I happened to be up in the middle of the night last night and received the not very welcome news that one of our oldest friends in Spain had died a couple of days ago. Narciso was married to one of our Erasmus students and was incredibly kind to me when I spent a term teaching Information Technologqy to Public Administration students at the Complutense University in Madrid. Narciso was a very good friend to me when I was in Madrid and on several occasions invited me to dine with him at the little technology company that he owned in a village near to the University. Little incidents stick in one’s mind the most memorable being my infelicities with the Spanish language. He was offering me some whisky before the lunch and asked how much I wanted in my glass – half remembering some cowboy ‘B’ movies, I extended two figures and tried to say ‘two fingers’ which in Spanish is ‘dos dedos’ But I made a mistake with the initial consonant andt asked for ‘dos pedos’ which actually means ‘two farts’ Narciso was sufficiently polite apparently not to notice! He was an incredibly erudite scholar and at one time was a full Professor in Sociology in the University of Montreal being equally at home with Spanish, French or English. In fact I seem to remember he read Proust in the original French by way of relaxation. We spent a wonderful Christmas Eve meal one evening a decade or so back and more recently spent a couple of equally enjoyable evenings with Narciso and his wife when we were having a stay in Madrid. Quite by chance, the hotel in which we were lodged was only about half a mile from his flat and so was easily accessible to us. I do not know his exact age but suspect that he was something between five and ten years older than I am which would make him mid 80’s. So that is another life long friend who has departed recently, leaving behind only memories but always happy ones.
Once we had got ourselves up and breakfasted, we made our way to the Waitrose cafeteria to see our Saturday friends and were happy to see a couple of them. It was a little rainy and blustery this morning but nothing to dampen us too much in the journey across the car park. After we left Waitrose, I called in at a large general hardware store that sells all kinds of useful things. I particularly wanted to get a little tray of tea lights which is not something that one buys every day. But whilst hunting for these items, I passed the car accessories aisle and availed myself of a couple of car cleaning brushes and some some new sponges ready for what I hope to be a more regular car cleaning routine ( whilst I am still in the ‘new car neurotic’ stage.) After lunch and a dose of our regular comedy, Meg and I are treating ourselves to a YouTube offering of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. There were several renditions from which we could choose but we avoided the ones in modern dress and chose one we have seen before where the singing is superb and the subtitles are particularly clearly displayed. One of my favourite lines from the opera is the response of Don Giovanni when asked by his servant, Leporello, how he could be so unfaithfull to so many of his conquests. The reply will delight misogynists everywhere when the Don replies that to be faithful to any one of them would be unfaithful to all of the others! But the opera is essentially a morality story because in the final scenes of the opera, Don Giovanni is dragged off to the flames of hell as punishment for his various misdeeds, not least the killing of the father of one of his early conquests.
The conflict in Gaza seems to plumb new depths. Today, it looks as though there is a (forced) evacuation of one of the largest hospitals in Gaza and, presumably, the patients are having to make their escape from the hospital by foot. Of course, there is an increasing clamour for there to be a ceasefire and a return of the hostages. But in the face of overwhelming military superiority, the hostages are one of the few assets with which Hamas can counteract the onslaught. No doubt, the hostages are all held deep in the many tunnels in which case Israel has a massive problem. Are the tunnels bombed outright, thereby condemning many of the hostages to death? Or does there have to be hand to hand fighting within the tunnels? One cannot predict how all of this will end. Also a 2 state solution would imply that Israel abandon the left bank of the Jordan captured during a the 6 day war in the 1960’s – if you were to look at a map of Israel and exclude the desert areas, then this West Bank must equate to at least a 50% increase in the land that Israel holds compared with the 1948 boundaries. Can one see the Israelis giving up at least one third of the land of Israel that they regard as God given? So it looks like a stalemate or a fight to the death in which practically the whole population of Gaza is either killed or forced into a permanent exile. Who then will govern the ruins that remain of Gaza? Presumably, the Americans could put an end to all of this within days but then Israel could well threaten to use their nuclear weapons if America abandoned it. The Americans in a pre-election year will not do anything that might threaten election prospects in any case. Hence the reasons for my profound pessimism.