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● 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.

Monday 28 November 2016

Ever try soot?

Did a post about brisket at the week-end; posted it; deleted it 24 hr later. Reason: bad taste.

No matter, I can write a post about anything. And I mean anything. Even if it's truly boring. Let's say tooth-paste.

Being old I have a historical perspective. I was born in an era when one didn't just squeeze flat the tube (seemingly made of lead), one slit it down the side and scraped out the last traces for a final economy brush-over. But economy could be pushed further. Tooth-paste also came in a flat circular tin which contained what can only be described as a chemical hockey-puck. These never got used up, mainly because they didn't create any foam; the hockey-puck could have been made of granite.

Another tinned tooth-paste was called Eucryl and I was astonished to see in Tesco the brand still survives. But not the original format. Old Eucryl came as powder; accidentally knock the tin over and, whoops! you were reduced to using soot (see pic). I never tried soot, thought it might be a hoax.

Smokers had their own tooth-paste. Possibly sweepings from the floor of a company manufacturing industrial diamonds. I didn't smoke. Didn't need to. West Riding air was an even more effective poison.

In the USA, as one might expect in such a health-conscious country, tooth-paste was sold in huge quantities with special plungers. Not quite as extreme as detergents labelled Large, Enormous, and Home Laundry. The latter was just this side of requiring casters for ease of movement
It's difficult occupying your mind while cleaning your teeth. You can't usefully read or sing. You can of course think: Ask yourself am I being taken for a ride with all this expensive, probably unnecessary stuff?

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Road and more road

My Worst Journeys. An occasional series

This is Tryfan in North Wales. In 1955, on leave from the RAF I spent time near Tryfan rock-climbing. A main road, the A5, passes by and I intended to hitch-hike 140 miles back to Bradford. I knew the drill, had hitch-hiked to London for a couple of holidays.

I reached the northern coast road quite quickly and turned east to pass through (preferably bypass) the resort towns Llanfairfechan, Conway and Colwyn Bay en route to Chester. A sunny summer day, lots of traffic.

You may stand forlorn at the roadside, cocking your thumb. I prefer to walk since it provides an impression of progress. But the more you walk the more you have to walk. You see a significant junction or a roundabout some way ahead and you must get to the far side, otherwise you may stop a car that's turning off. That morning and early afternoon I passed many junctions and roundabouts.

How far did I walk? It's a blur. At the worst bit the main road met an estuary and I traversed a network of unproductive suburban roads. I departed Wales, entering the land of Transport Deprivation. I knew myself to be cursed, a modern-day Walking Dutchman. I ran out of intellectual resources, unable to think constructively, unable to hold the unremitting labour at bay. My target was meaningless, the road led nowhere and I lacked identity.

A smallish pick-up stopped and I luxuriated on sacks that contained the remains of slaughtered chickens. But only for a few miles. Thereafter the processes that compile memories broke down completely and I have no idea what happened that evening. A train perhaps?

Years later I drove that road but uneasily. Rhyl is Hell, see my long short-story, The Little Black Book.

Friday 18 November 2016

Who's that at the door?

"Bicycle Maintenance/Repairs. Home Visits." announced a passing van - a service new to me. In Monmouth too, Wales not renowned for forward thinking.

Obviously I'm out of touch. I took bikes seriously for yonks, one benefit being that maintenance and repair were up to me, no arcane skills needed, thus no rapacious invoices. Once, from curiosity, I disassembled and reassembled the bearings in my bike's bottom-bracket. Only people with time on their hands and nothing in their heads do that.

I was shocked when brother Sir Hugh admitted (reluctantly; he could see I was a disbeliever) taking his mountain bike “in” for servicing. As to house calls it seemed a van would hardly be necessary; vagrant bike mechanics could travel by bus, tools a'pocket, reading an improving novel.

Is there further potential for house-calls?

