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● Plus my novels, stories, verse, vulgar interests, apologies, and singing.
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Friday 28 November 2014


 The world through a replacement eye

Notices identify the aisle contents in the supermarket: Pasta/Cooking Sauces, Eggs/Canned fruit. Just beyond the focus of my glasses. Now I can read them bare-eyed and have fallen in love with the typeface used. Curvaceous and clear, reminiscent of the moment in 1959 when I said: I'm going to marry her. And did.

Stark naked on the weighing scale I was unable to read the digits, unaware of my diet's progress, now in its fifteenth month. Glasses? Nah, they'd have added weight. Had to call in VR. Yesterday, for the first time I saw the total unaided. I'd lost three more pounds.

Women 10 m away no longer merge into the background: their contours may be measured, their faces scanned for beauty. All are beautiful.

No advertising poster is wholly dull, no municipal announcement menacing, no planning notice obscure - they are there to be read. My bowels turn to water as I revel in info seizure.

Now I can scrutinise his every discouraging detail (especially the snarl that forms on the left-hand side of his mouth), BBC news presenter Huw Edwards is frequently absent from the 10 pm bulletin. His defences are down.

Helen, a member of VR's painting class recently had the cataract op. I compliment her on her vestigial glasses. She hands them to me to try. They're as light as a butterfly on my nose. Less likely to slip. Expensive, but what the hell?

French class resumes since I am now driving again. My eyesight slides over the words of Rien ne s'oppose à la Nuit (a novel) and I'm able to scan ahead. And thus elide words. Elision is vital in spoken French.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Thy greater creation

 Creativity at Robinson Towers is not limited to novels based on woman worship. There are others strands, more inventive, more titillating, more useful. VR is less demonstrative but she gets things done.

Last night she produced a casserole, black with plenitude No name, of course, for she rejects the persiflage of gustation. I forked it in, my chin close to the plate; to waste a scrap would have been a Robinsonian form of blasphemy.

On other occasions, cakes. Especially seed cake, that most adult of flavours, light years away from chocolate-smeared bravado that duller palates rave about.

VR reads hugely (220 titles a year) and summarises each experience in a long long alphabetical list. The first three entries:

Author: Achebe, C. Title: Things fall apart. Date finished: Jun 27 2007. Rating (out of 10): 7.00    Plot: Europeans come to tribal Nigeria. Life of one man and family in lake.
Author: Ackroyd, P. Title: Clerkenwell talkes. Date finished: Mar 10 2005. Plot:  Mystery during deposement of Richard II. Cant. Tales char's. Not sure what was done, by who. Light
Author: Adams, J. Title: Angel eyes. Date finished: Jan 17 2005. Plot: Mystery drugs, disfigured ex-cop. Ghosts. Computers.

Like the other sage, living in Brittany, VR knits. Grandson Zach attends a CofE school and the above will be his Christmas gift to his educators.

".... success tended to be the norm. Marking it wasn’t necessary. But I must mark it now. I’m proud of you. And I…” The sentence tailed off.

Her mother’s eyes shone. Clare could never recall such emotion. Conceivably that final sentence held a confession of love which Mrs Morgan was unable to admit. But it didn’t matter, the admission was tangible. They embraced awkwardly. Through lack of practice, Clare imagined.

Monday 24 November 2014

Self-exposer (f.) needed

It takes a big ego to say aloud: I'm good-looking. Only in our privacy dare we hold such a view. Especially if it isn't true.

Post-diet, on optimistic days I used to toy with "bare" and "lined", imagining myself as Lee Marvin (see pic) but with a thinner nose.

Better eyesight has eliminated this. Blotched complexion, melted candle-wax eye-bags and wearied cheeks drive out secret comforts. Not that it matters. I write, therefore I may lie.

Actually it does matter. My central characters are women, their private thoughts are my happy hunting ground. All are endlessly attractive to me but only one is beautiful; beauty is part of Judith's story in Blest Redeemer. Clare (Gorgon Times) has a drawn face and is buck-toothed. Jana (Out Of Arizona) is blemished. Francine's face (Second Hand) is bony, her blonde hair as lifeless as silk.

