I honour Lady Percy and her expression of love. YOU MAY CLICK TO CONFIRM.
Otherwise my novels, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations, responses, apologies. I'm only serious by accident. Education? Forget it. I hold posts to 300 words* since I've found less is better than more. One quasi-certainty in an uncertain world: I almost always re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* New exclusion: short stories.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Grimmer fairy tale

To avoid offending the sensitivities of Tone Deaf readers the male buttocks is rendered geometrically (a hemisphere, two cones) - left: rear elevation; right: side elevation. G represents "the groove."

Examine the structure of a male buttocks. In simple geometry it consists of a hemisphere (vertically divided) from which protrude two cones - thighs - tapering downwards. The point at which the hemisphere joins the cones is sufficiently defined to create a groove.

The official caner at my school knew that groove. Practice taught him to ensure that each cane stroke entered the groove, exactly overlaying the previous stroke. Ensuring cumulative pain.

Breaking off, US commenters to Tone Deaf talk of being "paddled" at school. Had they been caned by my tormenter I suspect they would have chosen a different word to describe the sensation. Paddled sounds too gentle.

I have in mind a short story where a fearful child kneels in the prescribed fashion to best present his "groove". After two cane strokes the lad bursts into tears through apprehension and pain. He is, by the standards of the time, a weed, a non-achiever, "not a man". But he isn't lacking in imagination. Punishment is an abstract noun but what is happening is far from abstract. Authority, another abstraction, is punishing him but again he sees it more simply: an adult is hurting a child.

At home he takes the family shot-gun and blows his father's head off. Returning the gun he reflects on another abstract noun: justice. His father is (or was) an adult and in his young world adults wield authority. When authority hurts a child the outcome is clearly unjust. Justice is also a balance and the shotgun has achieved balance.

The court concludes the child lacks a grip on reality and places him in an institution. Where he reflects on another abstraction: irony.

Not for Christmas.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Block over what I stumble

 POLITENESS I'm really bad at this.

Early on VR said, "When people say 'How are you?' don't tell them." Return the question in a meaningless exchange. Why not just clear our throats?

Told someone's mother-in-law's sister has died the answer should be: "Oh dear." emphasising and lengthening the second word. Would this response differ if informed King Canute had died?

"Put yourself in the position of the person telling you," I was instructed. My mind didn't seem agile enough. Was the teller really undermined by tragedy? I would ponder. And the moment would be lost.

The hackneyed language of politeness worried me. Hello./Hello. It's a fine day./It is indeed. Being polite meant never surprising anyone.

Foolishly I decided only to say interesting things:

"Hello RR."
"I've got double cataract."
"Oh my God."
"But they're not ripe yet."

People crossed the road a hundred yards away.

Pulchritude was difficult. Introduced to a stunner over drinks (this happened less with time) I would gulp wine then say "Do you go for Ozu?" The clever ones, imagining I'd uttered a haiku - perhaps half a haiku - responded with an impromptu one of their own. I would ask for my coat. 

I’m not sure there’s a cure.

Smoothness isn’t the only criterion:

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
“This night! What sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.

Reasons why: You’re tempted to arrange words more logically in lines 3 and 4. But jaggedness creates separate mini-messages, opening up dramatic pauses. Heart almost rates its own exclamation mark. Does fell have that meaning? Who cares? It’s full of menace.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Here's a rarity! An apology

I'm revising my third novel, Blest Redeemer, not a task I've looked forward to. It was hard to write and hard for Joe to advise on. I’d put Blest to one side; the MS was huge (450 printed pages) and, I suspected, junk. I'm the wrong age to be writing junk even if recognising junk is a valuable experience.

An ambitious sub-theme, never mastered, was cut and that seemed to help. This bit seemed encouraging:

Adopting a cloche, an urchin or a bob would have been an admission of defeat. She was – always had been - a woman with long hair. Hair defined her and she was satisfied with that definition. She consulted an elderly stylist who was said to distrust scissors. Redeployment was the answer. “Bring it together, gather it up from the nape of your neck, coil it on your head and create a chignon. No one will say you have short hair.”

I plunged on, often on auto-pilot, blogging, emails, commenting sloppily (ie, writing too much). Breaking off to attend to VR's laptop. Careless about techie stuff too. It seems Blogger allows you - at a single keystroke - to  create a post consisting of precisely nothing. This I did but without realising. Three faithfuls in effect chided me (very mildly).

Angry at being such an asshole I inserted a line in the empty post - the first thing that came into my head - and returned to Blest.

In the circumstances the line I inserted not only meant nothing, it was open to grievous misinterpretation. I pondered deleting the post but that meant killing the comments - which I have to say I deserved.

