● 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.

Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Weh ist mir

Rare as the Mona Lisa. 

Signs of RR in a penitential  act of gardening. 

Repeat after me: Ah, that I should be so cursed.

Sunday, 4 June 2023

Elysian Fields, but without dying

I never actually played on the Bowling Green

Squeezing this into 300 words will be hard, but that’s my rule. Entering journalism at 15 was like winning a Nobel prize, even without the money. Quickly I realised I’d outgrown my home city, Bradford. Even more so, parochial Bingley. I yearned to work in London. Here are some subsequent minor experiences

● I regularly attended press conferences in the West End, London’s swanky bit. I worked in Bowling Green Lane (see above), 2.2 miles from Piccadilly Circus. I always walked. For the smell of it and because I shared the snotty company of uncaring Londoners.

● Drama happened. Crossing the Thames at low water (by bridge) I saw a male corpse, legs and arms outstretched, half embedded in the mud. Death could hardly have been more anonymous.

● After a press do, having imbibed “one or two”, I’d call in at Foyles, London’s best-known bookshop. An awkward assembly of smallish rooms with an unnecessarily antique method for paying. Londoners learn to tolerate discomfort.

● London’s pubs are notoriously unwelcoming and costly. Even so, London hosts the best pub in the world: The Trafalgar, on the very edge of the Thames, near Greenwich. Sit in the curve of a bow window; downstream The Dome, an arena resembling a huge flattened mushroom; ahead the towers of Canary Wharf – London’s Wall Street; upstream hints of Tower Bridge.

● VR, then VT, was a nurse at Charing Cross Hospital, within spitting distance of Trafalgar Square. We courted each other in what Dr Johnson called The Great Wen. Nowhere could have been more romantic.

● Saw my first opera in London, Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

● Lunched at Rules, the Savoy, Le Gavroche, three mega-pricey restaurants. Somebody else paid.

● Bought wine at Berry Bros, as did the late Queen.

Thursday, 1 June 2023

Eventually, they stopped gladiator fights

Tell me - just how does he re-assume the vertical?

I’ve always been fascinated by motorbike racing. But only recently have I asked myself am I morally entitled to this fascination? Should I, in fact, ‘fess up?

The first races, in the early fifties, were shocking in retrospect. Racers roared down narrow lanes in a private park; I watched from the lane side separated only by a single rope strung between short posts. No protection whatsoever, only a warning I shouldn’t get too close.

Bikes got faster. On the Isle of Man, a 30-plus-mile circuit follows conventional rural and suburban roads, defined by stone walls and house corners. Eventually someone went round at an average 100 mph. The present record is 135 mph. That’s average speed; to achieve this, bikes travel at close to 200 mph in some parts. On two wheels!

Meanwhile better tyre technology means racers may lean over even further to get through corners faster. In present international MotoGP races, the angle between bike and road is less than 45 degrees. Now the racer’s elbow scrapes the ground.

Cameras are so small a bike racer may carry several; not just to record the rapidly changing view ahead but showing his foot changing gear, and his right hand applying the brake. To the YouTube viewer the sensation is thrilling.

Thrilling because of the danger. Deaths during practice and races in the IoM are shocking. Riders wear one-piece leather suits and expensive helmets. Offering only marginal protection when hitting a drystone wall at 120 mph.

At other circuits large run-off areas make racing safer. Rider deaths are down but I can remember the bad old days and the IoM races still happen. After all, bike racing is only bloody entertainment.

Racers do what they wish; my thrills are vicarious. Am I justified? Probably not. Should I stop watching? Hmmm. 

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Valuable asset, often under-used

Do you use your imagination? Ask: What if? Suppose this instead of that? What then?

More specifically: Imagining present-day you confronting an earlier self. This hoary, creaking, unhealthy yet articulate ancient, married for 63 years, father to two daughters both over fifty, retired these last 28 years, reduced mainly to writing and thinking (moodily), walking the streets of immediate post-war Bradford and coming upon 16-year-old Robbo – tall and gangling, still given to crying, tortured by the chemical changes of adolescence, well-read but way past his intellectual competence, agonised by the presence of girls of the same age, now in work but – for now – no more than a gofer.

This pitiful loser might well irritate me so much I’d cross the road. Shouting: Grow up miseryguts; the only medicine for your fever is experience. Time must pass.

Octogenarian RR is at least aware that older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser. Or more sympathetic. 

Imagination allows us to tinker. Old me slips, falls, has difficulty standing up. Robbo helps me. We sit together on a convenient bench. Potential irritation is dispersed; I dimly recognise the turmoil within this unpromising, acne-ridden teenager.

In my much-modified Bradford accent I say: the only certainty is that things will change. Not necessarily for the better. But, unless you recognise these changes, you’re doomed to dissatisfaction. National service was unpleasant. But the incidental effects – hard to perceive then – changed my life and my character.

You will yearn for things but reject them as impossible. Too much hard work. It may be necessary to go in harm’s way to profit. Hence the USA

Young Robbo may be unhappy but he has a sharp tongue. Says, “And old age can become boring.” I nod. He walks away, unmodified.

