● 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.

Sunday 25 February 2024

Would you dare do it?

Who'll carve the chicken?

Not that I’m intending to, but suppose I joined a dating agency. Two problems: (1) Apart from being married I’m not tempted. (2) If I simply imagined the event – fictionally – I would be cheating: it could go anyway I chose – high comedy or profound tragedy.

So I'd have to pretend I was desperate. Which is difficult; like most adults I strenuously resist desperation as a life mode. This week’s Guardian magazine carries many such encounters and most depict a civilised evening meal à deux. But elsewhere I read that many such manufactured dates end badly.

Down to basics. It’s not just me, there’s my algorithm-chosen partner. Who could quite possibly be desperate too. Hmm. I see why that could end badly.

So, suppose I, or she, recognised the other’s desperation and sought to reach out, to help? And the evening became an exercise in sociological caring. Seems unlikely, too pat.

Is there an alternative to desperation? Curiosity, say. In fact a project similar to a day out of my previous professional life. The difference being the ultimate aim: then I was after information, today I would be looking for what? Emotional expansion covering friendship as well as something more meaty.

The more I think the more I envisage a disaster arriving with the starters. My default state is to ask questions – they fill in awkward gaps. But VR, among others, has warned me that not everyone responds well to being interrogated. Nor do they respond enthusiastically when urged to ask their own questions.

Having started this hare (It’s a phrase they have in the Airedale Beagles, qv) I’m maliciously attracted towards a hilarious short story treatment. Fictional but funny. Perhaps I could discuss that over the dinner table. Offering to share the byline.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Some progress; could do better

In Saturday’s Guardian magazine some bookish person or other is traditionally subjected to a set of questions. Not all answers seem entirely truthful; may even be self-serving. Do I also tell fibs?

My earliest reading memory

At primary school the class had Mr and Mrs Peg readers with green covers; mine was red, the only one. I was more or less left to my own devices. At home my mother read me Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Dimly – I think – I perceived these young people were “growing up”.

The book that changed my mind.

Aged ten or eleven I was lent a Peter Cheyney “Saint” thriller (title forgotten). Again, the details are vague, but I wanted to read more because of the style in which it was written. Laconic, mainly. I recognised style in later books by other authors.

The book that made me want to be a writer

I’ve always disliked novels about novel writers. Saw them as cop-outs from sedentary males who rarely stirred out of their mancaves. Raymond Chandler’s The High Window transfixed me by treating grim events humorously, managing to be moralistic without being pious. Much later came Ulysses, an infinity of possibilities, the unattainable goal.

The book I discovered late in life

Very late in life came poetry (other than Shakespeare) and with it Louise Gluck’s Poems 1962 -2012. Simple, even mundane, material becomes plutonium.

The book I’m currently reading

Wayne Barne’s Throwing the Book. He’s a retired rugby football referee. (Also a barrister). No great shakes as a writer but there are truths even in sport. And commercialism is one of sport’s untruths. Nothing in it for anyone who is unaware of Ireland’s present predominance in rugby. As Walt Whitman said: my life is full of contradictions  

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Who we are and what we do - now

"Bags of space", said the Mobility saleswoman,
as we assessed VR's bum width against the
wheelchair seat. Should make France more
explorable, if we get there this year

Drove VR to Mobility to check whether her backside fitted the seat of a wheelchair I’d chosen. Wheelchairs can cost thousands; this was secondhand, priced at £50 (“one careful user”). It fitted. Driving back I listened to the familiar lilt of Beethoven’s Spring sonata for violin and piano. Improving the afternoon gloom.

Reflecting: This had been a trip “outside”, something mildly different, a forty-minute treat. Breaks in the routine are rare.

If you flitted round us at home you’d conclude ours is a very dull life. Tangible silence; VR downstairs, same easy chair, reading her Kindle for hours with leisure breaks of FreeCell. Me upstairs, grinding out the words, fidgeting Solitaire.

Bursts of incompetence as I prepare brunch and sometimes an evening snack. Cursing a spoon falling from arthritic fingers. Food no longer a major priority. A modest glass or two in the evening. Often a foreign movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime (free, courtesy of grand-daughter and daughter).

VR’s illness hinders talk so we choose subjects carefully, using a minimum of words. VR damns her reduced mobility. Recalls childhood memories in précis. Thanks me for my burnt offerings. Says she’s lucky to have me. Once – A veritable thunderclap! – says I’ve still retained some looks so why don’t I find someone else? I’m speechless. And undeserved.

I summarise what I’ve read and what I’ve written. Speaking loudly. Sigh heavily when mealtimes roll round. Make a big deal out of “doing” the garden while only planning to weed a couple of pots. Most days I visit Tesco, on foot if I may, by car if there are too many bottles.

We can live comfortably without chat. That’s when I inspect VR’s lined face with enormous affection, a gentle and cumulative delight.

Dull? Let’s say private.

Saturday 10 February 2024

Members of the same club, say

Our comparatively new king, Charles III, and I have something in common: a malady disguised by many a euphemism (Note: that’s a five-dollar word to comfort those who find reality too harsh). I think the USA invented Big C. Certainly it was a US movie – the first version of Ocean’s Eleven back in the sixties – which launched The Big Casino.

Charles was complimented for going public. A good sport, having received, as it were, an invitation to a party few wanted to attend. Fair enough. Previously the UK royal family only contracted anonymous ailments. None that I know of ever suffered the indignity of haemorrhoids. Too hard to spell.

The popular UK newspapers handled this news gruesomely, making me queasy. I wanted to give you a flavour of their glutinous sentiments but the Internet was silent.

More than that, the apocalyptic tone employed in referring to cancer. The sheer horror, etc. As if the word itself was infectious.

