I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Sing a sad song, make it better

Brother Sir Hugh admits being sickened by the outcome of the referendum but says life must go on. In his case that means overcoming the defects in his hard-worked knees and continuing to explore the English countryside.

In my case, following our holiday, I resume singing lessons from which I've drawn so much exhilaration. But something's changed. I find myself repeatedly making basic errors which, quite simply, add up to hitting the wrong notes. V, also affected by the referendum, struggles to be encouraging and I sympathise with her - my performance doesn't deserve it. I try to sing confidently but it emerges as misshapen bombast.

That evening on TV news I learn of  a growing level of "hate crimes" against immigrants and I'm visited by a sense of history. Immigration was a fruitful area of exploitation by the Leave campaigners; now they've got what they imagine they want ordinary people, interviewed for the cameras, feel entitled to speak their minds. "All out" is the message.

One of the inarguable benefits of the EU is that it has promoted peace in Europe for seventy years. But for how much longer? The emerging resentment against "foreigners", some of whom are third-generation UK residents, is terrifying. It would only take one populist demagogue to harness this force and we could have something similar to Germany in the early thirties. How ironic given that present-day Germany has striven so hard and so selflessly - with France - to ensure this doesn't happen.

A rather more serious prospect than tumbling stock-market prices.

The quotation I've illustrated is, of course, from Schiller's Ode To Joy, adopted by Beethoven as the choral part of his Ninth Symphony.

It's also the EU's anthem.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Drawing a veil

Folks: let’s forget what just happened here in the UK. Here’s a post I prepared earlier.
                   
Great art is not necessarily beautiful although a tortured argument may be advanced to say this must be the case. But just think: The Scream is not beautiful, nor is Crime and Punishment, nor Pound's A Pact, nor Grosse Fuge. All are arguably great.
                    
This point presently exercises me, blotting out other graver matters. Beauty is, of course, subjective but we must start somewhere and today I'm in charge. Let’s consider great art that is beautiful.
      
Take painting: Hogarth is famous for somewhat unbeautiful satirical drawings but how about his Shrimp Girl (below)?

               
As to prose here’s the ending of Joyce's short story, The Dead.
                    
(Snow) was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
                    
Poetry? These lines are from Thomas's Over St John's Hill.
                    
Of the led-astray birds whom God, for their breast of whistles,
Have Mercy on,
God in his whirlwind silence save, who marks the sparrows hail,
For their souls' song.
                    
Music? Schubert's Abschied, sung by Christian Gerhaher
                    
CLICK HERE  (Wait out all the long silences.)                  
              
No doubt you’ve rumbled me. Yes, this is a conspiracy – albeit truthful - to edge you towards the Schubert. But then Abschied offers a bonus; you can sing it badly (to yourself) and it remains beautiful. I know, from personal experience. Abschied’s great too but that’s up to others.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

I confess, I'm terrified

To my last post Avus cites Chesterton's "For we are the people of England who have not spoken yet..." regarding tomorrow's referendum about Britain's membership of the EU. But I am not reassured. Secret perhaps, then suddenly bellowing out their approval of that puffball charlatan, Boris, as at last night's live EU debate on the BBC.

I am for the first time in my life terrified by a set of wilful politicians seeking to create a new form of government in Britain of which George Osborne's austerities are just a foretaste. All those social benefits like the EU-ordained minimum wage blown away as the divide between rich and poor - already perilously wide - becomes unbridgeable.

Yes there will be "minor" disruptions requiring "minor" adjustment, say the Brexiteers. Including upheavals in the stock market as the worldwide bets about In and Out come home to roost. But why should I, a left-winger, worry about capitalism's perturbations? Because some of my pension funds, like those of many, are linked to the stock market and without the EU to protect them there will be no guarantees.

Savings? Should a bank, etc, fail, the government promises to compensate losers up to £75,000. That was an EU initiative, Avus. That terrible organisation said to be sucking out our lifeblood.

Schools for Zach? Remember that recent crazy Tory initiative that all schools (even those doing well) were to become academies, a Tory concept which has repeatedly failed. Withdrawn because it proved to be unpopular - but who's to say under a new and more frightful right-wing regime the meddlers won't try again?

At least please vote tomorrow. For the sake of my peace of mind let's make the turn-out representative.

NOTE: June 23, 10.30 am. We queued to vote. Unheard of in Hereford.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Risking being sentimental


This year may be the last we share a French villa with grandson, Zach. We've regularly sneaked him out of school in June when villa rentals cost half of those in July and August, when roads are not choked with French holidaymakers and when the temperatures are not so brutal.

Yes, he's missed two weeks' school but his reports have shown him succeeding to the point where frustrated teachers say he does "just enough" to get good ratings when he could, trying harder, be monarch of all he surveys. However, next year is high school and the long miserable grind towards making himself employable. We can't interfere with that.

