Lockdown Diaries: Day 69 (In Rome with Quevedo)

Virtual Escape: In Rome with Quevedo

Evasión virtual: En Roma con Quevedo

Francisco de Quevedo 1580-1645

Much earlier in the lockdown I wrote about some books I’ve got that would make me look good if I dropped dead with them in hand but which I have never read: an anthology of Quevedo’s poetry in the original was one of them.

Mucho antes en la cuarentena, escribió sobre unos libros que tengo; libros que me harían lucir si me muera con ellos en la mano, pero que nunca he leído: la antología de la poesía de Quevedo en el original idioma fue uno de ellos. 

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 66 (I Brought My Life This Far)

Locked Down in London, Day 66: Politicians

For the past few days, the row about whether a certain politician who broke the lockdown rules by travelling to visit family at some 200 miles’ distance (for childcare reasons) should resign.

In the circumstances I don’t believe that his reason for travelling was acceptable; but that’s just my personal opinion. What I do know for a fact on the other hand is that my family made sacrifices in the interest of public health instead of doing what was the best for us (as I believe did many others!) – while this mother****** did the exact opposite. Ergo, he should resign.

(Of course he won’t.)

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 61 (Give Me My Aegean)

Locked Down in London: Open Letter to Boris

Dear Boris,

Today I had a long, hard day at work in an overheated office (our patio) and in my well considered opinion this lockdown sucks, sucks and sucks some more.

I know you’re very busy so I’ll be brief: I want water. Not from the tap! I want to go to the beach; if not that, then to the river; if not that, to the lido; if not that, at least to the pool where I’m a member.

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 48 (Serenity)

Locked Down in London, Day 48: Overworked

So I worked 3 hours extra today, and then despite of the fact that tomorrow is a bank holiday, I had to agree to work tomorrow as well, to meet all those people’s deadlines who have forgotten that tomorrow, actually, is a day off in the whole country. What makes it even more annoying is that of course I won’t even get paid for it or get time off in lieu…!

So what I need right now is, first of all, a large gin & tonic… and then a book of haikus. To regain my serenity.

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 42 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

Locked Down in London, Day 42: Olympics in Quarantine

The Two-Tailed Dog Party in Hungary (I did hesitate whether I should be naming political parties here but the name add spice to the story!) is going to run a quarantine olympics this month – events include:

  • Speed Disinfecting
  • Indoor Gazing Into the Distance
  • Synchronised Couch Movement
  • Pancake Making Commentary
  • Toilet-roll Tower Building

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 40 (Of the Aegean)

Locked Down in London, Day 40: Holiday flight

An e-mail from my airline regarding my upcoming holiday flight – the one we postponed from April – left me in the quandary: do I transfer the flight to July (my only remaining free holiday time), do I accept the voucher that I can’t use and try to swindle my way round the fact that it’s not transferable, or do I sit tight and hope that the airline will cancel the flight and I can get my money back?!

On the subject of holiday flights: I saw the following video a while ago, and probably you all saw it by now… but just in case somebody missed out, something to cheer you up!

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 36 (Hiking the Kii Peninsula with a Book of Haikus)

Locked Down in London, Day 36: J-Pop

I’m becoming an expert in designing walking routes through the neighbouring streets. I now know on which street are the trees in bloom; which front gardens have the nicest tulips (on the way out now), lilacs or artistically arranged evergreens. I connect the streets with patches of woodlands, parks and playing fields in an effort to device myself that I’m walking in the country.

How many days in a row have I walked these exact streets without seeing anything else? Listening to the same music? I had to have some variety so now I’m cycling through world pop, a different country each day. I’m learning new phrases to search Spotify: Latin pop, Euro-pop, J-pop.

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 35 (Dockside)

Locked Down in London, Day 35: A Day in the Office

A day in the office nowadays consists of: opening our new parasol, putting out the seat cushions, setting out the laptop hood, and then carting out the work laptop and assorted necessary paraphernalia to settle down for the day in the garden, typing away merrily (okay, perhaps not so merrily), next to the lilac tree. And then a family lunch, again in the garden, followed by more work, before it’s time to pack the lot away, and buzz off for a walk in the neighbouring streets.

I think I could get used to working from home, especially on sunny days… although I do miss my swimming with almost physical pain by now!

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 31 (Loch Ness)

Locked Down in London, Day 31: How Long Can You Stand Quarantine? (A Poll)

Now think about how long you could stand it if you were “shielded”: staying in your bedroom alone, although you’re allowed to open the window; no physical contact with your family/housemates, talking to them only through the closed bedroom door; no exercise or entertainment except what can fit into your bedroom; eating alone in your bedroom; disinfecting the bathroom every time before and after use…

The UK government thinks people who need to be shielded can – should – cope like that for 12 weeks.

Really?

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 29 (Books That Make You Look Good When Dead?)

Locked Down in London, Day 29: Too Many Books?

A few years ago we had to have some repairs done to our roof and for a few days we had a workman in. On the last day he finished work early and had to wait for a colleague to pick him up with the company van. We sat him down in the living room with a cup of tea, and he looked at the bookshelves and asked: “How many books do you have?”

Well, truth be told, I don’t know. Mostly I feel that not enough. At some point however we did try to catalogue them by using a scanning program and although we never finished and keep forgetting scanning new books in, I was able to make an educated guess.

“About three thousand,” I said.

His jaw dropped. “Three thousand! And did you read them all?”

That made my jaw drop. “Well, of course…” I have read a lot more than 3000 books in my life, actually. The ones on the bookshelves – those are just my favourites.

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 14 (The World’s Shortest Poem)

Locked Down in London, Day 14: Exit Strategies

If the government has any, it’s not very forthcoming.

