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.


Thursday, 29 August 2019

Democracy revisited

NEW READERS START HERE Britain voted to leave the European Union (Brexit) to regain the country's/parliament’s sovereignty from interfering foreigners. But at what cost? Negotiating trade deals with the EU have failed, a no-deal Brexit looms. No-deal is predicted to be disastrous for our economy. Johnson, our new PM, favours no-deal. To prevent the mainly anti-no-deal parliament from hindering him Johnson has, in effect, closed down parliament for a short, crucial period. So much for sovereignty.

Yesterday daughter Professional Bleeder left Hereford by bus, returning to her home in Luton. Sent us this email

At Gloucester a woman accosted the driver. She was booked to travel on this coach, but not until it arrived in Cheltenham. This morning she had "found herself in Gloucester" and wondered if she could get on now.
 
The driver saw no problem but wouldn’t let her sit in a reserved seat, even though she had a seat reservation. Not too strange; this is National Express.

From the back comes a voice. "Has she paid to go from Gloucester to Cheltenham?"

My mind, but luckily not my mouth, responds with, "How is that your business?"

The driver appears nonplussed, but says that she hasn't. Outrage breaks out; this is "not fair"

The driver points out the woman will miss the coach in Cheltenham if she does not get on it now, thus losing her money. Chuntering ensues

The driver now addresses all passengers. Those wearing headphones are asked to remove them, children are asked to pay attention. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. "I want everybody to decide. Should this woman pay the fare from Gloucester to Cheltenham? Raise your hand for yes"

We thought Johnson had murdered democracy.

We voted no.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

RIP


















Oblivion
 - via four limericks


Old age guides the poor and the rich.
To a justified grave, out of which,
We cry, “Far too soon,
You promised the moon.”
And “Ain't that a sonuva bitch?”

You can't fight the onset of age,
Armed only with protests of rage.
Your fingers will shake
Your dandruff will flake
When you see what’s on the next page.

A page that will turn out to be,
No more than a banality,
Dull, obtuse and crass,
Like your face, my ass,
It’s nothing, it’s eternity.

But, honest, it’s not all bad news,
You won’t just be singing the blues,
When hair turns to bald,
And sex life has stalled,
Just don’t care: what better excuse?

Monday, 26 August 2019

Anyone seen Winston Smith?

Eighty-four, is it significant? Well yes. Orwell saw to that. When it rolled round most people said things weren't as bad as he predicted. But what's a decade here or there? Is Big Brother more or less evident now? Might he already be present? I leave it to you for answers.

Eighty-four is easily divisible. But does that make forty-two more important? For me times were happier. After many stupid, almost accidental, detours and one big geographical transplantation I was on the verge of my first editorship. Ahead lay a magazine with all its pages blank; it would be up to me to fill them. Wasn't that mildly horrific? Might I run out of ideas? The answer was no. This was what I was born to do.

And half of forty-two is 21. Three sevens, said to be highly significant, some kind of transition from childishness to adulthood. Chance would be a fine thing! I lay on a hospital bed, steadily reading my way through the sparse library, unimpressed by Malaya's mountains which surrounded me. The night before I'd played bingo for the first and last time; won a can of fifty cigarettes (Hospital attitudes have changed since then.) which I gave away since I didn't smoke. Why was I in hospital? Because the space between the fourth and fifth toe on my right foot was sore.

Time like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away,
They fly forgotten as the breeze,
Dies at the op'ning day.


Hid by early-morning mist, but only four hundred yards away, is the gorgeous River Wye. Might I ever have foreseen such propinquity?

Monday, 19 August 2019

The Little Book of Ian (condensed)

The object in Ian's hand is related to
peafowls and is intended as a
Christmas tree decoration. Neither
fact is important, only that he
disapproves of the spheroid as his
face characteristically shows
Ian, our 34-year-old grandson, has a passion for cooking plus a talent for quips and opinions, quirks of behaviour and left-field observations. So much so that “grandson” hardly describes the relationship. His Mum (PB - Professional Bleeder) is presently staying and the conversation regularly turns to what we call The Little Book of Ian. What follows are some extracts.

This post far exceeds my self-imposed limit of 300 words. I considered splitting it into three sections but resisted. What follows is a more complete portrait.

VR marinaded dried fruit in rum to create a delicious dessert, but failed to christen it. Ian calls it: rumtana.

Meat sold in supermarkets comes on a polystyrene tray and lies on an absorbent sheet. Ian: meat nappy (US: diaper).

If someone even mentions celery Ian has to leave the room.

On visits to our home to cook (superbly) for us Ian passes his leisure time frowning at his smartphone and sipping from a pint glass of tap water. Gets through several in a day.

Ian Rule: One may not have gravy with a white sauce (savoury) pie.

