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, 20 October 2017


I’ve given up verse but not doggerel. Below is a lament for Tone Deaf’s shrunken contacts list and should be sung to Pete Seeger’s most famous tune.

Lacrimosa dies illa

Where do all the bloggers go,
Where do all the bloggers go,
Tomb-stones away?
Where do all the bloggers go?
To the new reality,
Faces that smile at them,
Words in the here and now.

Far beyond our dialogue,
To the land of give and take,
Handshakes? Here's mine.
Welcome raw immediacy,
Touch and sight available,
Humans not cyber code,
Breaths on each brightened cheek.

What must we remainers do,
Writing for survival?
Burdened by longevity,
Word-length is time.
Take the time and build on time,
Make-believe eternity,
Pick from the tones to heart,
Sing out with fervency.

OS in NYC: a PS

Younger daughter, Occasional Speeder, now back in Gloucestershire from NYC and jet-lagged into next Christmas, would like you all to know she did manage this while on holiday.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

... and wilderness is paradise enow

Occasional Speeder, born in Allegheny County in 1967, has returned after a few days in New York convinced she glimpsed paradise. Ironically one reason we, her parents, left the US in 1972 after six years, was because I couldn't face the prospect of working in the Big Apple. Pittsburgh I liked, Boston I aspired to, SF I dreamed about. As to NYC I had a blurred vision of my corpse stuffed full of H, slashed with a Stanley knife, riddled with 9 mm slugs, being slid overboard from the Staten Island Ferry. What a romantic I was! More likely I'd have died of poverty in Bellevue.

Come to think of it I was a romantic, but about the US in general. For a year I researched and planned, pleaded with magazines as far away as Duluth, finally found myself the cynosure of all eyes at Rimbach Publishing on the Iron City's Northside. ("Gee, I could listen to him talk all day.") For in 1966 the US was a kind of paradise.

A few local difficulties in SE Asia but what the heck: my draft status was 5A, a Macdonald's burger cost 15 cents and a draught beer the same. The Pirates were on the way and Dormont public library was full of novels I'd never read. For the first time ever I lived in accommodation that was centrally heated.

The mean-spirited on both sides of the Atlantic averred I'd gone there for the money. I was wealthy - on $6000 pa! On Fridays I bought half-a-gallon of Gallo rosé. The neighbours believed wine = wino, they drank Jim Beam so no risk there.

For several weeks I passed as an intellectual. I had friends, which never happened in London.

Paradise? Who needs Fifth Avenue?.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

OS goes overboard

How OS became Americanophile. Christmas in Philly, aged two-ish.
The wreckage in the foreground is what remains of a Cornish Rock Hen
 which OS has mangled, now, genteelly, she's washing her hands in the
water glass. Afterwards we took her into the garden and hosed her down
Younger daughter, Occasional Speeder, was born in the USA although doesn't remember much about it. As a birthday treat (one of the big ones) she's over in New York at the moment and posts the following:

Decision made to divorce parents today. If they hadn't selfishly taken me to the UK when I was four I'm pretty confident I would be living in Brooklyn, in THIS house (pic of brownstone), with THIS dog (some kind of puggish thing) with THIS view on my doorstep (you can guess). Bastards.

Just to set the minds of kind-hearted US citizens at rest this is an example of histrionic exaggeration which I've taught both daughters to practice and for which I'd score her an over-generous 6 out of 10. She's ignored opportunities for further snideities and I'll be reminding her of them when we drive to the Christmas market, in Düsseldorf, in a few weeks time.

In fact OS has solved a problem. Today as usual I rose at 06.25 am and Hereford was in total darkness. It happens at this time of year, I believe, although the vagaries of the natural world are of little interest to me. Yesterday Hereford caught the tail-end of Hurricane Ophelia with the sun turning a dusky red but you won't see me posting about either of those meteorological banalities. Humans have far more potential.

In my eighties I laugh less and today I fully intended to elaborate on this in a piece cut-and-pasted from The Anatomy of Melancholy (By R. Burton but not the famous one). OS's proceedings for divorce brought a wintry smile to my face and an even crueller intention to rain on her parade with a single word: TRUMP. Then I reminded myself I am a parent, I have both advantages and obligations.

I'll make do with "the rest is silence" even if in WS's case, he lied.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Black spots

What am I worst at?