According to the press there are four ways we could be done with this:

  1. Intermittent Social Distancing: in other words, we go into lockdown, the case numbers go down, we come out of lockdown, the case numbers go up, we go into lockdown… This merry-go-round can go on and on… and on.
  2. Hurray for the Healthy & the Immune: test everybody, let out those who are not likely to keel over if catching the virus and those who already had it. The elderly and the ill can live their lives in self-isolation until they commit suicide out of sheer boredom.
  3. Search & Destroy: wait until the virus nearly died out, then let everybody out and catch those who still managed to catch it. And then catch their contacts. And so on.
  4. Vaccine or Treatment: wait until somebody managed to make one. Well, let’s hope it doesn’t take 50 years.

It might be just me but – is this a tad depressing?

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 13 (On Homer’s Beaches)

Locked Down in London, Day 13: The Year of the Genius Generation

Since the government cancelled all exams this summer (A-levels and GCSEs both), the young and a bright are set to get predicted grades instead.

Wow! This will be the only year ever in which no student fails his exam; the only year when all departments in all schools meet their targets; the year when academic achievement across the country soars to unimagined heights… the year of the Genius Generation!

There’s only one small problem: How will the universities and sixth form centres accommodate all this talent?

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Lockdown Diaries: Day 10 (An Evening with Omar Khayyam)

Locked Down in London, Day 10: My Hospital Loses the Plot

Today I got a phone call from my hospital. They said they wanted to change my phone consultation from tomorrow to next week, was that all right? No, I will be attending a family funeral on that date. Then how about in two weeks’ time? In two weeks’ time I would have run out of the medication that keeps me alive! Well, in that case, can we have the consultation during the funeral? No, you can’t!

I’m afraid on this occasion my hospital will just have to keep to their original schedule – I recognise this would be unprecedented…

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The Moody Poets’ Gallery (Or a Melancholy Glance at Hungarian Poetry)

The Connection Between Miserable Weather & Hungarian Poetry (If Any)

So the other day it was grey and gloomy and it was also p***ing it down in a typical London fashion. Moreover it was a Sunday afternoon, and you would expect better from a Sunday afternoon in March, even in London.

In any case, the weather was miserable, I was miserable, and I felt like wallowing in some miserable Hungarian poetry.

Not at all a difficult thing to do, that: misery and poetry goes hand in hand in Hungary, and although we do actually also have some cheerful poems you’re not going to get any of those today.

Before we dive in at the deep end, a word of warning: Hungarian is an obscure language and not a lot of her poetry has been translated into English. (And what's been translated leaves you holding your head - in dispair.) The source of today's miserable poetry is a single bilingual anthology, going by the title of The Lost Rider. It's about as representative as a single anthology can ever expected to be. 

(And some of the translations are, well, dire.)

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Woe Is Me, Alhama!

Woe Is Me, Alhama!

Boabdil’s Farewell to Granada by Alfred Dehodencq [public domain via Wikipedia]
One of my favourite Spanish historical ballads is A Very Mournful Ballad of the Siege and Conquest of Alhama, also known as The Moorish King Rides Up and Down or Woe Is Me, Alhama! It was also one of the first Spanish ballads I’ve ever read in the original (Spanish learners take note – the text is that accessible). I came across it in a collection of ballads which I found in a second-hand bookshop in Southport in Lancashire; it was a university textbook from the 1960s. In A Brief (Literary) History of the Reconquista I have already shared an excerpt with you (and a shorter version a few years ago in The Moorish King Rides Up & Down) but the ballad deserves better, so today you’re going to get the full version – plus the Spanish original for those of you who can enjoy it.

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A Brief (Literary) History of the Reconquista

The other day (okay, a few weeks ago, it took me a while to finish this post) I wrote a few lines about Covadonga in Asturias, the place where the reconquista, the reconquering of Spain from the Moors began in 722 A.D. If you haven’t read it:

View from the Holy Cave, Covadonga

Asturias Is Spain… (And the Rest Is Conquered Land)

…then you’d bloody well better 🙂 because today you’re going to get part two of the story that started in Covadonga: the story of the reconquista.

In keeping with Waterblogged tradition, we’re going to explore the topic through the medium of literature; I hope you’ll enjoy this brief history of the reconquista as told by Spanish historical ballads!

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The Seven Princes of Lara

In the process of writing a brief literary history of the reconquista (the reconquering of Spain from the Moors), I found myself debating whether the tragic story of the seven princes of Lara should be included or not. On the one hand, it seemed difficult to leave out such a popular ballad from the era of the reconquista altogether; on the other hand, the brief literary history is already long enough without adding in something that, strictly speaking, is not so much a story of the reconquista but a story of a family feud. Upon reflection I decided that the famous story of the seven princes of Lara deserved a post of its own. To keep you busy while I finish the brief literary history. 🙂

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La Rubaiyat de Omar Khayyam

Read the English version

Lo que sigue aquí abajo es la versión española de un post sobre Omar Khayyam - también suele deletrear Omar Jayam - que escribí el pasado domingo en inglés. Versión, digo, porque la poesía no es el mismo que en el post inglés, por la razón de que Omar Khayyam escribió unos cientos cuartetos, y los cuartetos en la traducción española y la traducción inglesa no se corresponden.

Leí a Omar Khayyam en el baño anoche. Esto es siempre una receta para el desastre, pero a pesar de muchos años de práctica empapando libros, Omar Khayyam se conservó seco, probablemente porque me despertó. (Lo que no fue el efecto que pretendía en absoluto, pero estas clases de cosas suceden cuando te instalas en el baño para una lectura relajante antes de dormir. )

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