Thursday, 26 April 2012

April Showers or 'Abril Aguas Mil'

Rain...more rain and then some more
And now wind and more wind
The region has been under a blanket of rain accompanied by gale force wind for weeks. It seems that its never going to clear..and god knows where all this cloud wind and rain is coming from!
Thought this only happened in England, but no, its the same in Northern Spain, at least in April.
Now the famous saying 'April Showers' is coming true here except that in our case you can add both continuous and torrential as in 'Continuous and Torrential April Showers'. The Spanish version in the title literally translates to 'April waters thousand' and roughly means 'Thousands of Showers in April' except that Abril rhymes nicely with Mil.
To get out of the rain yesterday we went to see the movie of 'Hunger Games'. Having read the books last year, when Manjeet gave us the Kindle versions, we knew they could be spectacular, as the current glut of reality shows have given the film industry plenty of experience in setting up something like this. But having read the books was both an advantage as well as a downer. The advantage being that many key points of the story were not treated very well so one knew from the reading...however knowing how it all ends affected the surprise and tension that the non-readers may have enjoyed. It was also quite long as I  was reminded by the aching knees when we finally got up to leave. Old Age!
Life goes on..I thought I would have a go at translating some Spanish art related documents into English, and that has tremendously increased my vocabulary of art related expressions. And to top it I was paid too..not much but cant complain. I can now put together statements such as ' The work of X has a spiritual quality and one can feel the energy that emanates from it, result of a somewhat disturbing view of a search for identity that the artist has portrayed'. Or ' A more ornamental and clear way of composition reveals a characteristic use of colour, full of rhythm and vitality which shifts the thematic definition of the work in the interest of obtaining a richer reality. '.
If that was not enough I thought I would take pity on a friend who had shot about six hours of video during a trip to India and now did not have the patience to sit through the overlong footage. Having learnt a thing or two about videos and editing I took his video footage and reduced it to a one hour documentary that is much more watchable. I did have an ulterior motive as you migh be forgiven for suspecting. The trip was made during my birthday celebrations and the video contains a considerable section that record the birthday party, where everyone came dressed in Indian clothes.
Some of you may well have been present at that memorable event now more than three years ago, when I sent out invitations to the party with the shocking revelation that it was to be held in far away Delhi. Very convenient for those who were already in Delhi of course.
Anyway I hope Fonzi likes my editing..

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

I saw you on the TV!

Its the morning after the TV program went on the air..
Not just any program but one in which they record histories of several people who have come from other parts of the world to live in Spain. Last night's program included my own story. Elsewhere on this blog there is an account of how producers of the program called 'Destino España' or 'Destination Spain' came to spend a day with me and shot several hours of film. This was then reduced to a seven minute segment to be included in the program last night on Channel 1 of the national Spanish network.
Well, arrived the hour, midnight and about ten minutes late, the program started. Everyone who knew me was aware of the time and the date of the program and we did not know exactly when in the program my turn would come.. We need not have worried as it turned out that my piece was first up, which meant that those of us who are early sleepers could get off after about the first ten minutes!!
The seven minutes passed in a flash, and we felt that it was so short after the long period of filming. Seeing it later at leisure on the internet it appeared much longer. We had absolutely no prior knowledge of what it would look like. In the event the IM Communications team did a very good job and the action flowed smoothly including all the main stories. 
The stories about the photogenic nature of the Spanish cities and landscape, the celebrations in the street when they thought the world was going to end with a collision involving Hailley's comet,  and the one about the Sikh clothesline on the moon have all survived the cut. I find hilarious and laugh at the encounter with our friends at a local bar (La Dolce Vita). MariCruz tells the story of my ability to grab the attention in any situation. She cant resist the 'This Indian is with us' to get the girls in a Tourist Information Office to concentrate on her questions!! What, me worry?
The video can be seen from the Spanish TV's Destino España website. Click here.
The first phone call from friends and family comes about five minutes after the program ends even though it is 1 am, well past most people's bedtime.
Now its the day after..and virtually everyone we meet on the street, looks at us (Marisol is also very much part of the whole video sequence) with a knowledgeable look, as if they know us a lot better. There are smiles and people stop us to say that they had seen us on the TV program last night, how much they had enjoyed it and that they loved the program. We play a guessing game of 'yes', 'no', 'maybe' as we make eye contact with everyone we pass.
There is a continuous stream of emails from our friends who have seen the video and liked what they saw. Some of these mails are from people we knew more than thirty years ago! They have managed to look up our emails from the Internet.
We have sent out links of the website where it can also be seen but of course the dialogue is all in Spanish, which will make it impossible for the Indian side of the family to understand the conversation.
We may have to construct a video with subtitles in English.
Basking in the sunshine of the attention...lets hope it remains good.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Travels of Marco Polo

