● 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, 7 February 2023

At least I cleaned the shower head

Thirty-seven minutes to go before V appears on Skype and we start my n-ty n-nth singing lesson. The world’s my oyster, a million subjects scroll through my noggin, what to choose? Pick a word. Any word. A five-dollar word, say; ie, more than three syllables.

How about “derogatory”? It appeared in yesterday’s crossword.

I’ve a dubious reputation with “derogatory”. In my youth and fevered adolescence I tended to shoot from the hip rather too much. Moving to London calmed me down somewhat, travelling also helped. But I have to admit there are those I actively dislike. The adult solution is to keep clear of such folk but, even so, accidents can happen. And thus I'm tempted to "derogate" if that word exists.

Twenty-five minutes to go.

Could it be I occasionally attract oafs? Which opens up another question. Am I basically likable? Chances are I’m not. I talk too much, for one thing. And in doing so I seek to be original, keen to avoid clichés. Thus I take risks. Thus I’m likely to be misunderstood.

Nineteen minutes to go.

What is surprising is that I haven’t made more enemies in France. Problem is my French is formal, not idiomatic (ie, incorporating slang, up-to-date words and phrases, abbreviations that everyone understands). No French person would ever imagine I was French. To compensate for this failing I invent jokes always with a sting in the tail. Just when the listener thinks he understands me, I creep up and blindside him. Affectionately, y’unnerstand. Often startling but most laugh.

Eight minutes left. 

263 words used up out of my allowed 300-word limit. 

Gotta set up Skype. See you soon.

Whoops. V emails me, says she will be 5 minutes late. The word, in case you’ve forgotten, is “derogatory”.

Skyped lesson starts; lasts 90 minutes

Go to Tesco.

Rest after going to Tesco.

Prepare and eat my lunch.

Get washing out of dryer (in shed).

Clean spray head of VR’s en suite shower (soak in vinegar).

Am ready to resume post but have bust my 300-word limit. As the hideous Boris said: Hasta la vista.

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Cheats never prosper. Or do they?

You can tell this RAF transmitter is ancient, it employed glass
valves and the photo came from a techno-museum. For my 
exam they removed the back casing to makes things easier

Have you ever cheated? Not low-level stuff like a crossword puzzle, cheating when it really mattered. Big time.

Cheat 1. My training as an RAF air wireless fitter lasted eight months. Electronics from scratch; twenty-five exams, theoretical and practical. Fail an exam and you dropped back several weeks. Remaining on basic pay, without the single inverted stripe.

I was three-quarters through the course and keen to leave RAF Yatesbury, an enemy PoW camp during the war. The next exam was practical fault-finding, not one of my strengths. Faced with a dead transmitter I was asked to describe the sequence of steps needed to diagnose its problem. Sequence? Hmm. The little I’d learned about this basic skill had become a blur.

I cheated. Examined the device, found a wire that had been deliberately separated and the end tucked away. Referred to the circuit diagram, identified the wire, recognised the effect of its separation, devised the sequence BACKWARDS and recorded it FORWARDS for my answer. Alas, real electronics fault-finding isn’t this easy as I found out when I repaired truly defective radio kit.

Heinkel three-wheeler. So short it hardly required a reverse
gear. It carried two people... barely. The examiner and I were
bulky and the mandatory hill-start was an ordeal for its 200 cc
engine and - especially - its over-worked clutch.

Cheat 2. I passed my UK car driving test in a Heinkel three-wheeler. I was legally allowed to drive a three-wheeler because I’d passed a motorbike test. But ONLY IF the three-wheeler had “no means of reversing”. The Heinkel had a reverse gear. I disabled reverse by screwing a plate over the appropriate gearstick slot. This was frowned upon but I reckoned I could argue it out if I was stopped for some reason. Prior to the car driving test I removed the plate.