So why do I find myself distanced by this news? Maybe because I’m more than a decade older than Charles. The younger you are the more horrified the response, it seems.

But let’s get one thing straight. Forget all misapplied references to anything like “courage”. The surgeon dispensing my first diagnosis was quite gruff. I idly wondered (aloud) whether any hacking and/or cutting would be worth submitting to. He became gruffer, promised me “a miserable death” if I discounted surgery. Good on him.

Was I being philosophical? Better cancer than Alzheimers? Perhaps. Fact is I surprised myself; truly there are more interesting things to think about. How to improve my singing timbre. Giving Tone Deaf wider appeal. Cancer stuff is terribly predictable and I hate being obvious.

Charles has gone into medical purdah. Pity. Couple of questions I could ask. 

Monday 5 February 2024

Time like an ever-rolling stream...

Some time ago I swore a private oath I wouldn’t post about old age. And here I go – reluctantly, I admit – breaking that private oath.

Today is Monday, the beginning of another week. You want numbers? It’s the 4576th week of my life. A meaningless figure but not a meaningless day. Since January 2016, 8.30 on Monday morning has signalled Singing Lesson! the reaffirmation of a late yet very positive phase of my long life. Gilded gates opening on a difficult but rewarding activity which had previously seemed as impenetrable as the rationale of logarithms, a willingness to accept the fictional existence of Bilbo Baggins, or a defence of the British royal family.

Singing lessons started in my eightieth year and all of a sudden I realise that was some time ago. In the interim I’ve got older and feebler. Never has the passage of time been so evident as when I struggled to get out of bed an hour ago. The creaky structure that is my body whined and groaned.

Today, even the prospect of singing lacks encouragement. In the way of things V and I will be tackling my most difficult song yet, Der Neugierige, sixth in Schubert’s Schöne Müllerin song cycle. Yes, yes, I know. There’ve been other “most difficult” songs and now they’re merely part of the repertoire. Eventually I’ll crack this one and all will be well.

But the effort to do so will be just that little more demanding. As was getting out of bed. I re-focus on my life and see it as a race against – What? – oblivion, of course. I need to achieve and go on achieving. Until the lid on the grand piano is lowered and the stage is empty.

On. On. But more slowly. Uh, uh… On.

POST SCRIPTUM. Disregard the old-age pessimism above. V was in top form with Der Neugierige, planed out the difficulties and I sang loudly and confidently. Music is the GREATEST specific against death's imminence. I feel no more than seventy-five.

Lessons usually end with V "warming me down" (ie, familiar easy phrases).  Not today. She said, "Let's just end with memories of the Schubert".

Wednesday 31 January 2024

Elusive yet ever present

There are words we’ve used all our adult lives, regularly, sometimes more than once a day, which have never been explained to us and we’ve never checked in the dictionary. Yet we use them confidently and unquestioningly

Today’s word is “thought”? So what is it?

A thing that occurs in our brain? True but childishly incomplete. Blood flows through our brain. Electric impulses pass by. Confirmation is received that what we’ve just experienced is a smell, an image, pain, etc. Thought helps make sense of a fact remembered.

Thought sounds as if might be static; in fact it can be a sequence. Rather marvellously, a thought may start out as a problem and end up as a solution. Even more marvellously, thought allows us to come to conclusions about ourselves that are unique, known nowhere else.

Thought helps us judge the outside world, saying what’s good and what’s bad. And we – using thought – may define how good is good and how bad is bad.

We may apply thought to simple visible things – a vacuum cleaner, an earring, a hamburger – or things that are theoretical and therefore invisible – politics, charity, forgetfulness. In some cases these latter abstractions may even take on unbidden shapes and colours; thus we have a green opinion about philately.

We may convert thought into other forms which others may examine. As with this post I’m writing.

And we may think about thought itself. See it as an asset even a friend. Except that thought isn’t always beneficial, it may develop strengths and uncontrollably impose itself on us, making us uncomfortable.

It could be that our thoughts are our greatest quality. Or our worst. It can help if we exercise our thoughts, making them fitter for the job.

Why not consider that final sentence? Thoughtfully.

Sunday 28 January 2024

Drowning in ignorance

Chosen as dark grey for an obvious reason

Needs an answer (NAA) 1. My Skoda was bought in 2016. Due to the pandemic and various medical imperatives it has only travelled 50,000 miles. Regularly serviced, it is always garaged at night and the engine starts up first whir. The battery is original; should I change the battery now or wait until I find myself cursing?

NAA 2. I have worn this heavy jumper (see pic) continuously since early autumn 2023. Still unwashed. When will it become, unmistakably, a social disaster?

NAA 3. At my own request I was given Barbra Streisand’s autobiography for Christmas. The turgidity of Long Hard Road (qv) has delayed my tackling her but I’m now done with lithium-ion stuff. Barbra runs to 970 pages and weighs 1.3 kg. I have a damaged rh shoulder; has anyone any appropriate ergonomic advice to counter future stresses? 

NAA 4. Only sympathetic responses for this one. My op for mouth cancer in August 2021 left me with weakened muscles at the lh end of my mouth. Putting things bluntly – when I drink, I dribble at the left. Any suggestions?

NAA 5. Here you need to know what a stud-wall is. Suppose you wanted to hang a picture (weighing, say, 1 kg) on such a wall. What hook fitment would be guaranteed secure? Note: the one that opens up as a parallelogram when tightened isn’t – in my late mother-in-law’s words – “worth a light”. Also, finding and screwing into the stud-wall’s solid framework is beyond my diagnostic competence. 

NAA 6. Should all outdoor pot-plants, withered into crackly brownness by the first sharp frost, be cropped down to, say, 10 cm?

NAA 7. Why am I the only wine-drinker on Earth who knows that whites from the Southern Rhone succeed best in the cost/flavour equation?