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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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Thursday 27 February 2020

Lieder, Op. 12: IV. Liebst du um Schönheit

This guy's a tenor, I'm a baritone. He can sing higher than I can but it shouldn't make a lot of difference if we're singing from the same score. For several reasons, some even shameful, I had problems maintaining the necessary pitch (ie, staying in tune) at the necessary solidity (ie, not wobbling) when I tackled this song at my last lesson. Yet it's within my range. The first sung note is A-flat and during my warm-ups (ie, five-note phrases getting a tone or semi-tone higher with each repetition) I can reach a somewhat strangulated F.

I've been working at it ever since, since this was the biggest technical failure I've ever experienced. Gradually I sang more easily. I've also sung along with the tenor but, given his different timbre, I wasn't entirely sure I was hitting the same notes he was. A grievous deficiency after four years.

Finally I recorded myself singing against him. As a pro he had different interpretive ideas about timing so I'm out of synch a lot of the time. But during certain on-the-beat passages it sounded as if we were singing the same note. Finally I got VR to listen and she mainly agreed.

This will be of little interest to many but it may suggest that singing is just a little more than opening my mouth and just bellowing. 

Lacking all grace

Old age: The lesser-known facts
By One Who Knows

You become invisible. This is often your own fault. You don’t go out as much. Leading to: Neighbour 1: You don’t see X much these days. Neighbour 2: Don’t hold your breath; he died last Christmas.

And that’s another. Oldsters die at Christmas. Maximum impact; more turkey to dispose of.

You are more/less vain. Becoming invisible you dress more extravagantly (and more foolishly) – especially with regard to socks. Alternatively, you say: Bugger it! Who cares? Answer the door unshaven, surlily, 6 oz of dried-on porridge in the crotch of your pants.

Trapped by routine. Let’s say it’s 8.10 pm. The package says the DVD lasts 2 hr 30 min. You say: I’ll miss the 10 pm news. The DVD continues to gather dust.

Your conversation shrivels. Eventually reducing to one topic. You can’t guess which? Then you’re already there. It’s old age.

Drug info. With difficulty, because the typeface is tiny, you start reading those minatory sheets that accompany your staving-off-death pills. You ask your GP about the symptoms of dengue. It’s a fever, she sighs.

Fiction. You’re convinced by a sixty-year-old memory that Stendhal writes more convincingly than Ian McEwan. You wake up noticing you’ve reached page three of The Charterhouse of Parma and that News at Ten is only a few minutes away. As the still-open novel slides off the arm of the couch you hear the pages crumple.

Meals. Spoons are more practical than a knife and fork.

The dentist. He says, audibly, your teeth are fine. But you’d swear he added sotto voce, given your age.

Wine. Fewer bottles but at higher prices.

Booze. You favour more complex drinks. Bloody Marys, for me. Hey, we’re running out of celery salt

Monday 24 February 2020

Upbringing updated

Keighley News district office
Myrtle Place, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Impatience was my driven clockspring then,
Wound tightly by my adolescent need,
I yearned for girls but, even more, I sought
A better smithy for my wordsmithing.

A disliked workplace but, if truth be known,
That modest valley town was innocent,
A yardstick for the things that were to come,
An anvil base on which to shape and bend.

But youth confinèd to a teenage cell,
Finds just the bars and, through them, discontent,
Sees vaguest vistas of a sexual sort,
Dreams stories only wisdom may create.

I took the southern road, without goodbyes,
Swearing to flush these details down the tubes,
And found a wider, more rewarding world,
Plus all the doubtful gains of adulthood.

Yet, like dull bricks that built the house I own,
That old dull Place helped build the life I’ve led,
There’s time and space and even patience now,
The fire aspires and words gain relevance
What of that town that I once deemed to hate,
That sleeps, unhated, four hours’ drive up north?
Do lichens grow, are folks content, roads straight
But quaint? Adornment for my mantelpiece?

Saturday 22 February 2020

A bend in the road?

