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, 3 March 2015

Three minutes of fame

France Inter, a 24-hour news/discussion/feature radio channel, comforted me at the end of my working life. The magazine I edited was bought out and my 18-mile round-trip commute  became 90 miles. As entertainment and to improve my French my car radio was perpetually tuned to FI. Thus I heard (and understood) Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie le Pen in interviewee mode.

One movie at the Borderline Film Festival (still running) was La Maison de la Radio, a brilliantly edited, touching yet funny montage of a day in the life of France Inter. It is VR's favourite movie so far.

It reminded me of Joe and Lucy, both great radio listeners. It further proved how intellectually superior radio can be compared with telly. How radio can make assumptions about a listener's intelligence that telly would never dare to make. It also recalled a day when I occupied the other side of the fence.

The magazine I then edited had predicted the death of the English pudding in staff canteens. The BBC gave me a slot on the forebodingly-named John Dunne Show. What impressed me was JD's technique.  After rehearsing he said he would repeat the questions in a livelier, more vivid way and invite me to "step up". This he did, grinning, gurning, urging me facially, turning the exchanges into a sort of knowing conspiracy about the subject. To which I responded, growing in exhilaration.

La Maison de la Radio showed many examples of this. And I slipped back into two distinct pockets of time. Telly, alas, is never Proustian.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Wheels squeak into motion

Suddenly the blocked drain that is Second Hand freed itself and in six weeks I wrote 10,000 words. Any good? You be the judge:

Unemployed in London, Alan Pratt, Francine's erstwhile squeeze, becomes news editor of a weekly  in Plymouth (the original Plymouth! - see above). Francine visits him.

He spread the newspaper out on the table. “They’re mostly kids, you know. Often nothing more than media studies, but they’re here for the right reasons. That front-page lead – Planning dept. admits ‘stupidity’ – was put together by a nineteen-year-old from Woking. I thought her plummy accent would hold her back but on the phone she sounds like a middle-aged barrister. People quiver and give her the goods.”

“How hard did you sub her?” she asked. “I see a couple of Prattisms in the second para.”

“What Prattisms?”

“Insinuated instead of alleged, for one.”

He stared. “Is that one of mine?”

“Don’t look at me like that. As you used to say: I’m only telling you because I love you. An outright lie but you seemed to think it softened harsh editing.”

“Did it?”

“Actually, it did.”

“Now who’s fibbing?”

But she wasn’t. Those were the early days when it pained her to see 350 words she’d slaved over reduced to a brief. He’d said it unselfconsciously, dismissively even, and somehow it had worked. Kept the sentiment going during the shared BFI visits but brought it to a close, for good and all, the first time they kissed each other good night. How mechanical of him. But then men, in return, often insisted women were flibbertigibbets so she supposed it was tit for tat.

Men! They could be desired, manipulated or detested but often they seemed too crude, too obvious to be worth understanding.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Where-e'r you ski
Cool sales will tempt you in
Trees where you...

Shopping is several things, here are three: replacing day-to-day consumables, satisfying an identified, usually one-off, need, and exposing oneself to virtual and/or real-life temptation.

That latter has a bad reputation, the province of those with too much money and time. Unfair! When I read  book reviews or The Gramophone I rarely need a book or CD,  I'm asking to be tempted. Samphire may be a distant concept when I walk through a French street market but then I see it and buy it.

But how about this? In my ski-ing days I often wandered into ski shops with a blank mind. I already owned skis, boots, anorak and salopettes; replacing any cost real money. Was I comforted by "being with" these products? Was I pretending to look for improvements in a leisure industry notorious for selling fashion rather than benefits? I have no idea but I worry even now.

No one enters Tesco with a blank mind, only imperatives: sliced bread (Shock! Horror!), drain cleaner. But recently I saw a world within a world. A mother with a bunch of bananas in her trolley broke one off, peeled it and gave it to her child. An empty skin at check-out.  An imperative had become a temptation and had been satisfied all within a minute: I liked the circularity, far from marketing ploys and advertising strategy.

A fantasy arose. I re-entered the ski-shop, bought skis, boots, etc, donned them, and ski-ed down a car-park now sloping and magically covered with snow. Then I knew...

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Porn - old and new

I don't watch much new telly these days but I except Wolf Hall, the BBC's plausible six-part adaptation of Hilary Mantel's meaty novels about Tudor schemer/fixer Thomas Cromwell  - not to be confused with Oliver of that ilk who later urged England to take stumbling steps towards parliamentary democracy, a process still woefully incomplete.

I worry that these reconstructions feed a taste for legitimised S-M porn with their detailed scenes of public executions, especially of women. No spoiler alert necessary for WH's final episode yesterday, given that it concerned Anne Boleyn's fall from grace, and for which something new in the beheading line was contrived.

Don't be put off by this but be warned: WH is a serious account of politics and the drama lies in networks of relationships which demand attention and a good memory. Meanwhile marvel at Mark Rylance's minimalist Cromwell (above), and the huge implications contingent upon the tightening of his lips. A role for which telly was invented.

