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● Plus my novels, stories, verse, vulgar interests, apologies, and singing.
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● See Tone Deaf in New blogger.

Thursday 24 June 2021

A sort of IQ test


Does Covid time still drag? Try this somewhere private.

Ask yourself: Am I intelligent? Honestly.

If one discounts politician responses (“Depends on what you mean…”) there are four adult answers: (1) Yes, (2) No, (3) Don’t know, and (4) I don’t wanna play this game.

Interesting, the consequent questions to (1) and (2) are identical: Can you prove it? As far as (3) and (4) are concerned let’s show them the door. I wouldn’t drink with either, even if they were paying.

You can see where I’m going. “No” is far more fascinating than “Yes”. Yes is going to say his conversation extends to abstractions (self-centredness, parsimony, prescience, etc) and doesn’t include talking about the weather, his relations, sporting events, voting patterns or pizza preferences. And yes, you’ve noticed, I use the male pronoun. Women would simply say: “Waste of time.”

But what’s No going to say? Trouble is it takes some intelligence to know what intelligence is. Even more to conclude you haven’t got any. I think No is going to talk about limits. He’s grasped multiplication tables but falls short with topology. Could glue two pieces of wood together but would hesitate to fashion a dovetail joint.

Me? I’m prejudiced. I can’t pretend I was a great success at my trade but I fooled some people quite a lot of the time. Especially managers. (“Go on, show me. Manage something.”) What I had from September 1951 until August 1995 was a talent for doubt, an unstoppable urge to ask questions. I’m not saying this made me intelligent but it left me undefined: perhaps I was, perhaps I wasn’t. One of life’s maybes.

But seriously, folks. Try it out. Sit on the loo and ask that question of the toilet roll. There’s eloquence in a stone, WS says


Saturday 19 June 2021

Is a big fat zero really fat?

Small or big? Here's the answer

A friend recently blogged she had “nothing to say today.” More or less. I felt bound to discuss.

Don’t tell me I can’t, that it doesn’t exist. George Gershwin turns it into a thing of pride:

I got plenty of nuthin’, and nuthin’s plenty for me

Among other things, nothing is an absence and that can vary. Absence of food and I’m hungry. Absence of Donald Trump and I’m tranquil.

Is nothing microscopic or gi-normous? I think my carefully rendered drawing resolves that knotty philosophical point.

A blind man on the top of the Empire State Building looks out on God’s finest creation (Some might disagree here) and sees nothing. But what about all those flashes of imagination and laughter passing through his mind? They’re real to him. Might reality and nothing co-exist?

I read a James Paterson novel (unlikely, I assure you). Half an hour later details of the plot have been swept into the ether. A day later and I can’t be sure I read it. Two days later and I’m sure I didn’t. He happened, now he’s nothing. OK by me.

I consecutively drink a dozen different bottles of cheap sauvignon blanc. The difference in taste between them is indistinguishable. Perhaps there’s no difference. Has “difference in taste” become “nothing”?

Threesome, a novel. 5314 words

(Arthur*) had opened with an intensely detailed critique of the concert in which he sneered cruelly about the clarinetist’s inability to handle the concerto’s semi-quavers. Barbara ** sought a detour: “I understand you play the organ at St Erasmus?”

Arthur smiled fractionally. “Indeed but I wouldn’t bore you with any of that.”

Instead he bored them by slipping into his “sociable” mode…Another half-minute on how to choose a watering-can rose…

* Gladys’s “boyfriend”. ** Gladys’s mother.

Saturday 12 June 2021

The shed renewed

The gardener is no longer “the gardener”, he’s Martin, tough and competent. He agrees to re-stain the shed, last done by me over decade ago. He’s going to B&Q anyway and will buy the stain but feels he must warn me “It’ll be expensive.” I don’t ask how much. Hereford’s “expensive” is nowhere near what’s expensive in Kingston-upon-Thames, 12 miles from London, where we used to live. In Hereford people tip taxi-drivers in coins and not many of them.

Next job will be to rid the brick-laid driveway of weeds. I have a wire brush but the bristle constantly clogs with greenery. Martin’s brush has much longer bristles and he gives me a demo. An example of “Don’t work harder, work smarter.”

