Sunday, 18 March 2018

March in Defence of Decent Pensions for All

On Saturday afternoon we took part in the march through the centre of Madrid in defence of decent publicly-funded pensions that keep up with inflation. The Spanish constitution requires a "dignified pension," but the present government has raised it well below the rate of inflation, leading to great hardship for a large part of the population. Added to this is the reality for many pensioners that since the crisis of 2008, when the government "saved Spain" by bailing out the banks, and the hardship was allowed/caused to fall on the weakest in society, many pensioners have found themselves the sole breadwinners in the family. And the government has so far refused to budge, claiming there's not enough money.

The last time I went on a protest march was on the day of the 2012 General Strike.

Unfortunately, due to a disagreement between the wide range of groups organizing the protest (pensioners' organizations, trades unions, political parties) there were two marches, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The afternoon march, in which we partook, coincided with one to protest against the "gagging law," passed by the same government to try to prevent protest, peaceful or otherwise, with the threat of heavy fins or imprisonment.

So not surprisingly, given the large section of the population, there was a massive turnout, not only in Madrid but in a number of cities around the country.

There are more pictures on the El Diario website.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Windows 10 Incompatibility with VirtualBox

I'm apparently not the only one to have wasted a couple of hours trying to install Windows 10 on VirtualBox, wondering why the installation never even starts. All I was getting was the blue Windows logo.

Happily I discovered a post on the It's FOSS blog, with a comment by user Larry:
At this time, if you see Windows logo with black background and it never starts to install, you may have to do a little tweak.
As It’s FOSS reader Larry points out, “There seems to be an incompatibility between Virtualbox and Windows 10 1703. A virtual machine that runs W10 1607 fine will fail to boot W10 1703 -UNLESS- the following parameter is set: Under System – Acceleration you must set Paravirtualization to None and then reboot.”
Problem solved. What I don't understand is why I never found any other reference to the problem. I hope that by citing the solution here,  it might be easier to find and save others wasting their time like I did.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Lenten Pottage of Chickpeas, Spinach and Salt Cod

As we are now in Lent (until April 1st this year), I thought I would prepare this dish for lunch today, which is popular in Spain at this time of year, and not for purely religious reasons, I suspect. It's sure to be on many a restaurant menu this Friday lunchtime in Madrid. It's made with chickpeas (cooked in my slow cooker with a carrot, an onion, garlic and bay leaf), and spinach, and salt cod. Conveniently the cod is sold ready desalted to keep in the refrigerator.
the dish in a red casserole
It also has smoked paprika, cumin, onion, garlic and of course olive oil. My recipe is liberally adapted from the one give by Janet Mendel in perhaps the cookery book I use most often, Cooking in Spain.

cover of the book Cooking in Spain

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Maytime Needlepoint Cushion Finished at Last

A year after I first acquired the kit, at last this cushion is finished. I purchased the kit mid-February 2017. Had I realised at the time how much effort it would take me to finish it I'm sure I never would have begun.

It was a kit by Ehrman (here's the catalogue page) with the yarn and the printed canvas. I was unable to follow the subtle colour differences on the printed canvas but luckily I had the book "The Ehrman Needlepoint Book" which includes the design by Candace Bahouth, and includes a chart. I scanned the chart and had it printed in colour, with which I was able to continue.

As it has 162 stitches horizontally and vertically that makes, I calculate 162 × 162 = 26,244 stitches, so it's not surprising it took so long. I really enjoyed it, but thankfully there are too many other other things for me to do in life. If I was ill and incapacitated, I might do another, but not for now.

My thanks to Mari-Carmen Ojeda for making it up into a cushion cover for me.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

New Bins for Organic Waste in Arganzuela District

the brown-lidded wheelie bin on the pavement

At last we have been given the new brown-lidded wheelie bins for organic, compostable waste. The Madrid city council has been rolling out the collection service and the bins for the past six months (if I remember correctly). The waste goes in plastic bags (in some places it has to be in compostable, biodegradable bags, but not here in town).

