Oxford was, overall, an extraordinary, nurturing place. Although I had no idea of it at the time, the tutorial system was also an excellent preparation for being an interpreter, since it involved trying to hold your own with an expert, being picked up on for any slip in intellectual rigour, and in a sense giving supremacy to the spoken word over the written.
Previously, I had “done” a thing called Languages, the way other people had “done” History or Politics, as a sort of stepping-stone. Now I am back in England, they have graduated, and I am turning inside out. This process is accelerated by a book I happen to come across in Spain before leaving. It is a recent novel, set in Oxford, and I think it might be an interesting experience to look at the city through Spanish eyes, as I return, tainted by my time away. It turns out to be set within the university itself. Within the Sub-Faculty of Spanish.
In spring and early summer there are many long weekends when there is an exodus of students from Granada. The academic year seems to start winding down from April on, apart from the exams. My classmates look forward to retiring to their second home, for a break from routine, to do their revision away from noisy distractions, and catch up with school-friends, and Mum’s cooking. A stillness descends on the city, and I prowl the streets alone. Continue reading
I live in a tiny street above the Moorish tea-houses, and below the gypsy Hobbit-holes, on the hill looking across at the Alhambra. Mornings are punctuated by the cries of hawkers of honey, pots and pans, and canisters of butane for cooking. Large deliveries are made by donkey. Continue reading
On long dark idle winter evenings, as a teenager living at home, you can imagine what I was getting up to, right? Yes, you got it- browsing my parents’ bookshelves in the sitting room. There were lots of Folio hardback titles, some of which Dad had signed up for without meaning to, including a lovely Lord of the Rings with wafer-thin pages, an extraordinary and incomprehensible (to me) set of jokey kitsch pre-war cartoons entitled “Love is…”, Gerald Brenan’s South From Granada, An Almanac of Words At Play, A Pictorial History of Slough, The Birds of the British Isles, A Gardener’s Yearbook, World Airports Magazine Pictorial Supplement, and a dark brown slab quite simply entitled The Last Two Million Years. Continue reading
Catalan had been a hobby-horse for a while, and I leapt at the chance of turning it into a Grand National winner. Well, a Special Subject in 20th Century Literature in my Final Exams, to be marked by the language assistant. So I’ll settle for: a kind of domesticated stallion. Continue reading
For a long time, I went to bed late.
You remember every single thing that has happened so far in the twists and turns of Fun With The Foreigners? Ma-fa-yu, the bhajis, the mustard on toast, the akabanga, the croquet potatoes, the grammar lesson in a pub, the hairpin bends and the sudden memory loss? Continue reading