I am moved by Lady Percy. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories,
vulgar interests, detestations, responses, apologies, and - more
recently - learning to sing. 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, 29 April 2018

Unmentionables

These are Ralph Lauren underpants, I suspect they
are expensive.. I did once wear Hilfiger pants but
they were a gift from my mother-in-law and were
 remaindered in a sale. The elastic was tight.

Hitler and I were of course on opposing sides during WW2. More surprising, I didn't wear underpants during the conflict; I can't speak for Hitler.

This will shock US citizens. As if I'd I'd fought on the same side as Hitler. Or confessed to spitting in church. Yes, I'm known to be an oddity but not that damned odd! Why I might have... infected people.

As far as I know my Father did wear underpants but then his life was a closed book to me. He was an adult at the time (as was Hitler), I was 5 - 10 years old.

But why? you will ask. Why did I risk the health of a nation? You've got to understand, since I didn't wear underpants I didn't question their absence. Any more than I wondered why there were no bananas or Coca Cola. Perhaps there were simply no underpants for kids. Perhaps - and this is comically possible - kids' underpants were thought to be a luxury in the traditionally under-privileged north of England.

Dimly I remember the transition period when I started to wear them (because I do of course wear them now). Can't say the year, time isn't important to kids. But there was a new bulkiness in and around my groin, as if I were over-dressed down there. A certain discomfort. But then kids were born into discomfort and I had other fardels to bear (WS quote!)
 
I buy underpants by the half-dozen and I am influenced by the pattern. I find this astonishing; I’d like to think I was above plaids and fuchsias alternating with lobelias but I’m not. This awareness cheapens my aspirations as a writer; my mind should be on words beginning with meta-. I am at heart trivial.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Pointedly

It's called a manipulation table. You lie on your belly with most of your face pushed down through a slot in the upholstery. Thus you may talk in a muffled way, fighting off an enhanced flow of saliva.

At the peak of the procedure there were 17 needles bristling my back, not one visible to me. Most were introduced into my flesh surreptitiously except one that was long enough to get through the unlovable bulge of my gluteus maximus (ie, backside). That one hurt just a bit.

I was apprehensive about two that were stuck in the back of my neck close to my skull. However my faculties continued to function.

There followed a twenty-minute wait. Although he'd clearly attempted to suppress his accent, I identified the needle-pusher as Welsh. A very minor thought occurred to me; in Wales my first name is more popular than in England, sometimes shortened to Rhodri. Rhodri sounds more vigorous, more masculine but alas it's too late to change now.

He'd been a rock climber but gave up when his "power-to-weight ratio" became unfavourable. Me too and I used the same phrase, thought I'd invented it.

The needles were removed in seconds and were disposed of. I was delighted he had the wherewithal to pay by credit card. VR was waiting in the Tesco café and as I walked there I could hold myself erect without pain, the first time for nearly four months. VR said "Go again." Later I booked another appointment.

The following day I walked the 1000 yards to pick up The Guardian at the filling station. Previously I’d been forced to use the car. A fast pace seemed to help. The next test will be whether I can stand up for my singing lesson.

Monday, 23 April 2018

On high

I knew it and V confirmed: a terrific lesson. V’s diary is crowded, we had only a couple of minutes left, but she turned to the keyboard and said: "Let's do it all again. Whatever."

V didn't actually say Whatever, more like Boo. Boo. But I got her drift and sang my heart out, hitting all the points we'd discussed - Boo! Boo! Boo!

Purcell's Evening Hymn is in two parts. The first a glorious narrative which I know fairly well. The second is Hallelujah fourteen times. The first Hallelujah occupies one bar, the second is stretched over five bars. The penultimate Hallelujah takes seven bars.

This is what a seven-bar Hallelujah looks like vocally:

Hahh - ahh-ha-ahh - ahh-ha-ahh - ahh-ha-ahh - ahh-ha-ah - ahh-ha-ahh - ahh-ha-ahh - ahh-ha-ahh - ahh-ha-ah - ahh-ha-ahh - ahh-ha-ahh - le - lu-u-u - jah.

You count the groups of notes, conserve your puff (For the first time I did it in one) and it sounds bloody marvellous. Despite the counting you must launch yourself as if it were Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I'm a mile from perfection but once it was a light-year.

If I could accurately describe what musical improvement - and there's a dull phrase - feels like. Luckily I recognise it. The hit the druggie expects. Someone who matters says yes. When earth, sea, sky, all parts of your body, your hopes and abilities combine to form sounds that are – within rules you have learned and re-learned – right! Or better than before. When you’re in tune with time and time, at your behest, is graciously standing still.