Learning to sing has helped prepare me for death. That might suggest singing and/or learning to sing are forms of ecstasy; they aren’t. Both require concentration, attention to detail, repetition, and recognising I’m out of tune (horrible). Obviously that’s not ecstasy.

Unlike writing, singing involves my physical bits and my mental bits. This comforts me given my physical bits are reduced to not much else. Will I sing as I die? No. The sounds won’t satisfy me and they’ll be unimprovable. Others may be dying nearby and music should be a good thing.

A side-effect is I know more about music’s effects. V and I did solitary work on Clara Schumann’s Liebst du um Schőnheit. Both arrived independently at a wonderful musical interval supporting the German word jedes; we discussed it, you might say, ecstatically. Knowing how it had happened.

Two weeks ago I heard Eric Clapton (just a vague name) playing a duet based on Moon River. Two things struck me: Clapton’s inadequate voice and his far from inadequate improvisation. Improvisation often elaborates; Clapton reduced the tune to its bare bones and they were lovely.

I know nothing about pop/rock. Should I? I emailed my daughters, asking their opinion about Clapton. To some extent both shared my view. Professional Bleeder went further: sent me twelve pop/rock tracks she regards as classics. Would my new view of music help probe their quality?

I played Guns ‘n’ Roses Sweet Child just once, I was short of time. I will play it again. After three-minutes, the group embarked on a voice concerto: a single voice against all the instruments, each playing separate themes, distinct and inventive. Allowing for sound levels, it resembled a string quartet. Often the most demanding form of classical music.

More follows.

Tuesday 18 February 2020

A siren song

Arras is a town in northern France that was destroyed in WW1 and rebuilt. The town council took the back page of The Guardian on February 14 to issue the following message. VR thought it “poignant”.

Dear friends and neighbours

Here in Arras and the wider Artois region we wanted to use Saint Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to tell you just how much we love our union.

We love to see you here, enjoying a morning coffee on the Place des Héros, climbing to the top of the Belfry, heading to the market to buy a local cheese or a sweet treat… And in the evening, we are enchanted to hear your accent drifting across the terraces as you sample the local beer, order a local speciality and make the most of your time here.

We often see you on the country roads, too, around the many war cemeteries. Which remind us of our debt to you, and what your young men and your determination gave us a full century ago: Freedom… and a steadfast friendship.

So this year in particular, on 14 February we’re saying “I love you”.

Yes, our home is your home too.

Yeah, it’s a tourism advert: visit our town, help our economy. But perhaps it’s a little more than that.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

AYLI descanted

NOTE: A good friend – a very good friend – read the version of this story originally posted and pointed out the narrator had insufficient hinterland (an unfortunate side-effect of writing in the first-person singular) and that there were too many adverbs. I agreed whole-heartedly, attended to these matters and chopped and changed elsewhere. It’s better now, if you have the stamina.

Love-shaked, well clothed
Short story, 3241 words

Saturday. We’d been rehearsing all afternoon in Jane’s front room and were becoming progressively immersed. Jane winding a lock of blonde hair round her index finger as she became Rosalind, my voice sinking lower as Orlando took over my burdens.

Jane had just uttered, “There is a man haunts the forest…” and completed it with “… he seems to have the quotidian of love upon him”.

And I, Orlando, had confessed: “I am he that is so love-shaked. I pray you, tell me your remedy.”

As if under the baton of an invisible conductor we halted. Jane’s grey eyes were wide. “She’s so… powerful, isn’t she?”

That was my view. Powerful Rosalind had been my imaginary girlfriend ever since first term at secondary school. My only girlfriend to tell the truth. I nodded.

Jane waved pale unguided fingers. “Time for a coffee break?”

As usual I umm-ed and ah-ed and Jane took that as a no. The Oxford University Press paperback, bought new for this production, started to slide off my knee and I grabbed at it. The source of all my comfort.

Jane put her copy of the book carefully on a side table. “It seems so wilful of Orlando. Carving messages in tree trunks, pinning up more messages. Disturbing nature. Yet what could be more passionate?”

“Well, he is a bit of a prat at times.”

“Oh, don’t say that.”

“Why not? Life has made me an expert on prats.”