● Medical emergencies: but it may have been tried.
● Extracting thick-ended corks from Italian wine bottles.
● Cat manicures.
● Stripping film-wrapped CDs (Patience a must).
● Finding and bringing in nomadic wheelie bins.
● Priest to forgive lefty for being lefty.
● Hungry immigrant to eat last cold slice of pizza.
● Ringing doorbell (Is-it-audible-on-the-loo? check)
● Tory utters Brexit agitprop through letter-slot
● Maternal type comforts smoking pariahs outdoors.
● Choir sings national anthem to doubting patriots.
● The Police! (Just joking.)
● Michael Gove! (Not joking at all.)
● Michael McIntyre! (Incapable of joking.)
● Reporting all Hallowe’en pranksters now in jail.
● Unexpectedly touting for garden work, post-dusk.
● Distraction ploy for thief presently ransacking kitchen.
● Delivering End Of World Is Nigh flyers.
● Commandant, so-called ISIS, seeks sanctuary.

Saturday 12 November 2016


Despite an intensely funny half-hour of Have I Got News For You, the UK’s long-running satirical telly programme, VR didn't want to talk about Trump or Brexit any more. Wanted to blot them both out.

In my mind's eye we're on the dangerous dirt road to Port Underwood, a tree-covered fiord on NZ's South Island, the most beautiful place in the Universe. Two days with the welcoming and sophisticated Rousches.

We're emerging from St David's Hall, Cardiff, having heard Herbert Blomstedt conduct the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Brahms’ third symphony - as if the music had been composed there and then, for the first time, just for us.

Anniversary dinner at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons and the sagacious sommelier is offering VR a loan of his spectacles to read the wine list.

A family inspects our house in Kingston-upon-Thames. It's a hot day, the French windows are open, the little fountain (based on a stone mill-wheel) tinkles in the garden, and our daughter, Occasional Speeder, lolls in an easy chair. The family's father says, "I'd like to live here." and we know we've made a sale.

We've driven VR's mum, Edna. who's notoriously anti-Wales, up through the Elan Valley past the reservoir and on towards Rhayader. Edna says, "I'm so sleepy but I have to stay awake. It's so lovely."

I've read Patrick O'Brian's twenty-novel Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin series three times, VR twice. One of us, it doesn't matter who, is saying, "Do you remember when Stephen..." We laugh in recognition.

VR’s been in the kitchen while I’ve manhandled English in my study. I come down and there’s Eggs Mornay for dinner. Unexpectedly.

February 2012. Or 2013. Or 2014. The cough’s gone.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Hard to take

I'm moderately sure anyone who reads Tone Deaf doesn’t support Trump. So here’s sympathy without qualification.

It is hard to pick even a grain of comfort. A week ago a BBC reporter interviewed the head of the largest Evangelical college in the USA, a man who might have run a mile from DJT. But no, he would vote Trump "with a view to the next thirty years". Didn't want a pro-Choice judge appointed to the Supreme Court.

Recently, during a lengthy BBC programme about the Rust Belt, I sensed a hollow feeling. A montage of Trump statements was shown, all delivered in the by-now familiar style - simple short statements, preceded and followed by longish pauses. An ideal way of addressing blue-collar workers with little education who haven't worked for the last ten years and won't for the next ten. The cumulative effect was hypnotic and inescapable.

I'd thought Trump was running a dumb campaign, in fact it was incredibly smart. Lies and the insults made you want to watch his speeches and when you got there you couldn't avoid his message. Will he betray those hopeless folk in Johnstown and nearby? The question is irrelevant. He was aiming to get elected. If he's got time he may toss them a crust; far better to be a businessman presently paying taxes. There could be a Christmas prezzie on the way.

The best hope is he'll only last one term. The Chinese, presently flooding the world with cheap steel, superfluous to their needs, may have something to say about any curtailment of that market. And don't the Chinese own half a trillion dollars of US debt, a fairly big lever during negotiations?

Two hideous expressions of democracy: Trump and Brexit.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Lying's harder

Non-fiction's so much easier than fiction - it is, after all, stuff that's happened, it doesn't need imagining. 11,122 words in about 15 days. Sorry, only of interest to me and 16 gerontocrats not resident in SE England.

Opening Bars
A late-life adventure
Roderick Robinson

Intro: What this book is not; possibly unique given my age. Classical. Singing not instrumental.

Ch. 1. My first lesson.

