Hector Berlioz, Terry Gilliam and Benvenuto Cellini

One of my interests is classical music, for instance this week  I have mainly been listening to the symphonies of Boccherini. I can now spell Boccherini.

Anyway last Saturday the 14th of November I went to see the Terry Gilliam production of Hector Berlioz’ opera Benvenuto Cellini at the Liceu in Barcelona. I now know how to pronounce Hector Berlioz. The H isn’t pronounced and the Z is.

The two and three quarter hour Opera with one interval was brilliant. Terry Gilliam talking about the Opera on youtube said Berlioz made three versions of this Opera and none of them worked, then laughed. Dramatically some of it could have been written by my mum. ‘It was a miracle I escaped,’ stuff. But as we know dramatically this Opera doesn´t work and musically it is phenomenal. Terry keeps to the music.

At the end of the first half nothing happens plot wise for half an hour, but musically there are four finales following on one after the other. Terry throws everything at the audience in a visual spectacular, so at the end of the act the audience in a semi stunned state find themselves at the end of the act. Start big and stay big like a Mussolini speech is the way to get people from A to B in Benvenuto Cellini.

The two production highlights for me? It’s the best entrance by a Pope I’ve seen all year. And a  large golden head follows us around until the final casting of the sculpture when it disappears and is replaced by a giant pair of legs and a cock to scale which  vertically fill the stage. (The legs, not the cock). A visual surprise right at the end.

Some might say there was nothing different in Gilliam’s approach of excess as a discipline. The man is 75. We don’t want different things from him we just want more of them.

A Game Of Two Halves

Faced with putting a play on in Girona I had the problem of finding two English speakers to read through the text dramatically for 18th June 2015. So using my extensive network of people in the know I ended up doing it myself, and my world stage debut was set for two months time with Duncan Stewart, the well known computer programmer originally from Thames Ditton playing opposite me. The Catalan version of ‘A Game Of Two Halves’being already secure with Ramon Pujol and Alba Cabrera playing the parts. Duncan and I get on, but would we get on 3 times a week for 2 hours at a time reading through the text? I am pleased to say the answer was yes and on the night we gave our best performance, reminding me of the Roman adage, ‘make drill like battle and battle will become drill.’ Am I going to become an actor? No. I have got to a stage in life where youthful enthusiasm is easily sidestepped, but I know if I have to I can.

English and Englishes

I have begun to collect up the first thoughts of a new language called Catalan English. This means recognisable English used in Catalan but that doesn´t exist in the original version. I don´t mean Catalish, which is a mangle of two languages, but words used generally in Catalan speech to mean precise things.

Firstly campings and parkings, which show up the peculiar nature of English where the collective implies the singular, or does it? Anyway the Catalans improve on the English by putting an s on the end of both and making them plural for when they mean a number of parking or camping spaces. It seems a reasonable adaptation to make.

Footing, which means jogging or running slowly, as a Catalan explained what footing was to me.

Balconing; to travel from one balcony to another. This is usually done by young drunk Danes, Dutch and Scots on the coast in places like Lloret de Mar, except that three or four times a season it does not mean travelling from one balcony to another, but travelling from one balcony to the floor Darwin award style.

Finally Kit Kat, which means to have a break, as in the advert, “Have a break, have a Kit Kat.” Somehow the tag line of the advert has become an expression for to take a break.

I don´t know how many of these words are needed before you have a different linguistic species, but from now on I will be looking out for further signs of evolution.

1st Anniversary

I have now completed a year in Catalonia. It’s my second attempt to stay put here in Girona, the first one being interrupted after eighteen months. I’m now laughing more but still not in all the right places, but it was important for me to find the right place to get stuck in, and with Girona I think I have found it. Incarceration in first London, and then Peterborough was certainly not the answer. Now I am gradually filling the diary with things I actually want to do –  seeing Siegfried at the Lyceu in Barcelona on Wednesday and dinner at an excellent restaurant called Viart in Platja d’Aro at the weekend.

Somewhere over the horizon the U.K. still threatens, and I will always be from Bradford, (the formative eighteen years have provided me with a range of burdens and handicaps I am unreasonably proud of,) but apart from the glacial bowl I no longer think any of it really exists.

