Archive for May, 2010

Life after death’s not what it was!

May 29, 2010

Well, I saw a first today – a zombie getting booked by a policeman. Which according to my lugubrious Irish friend, Mike, is “what happens when you let the zombies out before midnight!”

Actually, it was toss-up who was most embarrassed, the copper in his deep blue uniform with his hip-holstered pistol, or the nervous looking zombie, with his black and white  face and caked on make-up piss-take. The plod even asked for the z’s ID card. Now how does a zombie get an ID card? You need a photo for your ID card, and I thought zombies couldn’t be seen by the camera…or is that they can’t see themselves in a mirror?…or is that a vampire? And besides that, if the face on the ID card was plain ordinary and un-made-up, how would the polis be able to compare the photo with the scary (as if!) painted face in front of him? A lot of deep philosophical thoughts here, far more than a man needs on a bright sunny day without the aid of a pretty big beer.

You’ll have guessed by now that he wasn’t a real zombie, (and if you haven’t realised by now, please don’t ask me to be your friend on Facebook), but some poor bloke who got caught out in some tom-foolery. The tom-foolery was the monthly meeting of Desayuno con Viandantes , a group of people who meet on a Saturday morning in a public spot to share breakfast. Everyone brings something to eat or drink and puts it on a communal table, or in today’s case, a communal wall, and shares it. It was started by a group of architects and artists who decided to ‘open up the urban environment to the public by sharing breakfast’, or some such malarkey, and it went on from there. You don’t have to be a member or pay an entrance fee, you just have to show up and bring something with you. Strangers passing by are equally welcome, and in fact, that’s how a lot of people find out about it and come to the next one.

Usually it’s just a chat amongst friends (and a way to make new ones) but sometimes they arrange some sort of event. Today’s was partly to promote someone’s book about…you’ve guessed it…zombies. Actually, I think it’s not exactly about zombies, but the word’s in the title so it seemed like a good idea to get dressed up. And so it was, with loads of people wandering around in gory face paint and tattered clothes.

For more than a year there has never been any difficulty with the police – which always surprised me, given the Spanish police’s propensity for doing anything that will keep them occupied other than solving a crime – but today their luck ran out. They’ve held their breakfasts in all sorts of weird places, including a major roundabout and on one of Valencia’s pedestrian bridges with nary a word from the authorities, but today we were slap-bang in the middle of the city, in front of El Corte Ingles, on a busy Saturday morning.

I had a feeling there was something in the air when I saw a van load of anti-disturbance police giving us the glad-eye, not sure if we were the advanced guard of ‘Save Your Local Cemetery – It’s Where A Zombie Calls Home!’, or just a load of plonkers in silly make-up. It was obviously to hot for them to get out of the van and work up a sweat, so they drifted off. It’s pretty certain they’d called it in for some other Mr. Plods to deal with it, because ten minutes later a car-load of the boys in blue turn up. Three heavies in Ray-Bans and forage caps. A couple of minutes later another car arrives, and three more tumble out. Where were all these forces of law and order when I picked up a poor lady who’d had her bag nicked a while ago? Obviously too busy having a coffee somewhere in a nice cool café.

So, anyway, after much feet shuffling at being caught in a compromising situation, i.e. impersonating a zombie, names were taken, notes made, and the six guardians of justice hunched their shoulders and swaggered off. The zombie was later seen clean of face after a quick wash and brush-up, probably working on the premise ‘let someone else be made to feel like a complete dickhead if the polis decide to come back’.

You can’t blame him really; being a zombie, even a fake one, must be a real dead-end job.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

Derek who?

May 29, 2010

I’m a racist. Not many people know that. I didn’t until I ‘Googled’ my name for the first time about five years ago. Amongst the usual list of my articles and different sites selling my books, I found one for a racist site that quoted me out of context in an article entitled, in big red letters, Whites Fleeing Briton, supposedly because of mass immigrations. I’ve no idea where they got the quote from, but it seemed to support their view.

‘Derek Workman, who left for Spain two years ago, when asked what the main differences in lifestyle were replied, “Immeasurable.” Asked if he had any regrets the ex-patriot responded ruefully. “Only that I didn’t do it 20 years ago – a phrase you oft hear repeated here.”

