● 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 31 October 2020

The other US: Even the quahogs were friendly

Before moving to the USA in 1965 I lived in a flat 5.7 miles from Trafalgar Square in the centre of London. You could fairly say I was Londoner. I knew none of my neighbours and they didn't know me. Had I died, my body would have mouldered for days, weeks possibly.

It sounds like deprivation but Londoners wouldn't have it any other way. You live in London you look after yourself. On the underground you read to discourage casual conversation. You hurry for the same reason. Deluded or not, you see yourself as part of an elite.

In Pennsylvania my neighbours cared. My friends at work cared even more. A holiday loomed. My best friend said his parents always spent this holiday with a family who had a beach cabin on Misquamicut Beach, Rhode Island (see pic); why didn't I join them? A round trip of several hundred miles.

I hunted for clams, called quahogging. A relaxing hunt where movement is almost imperceptible. One wriggles one's toes in soft wet sand until they detect something hard. It's a clam; drop it in the bucket. Do that again one-hundred-and-forty-nine times.

Back at the cabin, men opened the clams, dabbed ketchup and laid them out on trays the size of car bonnets (US: hoods). Elsewhere several stones of meat (US: a British stone is 14 lb) were being barbecued. One served oneself beer, comforted in the knowledge that it would never run out. Later, on the beach, we tossed a football (a smaller version of a rugby ball) and discussed the Celtics.

Look, I know hospitality occurs in the UK but it’s more formal. The cabin-owning family at Misquamicut had never seen me before. All they needed was my abbreviated first name (“Hi, Rod.”) and confirmation I was at my ease. Ahhh.

Friday 30 October 2020

The other US: The presidents and me

Now reduced to my car number plate

I arrived in the USA on December 30, 1965 and left in mid-April 1972.

These six years bestrode a tumultuous period for the US, heavily influenced by the Vietnam War. Now, I feel slightly sorry for LBJ who might, had there been no war, have introduced telling welfare legislation. But he only served one elected term and chose not to run again,

For my current car I had a choice of plate numbers, one including the sequence LBJ. Out of (no doubt) misguided sentiment that’s what I chose. I’ve pointed out these three letters to a number of Brits and, alas, none has recognised them.

When LBJ departed Tricky Dick took his place. Thus I watched Watergate (June 17, 1972) unfold from afar.

My personal experiences of US politics were brief and comical:

Phone rings 1. I am asked if I care to support the Republican candidate for whatever.

RR: I fear I can’t do that, I’m not enfranchised.

Her: Wuzzat?

RR: (Always the smartyboots, loving long words) Enfranchised.

Her: Is that… like being…. a Democrat?

Phone rings 2. Same question. Different, more sympathetic voice.

RR: I’m sorry, I don’t have the vote.

Her: Why’s that? You pay your taxes don’t you?

RR: Yes, local and federal.

Her: I’m gonna look into this. You should have the vote.

RR: You don’t understand. I’m an alien.

Her: (Genuinely distressed) Oh no! I’m sure you can’t be that bad.

Both times my English accent went unnoticed. I must say most Americans have a tin ear for accents. Queueing for lunch, my friend said to the check-out girl: “Hey, this guy (ie, me) is just in from foreign parts. See if you can guess.” I say something. She: “Albanian?”

Thursday 29 October 2020

The other US: Listening for the heartbeat

A faithful commenter, robin andrea, asks about my favourites place in the US. The question is complex; often people matter more than scenery.

DORMONT A leafy Pittsburgh suburb (see pic). Beatlemania was fading but neighbourhood kids saw me as a Fab Four John-the-Baptist. I bought a glove and we played make-up baseball. When VR was giving birth to our second daughter a mother from an adjacent apartment taught me how to use the washing machine. The landlord gave me a bottle of bourbon at Christmas.

WATCH HILL, RHODE ISLAND Tranquil good taste. An overwhelming sense of privilege at the tiny under-populated harbour. The rich don’t cluster so I was left alone with my thoughts. Instead, the place spoke to me.

SAN FRANCISCO Everything was slightly better than the clichés said it would be. The waiter at the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant contrived to suggest this wasn’t a tourist destination. The Golden Gate Bridge toll system was typical: you paid to get into SF, not to leave.

DRIVING THROUGH THE WEST VIRGINIA PANHANDLE Luckily I had not yet seen the movie, Deliverance. Otherwise I might have stayed away. The residents eyed us from their stoops – a sort of silent dialogue which I didn’t care to interpret, But beauty abounded.