Ian Rule: A pie must have bottom and top crust. No bottom crust and it’s not a pie.

PB once cooked a Quorn pie for vegan Daniel (Ysabelle’s partner). Ian called it The Pie of Lies.

Shopping bags may not be hung on the hook of a supermarket trolley: they bang against Ian’s knees. Ian is 6ft 5 in. tall.

When others of our family are touring the city on foot and feel they must visit the lav. Ian disapproves.

Ian Rule: Ian disapproves of those who prefer an inevitably mediocre meal at one of the chain restaurants rather than risk a possible bad meal at an indie restaurant. Ian sub-rule: One must explore.

On returning home after a day out (even as early as 4.30 pm) Ian changes into his PJs which are black.

All Ian’s clothes are black.

Ian is very, very quiet about the house.

Ian dislikes dogs but loves cats.

Ian insists on lumpwood charcoal when doing a barbecue.

Ian hates puns. In particular a clock face which incorporates a moustache with the slogan: “I moustache you the time.”

Ian suffers (unfashionably) from chilblains.

Ian likes mangas.

Before going to the corner shop for a single chilli Ian showers or has a bath; sometimes also shaves his head.

Ian hates Beko, the freezer manufacturer. Hopes “they will die”.

Our washing machine plays a tune when done; Ian denounces this as “too jolly”. Ian’s washing machine is designated Piddy (because of its “piddying” noise).
 
Ian’s arrivals home are unobtrusive and idiosyncratic. On opening the door (or making a phone call) he says “Herro.” in a vaguely stereotypical Chinese accent. His Mum is required to respond: “Is it me you’re looking for?”

When music festivals were comparatively unpopular with youth Ian supported them. Now their popularity is enormous, he doesn’t. Believes many attend such events for reasons other than musical.

 When asked a question he cannot answer Ian says, “Ermm... peas.” This is according to Ysabelle, his cousin. No one else has confirmed this.

Ian can cut vegetables into tiny cubes “like a machine”.

Ian insists fish and chips aren’t a takeaway.

Our other daughter, OS, who also cooks for us, likes our kitchen. Ian responds: “I like the budget”.

Ian is pro-offal.

Ian can’t bear the (admittedly uncongenial) texture of newly acquired wooden spoons. Feels they should be “broken in” first (ie, by somebody else).

In winter Ian skis with a group of young men assembled online from all over the country. He cooks for them and they pay part of his ski-ing expenses. Or, it is believed, used to.

Ian is very attentive to VR.

Ian attends the Borderline Film Festival with us. He prefers “difficult” movies, especially from Japan.

Ian always enables sub-titles when watching TV. Yet he is not deaf.

Ian’s Mum’s boiler started roaring; she reported to Ian the plumber had visited. Ian commented: “Did he use a chair and a whip?”

Ian has electrical skills but is eccentrically lousy at washing up. Like me, however, he dislikes dish-washers.

Ian hates hamburgers made with brioche. (“Brioche is a cake”.)

Ian never wastes leftovers.

Ian rarely shows enthusiasm but becomes ecstatic when given a free-hand by us to choose purchases at the butcher.

Ian cannot sing.

Occasionally his Mum’s friends ask if Ian will cook them something. Ian does so with the proviso that they don’t pay. Although not visibly sociable Ian is almost universally beloved by his Mum’s friends.

Ian hates the Apple ethos.

When I received an attempted email blackmail, Ian was a great help.

Ian never takes local buses, prefers to walk.

Ian occasionally disapproves of my menu choices in “caffs”. Sternly discouraged my desire to find out whether four eggs was the limit when ordering egg-and-chips.

Ian answers the phone sepulchrally, as if suffering from a rare disease.

Ian is horribly sun-sensitive. Uses a very powerful lotion which he refers to as “Burkah in a bottle”.

Ian took to opera comparatively late in life. Was ravished by Madame Butterfly.

I offered to buy Ian a kitchen knife. This took ages. He dislikes the “jutting-out bits” on the handles of many knives.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Expiation

A warning to cigar smokers
- in both senses
A post about sexual solecism to compensate for an unforeseen inability to deliver a post about mosaics (see Suspense).

Immediately, one looks for wriggle-room. Who better than the Sage of Vienna to blur the issue? Much innocent mileage may be derived from “the existence of libido - a sexualised energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive - the source of compulsive repetition, hate, aggression.”

I  mean that’s everyday life, innit? I don’t dislike Huw Edwards. I love him because he reminds me of my Mum.

As for my cucumber phobia, so obvious. The shape – though, happily, not the colour - is ludicrously symbolic.

Then there’s Paris, not the source of Freudianism but one of its largest Petri dishes. I’m happier walking down its boulevards these days. But that’s because they’ve done away with all those pissoirs: large cast-iron cylinders on street corners within which male Parisians could gain physical (perhaps spiritual) comfort providing they didn’t mind exposing their lower limbs to public gaze.

