27 December 2010

Xmas in Gdynia

I have just come back from Gdynia, where I have spent Christmas. As usual, I have visited part of my family and some of my friends. I have been lucky enough to have a coffee with a Venezuelan friend who I had not seen for more than ten years. It is amazing how time flies! Quite a few things have changed in his personal life, but he looks the same. I am very glad he is happy now!

Like most years, there were plenty of presents waiting for me by the Christmas tree. I was happy to unwrap them hurriedly and see that there were quite a few bottles of Spanish wine, plenty of chocolate, and a shaving machine. Unfortunately, there was nothing to read. So, I will have to wait until the 6th of January to see if the Three Wise Men bring me a nice book for winter. 

Since I arrived in Gdynia until I went back to Warsaw, it has been snowing all the time. So much snow has made my trip to the capital of Poland a little bit of a nightmare. The roads have not improved much  for the past  five years in this part of the country and driving is not an easy task. Yet, the lanscape is unforgettable!

by  Longfellow (1807-1882)

Out of the bosom of the Air,
    Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
    Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
      Silent, and soft, and slow
      Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
    Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
      The troubled sky reveals
      The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
    Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
    Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
      Now whispered and revealed
      To wood and field.

19 December 2010

Night shifts

A few days ago, I was reading Paradise Lost book IV and something caught my attention. Book IV is full of beautiful references to the Moon, to the skies and to the day and night ( I mentioned some of those references in my previous posts). Milton uses those descriptive references as an introduction to the logic of sleeping at night and working during the day. This concept, which may look very simple and logical at a first sight, made me think of my previous job. For more than five years I worked in shifts, which meant that sometimes I had to work in the morning, some other times in the afternoon and even some other times I had to work from 22:00 to 06:00. That was really bad ! I remember that before coming to work at night, I had to try and sleep during the day in order not to feel tired during my shift. No matter how much I tried, I never got used to working at night because I felt like sleeping when I had to do my duties and my body suffered all those changes.

Nowadays, night shifts are absolutely necessary. I cannot imagine a city where everybody sleeps during the night and sleeps during the day. Workplaces like tube stations, airports, train stations, building sites, police, fire brigades..there are so many workplaces where night shifts are needed that perhaps it would be easier to mention those businesses where working at night is not necessary.

Certainly, I prefer working during the day and sleeping during the night.

PL IV: 610-616

When Adam thus to Eve: Fair Consort, th' hour [ 610 ]
Of night, and all things now retir'd to rest
Mind us of like repose, since God hath set
Labour and rest, as day and night to men
Successive, and the timely dew of sleep
Now falling with soft slumbrous weight inclines
Our eye-lids; [ 616 ]

7 December 2010

Literature and bullfighting

Not long time ago, I read an article published by the Nobel Prize in Literature 2010 Mario Vargas Llosa entitled La Última Corrida, in English The Last Bullfight. In it, he made clear that whether one loves bullfights or not, “no one can deny that bullfights are full of violence and cruelty” (I have translated  into English his words and all that appear in Spanish in this post). I agree with Vargas Llosa.

Many other Spanish and South American writers had their say in this respect. For example, the Spanish writer Pérez de Ayala once said that “bullfights are an art and a drama”, and added that it was impossible to understand what goes on in the political and religious Spanish arena without attending bullfights. Also, the great Salvador de Madariaga said that bulls and bullfighters “participate of all arts”.

I do not know exactly what Madariaga meant, but what I know for sure is that Spanish artists throughout the centuries have demonstrated their love and respect for the art of bullfighting. For example, Goya and Picasso´s paintings and sculpture about bullfights are known worldwide. Besides, poets such as Federico García Lorca wrote tenths of poems related to the beauty of bullfighting. A few days ago I ran into the poem that I am including in this post. The beauty of the poem contrasts with the sadness of the poet.

La sangre derramada
by Federico García Lorca (1898-1936)

¡Que no quiero verla!
Dile a la luna que venga,
que no quiero ver la sangre
de Ignacio sobre la arena.

¡Que no quiero verla!

La luna de par en par,
caballo de nubes quietas,
y la plaza gris del sueño
con sauces en las barreras

¡Que no quiero verla!

Que mi recuerdo se quema.
¡Avisad a los jazmines
con su blancura pequeña!
I do not want to see it!

Tell the Moon to come,
´cause I do not want to see the blood
Of Ignacio on the bullring sand

I do not want to see it!

The Moon wide-open
like a horse in quiet clouds
and the grey bullring of dreams
edged all round with willows

I do not want to see it!

´cause remembrance burns
Call the jasmines
with their little whiteness!

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