BOSTON Seemingly detached from the rest of the USA, and feeling ineffably superior. In one of its swankier restaurants, a diner said my face reminded him of someone. I said I had been likened physically to William F. Buckley, the right-wing columnist. The diner said this comparison should never have been uttered.

MOIKE’S BAR, MOUNT OLIVER, PITTSBURGH A strange meritocracy: speak briefly or not at all. I felt I needed a chaperone and only went there with a friend. Cheap beer; hot sausage sandwich impossible to eat tidily.

Boo Orange Man! You know not your own land.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

The other US: "Tears run down my little cheeks"*

It’s impossible not to write about the USA just now. Europeans must forgive me.

In 1965, poverty-stricken in London, a daughter just arrived, my career (That ironic word!) still fledgling if not egg-bound, I decided I’d like to live/work in the USA. VR supported me even though – for family reasons - it would be far more of a wrench for her. Getting there lasted a year. Eventually I convinced the US Embassy I would not live on the earnings of a prostitute. I flew out just after Christmas, stopping for an hour in Reykjavik. Which is in Iceland.

Many Brits envied me but for the wrong reasons. They thought I was going for the money. I wasn’t. Just as well since I lost money on the six-year stay.

Why did I go? Well, I was, and am, a wordsmith and my working vocabulary expanded enormously. Words I roll round my tongue even now. One job I applied for (Glad I didn’t get it.) was in Duluth. Just say it, it ain’t the Home Counties, Pavements became sidewalks. I watched the Pirates play the Cardinals. I yearned for the Grand Tetons even if I never got there.

I went for spoken wit. Novels suggested that ordinary working stiffs in the US spoke a terse language that appealed to me. Not all did, of course, but some were word perfect.

For central heating. I’d have died without it.

For friendliness (noticeably lacking in London). The idea sounded like tourist office fluff but it happened within one hour of my arrival.

For space. In my apartment (which wasn’t a flat) and all the way west to San Francisco, where I subsequently worked for a week.

Orange Man has poisoned these memories. I want them back.

More follows.

* Daughter PP (Professional Phlebotomist), aged 3.

Friday 23 October 2020

Toying with names

Destinations have names and names are unreliable. They may be unjustifiably fascinating in themselves, misleading or evocative of fantasy. I refuse to explore their roots; imagination beats reality every time.

Yorkshire. Muker is a village where people are constantly vomiting. In Giggleswick, nothing is taken seriously. Cakes in Pontefract turn out to be flexible discs of liquorice.

I lived in London because of the names. Who was Arno of Arnos Grove and where did his apostrophe go? Osterley is out west not east as one might expect. Theydon Bois may have been transplanted from Clichy, a Paris suburb. Is Pinner a low-paid job? It would be amusing if Upney turned out to be marshy.

Further afield now. I stayed the night in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, worrying about knife-toting hidalgos. Dirty jokes ran through my mind when I landed at Bangkok. Comfortably off I avoided Poverty Bay, was certified in Doubtful Sound, disappointed by Ninety-Mile Beach (all NZ). 

The USA provided a rich harvest. The Monongahela and Allegheny rivers meet in Pittsburgh not to form the Ohio river but a bel canto opera in Welsh or Italian. New Yorkers reduce the grandiosely titled Avenue of the Americas to Sixth Avenue. Parts of Mystic (Conn) are straightforwardly beautiful. In my hotel on El Camino Real (SF), I took off my crown and slept well (Courtesy, WS). A railway runs through Statesboro (Ga) to provide a wrong side of the tracks. Kennedy Airport used to be Idlewild; any reason why Heathrow shouldn’t be Grant Shapps Field? Intercourse (Pa) is, I believe, in Amish country; the Amish are devout and eschew zipped flies; some dysfunction here.

That celestial beauty, the Moon, incorporates the clumsily named Mare Humboldtianum. Astronomers needn’t read music but must not have tin ears.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Horror of horrors

As if a pure white
fountain, or an
egret's feather
sprouted from 
his head

Should one confront nightmares or just roll over in bed?

Trump may win!

Aarrgh! Nausea as reflux. And yes, my dear, that was the last sheet of toilet paper. But what’s your view of hell?

