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, and - more recentlyly - 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.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Moth-eaten, toothless, deserted by his lionesses

What's afoot here?

History professor, Trinity College, Dublin: "There is a sense that with (them), unless it's written down you can't trust anything they say."

Former Dutch MEP: "A mixture of bemusement and bewilderment. On one level it's entertaining, great spectacle. A pantomime you can't stop watching... Except this isn't Monty Python."

Dutch language teacher: "We had such a close relationship... until now (when) you can't manage your own affairs. Those jokes, that posturing - it just looks silly. Irresponsible."

French commentator: "... a 'national psychodrama' or in more prosaic words 'un big mess'."

CEO of French port, Calais: "You had special conditions. You continued to drive on the left... so fundamentally insular... this is (your) destiny. But it's a pity."

Editor, Spanish newspaper: "Most people see it as chaos... (despite) a strong reputation for being disciplined and well organised."

German diplomat: "Melancholy (like) that of being dumped by a girfriend. 'I still have her jumper and I go round wearing it, hoping her scent will linger'."

Still stumped?

It is the same phenomenon that has kept me - nominally a writer in the winter of my life, keen to finish my fifth novel and desperate to outrun The Grim Reaper - lolling on the couch of an afternoon, reading The Guardian's every last tick and comma, even watching the Live Parliament TV channel, and discussing things in a low whisper with my wife.

Trump? Forget him. A mere shadow in two or six years.

Brexit, meanwhile, may cause my grandchildren's children to curse who-knows-how-many generations of English parents.

Thanks to The Guardian’s G2 Section, pp 8 – 9, “It’s like the crew of the Titanic deciding, by majority vote, that the iceberg should get out of the way.”

Monday, 11 February 2019

Hot agar

"Grandad," said Ysabelle, "Would you like an egg, a bun and a sausage-meat patty - in effect an Egg McMuffin - or bacon 'n' egg, or scrambled egg?"

I opted for the former, to show I was a man of the world and knew what an Egg McMuffin was. In the meantime, I scratched the ears of one of Y's two cats she got from the cat refuge, saying to Daniel, her partner, "Let's have the two oldest cats to help them forget the time they spent locked up."

The night before VR and I slept in Y/D's bed because it was the nicest in their house. There'd been chat about the cat-door Daniel had fashioned - through the kitchen wall since through the door was impossible.

Ysabelle, as most will know, is my granddaughter. She lives in Tavistock, way down the south-west peninsula, and this was our first visit to their new house. As a house-warming present I'd bought a lavatory brush complete with bamboo container. This complemented the fridge-freezer which didn't really count as a prezzie since it couldn't be "handed over". Oh, plus a litre of gin and two bottles of pinor noir. From Germany of all places.

A family is like a loosely linked collection of petri-dishes with visiting rights. Every so often we take a trip and check out the bacterial action in a neighbouring dish. There may be a lot or a little. For me I felt rather smug: my earlier judgments and expectations appeared to be confirmed.

Monday, 4 February 2019

A tendency to wander

I'm not given to writing about the weather - I worry it may reveal me as "a pauper spirit". (Direct quote from Henry Williamson's Dandelion Days. These days he's ignored as a writer given he was terribly impressed by the Hitler Youth. His judgment on Adolf: "essentially a good man who only wanted to build a new and better Germany")

I never saw "pauper spirit" defined so I'm saying it means lack of imagination. Since I'm at the stage of life when my imagination ebbs more than it flows I try to steer clear of banality. However the weather was cold enough a couple of days ago for me to obey VR's steely insistence - "Wear your old après-ski boots." - when I went out to pick up The Guardian.

These boots look comically clumsy but they are thermally efficient. They also have a strange tread pattern which is only hinted at in the photo. On the way back from the filling station I tried to follow the exact route I'd taken outwards but I was not alone in leaving distinctive footsteps in the snow. Was this what the snow looked like in and around Stalingrad during the siege? That got me thinking about the inappropriate clothing the troops wore during this titanic struggle. Overcoats which ceased to button up somewhere north of the wearer's waistline, much of the fabric flapping loosely and thus offering little in the way of insulation.

Soldiers - from all countries - are renowned for their grumbling. Napoleon called his lot Les Grognards and you can guess what that means. Stalingrad would be a perfect source of grumbling if you were German.  Those doing the shooting (while being shot at) are entitled to grumble as much as they like, in my view. A series of novels by the German author Hans Helmut Kirst about WW2 gets to the heart of wartime grumbling. I read them forty years ago, would they still stand up?

I'm back with The Guardian. Plenty to read (but little of it new) about Brexit.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Bear-baiting now modernised

My sciatic nerve is not my only source of pain these days. The UK's fumbling attempts to leave the EU (Brexit) are a spiritual burden which is bringing my grey hairs down with sorrow to the grave.

To compound my misery I have taken to watching the Parliament Channel on TV. It's free and it should be.

