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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.
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Wednesday 27 December 2017

A cut above (amended Dec 28,29)

"It will leave a scar," said Dr X.

"Yeah, but will it add character to my face?"

"I prefer not to guess," said Dr X neutrally. I pondered: adding character implied character already existed. During a long lifetime I haven't gathered a scrap of evidence to support this. A serious lapse.

I was asked what I'd done for a living. Mentioned journalism, and elaborated, saying I once visited Venezuela. "To do what?" "Observe a steel plant," I said. "Oh," said my audience.

Professional Bleeder was in the waiting room, happily sustained by her Kindle. She told me other patients had grumbled at the time I was taking in surgery - two hours in total. None grumbled when I appeared and it was only when I caught sight of my face in a window and noticed the size of the dressing that I understood why.

As we walked towards the bus station I noticed people staring at me then averting their eyes. It gave me a sense of power. No doubt illusory.

On Friday there will be a Wound Review.

SON-IN-LAW Darren gave me this personalised tea-towel for Christmas. The tiny circle of my novel readers will recognise its origins. I am considering converting it into a body gilet.

Coms 1 (text). Grandson Ian to Daughter 1 - his Mum: "Can't wait until the Wound Review. Will he be using the star system: one star (worst), five stars (best)?"
Coms 2 (text). Daughter 2: "Is The Quibbler - ie, RR - OK?"
Daughter 1: "He's toying with mixing kirs (ie, white wine and cassis liqueur)."
Daughter 2: "Tell him to stop toying and start pouring."
Coms 3 (email). RR: "Prezzie transferred. Alas the post-surgical dressing has so thickened my head, the r/h sidebar of my glasses pressses onerously on the wound which is beginning to lose the effects of the anaesthetic. It’s not glamorous being old I can tell you. Grandad."
Grandson Ian: "Thank you very much. Hope you feel better soon and your head returns to normal thickness."

After Christmas dinner, courtesy Occasional Speeder, we watched
the Walter Disney CGI movie "Frozen"

CHARACTER-FORMING? The Practice Nurse thought so and is looking forward to taking the 14 stitches out next Wednesday. For my money leaving the stitches be seems more decorative. I'm having the extracted stitches woven into a basket - ant-size.

Friday 22 December 2017

To the edge

Do we get the dreams, nightmares really, we deserve?

For minor traffic offences, I and two other males, found ourselves condemned to death. The note informing me suggested - very obliquely - death would be by shooting. Something about the wording faintly hinted, to me if not to the others, that this was not to be taken seriously.

We were herded into a narrow corridor painted dark green. A piece of paper carrying an X was stuck to the side-wall at about chest height. This was puzzling since there was insufficient width for two people to stand facing each other across the corridor. Also the victim would obscure the X. Also the wall was un-pocked by bullet holes.

We were told that a laser would be employed and that we would be required to stare fixedly at the X. This would have involved crouching slightly which has only just occurred to me.

The two other males were keen to get death over with. I moved out of the corridor, trying to convince myself that nothing harmful would happen. After a few seconds I was allowed back and saw the first male on the floor his legs (corduroy trousers, deep-patterned rubber shoe soles) curled. This was a horrible shock to me.

My attention was briefly distracted. When I looked again the first male was sitting up, tears streaming, gibbering incoherently. I was told in a matter-of-fact voice that the punishment was demonstrably not fatal, but I would have to undergo it. Since the "officials" consisted of a male teenager and a young woman I refused.

The clarity, even four hours later, was and is persuasive. Certain details (dark green corridor, the shoe soles, perhaps the X) belong to my past life. The nightmare seemed tailor-made. Hmmm.

Thursday 21 December 2017

Loved I not honour more (q.)

It's that time of year we greet each other. Given this longstanding tradition, greeting is a remarkably understated activity:

"To acknowledge the presence or arrival of (somebody) with gestures or words." So if I lurched away from you in horror at a cocktail party would I have greeted you? I think not.

Yet, Season's Greetings say the cards atheists send to Christians whom they like. Let's see if Roget can help.

"Give one's regards" I discard; it's the sort of piety banks use at the end of a letter foreclosing a mortgage. "Hail" sounds more positive, more promising. But, I fear, more antiquated. Englishmen may be "at home to someone" but Americans shouldn't laugh; the US equivalent is "have the latchstring out." Surely latchstrings are electronic now.

More specifically: accost (A bit near the bone, that one), address, salute, curtsy (But would I ever straighten up again?)

I rather like "glorify" but only God gets glorified. No, just a minute: "Describe or represent as admirable, especially unjustifiably. (As in: A football video glorifying violence.)" Strike out glorify.

Sod it, I'm going to go with "honour", flavoured with goodwill. And I'm aiming to be comprehensive. I wish to honour those who:

● Comment on Tone Deaf.
● Comment, but only rarely.
● Did comment but have now died.
● Did comment but have withdrawn for stated personal reasons.
● Did comment but have withdrawn without stated reason.
● Did comment but have withdrawn because they disapproved of the author’s insufferability and self-aggrandisement.
● Might have commented but after due deliberation decided the blog fell short of its aims.