I’d said that in reference to wishing I’d moved to Spain years ago because I loved the lifestyle here, and had nothing to do with what was happening in the UK. Fortunately, though, most of the times my name gets quoted it’s for much more benign reasons.

Just for a lark, today I decided to see how many other ‘me’s’ there were, so I Googled (do you know that’s now entered the dictionary!) Derek Workman…and up came 204.000 references. Quite frightening!

I was glad to see that the first hit was for my website, but the next few were hits to such sites as Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. The Facebook for DW isn’t me, although I do have a Facebook account. I was surprised by how many Workman’s there were -far more than I thought possible, because I’ve always hated my name. So I had a wander through the list of World Wide Workman’s.

I found a Jenn Workman and a Jenny Workman, the name of my sister who I’ve not seen hide nor hair of for 15 years; there’s the sexy Santana Workman, with the heavingest bosom I’ve seen in a long time, whose friends all seem to be named along the lines of Thadius, Larone or Shaunfilip, and the wonderfully monikered LaQuinta Bouknight Bankston, who sound as if they are supporting cast from The Wire; Kalen Workman’s a stunner, and looks like a slimmer version of Naomi From Private Practice, who I’ve lusted after for years, and who actually could have been a bit player in The Wire because she reckons that Baltimore’s World Record Skinny Dip is one of the coolest things ever. I gave up at 1000, having found three other Derek Workman’s, none of them me, and neither did I find my brother David, whose fault it is I’m on Facebook in the first place because he sent me a message recently to ask me to be his ‘friend’. It was quite strange, seeing his face after fifteen years. He’s still got more hair than me.

So I kept looking, and found quite a variety of ‘me’. A 23 year-old from Anchorage whose life is skateboarding and street racing, and is afraid of the dark; a young musician (for want of a better word) from Wyoming; and Derek Q7, who’s obviously not a happy bunny because he asks the question, “I mean, how much of a reject as a Chinese person do you have to be to be sent to Oklahoma?” The totally pointless site isthisyour.name told me that people with this name are probably male – now there’s a surprise! – my name is averagely envoweled, in other words has an average number of vowels in it, my personal power animal is the king cheetah and, according to the US Census Bureau, there are 43 of us in the United States, so obviously forty of them aren’t on Facebook. Frankly, darling, who gives a shit!

I was quite cheered up to find that I’m doing pretty well in track and field events, particularly in the 2010 Sparky Adams Invitational, not bad going given my age and general abhorrence of anything sporty; I’ve got a patent in Hyperbranched Polymer and Cycloaliphatic Epoxy Resin Thermosests, something every home should have, I’m sure; I breed deer, although I’m not sure if I do it as a full-time occupation or because I like their pretty little faces (although I did pretty well at the S&S Whitetail Galore Antler Scoring Contest); I’ve been busted for possession of marijana, “Honest, guv, it weren’t me!”, although I may have got off light if I was DW the hard-hearted patrolman in Plymouth, Indiana, who arrested 20 year old Jillian Graves of Culver for driving while suspended with a prior offense.  She was taken to the County Jail, but like a good girl paid the cash bond and was released about an hour after being booked in.

On 25June this year I’ll be marrying Erin Rhoades, which comes as a surprise to me as we haven’t met yet, although we bought a home together last year for $257,000, which shows that I’m doing far better than I think I am; I was a Student of the Month at Pine Grove School in December last year, as reported in the Daily Triplicate, (but I was sad not to have been voted ‘Good Behavior at Breakfast Cafeteria Student of the Month’ or been nominated for the prestigious ‘Soup Labels, Pop Tops and Labels for Education Awards’); I’m apparently pretty nifty at high-kicking Ukrainian dancing, and I’m one of the voices for ‘Sinnertwin’, one of the terrifying robots in the Transformer series of toys.  My Amazon profile took me to Designing Embedded Systems with PIC Microcontrolers: Principles and Applications by Tim Wilmshurst. Certainly not one of my books! And so the list went on….

But I was pleased to note that the real, one-and-only Derek Workman – me! – did get the highest number of hits, mainly thanks to my books and articles, (and I’ll be forever grateful to the difficult-to-pronounce Krocketklubben R.A.S.O.P, for hosting my article on Extreme Croquet). I’m not sure if it’s a sad reflection on the world’s Derek Workman’s that the one with the next highest hits was the chap who breeds the pretty-faced deer.

