Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Words on a page

Reading is a funny thing. When I worked in the UK I grew to hate reading. I had to wade through so many pages of so much verbiage full of TLAs (three letter acronyms,) where spades were never spades. Nowadays I'm back to reading for pleasure, well pleasure and for the information that reading provides.

I try to read novels in Spanish. Sometimes I can't understand the books I choose but nowadays I can read most novels without too much difficulty. That's one of the reasons that I usually read on a Kindle because it allows me a dictionary for those key words I don't know. Obviously I'm reading the read the book because something about it interests me but there is also a part that is about trying to improve my Spanish through the practice, the vocabulary and the language structures. More importantly though I'm trying to get a handle on the culture. Not culture in the Cervantes or Shakespeare sense - culture in the description of how life was or is, the historical context, the commentary on everyday life.

My dad used to buy the Express. A friend still reads the Daily Mail everyday. Once upon a time a newspaper, a snapshot in time of the news filtered through a politically biased colander, gave us our view of the World. I haven't read a printed newspaper for a while now. I generally read the news on my phone collected through a newsreader app. The app collects local and general news in Spanish. I also read Spanish news in English from both a Spanish and a British source. There are politically divergent slants on the news from the "papers" and a strange national bias between British and Spanish sources. The truth is though that I can't keep up with the quantity of news. The phone app provides about 400 articles a day but Twitter and Facebook add plenty more. My patience threshold is well below that.

My reading habits probably point to some form of psychologically dodgy behaviour. This wish to become more au fait with the place I live. It extends to the books that I have read in English this year too. After reading a Spanish novel about an uprising in Madrid during the Napoleonic era I went looking for another novel about the Spanish Penninsula War or the War of Independence as it's called here. I found one in English and read it without realising that it was part of a series. Like Magnus once I've started I like to finish so I read all five books only to find that book five did not complete the story. Book six is due out next week. I have it on pre-order. I hope that gets Wellington past Vittoria and heading for Waterloo.

I realised the other week that things must be seeping in. Bear in mind that I often forget what it is I went for by the time I arrive in the room. So I am not at all surprised when I cannot remember a Spanish name. It doesn't matter how obvious Gutiérrez Mellado is, as a name, to a Spaniard because names for me are Brown, Smith and Chalmondley. Nonetheless in a couple of chance conversations I was able to come up with the name of a Spanish David Attenborough equivalent, a knapsack wearing, protest singing MP, two Spanish diplomats who saved Jewish lives in the Second World War and a handful of Spanish authors. When a conversation turned to politics I was perming any two names from Manuela, Ada, Cristina, Cifuentes, Colaua and Carmena but my Spanish partners were stumbling too and, names aside, I knew what was going on and why which was surprisingly gratifying despite my stumbling.

That aside I just love it when a book drives me forward. The myriad times when finishing a book becomes a joyous imperative. Those times I can't stop when I should - just a few more pages before I go to bed or to work or whatever. And the way that the same words used  in a shopping list can be used to make poems sing or a novel vibrate is just astonishing. The occasion when a phrase in a book has to be re-read because it has just caused a total surprise. I have to admit that it's a lot easier for me to spot the beauty of a phrase as simple as "at the still point of the turning world" in English than it is in Spanish but I jotted down "sin periodismo serio no hay sociedad democrática" the other day so maybe that's coming too.

The LSC, DfEE and NYB nearly took it off me but not quite. 

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