A small world but one which has entertained me, disputed with me, informed me, challenged me, corrected me, shamed me and – very occasionally – garlanded my brow with laurels. Diesen Küss der ganzen Welt.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Comforted by an apple

I have a cold. Of course, it's coming up to Christmas.

To be precise I'm suffering from a cold's aftermath. A chesty cough, with origins that go back eighty years to my home town where fumes from open coal fires (romanticised these days) corrupted my breathing apparatus. If I'm unlucky the cough will last two months.

What is a chesty cough? It generates viscous fluid - barely fluid in fact - which... No! Stay my creative mind, this is not festive talk. Less controversially I am intimately aware of the shape of my trachea, tubes that feed my lungs with air. Sensations within my chest identify that upside-down Y and its state of siege.

At singing lesson yesterday, as V and I were anatomising the song, I Will Give My Love an Apple, I recognised composing genius: a passage which achieves poignancy by repeating one note seven times consecutively, the exception being the fourth note:

...love   a     pa -  a – lace  where – in...
     di – di  – di - dah – di   -  di    - di

But here’s the trick. If you’re a beginner (like me) deep-seated memories of simple do-re-mi scales, learned by rote in primary school, will encourage you to sing this differently, more predictably. You won’t be breaking musical rules but the result will be banal (= so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring).

Return to the score (Trad. arr. Herbert Howells) and sing what was written. It isn’t immediately intuitive but done properly it sounds, well, lyrical.

The line demands rigorous breath control. I sang it, ran out of puff. And again. Managed it but was overtaken by coughing. V said, “That was fine.” I protested. V shrugged and said, “You sang it.”

Sunday 17 December 2017

The life that late I led

Saturday I gave money to a good cause and re-lived my youth.

Each year The Guardian supports a charity. You call to donate and one of the editorial staff takes your details. You chat. You might draw the editor Katherine Viner, the social care specialist Polly Toynbee, or that arch-subversive, John Crace, the political sketch writer. A Scottish voice answered me, twas McCaskill (I missed his first name), with the paper 25 years.

Are you an editorial star? I asked. Modestly he said no. A foot soldier then? He agreed to that.

I told him I was encouraged the lines had been busy today. Unlike earlier years, said McC incautiously. When journos sat around waiting, scrambling for what few calls came in.

McC carefully checked my humdrum surname and credit card number. I applauded, said I'd once interviewed a trim young maid called Barker and in an adolescent flush of confusion I'd written it as Parker. "Many's the time..." said McC.

I told him these days there were so many huge running stories (Brexit, Trump) that it took me ages to get through The Guardian's main section, I read everything. I criticised a TV comedian the previous night who’d described Brexit as "boring" which I found inexplicable. "I saw that," said McC. "Totally wrong."

I apologised for not using the official code (Alfa, Foxtrot, Lima, etc) when spelling words for him. Trouble was I'd evolved my own code (B Bertie, P Percy) on a local newspaper and it was now ineradicable. McC recalled how computerisation meant journalists no longer dictated copy by phone to opinionated speed typists. "So much talk," he said. I burst in: "And implied criticism of your literary style." We guffawed.

An old war horse re-smelling gunpowder.

Friday 15 December 2017

Moving on, perhaps sideways

Who's this effeminate guy? He lived in the 1600s before streaming
was invented. Or the electric guitar. Did music of a sort. A loser, then
Just imagine that our present way of reading books (silently, to ourselves) never happened. That, instead, books are only read aloud: to groups, a friend, to an empty room, to a recording machine. And that our orations are made public:

“X’s pernickety accent suits Mansfield Park.”

“Hey, Y does all the voices in As You Like It.”

“Z’s Great Gatsby still isn’t right, a New Yorker’s giving him lessons.”

No skipping, no lies about finishing Moby Dick. Proof would be unmistakable.

Welcome to my world, in a sense.

Aged 14 in 1949, with the publication of Orwell’s 1984, I started reading seriously, voraciously but haphazardly. Huge unforgivable gaps appeared and widened (Latin and Greek literature, most fantasies, Dostoevski, short stories, virtually all poetry, philosophy) but eventually other milestones were passed (Already blogged; I won’t bore you). A process that started dwindling two years ago and is now at a standstill.

That same seriousness and voraciousness, minus the randomness, is being applied to singing. I’ve moved into an oral world resembling the imaginary one above. This world is transient and requires certain disciplines. A soi-disant intellectual recently admitted ignoring the battle scenes in War and Peace - converting it into Blank and Peace, I suppose. There’s none of that in An die Musik.

In rectifying mistakes I am made aware of the composer’s genius. I am more conscious of my body because I have to be. I need tutoring because there’s another language - musical notation - involved. Singing is not superior to book-reading but it’s less casual. Visceral reactions occur more frequently. Perhaps delusionally, I am fulfilled.
Here’s Purcell’s An Evening Hymn, written in the seventeenth century. My present task but pitched lower. 

