Monday, 21 March 2011

Getting What You Wish For, But Not Exactly on a Star

Ok, Ok, I have got what I deserved. There I was bleating on about how I was such a hypochondriac and wallowing in my new-found sicknesses and ailments. But now I find that one thing just seems to be following the next and now I have a super-duper cold, complete with deep-throated chesty cough. Well, enough is enough and I am officially sick of being sick!

But that is one’s comeuppance I suppose. You pretend for long enough that you are a hypochondriac and then the great finger in the sky hears you – well perhaps that should be the great ear in the sky hears you and it is the great finger that points at you and a bolt of lightening shoots out of the tip and you are struck down with the dreaded Lurgy or at least the Plague!

I am sick of being sick! I have been sick for the most part since my Victor left me just after Christmas, what with my shoulder, other mysterious ‘female’ complaints and now this ‘Thing’ that wakes me in the night with hot sweats and body wracking coughing attacks. I have even been dreaming of evil bile and running sores and vomit! Let me get well! That is a desperate plea to the universe to let me rejoin the human race. For heaven’s sake there are wars erupting on the planet and earthquakes and other real tragedies and catastrophes and all I can think about is my own stupid nose and wretched throat.

So I am turning over a new leaf. Yes, again folks! A new leaf that states that I am no longer a hypochondriac or even a pretend one. I am going to beat this cold and am going to get back into the swing of things. I have a to do list as long as your arm already backed up behind me and I am going to start ticking things off it ASAP.

You know, even though I really am feeling lousy and did tell some people that I had the Flu at first just to illicit a bit of extra sympathy (but honestly my bones really were aching) I am still doing more than most.

I continue to get up in the morning come hell or highwater and even though jogging has been difficult I have still walked my route in the mornings, well most mornings. I plug into my ipod shuffle and listen to my Spanish tapes too in order to keep my mind active as well. I then get home and doggedly attack my Spanish lessons. I learn verbs and I practice conjugations and I write endless essays, which to my delight are yielding fewer and fewer red marks when they are returned to me, so something must be sticking. I am really happy to report that I am definitely coming to learn the most simple form of the past tense as well as having a grasp of two other past tenses. I have even started to make sense of the elusive ‘subjunctive’.

I love learning languages actually. They are extremely frustrating when you first begin and then there comes a shift when the pattern of the language starts to set into your brain and you can literally see the pattern in your head when you are speaking. Of course the final stage is when you don’t actually have to think at all and you simply understand and know how to say things automatically. That is the point when you start to dream in that foreign language as well.

I think the hardest part is that point when you realize that to improve you simply have to sit down and learn rules and irregularities and that there are no short cuts to be taken. That is when you realize the enormity of the project you have taken on as you look at the size of the dictionary and the book of verbs. It is also very frustrating when at times you find you take two steps forward and then another one back and you feel you are achieving nothing.

Not to mention of course the whole pronunciation bit of the language, as well as trying to understand people when they speak to you in various dialects and at a rate of knots. Nighmare!

I have been learning hard now for a year and a half. A year and a bit of that time has been while living in Spain of course and during this time it has been easier to pick up phrases and also to get help from friends and neighbours. Everyday is a practical lesson as long as you get out and about and make sure that you ask questions in shops and insist on speaking to people in Spanish even though sometimes you really do not make a whole lot of sense.

I originally gave myself two years to become fluent in the language. I don’t think I will be far off that target if I continue with the momentum that I currently have, however that is another snag in the learning of anything, loss of momentum or burn out. I am trying to pace myself and keep up a steady programme but boredom is an enemy and also other projects which come in and take over your life from left field – under the heading ‘projects’ I also loosely include sickness which can really scupper all your best efforts from time to time as was proved directly after Christmas when the extreme pain of my tendonitis caused me to put off the start of my new lessons as I could neither sit up for very long nor dress myself, let alone concentrate on anything.

So a cold is nothing really. I will continue to battle on and promise to “think positive” as my dear friend Brian used to say to me, many moons ago. And speaking of moons. Did anyone see the moon last night? Apparently it was the closest to the earth that it has been in some number of years.