A MORE modern form of porn lies in the never-ending trawl of kit to sustain enthusiasts in their leisure pursuits. Blonde Two and Sir Hugh, both extreme walkers, have a taste for this. (Too cruel, too condensed; see: Where-er you ski)

I used to walk (the synonym, hike, causes me to throw up) and my first and only rucksack was bought as ex-WW2 stock, said to be used by Army toughies called Commandos. Painful to the hips, very character-forming.

To get to "walking" places I rode a motor bike and needed gloves. The first pair, quickly discarded, were also ex-WW2 and made of crackly slick canvas for troops under gas attack. No porn in either of these items, I fear.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Etre chic

Off and on since 1972 I've "done French". Why?

We spend most holidays in France. Speaking French (purposefully) gives me a buzz. I profit from the self-imposed discipline. I'm reminded how language works. Elitism; snobbery.

After 15 years here in Hereford the pattern is fixed. During the week I prepare about ten pages of a worthwhile novel (presently Delphine de la Vigan's Rien ne s'oppose à la nuit; note the preparatory scribble in the pic). In front of Pat, a retired languages teacher with huge reserves of patience, Beryl and I read alternate passages aloud to improve our pronunciation and then translate them as exactly as we can. We're all of an age.

After all that time you might expect I'd be word-perfect. Rather the reverse. My deteriorating memory will quite soon drive French into that black hole down which ski-ing and swimming disappeared.

But there's another problem. The complete French vocabulary is smaller than that for English (viz. 1039 vs. 1149 pages in the Collins-Robert shown). The French often modify existing words rather than create new ones, not always logically. Attendre means to wait, s'attendre (the reflexive) means to expect. Even worse, there's vouloir (to want to) and en vouloir (to have a grudge).

Such small differences tend not to stick with me.

Not that I'm complaining. If French were easier I'd be denied my snobbism. Remember the Pharisee: I thank thee, O Lord that Thou hath not made me as other men.

Which raises an interesting religio-philosophic point... 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Naughty Nineties ahead

Old age defects are well-known. The benefits less so. Purely personal.

FOOD Reduced tendency to stuff myself. Sweet things, deliberately designed to tempt (especially via chocolate), are a turn-off.

DRINK Satisfactory inexpensive red wine doesn't exist;  spend more, buy indulgence

SEX APPEAL In middle age you worry enough to get your eyebrows trimmed; at 70-plus you know there's no point.

Aged (approx.) seven, about to fall asleep at my Grannie's, I had a terrible vision: crowds walking past my grave not caring I was dead or had even existed. Now I tell myself: "Stand not upon the order of your going." (Macbeth).

FRIENDSHIP For good, pragmatic reasons I drop acquaintances. For equally understandable reasons others (including bloggers) drop me. Painful but it eliminates ambiguity.

EMOTIONS Now more intense, more physical. Triggered by music, acts of heroism and affection from which sentimentality has been extirpated, and faces of people who are getting on with things doggedly.

HUW EDWARDS TV news reader. As I get older, so does he. The BBC may be phasing him out from News At Ten.

TV The desire to check if well-known programmes (Downton, Dr Who, Midwives, Mrs Brown) have merit - never strong - becomes ever weaker.

CURIOSITY Increasing re. cooking, technology, moral dilemmas, the plastic arts, obscure sport and religious procedures.

SNOBBISM Used judiciously can bring rewards.


Ring out ye Crystal spheres,
Once bless our human ears,
(If ye have power to touch our senses so)
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time

I see Christmas-tree ornaments from Harrods, costing a fortune. And hear, otherwise inaudible, accompaniment by church bells. Simple, but simplicity’s usually difficult.


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

What's a body for?

Fearing it would be cold in Stuttgart (see pre-Christmas posts) I opted to wear my super-dooper anorak. Going through the pockets I found the above rectangle of plastic and was cast down. Had I been closer to laughter than tears I might have echoed Cole Porter in Kiss Me Kate:

Where is the life that late I led?
Where is it now? Totally dead!
Where is the fun I used to find?
Where has it gone? Gone with the wind!

Twas my last ski-pass, bought in 2007 for the high slopes of Zermatt in Switzerland. It cost a fortune and delivered a cruel message. "You are," it said, "too old to ski." Thus the transition from "elderly" to "old - definitely old". A life of ratiocination remained.

People who haven't skied think skiers are twerps. It's dangerous, isn't it? Memories of concussion, a dislocated shoulder, a cracked scapula and a torn intercostal muscle rise to remind me. But heck, those were stretched out in time between 1978 and 2007. A small price. Applying myself differently I might have gone mad reading the novels of Margaret Drabble.

Why ski? To be transformed. To escape the lumbering body I was born with, to embrace gravity like a lover, to perform tiny physical adjustments and to emerge as a proposition in aesthetics. To glide, laughing at weight and friction among scenery that shouts out - I live! What's pain? I've caused other dinner guests to go green with nausea at my account of how Swiss doctors reduced my dislocation without anaesthetic. The power of vivid discourse.

Nothing comes for nothing. Passive pleasure is, in the end, circumscribed. There's nothing quite like letting go and depending on your instincts and what you've learned.