● 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.

Friday 29 April 2022

Should it be banned?

Or the debt it owes to sheet glass?

When blogging should one mention the weather? Might it hide having nothing else to say?

I try to ignore weather. It changes (usually within narrow limits). But then it always has. And it’s always there. A bit like breathing …

“Woke this morning, making stertorous noises. Later I started to cough, but only briefly. Now my eyes are watering, but is that breathing…?”

As a weather-ignorer I should have been happy with the RAF in Singapore, an island on the Equator. Sun goes up/down within minutes every day. Two types of weather: 95% hot sunshine, 5% thunderous rain straight into the concrete storm drains, otherwise a great amplifier for croaking frogs.

As it was I realised I preferred the UK’s temperate climate. Even if most foreigners believe the percentages are the reverse of those in Singapore. But not something to write about. Any more than: “My house is fashioned in red bricks. That was the case yesterday, and will be – probably – tomorrow.”

Weather may help open a conversation with casually met strangers (“Lovely sun we’re having.”) or summarising a holiday (“Well, we had lovely weather.”) But suppose one discovers one is addressing a monoglot weather-freak. (Quick solution: “Yipes, I’ve left the bedroom window open. Gotta rush.”)

There are exceptions but only for geniuses.

St. Agnes' Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold


When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail


The fitful alternations of the rain
Which the chill wind, languid as if with pain
Of its own heavy moisture, here & there
Drives through the gray and beamless atmosphere.


But, usually, only when it’s bad outside. 

Tuesday 26 April 2022

Only for truly big brains

Guess what's in the middle.
You're right! Now proceed

Lesson MMMCI: Super-advanced blogging. A post about nothing (without cheating).

Minimum experience: Ten years of blogging. Better still: ten minutes; the mind is fresher.

Mindset: Disdaining  tangible  reality

Preparation 1: Clear the mind of personal and/or family events and relationships, traditional and regular activities, chintzy videos from YouTube, recurrent memories (especially those ending in triumph), purchases from Amazon, references to books read (especially if high-brow; even more so - poetry), knee-jerk responses to politics, funny pictures involving kittens, yearnings for a youth now past, good health and ill health. Most of all: the conviction that there’s nothing left to write about.

Preparation 2: Concentrate on abstract nouns, the more esoteric the better: eg, fecundity, minimalism, over-intellectualisation, the tendency toward ignorance, renaissance (with a lower-case r).

Method, Step 1: Pick one abstraction: let’s say fecundity.

Method, Step 2: Say: This post will NOT be about fecundity

Method, Step 3: Say: This post will be about NOTHING

Method, Step 4: Click Enter four times

Method, Step 5: Say: The above four-line space consists of NOTHING. It says NOTHING. It owes NOTHING to this blogger’s prejudices and/or enthusiasms. However it may represent the vacuum that nature is said to abhor. It may be crying out to be filled.

Method, Final Step: Concentrate on that space. Imagine it being filled. With what? Don’t ask childish questions: obviously, with NOTHING. This may be difficult so allow plenty of time, take a tea-break if it helps. As dusk descends you should be able – in perfect confidence – to say that that four-line space has been filled. That it accommodates two NOTHINGS, one on top of the other. Logically, two NOTHINGS are more significant than one. Quod erat demonstrandum (always finish with a Latin tag)

Conclusion: There’s no such thing as NOTHING.

Thursday 21 April 2022

After all, Coleridge took laudanum

Yes, I know Crècy was bows and arrers but not close upI

I was warned. That pumping cytotoxins – a fearful word - into my decrepit body would have side-effects even the medics could not predict. Unsurprising, really. This bag of bones, part deadened nerves and tired blood has become a battlefield in which a gruesome Middle Ages conflict – Crècy, say – is being re-enacted. Where hoarse-voiced farmers go for each other with axes. Axes!

But would all these side-effects be inimical? I have long since realised my tiny reading audience has a limited capacity for news about my progress as a singer. Can’t be helped. The appeal of creating music – as opposed to just listening to it – is hard work. And possibly mysterious. 

But I had a terrific lesson yesterday. At my request V and I resurrected Roger Quilter’s setting of the Elizabethan lyric, Weep You No More Sad Fountains, last worked on three years ago. The power was with me, in that my vocal resonance was solid, as I re-explored lines like:

Sleep is a reconciling, a rest that peace begets.