I rewind my imagination and start again.

Saturday, 27 May 2023

Big toe trouble

Chemo (a liquid) enters the body via a PICC,
a sort of tap, dangling freely when not in use

The delinquent big toe, neatly bandaged

PICC protecting sleeve and Tesco shopping bag

Sleeve holds bag in place round foot

Old age makes it difficult for me to clip my toe-nails – I don’t bend as well as I used to. It turns out chiropodists are now passé; for foot trouble you book a podiatrist, dressed in op theatre blues as if ready for a heart bypass. The nails take five minutes at most, but she notes one of my big toes. It recently lost its nail, made a half-hearted attempt to grow another, is now inflamed and infected. She bandages it expertly, sends a recommendation to my GP to prescribe an antibiotic, says she’ll see me in a week.

All straightforward. But, one week later, here’s where things get “different”.

Pod: Did you remove the bandage?

RR: You said not to.

Pod: But how were you able to manage?

RR: By the simple expedient of not washing myself.

Pod: But that was one week ago.

RR: Your point being?

There is a shocked silence. A new bandage is put on. Tentatively Pod says, “But you will wash, won’t you.” The word “Please” is unspoken but almost tangible.

I discuss things with VR who is more familiar with my unhygienic ways. VR says, “When you were doing chemo you had a PICC in your arm (See explanatory diagram) yet you showered. You bought a special sleeve to prevent wetting the PICC.” I said, “Yes, but it’s open at both ends.” VR says, “So stick a plastic shopping bag over your foot first.”

Brilliant! It’s great being married to an inventive wife. I even decide to have a shallow tepid bath, revelling in the way my fevered toe was protected.

Alas, somehow the bathwater gets in.

My next Pod appointment is in two days. 

What, exactly, should I say?

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Wrestling with goodness

It’s more fun to write about things going wrong than going right though this tends to be a view held by professionals. Amateurs, like Peter Rabbit bursting his buttons, rush to the keyboard after some delightful experience and try to re-capture the landscape, the informed movie, the magical meal and – unless they are very lucky – achieve only flatness. It’s not their fault. The vocabulary of delight is limited, over-used. The sensations harder to pin down.

Yesterday we, the Robinsons, two of us, suffered a disaster within our home. So horrible I cannot hint at it, however aroused your curiosity. It lasted about an hour. Finally normality resumed, we retired to our comfort zones (VR the easy chair, RR the couch), opened some kind of reading matter, and silence descended.

Fortunately this was a shared event. Mutual support was available. After about an hour I looked up and was struck by the tranquillity on the face of my wife of 63 years. The sense of peace. One would never have known…

But was this pleasure? Certainly it was relief, but for relief to exist badness must have preceded it. Relief may be a new absence of pain. But that’s not quite a workable definition of pleasure.

Whatever it was, the state endured. As long as an hour or two. Does pleasure endure? How long can one look at a landscape and maintain a state of sharp and – perhaps – unexpected pleasure? Doesn’t the impact begin to fade? More often than not, pleasure is only truly recognised afterwards. At the time we may not be given to introspection.

I tried to raise these points with VR but she wasn’t having any. She’s more pragmatical than I am. Yet again I forgot about pills at the right time of day. Life re-asserted itself.

Friday, 12 May 2023

A post-surgical vignette

People wait patiently in the maxilofacial department waiting room. Brits are good at waiting. Perhaps too good, it’s a national malaise. When Shakespeare exhorted “… then imitate the action of a tiger…” I’m not sure he had Brits in mind.

Doctors or nurses offer that seemingly inoffensive  question: “How are you today?” But patients are, by definition, defective so most find it difficult to respond. Some mumble. The more articulate say, “As well as can be expected.” Careful now, mustn’t whinge.

I am badly educated but I hate prose which lacks spirit. I reply, “I am in unexpectedly robust health.” The surgeon – whom I’ve grown to like – looks up, suspecting more. I explain I’ve had to take over the cooking at home and this is exercising unfamiliar muscles. Good for me.

There’s a cursory examination of my mouth, an announcement that he intends to continue to oversee my progress, and I’m booked for another appointment in three months with a choice of hospital. “Anywhere but this one (Cheltenham), the parking is a nightmare.” He nods and I get Gloucester.

This means the booking for the holiday villa in southern France still stands. Cancelling would have cost an arm and a leg, either of which I would be reluctant to lose. 

“Whereabouts?” asks the surgeon. A tiny village called Laurent, north of Montpellier. He says, “Not too far from Mount Ventoux.”

The years roll back, “Ah, Provence.” But something tickles my awareness. “Just a mo, are you a cyclist?” He shrugs, “I’ve done the mountain.”

I get up to leave; something feels unresolved. “Thanks for the cutting you did around my voicebox. My singing’s unaffected. Very important. Possibly it’s why I’ve lived to 87.” He nods and I am mysteriously warmed.