LYING. We all do it, sometimes claiming the lie is “white”. But not casually. With blatant self-interest. To the accompaniment of imaginary trumpets. Facing irrefutable facts, Contradicting an assertion made in the previous sentence. Through cherubically pursed lips. With hand gestures that suggest a nose-picker in private.

LADDISHNESS IN AN ADULT. Something he should have grown out of. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink about sexual matters. Disregarding society’s discrimination against women, blacks, gays, the poor, the dead. Contempt for the law, worthwhile tradition and quietude.

STUNTED VOCABULARY. Whingeing about being asked “nasty” questions, Being unspecific; unaware that “bad” tells us nothing. And a touching if somewhat imperfect understanding of the superlative form of the adjective: “We gonna have the greatest (Economy, Trade War, Pandemic – fill in your preference) the world has ever seen.”

IMPOLITENESS. Sounds like a minor defect, doesn’t it? Yet he behaves like a man who bumps through social gatherings with his belly. Interrupting others to obscure the dialogue. Remember how he hovered over poor Hilary in the debates, like a swarm of wasps. How small, inoffensive islands – in the Caribbean, was it? – were described as “shitty”. Not that it matters to him but he has another type of image problem outside the USA.

DODGINESS. Denying the US Post Office the cash to process postal votes. Making a crony head of the USPO. The small matter of tax-paying obligations. Self-confessed groping. Continuous firing as an expression of amateur management. Attempting to push Mar-el-Lago as a venue for the G7 meeting – and charge for it. Time spent playing golf. Russia, ah yes, Russia – what dark tales yet to be told?

Friday 16 October 2020

An Age Away

The Ever-Rolling Stream

Short story

The newly styled perm cost twenty pounds more than normal and Harper must have noticed her reaction. Harper whined, “You did say tighter curls; it was like starting from scratch.”

The tip increased the total proportionately and she was left with one lonely ten-pound note. Although she’d watched the re-styling throughout, she took a further hurried glance in the mirror, checking whether it represented value for money. Her face certainly looked sharp, her cheeks tauter.

Harper held out her beige coat, apparently unconcerned about the cost of her labour.

- She must think I’m paid the same rate as the clients who arrive in cars; that I’m some kind of manager.

Two buses sailed past full and her mother was impatiently waiting lunch. “You should have gone to Maisie, it would have been less than half,” Maisie had done her mother’s hair for nearly fifty years; now retired she worked part-time from a barely modified front room.

“It is nicer though, don’t you think?”

“I suppose so.” The tone was grudging and thus close to high praise.

It was Saturday and Wimbledon quarter finals were on television. Her mother would have been offended if she’d played music in her bedroom and so they watched the tennis together. Waiting for the second shoe to drop.

It dropped when the French player her mother favoured was beaten in straight sets. Her mother sighed, got up, made afternoon tea and laid out digestives. “I suppose you’ll be going to the music with your friend,” she said, as she had once a day during the preceding week.

“It’s the Tákacs,” she replied mechanically. “They won’t be back for two years.”

“You’ve already seen them twice this month.”

“They’re playing all the lates.”

“Huh. He likes them too, I take it?”

She nodded. Her mother sighed then added, “Eh, Izzy.”

The hated abbreviation. She got up abruptly, “I think I’ll walk in part of the way. Good exercise.”

“In your high heels! You’ll cripple yourself.”

Only three-centimetres as her mother well knew.

The sense of release made itself felt as she put on make-up. “Di-dah, di-dah,” she whispered, grasping at the opening bars of the Grosse Fuge, anticipating the tension and the sheer volume of sound the four instruments would generate. That tender yet exciting world.

Through Dalston Market and its flurries of human activity, going south. “Muss es sein? Es muss sein,” she sang gleefully to herself. Only three miles to go; she’d walk all the way and have forty minutes to spare. Kill time reading Constant Lambert’s Music Ho, watching the Thames slide past every now and then.

They were to rendezvous in the booking hall but he’d spotted her on a bench near the river and sat beside her without a by your leave. “Isobel!” he proclaimed, “You’ve read that tired paperback twice to my knowledge.”

She smiled happily. “I bought Shaw’s Wagner as you recommended. But it’s too heavy to carry all the way from mother’s. You look healthy. I on the other hand have just been watching Wimbledon.”

“I played two friendlies on Romney Marshes during the week.”

