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.


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.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Batter tested

We'd gone to Edwards Plaice, our favourite fish-and-chip shop, frequently mentioned here; grandson Zach had perversely chosen battered sausages. Nothing would have deflected me from my haddock but I was left curious.

Sausages in batter are not haute cuisine but they're fiddly. VR continues to be a good adventurous cook but I urge her towards simplicity; I don’t like her spending long hours in the kitchen. This would be the exception. I did what I could to help.

The chip pan was last used years ago, its place obscure underneath the stairs. On my knees I retrieved it. The sausages were deliberately modest; VR had doubts about the project and wouldn’t put high quality bangers at risk. They were pre-fried.

Oil temperature was crucial (180 - 190 deg C), even I had a foreseen that. An opportunity for my electric cooking thermometer, a birthday gift from grandson Ian, another cooking enthusiast. VR admitted that without the device she might have started cooking the batter in oil that wasn’t hot enough.

The sausages, rolled in flour to ensure adhesion, were dipped into batter (milk, flour, egg) and dropped into the chip pan. The perturbation was fierce and encouraging and the batter was bubbly and crisp within three or four minutes. Since the sausages could only be done two at a time, the pairs were transferred to a plate (with paper towels) under the grill on low.

Everything had been done according to the rules and the batter consistency was perfect. But the batter brought no extra flavour to the sausages. What could have been added? “The sausages are pork, so possibly sage,” said VR using her formal voice. But both of us seemed tacitly agreed that the project could well have been a first and a last.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Two battles

Sonnet – An apology

Four thousand were at Lucton slain,
And Owen Tudor, kneeling in despair,
Soon sensed the sharpness of a loser's pain.
I note a plaque that says much blood flowed there.

A plaque proclaiming human misery,
Vile product of that awful field of bones,
I read the words and tasted irony,
Heard cries from my internal warring zones.

For I’m a conflict hosting right and wrong,
And wrong I fear has gained an upper hand,
The smell of wit has led my wits along,
A rocky route that lately saw me damned.

All words are bare and rarely plumb what’s right,
This rhyme – my plaque – may shed a little light

In 1464 The  Battle of Mortimer Cross, near Lucton, North Herefordshire, was said to be decisive in the Wars of the Roses.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Into (on to?) air

MikeM tersely twits me after the Low Cuisine post. Equally tersely I twit him back and pass the night worrying if I've been OTT. That I might have lost a friend. I needn't have. Apart from many other talents MikeM has rubber-ball resilience (see his comment).

What's more he was justified: he'd been working on a roof. Now there's a funny thing.

In my extreme youth, during the Plantagenet era, I did rock climbing. Not well, but then we aren't all Olympians. From this you might conclude I'd conquered vertigo. On natural rock, perhaps, less so with buildings. For one thing the “slopes” on buildings tend to be vertical, for another, buildings are man-made. Who knows whether the chippie, the roofer or the brick-layer wasn’t careless just when it mattered?

Our previous house sported an X-shape TV antenna. Defunct and loosely attached to the chimney. During the night it tapped, oh how it tapped.

I had a two-piece extendable ladder but needed to hire a roof ladder. Easy-peasy. One slides this device up the angled roof until two large hooks engage with the roof ridge. All that remains is to step across from the conventional ladder to the roof ladder.

Uh-huh! Those hooks were springy! As my weight transferred, the roof ladder stretched - according to a downwards and outwards vector. How many tentative goes before I put my faith in a pantheon of physicists and stepped up? A lot.

Removing the antenna was quickly done and I sat on the roof ridge, surveying my neighbours from a superior position, blissfully content. Contentment is best when it’s hard-won and I considered my earlier unease. Almost a sensuous memory.

Now I think of MikeM. Long past stretchy moments and entitled to be terse. Cheers, mate!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Low cuisine

Orphans of the kitchen,
They toil and may even spin,
Metaphorically,
Then are cast freely aside.
An end without glory,
Amen


Dish-cloth.* Possibly infectious, definitely grey - eternally grey, lying boneless in the sink. That may be grease within its unspeakable folds. On the shelf in the supermarket it is fluffily white and sports embroidered red stitches along one of its borders. Expecting culinary gaiety it finds itself wedded to mess and detritus, mourns and is despisèd.
* Happy to confirm this is not VR's dish-cloth.

Roasting pan. What a fall is here, my brethren. At first the parfit gentil knight, in blue-ish mild-steel contours, courageously functional, subservient servant to a shoulder of lamb in the oven's inferno. More comically, Yorkshire pudding. Years pass and what's this blackened, crusted, misshapen trough? - perhaps its own sarcophagus.

The knife hardly anyone uses. Divorced in its youth from the steel it has descended into uselessness and then become simply a burden. Last cut something - a carrot at that! - five years ago. More recently, it tore futilely at a raw chicken drumstick. Were there an open fire it might have seen out its days as a poker. But flames these days are confined to boilers.