Later, in the US, I took the much much easier US car driving test (in a four wheeler) and passed. Wiping out the earlier invalidity

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Calling in on Bro

When younger, Bro walked long distances, Land's
End to John O' Groats, the Bay of Biscay to the
Mediterranean via the Pyrenees. Sustained himself
with pots of tea and cakes. the cock-eyed hat is deliberate

Brother Sir Hugh is suffering from an unspecified lurgi. He lives 200 miles away and we hadn’t seen him face to face for several years. Why not pay him a comfort visit? On the return drive VR noted: He tended us more than we tended him. Competitive ill-health, you might say.

We invented a couple of reasons for driving round the adjacent Lake District. This included the voie sans issue road to the end of Haweswater (a lake) which probably sounds like bad planning. Not so. Going, we were against the sun, coming back, the light shone from behind.  The same road could have been two separate routes in different counties.

But the abiding impression of this two-night visit was the intensity of the conversation. Normally talk quality depends on the subject matter but not this time. When speaking to a family member one has known for eighty years, the need for explanations, background stuff, dubious nostalgia and preferences disappears. What’s left is new, revelatory and shot through with enthusiasm. Getting rid of the material that dilutes and – thereby – slows the conversational pace is highly advantageous. The sentences are more likely to parse.

Brother Sir Hugh lives in Arnside, a precipitous village overlooking the wide estuary of the river Kent where it spills out into Morecambe Bay and eventually the Irish Sea. A backdrop of lowish hills acts as prelude to the Lake District’s higher and better known peaks (Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Helvellyn, etc). 

A place that’s good to look at but something of a menace close-up. Viz: 


Arnside: Self-explanatory, really

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

The work was hard, you had to laugh

I suspect this subs' room was American and
may have been air-conditioned, The UK subs I knew
all wore cardigans and impenetrable cigarette smoke
would have obscured the far end of the desk. However
the paper mess (plus reference book) are truly authentic

Newspaper work nourishes your sense of humour, provided you go for cynicism and scurrilousness. And wordplay. All this happened in the fifties.

Me (teaboy): "Didn’t have sticky buns; got you this." Sub-editor: "Ah, a little iced sarcophagous."

Saturday afternoon in reporters’ room. Hacks playing cards on green baize board waiting to take telephoned reports of sporting events. Clumsy teaboy (not me) spills mug of tea. Deputy chief reporter: “Oh, xxxx that. Look what you’ve done. Monte xxxx-ing Carlo!”

Reporters got paid extra (One penny a line) for chat pieces. I’d just done an unusual, fictional chat piece. Much older, set-in-his-ways reporter, BP, says: “Oh I wouldn’t send that in.” In fact it’s published top of the column, decorated with special artwork. Mention BP’s reaction to MH, a much sharper reporter. “That’s BP, isn’t it? He does the straight news story for the news pages. Adds a ‘however’ and a ‘meanwhile’ and that’s his chat piece.”

BP, just back from interviewing nonagenarian woman at an outlying village: “She’s regular at the Wesleyan Reform Church. Goes on about the old days. Preachers thought nothing of doing sermons lasting an hour and a half.” CS, our local boss (sighing): “Aye, they’d stone the buggers, these days.”

Sub-editors’ room. News story printouts from the agencies arrive from the teleprinter room via an antiquated rope conveyor fitted with fearsome clips. Red light goes on indicating something special. Chief sub: “What do you reckon. War? King dead? Or just bloody politics?”

 Sub-editor, exasperatedly, looking up from article he’s correcting. “Another damn ‘pronounced’! Someone bring in XX (a reporter) who wrote this.” By the time XX arrives the sub-editor is standing on the large table shared by the subs. Sub-editor points down at XX and shouts, “I pronounce you bloody well dead.”

Saturday, 14 January 2023

Perhaps reduced to monosyllables


The Invalid

That’s how it is, I know now I must play
The role of invalid until I meet
The Crack of Doom. And readers thus informed,
Supported by the warmth of well-meant hearts,
Desiring little from me in response,
Will ask me gently: How are you today?


