● Lady Percy moves me - might she move you? CLICK TO FIND OUT
● 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.

Saturday 27 April 2019

More incompetence but less bad-temper

VR's painting class takes place 11 miles away in the village hall at difficult-to-pronounce Ewyas Harold. I drive her there and pick her up two hours later. We'd just set out and the car computer pinged to announce loss of pressure in the rear left. I kicked the tyre, there wasn't much give and I reckoned it was safe enough for the remaining mileage.

It was raining when I dropped off VR and I didn't fancy putting on the spare. A local garage did the dirty work and charged me £5. This cheered me, I added a fiver, decided it was hardly worth going home now so I joined VR and her class. It seemed churlish not to attempt something artistic. I borrowed an 8B pencil (deliciously soft) and drew my left hand, not very well as you can see.

I have an O-level in art but that was in 1951. Gradually an important rule re-established itself - when working from real life take information only from the eyes, never from the imagination. It seems obvious, doesn't it? And yet untutored clods tend to draw lines where they think lines should go, rather than where lines do go.

Another thing. You draw a bum line, realise it's bum, then draw a better line closely adjacent. The drawing starts to look furry. Half-wittedly you tell yourself this is “art”.

I noticed the gap between the thumb and index finger was too wide. Time to start again but tables were already being folded. I’d enjoyed myself. I’d like to do it again but there just isn’t time. I rehearsed Hugo Wolf’s Nun Wandre, Maria and wrote this post.

VR makes time and did the pic below.

Thursday 25 April 2019

Incompetence rules

I do a DIY job and it's a mess. If I re-did the job it would be better but second chances are rare. Anyway I'll have forgotten the lessons I learned first time round.

Mostly I get someone in and pay the earth. But the job may be too small. We're not great showerers but VR now uses the unit in the ensuite. It has remained more or less ignored during our twenty years' occupancy of the house and the tray (If that's the bit you stand in) needs re-sealing.

I watch a video by a shouty young man with short-cut hair. He's British but his style is reassuringly hortatory. However his bathroom acoustic doesn't do him any favours.

I have dim recollections of the different tasks but Short Hair includes all of them in his Don't Do list. No masking tape. No fingers. The first bollix is I've forgotten how to trigger the sealant gun and must re-watch the video. This won't end well.

I remove the old sealant and I'm proud of that. But then things start to go downhill. The damn silicone is so damn sticky: layers of extra skin creep from my fingers to my wrists and up to my elbow. The temptation to fiddle gets the better of me and the smooth surface of the initial sweep now looks like clotted cream.

Finally I’m aware of a toxic smell. Very chemical. Time to leave the ensuite. The good news is I have an untouched bottle of single malt which should help. The bad news is it's Diet Day and booze is off limits.

DIY stands for do-it-yourself. Or, perhaps, don’t-involve-yourself.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

It's received but is it a gift?

Old age does have its benefits. It drives out vanity.

Beyond eighty you don't give a toss how you look. I'm scheduled for a hair appointment with Shara at 12.30 and I'm easily a month late. In fact I'm more concerned at my overgrown eyebrows which madly tickle my eyelids. The great thing about Shara is I may sit down and she needs no instruction; we chat about her daughter and she gets on with the hacking. The fee is so small I am able to tip her munificently and feel great for at least half an hour.

Most of which is a nonsense. A biggish fib. In parts I lie.

Here and there are shards of truth but the over-arching concept - that I am unvain - is simply untrue. Why be only a month late at the salon? Why not half a year? Wasn't I rhapsodising about wearing black earlier this year? I am horribly vain about singing. That my written sentences should parse. That some of my posts should surprise.

That second para is received wisdom. It could pass for truth in cocktail party chat. Received wisdom usually goes unchallenged, often because people don't care. Received wisdom is a shaky wall built from cliché bricks.

My hair is long, true. But it may quickly be made to look unexceptional.  It’s long because of my growing reluctance - with age - to phone for an appointment. A strange form of decay. As a journalist I used a phone all the time; now I approach it with timidity. Confessing this makes me mildly uncomfortable. Which is perhaps good for my soul.

Except I'm not in favour of hair-shirtism. And I have powerful doubts about my soul.

See how received wisdom can creep up.