Jane smiled, her grey eyes now yonderly. “Well he’s a nice prat.”

The silence was awkward. Who was Jane talking about? Was I still Orlando? More loudly than I intended I opted for detour, “What about the play’s footnotes? They’re astonishing.”

Jane laughed. “The play’s language is so filthy. If it wasn’t Elizabethan it would be banned. But then love does have its dirty side.”

“Yeah, but R and O are only on the brink. Later yes, but aren’t the sweaty bits taboo at this stage?”

Jane looked at the ceiling. “Not in present-day movies.”

“So they’re modern lovers. I can see that with Rosalind, she’s streets ahead of everyone in the play. But Orlando’s of his time.”

“Methinks he reads too much,” she said mischievously. Were we moving away from As You Like It? Were Shakespeare’s most well-developed lovers being ushered out of the door? Leaving just the two of us, pre-Millennials dabbling with literature and now coming up for air. Polluted air? No, not that damn modern. Romantics may still disapprove of CO2 emissions.

“Both of us certainly read too much,” I said, without thinking. “It’s why we joined an ADS that does classics. That will never revive Rattigan.”

She pointed. “You’re the bossy one. You forced me to read Houllebecq.”

Me, bossy? But wasn’t this Rosalind speaking?  Jane went on. “And Pynchon, for God’s sake. Those early ones were a real pain. Come on, be honest.”

I stammered. “Just a minute, you’re still Rosalind. Take-charge Rosalind still in male drag."

“What woman would willingly give up Rosalind? It’s a terrific role. But why should that worry you?”

It seemed I was never far away from supercharged hormonal adolescence. In particular that witty, irresistible fictional woman who bent her lover to her needs. How I had wanted to be bent in just that way. Unloved then and now.

And Jane, a newly burnished Rosalind, might well do the bending. Married, if unsatisfactorily, to a man who would be back from rugby after the pubs closed and who thought Shakespeare was a brand of beer. At my age I shouldn’t need her but adolescence can last and last.

“Rosalind is a sort of mantra,” I said, hating New Age cant.

“And how does that mantra serve you? Not that I know what mantras do.”

I was of course being bent, if not clinically in the way I’d wanted. Jane had status as befitted a department head in bio-research. Given my acute lack of status I often found it hard to imagine I wasn’t being patronised. Would have been for certain had it not been for the play. God knows what bio-research entails but pragmatism seems likely. Whatever my personal murk Jane had recognised I took acting seriously and that she could profit from this.

It had been fun to rehearse with Jane and I was even beginning to detect her other dimensions. If asked I’d have called her slender although “bony” would have been truer. Superfine blonde hair lay limp as satin over her scalp. Her face, her hands and all other visible areas of skin were milk-white if not colourless. Like an invalid still recovering from a debilitating ailment. And yet, she was utterly feminine with an almost professional enthusiasm for the stage. No one else had contested her casting as Rosalind.

Mantra? Why that airy-fairy catchall? “A reference point for all that’s best in womanhood. What the hell.”

“Why go for a symbol? Why not the real thing?”

Now I was being patronised. “Easier said than done.”

“The decaying bachelor,” she said, “one of your stock roles.” She examined me as I had no doubt examined her; obviously decided there was no need to change her mind. Tossed me a dog biscuit. “You do a good Orlando.”

“But isn’t a good Orlando usually a reflection of a good Rosalind?”

She asked, “Who’s to say it’s not the other way round?”

“You were born to do Rosalind. Without masculine aids.”

We did a few more lines but the rhythm of the dialogue had been lost. Jane glanced at her watch. “I need to pick up my wayward husband. He’ll be doing his drinking in a dinner jacket this evening. Needs to come home to change.” She paused. “Dress rehearsal next weekend. Are we sharp enough?”

“I’m not sure I’m ever sharp enough. But if we rehearsed during the week that would mean in the evenings. It’s asking a lot of your husband being in the same house. Given he’s not theatrical.”

“You can say that again. How about your place?”

I tried to be happy about this. “Fine. My furniture’s a bit sub-par.”

