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, 22 May 2015

The secondary womb

I doubt the windows of the Telegraph and Argus building in Bradford had been cleaned since the thirties. Not surprising. I joined the staff a mere six years after WW2 and there'd been other priorities. Stalagmites of filth rose from the frame bottoms with the rest coloured a yellowy-brown. A hint at what the insides of my lungs presently look like.

"Joined the staff" is misleading; I was employed as a tea-boy. Morning, lunchtime and afternoon four of us brought mugs of tea from the canteen to chair-bound sub-editors and reporters hammering away at thirty-year-old Underwood typewriters. Our trays were ingeniously adapted; they had started life within coat-racks, detachable troughs into which wet umbrellas drained. Tea from the mugs slopped over, eventually turning into sludge since the trays were never cleaned.

Squalor reigned but I'd found my spiritual home. I was among the crass and the cynical, the under-educated and the frequently cantankerous, the shabbily dressed and the eternally cigaretted. All however serving a common purpose - turning events into words and ensuring that those words made sense. The talk was of "intros", "paras" and "heads" and the mood obsessional.

As I key in these words today, sixty-five years later, I am drawing on those impromptu lessons where mistakes in syntax were announced to all in a humiliating bellow and one felt grievously one had let the business down.

Training was mainly on the job. After an exhausting day I travelled by bus to watch the first act of, say, Coward's Present Laughter. Returned to the reporters' room, now much quieter, and banged out two hundred words. For which, if it was published, I was paid a penny a line.

School and its failures forgotten, I was starting to grow up.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Not about pig's cheeks

Every so often a miracle occurs in our household. I have never marked such miracles before so this time I photographed one.

So what are those doodads above? Pig's cheeks, but they are also part of a mystical process. I'm sure in nearly 55 years of marriage we've had pig's cheeks before but I can't recall them and I can't check; for the moment VR slumbereth.

Fact is we ate them in a sort of casserole a few weeks ago (see pic below) and they were routinely delicious. However they are incidental to what I have to say. This post is not really about pig's cheeks, understand?

Months before, in some meatery I have long forgotten, VR saw these miraculous symbols and bought them. I'll never know exactly why. Then she cooked them and we ate them.

Now here's the nature of the miracle. Chez RR, VR does the cooking, day in day out, year after year. I can only judge what she does by my disinclination to do it. I can cook, did cook for a time after I'd retired and VR was still working. But I don't enjoy cooking, I'm harassed by the deadlines and the detailed skills.

Imagining myself in VR's position I can't help thinking that by now I'd be worn down by what seems a burden. Certainly I wouldn't seek to vary the daily round; I wouldn't be tempted by invention; I'd want it to be all over quickly.

But no! On what to me seems a domestic road to Damascus, VR saw something new and responded. The fire of creativity (which burns well ahead of what goes on in the kitchen) was there as an ember and VR breathed upon it. I profited.

Look, it could have been calf's brains, except I don't like them.

To those readers who don't cook - and are lucky enough to be cooked for - I invite you to kneel with me and consider the Arundel Tomb.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Sublime mosquito

We don't make anger, shame or pity but we do make love. Love's an abstract noun, so how do we go about it?

Combining fleshy contact with fleshy movement to cause a sensation similar to scratching a mosquito bite. The rest, they say, is in the mind.

How do we render this fictionally? Most of us don't - out of sheer good taste. Those that feel they must will pause. In the UK there's a literary prize called the Bad Sex Award. It isn't something you'd want on your mantelpiece.

Some of us cheat. Diversion's good. Here's Jana in OoA:

THEY stood naked, etc, etc

(Eliazalde said) “Carino you are tired, I feel it here.”...he knelt beside her, working on the junction between her neck and shoulders, relaxing her spine.

“I may fall asleep,” she said, her voice muffled by the duvet.

“Then I will finish the tortilla. Read a little. Then wake you with Casals.”

Not sex but physiotherapy. And I'm still this side of the Bad Sex Award. Then there's Francine in Second Hand. Here the trick is displacement. Forget sweaty skin, let's substitute a sweaty (but remote) mind:

This is just sensation, she told herself. Like being tickled, the reverse of being hurt. This fits that and brings about the other.

