● 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.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

On being insulted

Said to be one of 19 most imaginative insults

It’s been some time since I was called “a pillock”. Not that I’ve minded. If the word means anything it suggests incompetence in manual skills – a failing I willingly own up to.

During national service in the RAF I was regularly called “a smart bastard” and this I took as a compliment. The result of uttering a moderately obscure word like “sentient”. Occasionally this led to fights but these tailed off when my opponents realised I was tall enough to apply the Commando Head Lock which rendered them helpless and – if they struggled – vulnerable.

Being called “a bore” could be one of two insults – one that mattered and one that didn’t. I am fairly articulate but prone to run off at the mouth; detected in this unforgivable sin I became contrite, otherwise “sulky”. If I’d been merely misunderstood by someone who was even worse educated than I was (there were a few) I merely smirked. I should add I was easily the least congenial airman – bar one – during square-bashing. The other – a skimp – came from Lancashire; case proved.

Once, during an early interview for a journalistic job, a very superior editor read my cuttings book and said I lacked the craft of writing. I cringed. At that time there was a justifiable reason for this judgment but I have no desire to resurrect it now. The smart-ass editor was right then and it was an agonising truth. I didn’t get the job but started crawling towards a better form of prose.

I have had – may still have – a particular weakness. Any woman who has chosen to insult me has seen me crawl away, tail between my legs. However extreme the wound I’ve tended to accept it as true. In my novels all women are heroines. Go figure.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

You (I) cleverer than you (I) thought?

The world is based on mathematics. I once got an
O-level GCE in Eng. Lang. with an essay on that

YouTube understands me well. For six years it has helped me learn how to sing. V is a terrific teacher but she is a soprano and I’m a baritone. If I need a baritone version of say, Schubert’s Du bist die Ruh, which I’m studying with V, YouTube has a slew of examples.

But I have other interests. When I open YouTube its all-knowing algorithms offer me “trailers” of many subjects in which I’ve previously shown an interest. For example: Putin’s rhetoric in his public announcements, technicalities of indoor wall climbing, stand-up sections of Jimmy Kimmel’s TV chat show from LA, dialogue between airline pilots and air traffic control, how a light-emitting diode works, “The Ten Things All Flat-Earthers Say”, many aspects of motor-bikes, etc.

Please, please don’t jump to conclusions. Showing an interest in something doesn’t mean I support its aims. Googling serial killers isn’t proof I always carry a machete. Only that I disapprove of ignorance.

But YouTube goes further; it identifies topics which I only dimly perceive. Things I might respond to if only I were a better version of myself. Linear algebra, for instance. Not to be confused with plain algebra.

It’s harder. Fundamental in modern presentations of geometry, it is often used for dealing with first-order approximations. Already I detect – telepathically – your eyes glazing over. Me? I’m flattered YouTube has this view of me. I click on The Big Picture of Linear Algebra by an MIT professor.

Quickly I’m lost. But the professor, Gilbert Strang, is a good teacher as the video’s comments proclaim. He backtracks and summarises. Uses conversational English. Tiny flashes of comprehension occur. I’m no mathematician. If only I’d taken that other road when I was 16… Ah, Wilderness.

Books couldn’t have done this. YouTube, I wouldn’t be without you.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Perfection is no big thing (revised)

In the opera, Aida, (not one of my favourites) the two lovers
are fatally walled up in a vault - a static sort of execution that
suited the great tenor, Pavarotti, whose bulk left him immobilised
in latter years. As I did "the box", the idea passed through my mind

Yesterday was a perfect day for me, nothing to do with the weather. A day of modest physical achievement, some intellectual exploration, quiet contentment, and a musical revelation to end it all.

THE PLAN To rise at 8 am and assemble a garden storage box kit. Fairly straightforward DIY, some tricky bits,

THE PLAN (amended) Languished in bed with VR, discussing our respective parents and noting our radically changed opinions regarding those who brought us into the world.

