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Thursday, 3 March 2016

Time out of joint

These days I'm mostly comatose; I posted glowingly about our new duvets, implying sleep was better than sonatas. But more recently catatony (I doubt the word exists, but I'm getting lazy) has been replaced by upheaval; 'tis the Ides of March, otherwise the Borderlines Film Festival.

Yesterday I saw Marguerite, a French movie about a wealthy woman who sings publicly despite having a tin ear. It's subtler than that might suggest; her fellow charity workers ask: should one tell her or not? But what about me? I can afford my singing lessons. Is there a world out there governed by politeness? Saying: nah, leave the old geezer be, the grave will soon silence him for good.

More disruption at home. For dessert I had a cake in which flour had been replaced by clementines (tiny oranges) boiled for ages and mushified in the food processor. The texture was fine but not solid, the flavour pleasingly tart. Slightly weird.

Plus those strange orders on my computer: Top op anardana seeds, Natco ajwain seeds, Amchoor powder.

Like Marguerite they're part of the Borderlines whirlwind.  Ian, our grandson, comes for the movies and to dominate our large and fully equipped kitchen. Ian is an "adventurous" cook and VR is briefly reduced to sous-chef. Soon we'll discover what Ian needs those powders for.

Ian causes me to stir my stumps. On free evenings I pour him glasses of champagne. Yesterday we got into the car and took him up the Elan Valley where gale-force winds blew spume off the huge reservoirs (see pics) and we found him a café where they served faggots (Note to US readers: check your dictionary before making an erroneous assumption.)

Borderlines: the eye of the storm.


  1. It's all happening down there in Hereford, RR.

    "Faggots" ah, yes. We are two nations divided by a common language:

    There was a young girl from Madras
    Who had a most beautiful ass
    Not rounded and pink
    As you probably think
    But gray, with long ears, and ate grass

    We are also entreated to have five portions of fruit a day. What will our transatlantic cousins think of us?

  2. Serving faggots made me laugh, again I remark that while we usually know their English, they rarely know ours, but that's fine, gives us an edge. Our Quiet American friend laments how Brits give the weirdest and most off-putting names to often quite nice food; faggots is obviously one to add to the list. I rather miss them. The café upstairs at Cardiff indoor market served a good plateful with mash and onions and gravy. However, Tom, from a general leeriness about offal in most forms (chicken livers in pâté being the only real exception, or kidneys in steak and kidney pie at a pinch if the offending morsels are picked out) and a memory of his first wife serving them, has an abiding horror of them and they can barely be mentioned in his hearing.

    Ajwan seeds are something of an aromatic non-event; my step-daughter went to some trouble to hunt them out for us once - she never minds shopping in Asian stores. The best thing was it made the shopkeeper happy as he got very nostalgic about his mother cooking with them but said few people asked for them. Amchoor powder, on the other hand, really is a magic ingredient, and can transform a simple potato curry into something truly memorable.

    Inept artistic endeavour, it's a tricky one isn't it? We've an elderly friend to whom painting - rather large oil and acrylic efforts - gives great joy, satisfaction and meaning to life. Trouble is her paintings are awful, and everyone dreads being the recipient of one. Today she told me she is going to present one, a landscape of her town, to the mairie. They were delighted, she says. However, she really is a person without any sense of self-criticism or real will to improve. I don't think you need to worry too much about your singing. VR can always get Ian to soundproof the bathroom if he's at a loose end.

  3. Avus: And you thought Ashford was the centre of the universe; Hereford's where it's at.

    In the USA, working on several magazines, I was paid to correct the English of contributors from such important Groves of Academe as MIT, Berkeley, the University of Southern California, Ohio State, etc, etc. Often the writers were full professors with tenure, whereas I as you know left school at 15. A poignant situation, made even more poignant by the fact that these men recognised the improvements I had wrought and thanked me for it. Quite different from English profs who always thought they knew better; who believed the truth lay only in multisyllablism.

    Lucy: Faggots vary widely in quality. One type, available in Hereford's Buttermarket, require cooking (rather than just heating) and turn out to have thickish cauls and a sickening taste. The ones we like best are unfortunately named: Brains Faggots, surely a case of piling Pellion on Ossa. I sympathise with Tom and would never suggest a meal of faggots to anyone who had no prior experience.

    Two packets of spices have still not arrived. Luckily the film festival lasts two weeks and Ian is staying until the end. We lack anchoor, alas, and cannot yet test its magic powers; but will if we get the chance.

    The skills needed to sing form a pyramidical structure, growing wider and wider with the passage of time. To ensure I was hooked, V had me half-hollering Isis and Osiris from the Magic Flute at the first lesson; inevitably I was hooked. But now each lesson raises a new barrier. I am sternly dissuaded from copying the tone of voice employed by Pavarotti, Fritz Wünderlich and Martti Talvela and told to "find my own voice". All very well but my voice comes with a West Riding accent, not something I care to perpetuate when I'm Figaro teasing Cherubino.

    Tiny hints of that newly functional RR voice occur for perhaps half a line but it is nowhere near mine to command. I'm not grumbling. Each Monday I regard my 10 am lesson with thrilling anticipation and within minutes (assuming I can stop myself babbling just mere words) I'm lost in the minutiae of warming up and then trying something new with She Came Thro' The Fair. The curious pleasure of doing what I'm told to do: submissiveness or something nobler?

  4. I cannot imagine you "doing as you are told" and being of a submissive nature, RR. Also the idea of a Figaro speaking/singing with a West Riding accent quite appeals.

  5. Avus: I'd be a fool to pay for an hour's tuition and ignore what I was taught. Especially since it concerns a world I'm only dimly aware of.

    Figaro with WR accent? Sounds like south-eastern condescension. VR is equally antipathetic towards Dover accents. Crass, she says.

  6. Singing can improve wonderfully with some lessons--I'm sure of that one! I expect, geezer or not, you sound pretty good at this point.

    How lovely to have a grandson who is electrically competent and likes to visit and see good films. And to have a place where you can see such things. (Wodehouse did a fine but very different job with that intersection of charity and singers.) I will probably be a doddery creature before I have such a thing as a grandchild.

    My husband almost married an Indian woman once upon a time--lucky for me, as her mother liked to teach him how to cook. I haven't cooked much in years (and I'm sure I have that to thank for the time in which I wrote a couple of my books. Time-consuming craft, cookery!) But I'm still not fond of offal. I could easily be a vegetarian, were I not married to a great, carnivorous cook. My husband will eat (and cook) anything. The only thing I can remember him not liking is the flavors of orange and chocolate mixed, so I don't expect him to make that interesting cake.

  7. Marly: I've had a dozen or so weekly lessons so far but these started from scratch. Improvements occur - yes - only to reveal further matters that need attention. Today, for instance I was required to re-shape my mouth into a curious bee-sting kiss format in order to create the "oo" sound; previous attempts having ended in hideous wobbles.

    The hardest thing of all is trying to discover what my real tone of voice is; I'm told it will arrive but it can't come soon enough. I record into the computer then listen agonisingly to the hooty, somewhat pompous results.

    Even so this is a joyous departure for me. Being immersed in music - it's a privileged state, however badly the singing is executed. For a few moments I get it right and the emotion seems to surge up my throat and I'm close to tears.

    Not liking offal seems to be a US tendency. Time for you to write a villanelle about being married to a carnivorous cook.