In England, my family have always had a compost bin to collect raw vegetable waste, which then enriches the soil, and I think accounts in part for the abundant crops of flowers and vegetables we've often had. Living here in Madrid in a flat, there's not much option but to simply throw it away with all the other rubbish. This has always pained me, to see all the organic matter like vegetable peelings that could go into the ground to enrich the soil, so badly needed in a place like Madrid, dumped in landfill. So I'm very happy about the new brown-lid bins.

Maidstone Borough council collects food waste in a very small bin, and garden waste in another, optional bin, perhaps because people there are more likely to have their own compost heaps. But in Madrid the bins can contain not only food waste, but kitchen paper towels, bottle corks, cooked meat and vegetable food (but no raw meat or fish), and even mussel shells.

So now I have expanded the collection of waste bins in the kitchen to four:
    four Ikea waste bins with lids, in two pull-out drawers, in a kitchen cupboard
  • Packaging for recycling
  • Food and other organic waste
  • Everything else not recyclable
  • Paper and cardboard (kept in a box file, not shown)
We also separate Nespresso capsules and take them to the public recycling plant.

In Madrid the no-recycle and now the organic bins are put out every night except New Year's eve. The yellow bin for packaging is put out (collected) on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday (in this district). Although the new bin has been put out for a month now, at the recent annual resident's meeting, most confessed they had no idea what it was for, even though there's a label on it.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Mystery Song Book

Updated: I think I solved the mystery, the day after I wrote the post. So I'm updating it.

My friend John Nelson is restoring the binding of a 1904 edition of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." While stripping off the glue from the spine of the book, a printed text was revealed, after over a century unseen by human eyes. The type is large, but faded and broken ,but I was able to discern some of it: "Curwets Action Song Book ... Kindergarten Songs, Games, P..." The last word I can only guess at, it seems to begin with a letter "P," could be "pianoforte" or "pastimes."

Text printed on the spine of the book
The reason for writing this post is that my online search (Google, DuckDuckGo, British Library, ABE Books, Amazon, LibraryThing) revealed no reference at all. Perhaps one day, someome who has the whole book, will search online and find this piece and enlighten me about it.


Having published the post, my intuition went to work. I wondered why the printer would have used the paper like this. Perhaps the book was printed but never published? Then I consulted "The Concise Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Composers and Musicians." There's no mention of "Curwet," but I did learn about the Reverend John Curwen (with an "n") and his son John Spencer Curwen. They were both musical education reformers and Curwen senior founded the publishing company John Curwen & Sons. This reminded me that I had seen the name in the British Library catalogue. There are three books, "Kindergarten Action Songs", "Gems for the Kindergarten ... Consisting of kindergarten games, action songs and recitations with actions…" and "Songs of Fact and Fancy, for Kindergartens and Infants' Schools. The words and actions…" all published by Curwen & Sons. According to the Wikipedia article on the Curwen Press, the firm continued until 1977. So my hypothesis is that this title is from a print run with an erroneous title, a misprint, that was recycled, and used for the binding of other books.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Reading "A Perfectly Good Man" by Patrick Gale

I just read this novel. In my ignorant exile from the English-speaking literary world, I didn't know about the author, Patrick Gale, until I watched "Man in an Orange Shirt" on the BBC last Summer. I so much enjoyed that series that I began to explore his novels, first with "Rough Music" and then "A Place Called Winter." The latter left me quite profoundly moved in a way that I've never felt before on reading fiction, and I was almost in tears at the end of it (which doesn't happen easily with me, even in private). This one ("A Perfectly Good Man") it seems to me is very good, but I didn't find it as engaging as the other two. I was bewildered by the way it jumps around between characters and moments in their lives, although I grew accustomed to that by the last third of the book. It's an interesting and enlightening essay on what it means to be a good person, and also the role religious faith plays in that.