● Lady Percy moves me - might she move you? CLICK TO FIND OUT
● Plus my novels, stories, verse, vulgar interests, apologies, and singing.
● Most posts are 300 words. I respond to all comments/re-comments.
● See Tone Deaf in New blogger.

Thursday 20 June 2024

Way to go

Shara of Oasis (inadvisedly re-christened Oasis Studio; suggests they are all still learning) has cut my hair for at least a decade. I always tip her very generously (I mean a lot.) and she always protests.

I explain: Since my hair is cut, at most, three times a year I will never make her rich. It’s great to plonk myself in the chair and not have to provide instructions. Her conversation is worth listening to.

Yesterday I told her that taking over the Chez Robinson kitchen was wearing me out. But how on earth does she cope? On her feet eight hours a day, back home, prepare a proper (cooked) meal for three. Whereas I may loll for much of the day.

Shara has a system. Front door closed she throws off her work clothes, has a shower (much rarer in the UK than the US), puts on light clothes, is able – via accumulated culinary skills – to create a proper meal within an hour. Why not, she suggested, cook in bulk and freeze the surplus for future use?

I can’t pretend my working day is as onerous as Shara’s. Also well-organised writing often leads to dull reading. The ideas arrive irregularly by unexpected Uber taxis. Writing is, in any case, self-imposed. And I’m prone to low hygiene standards.

But there was something beguiling in getting the drudgery out of the way and changing clothes. Established writers in the nineteenth century often wore dressing gowns (US: robes) at their desk. Even strange hats like the one illustrated. I do have a long US night-shirt which proved to be unsuitable for sleeping in but might hint at the lofty authority of an intellectual.

See why I tip big?

Thursday 13 June 2024

The Hitchhiker

Was this the chap who thumbed my body for
A lift? His name, well-known and ominous,
The medics put aside, went latinate
And told me buccal sulsus was my guest.

Three years ago they cut an ounce of flesh
To gain the space for me to use – let’s say -
For better things. For widening my mouth
To sing An die Musik more plausibly.

The checks were good; the Kidderminster drive 
I took was countrified. My voice? It sang.
Months passed, enough to wipe the memory
Of that unwanted, fungal traveller. 

But recently new stirrings to the left,
Just where the blades had hacked and cut,
An irksome tightness like a hangman’s noose, 
And tegument that stretched from A to B.

I thought about the villa in Bordeaux,
The sport of language in the streets,
Kin splashing in the pool; much money spent
Would all our preparations go to waste?

Is this the last or was last year the end?
Is twenty-four (three times eight) finality?
These latter years I think I’ve shrugged at death
But others are the ones who feel the pain.

But lo! A consultation just arrived,
A guy in blue sees what I cannot see.
Murmurs to me, “Just tissue badly scarred.”
The hol is on; good grief, another year.

Saturday 8 June 2024

Something of a first

Can't believe your eyes? Click to enlarge

It’s my house. The posters say “Vote Labour”. I've never previously stuck up a political poster. Ever.

Not that I’m expecting the message to be heeded. In the 26 years we’ve lived in Hereford, the city’s southern-section Labour candidate has always been a distant third in general elections. But miracles do happen, and national polls put Labour 21 points ahead of the Tories. Perhaps, perhaps.

It’s more a statement than an exhortation. I’ve never been more ashamed to be British than now. Eliot’s wry observation “…not with a bang but a whimper” has never been more apposite. Except it’s a sordid whimper. A corrupt whimper. A land where opportunism, political greed, governmental incompetence, international egotism, contempt for anyone who is differently coloured or who lives in mainland Europe are the order of the day.

A land where closed-doors finagling results in an other-worldly person becoming prime minister, ruling for forty-odd days and leaving office having cost the country £46bn. What’s that? £46,000,000,000.

Tories have ruled for 14 years. Their manifesto tells us what they intend to do. Why, you ask, did you not do these things earlier? There seems to have been plenty of time.

To curry favour Tories promise to cut taxes. But that means spending less on public aid: health, education, the elderly, even, for goodness sake (THESE ARE TORIES!) the armed forces.

The feeble-minded, queried by TV reporters, disguise their ignorance with “All politicians are the same.” Maybe; but is it conceivable the opposition would do worse?

In the past VR and I have been forced to vote tactically. The hell with that. Who knows…?

Footnote: Labour is led by a knight. Knights did chivalry. Yeah, pure bullshit, I suppose.

Friday 7 June 2024

New can be quite hard


Later I rechristened it Rustbucket

In the mid-sixties I decided to try my hand as a journalist in the USA. Easier then, but still a venturesome prank. Since I couldn’t be sure I would succeed I came alone, leaving my wife and three-year-old daughter behind in the UK.

Gift-of-the-gab got me a job and I spent the next three months at the Pittsburgh Y until VR and daughter arrived on the SS United States. In New York that is.

During this time everything I did - other than the journalism - was new and often perversely difficult; but that was why I’d come, wasn’t it? An impossibly aggressive realtor resembled an enemy from the Middle Ages. I half expected this egg-shaped man to throw down his gauntlet as prelude to a duel with pitchforks. Which I’m sure I’d have won.