Nobody profits except me and, on this occasion, V. Some might say it’s gross indulgence but it does at least demand discipline. And doing my best for that genius, Henry Purcell. 

Monday, 16 April 2018

Lovables

The electric kettle's on/off switch became intermittent. Once we'd have lived with it until it failed completely but those genteel poverty days are over now. The measuring tube on the side of new kettle lights up blue ("Like a disco," says Professional Bleeder). This seems unnecessary – a feature that is likely to fail first and turn the kettle into junk. Twenty-first century deception.

The previous kettle (on the right) lasted years perhaps decades but there was no sentimental attachment. How is it some devices come to be loved?

● VR's Prestige knife, bought 58 years ago, serrated edge long since departed; now more a weapon then a utensil. Years ago VR cut tip of her finger off with it. Might that be the emotional tie?

● Panasonic microwave has endured almost twenty-five years. Heavily made, dull brown, reliable. Seeing that go would cause a pang.

● Also heavily made, Sellotape (US: Scotch tape) dispenser allows you to tear off strips with one hand. Bought specially for me. Literally indispensable.

● Amtico floor tiles in kitchen. Cost a fortune (£1600 in 2003) but still good as new. Rare case of opting for top of  range.

● Neff oven and glass hob. Also top of range. Previously preached about on Tone Deaf.

● Brabantia touch bin. Touch top, bin opens - a gimmick? Nah. Hands full of nasty rubbish? Use your elbow. Lasted more than ten years.

● Plastic vegetable strainer. Lightweight, indestructible. Came free as Persil promotion, mid 1960s.

● Plastic pineapple corer. Lakeland. Twenty years-plus. £4? Does exactly what it claims to do – though unexpectedly.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Remembrance

Getting old means looking backwards not forwards. After all the past is full of completed stories, whereas the future is both incomplete yet gloomily predictable. This must irritate readers, certainly it irritates me.

And yet, and yet... I lie on the newly made bed, unwilling to take off my dressing gown, wearied with the prospect of shaving (for the 28,820th time, I've just calculated) and my mind slides ineluctably back to 1959, a year when an awful past ended and a new future began. Annus mirabilis! The North of England was behind me, London was my new home, and anything might happen. Many things - in different parts of the globe - did happen.

I was sharing a flat just off Clapham Common with a senior journalist on The Times and an American jazz drummer and his wife. The conversation was wide-ranging, musical and allusive, the atmosphere one of daring. Finally I was living the life I reckoned I was equipped for: my own version of the Left Bank, of Greenwich Village.

I had just met VR, then VT, and I showed her photograph (see above) to the drummer: he was a scoundrel but well-read and understood Europe. "It looks like Saint-Sulpice," he said. Would anyone in Bradford, the city I'd left behind, have drawn a parallel with that Parisian church? Never.

Elder daughter, Professional Bleeder, is visiting and asked to sort through our jumbled up box of photos. The one above saw the light of day again. The location is actually the Clock Tower in St Albans, but it's exotic enough. I am strengthened enough to get off the bed and start shaving, re-invigorated by the past.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Raw material

Ever found yourself in a literary desert, lacking things to say? Why not write about the desert?

I'd hardly sifted a handful of sand when my attention was seized. My first-floor study overlooks an uncultivated mini-park where people unleash their dogs. A woman - immediately attractive even at a hundred metres – walks purposefully. Ah yes, plastic bag of dog poo in hand, trash bin in sight.

By attractive I don’t mean pretty; interesting in a pleasing way. Face obscured by the high collar of a blue “puffer” anorak. Mid-length blonde hair artfully scattered. Tight-fitting jodphurs. I ignored her dog and am ashamed I didn’t notice its owner's footwear. She walked sleekly like a catwalk model, legs close together: following her own imaginary tightrope.

So what have we got? It was earlyish so she was no lie-abed. Socially conscientious given the poo-bag. Probably monied since no one buys jodphurs and wears them as jeans. A graceful mover who stopped occasionally to observe her dog and others.

Not enough to launch a novel, though it has happened. Perhaps the younger sister of the leading male or female character; a moral force augmented by her uncaring attitude towards her own looks. Irritated when patronised. Does drudgery jobs (eg, walking the dog) so she can be alone with her thoughts. Will be going on to the stables for a long session in the saddle, her true delight.

Of course, there’s always the desert. Dog-poo lady might well be good there. Silent, self-reliant, controlling a camel well. Looking terrific in a black and white keffiyeh. Careful, I mustn’t patronise.