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Archive for May, 2005

Pobrecito-Watch (3)

This morning I got up and heard a strange noise in the garden. I went out into the balcony and saw some cats at the other end, two adults and two kittens. On the wall was a black and white male cat trying to hump a black and white kitten, holding it by the scruff of the neck. He wasn’t doing too well, though. On the ground nearby was a grey and white cat with a grey and white kitten. The small black and white one was quietly complaining and desperately trying to get away. Sometimes the grey one — which I realised was the mother — was trying half-heartedly to intervene.

I know this is all part of nature, but I felt too sorry for the little one, and went down to scare them away. This kitten simply struck me as too young to go through this. Plus, the way the grey adult was dealing with the black adult suggested to me that he was the father.

When I approached them, the male cat stopped and let go of the little one. He turned and faced me expectantly.

It was Pobrecito.

Pobrecito, my ass. This guy’s got a family already, and a wife who lets him do whatever he wants.

And I felt sorry for the little bastard.

A friend of mine who does work with Friends of the Cat told me about a blind cat she’d seen once that survived better than most other cats. Its survival instincts seemed sharper. I suppose they would have to be.

[Pobrecito-Watch (1) and (2), plus this.]

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A couple of days ago, on the 16th, someone somewhere, probably in the UK, if my sitemeter information is correct, took some magic mushrooms and then asked the Google Oracle, "What is melancholy?"

As you will see, the oracle gave this person my blog as an answer. She looked around at a few pages, and then went to this post and left the following comment:

This may sound bizzare to other men but I am a female. I have been an altered state experience all day having had some magic mushrooms. It was my choice. I wanted to get to know my masculine personality better and I have. My melancholy state started my journey, I am unable to give it peace. My feminine aspect as stepped aside to give me the opportunity to look at my undeveloped masculine aspects – it is a battlefield. I have hated men for so long and realise now that those aspects I hated in them are part of my own inner landscape. I send you all love. From my masculine aspect to yours. Men need to break down the barriers that stop them from having the freedom to love unconditional and let the energy flow once more between men, one man to another, etc…..it is indeed tough times for men. You have been brought up to hide from your more feminine nature, that which you are born with it is inside of you – it is feminine in nature not female there is a different. You may find your melancholy is your inner feminine longing for recognition. We look for the opposite in another but we are already whole, we have engendered a body but we have within both masculine and feminine energy we need both to be in balance.

To the person who wrote this: If you return to take a look, drop me a line. Tell me how you're doing.

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Adventures in EFL-Land

I’m working in a school that promises students they can get the First Certificate in English in one year, even if they don’t know a word of the language when they begin. For most people this is impossible, but they want to believe it, so the promise works well. The majority of them will fail, but they’ll be back again next year, paying their hard-earned euros for lessons. In the mean time, we teachers bang our heads against the wall.

Some of the students don’t have a clue what’s going on in class. Even at the best of times. Anyone who has taught, at least here in Greece, will be familiar with the following scene.

You’re looking at the Michigan exam, which is all multiple choice, except for the composition. One of the questions reads:

I’ve had enough of this magazine. I’m going to _______ my subscription.

A quit
B remove
C resign
D cancel

A student raises her hand and says, “D.”

Yes, you say. It’s “D”, and you write the word on the board. You also tell them what “subscription” means, and what the whole collocation means. For good measure, you explain the three distractors and give them collocations for those too.

And just when you think everything is clear and you’ve done a good job covering it all, someone looks around the classroom and says, “So what’s the answer?”


Sometimes they ask you the most stunning questions. You stand before them, swaying from the force of the blow, trying to think of a way to approach it and find an answer.N. was telling me last week that she was doing a passage in a Proficiency class which mentioned malaria. She made sure everyone understood what malaria was. In this passage, it was mentioned that the disease had got as far as Rome. One young student raised his hand and asked, “How did malaria get to Rome?”

N. had done her best to explain that it was a disease. You hope that your students have lived in the world long enough to have acquired some basic facts, such as how diseases get around.

“It took the train,” she told him.

Tonight, the weakest student in my class — who nevertheless seems to be trying her hardest — wanted to ask some questions about the writing part of the exam they’ll be taking this weekend. Writing skills are hard to teach in a classroom, especially when you have the students for two three-hour lessons a week. You need to give them individual attention to do a good job of it. With my private students, I correct the paper in front of them, showing them when they’ve written something redundant or convoluted. After a while, they can recognise it right away. Then they stop doing it.

But in a class, it’s generally hopeless. I knew there was nothing I could tell them this late in the day that would be of any help, but I tried. I told them, if you can’t walk very well, don’t try to dance. Keep it simple and you’ll make fewer mistakes.

She looked at me with a desperately earnest expression and asked, “What tense should we use in our compositions?”

I stood there trying to think of an insightful way to say, “That depends.”

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Βράδυ Παρασκευή, πηγαίναμε με τη Ν. να φάμε στη Φωκίωνος Νέγρη, κι όπως περνάγαμε τη Σπετσών, θυμήθηκα ότι το σπίτι του Νίκου Γκάτσου βρισκόταν εκεί, στο 101. Την έπεισα να πάμε λίγο πιο πάνω να το δω. Μικρό προσκύνημα, ας πούμε.