Damn me. The body’s falling apart but it was confirmed, I can bloody well sing. I at least can create – and revel in – the nourishing of a song. Might chemo have played a part?

Not just that. I’ve been sleeping badly and in the killing time (3 am) I suddenly recognised an irony: normally we welcome light, but not when we desperately want to sleep. I dashed off twelve lines on this (See The Unravelled Sleeve): hurried, obscure and no great shakes as verse. But I’d had the idea, you see; in old age these are rare.

Should I ask my specialist – the elegantly named Dr. Chennupatti – whether I’d been chemo-inspired?  Bellow out six bars of Fountains as proof? Watch this space.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

That unravelled sleeve

I know what I'll do, I said to myself, I’ll launch a literary tsunami and write verse about death. Always a popular line, some might say inescapable. But at 86 I'm more cautious than I was at 17, and I couldn't help thinking I'd better check first. Better I did: scratching among the sconces, mullions, cornices and priest-holes of Tone Deaf (Middle Period) revealed I’d posted at least three moderate-length chunks on this very subject fairly recently.

Meaning I could treat these foundlings as I might the work of an unknown poet – , you know the traditional sort of scribbler whose only creative function is to starve to death in a garret, made miserable by the surrounding cliché.

What about the quality of this trio? I have to say: patchy. But then as blogmaster-in-chief  might I just quote some of the better lines?  No. It’s not fair on readers serving up re-fried stuff. Anyway, my verse – on the whole – is not that good.

But then death is so terminal. How about harvesting one of  those mini-deaths which crop up especially in old age. Problems of drink, political antipathy, the complexities of the offside rule in soccer and whether the Queen should retire. Just a sec; I'd just passed a truly lousy night. How about a lyrical treatment of sleeplessness, a possible side-effect of my being scalpel-hacked twice during the last seven months.

The night’s excess

But just suppose we soldier on in scorching light

When what we want is death’s precursor, tranquil dark.

Not cruel beams that show the brainbox cupboard’s bare,

And nought’s below except our twitching nerves.

Our begging bowl is full of taunting irony,

Oblivion’s nothing but its price – it seems - is high

We beg for curtains, get the street-lamp’s glare 

Beg dreamless dreams not harsh reality.

Eyes closed I still saw inner bedroom space

Unwanted data from my shrugged-off waking life

The Cherry keyboard clicks defiantly

It’s some protection from this glowing enemy.

Saturday 16 April 2022


Do you consider yourself civilised? Typically: polite, decent, refined, enlightened or all four. If so, how do you measure these abstract qualities in yourself? Not everyone would be willing to give it a go. Might think it would be uncivilised even to try.

Here’s one way. If you’re lucky, you may find yourself regularly talking to others. Such talk might take one of three forms: discussion, argument, conversation. At first glance these tactics might seem too similar for useful examination. But give it a go. Needless to say, these are my examples not in any sense definitive.

Discussion: Two people, equally ignorant about getting from A to B, willingly engage in trying to find a common solution to this problem. Which they then use.

Argument: Same problem but without the willingness to co-operate. One or both believe they have a superior solution and fight each other – verbally – to prevail. Often uselessly.

Conversation: Same problem but while exploring the details both discover these exchanges are more interesting than the solution. Both are genuinely keen to hear what the other has to say and to build cooperatively on these discoveries. Optimistically believing they may find an answer to: What is life? I jest but only a little.

I’d love to pretend I regularly have conversations. In fact real conversations are rare. Few of us are born well-informed or without bombast, certainly not I. But during a true conversation the pleasure can be exquisite. We lose the sense of self. We are open to being informed and without resentment. We hope we are contributing  but we understand why this may not happen. Human beings are complex; not pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Some people, some time are civilised. Discuss. 

Tuesday 12 April 2022

Work and play

Away from the medically imposed world of dressing changes, chemo drips, phone consultations, drug schedules, PICC line flushes and district nurse visits I enter my own world, split neatly in two: hard work and day-dreams.

Yesterday the hard work consisted inter alia of improving my version of Franz Schubert’s song, Mein! from his Schöne Müllerin song cycle – V with her piano at one end of the Skype link, me with my elderly vocal chords at the other. Here’s how it starts, plus an English translation, both Bärenreiter copyrights.

