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.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Lead unkindly light

These are the bad times, the dark times. I rise at 06.25 and there's still an hour of oblivion out of doors. Last night's wine glasses and decanter need putting away and I must use an Eye Wipe to clear up the gruesome results of blepharitis. Curtains are pulled, blinds raised. Sometimes, if there's enough spirit in me I do these tasks without turning on the downstairs light; today, crushed, I flick the switch and endure a shock to the optic nerve.

This is the time of year when nasty arguments occur. There was one last night, my fault. Will the effects have lasted overnight?

I could write a few paras for Opening Bars, my account of the singing lessons, now standing at 25,883 words; almost 1000 words past the original target. I could re-examine my novel, Rictangular Lenses, (28,752 words, untouched since November 23 and there's a shock). I could write a maudlin post. Yes, why don't I write a maudlin post.

At 10.00 there's a singing lesson, a return to the Mozart I sang on the first lesson a year ago. But in detail. "Concentrate on the little problems," said V last week. "Do them several times before singing the whole song." The professional approach, but I'm weak and amateur; I need the reassurance of the song's lovely completeness.

There's a fearful temptation to dwell on past times, when I climbed, cycled, motor-biked, swam, swilled pints of beer and argued, hectored PRs at press conferences. But that's self-destructive nostalgia. Those laddish times are now held in a silo called Raw Material, to be drawn off in spoonfuls and recycled as fiction.

Be positive! Hey, I got up! Stirling Moss still lives! - early reports said he'd died. Music's to come. Maudlin's now a post.


  1. I often wonder about people who have to perform publicly when they are wrapped up with some personal angst, especially those who do comedy. Can they switch into character and leave their real selves behind? Or, I reckon they suffer and end up like Tony Hancock and many others. In your case I wonder if the angst blocks your motivation to write. Unlike the public performers you are not compelled to do it.

    I know that for me to continue with a Photoshop “painting” I need to be reasonably free from worry, but also in a particular, rarely occurring, mood which is difficult to define. Another related aspect of my painting is that I have some sort of guilt complex about it with the inner voice telling me it is an indulgence and I should really be tending to duties.

  2. Oh yes, the grey January is a real bastard so early in the morning. At least, when you open the window while it's still pitch black here, the birds are starting to sign. That keeps me afloat these days. Mostly.

  3. I'm pretty sure that mute birds having to sign would deepen my depression. But I know what you mean.

  4. Sir Hugh: The assumption about comedians, etc, is their act is another part of their personality. It isn't, it's their job. Shine another light on the situation and you'll see what I mean. A plumber suffering angst wouldn't switch to angst-ridden plumbing; his concentration might stray a little, but a leaky pipe would remain a leaky pipe unless he fixed it.

    I understand your Photoshopping misgivings but it is a step in the right direction. Those who persist in purely physical activities into old age could well find themselves bereft when their body finally says no. Finding a replacement activity when one's forced to could result in a kernel of resentment (ie, I'm doing this but I'd like to be doing that). I can write until I'm dead or Alzheimers overtakes me: in neither case will I care. Singing may be denied me earlier but it has one significant and beneficial side-effect: I know much more about music than I did and can listen to others' music with greater understanding.

    Writing and singing may be said to be intellectual pursuits, in the broadest sense of the adjective. Where the tragedy lies is with those for whom intellectual pursuits have had no previous appeal. Pensioners who announce that on retirement they'll garden or "travel" as if those were the only options. I visit Monmouth regularly and pass by a group of old people always doing the Okey Cokey. It is of course a musical activity, with social implications. I worry about what it's replacing other than loneliness

    Sabine: Welcome to Tone Deaf, I hope you'll return. I do blog about other subjects, notably a growing enthusiasm for Germany and Germans. The seeds were sown when I stayed with a family in Hattingen-Ruhr in 1953, they have been sustained by an interest in what, for want of a better word, is called "classical" music, they have intensified now I find myself taking singing lessons and practising masterworks with German lyrics. The cherry on the trifle occurred when I started joining my wife and daughter on their regular visits to German Christmas markets.

    Your blog profile says you live in the Rhine Valley. Five or six weeks ago I was sitting in the café of Cologne's Chocolate Museum overlooking the Rhine waiting impatiently for a barge to pass by. It took some time. The sociable waiter, whom I'd surprised by ordering a Campari and soda ("The first this year," he said.) explained this was a diminishing event and I was as sorry about this as I would have been if Hereford - where I live - had closed its last fish-and-chip shop.

    I note you are an agnostic; I'm an atheist. Whether this constitutes a common interest we can only wait and see.

    I don't open windows. There is a romantic tradition in Britain of writers - especially poets - dying of TB in attics where the windows are fast shut. But at eighty-one I've passed the point where my death might be considered romantic; perhaps posterity may reward me in some other way.

    MikeM: Not for all the silks of Samarkand would I have Sabine's typo altered.

  5. For Sabine - Welcome to my brother's blog - If it's any comfort I didn't notice your typo until I read Mike M's comment, and even then I had to read your post another twice to spot it.