Almost eight centuries ago Marco Polo wrote (or perhaps dictated in a prison cell) his accounts of his marvelous travels to all parts of the world. In many schools these accounts are essential reading, however my own schooling never came across his works. That is until now..even though I have long ceased to attend regular schools, nevertheless I thought it was time to read the potentially exotic accounts of MP.
I managed to locate a Vol 1 of the travels translated by Henry Yule and with commentaries by Henri Cordier from about 1920, at the Kindle store on Amazon. This first part of the travels deals with the long travel route from Turkey to Mongolia and finally the court of Kublai Khan in China.
Its a strange writing style, with brief chapters often no more than one or two paragraphs. However this use of few words by Marco is more than compensated by the copious notes provided by Mr Cordier. There are interesting anecdotes about many of the cities that Marco travels through and often Cordier points out that Marco never went to a city that he is talking about. As one would expect about description of long stretches of central asia with an endless list of small towns, there is a lot of dull descriptions and Marco tries hard to report at least one interesting event or monument in each place. On the whole I think he could easily have given the central Asian areas the miss as they were nothing but vast spaces of sand and rock and dilapidated towns and cities (with perhaps one or two exceptions) and concentrated on the few centers of civilization.
Two or three reports are amazing
One of them relates to the story of the three kings who are supposed to have come from the east when Jesus Christ was born. Apparantly there were tombs in the city of Saveh (In Persia near Teheran, also known as Sava or Savah and described by many as a heap of rubble) where these kings were supposed to be buried and there were local folk tales relating to the events at Christ's birth. Later the history tells us that the bodies were removed and the relics brought to Europe.
One of the local tales reveals that the three kings brought three gifts to test the personality of the newborn messiah. The idea was that they would offer frankincense, myrrh and gold to see which present would be chosen. If Jesus Christ was to be considered a king then depending on which present he chose would reveal if he was God, Physician, or an earthly King. However the test became confused when all three presents were accepted.
In return the kings were given a wooden box, which the kings did not see the contents of until they  had returned home. It supposedly contained a stone, and believing it to be of no value they threw it away into a well. They say that a lightening or a ball of fire descended from the sky and set this stone alight, and the kings realised their mistake and recovered a part of this stone, which remained burning for centuries in a church with a sect of devotees who always prayed to this fire. Perhaps Marco got confused with the other fire worshipping communities of Zoroastrians and Magians, that may have existed in his time.
Another story relates to the palace of Kublai Khan, who apparently had people who would be entrusted to find six hundred of the prettiest girls every year, and the Khan would sleep with six of them at a time, changing to a new set of six every three days!! Nice one Kublai Khan.
And then there was the masterstroke of paper money that the same Kublai Khan invented. Made from the bark of a tree, totally black with a royal stamp, this money was used more or less like money today with (as I understand) one crucial difference, that the only way to get this money was by exchanging your valuables like gems and gold for this money at the royal mint!! MP says that with this little provisor virtually all the gold and gems in the country ended up in the royal treasury!! 
No wonder he could afford all those ladies ;-)