Thursday 14 December 2017

My face goes to war

Beautiful Venus simply arrived, her intelligence
has never been defined. Unlikely to have blogged
How intelligent am I? How intelligent are you? Hard questions.

But not as hard as: How beautiful am I or you?

So hard I can't imagine anyone well-balanced enough to make conclusions about himself or herself, publicly, in these terms. Or anyone equable enough to form the other half of the conversation. Even when we tackle these questions in the privacy of our own noggin there's a reluctance to arrive at specific words, vague feelings have to suffice.

If you disagree, Tone Deaf is at your disposal.

All I know about my own intelligence is that it has been "improved" randomly, willy-nilly. It lacks a formal structure. I can be clever for seconds but not for minutes.

But how about my beauty? Just recently part of my face has been a battleground as a dangerous medication has fought to suppress the cellular implications of keratonitis. The result: a yellowish crust covering 3 sq. in. I surprised myself by being able to ignore this, even forget it. I did however cover it with adhesive plaster for my singing lesson; V watches my face regularly to check the rightness or wrongness of certain singing symptoms and I felt this ghastly curd tart might be a distraction.

During adolescence I was convinced I was physically ugly but as I got older I concluded I was as good-looking as I needed to be and left it at that. But was the curd tart reviving adolescence? The answer seemed to be no. Might that be due to arrogance? Unchanged within, I was insensitive to what was happening outside.

The yellow crust has gone, leaving baby’s-bottom smoothness in bright red. In one sense I regret this, there’s more to be said. Shaving was a bastard.

Sunday 10 December 2017

Heimat visit

Terrace houses for the rich, overlooking the Rhine
On my first visit to Germany (Hattingen-Ruhr) in 1953 the train journey lasted twenty-three hours, including an interminable overnight ferry-crossing from Sheerness to Vlissingen. Last Tuesday, thanks to motorways, a modern car and the heaven-sent Channel Tunnel we were in Düsseldorf - quite close to Hattingen-Ruhr - from Gloucester in eleven hours.

Eco needn't mean boxy; here's
BMW's i8 hybrid (£112k)

OS and VR staying warm 
Nominally to see the Christmas markets but actually to re-experience Germany and to chat to Germans. Driven by a desperate conviction that, post-Brexit, things will never be quite the same again.

Two steps behind, I "stalked" VR and daughter, Occasional Speeder, trying for shots that set them against festive backgrounds. Mostly I failed. Two evenings we staggered out of bierkeller restaurants (Zum Schlüssel and Brauerei Schumacher), our bellies distended with inordinate kilograms of meat. At Schumacher one’s empty beerglass is immediately replaced with a full one, over and over, without comment. On the last night we went Lebanese and the quantities were even greater.

Two things stood out. An organ recital in the Johanniskirche which has virtually perfect acoustics, possibly because of its short length/loftiness  ratio. Plus a magnificent, sharply defined organ (a Beckerath to the cognoscenti).

And then the city itself. Düsseldorf is a wealthy city enormously endowed with art galleries, symphony halls and museums (none of which we visited). But it isn’t in-yer-face wealth. Those with dough overlook a park separating them from the mighty Rhine, and live in terrace (US: row) houses! Literally wall-to-wall millionaires! Terraces, yes, but all with different frontages: stylish and beautiful (see the main pic). VR, normally a scourge of over-loaded moneybags, was charmed.

Some of the stuff is irresistible; especially the potato pancakes

Monday 4 December 2017

Past laughter

Gloom and disaster are more rewarding to write about than happiness and triumph. Good things sound like boasting, typical events in a gilded life. Whereas most daily happenings are emotionally neutral: getting up, squeezing the toothpaste tube, smearing Lurpak on the lunchtime toast.

But what about funny things? Often they involve embarrassment so you can't be said to be boasting. I thought I'd give it a go.

Do you know what? My life's been devoid of funny things. I've trawled for minutes and caught nothing. But what about...? Ah yes.

Aged about eight I was dining with my grandparents. Grannie asked Grandpa if he wanted more... I've forgotten. Let's say, potatoes. Grandpa said (I hear him clearly): "Not at this juncture." I'd never heard that word before. I collapsed with laughter and giggled my way through the rest of the meal. Grandpa, normally stern and impatient, looked on benignly.

Even now, a tiny giggle lurks at the back of my throat. The word itself is distorted: "Joont-shuh." If I'd had two or three reds and was feeling relaxed (Alas, it's 7.50 in the morning.) I reckon I'd be vulnerable to a swift snigger. Can funniness endure for more than seventy years? Seems so.

A year or two later Mother, speaking to Father, mentions the elderly Rev. X. Father, in no sense a religious man, says "I thought he'd been translated into glory." Overhearing, I laugh out loud, trying to imagine what this process would look like.

No prat-falls, no spaghetti sauce spilt down the wedding gown. Both these echoes are word fun. My destiny was already concrete. And is that boasting?