This week I found out what a hot night out in San Marcos looks like in the “off” season (San Marcos being the village where the childrens’ home is). It was about 8pm, I’d finished work for the day, and gone out for some air. I was wandering around the village in the drizzle, looking for some entertainment, preferably in the form of ice-cream, but the streets were deserted and most of the shops were shut. On a corner of the plaza I found an ice-cream shop open; things were looking up. So I went in, to be met by about 20 local characters from the village, sitting on upright chairs around the walls, watching the National Geographic channel.
Our friend Simon has recently renamed his blog “Where Everybody’s Crazy”. Working overseas, it is easy to move into “rose tinted”mode and to think of the UK as a hub of sanity and civilisation. This is of course not true. It’s just that UK-brand craziness feels normal to us, because it’s ours and we know how to react to it, whereas here we are learning to deal with a whole new species of nuts. So just to prove the point that no culture has a monopoly on loopyness, today’s story comes from England. Thanks to the Hertfordshire constabulary for (unwittingly) providing it, and to my mother for passing it on….
The road that my parents live on has been closed all week for work to be done on a water main. There is one lane left (mostly) open for access to the business estate, but the road is totally closed at the other end, so all through traffic has been diverted. Hence there is not a lot of traffic, and what traffic there is travels at about four miles a fortnight, and because the diversion signs were initially confusing, quite a number of drivers end up turning around in a side street part-way down, and going back the way they came, further slowing down the already crawling queue.
“So yesterday morning, just before noon, two policemen brought their mobile speed camera vehicle and parked it in its designated spot on the grass in front of our house. Having set it up, they normally leave it unmanned to run for a couple of hours or so – and that’s exactly what they did yesterday. Bless them. Maybe they couldn’t read the signs on the barrier blocking most of the road about five yards away “Closed except for access”.”
By an ironic twist of fate, or possibly someone’s bad sense of humour, I find myself on the re-organised Latin Link Argentina team exec. I’m not exactly first choice material for execs. My list of pet hates starts with meetings, admin, and paperwork, so the prospect of the coming year being punctuated by meetings, meetings about meetings, meetings about meetings about meetings, and discussions about why no-one has actioned the minutes since the last meeting, is not one that I am looking forward to with any joy. (Apart from the deep and lasting sort that is able to sustain all who have accepted the salvation of Christ, which if we are honest, is sometimes so deep that I’m not quite sure where I last saw it….)
Apart from lacking in anything resembling leadership skills, I also have some major failings in the area of dealing with paper. My brain works on a strictly need to know basis. If my brain thinks it needs this information which is about 5% of documents received, it remembers what it said, what it looked like, and where I put it. If my brain can’t think of an immediate use for this information, i.e. the other 95% of the time, then I have to try and house it in my patented PLD filing system. PLD is a simple system, consisting of three categories: the Pile on the desk category, the Lost without trace category, or the Direct to Dustbin category. The major advantage to this system is that anything that has managed to spend 6 months or more in the P or L categories, when it resurfaces, can usually be consigned direct to D. And in any case, I won’t have any recollection of having received the paper, what it said, or what I did with it, if it wasn’t immediately recognised by the “need to know” filter.
Producing documents if anything, is even worse, because it also contains an element of stress. Even after only one meeting, we have made ourselves a little list of documents to produce or revise, none of which will be remotely relevant to anyone’s life, and therein lies the element of stress. Even though I know that few people will read it, and that those who do will wonder why they did, I know with the same amount of knowing, that I will spend hours and hours of my life producing the things, going mad at my computer when it doesn’t do exactly what I want it to, getting the wording right, the layout, the format, the spacing, because I am totally unable to act as though what I am doing wasn’t important. The ratio of time and emotional energy in the production to the time and emotional energy in the reading will be impossibly lopsided, and with good reason…. because by and large this stuff doesn’t matter. And yet I will want the recipients to read, digest and care, not because one word of the content is remotely relevant to them, but because of what it has cost me to produce it, even though I know with all of my heart that if the same thing had landed in my inbox, I would have sent it Direct to D.
