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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.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Divorce and other things

Here's a gruesome definition of leisure: "when one is not working or occupied; free time."

The Great Vacancy?

I was last salaried in 1995; almost twenty-five years of being unoccupied. And since shortly I will be on holiday I must, if I were playing the game, face a different level of inoccupancy. The equivalent of a medically induced coma, perhaps.

The hard disk of my netbook (a laptop that shrank in the wash) says otherwise. Two files contain a novel and a non-fiction work, both awaiting their final, final, final read-through. I may never open them. In my head is an idea for a short story: a male actor and a female actor (The Guardian style-book condemns "actress") who hate each other must combine in a presentation of love poetry. I had fun trawling comparatively obscure poets for the raw material; I look forward to juxtaposing these over-charged lines with the two malevolent thespians.

The two books and the story (assuming it gets written) may be regarded as junk by others. But they have the potential to keep me occupied.

I'll also think melancholy thoughts. Ideologues are cutting me adrift (if only psychologically) from two personal resources: the homelands of Richard Strauss and Francois Truffaut. Hatred is said to be bad for you but it can confirm vital signs.

We all know what an occupied country is. What about an occupied person?

I'll also sing. More Mozart but then I have limited aims.

Monday 24 July 2017


French written paper. Q: Fill in the missing accents
As Britain lurches through geographical, financial and cultural suicide more Brits ponder the future. Typically farmers ("You didn't imagine the UK would match EU subsidies, did you?) and pensioners ("You were lucky to live when you did. It's logical to penalise your good luck so  you may die in poverty.")

These days I need to speak something other than English. Cometh the holiday, cometh the opportunity. Normally we've avoided France in July - August but this year that would have deprived Zach of two weeks' crucial schooling. Because France is crowded in mid-summer it is now sensible to book our diversions, especially restaurants.

I go to France because I like showing off and speaking French there. I make no apologies, if you've got it, flaunt it. Yes, yes, it's an outmoded skill and soon it won't mean a damn. But while it does... Beyond, there'll be just an urnful of ashes.

Booking French restaurants by telephone is another matter. The vocabulary's simple enough but there's always the unexpected, a bank holiday or some such. The trick is to get a joke in; the person taking the call relaxes and what's exchanged becomes a conversation instead of a transaction.

Recently I booked a beach restaurant which impressed us last year. "A table far away from the kitchen and out of the sun," I insisted. The guy misunderstood: "Close to the sun?" he asked incredulously. "Far from the sun," I said briskly. "I know the system. Late arrivals get roasted." He roared with laughter and switched to English. I said I'd wasted my time speaking French. "No, no, monsieur speaks good French."

Balm to my remoaning soul. Usually in short supply.

Sunday 23 July 2017

Way to go

This year's big holiday starts with a 482.4-mile journey that's  more demanding than it looks. It involves skirting two capital cities - London and Paris; also we'll be using Eurotunnel during the school holidays, the busiest time of the year, to accommodate grandson Zach's academic obligations. Passed with flying colours I'm glad to say.

Although we've done the journey before it remains something of a 21st-century adventure. We must get  from Occasional Speeder's house near Gloucester, UK,  to our hotel, Le Gerbe de Blé, in the village of Chevilly, near Orléans, France. It should take 8 hr 17 min and since most of the route is on motorways that's a fair assumption. But we'll need to stop for fuel and to eat a picnic prepared in the UK. Why must we picnic in the gastronomic paradise that is France? Because French motorway caffs are no better than those in the UK.

The following day we'll complete the route to southern France.

OS and I will share the driving. We'll use electronics to consider route options depending on traffic conditions. We hope to leave Luddites who reject satnavs  whingeing in traffic jams. Satnavs provide directions and dispense psychological aid. On long journeys it's a comfort to know exactly how many kilometres have passed. Also to watch one's ETA converge with clock time. And to be pre-instructed about taking the right lane at complex motorway junctions. Meanwhile the front passenger will smartphone traffic ahead and, if necessary, change strategies on non-motorway roads west of Paris.

Such work passes time more quickly than staring out of the car window. VR will Kindle, doze, Kindle again. Darren, Zach’s Dad, will doze and talk to Zach. Zach will electronically manage an imaginary soccer team.

Thursday 20 July 2017


Other dictionaries offer humdrum meanings for "epiphany". I prefer the longer, arguably more human, definition from the Cambridge:

A moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you.

● Note "important to you". It needn't be a universal experience. I was in my late teens before I saw my first car race. At Mallory Park circuit I stood on a earth bank overlooking a corner, quite close to and looking down on the cars flashing past. The sense of speed and of danger was, to me, epiphanic.

Rock climbing, my quondam enthusiasm as a youth, should have been a rich source of epiphanies but simply being afraid (a frequent state) didn't quite cut the mustard. Perhaps because I was mainly incompetent.