Best to apologise. I AM ABJECTLY SORRY! Back to the Blest comfort blanket.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Wit, persuasion, beauty, sex

I spent five hours yesterday utterly harassed, upgrading VR's laptop from Windows 8 to 8.1. The process is automatic but as time ticked by the more I agonised, fearing it would all go wrong (automatically!) and I'd have to start again.

After that, I needed a very special diversion to bring me back to normal. An entertainment with wit, persuasion, beauty and sex. What other than my third favourite Shakespeare play?

In As You Like It Orlando and Rosalind love each other. Both go separately to the forest where Rosalind dresses as a young man. Orlando attaches doggerel professions of love to the trees. They meet. Rosalind compels Orlando to pretend that he/she is not a man but Rosalind and to address him/her as such. Orlando, so much in love, does that.

It sounds artificial but it becomes real. It sounds as if there will be homosexual byplay but not so. Magically the couple’s developing love transcends man vs. man as Orlando imagines the young fellow before him to be Rosalind, and Rosalind is bathed in delight by his ability to do so.

Tears streamed from behind the glasses I am now required to wear.

Magically, too, Rosalind was played by Helen Mirren thirty years ago and she contrived to be man and woman simultaneously. Thank you Microsoft for preparing the ground.

PS: Dinner was based on a £10 free-range chicken marked down to a fiver. Plus a bottle of rioja with a strangely uninformative label - often the sign of a great vineyard anonymously offering stuff they believe to be just below the highest standard. Chicken and wine terrific. Just occasionally I am transported.

Friday, 5 September 2014

There's lint in your belly button

It was Joe, typically unselfish, who urged me to add Writing Novels to my blog profile. How come I never did that before? I thought. It presents me as a smarty-boots (or clever-clogs), sets me apart

And encourages self-hypnosis.

All writing is self-indulgent but novels are pernicious. They go on and on. Because novel-writing is so private the author becomes his own judge and jury, convinced he's doing something significant. Whereas, since few novels are commercially published, the author should accept there'll only be one real reader - that incestuous figure staring madly into the computer screen. Himself.

And it doesn't end there. From the outside there's no more boring figure. A plumber installs a bath (tub - US), a farmer ploughs a field - work that can be measured by anyone. A novel-writer writes a sentence, finds it irritates him, writes a replacement, remains uneasy. A sequence known only to him and, let's face it, hardly worth mentioning.

Why this introspection? Recently I sent one novel off to the publisher and started revising another. I became ecstatic, the later novel was better than I remembered and two problems I'd dreaded were easily fixed. But remember, that's just my deluded opinion.

If this post was triggered by ecstasy, imagine one born out of despair.

PASTA PERCEPTION I knew orecchiette pasta (little ears) and fusilli (twists) but only recently discovered gigli (lilies). Discounting whole-wheat pasta which digests like scrap iron, and the other variety said to involve eggs, I assume the basic material doesn’t vary. That these shapes are merely visual titillation. Yet spaghetti does taste different, perhaps because it’s so thin very little sauce (and no meat) adheres to the strands. Do you have a pasta rationale? Will it withstand intellectual scrutiny?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Age's spectre - not all that bad

People fall in love: become ecstatic, transformed, generous not mean, more perceptive, etc. You know the drill.

Few look ahead and I sympathise. What could a sarky old bastard like me, married for 54 years, bring to a lover’s elevated state? Nothing at all; in my case even less. I've just despatched my novel in which a male protagonist, inevitably a Brit, cautions the heroine, inevitably a Yank, against "big" words like love. And gives reasons.

At our age (VR is two years younger) we see a relationship that has passed through many stages, some we would hate to repeat. What exists now (and I would never presume on that dangerous four-letter word) is often expressed in unheralded acts.

Last night we had kefta: small meat balls in a chili-based tomato sauce on rice. It’s rare because VR hates making those little balls.

I said:"unheralded". I said: last night we had kefta.

Overturning that literary climacteric, dessert was vanilla ice cream with raisins soaked in dark rum. Intense bitterness uniquely mitigated. VR refuses to give it a name. She's irritating that way.

PROUST PERCEIVED My novel’s at the publisher; I can resume reading the wordy master of the Boulevard Haussmann.

And meanwhile Francoise would be turning on the spit one of those chickens such as she alone knew how to roast, chickens which have wafted far abroad from Combray the sweet savour of her merits, and which, while she was serving them to us at the table, would make the kindness predominate for the moment in my private conception of her character… the aroma… so unctuous and so tender… seeming to me no more than the proper perfume of one of her many virtues