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.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Lump-bagging

Sir Hugh (left), dressed to withstand blizzards;
 RR (right), obviously a townie but note the boots
Brother Sir Hugh is staying, partly for social reasons, partly to feed his obsession for walking. But not simply ambling to Tesco for a litre of semi-skinned, there are rules. Once he walked from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean along the Pyrenees. These days, sere and tortured by his exertions, he pursues more modest projects: bagging all the landscape lumps in England of a certain height. He invites me to climb a trio of lumps within spitting distance of where I live.

I'm older than Sir Hugh. Years ago I foresaw there'd come a time when I'd only be capable of  a sedentary life. This has now happened; it's one reason why I compose sonnets. Sir Hugh insisted his lumps were hardly distinguishable from the flat.

My “walking” boots were last worn thirty years ago. Dust had stiffened the laces, making them hard to tighten. But the thick leather had maintained its contours and despite the boots' enormous weight they were a reassurance. I felt I could kick to death any importunate mugger.

I'd forgotten about going uphill. When my breathing started to scare cows Sir Hugh tactfully stopped for unspecified strategic reasons. Resuming I made no more noise than a slumbering spaniel. The eventual panoramic view encompassed the distant Malverns and the even more distant Black Mountains (in Wales).

The second lump was wooded, diminishing any sense of altitude. Alas we picked up an Ancient Mariner figure, in favour of Brexit (England's departure from the European Union) and much given to interference.

The final ascent was deceptive: the initial lane was unpleasantly steep and filled me with hatred. On my return I was able to jog-trot down this section and thus take my revenge. Walking is sustained by many similar delusions.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

On two wheels in Lincolnshire

Over sixty years ago I'm cycling towards a youth hostel in Lincoln. The flat roads offer no respite for free-wheeling. It's raining and a plastic cape covers me and much of the bike; a mobile yellow gazebo.

My thoughts are aeons away from the rain and my pedalling legs. I'm envisaging a movie poster I saw in London two days before: Susan Hayward in a sheathlike dress stretched tight over every contour from neckline to ankles. Despite her name in the movie - Harriet - I'm revelling in Susan's rampant curvature. I'm fifteenish and stuffed with testosterone.

A bike travels four times as fast as a pedestrian. Had I been walking my revelries would have been even more intense. There is a point to all this.

Theoretically I was on a biking holiday. About eighty miles a day with regular changes of scenery to divert me. Yet that day my mind was detached from the physical experience; scenery was passing by unnoticed.

Biking and walking are slow enough to allow thoughts to wander. Oh sure, there'd be times I'd look at my watch, feel the need to push on, wonder what I'd get for evening meal. Other times I’d send my mind on its own holiday.

Two combined pleasures: the smug virtues of exercise plus Susan's barely controlled eroticism. Well, why not?

Was I unique? I suspect there are others – hard men and women - who, nevertheless, have allowed their minds to dally. Not Susan daydreams, perish the thought. Perhaps herbaceous borders, or "I wonder where my Meccano ended up?", or days in Benidorm, many years ago.

But you wouldn't know it from their despatches. Not a hint. Bikers/walkers only write about biking/walking; there’s no other existence. Susan? She’s a map reference.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Bardolatory

Courtesy The New Yorker
Shakespeare was four-hundred years dead yesterday. But you know that.

Why bother? Most of the stuff’s in verse, difficult metaphors abound, word meanings have changed, toffs have confusing multi-titles and too many plays kick off with impenetrable and dullish background material. Not everyone’s keen on the cross-dressing either.

Modern-day WS poncers contrive to make you feel small. You’re better off watching cake-baking on telly. Cake-baking, forsooth! I never thought I’d say that.

Already you’re reaching for the mouse, convinced I'm a poncer. Perhaps I am but there’s fun to be had.

Working-class chat; hence a' instead of he:
A' saw a flea stick upon Bardolph's nose, and a' said it was a black soul burning in hell-fire

Boozing isn’t despised:
This same young sober-blooded boy doth not love me; nor a man cannot make him laugh; but that's no marvel, he drinks no wine. There's never none of these demure boys come to any proof.

Singing’s important:
More, I prithee, more. I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs.

And prescience:
This dear, dear land (ie, England)
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out.


Most fellas would respond to the lady’s offer:
I'll give thee fairies to attend on thee,
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep
.

Middle-aged man recalls Glastonbury:
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers;


Sex again:
I' faith, his hair is of a good colour... and his kissing is as full of sanctity as the touch of holy bread.

There's more but no doubt your mind’s made up. People say that chap Grisham does a rollicking tale.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Son of Satanic Mills snuffs it

Passion’s overrated, detachment makes better reading. Try writing one’s own obit.

ALTHOUGH tall, RR seemed inauspicious. Sideways he was S-shaped; stooping shoulders down to convex derrière. He ruined the effects of a magnificent nose - long, straight and Romanic – by constantly fingering it. Uncut grey hair, aimed at aping Byron, was rarely washed. Worn once, his clothes immediately looked secondhand.

Many thought him sociable. Not so! He asked questions, remembered answers, then divulged what he’d learned to embarrass the questionee. He sold writing as a form of morality but was a fraud. Unbefriended he wrote to disguise an existence that was no more than shouting down a dry well.

RR's sporting interests (rock-climbing, ski-ing, swimming) were inevitably solitary. During National Service with the RAF he attached a line by Horace to his foot-locker: Odi profanum vulgus et arceo (I loathe the profane mass and spurn them). In an unexpectedly long life he drank wine and memorised many bottle labels; alas he imposed this knowledge on those he dined with and frequently ate alone.