I’ve read Proust. Say no more.

But let’s have something more up to date. I drive a car and the engine projects forwards. (Yes, I know that’s the norm but when did you last give yourself a Freudian workover?) Not only does the engine project but I cannot see its foremost extremity. There’s doubt there. Quick as a flash automotive doubt becomes doubt about virility, gender, and whether bow-ties are a sexual signifier. I’d drive the car backwards but the boot (US: trunk) would then do the projecting. Close your eyes to the horrible associations that invokes.

I’m sorry I failed with mosaics. I got too involved smashing the tiles and I shouldn’t have. Am I now shriven? Shrove? Shreeved?

Friday, 16 August 2019

Suspense


Mosaics: Part one

On Fridays VR attends art group in Ewyas Harold (a village near the Welsh border). Today it’s mosaics and I got involved. Scouting the area for decorative ceramic tiles which I then smashed into mosaic-able fragments. Not forgetting grout to fill in the interstices. Ideas flitted. The interstices should not be too wide. The layout must be better than random. How about sub-designs? And mind the sharp edges of the tile shards.

Driving VR and daughter Professional Bleeder (here on a visit) to EW I became minatory. I would be very disappointed, I said, if I was unable to detect signs of intellectualism in the two finished mosaics. Hadn’t I scouted and smashed until knackered?

Above are the raw materials. In 45 minutes I shall leave to pick the two mosaic-ers. With their works.

To be continued.

Mosaics: Part two

Ooo...er, what's this? I drive down to EW and all I see is WIP (work in progress). The art group consists either of slow-learners or perfectionists. The revelations - if any - must be postponed a week. Meanwhile, how do I fill in the time? A sonnet? A short story centring on prettiness? A scandalous post about sexual solecism, vivid enough to disguise this administrative booboo.

To be continued (at least until Friday the 23rd)

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Prelude

There’s singing and there’s the anticipation of singing.

These days I don’t always rise at 06.25, the duvet may be just too seductive. But on singing-lesson days, always. Sometimes at 06.24, impatient for my other world. Downstairs for a swig of fizzy water from the fridge. As it slices over my palate - painfully – I think about my throat. Will it work? The house sleeps and it’s too early for even a tentative note.

The computer beckons. Time for another post? Why not one about singing which is not really about singing? Comments for other blogs, perhaps? While their authors sleep since some live in the USA and must – despite their mild outrage – lag behind me in rickety old UK.

VR will still be abed when I return to the en-suite. As the green blob of shaving gel morphs into foam, I open my mouth amid all this whiteness. Creating a ragged sort of hole. Can legitimate noise proceed from this void? Briefly I require reassurance.

The car must be backed out of the garage and the document case containing scores chucked on the back seat. The case is heavier now. How many pieces of music sweated over since January 2016? Fifty?

I sit on the couch, waiting. I’m always early. Then out to the roundabout on the A465 which – I’ve never understood why – is free from traffic at this time. The drive on narrow roads takes twenty minutes and passes through heartbreakingly lovely Herefordshire. Farms, sheep in fields, the tiny village of Kings Thorn, the detached houses of the privileged. I’m singing to myself now. The la-la-la-la-la sequence of the warm-up. An easy-ish song, say, Time Stands Still.

Now I’m parked in V’s impossibly steep driveway. I press the doorbell, the dog barks, the door opens...

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Even older Moore's Almanac

In old age the past dwarfs the future. Tone Deaf tends to rake among the ashes; instead, here are things that will, should or might happen.

Trousers. Are three pairs enough? How often should they be washed? Once a year or biennially? The conviction grows I need another pair. Such a fag finding sand-coloured chinos of the right texture. Decision at the weekend.

Booze for my birthday party. While I'm awake wine, beer, cider and Sprite are consumed. When I'm abed youth turns Scotch and Drambuie into Rusty Nails. Until about 4 am. Must tread carefully until midday.

The novel. I'm a 21st-century writer yet the MS lacks a bonking scene. In an earlier novel I got round this with sex that was comical. Is the time ripe for a political allegory?

TV. I can hardly wait for the last two instalments of Chernobyl. Masterly. Gripping. Authentic.

Shoes. They are light brown; when it rains the toe-ends go whitish, hinting at poverty. The tin of polish (A huge step backwards into a deprived past) has only been used twice. Ye Gods, the paste could be drying out. But where's the brush?

Books with clout. Bertrand Russell's An Outline of Philosophy isn't enough to maintain my sagging reputation as an intellectual. After all, it's only an outline. Time to face up to the Thomas Pynchon acquired cheaply from Tesco's secondhand books table. Courage!

