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* finding less is better than more. I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Something new

This was the style of sandal but mine were always brown, always on their last legs
My blogging (first in Works Well then in Tone Deaf) started on May 4, 2008: I've done 1463 posts in 3600 days, ignoring leap years and assuming all months have 30 days. One post every 2.46 days.

Sounds reasonable. But not when compared with my lifespan of 30,370 days. One post every 20.76 days.

These figures are of course a nonsense - blogging as such didn't start until 1997. But the figures represent a personal criterion. Surely 30,000-plus days of observation and experience should be enough to ensure I haven't repeated myself in those 1463 posts. Alas, the archives reveal sad truths. All those subjects I've mined and re-mined: gross failures at school, journalism, life in the USA, novel writing. I'm no more original than a clanging bell in an RC church, bidding the faithful to Mass over a century or more.

Question: Is it possible to fashion an entirely new post without cross-referencing any post that went before? Perhaps.

I'm standing in Sherborne Road which feeds the terrace in which I live. My socks are down at my ankles, they have holes at the heel. I wear sandals because they accommodate my growing feet better than shoes. My knitted shirt/pullover has holes at the elbow. I wipe my nose with a hankie that has never been washed and may never be washed. There's a hissing/whirring as an electric vehicle passes on the main road. A thousand miles south men are killing each other in Normandy but I'm unaware of this.

I'm looking for a friend but hear no high-pitched voices. I'm lonely and almost certainly hungry. Thinking about the teacher with dyed blonde hair who lives next door, I experience sensations I cannot give a name to.

I am now very close to my 300-word limit.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Corny? Perhaps. Enlivening? Certainly!

Last year in Dusseldorf. This year the beer will remain undrunk
We've had to cancel our traditional visit to a German Christmas market. This year it would have been Aachen, followed by a short flip over the border for a couple of nights in Montreuil (France).

Many must wonder what we see in Christmas markets. The stalls sell stuff so why not visit a website and avoid getting cold? Gluhwein (mit Rhum) and potato pancakes are terrific but they may be simulated in the Robinson kitchen.

My reasons will sound grandiose, even sentimental. So be it. My bonds with Germany were born during a fortnight with a family living in the Ruhr valley in 1957. Since then they've grown.

Small moments. In Normandy there's an inconspicuous cemetery for German soldiers killed in the D-day aftermath. Yesterday the BBC's build-up to the November 11 centenary addressed German families: the perfect English of one elderly man broke down in tears. I'm reminded of the EU's primary aim - to discourage war between France and Germany. I sing magnificent songs by German/Germanic composers:

Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden,
Wo mich des Lebens wilder Kreis umstrickt,
Hast du mein Herz zu warmer Lieb' entzunden,
Hast mich in eine beßre Welt entrückt


(You, noble Art, in how many grey hours,
When life's mad tumult wraps around me,
Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
Have you transported me into a better world.)

German Christmas markets attract three generations. The atmosphere is friendly, the spirit optimistic. It's all a bit corny; theoretically I should be above it. Instead I seek to chat in my vestigial German.

Yeah, I'm pissed off not to be there.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Jana is loved - again!

I write novels because of a self-lacerating urge. But the urge dies when I try to flog the end-product. I ask myself who would want to read the scribblings of an unknown stranger?

Luckily my friend and publisher is made of stronger stuff. My work sells (imperceptibly) through Amazon who offer ingenious and cheapish publicity schemes for authors. My friend understands these schemes and we tried one for Opening Bars (a non-fiction account of my singing lessons) but it didn't seem to work. Never defeated, he suggested trying again with Out of Arizona and this is producing results.

Including a four-star review!

My books have been reviewed on Amazon before and I'm grateful for the friends who took time off to say what they did. What makes this review different is that it is not only by a stranger, but a foreign stranger (US since you ask). And it is apparent he finished the novel.

I won’t regurgitate the nice things he said. There are limits... Here’s something else:

At times I found the story a bit slow, and I was disappointed in the editing of it, punctuated minimally, but my heart went out to the heroine...

....adding...

... and I predict yours will, too.

I can afford self-deprecation. For one thing journalism has taught me that over-punctuation is a worse sin than under-doing it. For another, OoA’s Jana is my best realised character ever and I was sorry to let her go. I’m delighted she found another admirer.

Perhaps this was inevitable. His review ends:

If I could have afforded it, I would have (continued to pursue) a pilot's license. It was familiar territory to get back in the cockpit, metaphorically, with this woman...

I’m almost jealous.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Music for bad back, hip, thigh, calf

At home, without letting V know, I’ve been teaching myself Purcell’s My Dearest, My Fairest. Difficult doing it alone, it’s a duet.

Meanwhile the sciatica which crippled me for four months in the winter has returned and the acupuncturist’s needles can’t reach it.

At yesterday’s lesson I reveal all and V suggests we try the first few lines of Dearest. I’m sitting because of the pain and V calls out from the keyboard, “It’s harder than anything you’ve done before.” Occasionally I get it right and my voice blends with V’s, more than an octave above. Bloody marvellous.

