...born at the right time...?

3rd Year Hispanic Studies student at Sheffield University goes to Salamanca to sudy Japanese (and Spanish, perhaps)...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

... lest we forget

I almost forgot, here in Spain, that today in the UK people will be observing the two-minutes' silence to remember those who have died in armed conflict around the world.
It is also the first time that I have actually sat back and considered what it actually signifies:

Is it a day to remember those who died protecting the United Kingdom from the threat of Hitler and the Nazis?
Or is it a day to remind ourselves that armed conflict, given the possibility (or inevitability, some might say) of innumerable casualties on both sides of the field of battle, should only be considered as a last resort and not as commonplace?

It should be the latter. But in my infinite cynicism, the former seems to always take centre stage. It is akin to a season of Dr. Who or Star Trek, where each episode there is always a baddie threatening the peace throughout the entire world or universe. Every now and again appears the 'philosophical' episode where the protagonists contemplate their actions and their impact on the whole proceedings. But inevitably, these are the ones that go totally unnoticed and end up collecting dust in the downstairs cupboard of the television centre archives instead of being re-run.

This is precisely what has happened to Remembrance Day.

The Queen, in her infinite compassion, will be laying a wreath on the Cenotaph. As head of state, it is her job to lead us in remembrance. Though at times I feel that this gesture is utterly empty, don't you think? As someone with virtually no political power whatsoever, how can she possibly communicate the message of "never again" to the folk of this country?

She will be followed, with a gesture equally as empty, by our PM, Tony Blair. The man with the power in this country. It is he who has the power, as he has shown in recent years, to lead us into war, to instigate numerous laws and acts to 'protect' his nation. And yet he leads us in remembrance. How can he be so hypocritical and presumptuous as to remember the countless dead of this country when he is the very person who has sent a portion of these people to their deaths? How will this man possibly be able to sleep tonight knowing that he will have just taken part in remembering those who have died due to his actions as head of this country?

Remembrance Day has lost its meaning. Nowadays it has much more to do with solidarity against the baddies in this world rather that what I'm sure it was originally conceived to be: a call for us to consider that war, under any circumstances, should be a last resort. Today anyone intent on declaring this will find that their message will simply fall on deaf ears as it has done in the past, year after year.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

鮮 - Fisheep

Fisheep (noun)

1) The bastard offspring of copulation between a fish and a sheep
2) Japanese for 'clearly' or 'vividly'

Please allow me to explain. As you all know, I'm learning the wonderful language of Japanese. Having studied it for just over two years, I should, by now, have a reasonable grasp of basic Japanese speach, reading and writing.

I, however, have a reasonable grasp of fuck all.

The above definition explains EXACTLY the lengths to which the Japanese language is simply out to confuse anyone who isn't a demi-god or in training to be the latter. It's just silly. And they damn well know it too.

The original Kanji were taken from the Chinese writing system c. 4th Century AD, a system which is based on concepts. Some of these concepts represent entire words and are therefore easily translatable. Some of them require combination with other 'concepts' in order to gain meaning.
Though that bit was difficult enough? Think again.

Some Kanji are made up of different parts, called 'radicals'*. Making it somewhat easier to remember a few, but not others. Take 'fish-sheep' for example.

This bastard form owes its wonderfully wet and fluffy life to one of these combinations (using the 'radical' system).

The adverb 'clearly' and 'vividly' share the same Kanji:

鮮 (あざやか)

The left-hand part of this wonderful Kanji is a slightly narrower version of: 魚 (さかな) - 'fish'
The right-hand part of it is: 羊 (ひつじ) - 'sheep' 

Firstly, if anyone who reads this does not study Japanese, you're probably more confused than I am. In this case, just forget that I ever existed and leave this blog NOW!
If you are aquainted with the Japanese language........... WTF!????!!!!111!!!!!!! (bbq)

Ladies and gentlemen..... I give you fisheep

* No, there isn't a 'bodacious' system, nor does the system owe its name to Teenage Mutant Ninja/Hero Turtles

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Yes. I know. I haven't posted in about six kajillion years.

To cut a long story short, I have been trying to write a good account of my 6 weeks here in Salamanca, however I've just never got round to finishing it. Something always pops up. An impromptu siesta, for example. Trivial at first glance, but vital if one is to integrate oneself into this world of Degos and savages who's idea of a normal night out is to stay up until about 7 or 8 in the freaking* morning.

But that is not what I would like to mention today. Nay, there are things afoot much more worrying that staying up well past your bed time.

Umbrellas, my friend. Umbrellas. They are the scourge of every street, every path, every zebra crossing, I tell you.

It's been raining in Salamanca for a few days now, and instead of investing in a nice Sou'Wester like any other decent tribe, the Salmantinos (for that is who they are) whip out their razor-sharp, "Death-Kill-Destroy®" umbrellas (RRP 10 Euros) and proceed to unwittingly pound the living crap out of anyone who is without one. It's like Nanjing but without the malicious intent, for these people are totally unaware of the fact that anyone without an umbrella is totally defenceless at neck-eye level.

I'm contemplating buying a suit of armour from a very useful site but apart from that, to quote Samuel L. Jackson:

"Enough! I have had it with these goddamn umbrellas in this goddamn rain!"

Can you feel the righteous indignation, motherfuckers/ my friends?