Monday 22 April 2019

Magic, readily available

Blogs require raw material, ideally in the form of discovery. But suppose old age has brought you to the point where history greatly outweighs the expectation of anything new? You recycle your history, of course. Shuffle the facts, re-adjust the lighting, and raise the curtain on an updated anecdote.

I first blogged in 2008 and had lots to say about gearboxes and other nuts-and-bolts matters. But in 2008 I was 73 and already into recycling. One huge change (music) lay ahead but I wasn't to know that. Instead I was practising what the French call réchauffage, most familiarly the reheating of edible leftovers, less familiarly plagiarism.

There is, however, an alternative. Commenting elsewhere I made reference to the first short story I ever wrote when I was probably about ten. Doodling in time's minestrone I suddenly realised that made me Adolf Hitler's contemporary. Until, that is, his career was cut short by some unwise decisions.

That new alternative is imagination. With it I may liberate myself from the past's dull grinding-mills. I slip into Adolf's kitchen where he's preparing a vegetarian meal, whisper that his present policies will end in tears, that he'd be better off writing a book other than Mein Kampf. Why not Europe Goes Meatless? "It will," I say, "sell millions." Neglecting to add "by the time the oughties roll around." Were he still lecturing about tofu he'd be 130 but imagination easily resolves that inconsistency.

Imagination – such a powerful device! I find to my horror Huw Edwards will be spuming away at the Hay Festival for which I've already bought nearly seven-hundred-quid's-worth of tickets. A little invention added to a time warp and I'd have him reduced to a Noncomformist lay preacher based in Merthyr Tydfil.

Are you unhappy? I could imagine your happiness.

Thursday 18 April 2019

A small void

This post must differ from the 1505 posts that preceded it.

There must be nothing about singing, fiction, writing, my lousy education, "discovering" the USA, learning French, RAF national service, what goes on in our kitchen, transmissions on BBC TV 4, my antipathy towards gardening, visits to Tesco, eating and drinking, cars and motorbikes, adolescence, The Guardian, a certain news announcer, unstylish clothes, my cleverclogs grandchildren,  sexual timidity (Or is that covered by adolescence?), Rembrandt and Hogarth, Brexit, quantum mechanics, computers, ageing, or, God bless her, VR.

Why? I need to reassure myself I'm adaptable. Ancillary proof I've  grown up.

An obvious subject: personal ignorance and (in response to Edbath's comment below) failings!

A rich vein indeed. Often a source of envy, shame, antagonism and a many other negative qualities. But let's have no false modesty. Let there be no confessions that turn out to be boasts (eg, I have little experience of tax evasion. Pop music has generally passed me by. I envy the clarity of thought of the working classes.)

Here we go.

I lack the analytical approach. That, for instance, The Wars of the Roses in conjunction with the Great Margarine Scare led to the election of DJT. Typical of why university was not for me.

People have tried to instruct me in day-to-day etiquette but I continue to blunder. No problem here in the UK, people quickly write me off as a social cripple. But this malaise has horrified women in foreign countries.

Nail maintenance. I keep on forgetting.

For reasons as yet unexplained my sense of humour is incompatible with humanity's general aims. I should be able to work out why but it seems the intellectual impulse is missing.

Tolkien. A huge zero.

Recipes. An even huger zero.

Enough for now but there’s more to come.

Monday 15 April 2019

Stronger than glue

I had no formal training in music and started buying LPs willy-nilly: Mozart's clarinet concerto, Bach's toccata and fugue in D-minor, the Kleiber/Concertgebouw version of LvB's fifth. My preference was for instruments.

VR's background was similar. We were poor but managed a few LPs. Almost accidentally we heard the mezzo, Janet Baker (later Dame Janet Baker), and started collecting her even though I still favoured pianos and violins over voices.  Eventually we had about 700 discs.

Three years ago, as I've exhaustively recorded, I had this urge to sing properly. How so? asked V, my teacher, at the first lesson. My answer was vague, unsatisfactory. But here’s a resonance.

Last night BBC TV devoted an hour-and-a-half to notoriously camera-shy Janet Baker, now retired. As testament to her greatness acquaintances were required to remain mute and just listen to one of her recordings. Spoken judgments were brief as if words were distrusted. Faces and tears said everything about that wonderful voice and supreme musical intelligence.

There's a 1966 black-and-white film of her, ridiculously costumed, singing what may be a definitive Dido's Lament:

When I am laid, am laid in earth...

I probably agree. But who am I?