THE PLAN (resumed) Late start at 11.10 am. Inserted 30 self-tapping screws to secure the click-fitted box structure. The cost: one small hand blister.

THE BREAK May one add Worcester sauce to egg mayo on toast? The jury's out.

THE CLIMAX When complete, the box lid rises automatically, slowly and prettily via two piston-based levers. To install these do-dahs one crawls awkwardly into the box. Everything is cramped and the levers must be held “closed” to fit their slots. But how to hold them closed? Scotch tape. Or rather Scotch tape’s misbehaviour. The tape's tendency to tangle works for you; when tangled it becomes an unbreakable rope, easily holding the compressed levers. And easily cut away afterwards.

THE AFTERMATH Misused Scotch tape was my idea and I was cock-a-hoop. Made myself a Bloody Mary and VR a G&T.

THE DESCENT INTO LEISURE Evening meal was a fry-up; bad news if you’re thinking of living another 30 years but that is not our intention.

SOMETHING CULTURAL We have a magnificent DVD of Mozart's opera, Cosí, recorded in multi-channel format. Which means in group singing (from two to six people at a time in Cosí) you hear each separate layer quite clearly, provided your amp is also multi-channel. Yesterday I noticed this for the first time 

Plus a 2018 Pouilly Fuissé from The Wine Society

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Might I be "an hairy man" *

The world's new melting pot.
Please tip well

Changed my mind. I think Shara's crop adds youthfulness.
Or am I deluding myself?

I am having my hair cut at the Oasis salon along Holmer Road. Shara, my clipesse these last five years, is a good conversationalist but for once my mind’s on other things: why on earth am I here?

What force has encouraged me – at 86 - to think that shorter hair (somewhat limp from chemo) is desirable or even necessary? When I was a working editor, bestriding the world and wringing truth out of captains of industry, I forsook the Caveman Look. Now, who cares?

Is it habit or vanity? I can only think of one practical advantage. On rare occasions – when sulphurous tints outweigh the silver – I reluctantly wash my hair. Long hair takes longer to dry. Makes sense. 

And… ah yes, one other irritation. When my fringe is long enough to tickle my eyeballs.

Might long hair be considered an opportunity? I have lived my life in what is laughingly called The Developed World; suppose I reverted to Neanderthal practices? Hair down to my navel, perhaps plaited into a sporran. Threatening my enemies not with a flint spear but with shockingly bad hygiene. Infecting them to death.

Just not caring, that would be worth a trial. Watching pedestrians coming towards me on the pavement (US: sidewalk) and seeing them hurriedly cross the highway in case I brushed against them. Definitely a sense a power but I suspect such childishness would eventually pall. I’d have incurred another habit.

A sudden flashback to this morning. Shara herself is growing her hair much longer! I should have asked.

What could be more appropriate: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

* Courtesy, Beyond The Fringe.

Friday, 29 April 2022

Should it be banned?

Or the debt it owes to sheet glass?

When blogging should one mention the weather? Might it hide having nothing else to say?

I try to ignore weather. It changes (usually within narrow limits). But then it always has. And it’s always there. A bit like breathing …

“Woke this morning, making stertorous noises. Later I started to cough, but only briefly. Now my eyes are watering, but is that breathing…?”

As a weather-ignorer I should have been happy with the RAF in Singapore, an island on the Equator. Sun goes up/down within minutes every day. Two types of weather: 95% hot sunshine, 5% thunderous rain straight into the concrete storm drains, otherwise a great amplifier for croaking frogs.

As it was I realised I preferred the UK’s temperate climate. Even if most foreigners believe the percentages are the reverse of those in Singapore. But not something to write about. Any more than: “My house is fashioned in red bricks. That was the case yesterday, and will be – probably – tomorrow.”