And here I was, thinking that I’m just a sad old soul, when it seems that there’s absolutely no end to my talents!

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

There’s nowt so erotic as rubber.

May 28, 2010

Sauntering the streets of any city eventually gives you your own ‘patch’. I don’t mean a small area of green – usually wilting – but somewhere you gravitate to, whatever the time of day, when you need to get out of the house and take a walk.  Nowhere is better than anywhere else, mainly, I suppose, because it’s yours. What you see in a ten-minute stroll is probably totally different to what anyone else sees – but so what, it’s your patch. You may live within two hundred metres of my flat but your patch will be different. Mine revolves around a barrio called Ruzafa in the centre of Valencia.

I wander into a Bolivian bar. I’ve been here often enough for a quiet beer, but this weekend it’s fiesta time so the place is packed. The music is probably really good Latino, but I can’t hear it above the noisy family chat at the tables. Gracias a Dios, at least here the spoken word – more often shouted word – gets precedence over a €15.65 CD of Los Mejores Canciones de …….

I lean on the bar. In a John Wayne movie the peons sat at the table nursing their half glass of beer would have glanced out of the corner of their collective eye and settled into an uncomfortable silence, waiting to see ‘wut the stainger wus hea faw’ while he ordered his shot of Red Eye. Me…I’m totally ignored, mainly by the barmaid who is completely enraptured by the dusky, low-slung hombre with the shoulder tattoo and nearly razored skull. He’s the sunny side of nineteen, I’m in the shadows of – well, never you mind – bald, a bit overweight, skin like a recently discovered Aramaic parchment. Even I’d ignore me!

Eventually I’m rescued by a lady of a certain age wearing a pair of surgical rubber gloves. I’m not certain exactly what her age is, but at least it’s closer to mine than the infatuated chica salivating over tattoo boy at the end of the bar. Somewhere between a badly done to forty-five and a pretty nifty sixty-two, I’d guess, given the grey hair and slight – more than slight, actually – over-trouser roll not quite hidden under the loose polo shirt. Still, who am I to argue – at least she’s got hair, and my polo shirt hangs like an A-frame dress.

I toy with the idea of what the rubber gloves are for but my fantasies are soon floored when she plunges her hands into a sink full of dirty glasses, rinses one and pulls me a glass of beer. I drink it and leave, ruminating on the possibilities of buxom wench and a pair of Marigolds.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

Fart part two

May 27, 2010

Ruzafart (24 May blog) – or Ruza Fart as we crass Brits living in the area called it, is over; but don’t worry, you still have time to get the ‘fart’ joke in at the expense of the Valencianos. Ruza ‘Fart’ only had a couple of days to get a dig in, but the next one will last the whole of the summer!

Valencia is famous as the birthplace of the paella, that ubiquitous rice dish, which, along with gazpacho, is seen as the be-all and end-all of Spanish cuisine. (Far from it, but that’s for another day.) What most people don’t know, (at least until you get here, and then you have the fact pretty much rubbed in your face) is that it is also the home of horchata, a rich milky-looking drink that is made from the chufa, monkey nut to you and I. It is a wonderfully refreshing drink, full of every type of vitamin and aphrodisiac you can think of (at least according to the producers). However, it isn’t the drink itself, but the little pastry that accompanies it that has the Brit collapsing in the aisles.

The farton is a sponge finger biscuit that you dip into your horchata, much as you would a Cadbury’s digestive or a Hobnob into tea or coffee. It soaks up the delicious liquid, adding a ‘succulent density of its own to the flavour of the drink, thereby adding to and expanding the experience’. (I’d love to know how much the ad agency was paid to write that load of shite!) Whatever, I have to admit that they are pretty tasty. But you can always tell a Brit who is ordering them for the first time; giggle, sniggers, trying to appear cosmopolitan in front of the waiter while thinking, “What the bloody hell have they been farted on!” But let’s face it, we’re all as common as muck deep down.

A while ago I was asked to write an article about Sagunto, an ancient city twenty minutes to the north of Valencia. It’s a delightful place, but as I was walking up the hill I saw a sign outside a ceramics shop which gave me the perfect introduction to the piece.

