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, 30 January 2015

pppp, and you're done

To Birmingham last night to hear the Academy of Ancient Music, a long established thirty-strong group who play on period instruments. The music wasn't all that ancient, 'twas all Mozart and he's mid-eighteenth century. Or, if you prefer, timeless.

It should have been good; perhaps it was. The conductor was Robert Levin, an academic who is also a nifty keyboardist. He played WAM's loveliest piano concerto, the twenty-fourth. conducting from the instrument not the podium. The programme said piano but it was the much smaller, much quieter fortepiano; it had to be; a modern Steinway would have drowned out the gut-string violins, the valveless trumpets and the wooden flutes. A Ferrari among Model T Fords.

Fortepianos sound OK on CDs, We've got Melvin Tan doing Beethoven's first and second piano concertos and I love his agility. In the concert hall it's another matter. So much went for nothing. And we were in the priciest seats, dead centre, eleven rows back.

Yeah, I know all the arguments. Less resonance, faster articulation, music as the composer would have heard it. But if you can't hear it... As Basil Fawlty said, it's so basic.

THIS seemingly eviscerated accordion consists of 68 tickets (Grandson Ian's coming too) for 23 movies at the Borderline Film Festival, starting February 27. The titles: La Maison de la Radio, Ida, Whiplash, Wild Tales, Still Life, Foxcatcher, Birdman, Cycling with Molière, Enemy, Inherent Vice, Winter Sleep, Most Wanted Man, Mr Turner. Lourdes, Clouds of Cils Maria, Amour Fou, Duke of Burgundy, Black Coal - Thin Ice. Boyhood, Ex Machina, Before I go to Sleep, Phoenix.

From France to UK to China to USA to Canada to Israel to Poland to Germany to Argentina to Turkey.

We'll let you know. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Humility anyone?

I’ve been reflecting on self-deception. A common fault but, to avoid offence, let me be the guilty party.

This morning it was raining hard and a strong wind scoured my cheek. Yet I could have said I was enjoying myself.

Getting wet? Because I didn't care, this made me superior (less vulnerable) to those who fear getting wet. As to rain pain I bore it, didn't complain, thus emerging as a stoic; sort of brave. By combining these reactions I might have admitted to exhilaration, a sub-set of enjoyment. Yet I was wet (no merit there) and feeling raw.

There are logical flaws here although unpicking them takes a few seconds. The fact is we do not always analyse what we say. Frequently we opt for shorthand: "The weather was foul but - do you know? - I enjoyed it." If challenged and if we’re honest, we detect self-deception.

This is a simple case but the defect can crop up in complex sequences of thoughts and feelings. We need to cut the guff and in doing so we cut corners. Under examination we may appear ridiculous, as part of a cliché - not the wordy sort but the behavioural cliché. Think of Cassius in Julius Caesar: "The torrent (of the River Tiber) roar'd, and we did buffet it with lusty sinews (and) with hearts of controversy." Was it really that much fun?

What medicine do I prescribe? None. Talk is vague and inexactness  a fact of life; who would be a pedant? Mostly it doesn't matter. To say that confession shrives the soul is surely a cliché. But it’s as well to know it lurks.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Just passing through

Can't say I've led an adventurous life.

Rock-climbing? Sounds exciting but I was the worst rock-climber I knew and never pushed the limits, never risked much.

Repairing radio gear in Singapore? All I can see are the restraints of communal life in the RAF - the need to co-exist with others, most of whom I'd have ignored as civilians.

Seeking work in the USA as a married man with one small child? The idea was adventurous but the planning was meticulous; things went very smoothly. And there was central heating.

Deciding to find out, very late in life, whether I could write? Hell, what else? Herbaceous borders?

Just once I tip-toed on to the edges of a new old world. In the West Virginian Panhandle the roads had grass in the middle, then became dirt tracks. We passed wooden hovels with forty-year-old car shells for garden ornaments. People watched speculatively from their stoops as if guessing what we'd taste like. Suppose we break down? VR asked. Then we were back on the expressway.

Adventure? Pretty dull really.


Rookhope stands in a pleasant place,
If the false thieves wad let it be,
But away they steal our goods apace,
And ever an ill death may they dee!

It's almost a year now. I failed to listen to Joe's poetic voice for most of his life. Now when I’m faced with poetry I apply myself, unguided, often in confusion. The last line above is a curse which makes me smile. Would Joe approve? He was never vindictive. I have no way of knowing.  

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Generously knit, cruelly worn

The scarf was a gift, knitted to my instructions. It is multi-coloured and long, so long. It came from overseas and I revel in its plenitude.