Impatience and assertion were at odds with his left-wing politics. His few achievements were tainted: non-idiomatic, if inventive, French allowed him to avoid monoglot English tourists in France; the lengthy difficult novels he’d read discouraged bookish conversation in his presence. He married well and some were “astonished”.  There was polite applause when he took up singing late in life but suspicions grew when he refused to release recordings of his progress.

That he was tolerated says more about those who did the tolerating; residents of North America in particular treated him as a once menacing animal, now tamed and harmless: a scorpion perhaps. In an uncharacteristic burst of irony one asked: “Whence comes such another?” A short answer suffices: From West Yorkshire.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Fashionable? You judge

I was challenged to post myself in pyjamas. The challenge grew out of a discussion about poetry.

My challenger may have been testing my willingness to appear vulnerable but this hasn't worked. Modern pyjama tops can hardly be distinguished from shirting. I often answer the doorbell dressed this way to take deliveries from the postman and The Wine Society. Old-fashioned pyjamas, buttoning up top to bottom, might have been more risky. I do, however, look fatter here than in reality and that's mildly embarrassing.

More embarrassing by far is that this is only half of a two-part challenge. The other half requires me to supply an mp3 file that proves I'm making progress with my singing. On this matter I'm more reticent and must continue to witter on, I fear. That's witter, not twitter.

The wristwatch, nicely displayed, is a Longines. It cost lots and was a gift from VR.

Hardline Hope, a novel (18,547 words)
Dinner out with a man she hardly knew; theoretically an enjoyable social occasion, in actuality nothing of the kind; three hours of alertness, self-monitoring, and careful talk. For Gerry was someone senior from Shimatsu’s UK headquarters: “down here to help with your local difficulties” he explained laughingly. That was part of the test; Lindsay was expected to recognise the reference to The Three Great Lies and to laugh in response.
 
Gerry was authority and when they’d shaken hands at the showroom she’d looked for proof. Decided it showed in his shoes: unexceptional black casuals, plain as plain beyond a front flap that eased back over the top of his foot, slightly longer than might be expected. The leather shone but not to excess since it was patterned by its flexibility. The shoes were comparatively old and he wore them comfortably; they were surely hand-made.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

RR as chef: a brief life

VR retired two years after I did. I occupied myself in the empty house writing freelance articles and preparing evening meals for the five days of the working week. Ironically the freelance work became financially, if not intellectually, successful but even the extra £12,000 a year it brought in wasn't sufficient encouragement to keep going into old age. I turned to fiction from which I haven't made a penny.

That left the kitchen. You'll notice I say "preparing evening meals", I don't say "cooking". That doesn't mean I heated a Tesco's made-up cottage pie, only that my work in the kitchen was perfunctory, rigid and dismissive. My repertory consisted of fifteen predictable dishes (fish pie, lasagne, vegetable soup, macaroni cheese, meat loaf, eggs mornay, etc) all created from scratch and repeated twice a month.

Did I risk boring my wife to death at the table? No sir! She maintains neither the limited range nor my lack of imagination mattered a scrap. The fact that someone other than she was producing dinner was all that counted.

My view is I "assembled" these dishes, I didn't "cook" them. In cooking, constituents change radically, a cake being the obvious example. Cooking also involves risk. One assembles  bolognese sauce, one (riskily) cooks hollandaise sauce. The nearest I came to cooking was putting together béchamel (Or was it the preliminary roux?) that is the basis of the white stuff in lasagne and fish pie.

I look back on this period of my life as faintly heroic, outside established norms. VR regards it wistfully, wishing I’d resume. If pressed hard enough I agree to lunch out.

Most men have never made béchamel/roux and I enjoy the sense of exclusivity. Male achievement is not confined to hairy-chests or self-indulgent work with spanners.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Who has all the best tunes?

V is all the teachers I didn't get at grammar school. When I fall short she apologises before she corrects me. She strives manfully (Wrong adverb, surely? Ed.) to explain "interpretation", the musical equivalent of quantum mechanics. Her compliments are technically devised. Her lovely singing voice, commanding mega power, reminds me why I'm there, standing by the piano. And she applauds my initiatives.

Not forgetting her musical knowledge and taste. Two songs I'm doing are from genres (Irish folk, Neapolitan sentimental) I would normally avoid, yet I love them both. Last Monday V handed me a new score.

Her expression was quizzical and I was under scrutiny. Clearly she had noted more than the state of my larynx.

And the new score? The Lord's Prayer, set by Michael Head.

Anyone who knows Tone Deaf knows I parted brass rags with Le Grand Seigneur ages ago. But, in my own defence, I do not prosyletise. After all I play Bach's B Minor Mass on my car radio.

Theoretically music is non-ideological even if the Prayer’s words aren’t. Perhaps I flapped my hands.

V said, "I knew you'd react."

What could I say?

She played it on the piano, singing, while I sang the easier parts from the score. Struggling over “trespasses”.

Afterwards V may have mentioned the setting’s beauty but my mind was elsewhere. I was transfixed and asked if we could re-do “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory...” We did this several times. Here typography stands in for melody.
I nodded. The setting is complex and gorgeous; I envisage much hard work. Is my free-thinking at risk? I asked VR, another non-believer. “It’s just words,” she said. Whereas music is music.