Τα παλιά τα σπίτια τα κλεισμένα
πάντα κρύβουν κάτι και για μένα,
πράγματα γνωστά, πράγματα πιστά,
πράγματα ζεστά κι αγαπημένα,
πράγματα γνώστα, πράγματα πιστά,
πράγματα ζεστά, λησμονημένα.

Μονοκατοικία είναι, μιά απ’ τις λίγες που έχουν απομείνει στην Κυψέλη. Το βρήκα όμως εντελώς εγκαταλειμένο, με graffiti σ’ ένα τοίχο, στη γωνιά ένα κάδο για μπάζα, και τσουβάλια με γύψο στο πεζοδρόμιο. Η πόρτα ήταν κλεισμένη με λουκέτο κι αλυσίδα περασμένη απ’ το σπασμένο παράθυρο. Όπως πλησιάζαμε, η Ν. έκανε πίσω.

“Πήγαινε εσύ,” μου είπε. “Εγώ δε πλησιάζω.”

Έμοιαζε να είχε γίνει κάποτε κατάληψη. Μέσα βρομούσε από σκατά, και η μπόχα έφτανε μέχρι το δρόμο. Όποιος τό ‘χε χρησιμοποιήσει δεν άντεξε πια κι έφυγε. Κοίταξα γρήγορα να δω τουλάχιστον αν υπήρχε ακόμα τ’ όνομά του στο κουδούνι, αλλά ούτε κουδούνι δεν υπήρχε.

Νύχτα των Παθών που βγαίναν τ’ άστρα
σώπαινει του κήπου η κουκουβάγια,
κι άπ’ τις γειτονιές μυροφόρες νιές
ράντιζαν το πέλαγο με βάγια,
κι άπ’ τις γειτονιές μυροφόρες νιές
άναβαν λαμπάδες στα μουράγια.

Ο Γκάτσος πέθανε το 1992, αν θυμάμαι καλά. Δε θα φανταζόμουν ποτέ ότι θα μπορούσε να ρημάξει τόσο γρήγορα ένα σπίτι. Θά ‘λεγες ήταν εγκαταλειμένο εδώ και τριάντα χρόνια.

Χρόνε νυχτοπούλι παγερό
κόβεις με μαχαίρι τον καιρό,
γρήγορα πετάς, πίσω δε κοιτάς
τον απάνω κόσμο το μεγάλο.
Χρόνε παραμύθι λαμπερό,
σμίγεις τη φωτιά με το νερό,
γρήγορα περνάς, πίσω δε γυρνάς,
πίκρα μας κερνάς και τίποτ’ άλλο.

“Δε καταλαβαίνω,” της είπα της Ν. “Η Αγαθή Δημητρούκα [σύντροφος του Γκάτσου] πρέπει να ήταν κληρονόμος του. Γιατί ν’ αφήσει το σπίτι έτσι;”

“Ποιός ξέρει,” μου είπε. “Μπορεί να το άφησε αλλού και δεν έχουν λεφτά να το διατηρήσουν.”

Είδα όνειρο αυτή τη νύχτα ότι βρέθηκα πάλι μπροστά στο σπίτι, και στο πεζοδρόμιο βρήκα τρεις πλάκες χάλκινες, αυτές που λένε ότι ο τάδε έμενε εδώ. Η Δημητρούκα στεκόταν δίπλα, κι εγώ τις πήρα και τις έκρυψα κάτω απ’ το μπουφάν μου.

Προσκύνημα αν θέλω να κάνω τώρα, θα πρέπει να παω στο νεκροταφείο της Ασέας, στην Αρκαδία, ν’ ανάψω κάνα κερί.


Ένα απ’ τα αγαπημένα μου τραγούδια του Γκάτσου, από το τελευταίο του δίσκο, που έκανε με τον Ξαρχάκο, Τα Κατά Μάρκον.

Ο ΧΟΡΟΣ ΤΩΝ ΚΥΚΛΑΔΩΝ
Σκοτεινό το τραγούδι που θα πω
τα συντρίμμια του τόπου μου πατώ.
Χαμένα αδέρφια μου, ίσκιοι λαβωμένοι
χαμένη Ελλάδα, παντού σ’ αναζητώ.

Των Κυκλάδων σταμάτησε ο χορός
πετρωμένο το κύμα κι ο καιρός.
Πάνω απ’ τις μνήμες μάρμαρα σπασμένα
πάνω απ’ τις στέγες ο άνεμος σκληρός.

Παγερέ του αιώνα μου βοριά
πού τα πήγες τ’ αφτέρουγα παιδιά;
Τα πήρε ο ύπνος σε άχραντη πατρίδα
τα πήρε η νύχτα στη μαύρη της καρδιά.

Της ζωής ποιός γνωρίζει το σκοπό.
Το σκουλήκι τσακίζει τον καρπό.
Χαμένα αδέρφια, δείχτε μου ένα δρόμο
χαμένη Ελλάδα, την πόρτα σου χτυπώ.


Ξέρεις τα σπίτια πεισματώνουν εύκολα, σαν τα γυμνώσεις.


Υ.Γ. (12 Οκτ. 05)
Πέρασα τη Κύριακή πάλι απ’ τη Σπετσών, ημέρα αυτή τη φορά, και είπα να περάσω πάλι να το δω το σπίτι, αλλά δε το βρήκα. Δεν υπάρχει πια. Μόνο ένα άδειο οικόπεδο. Ήθελα να γυρίσω ξανά να το φωτογραφίσω, αλλά δε πρόλαβα.

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