But she’d expect that, surely.

It didn’t work. Mine’s a single-bedroom flat and we were, no doubt, overheard by neighbours. In any case my mind was on other things. Regretting my preference for photographs over paintings. Conscious my bookshelves accommodated neither Houllebecq nor Pynchon. Also the coffee was instant.

As I bid Jane goodnight I said, “Let’s not repeat this. We may end up losing whatever we’ve learned.”

She tried to be kind. “I hadn’t realised what a luxury two couches are.” Even pecked me high on the cheek. A handshake, however inappropriate, would have been marginally more carnal.

AS NEXT Saturday’s dress rehearsal drew near my confidence – never strong during the final days – drained away. My cohorts in council recycling are not exactly anti-theatre or even anti-Shakespeare, the problem lies in identifying what they do favour. Our office is horribly cramped and reading aloud would have been a no-no. I mumbled my lines on the bus to work, sitting on the office toilet, on a park bench, sandwich in hand, striving not to appear as if I had learning difficulties. The week dragged on, bringing other thespian concerns.

Acting requires as much energy as digging graves and stoking up is vital. Dress rehearsal would endure throughout Saturday afternoon and into the late evening; for lunch I tried stuffing myself but baulked halfway through the second banana. As protection I loaded my pockets with chocolate ‘n’ toffee bars, hoping to get them down before their hellish sweetness forced them back up again.

But unexpected joy awaited. Our costumes had been farmed out to local seamstresses willing to work for farthings and my hopes were not high. From my experience of As You Like It Orlando always appears over-dressed for the Forest of Arden: flares and furbelows, slashes and stitches, sometimes – unforgivably – in velvet.

This time, however, my so-called masculinity would be enhanced. My torso responded well to a generous white linen shirt open to the belly-button and with billowing sleeves neatly cuffed. My legs were thrust into raunchily tight trousers fashioned in something like brown sailcloth and held up by a belt sumptuous enough to have secured two oxen. An exact re-creation - for those belonging to my age group - of Erroll Flynn starring in Captain Blood.

Confident and unself-conscious among other male cast members I strode the changing room, declaiming:

Is’t possible that on so little acquaintance you should like her? That but seeing, you should love her? And loving, woo? And wooing, she should grant? And will you persevere to enjoy her?

Alex, a solicitor, who’d expected to play Orlando by right and who’d been reduced to Duke Senior, snarled at me to keep my lines to myself. Like many on the lower rungs of the social ladder, I’d always feared solicitors and was surprised Alex hadn’t used his mysterious powers to inveigle himself into Orlando. I bowed (subconsciously) and escaped into the car-park where I was not the only auto-rehearser. I even felt sharp. Ready for anything the Bard might throw at me. But today it wasn’t the Bard that was dispensing favours.

The dress rehearsal started haphazardly and I took time to get into my stride. Yes, I had my first sight of “heavenly Rosalind” but what with the wrestling match and being banned from court I had much to do, not least animating those tedious lines – often one of Shakespeare’s first-act penances – which summarised past events. Rosalind even handed me a chain from her neck, but what was she wearing? Something flowery in cretonne? But isn’t cretonne used to upholster soft furniture? I have no idea. Nor should it have mattered.

The plot allowed me twenty minutes off stage and I returned more relaxed and well prepared for the Forest of Arden, that ancient playground of the imagination. And yet it still exists! On the motorway which encircles Birmingham I had once seen a sign, Henley in Arden, and was astonished. Wouldn’t that road end in fictional mist?

In Arden – Doesn’t the very name hint at ardour? – I encounter Ganymede, a chap wearing a chap’s clothing, which isn’t so surprising. Except that he is a she and that she is Rosalind. For whom I have proclaimed my love by pinning notices to Arden’s trees. It sounds corny but when it works it really works. Just ask the great actresses who have reinforced that truth. Redgrave to Mirren with all stops in between.

I am not to know Ganymede is Rosalind and so begins a fabulous fandango on gender and the farcical side-effects of being in love. I am part of this, very much so, and relaxed enough to notice Ganymede’s garments:

A Rhine barge-captain’s cap, well slanted. Pedal-pusher trousers. And a thick tweed waistcoat. All perfectly chosen.