Eggcup. Bought for its Mrs Tiggiwinkle decoration, it now cups only dust. Too small even for a bantam's egg, while that of a quail would seem ridiculous. Made of china and therefore potentially frangible. Alas, its owner's secret wishes have never been granted. The Beatrix Potter collection was absorbed in a boot sale.

Loose knob on the unused lid of the wok. Which will, nevertheless, bring the grey hairs of its owner down with sorrow to the grave. Stare at it long enough, he swears,  and it rotates.

Click HERE for latest warm-up

Friday, 7 September 2018

Choices, choices

The Guardian doesn't permit casual use of "schizophrenia" when it simply means facing two choices. It's thought unsympathetic towards those with mental illnesses. Nevertheless...

Since an early age I've needed to arrange words in sequences that might make sense. Letters, lists, arguments, stories, articles, novels, verse - but, most important, shuffling the elements, creating something out of nothing.

For two years I've been trying to write my fifth novel, Rictangular Lenses, one-third complete. Lately in dribbles of one sentence at a time. Three days ago a bright vista opened up: a long scene in skeleton form which I knew I would enjoy writing. This, yesterday morning:

The holding company, Heung Fung Private Ltd, was based in Singapore, and was represented by three businessmen of Chinese origin. All wore carefully tailored suits in pale grey, somehow achieving far greater formality than the dark blue their western equivalents would have favoured. They approached in a triangular phalanx, one to the fore, the others two steps behind on either side. A hand extended.

With the next two thousand words clear in my mind.

Yesterday, too, a late birthday present: the 56-page score for Schubert's cycle, Die schöne Müllerin, 19 songs most of which I know fairly well, but only by ear.

I break off  from Rictangular to savour the printed notes of Song 8, Morgengruss. Sing along quietly for ten bars, then back to the keyboard and the novel. Then back to Song 3...

It's driving me mad but the two impulses are equally strong. What’s more, I’ve broken off to write this post. Remember the fable about the dog with a bone, seeing its own reflection in the stream, losing the bone? Yeah, but that story’s already written

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

A dangerous thing

I ignored tuition at my grammar school. My pitiful handful of  O-levels were for subjects absorbed intuitively, perhaps by osmosis.

Post-school there were skills I avidly wanted to learn, even to the point of spending cash: ski-ing, French, and now singing. "Wanting" made all the difference of course and some competence was achieved in each. But what is learning (ie, the process, not the synonym for knowledge)?

Repetition, or learning by rote, is despised because it is said to bypass the tender twitching heart of the subject matter. Pretentious bollocks. Learning ski-ing, for instance, involves overcoming the body's instinctive reaction to menacing forces. Socratic dialogue just doesn't work. Rise, dust off the snow, repeat, this time obeying the instructor. The body doesn't know best.

Learning is the search for a pattern, a matrix which we may impose on our thinking processes and on our body for later access. Data, both intellectual and physical, are added piecemeal - as with a spreadsheet. The embryonic matrix causes the data to interact, expanding the matrix's scope. Thus we learn.

Singing involves both intellect and body but you'd expect me to say that.

Learning is hard work and easily resisted. But enthusiasm - preferably an unhealthy obsession - conquers all. Overweening pride in one's achievement, regarded as impolite or un-British, is another effective asset. The cliché says learning makes you humble. More bollocks.

Learning has no fixed end. Without application it may fade. It must also be renewed. Most attempts at learning fail, suggesting humankind is predominantly lazy. Faced with learning the unlearned resort to insult, thinly disguised envy. The unlearned deceive themselves: I could do that, they say, and “could” echoes in their hollow interior.

Now read the comment.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

The furtive burn

I resist new domestic gadgets. I come from the surly part of Britain where they rub their nose and say, "Never be a pioneer." It surprises me they're not still hanging eleven-year-olds for stealing 20 p.

When I acquire something new it's become old, not worth talking about. But Occasional Speeder bought an expensive chiminea in terracotta and the wind blew it over, smashing it irreparably. My Hacienda chiminea is metal, cut-price at Tesco and I had to assemble it. The rivet-headed screws were a bugger and Hereford seems devoid of self-tightening washers.

I think OS's chiminea was intended to warm the family drinking mulled wine at ten below. Mine is functional. It did the job last night but I was careless, tossing in glossy out-of-date Wine Society brochures which turned the flames to smoke.

Yes, I know, we're supposed to recycle waste paper and I do most of the time. But what about bank statements, credit-card accounts, and intimate reports from the hospital? One day I came upon VR quietly cursing at a huge pile of paper as she cut off the bits with the secret info. Shredding?  My shredder was a gift (for which I was grateful) but it only does four sheets at a time.  Otherwise it jams.

There are incidental benefits. VR is a latent pyromaniac and regrets the passing of open fires in the UK. She was quite free with instruction as I stoked the Hacienda until we both calmed down, she with her G&T, me with a beer.

The neighbours? Next door admitted he did the same. With more planning (No brochures for one thing) and crumpling paper into balls, the bi-monthly burn should be over in ten minutes. After all, some garden waste is incinerated.