For the moment my Catalan is just at the right level to not understand when people are complaining, and I’m sure it will stay like that for some time to come. On the other hand I have never been more social and actually feel of some use and value to the community I’m in, and I have finally managed to get ‘Stooge,’ onto my CV as I am the customer in English role plays at the Escola Hosteleria – the restaurant and hotel school here in Girona. ‘Waiter, waiter, there’s a fly in my soup. Don’t shout out everyone will want one.’

Forsooth, by my troth.

As I was reading Twelfth Night, (I’m that kind of person), I thought;

‘It’s great, but these words and phrases which don’t mean much to modern ears kind of take the wind out of the old sails.’

So I thought I would get to grips with a few of them, something which may interest the kind of person who visits these rambles. (But don’t forget to buy the books as well fellow skinflints)

Forsooth – Indeed.

i faith – Indeed, truly.

By my troth – Honestly, as in, honestly I wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

Hold thy peace – Keep quiet.

Fie – Get away, as in ‘you’re not serious.’

Marry – By Mary, something like ‘Good Heavens.’

Prithee – Pray thee – an interesting one, as when someone says ‘Don’t you think?’ after making a very doubtful proposal. Imagine a UKIP voter in Clacton saying ‘We should start hanging children, don’t you think?’ To which the answer is, ‘No.’

Pox on’t and Plague on’t – Curse it.

Entreat – Persuade, negotiate.

How Now? – How are you doing?

Accost – Approach.

Sirrah – ‘Boy’, talking to someone of inferior rank.

Soft – wait a minute.

Anon – Soon, as in, see you soon.

Attend – Many meanings such as, wait, accompany, consider, pay attention.

There are lots more, but I’m interested in such things rather than obsessed by them. If you want to know more you will have to look into it yourself.

Translating plays into Catalan

Lately I have been working on translating a play of mine from English into Catalan, which has meant working around phrases which are completely different  in translation , and which through the difference perhaps give an insight into the two cultures. ‘As different as chalk and cheese’ in English, becomes ‘as different as a chestnut and an egg’ in Catalan. ‘We are all in the same bag ,’say Catalans, when speaking English. ‘Boat,’ I correct. Though Italians like English speakers are all in the same boat, Catalans prefer a bag.

The play translation has gone fairly smoothly, but the title poses  a problem. My English title, ‘A game of two halves,’ is the kind of thing sports commentators say when they have run out of things to say.  But to Catalans it simply means it is a game of two halves. ‘So what do Catalan sports commentators say when they are talking bollocks ? There are eleven players on either side?’ I ask.  And they answer ‘Yes, they say there are eleven players on either side.’

I think I will keep the title as ‘Les dues parts del Joc’ anyway.


Fracking companies want to give 1% of the business to areas they frack, if we are being generous to them that is. I suggest 10% is more like it. On 1.4 billion pounds of business in Lancashire this would mean 140 million pounds staying in Lancashire, maybe helping places like Burnley who certainly need some kind of investment after years of neglect.

Better than it going to the usual London boardrooms so they can send their children to private schools at ordinary people’s expense. But I suppose cross rail – “going nowhere to nowhere” needs every penny of taxpayers money it can get.

It seems the time has come where British Regions don’t automatically accept being conned out of their resources in the way Scotland was of the proper amount of oil money which should have stayed local.

the UK and the EU

The best solution for the UK’s European dilema seems to be the one no one ever mentions. London and the South East of England should leave the EU which will allow London to truly become the slash and burn economic capital of the world in partnership with its chums New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and the like.

The rest of Britain can then stay inside the EU and develop balanced economies which benefit ‘hard working families,’ as the political classes like to call those units they never have any contact with.

Money Laundering

I’ve been dealing with money lately.  Unusual for me as I don’t usually have any. “What are you using the money for, and where has it come from?” are questions you get asked these days about your own money these days. “None of your business,” seems the right answer. But they have to ask for money laundering reasons is their mantra. Not that anyone who is money laundering would be doing it this way. They would be doing it in a way that wasn’t asked such inpertinent questions.

The implication is that we are the criminals, which we realise only too well. Those two specialists in the discipline, banks and goverments insist we are, so it must be true.  I actually have a perfectly legitimate Spanish bank account called my own account, where using common sense they don’t ask such questions of ordinary customers. But Britsh bank employees have common sense beaten out of them at an early stage by management and senior management to facilitate the exchange of binary code between the units. Maybe I’ll just transfer my money to Spain and other EU countries using transferwise.com and avoid both the questions and the charges.