Definitely a man.

Meanwhile I need to concentrate on my feisty dialogue while Rosalind/Ganymede scores on points and lands many a straight left. I plead the strength of my love but am left behind by material like this:

Rosalind: Love is merely a madness, and I tell you deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do; and the reason they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.

Yes, I play second fiddle, but let’s get one thing straight. Acting compensates for all my inadequacies: the recycling department, the shabby flat and mixed feelings about celibacy. I take acting seriously because it frees me from an unrewarding world. I do what needs to be done quite willingly even when I’m thrust into the shadows. Rosalind demands a straight man to bounce her opinions off and I provide it. Conscientiously, because, as you must know, it’s harder to put life into straight lines than into punchlines.

Ten minutes in I start to feel oddly distracted but attribute this to the plot and its complexities. I mean… Rosalind promises to cure Orlando’s love-sickness. All he needs to do is pretend that this nominal fella Orlando’s just met – that’s Ganymede - is not a fella but a woman. Not just any woman of course! Guess who? You’re right: ten out of ten. Orlando has to pretend that Rosalind who is Ganymede is – fictitiously – Rosalind!

It’s easier to watch than to read so let’s be crystal clear. Orlando admits publicly he loves Rosalind. Rosalind dresses as a chap, Ganymede, and waylays unknowing Orlando, tells him love’s a sickness and she can cure him. Imagine, she says, that I am not Ganymede but Rosalind; now – and here’s the killer punch - seduce me! Which Orlando tries to do.

Since this is WS comedy you can guess how it all turns out, with lots of double and triple meanings along the way. If the chemistry’s right it’s good fun to play. All Orlando needs to do is act the simpleton. Simple. But it seemed that theatrical chemistry was now at war with an older, more familiar bio-chemistry.

Take that bargeman’s cap. When former German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, wore one – which he often did as part of his political image – he looked tough, competent and echt German. Ganymede, only a couple of feet away and taunting the hell out of me, looked saucy. Question: Are chaps saucy?

These days trouser are unisex. Pedal-pushers are a form of trousers, except they terminate just below the knee. It’s a well-known fact that women’s legs are nicer to look at than men’s. As our play was confirming.

As to the tweed waistcoat it was tight enough to have worked as a strait-jacket. Certainly it ensured Ganymede had a tubular body that typifies a man. But within Ganymede was Rosalind and within her was Jane. And Jane had breasts. Suppressing them enlarged their memory instead of eliminating it.

Hey, drama is deception. Cross-dressing role-play is rife in Shakespeare and realistic clothing is only one of the options. Our ADS dressing specialist (who runs a menswear shop) had done well. Perhaps too well. First glance, he had transformed a woman into a man. But I, alas, had become rather more conscious of what lay behind the deception. Hiding a thing is one way of drawing attention to it. Covering up sex can create arousal.

I liked Jane but rehearsing the play in her front room had left little time for anything else. Mainly I was obsessed with my lines; forgetfulness hung over me like a black cloud. If Jane managed twenty lines without a glitch I, moodily, resented that. For me the play was God as, I suspect, it was for her.

But during our ordinary rehearsals Jane’s gender was never in question. She was undeniably and unexceptionally a woman, tucked up on the couch – in the way women contrive – and smoothing her skirt over her knees. Now, as I confronted the director, reeling off my lines – without “dries” too; I should, dear God, have been more content – my thoughts strayed. How blatant the captain’s cap? How cruelly restrictive the waistcoat? What on earth was I after? Why was I asking myself rhetorical questions?

While in the real world, paradoxically set upon a village hall stage, Rosalind was adding to my plight:

Rosalind: I had as lief be wooed by a snail… he brings his own destiny with him.
Orlando: What’s that?
Rosalind: Why horns, which such as you are fain to be beholden to your wives for.

