entre dos aguas: the last seven months – a review?

‘Been a weird last seven months.

Since the end of January 2015, I’ve learnt a lot about hyperlocal journalism but achieved absolutely nothing as far as engagement is concerned.

Since May 2015, I’ve learnt a lot about politics but have convinced no one that building is better than internecine fighting.

I’ve said and written and basically coded so very much during this period – yet achieved nothing of lasting value which serves the needs of my family in my role as breadwinner.

In fact, I’m in a far worse position now than seven months ago.

So is it all doom and gloom – all a grim misery and dark harbingers?

I’m not sure it is.

I’m clearer about the sorts of things, networks and orgs I’d love to work with – if, that is, they ever decided to work with me.  This knowledge’ll probably do me little good – and perhaps, in fact, I just have to accept that the people I’d like to work with don’t have the resources to supply me with a living, whilst those with the resources to supply me with a living aren’t the sort of people I’d like to work with.

Yes.  That’s the weird bit.  I have a family to support and yet something stops me working with those who could unfairly (or at least that’s how I see it) guarantee the family’s financial stability.  There is something I can’t deal with; something I find so difficult to accept; something about easy money that makes me highly resistant to its charms.

And yet my family suffers so dreadfully as a consequence: my better half in particular works her socks off.  All I do is blog and think.  Compared to her, compared to her achievements, mine pale by dreadful insignificance.  They are, to be honest, non-existent.

I am but a quark of sand.

This is not my universe.

I wish I knew why I can’t work with those who can pay and can work with those who don’t.  So what’s the secret of those who successfully reverse the equation?  How do you manage it, folks?  What do you do not to feel awkward; out of place; “entre dos aguas”, as the Spanish would say?

Yeah.  I guess that’s what’s happened.  I resist with all my soul the temptations of coming down fulsomely on one side or the other in almost everything.  I don’t think it’s because I play the devil’s advocate though.  I think it’s more to do with the fact that I honestly, sincerely, instinctively, openly see several sides to any issue, even as the majority prefer to see only one.

For most people (or so it seems to me), an issue is a one-sided piece of paper to be read at a fairly singular glance.  For people like me, every issue is a distracting cut-diamond with a ton of gloriously glinting facets.  The latter kind of human being can’t help not agreeing entirely with anyone – trust, as a result, is a challenging step for both sides involved.  Meanwhile, the former kind of human being rubs enough people up in a constructively and engagingly useful way, so inspiring a confidence that moves spirits and ideas as much as it may move mountains of figurative argument.

I ain’t got that skill, I have to accept.  After seven months of attempting to do something constructive for the place where I live, I have to accept my failure.

But accepting failure has its upsides as well as its downsides.

Letting go is something I’ve learnt how to do often.

Something I’ve needed to do often, too.

Something which twice almost killed me, but now no longer affects me in the same way.


Off to pastures new.

Off to other ideas.

Off to – maybe – different places of residence.

Who knows?

Who cares?

Who’s bothered?  And why, indeed, should they?


Have a lovely summer, won’t you?

Time for my family and I to start anew.  And wherever we end up, do wish us well.

the mattress family

No.  This is not about homeless people; rather, quite the opposite.  Homeful people, perhaps we could say.  Families which never lose their members.

I remember a Spanish El País article from the late 1990s (I think it was); will not link to it here as I believe the Spanish now charge for linking, or at the very least for quoting.

Anyhow, the article conceptualised and explained the idea of “la familia colchón”: loosely translating as “the mattress family”.  At the time, the Spanish economy was firing on all six beautiful cylinders.  Even so, and even when a son or daughter got a good job (and/or got married), they either stayed at home or stayed closely tied to home.

More than just emotionally – practically too.

I once had as an English student an executive for a northern Spanish multinational tyre firm who rented accommodation during the week and went back to the parental home at weekends up in Bilbao to get his washing done.

He was in his forties.

He argued that, in fact, his mother preferred it this way.

It may have been the case; I don’t know.

Today, I read in the Guardian, that this trend is rapidly expanding a couple of decades later.  The children of the golden generation of well-protected pensions and cheap Ryanair flights to the Mediterranean sun are looking not to bust their guts in tiring work but, instead, to emulate their parents’ hedonistic lifestyles.

If sips of Rioja on pavement cafés amongst expat convos can rightly be called hedonism.

I’m being harsh here, of course.  My own family is doing just the same: but rather than taking advantage of parents by not working hard, our offspring are looking to move into arts-related sectors where a good deal of the payback is intellectual and emotional.

And they are working very hard to achieve it.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I have striven at personal and familial cost to do the same all my life, so I can hardly complain if my children now aim to do the same.

As the bottom falls out of the language-training market, and writing becomes an evermore cheapened commodity, I wonder what I might do in the future.

Yet one thing I am sure of: I would not like my children to end up spending their lives working at something that did not engage them fully; what’s more, spending their lives at something the machines are shortly going to eat.

Maybe the mattress family must exist for a very good reason: shortly, none of our jobs will be safe as we rush to escape encroaching fate:

in a room with another person

Clattering keyboardI’m in a room with another person.  The other person is (like myself) reading.  (Unlike myself) reading a book.

Not watching the tele.

Not streaming a YouTube mix.

Not listening to a radio channel on a mobile phone.

I can hear the sounds of this room.

This room with another person.

First and foremost, a little too assertively I must say, the clatter of my keyboard as I write these lines.

Second, every so often, the swish of a page being turned.  That swish which includes the memory of a very pale brown paper; its gentle roughness like the tongue of a lover.

In the background, meantime, the tick-tock of the clock.  (You do know even battery-powered clocks can tick-tock their way through the day, if you listen hard enough.)

In the kitchen, down the hall, the gentle and occasional clack of implements on pans.  The shush of water as it pours out of a recently boiled kettle.  The distant laughter from the sitting-room of a happily engaged young adult.

Punctuating the quiet now, two offspring begin to momentarily bro-convo the silence away.  They have fulfilled a familial obligation as the snow fell heavily.

They need to let off steam just a bit.

(As that kettle recently suggested!)

The noise levels rise a little.  The keyboard no longer so assertive.

The marble-like falling of frozen peas into the empty cazuela.  (This is a bilingual household, by the way.)

(Just so you know for future reference.)

For some reason, I need to doublecheck the word.  I get a reply.  But the book-reading continues.

The light of my hard drive flashes Christmas-like on its nearby cardboard box.



It only needs the silent night of a Christmas tree.

Meanwhile, outside all this unexpected, uncalled for and yet entirely welcome quiet, the embrace of slushy sleet – becoming sodium light-tinted white – serves only to collapse the outlines of an evening like this.

In a room with another person no one can avoid treasuring; in a flat with three other people none of us can avoid loving; at the end of a hall too crowded by any measure; in a space where books invade our ability to resist (their) final temptation.

All we need to awaken from the foolishness that is modern life is to remember the ancient sounds of reading.

Everything else will then silently fall into (its) place.

December 26th 2014