sábado, 2 de octubre de 2021

May nothing come between us

May Nothing Come Between Us


- Nothing.

Said with a momentary raising of the eyebrows, a slight tightening of the muscles around the mouth, an almost imperceptible tilt away from him. A facial shrug.  She tucked her hair behind her ear in an attempt at nonchalance.


The rising, open-ended intonation suggested that his question had come too late.  Perhaps if he had been more attentive. Maybe if he hadn’t been so absorbed in himself. If he were only a little less condescending. Unstated reproaches hovered over her like a halo.

He had picked up on it earlier, during the meal. She had been building up to this moment: it was difficult to say exactly when, but there had been a straightening of the back, an over-exaggerated display of table manners, brusque gestures, clipped words, almost formal politeness. Now it had come to a head.

What could have set her off? He knew she would never say, she never did; this was not an invitation to a discussion, there would be no debate. He was supposed to know, and know only too well. To her it was obvious, and therefore it had to be obvious to him too. And if it was not obvious to him, well…

It could be any one of a thousand details that had occurred over dinner. Was it the food, the way he had prepared the table? Had he ignored her while he ate? Had he unwittingly maligned her friends or family in any way? Had he, or could he be interpreted as having, criticised her look, her diet, her attitude towards something or other? Her emotional stability? And if so, why hadn’t she picked up on it at the time, thrashed it out, got it all out into the open? Why bottle it up until the cork flies?


He had asked the question with that virtual sigh, the here-we-go-again sound in his voice as if talking to a tiresome child. How he managed to get into those few words his sense of calm, his infinite patience, his poorly disguised disdain for what he no doubt considered to be over emotional women. Then the paternalistic spreading of his hands. What is it now? What is it this time?

How he undermined her self esteem, questioned her worth, smugly and insidiously highlighted her insecurities. Constantly, over and over again, with that air of superiority and infallibility that she was only too accustomed to. It lingered in his tone, in his gestures, in the way he expressed himself. They had had this argument before, so many times, but once more he would refuse to accept it.

He would cling to facts now, like a lawyer. She would be asked to pinpoint where exactly his flaw was supposed lie. That gave him the chance of cross-interrogation. There would be mitigating circumstances, claims of misinterpretation, appeals to context and intent. But he knew, he knew full well. He did not fool her. Yet still he pretended to have no idea of why she was upset. Why? To avoid the discomfort of the admission of guilt, of the recognition that between them there was an issue that needed to be confronted, that required honesty, sincerity, a little soul searching. On his part too, on his part especially. And he expected her to believe that he had no idea of what she was talking about. After all those years together? Seriously? Innocence personified. And denial, always denial. He preferred to sweep it under the carpet. Let it pass, look the other way. In the hope that eventually it would all go away, evaporate. Such a childish attitude.


He knew she thought he was well aware of why she had fallen into that dark mood, and he suspected that she also thought, for some inexplicable reason, that he consciously ignored the cause of her concern. Why would he do that? After all that they had in common, after all the time they had voluntarily shared together, why would he do something like that?

He tried to avoid thinking in generalisations, deliberately suppressing thoughts like ‘women are more emotional’. That was not acceptable. He must not judge humanity on the few personal examples he had experienced in his own life. Suffice to say that in this particular case she was over-reacting, as well as being extremely incommunicative.


She adopted a nothing’s-up, I’m-ok, not-at-all-bothered face. Resigned, in fact. Unfortunately. Did he imagine she enjoyed feeling hurt? Did he believe it was all the result of her fertile imagination, or some kind of inner desire for self harm? If he were not such an insensitive man. There were, she knew, others who would respond with more understanding, more empathy. Men who were not afraid to open themselves up, to accept their short fallings, men who really cared.

As always he would attempt to brush it all off as just another storm in a teacup, another little tantrum. Leave her alone and it’ll pass. Anything rather than talk about it, face up to the truth and admit it. He’d hold up his hands and say ‘what is it?’ in a pathetic attempt to deny his responsibility. As he always did. It was frustrating to say the least.


There was no eye contact. She tried to behave as if everything were fine with the world, but her jerky movements gave her away.


He was tired of this game by now. It was pointless, repetitive, so typical, verging on the comical. He had learnt over the years that there was no remedy, no possibility of a speedy reconciliation; he had tried so many different approaches without success. Any number of witty comments sprang to mind, but they would all have to be silenced if peace was to reign. Once again he decided, given the situation, to refrain from attempting humour or irony.

Still, he had to try something, at least make an effort to return to normality.


She realised that tradition and ritual demanded that he ask her again, as if it were something that could simply disappear, as if it were merely one of her little moods and she could just snap out of it at will. There would be a hint of anger and exasperation in his voice, thinly veiled under a guise of affection. But it would not come accompanied by an apology or a real desire to talk. It would just be going through the motions.



Said like a door closing. Not slammed, but firmly shut, followed by the click of the lock.

