to withhold their number and proceeded to phone me another ten times, ending with a Whatsapp video call, thrown in there just for luck. It just shows you have to be careful with these things. You never know what might be lurking behind the other mobile phone.

A few days later something new came up on my UAV scanner. My madre has got the number of an English girl called Emily for me, also an Au Pair in Tamarite. Again I had no idea what she was going to be like, but I thought it was unlikely from the way she spoke that she wanted to capture me, lock me in her bedroom, tie me to the bed and when I try to escape- stick a large piece of wood between my feet and break off each foot one by one with a giant metal hammer so I have to stay there for the rest of my life as her property.

I met up with her in a lovely little bar in Tamarite next to the road. Now Emily was very attractive and quite normal. Always smiling. Small, but perfectly proportioned, with smooth auburn hair like in the old L’Oreal adverts, always clad in swanky, confident garms, decorated in flowers and revealing plenty but not too much. She was from Derbyshire so she had one of those unaccountably northern accents.

One of the first things I asked her was if she went out at university and she says Oh my God yeah I love going out! Eyes alight, like it was her thing. I asked where she went, dreaming that she might say Stealth or the Brickworks or somewhere. She said she went to a place called Cheesy Joe’s every week and it was her favourite place to go, ever. She then said “when it comes to music I like everything really.” I’ve come to realise that in life hundreds will say something like this to you. But what you should interpret from it every time is that they don’t like any music at all.

She was talking about this Cheesy Joe’s rave again now- ‘The music is really cheesy, but I don’t care about the music when I go out.’ Now if I’d have had any sense I’d have shot her there and then.

But nowadays a voice tells me to have a bit more empathy for other people. Don’t return to your eighteen year old self again, ready to launch nuclear warfare on people who listen to Kanye West and explode at the thought of reality T.V. You have to play these hands though, it’s in the genes to. I mean, the situation was bad but it wasn’t quite 7/2 off. I thought, maybe I’ll shark a two pair on the river.

At some point she asks me if I’m watching Love Island. I say no, I’m not. A revolutionary thought dawns upon me- why can’t I just pretend to be a different person? Everybody’s doing it. Surely the Casanovas of the world, the ladies men, the Byrons, the Ben Frylls are all simply masters of shape-shifting. To become truly popular in this way is to sacrifice one’s true personality. It is to be a specialist in obscuring it, moulding it and expressing it in only the right and suitable ways. I mean the only other alternative is that they’re as soulless and unspectacular as the people they’re seducing, which isn’t the case. They’re all very handsome men, which surely helps, I think looks are somehow directly connected to personality. Over the years one heavily influences the other until there is some kind of sexy/ugly equilibrium going on. When talking about Socrates, Nietzsche said in Twilight Of the Idols, ‘Monstrum in fronte, monstrum in animo,’ meaning – monster in face, monster in soul. The inverse is quite possibly true also, but It’s a very complicated idea and it doesn’t really stand up to rigid scrutiny. There a lot of good looking morons around. I was speaking to one now.

All this reminds me of a conversation I had with the kid yesterday, walking through a beautiful little town in the Pyrenees. I said, “I hate it when I see beautiful women.”

“Why?”
“Because I know I’ll never speak to (or was it have sex with?) them.”

“Oh Jim, do not worry. You will speak to them, one day. You have to be confident. You need to be strong, handsome, intelligent, funny,” then he paused, and turned at me, crossing his hands over, “you have none of these things but it is OK! Because you can be confident. All you need is confidence and you will get the woman.”

Back to the hot date- ‘But I did used to watch Geordie Shore and think it was really good.’

‘Oh really? I never watched that,’ damn.

After taking a life time to choose what to eat– being so captivated by one another– we eventually order a pizza each. The lady brings it in no time. As soon as the Pizza is in front of her the phone comes straight out and that Pizza is on Instagram. This is a modern phenomena that I couldn’t disagree with more. What even is that? Hey, look at what I’ve got, look at my life, look at the average quality pizza I’ve spent a small amount of money on.

Who looks at that photo online and thinks, ‘oh that pizza looks good, I’m glad I saw that’? I mean, why does it merit broadcasting it, you didn’t even make it yourself. If you were to make something truly interesting, colourful and creative, like a piece of brown toast with hummus, beetroot, black eyed beans, spring onions and tomatoes, dusted in black pepper, I might be impressed. But nobody cares about your stupid fucking pizza. Probably not even you, either. There couldn’t be a more obvious display of how the internet and technology is completely stopping people from thinking for themselves and how simple people can get sucked in to completely meaningless, dehumanising trends.