And find me silent. Why such churlishness?
Has illness made me inarticulate?
Stopping the fountain of egregious chat
That source of anger and of mystery,
That feignèd wit which cracks like icicles
And brings about a wintry solitude


The answer is I’m doomed to co-exist,
As landlord to a most inventive guest,
Who knows me better than I know myself,
Filing his claws – For yes, he’s masculine – 
To scour down crannies in my privacy
And wound the organs of necessity.


He means me ill, wants me to show him fear,
His job is painful and well recognised.
We’re all supposed to speak in hushèd tones
A mark of honour for his worldwide fame.
Oh, panjandrum of puking pestilence,
Pustular pride pleads pyromania


I took the other road and chose divorce
Broke his house rules and made the upper floor,
He’s there below, a threat to life and limb,
I may not beat him but I’ll refuse him awe,
Avert my face and turn up Figaro,
Dwell on great thoughts beyond his baneful sphere.

Revised 12 hours later

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Careful, now


I have an urge to be different.  Reading (that’s books and other permanent matter as opposed to social media gobbets) is good, isn’t it? A sign of intelligence, an ability to concentrate?

Well, yes and no. Consider the question: Why do we read? Might our reasons and/or our subsequent experiences be ambiguous? Let’s see.

For entertainment. Passing time pleasurably. But suppose we find a best-seller (ie, it’s supposed to be easy-ish.) hard going. As I did with the Hobbit-dom. Am I at odds with the majority?

For information. Usually applies to non-fiction but can take in certain fictions (eg, the novels of Richard Powers.) We find the subject matter dull, revolting, over-technical. Are we open about this?

It’s a classic. Written over a hundred years ago. About another country. In an intractable translation. Characters who behave oddly by modern standards. Dare we denigrate “the experts”?

Because clever people approve of it. It turns out to be beyond us. Are we un-clever then?

“Everyone’s reading it”. We don’t like it but need to appear up-to-date with our friends. We worry about being negative.

It’s a movie but once it was a book. A book we never read, a fact we’re terrified about revealing. It might undermine our self-proclaimed reputation as a book reader.

It’s, say, anti-Catholic and we are Catholic. Does reading it betray our religious beliefs?

It’s less than a hundred pages and we associate quality with length. Always assuming we have strong wrists, best ignore it. Who wants to be thought lightweight?

WARNING Some above situations may be resolved by being frank. But – strangely enough – the world doesn’t always enjoy the company of frank people. Calling a spade a spade is OK for gardeners, not necessarily for book-circle members. It’s why euphemisms were invented. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

Have you ever been there?

Ou sont les neiges d'antan?
Where indeed?
Let's not be bitter about time's passage

Sport may enhance fitness and encourage camaraderie but it is essentially pointless. Its so-called benefits may be pursued more efficiently in other ways.

Ski-ing was my favourite sport for a couple of decades until increasing age told me it was a long drawn-out form of suicide. That there was a good chance I’d die on the slopes. And ski-ing was even more pointless – and misunderstood – than many other more accessible sports.

Ask a non-skier: What’s the point of ski-ing? Chances are the response would be: To get to the bottom. Wrong. The bottom of the slope is incidental. One arrives there because one has taken the ski-lift as a means of storing the energy on which ski-ing is based. Gravity’s energy.

If one discards the coarser explanations (“It’s a licensed grope.”) ballroom dancing provides the best analogy. One doesn’t dance to cross the ballroom. Or to perform endless circles round it. It is the way one does these things.  The pursuit of grace. Same with ski-ing.

The essence of ski-ing is in making turns. One quickly learns that this is harder than it looks. Because of the need to avoid going faster and causing suicide to arrive more quickly. Open up the skis into a vee shape and one may ski – and turn – very slowly. A scritching ugly form of locomotion. The aim is to ski and turn with the skis parallel. Many skiers never quite manage this.

But when one does the sense of effortlessness and elegant movement becomes inescapable. One feels more handsome, more intelligent and more controlled. And this happens in areas of extreme natural beauty. One stops ski-ing briefly, ordering a mulled wine at a café, watching others ski by. Sharing their grace vicariously and without envy.

Soccer? Those depressingly gormless crowds. Nah.