Those are the easy bits. But what about their inner opinions of their own looks? Do they make secretly exaggerated claims or are they terrified? Do they care? As a male author, wanting to do my best (ie, tell the truth) on their behalf I face an insurmountable barrier. No woman is going to volunteer, even hint. I must invent. And I may not be plausible.

Unless some supremely confident being can throw me an idea. Too late for Clare, Jana and Judith. But Francine (life rent by hideous trauma) needs help.

Second Hand (behind the scenes)
Guess whose physical persona I had in mind here:

As old as the hills, Torvald had said. Pratt had a gaunt face, his mouth bracketed between vertical grooves. His clothes hung like those of a fat man who’d abruptly lost weight. A shock of white hair looked stagy, flagging a spurious form of wisdom.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Wow! (Tenth revision)

The post-op Festival of Light
The eye is clear, its former glum opacity
Has gone – good riddance halo-ed mysteries.
The eye now views a fine geometry
With knife-cut edges at its boundaries.

The lens digests these spectral coloured bands,
It takes advantage of their separate states,
It meets the needs of newer light’s demands,
Responding to the changing brain’s dictates.

And now the book spines say: Just look, read me!
While CD cases shout orchestral chords.
Under the influence of clarity
The patient thrills to unforeseen rewards

I saw but barely, swayed by ignorance.
Cleverer now, I dance the photons' dance.

Thanks to Mr J. Deutsch, Anna and the team
Hereford, November 19, 2014

Roderick Robinson

Note: Written in the AM; savagely rewritten and turned into a sonnet in the PM. The following day it underwent total evisceration. Now it says something

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Living above my expectations

The Paris Hilton was the most self-evidently luxurious hotel I've ever stayed at. I felt I could have dialled a number for any louche delight. But then for free I had the view. Someone else was paying.

Tall Trees Country House in the village of Landyrnog, five miles from Ruthin, not far from Wrexham - in North Wales dog-blast-it - is hard to find and also luxurious. The knob on the puller-switch in our bathroom was an elegant slender cylinder of stainless steel. It may have cost £10 - £15. Factor up and you get the idea.

The mirror cupboard in the bathroom included tooth-brushes, tooth paste, shaving soap, etc. No need to load down the family Rolls with all that travelling clobber.

I never saw the outdoor (heated!) pool or the antique billiard table but didn't feel deprived. Only so much luxury may be conveyed via artefacts, the rest depends on service.

Susan, the welcoming lady of the house, shook my hand and asked if I wanted tea or coffee. I refused gracefully. "How about a gin-and-tonic, then?" That was different - I didn't care if it was added to the bill (it wasn't); there is a tide in the affairs of man when a G&T is all we'll ever want. VR and I drank ours in what seemed like our personal lounge; other lounges were available.

The breakfast eggs were poached, the sausages were up to Hereford level (ie, stratospheric). I won't go on; my aim here is to spread sweetness and light, not envy and dissension.

The carpet of south-west France at three thousand feet. Clumps of trees like tight green sponge, orange roof tiles, cars idling along narrow roads like iridescent beetles.

Monday 17 November 2014

At least it's not whingeing

 The old discuss age - or their maladies. This must cease.

How about double-glazing? The phrase is as unevocative as double-digging (gardening), double-entry (book-keeping), double-fault (tennis) and double-talk (conversation). A dull domestic necessity, frequently misunderstood. Many Trollope-readers imagine such windows mysteriously generate heat. They think the same about thermostats. It isn't true.

We have just been re-double-glazed. One unexpected side-effect is the house is quieter. Passing cars make less noise (Not true; less noise gets through.) Not surprising - the gap between the two sheets of glass is twice as wide as that in the old windows. And air is a poor conductor of both sound and heat. But no, I'll not be technoid.

Double-glazing encourages fantasy. The windows and the door fit tightly. Were the house to be carried away in flooding I am pleasingly reassured it would float. Yes, that's untrue too but we may dream, may we not?

The handles are more substantial, more akin to those on safes. They clunk shut. I feel less vulnerable (no, not that; it relates to age), Aroused - sexually, if you like - by something that works well. I go to sleep expecting erotic dreams. There's a bonus.

In memory of JH who encouraged poetry in me

My Lord, Poor wretched States, prest by extremities,
Are fain to seek for succours and supplies
Of Prince’s aids, or good men’s charities.