She put Constant Lambert into her handbag. “I wonder if I were twenty years younger whether I’d be tempted by football. Women do, don’t they? Even Rugby. Things were so traditional in my youth. Tennis in summer, hockey in winter. I hated the hard ball.”

“But you swim regularly.”

“Doctor’s orders. Keeps arthritis at bay. Whoops, I promised to avoid nattering on about age. Have we time for a glass of wine before we go in? My treat.”

He looked at her in a slightly odd way; instinctively she recognised this had to do with his sensitivity about her low wages with the Council. He earned twice as much at an analytical lab in Southwark. “Let’s wait til the interval and see how we feel.”

They walked slowly through the loosely distributed gathering and she was amused at the way girls of his age maintained their glance on him. Amused too by his irritation at this. As they took their seats in the main auditorium he sat up with a jerk. “Just remembered, there’s this.” He held out a ticket for a Wigmore Hall piano recital. “A chap at work said he was interested and I bought two. Now he tells me he’s leaving the company.” Involuntarily she reached for her handbag but he shook his head. “It’s free. He…er paid me for it.”

She stared at his bright blue eyes, usually so frank. Twice he blinked and she knew this wasn’t true. That it was a gift. “I seem to be lucky with your free tickets,” she said. They’d first met under a similar premise at the main entrance when he’d played the benevolent tout, dangling what he described as an unwanted ticket which she could have for half-price. Almost immediately adding, “Free, if you’re a real enthusiast.” The concert was a sell-out for that year’s favourite tenor and she’d been vainly searching for returns. They’d babbled non-stop into the evening when she learned he was a moderately advanced violinist, had a Festival Hall membership and could get pairs of discounted tickets. A year of friendship cemented by over fifty concerts.

Now, it seemed, he wasn’t inclined to discuss these coincidences and pointedly looked away. A tiny awkwardness soon blown away as both of them were reduced to silence by the Tákacs’ re-creation of Opus 127. An extended silence in which they remained at their seats during the interval pondering together but alone with their thoughts. The offer of wine forgotten. It had happened before and there was no embarrassment in it.

But if Opus 127 had been magisterial the Grosse Fuge’s depth clawed at Isobel’s emotions. Sending her back into her own fragmented history when music had opened up to her through the piano lessons her mother had briefly been able to afford, then stumbled on through the decades as she took whatever musical opportunities presented themselves. A force that bypassed life’s disappointments and gilded her few achievements, that prepared her for what she jokingly referred to as becoming an Old Maid. Alone but sustained.

And into the sweetness of the fourth movement when she ceased be alone and a shoulder pressed against hers, a first physical contact.

The Tákacs were stamped deliriously off the stage. Unspeaking she allowed herself to be guided out of the auditorium to the bar and handed a glass of merlot. Sipping occasionally, considering the structure she had built to protect herself and wondering at its future strength.

“Where have you gone?” he asked. A lost voice, worried by the transformation.

“I’m older than you,” she said, as if this might explain everything for ever.

“I know,” he said.

“The three of us are friends.”


“You, me and the sounds the Tákacs made.”


“Just friends.”

He frowned and she recognised disagreement. “A wonderful year and there might have been another. But perhaps not, now. I have a theory that as time passes the difference in age matters more. That we may delay this as friends but not if we become more than friends.”

His eyes were blank as shillings.

She said, “But… but… being touched was… it added to the music. And I may die from it.”

He pushed his chair back. “Let’s stand by the river.”

The Thames eased its way down towards Gravesend like the body of a python. His straw-like hair hung in front of his eyes and she wanted to brush it aside so that he might see more clearly. But he seemed unaware and said, “I need to be like you.”

She smiled wryly. “Older?”

“Having made use of time. Calmer. In charge of myself. Music helps.”

“It should happen naturally.”

His blue eyes shone with tears. “I’m not at all sure. My parents divorced, unpleasantly. I was the ping-pong ball. These days divorce is supposed to be routine for kids. But not for me. Perhaps I was cossetted too much.”

And she realised there’d been signs of the wound, his body curling inwards.

He said, “That fourth movement of the fugue was an opening to somewhere new. It seemed as if you’d already been there. Were there. I leant against you.”

Neither said anything for two, perhaps three minutes. An eternity. His voice was low, almost inaudible. “Did I invade you? If so was I first to cross that frontier?”

“I’ve worked hard to be separate. Physically separate.”

“Today your hair had changed. Closer, almost sculpted. Staying separate, are you entitled to tinker with your looks? Your beauty?”