Anyway, on that note I should go. I've got a choir practice and then I'm off to see a fantastic new film called "El Labarinto del Fauno" (UK: Pan's Labyrinth)

Over and out.

(* apologies for the Ed-ism)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Once more unto the breach, my friends! Once more!

¡Muy buenas tardes a todo el mundo!

So, I´ve arrived in Salamanca. To be precise I arrived on Monday evening - I´ve just been so busy (aka. disorganised) that I haven´t had time to get online and update on exactly what´s going on in Ollieland this week.

The ferry trip (Plymouth-Santander) was good fun, had a lot of G&Ts to make sure that I slept okay on my reclining seat. In the end I slept almost until we hit land! Maybe I had one too many.... or is that actually possible when one talks of G&Ts? Answers on a postcard please.........

....a postcard which you´ll be sending to MY NEW FLAT!!!!!! I´ve been flat-hunting since I arrived with some other Erasmus students who I met in my youth hostel. While you are told that there is an almost inexhaustible supply of rooms/flats in Salamanca, sometimes it seems as though the higher powers are not on your side and do not want you to succeed.
Those powers concerned blessed me yesterday with the power of not giving a flying monkeys' about anything. I looked around three flats, didn't like any of them all that much, so I just gave up.

Today, however, they were on my side. And so when I woke up (slightly hungover from the night before - free bar for €4 was irresistible!) I sat down with a coffee, a pastry and a list of around 100 rooms recently (in the past 5 days) advertised for rent. One hour later I had shortlisted about eleven. So I made some calls, booked some appointments to see various people and there I was. Sorted. For the day.
Only the first flat which I visited had 'that' kind of atmosphere. Maybe it was the jazz playing in the background. Maybe it was the fact that I had the opportunity to live with three girls this year (don't tell Jen ;) ). I don't know. You decide (after all you know be better than myself nowadays!)

And so there you have it. Two hours later, after some major deliberation about whether to take it or wait a few more days, I called them back and accepted with broken Spanish, and not an adjective in sight! Luvverly and jubberly, innit.

Apart from that, nothing much has been happening. I need to try and find a bank account tomorrow. It's fiesta season at the moment in Salamanca and banks are only open for three hours in the day (9-12), so it's a bit hard to get to them.

But anyway, send me emails! I'll send you my address if you do, and I'll await lovely presents from all and everyone!!

Without much further blabberment and frivolry,

I remain,


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Pop art

I have just found out through the BBC News website that none other than Paris Hilton has fallen foul of Banksy's latest prank. Apparently he doctored around 500 of his own versions of her CD and then left them in various HMV and Virgin stores in Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and London. Check out the video of how it was all done here: http://cuckoo.jesseglen.com/2006/09/03/bbc-news-entertainment-paris-hilton-targeted-in-cd-prank

This guy is one of the people who I most respect when it comes to influential political and social commentary nowadays. I think that the ideas he comes up with are just incredible.

If you don't know his work then check his site out at http://www.banksy.co.uk

Over and out.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so...

Remember my first post?
Yea, you know. The one where I gave the reason for the existence of this blog?
Yea, well, two months down the line, it's actually happening.

I got back from Jen (the other 5/10)'s house this morning at around half past ten o'clock and thought to myself "Holy Jesus, Mary and Joseph!". No, folks, Jen's family hadn't turned me into a staunch Catholic overnight (despite their best efforts). Nay, I had just been hit with the realisation that I have less than two weeks to get my ass in gear before I head off to Salamanca.

The problem that I have is the amount of stuff I am going to be able to take. Naturally, being a person who prides himself in the amount of clutter he can jam (hehe) into his room, this is going to be a somewhat arduous undertaking. I am confident, however, that I will be able to take most of what I need on the ferry with me. It should hopefully consist of 1x Holdall suitcase, 1x Rucksack and 1x Darling-which-can-do-no-wrong Apple iBook G4.

It's quite a disheartening experience is packing. It can, in my opinion, provoke two very bad emotions in a person.
The first is the realisation that you are a hell of a lot more materialistic than you think you are. You never realise that you actually have seven pairs of favourite trousers until you have to try and decide which pair to leave behind. For me, my weakness is T-shirts. I have around 20, and I will probably only take 10.
I feel like I'm hosting a game of X-Factor: The Garment Edition.

And so after a few minutes of bemusement and thinking about thinking about packing, I popped the kettle on and thought about anything BUT packing for my 9 months in Spain. Spain, the land that brought us Manuel of Fawlty Towers fame. The land that begrudgingly took David Beckham away from our green and pleasant lands. The land whose rain, alas, stays mainly in the plain.

I've decided to take the boat across to Spain (the Plymouth - Santander crossing) to begin this little jaunt. I did this for a few reasons among which were relaxation and a thorough dislike for low-cost airlines who are, in my opinion the Spawn of Satan, or L. Ron Hubbard, I'm not sure. But either way, that's just my opinion.

Anyway, the current stress-o-caust I am about to insert myself into will be a rather long one I am afraid to say. But never fear, mortals, I have a towel by my side (see link for various uses, all of which I shall no doubt encounter), and a couple of vials of Salvia just incase it all gets too much.

Check this out if you have a spare minute: Popeye Isn't Well.

I am now off to watch the entire 2nd Season of Hustle

Friday, August 18, 2006


Snakes on a Plane is released today worldwide.

See it.

Or miss out.