But how about you? How do you comment? Most won't. Only the confident and courageous will.

ECSTATIC (Non-Sexual) NEWS Just got an appointment for my second cataract op: June 29, 8 am. My left eye, the bad one. I can eat and drink what I want because the anaesthetic’s local. But I must be escorted home, mustn’t drive. How about angel’s wings? I can’t wait.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Painful politics - Part 3
The still small voice stilled?

Listen up, especially UK expatriates and UK-sympathetic foreigners.

Rupert Murdoch owns the pay-to-view TV conglomerate Sky. In the UK his main competitor is the BBC which users pay for in one annual lump sum that is a tiny fraction of what Sky costs. For years Murdoch has sought to close down the BBC.

Because the BBC does not fit the conventional idea of market forces, the Tories have sought to modify (ie, castrate) the BBC for ideological reasons.

The new Tory minister of culture is an MP who has campaigned against the BBC.

Verb. sap.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Out of Lewisham

Captions by C.C-M. (Above) RR looking glum in the face of a (very nice) glass of wine. (Below) VR drinking water while there is wine on the table.
London is England's main cultural swimming pool but out-of-towners like us need a diving board from which to plunge. Ours is in Lewisham a south-eastern suburb, home of the C-Ms.

Apart from being friends dating back to seventies, the C-Ms also represent strong cultural ties in themselves. P.C-M, once a journalist on a mag I worked with, has published Gorgon Times and Out Of Arizona. C.C-M was commissioned to sculpt two of our grandchildren and never was cash more rewardingly invested.

We arrived last Saturday lunchtime, later took a taxi (driven by a former Kosovo-an who was a history in himself) to the Noel Coward theatre in the centre to see Death Of A Salesman. On Sunday a piano-violin recital (Mozart, Brahms) in swanky Blackheath followed by a pretty comprehensive display of paintings by English painter Eric Ravilious in even swankier Dulwich. Then, as the photos prove, we dropped culture and espoused hedonism, drinking three bottles of wine in the C-Ms' sunlit garden. Back to Hereford, Monday morning

Each of the three events would have been worth the journey. I have misgivings about the second half of the Miller play but none at all about Anthony Sher as Willy Loman. The acoustic at the recital grossly favoured the piano (possibly because of large windows behind the players) but the performances, especially in the Brahms, met all my requirements. The Ravilious, my first exposure, was a complete delight. And then the wine... and the sunshine...

Driving home I suffered an attack of yawning. But I had a specific for this: a bottle of Coca Cola kept in the car for at least four years. The taste was much adulterated but the caffeine was as strong as ever. After one glug the yawning ceased. All this under a Tory government!
My favourite at the Ravilious show

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Painful politics: part 2

The results of the UK General Election were even worse than I could have imagined and are summed up in these emails:

VR (to elder daughter PB): Bugger!

PB to VR: Quite.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Painful politics

Voted today, but with a heavy heart. I believe masochism will affect the result and I've never favoured self-harm.

Five years ago the Tories inherited national debt at record levels, due to reduced national income and Labour's decision to bail out the banks. And thus was born a golden ideological opportunity that even Mrs Thatcher was denied. Austerity would be the watchword and would be achieved by dismantling the state.

How do you dismantle a state? By cutting employment, services and benefits most of which help the poor and the needy. Thus the last five years.

Austerity hurts and is unfairly distributed. But do you know what? - the more unpalatable the medicine the more the patient imagines it's doing good. Too many  UK citizens are now doggedly habituated to austerity even though there are alternatives. Too many will mark their cross today saying, in effect, whip me harder so I can do my bit.

While others will successfully avoid the whip altogether, welcoming the reborn Middle Ages.

I tried to peg out soldierly, - no use!
One dies of war like any old disease.
The bandage feels like pennies on my eyes.
I have my medals - Discs to make eyes close.

Almost any tiny evocation of WW1 (I'm guessing here) causes my throat to contract. The screw tightens when the speaker fails to complain. War a disease - why didn't I think of that? Medals used in that way - why not? And how well slang works in the first line.

Wilfred Owen (Who else?)