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, 11 March 2016

DIY deferred and a sad note

A much-used electrical socket in the lounge succumbs to maltreatment and needs replacing. These days I regard DIY as a pestilence and my reactions tend to proceed at the speed of the Rhone Glacier. But hey! No need! Grandson Ian has electrical training. And I am well equipped with the necessaries.

Immediately The Law Of Inadequate Preparation sets in. For what looks like a ten-minute job, I hand over half a dozen tools and sit down to watch. By the time ninety minutes have elapsed the lounge carpet is strewn with afterthoughts, not least a vice, a power drill, a small suitcase full of drill bits, two sizes of file, a Stanley knife, a truly tiny screwdriver, a roll of masking tape and scissors!

Even so I'm still in a good mood. Ian had previously accompanied me to B&Q to buy the replacement socket and his sharp eyes noted socket technology has marched on.  The front plate now costs £10 but it's worth every penny. Note those two small dark slots: they're USB sockets.

No longer will youthful visitors at Christmas face an ever-expanding trawl of Chez Robinson to find unused power points where their Iphones and Ipads may safely graze. I'm almost tempted to replace the front plates on several more sockets. Almost.

KEN HYAM. Sad news arrives via Lucy that Joe’s younger brother, Ken, has died suddenly of a heart attack. Almost exactly two years after Joe died. Over the decades I met Ken on a mere handful of occasions but latterly his emails have been a powerful presence. Ken was an excellent poet and as a voluntary kindness he watched over the fledgling verse I’ve posted on Tone Deaf and provided endless informed encouragement. I shall miss him for the most selfish of reasons.


  1. Now that you have watched and noted grandson Ian do the job you will be well prepared and can now tackle all the rest of the sockets in the house on your own. What a marvellous activity to look forward too, RR.

  2. So sorry to hear the sad news of Joe's brother's passing, a loss of another friend of yours. I had read his blog occasionally when it was active. I still miss Joe.

  3. With DIY for plumbing you only get wet if it goes wrong, but with electricity...

  4. Avus: Technically I was already well prepared; on one occasion I re-wired a whole house. Nowadays it's the inclination that fails me.

    M-L: Here's a typical email from Ken, sent this January:

    Dear Robbie,

    Many thanks for sending this poem. I definitely have not seen it before. It is interesting how the misquote and checking led to the poem, which I really like. It has a vintage Robinson quality which I value greatly. I especially like the way it develops and leaps on from "I was the sum of all my malcontents" to embrace its theme.

    I came across a poem by Baudelaire Le Soleil. It is about writing poetry and the effect of poetry on the physical world.

    I love the line "Je vais m'exercer seul a ma fantasque escrime" which my dual language edition renders as I practise my fantastic fencing alone. It goes on to talk about inspiration through nature and light, rhyme and the search for the right word.

    I think Joe's your and recently my fondness for sonnets reflects here.

    All best,


    So now I miss them both. Thanks for your comment; I like being reminded about how Joe's memory continues to live on.

    MikeM: Oh ye of little faith. Today's consumer units (previously called fuse boxes) are hyper-sensitive, designed to save the lives of all but the very stupid. The switches pop when even a lamp bulb blows. Mind you I'm careful not to tempt this magical power; I managed to re-wire a whole house without a single jolt. Repairing radio sets in the RAF in humid Singapore (where I shocked myself two or three times a week) was excellent preparation.

  5. Why do we have switches on our sockets here when they do not in New Zealand? Are the Kiwis just a bit braver than us?

    PS Sorry about the absence ... that damnable day job!

  6. Oh Robbie, I am so sorry to hear that Ken (I know him as Lucas) has passed away. I'm sending you a hug. This hasn't been the easiest of winters in our blog world.

  7. Blonde Two: The Kiwis are always braver than us, but on the whole they have less money. As I say I am not up on socket technology but it used to be possible to buy switchless sockets and switchless extension leads. One assumes these are, or were, cheaper.