I needed to equip the flat, a job I’d only shared with VR in the UK. Obviously we’d need a frying pan. I disdained Teflon, being entranced by a ferocious looking thing – more weapon than cooking utensil – fashioned as one piece (including handle) in cast iron. Probably weighing one stone. To avoid being asked the obvious question I’ll let US readers down lightly: that’s fourteen pounds.

As far as I remember VR only used it once. Apart from its discouraging weight the only job it did well was to raise the temperature of the integral handle to white heat.

Later I got fed up of travelling to work on a tram manufactured according to the same principles as the frying pan (ie, excess weight seen as a virtue). On a whimsy I acquired a used Volvo 122, deemed a luxury car in the UK, rated a sub-compact in the Iron City. My colleagues saw me as deluded.

Different points of view y’unnerstand.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Nuptials tested

Here are two frying pans; actually one’s an omelette pan but never mind that snivelling detail; both have been used to fry food.

Now guess the difference in price between them. I’ll make things easier: guess what multiple of price distinguishes one from the other.

Still not interested? OK, a more telling clue. One’s a Le Creuset.

And the Le Creuset costs six to eight times more than the other (off the shelf at Tesco).

Plus I owe VR an apology. She bought the Le Creuset more than thirty years ago when we lived in Kingston-upon-Thames. No doubt I ate many an omelette it cooked. But these days VR’s condition has meant I now operate the kitchen and with it the Le Creuset. The standard of culinary competence has dropped to what we in the UK call the “greasy spoon” level.

Recently VR discovered I’d hotted up a fish finger in the Le Creuset. Said, “You can’t do that in an omelette pan.” But omelettes are not part of my repertoire and if what VR said is an unbreakable law then the Le Creuset would gather dust. “Besides,” VR added, “the Le Creuset cost a lot of money.”

I may have replied prices are relative with the passage of time.

Tell the truth, the Le Creuset looked very robust. Alas, I found its weak point. I accidentally caused it to fall from the shelf. The handle speared the floor causing massive leverage; as you see the handle and a large segment of the pan are now separate from the pan’s main body.

I decided to replace it at my expense. That’s when I discovered the passage of time had updated VR’s claim about price. Hence the cheapo.

Happily, our 63-year-old marriage remains in one piece.

Saturday 1 June 2024

Jus de l'orange

Yes, I’m aware of the 34 guilty verdicts in New York. But don’t get over-optimistic. Think about US politics in abstractions; it’s easier that way.

Trump. A law breaker, willing to break the law again, a felon. This should exclude him from political office. Blame the founding fathers

Trump supporters. Driven by four forces: Fear, Greed, Misguided Patriotism and (the great majority) Ignorance.

Fear: Without Trump certain politicians would lose their expectations of power. Even to disagree puts them at risk. Regard them as AI lemmings.

Greed. Those with commercial control. Looking for beneficial changes in tax law and in the relaxation of statutes that preserve employee rights.

Misguided Patriotism. Seen by some as “My country right or wrong”.

Ignorance (It takes different forms). Trump, now a politician, gained national recognition via a TV programme viewed by many with virtually no interest in, and/or knowledge of, politicians in general. To them Trump’s competitors are a mere blur. 

Trump speaks demotically and – when off script – chaotically. Just like many under-educated parts of the electorate. Thus there is a bond.

Trump offers extreme and contrary self-serving opinions as if they were established facts. Again, a bond with those who cannot, or are too lazy, to search for corroboration. 

Trump implicitly supports physical action without mentioning all its consequences. This appeals to those who enjoy abrupt brawling in bars and who believe all difficult problems can be solved with guns.

Those who have (metaphorically yet fatally) turned their faces away from Trump, hoping he will simply disappear.

Thursday 30 May 2024

Sharps, flats and inexplicable

I'm right-handed by the way

Most British Protestant church hymns are musically simple. My mother sang them around the house and I was further exposed when - uncharacteristically – my treble voice sang briefly in a church choir. All this three-quarters of a century ago.

When I started taking singing lessons in January 2018, Grandson Ian (informed by I know not who) bought me the BudgetBooks collection of 316 hymn scores with lyrics. A nice gesture; alas it covered US hymn versions which frequently have different tunes. The book languished.

Another instinct draws me to piano keyboards. I have frequently irritated piano owners by tinkling without guidance on their instruments. More recently I bought a Yamaha keyboard.

I also write.

The two keyboards are at right-angles in my study (see pic).

Writing is not continuous. Frequently one stops and thinks. Unbidden, my left hand strays to the Yamaha and tinkles. Sometimes I abandon writing and address the Yamaha with my right hand. Hymns for simplicity, Schubert lieder – which I’m being taught by V – for a greater challenge.

Because my immediate memory may run out of hymns I use Grandson Ian’s gift to remind me of first lines of hymns long forgotten. Just an aide mémoire, the different tunes are irrelevant.

And, strangely, after some time, my fingers, quite untutored, instinctively find succeeding notes in these ancient tunes. Ten notes at a stretch, say. Not perfectly first time round; more competently the second time. Music last considered in the nineteen-fifties. Dormant since

And sometimes, greatly daring, using my left hand while NOT LOOKING AT THE KEYBOARD, I resurrect admittedly shorter passages. Like archaeology but without the sweat and shovels. As if a real musician dwelt within.