I'd seen TV reporters wearing long scarves - notably my brother's namesake Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor - and I wanted to outshine them all. Now I had the means but not, I discovered, the skill. A scarf as generous as this, product of a generous heart, needs to be learned.

Privately I experimented. I wrapped a loop round my neck and the ends trailed on the carpet. I wrapped three more loops and still the ends trailed. Besides which the telly journos use some kind of trick whereby their scarves fold back on themselves. I needed to think. I announced I would launch the scarf officially on the first day of Spring. Wimpish procrastination.

Recently we had our first hard frost. Few of my neighbours garage their cars and the windscreens were rimed. I thought of my Skoda, snug in its burrow. I needed to pick up the Guardian and a malicious thought occurred. As my neighbours scritched with their credit cards I would walk past, my neck encircled. I would also wear my new sleek-fitting black fleece to emphasise my loss of weight.

The Hell with the fold-back trick, I would be demonstrating thermal superiority. It is not enough to succeed, said Gore Vidal, it is necessary that others should fail. Aha!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

It's just a jigsaw

Marriages, partnerships, mortgage sharing and other modern-day unions de convenance  profit from shared interests. But few shack up with identical clones. People differ: how does that work?

One major VR/RR rift concerns cucumbers. Even the smell drives me into hysteria whereas VR relishes them several times a week. Yet it’s under control, mainly because it’s up front: visible and olfactory. Allowing me to see myself as tolerant, a marital goodie-goodie. This claim may sicken others but cucumbers benefit me.

VR hates Western movies; I revere The Searchers. But VR can read through telly, sometimes sleep through it, as with international rugby matches. Obviously I would not watch The Unforgiven at peak viewing; the situation demands delicacy. VR's powerful abilities must not be over-stretched. It’s called an accommodation.

Like many women VR hates physical cruelty, real or simulated. I'm more immune. But VR can accept simulated cruelty, as in The Sopranos and The Wire, if the story has recognisable integrity. Bringing about that conversion involves nerve-shuddering nicety. Force on my part is instantly detected. Very much give and take.

VR favours public transportation, rhapsodises about trains. I'm not a petrolhead but suffer in buses and planes (insufficient kneeroom) and financially on the railways. Cars have disadvantages but offer qualified independence. VR no longer drives and I think recognises a balance here. VR's adulthood emerges.

Although just as atheistic as me, VR sets store by the decorative trappings of Christmas. Left to my own devices I wouldn't install a tree with lights outside the front door. Without applying moral force VR persuaded me to believe the tree looks well at night. And now it does. An excellent resolution: a concession in which all sense of resentment has faded.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Greater love hath no man

Quite casually, while commenting on a different matter, a fellow blogger  revealed elsewhere he had had a vasectomy. Not boasting or anything, an aside, if you like. Well if he can...

Why have I been so timid? After all, having one's vas deferens severed could be seen as the ultimate feminist gesture for a fella. But then with the v-op delicacy resides not so much in What? as in Why? I must be circumspect. Bet you thought that last word was going to end differently!

Let's get one thing straight. Tone Deaf pointed out the cataract op is a piece of cake. The v-op is not a piece of cake, more a piece of rock. One suffers: feminists take note. And if push came to shove you'd be hard pressed to explain the bruising. Lurid!

OK, OK. Childbirth’s worse.

Another thing. I'm reasonably stoic but the v-op found my tipping point. Up above was a huge light (I was all for it; wouldn't welcome a surgeon working in the dark) surrounded by mirrors. One mirror reflected - let's put this obscurely - the flash of the scalpel. An unpleasing view. They moved the light at my request.

Later, stitches were removed. The group of men - ludicrous in short dressing gowns – who’d shared the experience reassembled. We talked hollowly about forming a club. Later still, we were required to provide proof... hmmm, I see there are limits. Perhaps I was right to be timid. Or let's say English.

It all happened decades ago and I see a definite advantage. One RR is enough, no one I know of has clamoured for another. Go on, prove me wrong.

Note. This is a Works Well repeat, though more felicitous.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Handing over the baton

Lucy's far better informed than me about Charlie Hebdo and it would be futile my adding my two sous'-worth. Make sure you read her two-part comment to my post,  Just Passing By, a couple of days ago. Reflect as Lucy has done on the dangers of generalising, on using words like "government", "extremist" or even "cartoonist" and imagining they are in any sense definitive.

I started out exhilarated by people's opinions - a genuine forum. Now I'm exhausted. Blogging has its limitations. What's needed is balance (ie, eighteen-months' research followed by a thousand-page book. Assuming there's someone left to read it.)