● My first controlled parallel turn in ski-ing was an epiphany. I was at the centre of the experience, travelling fairly quickly, employing little energy, touching on grace.

● James Joyce is famous for epiphanies although in his case the word's definition includes a rider:

The manifestation being out of proportion to the significance or strictly logical relevance of whatever produces it.

I like that. A third the way through Ulysses I found myself reflecting on the character of Leopold Bloom, recognising in him an exemplar of humanity, its failings and its magnificences. Definitely an e-moment.

● Making love? Not the first time but almost certainly the second. Important that it occurred in London.

● Music? The only endeavour where I anticipate epiphanies. A regular source: The Soave il vento trio from Cosi.

● The bursts of admiration and sympathy I feel for Gina Miller.

● Coming unexpectedly upon one of the Rembrandt self-portraits. Where? I can't remember.

Sunday 16 July 2017

Salt tears

Good on yer, Igor. Now his hair is fashionably short and he's bearded
I cried, yes I did.

Russian-born pianist, Igor Levit, played LvB's Third Piano Concerto at the start of the BBC's long-established series of summer music concerts, The Proms.

Then an unscripted encore: Liszt's transcription of the Ode to Joy theme from LvB's Ninth Symphony. Also known as the EU Anthem. Seems he feels that the European Union - created to stop european countries from fighting each other - was a cause worth celebrating.

As The Guardian headline said: Proms get political. Describes the piece as "a worldwide musical symbol of assertive unity".

Look, I know I'm a bit of a bastard, certainly cruel (as my previous post shows) but if I hadn't cried at that when would I ever cry?

A recording of the concert is available on the BBC's radio I-player service, alas only accessible to UK residents. You'll have to listen first to the Third Piano Concerto but you wouldn't mind that, would you? Link below.


Salt tears, I assure you.

Saturday 15 July 2017

Variations on an old theme

The News Reader
Does this make things clearer?

Some day when Kim Jong-Un acts childishly,
And purple clouds obscure the Golden Gate,
As heat and death flow down Ol’ Sixty-Six,
And Napa grapes show strange maturity.
When mutants shag high flies at Candlestick,
And bats out-number folk at San Berdoo,
As I routinely turn on News at Ten
And note apocalypse proclaimed by you.

Oh you, all textiles to your neckless chin,
Poached-egg eyes to lend a false solemnity,
Left arm outstretched to prop your gravitas,
Decay delayed with thickened maquillage.
A stuffy herald for our piping times,
World’s end described in awe-free, wearied words,
“We’ll analyse,” you say, but dust is dust,
And Bridgend lilt can only bring more dust.

As Californians curl up and fry,
We’ll need a Milton or a Stratford Will,
Instead there’s you and “What’s your sense of this?”
Dulling the edge of death with Gelusil.
This end, our end, should be both dark and grand,
An austere welcome to oblivion,
More than a kiosk and a rubber stamp,
More than the forming of an ordered queue.

And when your chalk-stripe suit is touched with flame
Will light obliterate more of the same?

Too tired to read it yourself? Click HERE and I'll do it for you.

Friday 7 July 2017

Oh, not my nose!

We'd been shopping in Hereford. VR proposed we meet up in the bus station. I hate buses but today would be my lucky day: no buses.

As I arrived VR sat squeezed on the bench waiting for the Number 75. She hailed me and the woman beside slid sideways to allow me space. Genteel and quick-thinking. Three steps away I fixed my eyes on my benefactor intending to thank her. I should have looked to my feet.

I tripped on the kerb and fell flat on my face. Literally! My nose resting on the paving stones. My glasses, secured by a granny-string, tinkled somewhere.

I lay tranquilly, mentally palpating myself for injuries. Both knees abraded despite trouser protection. Left big toe compressed half a centimetre; I must have kicked the kerb. A circular flap of skin hanging from my right little finger. Left wrist strained slightly. Other minor pains.

Two women said “Oh! Oh! Oh!” and rushed over, their heads appearing inverted from where I lay. Behind, an elderly – even old – male grasped at my shoulders, pulling vainly. I assumed a kneeling position and stood up. The women said “Oh! Oh! Oh!” albeit more slowly. One gave me tissues; I dabbed at my nose and saw gratifying blobs of blood.

I explained I’d been intending to thank the tissue donater for sliding aside on the bench, looking at her not the kerb, falling as a result. “I have that effect on men,” she said. That’s pretty good, I thought. VR said we would take a taxi. I dabbed and said “Alas, my nose, easily my best feature.” The women laughed.

At home it was diet day. VR served my Braeburn apple cut fan-shaped on the plate. I watched the Tour de France live. Life resumed its predictability.