Weather may help open a conversation with casually met strangers (“Lovely sun we’re having.”) or summarising a holiday (“Well, we had lovely weather.”) But suppose one discovers one is addressing a monoglot weather-freak. (Quick solution: “Yipes, I’ve left the bedroom window open. Gotta rush.”)

There are exceptions but only for geniuses.

St. Agnes' Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold


When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail


The fitful alternations of the rain
Which the chill wind, languid as if with pain
Of its own heavy moisture, here & there
Drives through the gray and beamless atmosphere.


But, usually, only when it’s bad outside. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Only for truly big brains

Guess what's in the middle.
You're right! Now proceed

Lesson MMMCI: Super-advanced blogging. A post about nothing (without cheating).

Minimum experience: Ten years of blogging. Better still: ten minutes; the mind is fresher.

Mindset: Disdaining  tangible  reality

Preparation 1: Clear the mind of personal and/or family events and relationships, traditional and regular activities, chintzy videos from YouTube, recurrent memories (especially those ending in triumph), purchases from Amazon, references to books read (especially if high-brow; even more so - poetry), knee-jerk responses to politics, funny pictures involving kittens, yearnings for a youth now past, good health and ill health. Most of all: the conviction that there’s nothing left to write about.

Preparation 2: Concentrate on abstract nouns, the more esoteric the better: eg, fecundity, minimalism, over-intellectualisation, the tendency toward ignorance, renaissance (with a lower-case r).

Method, Step 1: Pick one abstraction: let’s say fecundity.

Method, Step 2: Say: This post will NOT be about fecundity

Method, Step 3: Say: This post will be about NOTHING

Method, Step 4: Click Enter four times

Method, Step 5: Say: The above four-line space consists of NOTHING. It says NOTHING. It owes NOTHING to this blogger’s prejudices and/or enthusiasms. However it may represent the vacuum that nature is said to abhor. It may be crying out to be filled.

Method, Final Step: Concentrate on that space. Imagine it being filled. With what? Don’t ask childish questions: obviously, with NOTHING. This may be difficult so allow plenty of time, take a tea-break if it helps. As dusk descends you should be able – in perfect confidence – to say that that four-line space has been filled. That it accommodates two NOTHINGS, one on top of the other. Logically, two NOTHINGS are more significant than one. Quod erat demonstrandum (always finish with a Latin tag)

Conclusion: There’s no such thing as NOTHING.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

After all, Coleridge took laudanum

Yes, I know Crècy was bows and arrers but not close upI

I was warned. That pumping cytotoxins – a fearful word - into my decrepit body would have side-effects even the medics could not predict. Unsurprising, really. This bag of bones, part deadened nerves and tired blood has become a battlefield in which a gruesome Middle Ages conflict – Crècy, say – is being re-enacted. Where hoarse-voiced farmers go for each other with axes. Axes!

But would all these side-effects be inimical? I have long since realised my tiny reading audience has a limited capacity for news about my progress as a singer. Can’t be helped. The appeal of creating music – as opposed to just listening to it – is hard work. And possibly mysterious. 

But I had a terrific lesson yesterday. At my request V and I resurrected Roger Quilter’s setting of the Elizabethan lyric, Weep You No More Sad Fountains, last worked on three years ago. The power was with me, in that my vocal resonance was solid, as I re-explored lines like:

Sleep is a reconciling, a rest that peace begets.

Damn me. The body’s falling apart but it was confirmed, I can bloody well sing. I at least can create – and revel in – the nourishing of a song. Might chemo have played a part?

Not just that. I’ve been sleeping badly and in the killing time (3 am) I suddenly recognised an irony: normally we welcome light, but not when we desperately want to sleep. I dashed off twelve lines on this (See The Unravelled Sleeve): hurried, obscure and no great shakes as verse. But I’d had the idea, you see; in old age these are rare.

Should I ask my specialist – the elegantly named Dr. Chennupatti – whether I’d been chemo-inspired?  Bellow out six bars of Fountains as proof? Watch this space.