    As to the damnable day job you're in a perfect position here at Tone Deaf. Your visits are a blessing and your absences are always understood.

    RW (zS): My ribs have creaked back into position and I'm grateful for your ardour. But perhaps you can answer this small matter of etiquette.

    I sent a snailmail letter to Ken's widow, saying how much I appreciated Ken's encouragement with my verse. However I typed it. I explained why: I am simply not at my best when handwriting (apart from the fact that my handwriting is atrocious) and I wanted to be explicit when dealing with such a difficult subject. It's at times like this that I find clichés almost an offence.

    What's your opinion on this? And the opinion of anyone else looking in?

  8. Typing a snailmail letter, you mean? I'm perfectly okay with it (my Grandfather usually typed for the same reason you mention). When I type letters, I'll sign with my good pen, which adds a personal touch. In any case, I think a typed letter is much nicer to receive than an email for important occasions.

  9. Funny, I typed my letter to her into an e-mail form, copied it by hand into a card, then sent it to myself for the record. I've been slightly disappointed to observe my handwriting, while still legible, has been getting uneven and ugly of late. Also, it makes my hand hurt, I can't concentrate on writing a decent hand and thinking what I want to say at the same time, and I've simply become too used to the flexibility of word processing, no unwanted crossings out or settling for the the way you said it the first time when you've just thought of a better way, so avoiding perhaps the pitfalls of cliché. I always roughed out important messages even before that, but there's a qualitative difference in the way we write down our thoughts now, I think. Hard to say whether anything of importance has been lost, but it's a change.

    There's a Mary Renault novel, The Praise Singer, about a poet in ancient Greece, a real one, I forget which, at the time of the transition between a purely oral literature and a written one. He catches his young apprentice composing in writing, and tells him off, saying writing is only for recording once you have composed, recited and committed to memory first, but the boy protests that he can shape it better as he's writing it, and the old poet has to agree his resulting work is better. I think perhaps we're going through something similar now. It's odd to think that in such a short time hand writing has gone from being the norm to something rather quaint and special; my brother, now in his seventies, still sometimes writes me handwritten letters of extraordinary evenness, pretty to look at and fluent in expression, with next to no crossings out, while his e-mails are quite lame and clearly of no great pleasure to him.

    As to the etiquette, we had no e-mail address for her anyway, but even if we had I think a proper letter is better. I think it's just fine to send typed snail mail in that situation, especially as you explained your reasons, and really I don't think she or anyone in that situation is likely to be evaluating your style or presentation too much, though of course one does so oneself. Nevertheless, your wish to be able to express yourself adequately must surely count for much.

    I do like the idea of the laptops and tablets safely grazing!

  10. Lucy: First off, never say your handwriting is uneven or ugly. From my experience it has all the hallmarks of a world leader: jagged purposive power. No doubt you'll dispute this but I can't help that; it's the sort of script that would appear on an authorisation to conduct a public hanging; ending with the ominous word "forthwith".

    The minute I found myself discussing word processors for the first time (about 1979 I think) I was bathed in enlightening light. "This," I told myself, "will reduce the drudgery of novel writing by fifty percent." For exactly the reasons you list. Later I realised WPs, far from encouraging users to run off at the mouth, encourage terseness - seem also to highlight good literary ideas. Obviously there will be exceptions, your brother being one. VR is, I think, another. But most profit I think.

    I had discussed the letter I sent with VR, saying in effect, that typing wasn't appropriate in such circumstances. VR said no it wasn't. But as I set out to draft it (at the keyboard, of course) I immediately reneged. Not for the recipient's wellbeing but for mine. Letters of sympathy hover at every word from turning into boiler-plate; whole slabs of vocabulary (notably that lumbering pachyderm "condolences") are off-limits. I need to feel I've done my best and this is the only way I can ensure my own comfort. I hope my explanation worked. More partially disguised selfishness which we've discussed before I believe.