First, an important ground rule. There’ll be none of those weaselly confessions (I over-forgive my enemies. Hiding my handsomeness. Being too literary.) which turn out to be self-serving. Here “worst” means bad: contemptible, incompetent, unmannerly.

I lack social nicety. The West Riding didn’t encourage it and I’ve never bothered to rectify the omission. Far from being trivial social nicety oils the wheels, especially during first encounters. Less to do with what is said, more a tone of voice that sets the other person at ease. Instead I challenge and am facetious.

Personal hygiene. By US standards I’d be stopped at immigration. Yes I do change my underpants but reluctantly. As to my PJs you’d be shocked... And for the sake of the comity of nations I’ll not say how often I bathe. Cleanliness is such a fag, more so as I get older. Nor are there valid excuses.

Impatience prevents me from doing good manual work. What’s more I can live with visible and gross imperfections; in some cases even romanticise the defects.

Writing too much encourages self-centredness. And not in a nice way. Even when I’m not writing it occupies my frontal lobes and colours what I say and do. It encourages “pronouncements” – not a lovable tendency. Makes me sneer.

I know I’m a physical coward because simulated warfare during National Service proved that. But I’m also guilty of moral cowardice. While editing a community magazine I backed down to a bully. An older man with little education stood up to the same bully and won the day.

I drink too much.

Here’s an ambiguous one. I’m amused by things I suspect I shouldn’t be amused by. Perhaps because I’m somewhat detached. Examples are needed but I’ve run out of space.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Could this be Brexit?

Yeah, yeah, pontoons and suits are things. The vacancy is in his head
Some cease to blog because they believe they're all written out. For shame. Subjects abound. How about the present intake of breath and the one that (we hope!) follows? The act of reading these words? The strange and rarely examined phenomenon of being alive? Or for that matter being dead? Momentous topics discarded in favour of mulching flower beds or chasing down bargains at Tesco.

Or we can write about nothing. Split that word and we get no thing, a biblical-sounding phrase intended to invoke a void. But there are more than things out there. Breathing in and breathing out are not things, they're events. Reading is a process as is living. Being dead? Hardly a thing.

And before you dispute the definition of thing - arguing that its very vagueness allows it to cover all experienciable and imaginable phenomena - try Googling "Thing, meaning". Never have I been so ashamed of dictionary compilers as a tribe. Most are overpowered by the difficulty and resort to puerile examples.

Were I still a versifier (I resigned the day before yesterday) I'd relish standing on an eminence and viewing nothing. Not a Rich Tea biscuit, nor a Rembrandt nor a TV remote in sight.

Not-I wandered, lonely as an un-thing
That floats - oh, somewhere - over various non-existing geographical features.

The Bard of Rydal could do better.

Mind you the view from that hill, tump or excrescence might be surprising. War might be ensuing (for war is an event) but the good news would be that nobody would be armed, for weapons are things. Nor would anyone care about the war since none of us would have smartphones on which to goggle at it.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to wrestle with the idea that nothing is something to write about. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Tracks in treacle

Sentimentality is "exaggerated and self-indulgent tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia." At first sight you'd say there were worse failings but closer scrutiny shows it to be based on lies, often in the face of incontrovertible facts. One pernicious form is the Golden Era Myth - the belief that yesterday was always better than today, wilfully ignoring such matters as cruder health care, greater authoritarianism, implacable racism, and an uncaring state.

I try not to be sentimental but since this is my 1347th post, virtually all of them 300 words long, no doubt I've let through a few fluffy kitten photos. What I dislike is that sentimentality bypasses reason: "Yes, I know X is wrong but I get this warm glow."

Or to bring things up to date, "I like Boris (Johnson) because he makes me laugh."

Unbridled sentimentality anchors its practitioners in time and encourages repetition. An allusion to Blackpool Tower and one winces in advance at: "In my opinion Bondi Beach doesn't come close; I was always happiest holidaying in the north-west." Implying, of course, that this view is set in stone and will never change.

And yet... a friend lugs round a huge coverless, self-destructing dictionary despite owning the same edition in much better repair. "Because a friend gave it me and she is now dead," I’m told and can't argue with that. Affection must be allowed to bridge the grave. But the dictionary has now reached the autumnal phase and is daily shedding unprotected pages at both ends. Soon my friend will be disadvantaged when it comes to words beginning with a and z. Will the earlier justification still be legitimate?