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.

Sunday, 14 October 2018


Proposition: Kissing is an under-used resource in 20th/21st century fiction.

Does this matter? Given the space devoted to lamentable and literary accounts of bonking I think it does.

Consider this. A 25-year-old man invites a 36-year-old woman to dinner at a restaurant. Six months before, the woman's husband abruptly left her and the trauma endures. She accepts the dinner invitation reluctantly and now wishes she hadn't. About to sit at the table she drops her handbag out of which roll typical handbag contents plus prescription drugs which might be tranquillisers. A minute later, reaching to accept the menu, she almost knocks over a glass of water. Her eyes widen in mild terror. The man, whose expression seems to mirror hers, stands up, leans forward and gently kisses her forehead. Comfortingly.

It's that adverb I'm concerned with.

The raw material of novels includes adapted personal experience, a tiny bit of pure invention plus stuff we've simply observed. Often from other novels. Yes we plagiarise! Are you surprised?

Were I to develop the above scenario I'd have to invent it. Offhand there's no one I could plagiarise it from. Kisses are rarely mentioned. And then only as hasty preludes to the snapping of bra straps and the jamming of trouser zips. As to a "comforting" kiss I'd be entirely on my own.

Why are kisses given short shrift? Probably through lack of reflection. They are spectacular events, rich in sensation, eloquently symbolic, pregnant with portent. Truth to tell I fancy constructing a comforting kiss in words because there are those who would call it a contradiction. I'd like to prove them wrong. But I’d like a few examples which show me what to avoid.

Dorothy Parker: Lips that taste of tears, they say, are the best for kissing.

Friday, 12 October 2018

The tyrant's heel unmasked

In retirement we repeat ourselves: lurching out of bed, doing the necessary in the tiled room, dressing (Oh, for a one-piece garment with zip!), devising reasons for not gardening, browning the toast just-so for brunch... Our working days no doubt involved repetition but there were more distractions then. Beyond 65 (60 in my case) the novelty graph tends to flatline.
Repetition should not describe life. Life should have the potential for change. Change is best exemplified when we learn something new but “new” doesn’t always mean “happy”.
I lay on the couch faintly uncomfortable. Why? Because my feet seemed remote. Why? Because I was wearing shoes and didn’t want to risk mucking up the couch. Gradually it dawned.
When I stretch out on the couch my feet are supported on the floor by the heels of my shoes. The heels have comparatively sharp corners. A year ago we replaced the 20-year-old living room carpet because the backing was showing through the pile. But just in one place. You’ve guessed it! Exactly where my heels grind the pile.
What appalled me was the time it took to make the connection. As my heels rested on the new carpet they transmitted a sense of unease but left the reason vague. After several months I saw – in my mind’s eye – those heels doing their mindless destruction. Time to consider slippers indoors.
Some of us do conundrums for fun. VR used to do the Guardian cryptic crosswords but I was hopeless. Yet I can isolate a writer’s intentions in badly composed prose and make corrections.
Finally recognising the way heels threaten carpets made me feel stupid. More ominously that I’m being overtaken by age, a reminder I don’t need. How long would it have taken Isaac Newton...?

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

I really liked telle eloquence

Letter to Michelin tyre company, France, April 1993

Je suis francophil, j’ai acheté, il y un an, une maison à  Loire Atlantique et je suis en train d’encourager ma famille d’accepter mon enthousiasme pour les traditions francaises.

Avant Paques, j’étais fièr d’amener, pour the premier fois, ma petite fille, Ysabelle, en France. Pendant le trajet de Cherbourg à Drefféac, elle regardait les affiches à coté de la route et était ravi par l’image de votre M. Bibendum. “Qui est-il?” demandait-elle, on repondait et, enfin, elle commencait dire: “Regardez, M. Bibendum.”

Ysabelle a trois ans: votre société doit attendre longtemps pour le moment dont elle devient consommateur de vos produits. Puis-je suggérer que si vous voulez encourager l’enthousiasme de cette cliente naissante, vous l’envoyez une grande image de son héro, M. Bibendum. Ysabelle habite à...

Veuillez, messieurs, acceptez mes sentiments tres distingués.


Roderick Robinson

Michelin’s reply:

Nous vous remercions de votre lettre, exprimée avec une telle eloquence en francais, qui est rècemment parvenue au service Relations Extérieures.

Comme suite à votre demande nous avons le plaisir de vous informer que nous venons d’envoyer à votre petite fille une sélection d’étiquettes à l’image de M. Bibendum, que, nous, espérons lui plaira.

Dans l’espoir que nous avons donné entière satisfaction nous vous prions d’agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de nos sentiments les plus distingués.

Katie Nicholls
Relations Extérieures.

Monday, 1 October 2018

A real pro

Tone Deaf strives for originality. Original subjects are hard to come by but the old war-horses (singing, writing, life in the USA, wine, sexual desperation in youth, speaking French, faking it in journalism, etc) can be given a new set of clothes by polishing up the style or the approach. Thus, not just singing but rehearsing while travelling on buses, not just writing but pretending I'm Shakespeare.

Tell the truth I've never tried either of these two possibilities so I'm already in profit today. Whoopee! Could be I'm gee-ed up by the prospect of a singing lesson in 2½ hours’ time.

My wife, VR, likes to be original too but doesn’t have a blog. Which means her innovations arrive with a bang.