Emily says to the waitress before she can wheel back off into the bar ‘puedo tomar un poco de salsa de tomate por favor.’ She speaks pretty good Spanish, It’s obviously a turn on. Probably not as much as French, but still. Regarding my thoughts on the Spanish language, I will have a lot to say about that in another blog, probably Tamarite DCXXXVI. Keep your eyes peeled.

We’ve soon had those pizzas and we’re onto some super strong Fanta and vodkas. In Spain they serve it in a really wide, tall glass. They chuck in a few massive rocks then fill it up to about halfway full of the desired spirit, filling the rest with the mixer, but not Lemonade because they don’t sell that so if you ever feel like a nice refreshing glass of vodka lemonade or a shandy when you’re in Spain you’re fucked.

Emily says she fancies some sweets after the meal so we pay the cuenta then we go off to the candy shop. We pick up a massive bag of all the right sweets, she got loads of weird shit, I just got all the red liquorice I could find. Her family are drinking in a nearby bar, she asks me if I want to join, maybe just to avoid being rude. I say yes anyway- the genes at it again.

She tells me how to offer the hijos some sweets in Spanish and says she’ll be really impressed if I can offer them to them, and the hijos even more so. We turn up and they’re a really loud, chirpy Spanish family on the bevs. I introduce myself and sit next to Emily and the kids. I’ve already forgotten how to offer the sweets.

The family are all tremendously warm and welcoming, or at least I think they are. The trouble is, they don’t speak a word of the Queen’s. Emily does a bit of translating, but not very well. The conversation is at Ent speed. I go over to the other side of the table to chat to the others, see if I can get anything interesting out of them. I soon discovered that they too speak next to no English and we’ve got absolutely nothing to talk about.

The father, Qique was his name, is offering me a taste of all kinds of drinks. Red wine, some kind of coffee liqueur. It’s all nice. I feel like a cigarette so I get out my gear, a couple of the men of the family pass it around and look at it in disgust, before lighting up their straights. Qique from across the other side of the table says something I can only guess is, you don’t wanna smoke that, then pulls me out a cigar and says ‘Puros para hombres!’ He seems very passionate so I accept one wholeheartedly. It doesn’t taste great but it’s probably all right for a cigar.

A deck of cards is on the table. It’s like a normal deck with four suits only the numbers go up to twelve or something ridiculous, no royals or aces. Oh yeah and also the suits are absolutely farcical, one is a fancy jar with red and blue stripes, one is a yellow star, one is swords/daggers, and another appears to be some kind of vegetable. Who ever came up with these was clearly on some serious micrograms. I look at a card in my hand, and it’s a number ten with a picture of a squire in a bright blue courtier’s outfit complete with red tights and a silly green and red hat. In his right hand he is casually gripping a hideous green vegetable the length of his entire upper body.

Emily reveals that Qique is half-Catalan so I ask her to ask him what he thinks about the forthcoming independence referendum. It fascinates me that the regions in Spain are so divisive, some of them with enough hubris to desire to sever themselves entirely from the Spanish state and presumably conquer Europe singlehandedly. The Catalans speak their own language and presumably would rather drown in a vat of Estrella or allow their cities to sink into the Mediterranean than call them Spanish. Anyway, it turns out he isn’t really Catalan, he is from Aragon, which is where Tamarite is and he doesn’t much care for the idea of independence. He gets onto Brexit and he starts talking quite passionately about something. The translator is struggling to keep up with it all, and then all of a sudden I feel a swift palm to the side of my face. Then she says to Qique ‘you asked me to hit him right?’ It turns out he didn’t ask her to do that at all. She apologised.

Without any sincerity whatsoever, every now and then she blurts out ‘you’re so funny’. She says it when I’m not being funny as well, which is of course only on very rare occasions. Two mojitos appear on the table and Emily picks the mint leaves out of hers using straws as chop sticks, and puts them into mine. The phone soon comes out again and before I know it I can see myself on her phone screen with a pair of dog ears and I’m listening to my voice in chipmunk-mode. Of course she finds this hilarious and sends it to all of her friends. I take a glance at her Snapchat news feed and recoil in terror. There must have been about one hundred stories on there, all of them appearing to depict the same insufferably dull moments of the same insufferably dull night out. What’s worse is, she clicks through them all without even bothering to watch beyond a second of each. As LordoftheSnapchat this disgusts me, as a platform that has so much creative potential is being so blatantly misused and indeed abused.

Anyway the night had to draw to a close at some point. I’d behaved remarkably well throughout, so I was quite satisfied. Feeling tolerant like a new age Christ, all tolerant, all loving, all understanding, I walked Emily to her apartment and I left her with a hug and a nice pair of kisses, one on each of her cheeks.

When I got home I noticed streams of blood pouring from two gaping holes in each wrist. I had sacrificed myself for the greater good of humanity. I went back to my tomb, to be resurrected the following day and be loved and remembered by all of humanity for all of time.