Ch. 2. Aims and expectations. The pleasures. The hard stuff and the easy stuff. Personal taste. Sentimentality. Duets.
Ch. 3. The score.

Ch. 4. Unexpected difficulties.

Ch. 5. The tools: keyboard, YouTube, buying scores, Musecore, TV masterclasses.

Ch. 6. The teacher: the intangible essentials. Gender. Sing with smile. Stop singing piece that has become a burden. Ways of encouragement. Language. V description.

Ch. 7. The teacher: the method. The complexities of warm-up. The rainbow. Terminal consonants. The technicalities (limited because of age; identification of voice). Choice of new pieces. Ability to recognise what new pieces offer. Examples of new pieces analysed.

Ch. 8. Homework; using computer (dangers); varying practice; choosing one’s additional songs (simple, narrow range to develop tone and expression).

Ch. 9. Measuring one’s own progress, inc. listening to performances differently.

Ch. 10. Talking to other singers. Joining choir?

Ch. 11. Beginner, me? Not exactly. Familiarity with music. Enthusiasm. Ability to be moved

Thursday 3 November 2016

Liquid dynamite

SIPs - simple inexpensive pleasures. An occasional series.

It's no use, I just can't remember the difference between "sensuous" and "sensual". I've looked it up a dozen times, solicited help from bloggo like-minds, but it just doesn't stick. So you'll have to take my first paragraph today as read.

As the descent into oblivion gains speed, here's one thing that keeps my family from booking the Humanist Society guy who does eulogies. A bottle of alkaline-flavoured fizzy water always at the ready in the fridge. It used to be 1½ litre capacity but now I prefer this pinch-waisted 1 litre shape; its ergonomics fits my sense of aesthetics.

Do you snore? I probably do but it's like quantum mechanics; waking up to check  disturbs the experimental conditions. When I do wake my throat suggests I snore for England; children could use my guzzard as a sandpit. Downstairs I go.

The bottle rests in the fridge's door shelf, that's an absolute must. There's a hiss in the dark as I unscrew the cap and already I feel slightly more human. I swig from the bottle-neck because, after all, it's my bottle. What follows is not drinking as such but an all-out ICBM attack on my dryness; fizz plus bitterness plus chill combine in a shocking pain. It's too much, I tell myself, it's... ecstasy! No other form of hydration (not even the 1945 bottle of Richebourg which cost £500-plus) comes anywhere near. I am simultaneously Smokin' Joe Frazer and Alan Rickman. I am Dick 3 who, as we all know, is himself again.

A litre of Buxton costs 60 p. My soul remains doomed but my body's ready for more work on Opening Bars, my take on singing lessons, another source of ecstasy. Words done: 10,592; target: 25,000

Tuesday 1 November 2016

RR being nasty (Not so nasty - L)

I conclude there's only one cast-iron reason for going on holiday: to speak French to natives.

For this I concede a perfectly contrived bed with equally perfect bedside lights, a proper (ie, desktop) computer, superior music reproduction, the best telly programmes in the world, access to the world's best wines, three normally unoccupied loos, two weekly singing lessons, temperate weather, a garage to house my car.

Granted France has satisying countryside but then so does nearby Wales. And how long can you look at a scene? There's also the chance of having blanquette de veau and/or stuffed cabbage for a lunch costing less than  €12 but the odds are lengthening, more often it's pizza, pizza, pizza.

A holiday suggests indulgence which also hints at selfishness. That's me. One attraction about speaking French is that most other Brits can't. I belong to an elite even if hardly anyone else cares. I care and I'm warmed by exclusivity. I suppose this is how billionaires feel except they've merely got cash, I've got something I nurtured.

What's more I'm cruel with it. In the pharmacy I see Brits, pitifully dressed in holidayish clothes, struggling to order an unguent that'll cure them of the runs. I go in, make the pharmacienne laugh (Hard to do, I can tell you.) and I sense British resentment. Sense it and feed on it.

I occurs to me that most Brexiteers probably don't speak French. That they've risked economic chaos in effect to widen the Channel. Is it wrong of me to behave so vindictively? After all as Brits we're all destined to live in rags in an international version of Carey Street.