She wanted to protest but she also needed to be honest. “It may take time.”

“That’s all right. Time is our raw material.”

Thursday 15 October 2020

Wanna end it? Either way

Here’s the prologue to a story about the possibility of love, stripped bare, its resolution not the issue.

A 46-year-old single woman and a 23-year-old man have a social relationship: they attend classical music events together. That’s it. How this occurred is not explained. The age difference is never referred to and seems unremarkable.

But the woman feels age will become a factor and end their friendship. And that this can be held at bay provided there is no hint of physical attraction. On her own behalf she decides to suppress this happening. Optimistically, you may say.

They have attended a concert consisting of Beethoven late quartets, music of great intensity. The performance – by the Takacs – has been profound and both are moved. Reflecting on what she has heard the woman realises her friend’s presence has enhanced the experience.

He questions her self-absorption and she explains, partially. Unable to utter “physical attraction” she reluctantly opts for “fallen in love”. His face remains emotionless and he asks her to elaborate.

She says she spent time and money in the hair salon this morning. She’d done this before other concerts and never thought twice. However, this time she’d examined herself in the salon mirror and the music reminded her (“rather smugly, I must confess”) she’d thought her appearance would surely meet his approval.

“So love demands approval?” he says.

“It was a step in the wrong direction,” she says firmly.

As I say, this is just a précis. The full account of this bit would swell from 300 words to 1500 words, at least, and the characters would, I hope, take on life. And yes, I have an ending in mind. But does this situation deserve an ending?

Monday 12 October 2020

Personal no-nos

Things I do that I shouldn’t

● An irresistible addiction to Bloody Mary cocktails. Telling myself (fallaciously) the tomato juice is a health drink.

● Hum while engaged behind closed doors in certain intimate functions; tunes I’m having difficulty with. The link may hinge on the concept of purging but the jury’s still out on this.

● Delay having haircuts under the belief that long hair makes me poetic.

● Delay washing hair until the central area turns yellow-ish.

● Re-read paperbacks by Robert B. Parker. Perhaps because they’re set in Boston, Mass. Told sententiously in first person by private eye Spenser (spelt as British poet), a self-serving superman. Pretentious beefcake.

● Avoid books, movies and TV documentaries which I suspect may “improve” me.

● Rarely let a day go by without reminding someone I’ve read Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (but only in English).

● Fail to suppress my tendency to over-use the adjective “rebarbative”.

● Toss my fleece shirts reluctantly into the laundry basket. Justification: dirt is hard to detect on fleece material.

● Wake up and dwell unhealthily on which eventual pathology will effect my quietus. Trawling a selection of ever-present symptoms.

● Continue to hand-write notes, etc, I am subsequently unable to read.

● Continue to ignore BBC radio (Other than BB3 for music) knowing that most radio is pitched at higher levels of intelligence than most TV.

● Refuse to replace gossamer-thin handkerchiefs with those of thicker, more absorbent fabric.

● Not wash the car.

● Grumble about the car’s unwashed state.

● Fail to recognise my inability to sing to the beat of my metronome.

● Avert my eyes from my uncleaned nails.

Saturday 10 October 2020

New light on the lounge

Woke up in the dark, mouth like a hay-barn. The result of drinking white burgundy too close to bedtime. Went downstairs and swigged chilled fizzy water from the fridge. Returned to bed. An hour later the same sensation and the same solution. I chose to sleep on the couch in the lounge to be nearer the fizzy water.

Woke at dawn with sunlight starting to peer through the fabric of the pull-down blinds in the lounge. A pleasing effect, never previously noticed. Mouth back to normal so I daydreamed.

Twenty years ago we’d just moved in, neither of us with a shred of talent for enhancing our living space. Where colour was an issue we always went for sage green, mainly because it was innocuous.

At the time we’d incidentally come into touch with a fledgling interior decorator service – two young women just starting out. Amazingly they charged peanuts and we gave them their head – well, more or less. It was they who specified the individual pull-down blinds and I for one have never thought to change.

The windows the blinds cover are in a bay recess and for that they specified a heavy wooden rail with permanently tied-back curtains at either side, implying the bay is a very shallow theatre stage. Corny? All I can we couldn’t have done better. They also spec’d the wall lights and the central light fitting to our satisfaction.