Remember your school debating society? Parliament is like that raised to the power of n, with bits of comical history thrown in. Newcomers will be astonished to see that when there's a full attendance there isn't enough space for everyone (ie, about 630 MPs) to sit down. A few dozen stand crushed together at the exits; others squat uncomfortably in the stepped aisles. Also, when there's a vote, everyone troops out of  the chamber to be counted. No push-buttons here.

The Speaker, Stephen Bercow, who is - confusingly - an MP who does not vote, utters strange commands during the voting: "Division!", "Lock the doors!", and "Unlock!"

When the MPs are speaking in the formal debates they refer to each other as The Honourable Member for Slumberland and Tittipoo (ie, their constituency). Frequently the two halves of the chamber bellow in support of speeches they favour, or go "Who-hoo." at those they don't.

When the background noise becomes unbearable the Speaker intervenes using language that sounds like a fifties radio comic.

And it is these ritualised fools who are intent on cutting my links with the countries who gave the world Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Proust, Goethe, Voltaire, Molière, Sartre and Flaubert to name but a few. Who are in effect insisting that the river Rhine and Paris's Ile de la Cité are more foreign than I've been accustomed to. Bah to these puffball wretches.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Supplied by my private NHS

On the tiny planet Zog the operational part of the tube (US: subway) system is being widened. Locomotives equipped with sharp-toothed, voracious boring machines (moles) travel along existing rails increasing the tunnel radius to accommodate larger trains. A huge project?  It would be but for two reasons:

(1) The planet Zog could be accommodated in the average UK garden shed.

(2) Zog only exists to illustrate how it feels to own and depend on my right leg.

Sciatic pain expresses itself in different voices: a shrieking soprano resulting from raising bone marrow to boiling point, an interminable Heldentenor aria chewing away at soft tissue, and a rumbling bass which suggests the skeletal frame is collapsing into rubble and will blow away as dust.

But who am I to complain?

With a leg like that it's hard to sing well. Manfully I do my solitary rehearsals but my voice lacks precision. I do have a prescription though, provided by a friend. When my leg throbs like a tom-tom I turn to this:


It makes me cry but better to cry at - or for - this than the pain.

It's a four-voice part song (thus unaccompanied) here sung during Advent in Cologne's main railway station. A flashmob impromptu, albeit carefully rehearsed. In English it translates as A Rose Has Sprung Up. More elegantly: Lo, How a Rose e'er is Blooming.

More recently I'm learning to sing it as a duet with V. From a sitting position.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Catching up with time

One picture is worth a thousand words. So what's a moving picture worth? How about a moving picture with words?

Until recently I wasn't aware how incomplete my view of Donald Trump was. His outrageous utterances are captured, live, for BBC television news. Rebuttals, if any, come later, often as summary read by the presenter. Any corrective force is inevitably delayed.

Thus the cumulative impression, here in the UK, is that, day to day,  DT gets away with murder and the US does nothing about it. Then I saw Anderson Cooper on CNN cutting out "wasted" time and offering clips of what Trump said then and now.

The Mexicans would pay for the wall. No they wouldn't, a new US-Mexico trade deal would pay for the Wall. But the money gained would go to the businesses doing the trading. Yeah but the cost of the wall is peanuts. So the US government would tax the traders? Oh no.

The US shutdown. People wouldn't be able to pay their mortgage, buy groceries, etc. Trump (a billionaire landlord) reckoned the landlords would be understanding, would allow defaulters some slack. Cut to Trump in 2016 advising on how to collect rent "...never stand in front of the door... because you get bad things coming through that door."

Cooper cocks an eyebrow:  "Does that sound as if Trump is there to give the tenants time to pay?”

What I loved was how much Trump must dislike Cooper. Cool, calm-voiced, even giving Trump credit where it was deserved, shrugging his shoulders at each contradiction, saying, “Hey but it’s just words, just words.”

I owe the USA an apology. I didn’t think the country could do irony. I was wrong.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

A viceless friend

My DIY days are over and no regrets. I was never an expert and poverty was the main driving force. These days I call in experts, observe them, pay them and reflect.

And change my mind. For half a century I believed that the single most important tool in my armoury was the power drill. Especially since I was able to remember starvation days in London when I made do with a hand drill. Given I tended to bodge, it was a revelation when I discovered I could also use the power drill sideways and open up holes that were too small.

Of course "most important" is arbitrary. One wouldn't get too far without a saw or a screw-driver but the thing about power drills, as well as speed and adaptability, is their power. Try putting a hole in a brick with a hand drill.

But then I bethought myself. My most productive DIY days were in Kingston-upon-Thames where I had a large garage (Described as "a 1½ garage" by the estate agent). Room enough for a substantial bench and... a vice. As I say I was a lousy craftsman but I'd have been lousier still without that vice. And a vice complements other tools (drills, saws, planes, etc) by adding stability and thus precision. My garage here in Hereford is much smaller and I have improvised with a Workmate foldable bench which incorporates a joky vice-like feature. But it's not the same.

To take the above photo I retrieved my retired vice from spider's webs and marvelled at its battle-scars, reminding me that a vice can also act as an anvil. Poor thing. I can't ever remember it letting me down which gainsays the other, more piquant meaning of its name.