- Nothing.



viernes, 13 de agosto de 2021

Shattering the Glass Ceiling


It is sadly true that the so-called glass ceiling exists in so many spheres of human activity. From politics to the arts, from finance to international relations, an inexplicable imbalance persists.  Yet there is one area where this absurd disequilibrium does not occur with such frequency- music.

In the world of music there is an automatic recognition of talent. It makes no difference whether you are female or male, black or white, rich or poor, believer or atheist, old or young. Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Billy Holiday. All of them revered and adored for their immense talent. Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith. The list is enormous. And not only in the Anglo-Saxon world of pop and rock and soul. Celia Cruz, Lola Flores, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas. So many amazing voices and compositions, and not a hint of sexism or racism involved. Undoubtedly all of you could add to this list; the glorious voices of Arabia and Asia, of Africa and Australasia. And so many more.

In music there is no race or religion or age or sex. You either have it or you do not. Maybe we should all learn that lesson and apply it to other walks of life.

And may Ella Fitzgerald sustain that high C and shatter for once and for all that ridiculous, senseless, oppressive glass ceiling.


lunes, 3 de mayo de 2021

Business. As usual.

It is interesting how one little letter can shape our world view. We have replaced values, in plural, with its singular counterpart, value. To be deemed good, or worthwhile, an activity needs to generate revenue, make a profit, stimulate the economy.

A child who spends hours in front of a screen playing video games is not wasting their time or ruining their health, they are contributing to a booming industry which makes millions every year. An influencer is not admired for the things he or she says, but for the vast sums of money earned by promoting goods. That they are little more than a modern day sandwich board is by the by. They are rolling in it.

The President of Madrid is not praised for the number of lives she managed to save during the pandemic, but for keeping the bars open. Economy first.

Culture has given way to trade. A work of art is only recognised as such if it has a price tag. In fact all human endeavour is judged solely on the amount of money it is capable of making. Our heroes are the multi-millionaires, people whose wealth outweighs any other naïve concerns such as equality or human rights.

Value before worth, productivity before creation. Business as usual.


sábado, 13 de febrero de 2021

¡La Democracia Española es Perfecta!

Después de unas declaraciones de Pablo Iglesias, donde dice que la democracia española no es completa, la reacción ha sido la de siempre. En España, la política es concebida como un partido de fútbol; unos gritan ‘tarjeta roja y expulsión’, mientras el otro bando clama  ‘si ni le ha tocado’.  Si sales en defensa de sus palabras, eres un comunista, chavista, marxista etcétera. Si no, entonces eres facha, de derechas, casi franquista.

Pero la cuestión permanece. ¿Es la democracia española mejorable?

Felipe González hizo un trabajo inmenso durante su presidencia, sin duda. Eran tiempos difíciles, con la dictadura recién terminada y con l violencia de ETA como banda sonora. Modernizó el país durante la famosa transición, y España entró en el club de las democracias occidentales.

Pero la transición nunca se completó. Sigue habiendo mucho corporativismo. Erosionar privilegios ganados a lo largo de muchos años es una tarea ardua y lenta. Jueces,  grandes empresas, fuerzas de seguridad, ilustres apellidos, notarios, médicos… la lista es larga. Sin embargo todo este baile de amiguismo e intereses cruzados sigue ocurriendo en la oscuridad. La prometida transparencia nunca termina de llegar.

Los partidos políticos nos han enseñado a base de escándalos que tienen mucho que aprender. Cajas B, mordidas, tráfico de influencias y, finalmente, como siempre, impunidad. Aquí no existe la palabra ‘dimisión’, y mucho menos el término ‘accountability’, que ni se molestan en buscar traducción.

No es sólo España. En el Reino Unido acaban de descubrir que la reina, a través del llamado consentimiento de la reina, ha podido influir en las leyes que podrían afectar a su fortuna. En los  Estado Unidos el dinero de las grandes compañías a menudo decide el resultado de las elecciones.

Señalar las debilidades de un sistema no debería ser visto como un ataque al país, ni a todas sus instituciones. Más peligroso es obviar estas deficiencias y mirar por otro lado. Porque todo es mejorable.


martes, 5 de enero de 2021

The Cultural Bridge

Every year millions of people visit art galleries, go to gigs, watch movies or series, and enjoy performances of many, many different styles. Those audiences are comprised of people from every walk of life, of all ages, with political leanings from left to right. Your religious beliefs, your race, your sexual preferences are of no importance here. Nobody is excluded. This is why Culture is so vitally important to all societies. It is our common ground, it is the bridge than spans all divides.

Without it we focus once more on our differences; we become polarised, falling back into the Us or Them syndrome that causes so much distance, hatred and pain.

The Arts are not simply consumer goods to be likened to cosmetics or fashion. Culture is not frivolous, it is not a luxury item. It is essential for the cohesion of society. From the Last Night of the Proms to street carnivals, from Shakespeare to The Beatles, it is something we can all share.

There are those who would burn books, destroy ancient heritage sites, ban free expression. We cannot allow this to happen. Not again.