The Amazing Cynicism of the Tao Teh King

In Search of Tranquility

I occasionally see world weary westerners traipsing down Regent Street in loose robes and sandals chanting ‘Hare Krishna’, apparently believing that this would ease their existential angst, or, better still, solve all their problems – I blame the Beatles. Personally, I’ve never yet felt tempted to sing ‘Hare Krishna’; mainly because it’s somebody else’s cultural background and I’ve got a perfectly serviceable one of my own. Even so – and despite the Beatles – I recognise that the East has much to offer us.

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A Book with a History

The book is green with golden letters, cloth bound. Sunlight faded the spine into autumnal yellow so that you can no longer make out the title and the author very well. When you open it, the yellowed pages rustle, feeling slightly stiff to the fingers. The title page is followed by the picture of the author printed on smooth, glossy paper that contrasts with the coarser pages that follow it. I turn the pages and think: they don’t make books like this anymore.

And then there’s the way it smells. The smell of decades which lingers on  your fingers even after you put the book down.

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Time and Chance Happens to Them All

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, a novel about the 18th century collapse of a bridge in Peru in which five people were killed, is neatly bracketed by the opening and the closing chapters titled, respectively, Perhaps an Accident and Perhaps an Intention. The titles refer to the question that the Franciscan monk who witnessed the disaster was wrestling with: why did those particular five die? Brother Juniper expanded a great amount of effort and energy in trying to find the answer (but if you want to know what he came up with, you’ll have to read the book).

Vanitas (Adriaan Coorte) Photo by zullie via Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-SA 2.0]
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Clase de literatura (Literature Class)

Scroll down the page to read this in English

Acabo de volver del Instituto Cervantes de Londres – de mi primer clase de literatura en español. Esperaba que volvería a casa más sofisticada y con una experiencia de haber hablado en español mucho tiempo durante de las dos horas del clase sobre literatura, y bueno, quizá también con el título de un libro que tendré que empezar a leer para el próximo clase.

Que no.

Volví a casa con una fotocopia de los primeros treinta páginas de un libro argentino y el deseo de cambiar el curso. Si lo puedo, a esas alturas.

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Eight Catalan Surnames (Ocho Apellidos Catalanes)

Have you ever seen somebody from a distance and sussed their nationality at first glance, without even having heard them speak – because they looked so stereotypical?

(All right, excluding Japanese tourists.)

Well, we did, last Sunday.

¿Has visto alguna vez a alguien de la distancia y adivinado de dónde es, a la primera vista, sin que lo has oído hablar – porque se parecía tan estereotípico?

(Bueno, excluyendo a los turistas japoneses.)

Pues, eso es exactamente lo que nos pasó el domingo pasado.

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Westminster

Overheard outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday afternoon as I passed two middle aged women.

Oí esto fuera de las Casas del Parlamento ayer por la tarde cuando pasaba dos mujeres de mediana edad.

Woman 1: No, it happened on the bridge.
Woman 2 (animated): Oh right… shall we go and have a look?

Mujer 1: No, lo ocurrió en el puente.
Mujer 2 (animada): Vale… ¿Vamos a echar un vistazo entonces?

Well, that explains why the bridge was more full of pedestrians than ever.

Bien, eso explica por qué el puente tenía más peatones que nunca.

(So much for terrorism.)

(El fracaso del terrorismo.)

 

God’s Chosen People?

The other day, reading a history of Spain by Juan Eslava Galán, I came across the following paragraph:

Spain had become the defender of the honour of God. Theologians and thinkers (not so many of these latter) became convinced that Spain and God were united in a pact. God promoted Spain to the rank of the chosen people, protected her and granted her riches and power (the Americas) in exchange for which Spain acted as his armed arm on Earth, champion of the true faith against the error of the Protestants and the Turks.

España se había erigido en defensora del honor de Dios. Teólogos y pensadores (de estos hubo menos) llegaron al convencimiento de que España y Dios estaban unidos por un pacto. Dios la había promocionado al rango de pueblo elegido, la protegía y le otorgaba riquezas y poder (las Américas) a cambio de que ella ejerciese como su brazo armado en la Tierra, paladín de la fe verdadera contra el error de protestantes y turcos.

This notion of the pact with God and the chosen people put me strongly in mind of the Hun-Hungarian legends which I read as a child.

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Nine Quirky Facts (Nueve hechos raros)

Nine Quirky Facts I Read Last Year

Books are not merely a source of entertainment but also of knowledge… (today’s cliché). How many of the following nine facts do you know?