It’s taken me a full generation to notice the effect early morning sun has on the blinds and I’d like to compliment them. Alas, we may have been their first and last client since they fell out with each other and retreated into oblivion. Both perhaps rather too pretty.

Old age has made us timid. Doubt we’d ever again hire an interior decorator.

Tuesday 6 October 2020

A little learning... can be quite hard

Yesterday was Monday. At 8.30 am Skype hoodled and V appeared on the computer screen with another singing lesson. I’m well into my fifth year and the telescope is now reversed: once it was broad structures, these days fine detail.

I deliberately upped V’s fee at the beginning of The Plague when her other students were losing their jobs and unable to continue. Subtly she has lengthened my nominal hour, sometimes to ninety minutes. I threatened to up the fee again and we both laughed.

Often we discuss music teaching in general. How discouraging is it for her when a problem arises and – for a time – I am unable to grasp her solution? I’d noticed she often varies her approach several times when this happens. This turned out to be fundamental. If she exhausts all her approaches she tells the student – kindly, I’m sure – she can do no more.

I have a long-standing problem which is still in the balance: singing duets, my most profound desire. The idea of being “ploughed” doesn’t bear thinking about. Especially during The Plague. But V has let me indirectly know my zest for learning seems undiminished, and she approves of the work I do on my own.

The teacher/student relationship is both intense and remote. Over the years I’ve picked up odd details, especially about V's daughters, but this is one area where my journalistic curiosity is put on hold. On the other hand I’m required to inspect the shape of her mouth and even the position of her tongue when we’re dealing with tricky vowel sounds. What I can say she is infinitely patient and can also work magic. I outline a difficulty and inevitably her recommendation involves something I’d never considered.

Learning is personality as well as facts.

Saturday 3 October 2020

Twilight of the Gods?

Inevitably one has mixed feelings. Trump has done many things I have hated, notably undermining the whole concept of democracy. I must confess I've hated him for that. To the point where I hoped he would experience deep humiliation since humiliation seemed the only thing that would get through.

But did I hate him enough to wish this on him? Tell the truth, it never occurred to me. Fatalistically - and very ironically - I shared his own superman view of himself; that somehow his flouting not just of medical recommendations but of basic common sense would see him through.

But now I hear there've been undercurrents. That the situation was known within the White House before the public announcement was made. That many people - maskless and otherwise unprotected - may have come into contact. That several White House staff have subsequently tested positive, including Kellyanne, the spokesperson.

If that's true it's not just irresponsible, it's criminal. There are laws. And one has to say, adding in the tax revelations and the mad debate, there's a kind of Jovian Götterdämmerung endgame going on at the moment. But without Wagner's music.

Hatred? Yeah, I know it's childish but...

Thursday 1 October 2020

Future could be brighter(er?)

Satnav tended to slip off sloping dashboard

... but will now be secured by wires installed
- at great personal cost - by RR

This post, also about our anniversary, requires techno-patience.

Parenthetically “augury” is a five-dollar alternative to “omen”. Most auguries are grim (Think Macbeth/Dunsinane, Caesar/The Ides of March) but this is, I think, a happier one. 

My satnav is mounted on a rubber mat which adheres to the sloping top of the car’s dashboard by ingenious friction. The mat has worked well for several years with the previous satnav, but the new satnav is heavier. Slippage has occurred.

Suppose I anchored the mat to the dashboard without damage. The dashboard is smooth and offers few anchor points. However, a long narrow vent, beyond the driver’s sight, delivers hot air for demisting. Could a wire attached at one end to the mat be threaded into the vent, under several louvres, and picked out for connection to the mat.

“Picked out” proved the source of nightmares. The windscreen slopes back shallowly and there is almost no hand room above the vent. And, obviously, no head room so one is working blind. Also the vent’s slots are so narrow the tweezers I used had to be introduced almost closed. Yet the tweezer points had to straddle the loose wire. On Monday I gave up. I resumed on Tuesday with no better luck.

I felt trapped and persecuted by this obscure corner of the car. Getting in and out laboriously to check the wire was visible. Times passed disagreeably. I wondered about glue.

Suddenly everything clicked. The tweezers gripped the wire and I pulled it into accessibility.

Definitely an augury. A good one. That the Hermitage would prove to be mature, we would pass the evening in harmony, and I would die in my sleep, dementia-free in a handful of years’ time, having been nominated for a literary Nobel.

Yeah. Happy Diamonds everyone.