Disease the Enemy, and his engineers,

Reasons why. Initially the outmoded language charms. Re-read, especially the first two lines, it’s poetry: succinct and rhythmic. And emotional. That beautifully expressed (yet horrific) sentiment – want as an engineer of disease. Who can this be?

Ben Jonson

Thursday 13 November 2014

Among Tories and it's my fault

Does car deprivation help us blog? Joe Hyam preferred buses/trains to cars. On one bus he overheard school-kids discussing drug dealers and used the material in a piece published in Spectator (Right-wing weekly but well written). Kudos! But Joe lived in Tunbridge Wells, effectively a London outer suburb (albeit 45 miles out) and well served by public transport.

Yesterday I took a political journey. The local bus didn't arrive and I walked most of the route (pic gives flavour) to the private hospital. No big deal, about 3 miles, and I'd added a walking contingency. Walking towards the land of Mixed Feelings.

Medically it was good news. Cataract op in one week. Check-up a week later. It's "very likely" my eyesight will be good enough to drive.

I know about cataract; VR went through it and she, like others, found the op tolerable. But she went NHS (ie, free). For selfish reasons I cannot spare the time. I am paying.

Oh, the pastel colours. Comfy chairs. Deference. An elegant receptionist dressed to kill (let's hope not!). Diplomatic talk of credit cards. Precious chat of other patients, clearly Tories. I will pay in more than cash. Pray for my soul.

A WEEK later and a vehicle honked outside - Ibrahim, of course…

Much as she enjoyed Ibrahim’s company, she regarded his horn as peremptory. A reminder of Catford where occidental teenagers had tooted from their cars rather than ring the Torridon Road doorbell. But then Ibrahim wasn’t exactly devout, more given to natural exuberance. Perhaps he saw a car horn as a Pakistani musical instrument. And here he was in his people carrier, brilliant white teeth beneath a bristly moustache, reaching across to the passenger door, eager for her to join him.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

... to have wings on your heels

Tuesday. First day of real deprivation, without car: regular weekly appointment in Monmouth, 20 miles away.

Normally (by car): Leave home 50 min before scheduled time, drive scenic route, arrive Monmouth car park with 10 min to go, walk to appointment.

Now (by bus, by foot, by tested patience): Leave home 2 hr 40 min before scheduled time; wait 10 min for local bus; bus from home to Hereford Shire Hall 15 min; kill 55 min over 15 min walk from Shire Hall to railway station; regional bus Hereford to Monmouth 60 min; kill 20 min over 10 min walk to appointment.

Walking across Hereford. What better way to pass time (decision rapidly becomes a necessity) than go to toilet? But which one? The bus station - Urghh? That would be Nome, Alaska. Choose Morrisons, the supermarket. Hook on back of door to hang jacket and shoulder bag - luxury.

Waiting for regional bus at Hereford railway station (see pic). Bus arrives 20 min before departure. Spherically fat driver gets out, locks bus, goes to railway station to get coffee. Returns, unlocks bus, gets, in, locks bus. Drinks coffee. A desolate wait: Hereford feels like Nome, Alaska. Passengers allowed in 3 min before departure. Spherically fat bus driver turns out to be a woman.

Pensioner bus pass covers cost of journey £3.60. Hurray!

En route. Absorbed by conversation behind me: sixteen-year-old boy and girl, prob. from Hereford's swanky Cathedral school, talk animatedly and naturally about this and that. (eg. Boy: I can't wait for Christmas. Girl: I love Christmas.) I am overwhelmed and saddened; why wasn't school like this for me? On arrival I let boy get off first: he says thank you. Ah!

Buy four partridges from Waitrose, killing time for return journey (in total darkness).

Saturday 8 November 2014

It's that time of life

NOVEMBER 7 2014. Things happen.

Up early for 09.20 hospital appointment. As I shave phone rings. Stops before VR reaches it.

Check emails. Brother Sir Hugh rings with horrific news about Brother Nick, smothered in Alzheimers, 200 miles to north.

Bus can only take me halfway to hospital and I walk the two miles plus. Takes 50 min; I'm 30 min early. Consultant sees me ahead of appointment time.

To ensure my head stays still I must press forehead and chin against locations on eye-test machine. Afterwards I suggest locations are wiped because I've sweated. Consultant says sweating was good sign, shows I was concentrating, following instructions.