Nueve hechos raros que leí el año pasado

Los libros no son sencillamente una fuente de entretenimiento, pero también lo de conocimiento… (cliché de hoy). ¿Cuáles de los nueve hechos siguientes ya sabes?

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Last Year’s Best Reads? (Or Self-hosted vs Hosted)

In the past week I’ve been engaged in looking at my statistics… And since the blog moved from being self-hosted to wordpress.com during the year, I had to collate the statistics manually, a task during which I found myself evaluating the pros and cons of…

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Mediterranean Vote

Stuck indoors with Young Friend of the Elephants, who is engaged in the fifth labour of Hercules (cleaning the Augean Stables, aka her bedroom) so I thought I’ll take a look at the results of the Mediterranean Mondays vote: it was dismal. (Scroll down to see the results.) Political apathy I could understand but this apolitical apathy?

So I made you a slideshow:

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Click Here to Vote

The results so far:

Travel photos: 2
Bits of history: 2
Holiday destinations: 1 (the second one was me testing the poll)
Travel anecdotes: 1
Bits of poetry: 1

(A politician would have presented this in percentages to hide the fact that hardly any of you bothered to vote but I’m not a politician.)

Mediterranean Mondays

Much as I love the Mediterranean, in the past few months I found that I could do better things with my Sunday than writing blog posts. 🙂 This morning’s sunshine finally gave me the push to make up my mind that Sunday’s Miscellany will be moved to Mondays, when regardless of the weather, I’ll be stuck in an office all day anyhow and will want to cheer myself up with thoughts of sea and sun…

So I suppose we herewith rename the miscellany, to mark the change.

And while I’m making changes, I thought I’d invite your thoughts on what would you like to see more of in this feature about the Mediterranean? As it’s the only feature of the blog in which I’m committed to a publishing schedule, I still intend to keep it reasonably short but I think I might as well do away with the self-imposed 300 word limit (which I often failed to stay within anyhow).

You’re invited to vote on which of the topics we had in the last year you’d like to have more of – or let me know if there’s something new you’d like me to include – Spanish pop songs anybody? 🙂

In the meantime I’m off to enjoy the weather; you’ll get a dose of Mediterranean sunshine tomorrow. 🙂

Andalusian Slow-Roast Pork

Travelling educates your mind; and if you travel with Mr Anglo-Saxonist, it also educates your taste buds. He’s a great believer in eating the local food.

In ages bygone, after you returned from abroad, you could only eat exotic dishes again if you found a restaurant run by immigrants near your home. But one of three things you can thank the internet for is that you can now find recipes and source prime ingredients from just about anywhere in the world. (The other two are Project Gutenberg and my blog.)

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It’s Not Like Anybody’s Going to Read It

I’m only an accidental blogger: when I started, I didn’t even know that blog was short for web log or what a blog is actually for.

It all started during the summer holidays in 2015 when I had nothing better to do. Exactly one year ago today, in fact. Fed up with the way my family pulled faces at the dinner table whenever I tried to share my clever thoughts about books with them, I typed my latest earth-shattering insight into my husband’s website editor instead…

Pride and Prejudice… manages to be witty about something utterly mundane. Jane Austen is all about character observation and style. The plot is not important.

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How to Fail as a Blogger (In Five Easy Steps)

The other day I carelessly volunteered for  a guest post on Bloggers’ World and feeling that I ought to write something that might actually interests people there instead of boring them with my pet obsessions (such as Herodotus or the continuing Brexit wars), I hit upon the subject of blogging advice: How To Be A Successful Blogger. Between you and me (don’t whisper it outside these walls), I’m not qualified to give such advice; nevertheless, after a year of blogging I’m not entirely without expertise…

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Sea, Sailing, Sunset…

Okay, so it was a very hard week at work, in the evenings I was both tired & busy and I’ve done almost no blogging at all (although I did make some progress on a bilingual post with my first ever author interview)…

…I think it’s time to chill.

So that’s Malta over there on the starboard, people – taken from a sailing ship last autumn. If you consider this poor fare for a Sunday, more Malta stuff here, including a good book on Maltese history. 🙂 Happy Sunday!

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Spaniard’s Inn

Today’s miscellany is a swindle… because the Spaniard’s Inn is not actually anywhere near the Mediterranean! The Spaniard’s Inn, in fact, is a pub in Hampstead Heath in London. Although, clearly, Spaniards are involved – which is my excuse for writing about it here. (That, and that it was passable weather today and I went to Hampstead Heath.)

Sign_for_The_Spaniards_Inn,_1585_AD_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1131506.jpg
Photo: Wikipedia.

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