Thursday 27 April 2017

Getting from then to now

In a month Britain's political landscape will (sez me) change radically and for the worse. In two years, far worse. In ten years, I can't bear to think. But will I be thinking at all in 2027?

The rate of change is terrifying given my lumbering evolution:

Age 0 - 5: A world-view confined to the space beneath our kitchen table.

Age 6 - 10. Subsequently reduced to a single policy: hating a man with an unlikely moustache.

Age 11 - 16. I recall only impenetrable arguments between adults. My parents read Daily Mail (I blush!); by osmosis I learned to sneer at the unhandsome members of Labour government who were (I discovered much later) working a social revolution in Britain.

Age 17 - 20. Low-grade employment on newspapers. Sought to become a cynic in all things other than the opposite sex. Succeeded, perhaps even over-achieved. Unloved.

Age 21 - 23. National Service in RAF. As a tool of the government I was forbidden to even contemplate politics. Sneered at all uprisings: Suez Canal, Cyprus, Kenya, Malaya and (Not sure about either of these) Aden and Belize.

Age 23 - 25. Magazine work in London. Membership of National Union of Journalists led to leftwards tilt.

Age 25 - 32. Magazine work in USA. Became temporary if inactive Democrat.

Age 32 - 60. Magazine work in SE England. Read Times (pre-Murdoch) then Guardian. In a watershed moment I took out a mortgage. Involved passively in NUJ industrial action. Voted Lib-Dem since Labour hadn’t a prayer where I lived. As life got easier, theory became more attractive than practice.

Aged 60 to present. Retired to sparsely populated county. Now a mere fulminator.

Sunday 23 April 2017

Election cast list, No 1

On Thursday June 8, Britain – that basket of basket-cases which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – will hold a general election. Today’s polls suggest the ruling Tories will oblivionate (New election, new verb!) the importunate Labour Party by 19 percentage points.

Why the bloodbath? Labour has weakened itself by internal argument but then such strife is written into Labour’s DNA and the party has a predilection for electoral suicide. However in this instance Labour can do little other than argue, the topic being Jeremy Corbyn, the leader.

Jeremy isn’t a name that hints at strength. Nor does his appearance. Boiled down for stock he’d not make half a litre. Also he’s very, very left. In the USA, where giving a quarter to a mendicant might be called socialism, Jeremy would be handled with tongs at Kennedy immigration. In his time he’s been friends with Hamas, has supported the IRA, and hates nuclear weapons. A decent guy but more of a protestor than a politician.

He became Labour leader almost by accident, a process too whimsical for me to explain. When his so-called failings were revealed, a new leadership competition was hastily engineered. That he won by taking 61% of the vote, yet many Labour MPs disown him. He is on record as saying he will not attack individuals only their political practices. And so he does. It chokes me to say it but an excess of decency is not necessarily a virtue.

I can’t ask for a miracle, I don’t believe in them. The ensuing weeks will be like watching a spider in the bath with the hot water on.

Poor guy.

Even poorer me.

Friday 21 April 2017

Tone Deaf's manifesto

Woke up this morning and thought I'm eighty-one and might easily die under eternal Tory government. A government that makes me ashamed to be British - presently pondering economy measures that are also anti-foreigner: TO ELIMINATE ALL INTERNATIONAL AID! Oh Britain, you wretched, inward-looking offshore island dreaming of Empire and colonial slavery

Perhaps for most of the next eight weeks leading to the"snap" general election, I should forgo blogging about singing and persiflage. For it was V, my singing teacher, who unintentionally pressed my guilt button. As someone whose professional life has been moulded by Brahms and Mozart (while not disdaining home-grown Britten and Quilter) she found the referendum result hard to take. She admits she's never done a political act in her life before but she's now a signed-up member of a party and will at least stuff leaflets through letter-boxes.

Me? I've always voted, but tactically; there's never been a realistic option. My politics, if it can be considered that serious, has been to belong to a trade union frequently led by Trotskyists. Hot lefties urging me to scorn my long-time employer who - retrospectively - turned out both generous and benign and who financed my most comfortable retirement.

Tone Deaf aims to be satirical, for the potential is limitless. Britain is presently led by Theresa May who claims to be "strong". Margaret Thatcher was also "strong". It is said that Tory politicians, many of whom had Nannies, appreciate the "strong", disciplinary women who flogged their backsides with a hairbrush when they disobeyed nursery rules. Sometimes prickle side down.

I'll be their new Nanny. It won’t be a hairbrush and I won't be looking for reconciliation.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Nine bean rows I will not have

Why sing?

Mozart, Schubert, Britten, etc. More recently, Roberta Flack.

Do I imagine it'll raise me to a toffee-nosed elite? Perhaps. But that doesn’t make singing any easier. Singing is like poaching quails’ eggs (Very difficult; ask VR.) and it's cruel; errors cause a trapdoor to open in my colon.

I can end up épuisé as the French say. Exhausted.

But there's better news .

We oldsters are keen to hang on to our musculature and our little grey cells. T S Eliot says "I will show you fear in a handful of dust" and we shudder at that. We look to delay the dust moment.

Writing fiction exercises my mind but does nothing for my ever frailer body. Same thing if I'd taken up painting. Or decided to read improving books.