  6. It's the depths of the year, ain't it. I usually tend to go into semi hibernation around this time, until the green shoots start to peek through towards the end of February. However, not this year. For some reason I continue cheerful, if the sun shines. As it is this morning, with a crisp frost and blue/golden sky. I also have a small dog who keeps me cheerful (the last of the previous five in my life, but the first whose antics cause me to laugh aloud).She is announcing that it is her walk time by gently nudging my right arm, her front paws up on the computer table, beside me.

    SABINE: Welcome to RR's "discussion group". Sometimes I differ from his opinions, but he develops them cogently and has always been a stimulating companion. Like Sir Hugh, I had not noticed the letter transpostion in your comment until Mike M mentioned it. I tend to do it often these days, but at least it causes me to re-read carefully what I have written - especially since RR's previous occupation was as a magazine editor, who, no doubt, was firm with his sub editors!

  7. Oh dear, my professional self is on sick leave, I'm afraid. Propped up by too many uncomfortable cushions I am apparently too self centered right now to battle with the finer details. But maybe there is a contract these birds have signed in order to sing so early in the year.

  8. Delved into Sabine's blog last night. Wonderfully written. I'm so thankful that everyone here has an intact sense of humor. If only Twitter would fall mute! Measure your progress by weeks and months, Sabine, not hours and days. I've been on some tours similar to your current go 'round.

  9. RR
    Thank you for the welcome.

    Most likely have been in that cafe by the chocolate museum (did you visit the museum and did you find it as disappointing as I did?), but years ago. When in Köln I tend to gravitate to the Belgische Viertel with its quirky establishments, both for shopping and for food/drink. I recommend this any time of the year, although summer is best with the thrills of outdoor seating.

    As for the xmas markets, not really my thing but occasionally I do enjoy some of the (thankfully) lesser known ones in small towns/villages, usually on only for one weekend, with a strong local traditional input. Of course, we happily leave the bigger ones to the tourists.

    Hattingen? You started at a deep end. I cycled the Ruhr a few years back and stopped there for a break, I think. Mind you, it's a tad more picturesque than most of the Ruhr towns (Witten is the pits - sorry).

  10. I spent much of this cold, rainy-thaw day with people who have nearly nothing, and so I must say that you look rather rich in joys--you write and sing, you are not alone, and you have lively memories. And a blog, of course. To which you have now added. And you have piled up 81 precious years in making your lively memories.

    And that I think is good. And good to think on.

  11. Sabine (in general): New commenters are so rare these days; the traffic is mostly in the other direction. This observation is surely implicit in the welcome you've received not just from me but from the small cluster of my friends. Don't go away, we all seem to be saying. Careful, too, not to be over-effusive since that can be just as discouraging as a cold shoulder.

    The typo was fortuitous, it gave us a "literary" foothold. But also a "literary" obligation to ensure that you understood we weren't laughing at you but at a commonplace event we have all experienced. MikeM's initial response was quite masterly, but then so too was his follow-up: "I'm so thankful that everyone here has an intact sense of humour." And so say we all.

    Sir Hugh: Thanks for your support.

    Avus: Yes, but is semi-hibernation a good idea? Might it be an unfortunate staging post on the route to total and terminal hibernation, a state better known by a single, harsher, less euphemistic word. You have the dog, fine. But willy-nilly I'm keen to mobilise my imagination and whatever writing skills I've picked up. I can only call on self-dependence for them; from time to time that resource can appear to be in short supply.

    MikeM: I delved too. There was little useful I could say about S's health. But, like you, I was able to respond to her writing.

    Sabine (specifically): The Chocolate Museum's contents remain an untempting mystery; the museum café's main function is to enact the role played by certain lampposts and urban trees for dogs responding to time-honoured instincts. On our first morning there we take "the little train" (well aware of the Proustian resonances), have a coffee, spend ten minutes in the adjacent and slightly more idiosyncratic Christmas market, then move on. Our ostensible reason for these continental trips is to see Christmas markets; our real reason is re-establish our enthusiasm for your Heimat.

    In 1953 much of Hattingen was a ruin, That didn't matter a jot. I hate resorts (especially those by the sea) since they often transform both residents and visitors, not advantageously. H was a working town with a purpose; at the time I lived in another working town (Bradford; a textiles centre). The Pollmeiers not only made me welcome they made me feel psychologically "comfortable". My German was then at its peak and I was lucky enough to be interviewed by the local newspaper and to have my giddy reactions transmitted to a wider audience. In the intervening decades and for other reasons I became francophile (owned a house there). But more recently those older feelings have been revivified. Brexit has broken my heart.

    Marly: I am lucky for a variety of reasons but most important I'm able to practice self-dependence. It's selfish I know and there have been times when I've profited from being part of a group. But in old age I draw strength from being "an island". It won't last of course but while it does... Writing is one expression of independence but it can take on the nature of solitary confinement. Singing is different: there are practical matters to absorb me but there is also the exhilaration of making sounds that could be directly communicated to others; such communication hasn't happened yet and may never do so. But as I sing I'm aware of that potential and of that mysterious state that music confers - a form of spiritual wellbeing, no doubt thoroughly undeserved.