Ella takes up the story on live TV

By Martin Kirby

TV3 is the national broadcaster of Catalonia. We have popped up on it occasionally, especially since my first book about this life was translated into Catalan three years ago. But I’ve become increasingly reticent about it all because, well, the television and several radio stations usually want the same old conversation about why we ducked beneath the fence and hared up into the quieter hills. People must be sick and tired of it, me. Plus I invariably look and sound ridiculous .... or maybe that's way they keep coming back for more. They phoned yet again and said that this time it would be different. They easily coerced me into attending a planning meeting (in the village bar) and told me they were organising a two-hour live broadcast from our local town in this time-slip neck of the woods of Catalan independently-minded folk. I put two and two together and got interested. Alright, I said. “So are we going to talk about the recent unofficial separatism referendum, about the issue of identity which, of course, is different to independence?” “Er…” “Because if we are I would just like to point out that while I wholly respect the nation of Catalonia, I’m an Earthling first, European second, Briton third. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?” It seems they did. “You mentioned on the telephone that you have a 15-year-old daughter.” “Yes, now there’s a case in point. When it comes to identity-” “Would she like to take part, instead of you?” Plop. I was putting on trunks, flippers and goggles for a paddle in the shallows of daytime television. There would be no plunge into the murky pool of politics and I was a plonker to even think it. Anyway, on reflection, I’m not sure any programme at any hour in any country would want my garbled opinion on such a prickly topic of borders and how, from where I’m standing, our species seems more at odds than ever. So Ella did the gig. And how. She argued for the young generation and spoke very convincingly and oh so eloquently of teenage contentment in the Catalan hills. Standing behind the rank of cameras next to the producer, it didn’t take me long to realise I need never have to put myself, or rather the viewers or listeners, through broadcast torture again. Anyway, the way the conversation was bouncing about between the five around the table I would have failed miserably to keep track, or sound sane. Instead I savoured the highly preferable warm glow of pride. It saddens me deeply, though, to read in The Independent, how fewer and fewer school children in the UK are choosing languages. For the life of me I do not know why language teaching begins so late, too late. Can anyone tell me? We have an American family from Madrid staying on the farm. The father's roots are Spanish. He and his wife put their tail-chasing north American existence on hold and moved to Spain for three years to give their daughters, then aged 5, 7 and 10, the gift of language, and to sow in them something of the Latin culture. Without language, how can we share essential understandings? If the species is to resolve cyclical disharmony it has to communicate. And, equally, with language there are so many more rich experiences to pave the path to fulfilment.


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