Also of the apopthegm, “Don’t bend if you don’t have to. In fact, don’t bend.”

Threesome, a novel. 5117 words

GLADYS arrived at the concert hall a quarter of an hour earlier than scheduled but he was there before her. Wearing his new shortie overcoat even though the mild weather hardly warranted it. It was of course more a uniform than a form of  insulation… 

As he bent to kiss her cheek he raised a hand to the side of his face, paused, then lowered it. A tic which had puzzled her until she’d accompanied him to his favoured suitings supplier and found him gazing yearningly at a shelf devoted to outdated clothing accessories: detachable shirt cuffs, foulards, sock supports and… hats. Three trilbies, one of which might have been a snap-brim fedora. And then she realised. Had men’s hats still been fashionable Arthur would have worn one. Since they weren’t he made do with a gesture that went with hats, raising a hand to sweep off the trilby preparatory to kissing a maiden.

Sunday 6 June 2021

Croeso y Gymru*

Anglesea cottage with view below

The pride of Mynydd Cerig -
the Working Men's Club comes later

We’re booked for Wales, one week on the island of Anglesey jutting out into the Irish Sea, one week in rural South Wales (Mynydd Cerig to be precise;  you did know they speak a different language there, didn’t you?). Fantastic view of mountainous Snowdonia at the former, while the latter village has a Working Men’s Club! That won’t mean much to Americans I fear, but we’re already taking bets about who will have enough moxie to enter, waving a tenner and saying (tremulously), “Drinks on the house.”. Bearing in mind the traditional Welsh song:

His lance is long but yours is longer,
Strong his sword but yours is stronger,
Strike once more and then your wronger,
At your feet lies low.

The “his” are of course the English.

For those with dull imagination there will be lava bread (made from boiled seaweed), a plethora of community choirs with tenors predominating, a philosophical male populace whose muscles were exploited by the British government while the coal-mines existed and who are now largely ignored, a rock-climbing paradise even if, now, I may only look on, and long, long unpronounceable names on the road signs

THREESOME, a novel (4196 words)

Dark wood dominated Gladys’s bedroom. The heavy wardrobe doors were ripple-framed with grooves, ridges, twists and steps. Milky glass knobs to extract the drawers. A dressing table with a delicately mounted mirror which swung too low for Gladys’s high head. And the pictures – the World’s Ten Greatest Paintings – bought in booklet form from Woolworth when that institution still functioned, the pages torn out and squeezed into meanly dimensioned frames, the subjects occasionally trimmed to fit. “But then they’re only prints,” said George (her father), as reassurance that he would have treated the original oils with greater respect.

* Long thought to be Welcome to Wales. Actually: Welcome the Wales

Tuesday 1 June 2021

Pays de Galles, then

Not to be. Hélas

We cancelled the French villa. The others were alarmed about the huge sum of money which VR and I would pay, half of it already lost. She and I were more concerned that this might be our last go at France, a yearly tradition which goes back forty years. In your eighties none of your plans are ever “firm”.

On Skype we toyed with other destinations. “Anywhere but England,” said OS and everyone agreed. I’ve never been so ashamed to be English, to be represented in the world by the most wretched collection of liars, brown noses, self-servers and what my mother used to call “clawpokes”.

We favour Wales which is close by and beautiful. Also because Wales has regularly been screwed by Whitehall and we sympathise.

The novel is going well:

Threesome (The third or fourth working title; it may stick for a while)
3961 words.

… Those of Gladys’s schoolfriends whose parents were rackety, over-familiar or plain negligent said they envied her.

Envied Gladys her hollow step-parents.

The Greenwoods lacked imagination. They assumed everyone they met toed the line that guided them. If, subsequently, they discovered that other parents owned a glider, were devout Christians, bet on horses, had become vegans, organised exchange holidays with Germans or voted Communist, they ascribed these deviations to random aberration. None of which really mattered.

What did matter were the assumptions they made about Gladys. Except “assumption” was too strong a word. It was impossible to imagine them thinking about their stepdaughter in a way that differed from their banal and repetitive dialogues. Or asking questions which might encourage unexpected answers.

Grammatical note: I’m aware of the “them/their” prescription. Decided (if I’m wrong) this sounds better.