Forgive me if I do not remember how many years, I was too busy staring up at its bright face and impressive size and was in complete awe of the nature of its incredible beauty and wonder……..!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Spanish Noise and Therapies

It is not a criticism – but an observation. I am not the first foreigner in these parts to comment on this particular characteristic of the Spanish.

Noise. Spaniards do not know the meaning of quiet. I don’t think there is any such thing either as a shy Spaniard. Even the children are completely relaxed about talking to strangers almost as equals. They do not lower their eyes and hide behind their mothers – well perhaps at times very briefly as they size up a strange foreigner who does not speak Spanish very well and is called something strange like Mary. Mary Poppins is a point of reference I am pleased to note, as that is one of my favourite films of all time. But generally they are quite happy to speak to anyone about all and sundry even showing off their counting skills – however limited.

Why do I mention all this now? Well, this morning I had to go for my first physiotherapy session at a Spanish clinic.

It is funny because I have been agonizing over what to write about this week. Feeling quite blocked really as I have not been in the least bit creative lately. My illnesses and social life seem to have taken over. In my case it is really true that I have to suffer a bit in order to be creative – albeit mentally rather than physically. When I am lonely and introspective I have all these ideas for images and themes. I am rather happy and contented at the moment as I have found myself to have a circle of friends! I feel that for a solitary individual this is a very strange state of affairs. I have lived my life very much as a loner always but now people call me up and call to see me or invite me out or round for meals or drinks. What on earth is going on? Maybe it is part of being in Spain – a much more gregarious place than anywhere else I have lived.

But that is a digression –

There I was agonizing over my non-materialising blog when all of a sudden I found myself invited to what was, in my eyes, the most bizarre group physiotherapy session that I could ever imagine. Obviously it is normal in Spain as no one else there seemed remotely concerned with the strange events that unfolded before my ‘Irish’ eyes.

I have never been to a physiotherapist before so actually I have nothing to judge my assumptions on, but I always presumed that the sessions were done in a small consulting room on a one to one basis. Here I walked into this madhouse where one or two older ladies were rolling large objects backwards and forwards on a table, a man was sitting under some contraption that obviously warmed or vibrated his shoulder. Another woman was lying on a couch having her hand manipulated by the physiotherapist and another lady was sitting under a sun or heat lamp. There was also what seemed to be a totally healthy woman with two children – a small baby and a delightful little girl who was trying to show off her aforementioned counting skills 1,2,4,6,11, 8…etc.

Of course all these people were talking, all the time and all at the same time. Laughing with and talking to the children and holding other conversations between each other. In the midst of this reigned the Physiotherapist – a lovely young woman, named Ana, completely at ease with the situation, although every so often she did say a general shhhh! To get everyone to pipe down a bit so that she could introduce the next exercise to one or other of her clients.

Especially for me it was a little difficult to say the least. I am certain that on a one to one session I would have understood every word she said to me as she spoke clearly and slowly to me, but under the circumstances and the loud and boisterous background noise, I had the greatest difficulty even focusing my attention on her, let alone understanding. Still she actually did speak English too, for which I was heartily grateful. So I did follow and do the exercises and therapies that she presented to me. And then I sat under the sonic wave machine which gave me a deep muscle massage – I am not sure it is quite what I was expecting, as I was expecting something that will dissolve the calcium deposit in my shoulder, but perhaps that does. What do I know? Anyway I am certain she knows what she is doing and time will tell. Oddly I am not experiencing any extra pain and perhaps even some slight more movement than previously in my bad shoulder – so I can only assume that the treatment, however bizarre the ambience, is working already.

Regarding deep thought. No, none. I spent the time trying to understand and follow some of the conversations that were taking place around me. I find it completely frustrating that I understand so many of the words perfectly clearly as single words, but there is something about the way a foreign language is put together that means that, in my own head at least, most of them remain as isolated words and are not hanging together to make any extra sense to me – they are obviously more than the sum of their parts. I can only sigh and hope that it will all start to hang together for me soon.

Maybe I just need to start yelling like a Spaniard and it will suddenly fall into place.

The photo? I thought it vaguely resembled the group therapy session of this morning. It is of me and my brother and one of my sisters showing an alternative to normal sitting. Why sit the right way up when you can sit upside down!