‘The owner of the ceramic shop at the bottom of the steep incline up to Sagunto Castle probably wonders why he sees so many white-kneed Brits giggling and taking photos of his shop sign, much in the way they snigger behind their hand when they order fartons, the sponge biscuit that accompanies the delicious Valenciano drink horchata. In uneven hand-written lettering, the sign tells you that the shop is called Ceramicas Arse. Giggleworthy it may be to the Brit with a limited knowledge of Spanish history – in other words, practically everyone – but Arse was the name that modern-day Sagunto was known by when it was an Iberian settlement – and there weren’t many tourists to laugh at the name then!’

What was equally as wonderful is that longed for opportunity for the journalist to quite justifiably say that, “Sagunto is the Arse end of the world!” Oh! What joy!

As I was writing the article, I remembered a moment from a press trip to Murcia a couple of years ago. We were eight journalists, seven from the UK, and me as the solo Brit in Spain. We were bussed between organised this and organised that, and at one point we de-bussed into some one-horse village in the late hours of the morning. As press trips tend to be, we didn’t actually give that much of a toss about where we were, particularly as lunch was on the very near horizon. We scrambled off the bus and landed in front of an old biddy who was so ancient she probably helped Noah count the animals into the arc two by two. She was sat on a seventies tubular steel and formica kitchen chair, with a visage as devoid of mental function as a pear.

In every group of journalists there’s always some persevering sod – usually young who thinks he has to justify himself and actually write an article – ours was called Peter, (what a shame I can’t make a joke of his name, like Gavin or Derick) who asked the old dame in his best school Spanish, “¿Como se llama el pueblo?” (What’s the village called?) She looked at him through baggy, ancient eyes and said, with a dead-pan delivery worthy of Les Dawson, “El culo del mundo.

When the Spanish-speakers amongst us collapsed in hysterics, he asked in a panicky voice, “What did she say? Tell me, what did she say!” “ ‘The arsehole of the world’”, said someone between snorts. And she wasn’t far off.

But the lunch and local wine were great!

To see Les Dawson in Action

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

Art for Fart’s sake

May 24, 2010

Everyone likes taking the mickey out of a foreign language; the mis-spellings, the sounds or words that are correct in context in the foreigner’s language but amusing in our own. This weekend we’ve had an art project in my barrio that had the Brits giggling behind their hands.

My barrio is called Ruzafa, and has more art galleries and studios than you can shake a paint brush at. Add to that a number of arty bars, and you have just the place for the arts set to hold a pretty sizeable gig, opening their studios and homes to display their own work or, in the case of the studios and framing shops, (and even one particularly hip hairdresser) to host exhibitions of artists from outside the area.

To create the title of the programme the organisers ran the two words ‘Ruzafa’ and ‘Art’ together and came up with the name ….. Ruzafart. You can just imagine the piss-taking that went on! Invariably we Brits living in the barrio separated the words again into Ruza Fart. We then went on to describe the exhibitions as being a bit ‘arty farty’ – childish, I know, but what else could we do? (Frankly, some of the work actually was exactly like that, but to be fair there was also some pretty good pieces.)

Throughout Saturday painters set up their easels at various points in the barrio, working in a wide range of mediums. Mostly it was amateurs taking part in a group exercise – and good luck to them, because I wouldn’t have the bottle to stand on a street corner making a hash of a canvas with the neighbours looking on. There were a few pro’s working, though, and I had to laugh when I saw one chap painting a view of the market who was using an old ironing board without its cover as a table to put his paints and brushes on. Portable, so why not? As the people started to knock off for lunch, a few ladies gathered around his easel for a photo opportunity, self-consciously holding up their awkward canvases and probably realising that while his would go into the exhibition the following day for the public to decide a winner (and he’s really should be in at least the top three), theirs would end up behind the wardrobe, hidden from the world’s view.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

Honestly – I don’t want to dance.

May 17, 2010

They’ve finally caught up with me. I thought I’d escaped them. The Rumanian accordion mafia.

When I lived briefly in Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucia a couple of years ago I had a splendid apartment on the main pedestrianised shopping street in the town. Tree-lined, plenty of small cafes, it seemed just the place an up-and-coming chap should be. The estate agent said that it was bustling during the day, but quiet at night – which just shows how much of a bloody liar he turned out to be. But my night-time noises are another story for another day.