Sport dominates his life. He swims far better crawl than I do, even does butterfly. Despite his skimpiness he plays rugby as well as soccer (the latter to a high level). He asked to go karting, did so separated from the adults and bearing the stigma of a baby's flag; now he races with the adults. Last year thunder and lightning kept him off the Arbor-Aventure course of high-level transits between conifers; this time he raced round the progressively more difficult routes and repeated the hard final section out of sheer exuberance.
But it isn't all sport. In restaurants he likes to order his own meal in French, sometimes off the à la carte rather than the limited Menu des Enfants. And he accepts VR's suggestions about books worth reading. He asked me if I knew of a certain string quartet he'd heard at school. No, he didn't like their classical music and I'm glad about that. I'd hate to sicken you.

On Thursday VR and I will vote to remain with the EU in a referendum that will influence the UK for decades to come. I dare say Zach will be in our minds as we do.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Whose blues?


STILL NO PIX

Across the road from our rented villa is is a newly built primary school. Very occasionally I hear high-pitched childish voices in rising competition. They sound more contented than I was at primary school, arguably the worst period of my life if I exclude those piercingly unhappy moments when disdainful West Riding maidens turned down my stammered invitations to come to “the pictures”.

The French children are technically “at work” and are no doubt meeting certain obligations. I am on holiday and have no obligations other than to pass time (which sounds better than wasting time). But no one has told my fevered mind which is giving me subterranean gip. Shouldn’t I be visiting cathedrals, wandering the endless forests, decoding the Cathar problem or watching the news in French on telly (Actually impossible. The proprietor of the villa is English and believes like many of her ilk that French telly channels are unnecessary.)?

Improving myself, in fact. Or at the very least inhibiting metal decay.

During the most assiduously organised holiday guilt intrudes. Time is in unrenewable asset, used profligately it brings about a Calvinist hell.

I read a bit but nothing that stretches me. My Kindle - accusingly - contains free downloads of Ovid, Goethe’s autobiography, Milton by the kilo. Untouched.

My almost-namesake, Robert Robinson, was of the opinion that the best holidays are spent at home but that always seemed defeatist. There must be somewhere in the world that needs me, that would profit from my presence. The Athabasca Tar Sands, perhaps. Or Death Valley.

Meanwhile, here’s a poser. Is this post evidence of wasted time? Might I be meeting some form of norm without realising it? Answers in a plainly wrapped email.

Monday, 13 June 2016

News: late and skimpy

NO PIX THIS TIME
Aeons ago, it now seems, the British media were terrifying us with tales of fuel shortages in France. And we had a big-bucks villa booked near Béziers. So should we chuck out our spare undies and the holiday books we intended to read and smuggle in some diesel? Amazingly, because it rarely happens, diesel is presently cheaper in the UK.

Since we intended to cross La Manche by Chunnel (35 minutes) rather than ferry (90 min plus all the hassle of embarking and disembarking) I phoned the Chunnel authorities because they are picky about what you can stick in the car boot (LPG, guns, explosives and unpassported Syrian refugees, for instance, are frowned on). I was told 30 litres was permitted. This may not seem much but it represents one-third of the Skoda's fuel tank and is equivalent to 200 miles travelling.

In the end encouraging info from France suggested that the 10-litre jerrycan would be enough and the 20-litre can (which, when full, I doubted I could lift up to the car's filler cap) could be left at home.

What the British media should have dwelt on were the widespread problems of flooding south of Paris which appeared perversely (But then what's missing from France's tripartite slogan: Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité, is Perversity) to be concentrated on autoroutes and other major roads. If ever there was a case for carrying and using a satnav this was it and we managed to circumnavigate great blockages of stationary Peugeots and poids lourds (French for large lorries) and point ourselves south for more sun and less rain.

RR and VR, the oldsters, subsequently read their Kindles, over-ate and over-drank while the younger end went in for karting and - a new departure - arbor-adventure, of which there'll be more including pictures when I get home. Foolishly I left my camera/computer cable behind in Hereford.

Oh, I saw the Canadian F1 grand prix on telly. All intellectual stuff.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Out of my depth? How about you?

Ears, eyes and mind, are now open at the Hay Festival as I widen my pitifully inadequate formal education - wallowing in hard and soft facts, theories, opinions and quirkiness that inform a wonderful world.

Sara Pascoe, feminist and stand-up comedienne (author of The Animal Autobiography Of Female Body Book), talks beguilingly about women's concerns.

Behavioural economics aims to explain and predict real life and its maverick tendencies rather than depend on the stuff of books. Richard Thaler, Chicago professor and advisor to 10 Downing Street, is its John the Baptist.

The alarming and salutary lurches that have influenced Britain's population over years and decades are charted in a social-change atlas introduced by left-leaning Daniel Dorling.

French scientists (the best in the world at the time) supported the political upheavals of the French Revolution; many subsequently paid with their lives. Steve Jones, former professor of genetics at UCL, and a Hay regular, in fine form.

Edna O'Brien, novelist and supreme anecdotalist, is admirably complemented by TV journalist, Matt Frei (a hero to both RR and VR), in a discussion about her novel, The Little Red Chairs, which impinges on the Bosnian Serb genocidist, Radovan Karadžic.

NOTE: France is possibly in a turmoil of industrial relations. It frequently is. But no reason why VR and RR shouldn't spend a fortnight holidaying there. A bientot.