Coupla days ago we're in Tesco and VR's rootling through the bargain shelf. I'm mildly outraged when she comes away with two tiny "tails" of fillet beef. The cost of these fragments is about £7 and I can't see that as money well spent. But then I can't see as far ahead as VR.

There's an event imminent; now look at those fillet "tails". Individual Beef Wellingtons with our initials emblazoned! That's original!

Which causes me to reflect. Some years ago I sat down to a plateful of spag. bol., a staple when there's just the two of us. But this one's different, more piquant. Seems VR decided - off the cuff - to chuck in a few chilli flakes. Now I wouldn't want spag. bol. any other way.

Ice cream is a dull dessert but not when it's scattered with raisins marinaded in dark rum. Much more grown-up and another simple VR modification. Grandson Ian christens it Rumraisin.

Any fule can tweak words. Tweaking food needs expertise and the effects are more beneficial.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Brotherly love?

My mind's restless, I search other diversions.

Here's one: bumping up to a hundred the total number of comments to one of the posts in my brother's blog, Conrad Walks. Where the idea came from I'm not sure but I found a kindred spirit and we'd reached 79 by this morning. I'd like to claim, as Seinfeld did for his phenomenally successful TV series in the USA, that my comments are about nothing. ("More TV should be about nothing," Seinfeld said slily.) But they aren't. Mine are of course mainly facetious (You'd expect nothing else, surely?), the associations are entirely random, but the subjects are often mega. Cooking, for instance. Always a winner.

Am I losing my marbles. Why not, you will ask, spend more time on the declining fortunes of Tone Deaf? Why not indeed?

I think the main attraction is a sense of irresponsibility. Slightly less lunatic is a desire to prove I can write about anything. That each sentence should carry the expectation of discovery.

The project has suicidal overtones. Sir Hugh's original post, called Holme, appeared on August 24. Given that more recent posts will eventually archive Holme under Older Posts there will soon be no immediately visible temptation for new readers to explore the long, lonq sequence of Holme comments. But my kindred spirit says this doesn't faze him and he remains entertained. I am thus unrestrained.

Could I combine this foolishness with a musical accompaniment? Who knows? Kindred Spirit may be disinclined to stop at a hundred.

Please understand, I am not proselytising.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

You do this for fun?

Singing is getting harder as V concentrates on how songs should be sung (ie, interpretation). Last Monday I had a significant failure when V, looking totally knackered, wondered if our attempts were a step too far.

Re. Quilter's setting of Shakespeare's O Mistress Mine. With "Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty..." the note supporting "kiss" is highish and the requirement was to sing it without strain. On my own I'd never quite managed this and the solution was fiendish. As I failed, I talked compulsively. I emailed V apologising for behaving like a half-wit. Her reply contained comfort and a further solution. We shall see.

Last night BBC2's Trust Me, I'm a Doctor had a scoop. Certain activities may "boost feel-good chemicals in the brain," with possible implications for dementia. Volunteers tested stationary bicycle work, dancing, and singing against a control activity (reading a washing machine manual) and blood samples were taken. Manual-reading resulted in virtually no change, bicycles and dancing showed encouraging increases in the higher teens but singing was way up with a 40% increase.

Singing had been chosen because singers admit to "euphoria". I can confirm that. Even more surprising, my euphoric outbursts have recurred over the past 33 months. It seemed ironic that these two events should arrive in the same week but V's reply allayed any fears. Not that I’d ever thought of jacking in singing.

Singing, as with all music creation, gets harder the more you do. It has to because you start matching yourself against the pros, many of whom did doh – re- mi in the cradle. I’m never going to get there. Age is one factor. More important I’m not intuitively musical and must compensate with enthusiasm and doggedness.

Here’s a slogan: Musical euphoria - cheaper than cocaine!

Sunday, 23 September 2018

The milk train doesn't stop...

I come from a reading family and married a reading wife. At school I read all the eng. lit. set books the day they were first handed out.

One RAF weekend I read four novels between Saturday morning and Sunday evening.

Somerset Maugham's Ten Novels and Their Authors (Stendhal’s Red and Black, Balzac’s Old Goriot, Fielding’s Tom Jones, Austen’s P&P, Dickens’ Copperfield, Melville’s Moby Dick, E. Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Tolstoy’s W&P, Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov) appeared in 1954. I polished off those I hadn't already read in two or three weeks, except Bros. K languishing still at p. 350 after a fourth go.

I have read Ulysses three times, A la recherche... twice, and Musil's A Man Without Qualities once (quite sufficient, thank you very much).

Also fifty novels in French.

On a flight from London Heathrow to Pittsburgh I read the dozen sections of The Sunday Times and the whole (ie, 448 pages) of The Godfather.

None of which matches the voraciousness of my wife, VR. Since retiring in 1998 she has read an average of 220 novels a year.

Now I’m down to three books a month, often re-reads. Writing novels alters your reading perspective; you disassemble fiction rather than embrace it; novels become class-rooms.

Singing, a more instantaneous form of creation than novel-writing, has displaced book reading during the daytime.

Cutting down reading (I never imagined it would happen) has left me ignorant of many modern authors, both popular and “literary”. But there is no sense of loss. Music is another world and carries greater kudos. Substitute snobbism for kudos if you wish.

That said, Evelyn Waugh remains essential.