At various stages down the street were wood and metal benches, idea for pensioners to have a sit on while watching the world passing by. Unfortunately, they were also idea for the accordion busker to sit on with a small cardboard box at his feet. At first I quite enjoyed the sound drifting up to my third-floor window, but I soon realised that he could only play a few bars – badly – of ‘Oh how we danced on the night we were wed,’ before he segued into ‘I love Paris in the springtime.’ It got bloody boring bloody quickly, but it helped a bit that he did a round of the cafes out of my area, and I got a bit of a respite. One day I heard the fearful tune begin, but realised that it was played even more inexpertly than I was used to hearing, and when I looked over my balcony I realised that it was someone else playing exactly the same refrains on the same accordion.

A short while later I had to go to Seville, and as I was walking near the Giralda I heard the same tune, this time played by someone else, but just as badly as the others. When I moved back to Valencia a couple of months later, I had to make a trip to the north, and when I went to take a ride on the rattling old tram that goes along the prom in A Coruña, there it was again! Same tune, same segue! I began to think that there is a Rumanian businessman that rents out accordions and teaches his fellow countrymen the same two snatches of tunes (all the players I’ve heard are Rumanian; I’ve asked a couple of them just to be sure), and takes a percentage of their take. I was completely and absolutely shocked when I went to Manchester last spring and there he was, in Piccadilly Gardens, playing the same two tunes, segued one from the other! Different man, different accordion, but exactly the same music. So the businessman in Spain has gone Europe-wide!

And now, ten minutes ago, I finally heard the Valencian invasion – at the café right below my window. So it seems that my past is catching up with me. This time, though, there are no benches to sit on and only one café audience to play to, so I hope Mr Squeezebox passes by and never darkens my doorstep again.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

What a tossa!

May 13, 2010

When you are lying flat out on your back, with your underpants around your kneecaps and John Thomas languidly lying there, and a young lady with sexily slim glasses and long, dark flowing hair, says “Tosa,” to you, you can’t always be sure whether she’s giving you an insult or spurring you on to action. Fortunately, in this case I could, because the dark haired young lady was a Spanish doctor, and she was telling me to cough, as she gently strobed a bit of medical equipment over my family jewels to see if I had a hernia. I didn’t, but the cold gel she put over the head, (the equipment’s, not mine) certainly made my shy little parts jump a bit.

It’s a man thing, but we’re always a bit nervous when the person examining our naughty bits is a svelte young thing and not some hulking brute with tobacco stained teeth and hairy nostrils. We lie there hoping one of two things; a. that we’re not suddenly going to get an unexpected – and in this case, unwanted – rise, and b., infinitely more embarrassing, that little jonnie hasn’t hibernated totally and will at least be showing himself in some sort of semi-manly condition.

When I’m told to drop my underpants and hold my pene straight up so that she can have clear access to my testiculos, at first I think she means hold it up in the air, i.e. at 90º to the body (I’m lying down, remember), but before I embarrass myself I realise she means straight up my body. This gives me the chance to do what all self-respecting chaps would do, and that is carefully cover it with my hand so that no comparisons can be made with the chap who came earlier. (Non self-respecting chaps would simply flop it on their belly and put their hands behind their heads, as if to say, “So what do you think of that, sweatheart!” The answer would be, “Nothing.” They’ve seen plenty of pricks in their life and you and your manhood are just two more.)

I don’t know if it’s a shortage of specialisations, but in my experience anything to do with ears, nose and throat is dealt with by a male doctor, whereas anything below the belt line is handled (not physically, obviously) by a female. It was the same when I had my vasectomy. The doc that did the snip, the one that anesthetised the poor little chap and the two attending nurses were all ladies – and I mean that in all its senses. Terribly polite, they were, making all sorts gentle conversation that avoided totally any reference to the parts under inspection. It was also a woman doctor who I made laugh when she gave me the result of my sperm test a few months later. “Everything’s fine,” she told me, “your results are negative.” “Thank you, doctor,” I said. “That’s the first time in my life I’ve had zero result in a test and been happy about it.”

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered