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.

Monday, 16 April 2018


The electric kettle's on/off switch became intermittent. Once we'd have lived with it until it failed completely but those genteel poverty days are over now. The measuring tube on the side of new kettle lights up blue ("Like a disco," says Professional Bleeder). This seems unnecessary – a feature that is likely to fail first and turn the kettle into junk. Twenty-first century deception.

The previous kettle (on the right) lasted years perhaps decades but there was no sentimental attachment. How is it some devices come to be loved?

● VR's Prestige knife, bought 58 years ago, serrated edge long since departed; now more a weapon then a utensil. Years ago VR cut tip of her finger off with it. Might that be the emotional tie?

● Panasonic microwave has endured almost twenty-five years. Heavily made, dull brown, reliable. Seeing that go would cause a pang.

● Also heavily made, Sellotape (US: Scotch tape) dispenser allows you to tear off strips with one hand. Bought specially for me. Literally indispensable.

● Amtico floor tiles in kitchen. Cost a fortune (£1600 in 2003) but still good as new. Rare case of opting for top of  range.

● Neff oven and glass hob. Also top of range. Previously preached about on Tone Deaf.

● Brabantia touch bin. Touch top, bin opens - a gimmick? Nah. Hands full of nasty rubbish? Use your elbow. Lasted more than ten years.

● Plastic vegetable strainer. Lightweight, indestructible. Came free as Persil promotion, mid 1960s.

● Plastic pineapple corer. Lakeland. Twenty years-plus. £4? Does exactly what it claims to do – though unexpectedly.

Monday, 9 April 2018


Getting old means looking backwards not forwards. After all the past is full of completed stories, whereas the future is both incomplete yet gloomily predictable. This must irritate readers, certainly it irritates me.

And yet, and yet... I lie on the newly made bed, unwilling to take off my dressing gown, wearied with the prospect of shaving (for the 28,820th time, I've just calculated) and my mind slides ineluctably back to 1959, a year when an awful past ended and a new future began. Annus mirabilis! The North of England was behind me, London was my new home, and anything might happen. Many things - in different parts of the globe - did happen.

I was sharing a flat just off Clapham Common with a senior journalist on The Times and an American jazz drummer and his wife. The conversation was wide-ranging, musical and allusive, the atmosphere one of daring. Finally I was living the life I reckoned I was equipped for: my own version of the Left Bank, of Greenwich Village.

I had just met VR, then VT, and I showed her photograph (see above) to the drummer: he was a scoundrel but well-read and understood Europe. "It looks like Saint-Sulpice," he said. Would anyone in Bradford, the city I'd left behind, have drawn a parallel with that Parisian church? Never.

Elder daughter, Professional Bleeder, is visiting and asked to sort through our jumbled up box of photos. The one above saw the light of day again. The location is actually the Clock Tower in St Albans, but it's exotic enough. I am strengthened enough to get off the bed and start shaving, re-invigorated by the past.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Raw material

Ever found yourself in a literary desert, lacking things to say? Why not write about the desert?

I'd hardly sifted a handful of sand when my attention was seized. My first-floor study overlooks an uncultivated mini-park where people unleash their dogs. A woman - immediately attractive even at a hundred metres – walks purposefully. Ah yes, plastic bag of dog poo in hand, trash bin in sight.

By attractive I don’t mean pretty; interesting in a pleasing way. Face obscured by the high collar of a blue “puffer” anorak. Mid-length blonde hair artfully scattered. Tight-fitting jodphurs. I ignored her dog and am ashamed I didn’t notice its owner's footwear. She walked sleekly like a catwalk model, legs close together: following her own imaginary tightrope.

So what have we got? It was earlyish so she was no lie-abed. Socially conscientious given the poo-bag. Probably monied since no one buys jodphurs and wears them as jeans. A graceful mover who stopped occasionally to observe her dog and others.

Not enough to launch a novel, though it has happened. Perhaps the younger sister of the leading male or female character; a moral force augmented by her uncaring attitude towards her own looks. Irritated when patronised. Does drudgery jobs (eg, walking the dog) so she can be alone with her thoughts. Will be going on to the stables for a long session in the saddle, her true delight.

Of course, there’s always the desert. Dog-poo lady might well be good there. Silent, self-reliant, controlling a camel well. Looking terrific in a black and white keffiyeh. Careful, I mustn’t patronise.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Easeful afterlife, anyone?

The poisons from my chesty cough and the ever-increasing power of the drugs I take for sciatica can create a mild delirium  as I begin to wake up from a night's sleep. The delirium consists of insistent abstract images combined with high-pitched sounds cleverly arranged to cause me acute mental discomfort.

One morning, however, I enjoyed a pleasant delirium. I found myself using hands and eyes to explore the contours and the softness of the duvet while composing a verse that sought to describe the delights of this experience. Somehow the single words which constituted the verse attached themselves to the gold-glowing duvet and were intermittently visible as the duvet pulsed like a living thing. Reality seemed to intervene when I was unable to find a new word to succeed the last addition, now forgotten, except that it began with "tin-".

The following day I read that the Pope had said Hell didn't exist.  Which set me thinking, yet again (See my March 28 post, Long, yes, long), about the nature of Heaven. Not, of course, the Pope's Heaven which always resembled a slightly softened version of West Point or Sandhurst. Rather a state of mind, arrived at via drugs or through one of God's ordinances, that promotes incorruptible pleasure which please the lucky dreamer and harm no one.

Like my happy delirium in fact. In prescribing our own Heaven we tend to depend on earthly delights: long untiring walks for Sir Hugh, the disassembly of some inexplicable machine for MikeM, a vintage motorcycle mystically endowed with 2050 reliability for Avus, and a willing literary agent for me. But such wish-lists lack two engaging qualities: surprise and novelty. My delirium had both, was cheaply achieved, and offered a strong dash of surrealism.

A consummation devoutly to be desired.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Fog clears

I wasn't even sure I'd go to singing. I was still suffering the aftermath of a chesty cough which had cancelled the previous Monday. Coughs don't help singers and I mustn't pass on any lurgi to V.

But 140 weeks of lessons and the urge is still there. Sure I can write about it but I rarely catch the visceral pleasure of belting out German, pitch perfect and steady, for V's attentive ears:

Es schweben Blumen und Englein
Um unsere liebe Frau.

(Flowers and cherubs hover
Around our beloved Lady)

V acknowledges my cough and modifies the warm-up, but soon we're wrestling an old demon. How do you sing the first note of anything? - switching precisely from silence to music? It's called attack and is best understood as decisiveness. V has me doing chopped-off sounds: Ha! Ha! Ha! If I finger my Adam's apple the vibration tells me whether I've got it right.

Suddenly, if briefly, I'm in another world. Not every time but never mind. The source of my singing appears to have shifted. It's no longer at the back of my throat but several inches forward. The tone is wider and clearer; it has lost its artificiality. My front teeth seem to resonate with the passing sound waves.

I practice easier songs at home in this new way. Record them and compare them with earlier versions. Absolute proof! Previously I sounded mannered, even muffled. Might this be a true singer’s voice? Also: this is a more relaxed process. Correction, it must be relaxed.

The only comparison was when I got the breathing right and could finally swim a mile of crawl.

I wish you all such a sudden happiness.

Here's a "new voice" recording of Brahms' WIEGENLIED

Sunday, 25 March 2018


"It's the element," said P. Davies, when the washing machine refused to wash. P. Davies is a nomadic domestic appliance specialist; in another age he would have been an equally successful tinker. Punctilious to a fault, he left the failed element standing up in the utility room sink.

That was several weeks ago and the element is still there. I should have thrown it away; instead I asked VR why she hadn't done so. She mumbled, deliberately being obscure.

Why the reluctance? Has it become a votive offering? (Wiki: An object displayed, without the intention of recovery or use, for broadly religious purposes.) Perhaps. Or do both of us regard it as a lucky charm? - recalling P. Davies's certain diagnosis, and the surgical precision with which he removed the defective unit. Could be. We're both atheists but we're also superstitious about certain matters. Is there an offhand beauty to the element's curves?

Throwing things away is a minefield of human misbehaviour. Given VR gets through about 220 books a year, it's amazing she discards books without sentiment. Perhaps it's just as well. My problem is IT cables. Every computeresque device I acquire comes with a surplus; they're packed together in a cardboard box which resembles a snake's graveyard. They might come in.

But the element... Hey, just a minute; might the word itself be significant? Elements are the universe's building blocks, not to be sniffed at. Or trifled with. I've just Googled a wonderfully coloured, interactive version of the Periodic Table and I'd hate to offend Dimitri Mendeleev, its original begetter, by treating any element as junk.

Perhaps we'll frame it. But all in good time.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Long, yes, long

It is not my intention to deride the Revival Movement Association but they made the first move. It was they who dropped a leaflet - Where will you spend eternity? - through my letterbox. I was struck by its tone and the relentless use of capital letters.

First of all, it said, REMEMBER THAT THERE IS AN ETERNITY. That is certain. ... the fact stands.

I agree. I have no wish to quibble about falling short by a few billion years.


I'm not so sure. Would a tin of ashes or a few bones disjointed by medical students (I've not made up my mind yet.) be suitable applicants?

OK, cut to the chase. In terms the RMA can understand I can guess my eternal destination ("a place of violence, misery and hate") but I'd like details about the alternative. Granted there will be "holiness, happiness and love" but that's it. I have a gut-feeling there'll be no telly but will there be pens and paper, will meditation be allowed, is there a book list? As Woody Allen said: "Eternity's a very long time, especially at the end." There will be choral singing but after a mere millennium the western canon will be all used up. Would this mean repetition?

I am told we cannot know the mind of God and I'm inclined to agree. Heaven will be a pleasant surprise. Tea and buttered scones overlooking a suburban lawn would be pleasant, but not a surprise. Donald Trump roasting on a spit would be a surprise but not pleasant. RMA offers another leaflet but requires my address. Actually I'm not that curious.