Just one thing. As Dido, she sings the line "Remember me" several times. The last time, high up and powerful, majestic yet poignant, she faces those es in "remember". The vowel e is dull and unrewarding for singers. Dame Janet accommodates her es, all different. With great skill.

Meanwhile I’ve struggled over “Fresh joys we’ll pursue” in the Purcell duet I’ve mentioned. That e in “fresh” is a bugger, highish, demanding a change in intonation. A most tenuous link between us yet I choked as I watched telly.  Music – stronger than glue.

Sunday 14 April 2019

Flights, and flights of fancy

Flying's expensive - in the foreground, an Aston Martin
Helicopters as well as fixed-wing planes and gliders at Shobdon
Drove Professional Bleeder and VR to Shobdon Airfield yesterday. Watched light planes take off and land, watched gliders towed up towards the clouds, there to be released to find their thermals. All three of us had the Full English Breakfast (barring baked beans) the unhealthiest meal known to mankind.

At Brampton Bryan the hedge goes on and on

At Aardvark the shelves go on and on

Then on to Aardvark Books "an enormous bookbarn with 50,000 titles " in Brampton Bryan, a village with the most spectacular churchyard hedge in the world, previously described here. At Aardvark there's a café where customers may sit among the books, eat cake and natter. PB ordered a cafetière of Ethiopian coffee; in an afternoon of superlatives this turned out to be the best coffee in the world.

I bought Richard Dawkins' essays and Mrs Thrale's letters to Dr Johnson.

And a score. Ten Brahms songs published in the days when London postal districts were identified by a single letter. Original cost: four shillings.

A sneaky indulgence buying scores, obviously an elitist practice. Showing off, I made sure others at the table saw what I'd been up to. With V I've already learned one of the songs (Wiegenlied - Cradle Song) but I don't suppose I'll learn any more. Nevertheless it's fun to trace the notes and murmur approximations of their sounds. One way of proving I'm not a soccer fan and haven't seen even ten seconds of A Game of Thrones.

I should be ashamed of such self-aggrandisement but the Hell with that. Music means more to me than it did three years ago and I'm in profit. If I won the lottery I'd move into a bigger house (with indoor swiming pool) and sponsor recitals with free wine. Those with tin ears could swim.

Wednesday 10 April 2019


Other than Solitaire and Freecell VR isn't given to computer-related entertainment. But elder daughter, Professional Phlebotomist, is presently staying with us and she inveigled VR into something  which may or not be called Rock Craze, an obscure if far less energetic variant of Geo-Caching.

The rock (actually more of a pebble), artistically decorated and labelled, was placed fairly prominently on a shelf close to the entrance of Hereford Cathedral, after which the pair of them sauntered inside for pious cups of coffee. When they re-emerged the rock was gone.

The consequences of this simple task are of no interest to me. But I am surprised that VR was willing to be photographed "playing the game" as it were. Positively un-English I'd say. To get the full effect you'll need to click on the montage above.

Friday 5 April 2019

The ratio of its circumference to its diameter

Several contributors to Tone Deaf get their spouses to do the cooking; for them this post might just as well be written in Urdu. Think of it as seed that fell on stony ground (Biblical quote).

VR has cooked for me for nearly 59 years. By common consent I've recently urged her to be less ambitious. Cooking takes time and I'd much rather she fulfilled her avowed aim, announced on her retirement twenty years ago, to read, and read and read. Some times a couple of novels a day, in all about 230 a year.

Even so there are regular bursts of culinary inventiveness.

What makes a good cook? In my opinion: three qualities. All recipes are regarded as a suggestion not a rigid prescription. Leftovers are a challenge, to be transformed into a dish quite distinct from the original format. And going the extra mile.

All are contained in the above pic.

It required no recipe at all and it is a savoury pie - much more of a treat than a dessert pie. The contents, enhanced with bits and pieces I've now forgotten, were remaindered from a brisket casserole created a week or two ago by grandson Ian, another inventive cook. The superfluous pastry was turned into a touch of wit which you may now observe.

My contribution to the pie was to over-eat it, to the point where I felt quite uncomfortable yesterday evening. I shouldn't have done, of course. I'm an adult who understands cause and effect. On the other hand my discomfort was an inarguable tribute to the pie's onlie begetter.

VR served the pie. I'm not sure my over-developed sense of aesthetics would have allowed me to violate its decorated crust.