Appearance. My hair suggests I'm aping Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments. Could let it grow but I enjoy chatting to Shara, my stylist. A light trim then?

Cake. This morning VR asked me: What sort? I dithered, finally said: Fruit. Fine, but it must be seed cake next time. The thinking man’s cake.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Kraken wakes

Suddenly the flood-gates opened. After more than a year of immobility and a growing lack of faith on my part, Rictangular Lenses leaped forward: 11,000 words in two months, homing in on halfway house at, say, 50,000 words. Here's the latest passage which - perhaps to reassure myself - I'm exposing to sunlight.

Alas, such exposures are often at odds. Readers want to know what's happening while I'm keen to know mainly how those happenings have been fashioned. Something of an indulgence, then. Especially since I've blown my 300-word limit for posts.


CHAPTER NINE

THE SENSE of luxury quickly palled but Lindsay pursed her lips, convinced her plans would eventually converge and everything would make sense. The limousine that had wafted them from Birmingham’s suburbs into deep, dark rural Oxfordshire was equipped with a sliding glass panel which isolated the chauffeur; despite this Greta Dane whispered. “I still don’t see why Gerald and Amber couldn’t come.”

Lindsay sighed. “It has to be private, just the two of us. It could even be embarrassing. If things work out we’ll arrange a celebration for all four. That will be up to you.”

“All so hole-in-the corner.”

Even so her mother had had her hair styled and tinted for the event. Her full evening dress may not have been new but Lindsay had never seen it before. Other changes were more organic. Greta’s neck had retracted most of its cords and her face was fuller, no longer strained. Best of all, despite a tendency to complain, her tone of voice had dropped half an octave. Had become more... What? Motherly?

“I have no secrets from Gerald,” Greta said primly.

Lindsay had sworn to control herself throughout this early awkward part of the evening but perhaps being submissive could be overdone.

“Mother, do you still see me as your daughter?”

And it was as if Greta’s face had retreated months, perhaps years. Back into embitterment. She remained a silent passenger in the vehicle and a degree of ease only returned when an acolyte handed her out and acted as escort into the converted Georgian manor-house.

Softly glowing lighting within the hallway flattered her and Lindsay took her hand. “Let’s enjoy ourselves,” Lindsay said and Greta’s fingers tightened.

A genial sommelier offered Greta the loan of his gold-framed grannie glasses when Greta worried – sotto voce – about the type size on the menu. The glasses struck an appropriate note, friendly and lacking fuss. Greta accepted but held the folded frame as if for lorgnettes; to have hooked them round her ears might have been over-familiar.

“Champagne?” Lindsay suggested.

“Goodness!” said Greta, since luxury was re-asserting itself. A table-cloth, thick as the Queen’s coronation robe, covered a circular table for two, privily pushed into a niche away from the centre of the dining room. For Lindsay had explained to the restaurant that things “would be said”. Lindsay, spying from her niche, looked out into the glittering concourse and listened to the sounds of people with money enjoying themselves. This was a very expensive restaurant. The talk was clear yet at moderate volume. Strangely it was non-assertive. But then people with money – out for an evening’s dining – could afford not to be competitive here. Their credit cards would do that in a hushed, very British way, offstage and handled by minions.

Gently urged by Lindsay Greta – never an over-enthusiastic eater – chose stratospherically priced turbot and the champagne did the rest. Mother and daughter relaxed into each other’s space, smiled and broke off occasionally for private memories. Once Greta touched Lindsay’s wrist.

Coffee was served but ignored. Lindsay had prepared for this moment.

“Mother, my professional life has changed. Profoundly.”

“So I can see."

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Holiday scrapbook

End-on view of marvellous Millau viaduct on drive to Creissan.
British architect, Norman Foster, designed it and all France is
pleased with the result. I reflect on this as Brexit grinds away
towards its meanly isolationist end. 

RR (resurrected as Mr Punch) and VR
regard the Bouzigues oyster beds,  knowing full well
 some Tone Deaf readers can't abide oysters.
 
Dialogue at St Chinian street market, Languedoc, France.

Butcher: Monsieur?
RR: Your lamb liver has a price tag, your veal liver hasn't.
Butcher: That's so.
RR: This suggests the veal liver is more expensive. Terribly expensive.
Butcher and wife roar with laughter at my deduction. I order a small slice of veal liver and the butcher puts it on his scale.
Butcher (shouting): Two hundred euros! (ie, $220.77)
All three of us laugh.

NOTE FOR US READERS, NOTORIOUSLY SUSPICIOUS OF OFFAL. I fear this is the way things are in France.

When the reading exceeds 40 deg C where else would you go?
Creissan cemetery. Some graves, randomly adorned, look more
like a garage sale. (Below) Others await paying customers.