Consultant studies folder, says I must not drive any longer. Cataract op "within three months"; I agree to take any cancellation.

Just miss bus back. Kill time buying trivial magazine and slice of cooked pork belly.

Am unable to drive VR to life drawing class eight miles away; VR rings friend. We talk: I'll have problems with weekly appointment in Monmouth, 18 miles distant; must cancel family event in remote North Wales; there's weekly  French in a small village. Should I go private for cataract op? Cost: £2480.

Book private op. Consultation in five days op another seven days.

Advance copy of Out Of Arizona arrives.

Sir Hugh rings with slightly better news about Nick. I say I can’t get to N. Wales. Sir Hugh, who is going, offers to pick us up, a horrendous dog's leg. He will stay with us night before and night after.

VR, back from life drawing, delighted about N. Wales. Doesn't see enough of Sir Hugh.

Dinner: pork with black-pudding stuffing. Drink bottle of Roederer champagne; miniscule bubbles a good sign. Individualistic taste.

Reminder: new (younger) gardening couple will review our garden tomorrow (ie, today).

Thursday 6 November 2014

Discover them or re-live them

Straight away I liked the honest strapline on Jonathan Sa'adah's How Many Roads? - Photographs of the Sixties and Early Seventies. Historians toy with broad divisions of time; the rest of us, conceivably passing through the oughties equivalent of the Renaissance (Middle Ages anyone?), must follow the calendar. Time - the sort we live through – can be a messy construct.

As it happens that strapline exactly covers the most mobile period of my own life. Escape in 1959 from a gloomy north-of-England adolescence, six years in London, six years in Pennsylvania, back to the Great Wen in 1972.

Which means I saw the sixties - or the part popularly identified as such - from a foreign country. From the lap of luxury too since I was, for the first time, centrally heated and more than a little innocent. The USA proved to be more exotic than Saturn so how was I to know that Watergate, Kent State, the public rendering of We Shall Overcome, and - above all - the furtive jowls of a certain Milhous weren't typical everyday phenomena. Some of it only fell into place when I got home.

And now, thanks to Mr S, that frequently revolutionary period is re-created  in vivid b&w. Milhous is there, trapped on a telly screen like a catfish, jowls expanding. Youth in large numbers, doubting that dying in south-east Asia might justify over-optimistic Washington rhetoric. Rural America at home round the Fosters and Maple pot-belly stove; restless America moving to the next vista, often in a German camper-van. A veritable slice of American pie.

If the past is where they do things differently, the sixties is the past in spades. Buy How Many Roads? from Beth's blog, the cassandra pages.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

An end to self-deprecation

Minutes ago I was asked to deliver a 20-minute speech without notes and/or preparation. Yes  I was dreaming but many say this is among their worst nightmares. Not for me. I can speak endlessly (and do) about my favourite subject and people can find it entrancing. Oh, the chutzpah, they say.

If it wasn't a cliché, you see in me a dinosaur. Someone whose career (in my case the word deserves quotes - another cliché) was based on knowing virtually nothing about bugger-all. A journalist of the old school.

I entered journalism at 15 with a blank slate for a mind; a mind untouched by formal education. From 1951 until 1959 I listened to people speak, transcribed what I heard into shorthand, turned the squiggles into articles at the rate of 1000 words/hour. Dull, unenlightening work. So I left for London to work on magazines. Here are the magazines (by subject) I passed through:



Civil engineering


Logistics (For the first time)

USA: Instrumentation and control systems.

USA: Data processing.

USA: General technology

Logistics (Second time).

Institutional catering.

Metal fabrication; steel manufacture.

Logistics (Third time).

During which I travelled widely (Japan, Venezuela, USA, Scandinavia, etc), was wined and dined to excess, was paid well above the national average, helped others to progress through this non-profession, received a huge redundancy payment (Here's the irony; I wasn't redundant), gained a well-deserved reputation for unpredictability and stylistic finesse, and retired on a comfortable pension.

Reading this list, certain pillars of society (Oh, let's call a spade a spade - teachers) are outraged. How on earth...?

The answer is: never again! Such a record would these days be impossible. A golden age? There've already been too many clichés. Let's say a Sheffield-plate age.