Did my own horn twitch at that? Might its contours, God forbid, even be visible? The presence of this hidden woman wasn’t doing me any good at all. Oh bring on the conclusion, the over-wrought wedding beneath the cardboard trees, the insincerities. Mr Director, proclaim the end.

I WAS FIRST into the changing room, first out of my costume, and through the side-door to the car park. Why, I know not, but Jane was there before me: “I’m starving, buy me fish-and-chips.” Her voice was neutral, even dead.

No, no more. An end to torment. Years of sexual inactivity had left me incompetent; and no, it wasn’t like riding a bike. I needed to be alone. I needed the simplicity of my dusty flat. If I’d been at ease with myself I’d have come up with an excuse. But the phrase “fish-and-chips” played havoc with my gastric juices and filled my mouth with saliva. I could only gurgle.

Jane, by the way, was wearing a hooded three-quarter length coat in navy-blue wool blend which I knew had come from Country Casuals. The washable silk shirt in a daring variant of khaki suggested Jaeger and a price tag well north of a ton. Neither garment was suitable for hiding assets.

Top Plaice offered vintage cider and we sipped mutely. “You were a terrific Rosalind,” I said, my imagination now matching my sex drive.

“Was I?”

“Why do you sound so… flat?”

“Oh, I got the words out. Didn’t trip over that stupid log. But there were other problems. Unexpected problems.”

“That’s why we have dress rehearsals”

Jane nodded. “I’ve done enough of them. But never reflected on the phrase itself. We check out so many other things.”

“Other than what”

She waved listlessly. “You know.”

I didn’t care to be the one who identified the subject. “No I don’t.”

I expected this to irritate her but her voice was wan. “Our dress… our costumes.”

Oh God.

She said, “Let’s forget it. It is sort of personal.”

Oh God.

When the food arrived Jane, who had claimed to be starving, picked at the odd chip, ignoring the battered cod. I found myself eating to justify ordering the meal. The silence was oppressive. I’m not by instinct charitable but the situation demanded some kind of gesture. I was astonished my on-stage embarrassment had been detectable but, in any case, was it that big a sin? The answer was surely to joke my way out of it.

I cleared my throat. “As to the costumes - ”

Jane interrupted. “After all it was hardly your fault.”

So it was a sin!

Quick, something joky. “We could say it was Adam’s fault if anyone’s.”

But she hadn’t heard me. Preferring more silence.

By now the cod was hard going and the meal was grinding to a halt: we were reduced to prodding with our forks. I wasn’t going to try another joke but I had to say something.

“Where did you park, I could drive you there.” The Englishman’s conversational standby – the car, the short suburban journey.

“I came by taxi.”

So I must drive her home in this state of suspended animation. Would the evening never end?

But speaking had freed Jane’s vocal cords. Something had stiffened within; she was going ahead with whatever she’d planned. I sat there, cringing.

Looking down at the table she said, “I mean you always turned up in a suit even though we rehearsed on Saturdays. Rather comical, a suit on Saturday.” A long, long pause. “I just wasn’t prepared for those shockingly tight pants, the neck open all the way down to…”

Now she stared, transfixed, as well she might.

I’d hacked my cold cod in two and forked the larger half into my mouth. Flakes of batter dropped like snowflakes on to the table as I spoke. Indistinctly. Cod-stuffed.

“You know, clothes can really screw you.”

Sunday 9 February 2020

Saintliness and scribes

Sabine says St Brigid is the patron saint of children born out of wedlock, blacksmiths, boatmen, brewers, fugitives, and travellers. And much more. I'd say she was overworked.

On the ladder of social acceptability journalists (I'm retired now but one never sheds the taint) are just below estate agents – US: realtors - and just above whorehouse managers. Surely journalists don't merit a patron saint. But they've got one. He's called St Francis de Sales.

The French surname's good but from then on it's downhill. His book, Introduction to the Devout Life, includes chapters on “All evil inclinations must be purged away”, “Dryness and spiritual barrenness”, etc. You get the idea. Preparation for a devout life has a promising theme (Picture to yourself a dark city, reeking with the flames of sulphur and brimstone, inhabited by citizens who cannot get forth) but it sort of peters out.

