Thursday, 29 October 2009

Thankless task

Out on my balcony a minute ago, I witnessed one of the most pointless things I've seen in a long time. Anyone who has been to my flat, will have seen the dinky little house across the road, the single-storey abode which appears to house a family of about 5 people, a giant TV, and wouldn't look out of place in a shanty town.

The roadworks that have been going on for months now have all but consumed this tiny dwelling, and I can only imagine what it's like to live in there, with pneumatic drills and cement mixers just inches from the doors and windows. Given the stupendous amount of dust that the works create, which reach my 4th floor balcony and cover everything in a film of brick and concrete dust, the effects on that house must be incredible. Right at the moment, they are literally working right outside the front door, and when I saw the little old lady who lives there just now, valiantly trying to sweep her front doorstep, I could only feel sorry for her. I feel she needs her 5 minutes of fame, so here she is:

Peace and quiet amongst the chaos

I finally found myself a little haven of peace and quiet in my local area of roadwork chaos.

Just a 5 minute walk from my flat, is the local library (Biblioteca Pública Municipal Tetuán). I'd walked past it a few times without realising what it was - it doesn't exactly advertise itself well - you only find out what it is after you go through the main doors from the street!

In fact, it's like 2 libraries. Downstairs is obviously the original - it's kind of dark, dusty, low-ceilinged but is, at least, full of actual books! It reminds me of the one I belonged to when I was a kid, wandering between the shelves, staring up at the ones I couldn't reach, picking up anything and everything and reading the blurb, only to carefully slide it back where it belonged. There's a tiny selection of English books, only 3 shelves, and they're a real mishmash of stuff. Half of it belongs on an English 'O' Level syllabus (do I have any readers who wish I'd said GCSE? I don't think so!) - Shakespeare, Dickens, the war poets - frankly not things I generally want to read in my free time. And the rest are a random concoction of thrillers, romance, slightly off-the-wall strangeness, translations of some Spanish books, things by no-one you've ever heard of. My reading is certainly going to be varied in the next few months, but I don't think it's going to take me long to exhaust the supply. Being the serial filer that I am, if I find something in the wrong place, I can't resist putting it where it's meant to be!

Book of choice at the moment? Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike. It's a kind of prequel to Hamlet (my favourite Shakespeare play) - it's pretty good so far!

The second floor is clearly very new. Upstairs you have magazines, CDs, DVDs, 6 computers with 45 mins free net access (inexplicably unavailable in the mornings of 28, 29 and 30 of every month) and a quiet reading area. Through from that is the study room - my current haunt for peace and quiet if I'm trying to study Spanish or lesson plan, or just scribble my thoughts.

Peace and quiet might actually be an understatement. Deathly hush is closer to the truth! Even full, which means probably nearly 60 people in there, it's pretty much silent. There's a slight hum from the overhead lights and from the individual lights on each 6-person desk but otherwise, there is just the occasional noise from people simply being alive! Papers being moved around, the opening and closing of zips on bags and pencil cases, water bottles being sipped from, but not much else. Last time I was in there, I hadn't eaten all day. Suddenly, my stomach rumbled - about 10 people looked over at me. It had sounded like the beginnings of a small earthquake in the silence. Chastened, I lasted another 10 minutes then slipped out to find some food. That's a mistake I won't make again. The users are, as you can imagine, mostly students surrounded by pages and pages of notes, trying to write dissertations but there's a good few other people studying languages, or perhaps revising for the very difficult Civil Service exams. If I'm lacking in inspiration, I tend to just people watch, imagining what they're all doing there.

Now that there are 3 of us living in the flat, and I have lots of lesson prep to do, it has become my little hideaway where I actually get something done. Any complaints? The chairs are bit uncomfortable in the study room, and I wish it was open at weekends. But Monday to Friday, 8.30am til 9pm isn't bad. I just wish I knew why they feel the need to employ a security guard!!

If you're really thrilled by the idea, here's their website: . Don't get too excited!