Taking all this into account, it makes one wonder why a compassionate God couldn’t come up with a job that I actually have some of the skills for, like cleaning toilets, looking after kids, or roller-skating to Siberia against a headwind…. (“Do everything without arguing or complaining….” Oh yeah alright then, but there had better be good biscuits….)
- Both are the second city of their respective countries, both are similar size, several times smaller than their respective capitals.
- Both are located to the north and west of the capital.
- Both have a hate hate relationship with the capital.
- Both are surrounded by rather attractive countryside, with hills close by, i.e. the Peak District, and the Sierras de Cordoba.
- Both have a rich historical past, the region of Cordoba as home to the Camechingon peoples, and later known as Cordoba, a colonial capital founded by the Spanish, and Birmingham as a market town based around Birmingham castle following Bronze age origins.
- Both have a strong multi-cultural mix, both past and present.
- Both have been important academic hubs. Cordoba has the second oldest university in Latin America founded by the Jesuits in 1613. Birmingham was home to the Lunar society around 1765, which set the pace for the British industrial revolution.
- Both have experienced scenes of disturbance and uprising, the logical flip-side of academic moving and shaking. Hence Birmingham’s Priestly riots in 1791, and the more recent popular uprising in Cordoba of 1969, known as the “Cordobazo”
- Both have significant industrial heritages…. Cordoba in the manufacture of aeroplanes, trains, cars, textiles, chemicals, and more recently technologies, and Birmingham in toys, textiles, iron, steel, guns, transport, and of course Cadbury’s chocolate.
- Both have a thriving middle class, and pockets of real deprivation. And in both cases it’s the middle class who have the most to say about being poor.
- Both have had sizable investment in regeneration of their respective historical and commercial centres in recent years.
- And most importantly of all, both have the one accent in their country which every comedian needs to perfect if they want to be taken seriously on the stand-up circuit.
Friday was supposed to be a nice quiet easy-ish day after being in the childrens’ home on Wednesday and Thursday. We had a doctors appointment at 6pm, and people were coming around for an asado (BBQ) in the evening. So we spent the morning slowly, I walked the dog, did some shopping in advance of the evening, leaving the drinks and a few other things to buy later, had lunch, bit of a siesta…. At 4.30 we thought we’d make some coffee, do the washing up and start preparing stuff for the evening. At 5pm the dog arrived home squealing, with an absolutely massive gash in her chest, it was so big and deep and wide-open we honestly weren’t sure if she would survive, so Martin held her down and applied pressure, I phoned our usual vet, who gave me an emergency number for someone else, who in turn organised a different guy to come round. He turned our house into an operating theatre, put the dog out, shaved her, cleaned out the wound and stitched her up, she’s got three rows of stitches, one layer deep inside, then another layer a bit further out and then finally a third layer at skin level. Luckily it was her chest rather than the abdomen so her vital organs were protected by the ribs. We have no idea where or how she did it, but she’s always jumping over fences and walls, she’s convinced she’s a puma, so we can only assume it went badly wrong and that she landed on something, like a railing possibly, in mid-leap. We missed our doctor’s appointment, the vet left at seven leaving the house covered in blood and fur, and the dog still unconscious, with people due to arrive at eight and only half of the shopping done. So we did an emergency clean, an emergency shop, Martin lit the fire, I chopped salads and we were just about looking normal with the dog coming round kind of dozily when the first person arrived, which was luckily not till 8.30, this being Argentina and all. The asado went great in the end, Martin’s getting it off to a fine art, and he always receives lots of kudos for being a non-argentinian who has learnt how to do a good Argentinian asado. The dog managed to open one of her stitches slightly just as everyone was leaving soon after midnight, so we had to stop her bleeding, and then we kept getting up all night to check on her, but by the morning it seemed to have knitted itself, yesterday she spent the day lying around looking poor and sorry for herself but the wound’s only leaking slightly and she doesn’t seem to be in immediate danger. She’s still interested in food which is a good sign, although she’s so greedy I think it would take more than nearly bleeding to death to put her off her dinner!