Bächlein, lass dein Rauschen sein
Räder, stellt eu’r Brausen ein,
All ihr muntern Waldvögelein,
Gross und klein
Endet eure Melodein!
Durch den Hain
Aus und ein
Schalle heut ein Reim allein
Die geliebte Müllerin ist mein,

Brook, cease your babbling
Wheels, stop your roaring!
All you merry woodbirds
Great and small,
End your warbling!
Throughout the wood,
Within it and beyond,
Let one rhyme alone ring out today;
My beloved, the maid of the mill, is mine!

And here’s the late great Fritz Wunderlich singing the whole thing. V was satisfied with the way I handled the burbling technicalities, and I was pleased I was able to maintain resonance throughout.

After which, with the help of photos from daughter PB’s phone camera, I dreamed of the French holiday that may happen in July/August. It won’t be this villa but something similar. Thousands of pounds will be involved but what the Hell. Just to be away from mean-spirited England.

Friday 8 April 2022

On not functioning...

Susan Sontag, US activist, critic and intellectual, stricken with cancer, wrote Illness as a Metaphor in which she challenged “victim-blaming in the language that is often used to describe diseases and the people affected by them.” I never read it but not from antipathy, it just never came my way. Besides, the book was published in 1978 and I’d just learned to ski. My mind was on other – no doubt, trivial – things. But I was struck by the title. Metaphors are symbols, vague if useful substitutes, literary conceits; illness seemed too big to be one of those.

This will sound joky and I have form in that direction. But such is not my intent. Here’s a post called Constipation as a Metaphor.

I see the risks. Constipation belongs to the afflictions that encourage jeers from those who aren’t suffering. Gout (which I also endure) is one, boils another, perhaps STDs. Recently I was constipated, perhaps a side-effect of my chemo.

It can be painful but not in this instance. More shocking was the enormous unease and a desperate yearning to be free from the stoppage. I sat alone on our downstairs loo – in a tiny room I’d grown to hate – bereft of all my character; I’d become that unresolved pressure, those physiological urges that suggested relief was possible but that it might never come. When relief did come I expected triumph, but no, I was merely emptied. A husk.

It’s the seeming endlessness that robs you of what you most prize. Of being yourself. Death, after all, is merely oblivion. In this, one is suspended and patently useless.

It’s not something one tends to discuss but there can be rewards. Simply writing: Now I am not constipated - you bastard.

Moral: Life offers many blog subjects. 

Tuesday 5 April 2022

Leave brontë to Wuthering Heights

Sliced Tiged Roll is our present preference

“The way to Hell is paved with good intentions.” is a proverb by Britain’s most popular poet. No, not WS. Good old Anon. I see Anon resembling William Blake’s character measuring the Earth with a pair of dividers, parodying our most famous physicist, Sir Isaac Newton, whom Blake hated.

The proverb has a myriad applications but, most often these days, it is synonymous with do-gooders unintentionally turning into do-badders. Yesterday it was my turn.

Instead of my walking to pick up The Guardian at the filling station I have it delivered. No finger-wagging, please. I know all about necessary exercise but – aged 86 – I find easefulness more persuasive. Delivery was originally organised by the two carers I call my daughters when I was fresh out of hospital. Its appeal has endured, the cost doubled.

Yesterday morning it wasn’t sticking out of my letter-box. As the newsagent has often said, a delivery lad whose mother indulges him had preferred his warm bed. Never mind.  I was feeling brontë, a family invention meaning in good health.

I walked the mile to the newsagent, got the paper, wondered whether we had any bread at home (Sliced Tiger Loaf being our current preference.) But I hadn’t brought any cash. Never mind, again. I felt confident enough to hurry home and ride back to the supermarket on my long-neglected pedal bike.

Hurried too hard. Tripped on a kerbstone. Hands abraded on loose gravel but, more important, a sense of strain down my right side. The side opened up on the advice of the colonoscopist who said, somewhat timidly last December, he’d found “something that shouldn’t be there”.

I avoid analgesics if I can but took two Ibuprofens separately last night. Spent a painful night, took two together this AM.

Moral: distrust feeling brontë.