My substitute saint would also have a French surname, St Malheureux (Go on, you could guess it). He'd also patronise The Way to Hell which, as you know, is paved with good intentions. Preaching good grammatical practice but to obsessive lengths. Insisting on the unsplit infinitive even when it debauches a sentence. Being fussy about the circumflex. Still fighting the lost cause of medium/media. A bloody nuisance in fact.

His favourite novel would be Henry James’  The Awkward Age. His favourite movie L’Année Dernière à Marienbad (never mentioned in translation). His favourite holiday destination Canberra. His favourite politician (Fill it in yourself). His book of instruction, Hack in Excelsis, would have more footnotes than text.

Drink with him and you’d pick up the tab. Discuss the Six Nations and he’d switch to archery. His children would all go to English public (ie, private) schools. Worst of all he’d wear a foulard

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Tired words tire readers

Sentimentality and its close ally, nostalgia, are weaknesses of expression. The route to good working prose is via detachment. This doesn’t mean eschewing emotion, it means treating it sparingly. The analogy is tomato ketchup; over-use can discourage you from even touching a blood-boltered* hamburger, never mind eating it.

We may be moved by what we see or hear. The mistake is to concentrate on what’s churning inside us rather than the thing itself; in effect saying we are more important than that which moves us. Betraying that thing and putting ourselves at risk. For the expressions of emotion are full of over-worn words and concepts which have lost their ability to make a point.

Someone, perhaps talking about the Australian fires, said, “It’s impossible to describe.” Quite true. Then, sadly, went on to try, with predictable results.

I worry about “sentimental” (Appealing to, or resulting from, feeling rather than reason; having an excess of superficial sentiment.) Thomas Allen, singing Silent Witness, caused my throat to constrict. I got over this by singing SW myself.  Certainly, that physical reaction occurred but it was transient. The song endures but in a modified form, appealing to others in different ways.

Scenery is regularly corrupted by those viewing it. And these are people paid to communicate, often academics giving “tone” to a TV programme. One giveaway is the fallback “incredible” – primary definition: too extraordinary and improbable to be believed. It has milder secondary meanings but they merely confuse matters. Why not pause and look again. If you distrust your eyes and the readily available vocabulary dig up the 1972 TV series on art, Ways of Seeing, by John Berger (see  pic). It hasn’t dated.

I’m shouting down a well. I’m told it’s therapeutic.

*WS quote

Monday 3 February 2020

Blushing violets need not apply

I’m not one for old things. Notably cars, houses (especially with “character”), cast-iron bedsteads and cooking pans, bone-handled table knives, wooden ladders, AGAs and/or open fires, trilbies and unsmart TVs.

I’ll make exceptions for certain paintings, Bordeaux wines, flagstones, trees (but on other people’s properties), most Ealing comedies and Lloyd Loom furniture.

Which brings us to doorbells. I’ve tried, oh how I’ve tried. Spent scads of money. Embraced modern technology. But I’m on the verge of acquiring a brass wind-up activated by a button which pushes a rod which releases the spring.

Straight off, let’s not talk batteries. Not the tiny sort which help transmit wi-fi signals from the outdoor pushbutton to a receiver/loudspeaker which plugs into the hall ring-main. Nor those bulbous ones which need meters of wire and eventually discharge a white powder which must be toxic.

VR and I are both going deaf. We need a system that is loud and stays loud. What we don’t want is some electronic wonder that secretly defaults to the lowest volume when no one’s looking. Apart from anything else, what’s the point in having a quiet doorbell? Or one where the button is vulnerable to the elements.

We both buy things online. Hereford is not a shopper’s paradise, other than for sausages. We are regularly on tippy-toes for white-van man who frequently requires added guidance. Hence the pic.

If white-van man rings the doorbell and it merely whispers he’s apt to get inventive. Of course they’ll find the package attached to the top branch of the prunus. Or in the garbage bin. We’d prefer to take it from his hands over the threshold. Our doorbell must be extrovert, prepared to bellow out its business.

The wind-up I’m considering is Made In Britain. Is that an advantage?