Looking at the detail is like opening a Swiss watch. As if Purcell were saying: yes it’s hard but I’ve built in assistance. In passage after passage he provides same-note reference points so that singers don’t lose themselves in a welter of minor keys.

I leave feeling euphoric but it’s a special euphoria. Buoyed up by information, not just inner feeling. Seeing the notation in my mind’s eye as I drive. Symbols for which I’ve never received any sustained formal instruction. Too old for that, I haven’t the time.

I join wife VR at the community centre in free exercise for the elderly, run – coincidentally – by the acupuncturist.  The previous week the standing exercises were murder but I’m determined to take advantage of the euphoria. My determination lasts almost to the end when the seated exercises begin and these are less demanding.

I dwell on the way music now affects my life. Think about Purcell, dead at 36;  me singing his masterpieces at 83, over three-hundred years later.

Here’s what the DUET should sound like, allowing for the domestic acoustic

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Aeternum vale

Julie, our cleaning lady, rang to say that dead wasps had accumulated "in hundreds" behind the books we keep in the bathroom for those whose motions (Britain is a country devoted to euphemism) have slowed down with time. I've already mentioned the wasp problem in Late-life Affliction and I sighed. Cleaning ladies are like jewels and Julie's epidermis could not be set at risk.

Steve, Wasp-Killer-General in full regalia
I googled Disinfestation, Hereford, not knowing what it would cost. Under such circumstances it's always "a lot" and so it proved. Also they demanded payment in advance.

Steve practising his deadly craft
I expected the process to be psychologically purging, that I would emerge in some way shriven. This was not the case. The aftermath was messy since I was faced with gathering up the corpses of wasps which had travelled far and wide in the house to do their dying.

For the wasps it was "like the Somme"
In the cardboard box which had served to deliver my coffee pods and which had been turned into a wasp mausoleum I noticed uneasily that some of the yellow/black striped invaders were still showing signs of life. I returned them to nature by dropping them over the garden fence hoping that predators higher up the food chain than wasps would deliver the coup de grace.

At night sleep arrives reluctantly as I try to separate my tinnitus from imagined buzzing.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Succès d'estime?

Have you or I been a success in life?

What an opportunity to fib our hearts out! For who dares say no? Much easier to say: "I've (you've) been a huge success but the criteria are so fuzzy and so personal I can't be bothered to define them."

I suppose this question can only be addressed to someone the French would call "of a certain age" - sixtyish and beyond. But what about those vague criteria? None of that snuggling down under the literary duvet of: "I'm a success because I feel metaphorically warm, I love the human race, I have no self-admitted enemies and people don't shudder as I pass them in the supermarket."

There are rocks ahead. Success can be measured in age itself, conveniently ignoring whether those accumulated years were happy ones. Wealth is another criterion but you won't get many Brits making a meaningful statement here; North Americans are, in comparison, more refreshingly honest. Size of family gets the nod, as if sperm strength or fecundity somehow denoted superiority. But it is when we assess intellectual achievements that we sail very close to the Winds of Mendacity.

I think for success to be real it must be observable, and approved of, by others. Better too if it didn't depend on behaviour for that may have another, darker side. I have been told (though not in so many words) that my greatest success was in marrying VR. But would that be my success? Shouldn't she have a say?

I'm proud of two things which I regard as successes. I type at the same speed my mind works. And in choosing to take up singing at eighty (and then persisting for three years) I proved I was still open to sudden change.

Go on, I double dare you. But I'd advise you to take note of the caveats.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Dark dream

Two days ago I woke from a nightmare: a daughter I was unaware of  (quite unlike Professional Bleeder or Occasional Speeder, my known daughters) wanted to marry a male offspring of Donald Trump. The pair had already reached "an understanding".

Try not to be obvious. Reflect on this as a parent. Let's assume you are not a fundamental Christian, a cast-iron, gun-toting Republican, a fan of cage-fighting and/or presently short of money. Let's assume, too, you have not spoilt your daughter but have accorded her a reasonable degree of moral freedom. That you have told her that, while there is no rush, you look forward to the day when she is able and willing to fly the coop.

Dissuasion? If her intended had been a heroin addict you would probably have intervened. But just which arguments would you mobilise in this instance? Assuming, of course, you are able to suppress haunting visions of future "all family" gatherings.

Parenthetically, the dream horrified me. Especially when I tried to sneak out of  his campaign visit to a manufacturing plant and found myself stonily observed by my daughter's possible father-in-law, that rosebud mouth pursed in disapproval. But my sleeping imagination is a mere shadow of that when I'm awake. I try to think on other things.

But I'm interested in your reaction. Play the ultimate libertarian and book yourself a dinner jacket? Draft some minatory sentences which carefully avoid social or intellectual snobbery? Take a one-way holiday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Or drink your way through the state liquor store (Pennsylvania residents only).

Briefly she's your daughter now.