Singing lessons involve training the throat to resonate like an organ pipe. For me that's started to happen and it’s added a cubit to my stature (see Holy Bible). Before, I laboriously created notes and had to kick them past my teeth; now, from time to time, they slide away, eager to be out.

Effort's involved but it’s more intelligent effort. Better still, such singing promotes wellbeing. The noises I make are closer to what great men (and great V, my teacher) had in mind. OK Wolfgang, Franz, Ben? OK V? Can you guess what it's like to sing a song that's endured 250 years? I feel healthier and fitter yet I’m still sitting down. It sure beats jogging. And, ca va dire, gardening.

NOTE: Marly's written new words to Down by The Sally Gardens. I've slightly modified them and am now challenged to sing them. The song's called I MET MY LOVE

Thursday 13 April 2017

Life not as we would wish

This theme arrived, ready-made, at about three this morning. Is it in any sense original?  Viable? Interesting?

We fall in love. For now love is not returned but there is no animosity. We are, however, allowed the presence of the beloved.

The beloved stands before us and that is the reality: the looks, the predisposition, the intelligence, the good, the bad. But reality is a neutral state conferred by nature, uninvolved and unjudging. We are involved and we do judge, thus our version of reality is distorted. The longer we see and communicate with the beloved the greater the distortion.

We go away and, in tranquillity, ponder the beloved. Without any immediacy to rein in our thoughts we speculate and we fantasise. We invest the beloved with qualities that may not be supported by any form of reality, ours or the neutral one; we may even imagine an improved appearance.

We return to the beloved. We may be refreshed but those speculations and fantasies do not necessarily go away; they may even be augmented because by now our means of assessing the beloved are defective, compromised by our feelings.

These distortions may be the result of trying to imagine a "better" beloved. A disagreement between us may test this tendency and we may suppress its effects. But as any psychotherapist will say: suppressed tendencies merely move to another room.

Perhaps the beloved relents and loves us back. We unite and live together, each with our distorted versions of each other. At a later, sadder moment, a distortion is recognised for what it is. Recognised but not accepted as self-wrought. We call treachery, we seek to blame. But what or whom may we blame?

Sunday 9 April 2017

Innocent abroad

On Friday I went shopping; it's decades since I did. For me going shopping is moral depravity.

Going shopping's when you wander into Retail-Land wanting to spend money. On what doesn't really matter. You simply crave the transaction.

I had elder daughter, Professional Bleeder, for company and we were in Abergavenny Music. Theoretically I wanted a DVD of Bartok's opera, Bluebeard's Castle, but I knew they wouldn't have it. They didn't. I ordered it (which I could have done by phone). I asked for a score of Schubert's song, Du bist die Ruh, which I didn't need. Cost £2, but they didn't have that either. Instead I bought two bound collections of scores costing £28. I definitely didn't need them. Outside I noticed one was arranged for High Voices; I'm a baritone.

In a book-shop I discovered a tome-ish paperback on musical theory. I stood at the shelving, flicking through, wondering whether I'd ever read it. But standing proved irksome and wasn't helping me make up my mind. Then I spotted two easy chairs. I sat down, flicked some more, decided yes. Complimented the woman at the till on the chairs.

In an elaborate new butcher's there was brisket on the bone. I love brisket but was mildly surprised to find it associated with bone. Only the possibility that VR lacked freezer space (suggested by PB) stayed my hand.

Recently I bought a decanter that  turned out unusable. In a cheapo chain I saw a carafe, typical of French cafés. I hovered but PB discovered it cost a ridiculous £40. An industrial-size bottle of Head & Shoulders shampoo was labelled £3.15. I sighed. My present bottle is still half full and will last well into 2018.

Buying isn't absolutely necessary when "going shopping". Exposing oneself to the risk is.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Daughter/Dad chat

In endoscopy you swallow a small fibre-optic thingummy plus 1 metre of cabling. A gift subject for a blogger.

Alternatively the thingummy enters by (Ahem!) the basement. Thereafter good taste governs what you write.

I described my top-end job (A journey to the middle of the patient) on May 21 2008 blogging as Barrett Bonden in Works Well. It drew one comment.

Unheralded, yesterday, came an email labelled "Endoscopy" from younger daughter, Occasional Speeder:

Well that was a barrel of laughs... All clear though x

I responded:

Were you told - four times, as I was, and by different people - you would be dosed with something tasting of lemons? The actual taste being definitely acidulé but magnified to the power of ten, intended to put you off lemons for the rest of your natural. And thus you lay and there'd be a little twitch way down; you told yourself "I mustn't gip, I mustn't gip." but you gipped anyway and it felt like you were wearing your backbone inside your throat, instead of outside as is normal.

OS responded
They didn't say “lemons”, they said it tasted “agricultural” - which was quite accurate as to me it tasted of the smell of chicken shit. Gipped quite a bit. Eyes watered but yes that weird backbone thing was there. There was a lot of soothing as my leg kept involuntarily twitching. It's possibly in my top 5 horrid things ever - along with childbirth, tooth abscess (in fact most teeth things), finding cucumber unexpectedly in your mouth and the Intermarché at Jct 54 on the A75.

The latter two shockers are deeply personal and need not concern readers. I asked to use OS's emails in Tone Deaf and I'm proud of her style.