● 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 28 January 2023

Calling in on Bro

When younger, Bro walked long distances, Land's
End to John O' Groats, the Bay of Biscay to the
Mediterranean via the Pyrenees. Sustained himself
with pots of tea and cakes. the cock-eyed hat is deliberate

Brother Sir Hugh is suffering from an unspecified lurgi. He lives 200 miles away and we hadn’t seen him face to face for several years. Why not pay him a comfort visit? On the return drive VR noted: He tended us more than we tended him. Competitive ill-health, you might say.

We invented a couple of reasons for driving round the adjacent Lake District. This included the voie sans issue road to the end of Haweswater (a lake) which probably sounds like bad planning. Not so. Going, we were against the sun, coming back, the light shone from behind.  The same road could have been two separate routes in different counties.

But the abiding impression of this two-night visit was the intensity of the conversation. Normally talk quality depends on the subject matter but not this time. When speaking to a family member one has known for eighty years, the need for explanations, background stuff, dubious nostalgia and preferences disappears. What’s left is new, revelatory and shot through with enthusiasm. Getting rid of the material that dilutes and – thereby – slows the conversational pace is highly advantageous. The sentences are more likely to parse.

Brother Sir Hugh lives in Arnside, a precipitous village overlooking the wide estuary of the river Kent where it spills out into Morecambe Bay and eventually the Irish Sea. A backdrop of lowish hills acts as prelude to the Lake District’s higher and better known peaks (Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Helvellyn, etc). 

A place that’s good to look at but something of a menace close-up. Viz: 

Arnside: Self-explanatory, really

Wednesday 18 January 2023

The work was hard, you had to laugh

I suspect this subs' room was American and
may have been air-conditioned, The UK subs I knew
all wore cardigans and impenetrable cigarette smoke
would have obscured the far end of the desk. However
the paper mess (plus reference book) are truly authentic

Newspaper work nourishes your sense of humour, provided you go for cynicism and scurrilousness. And wordplay. All this happened in the fifties.

Me (teaboy): "Didn’t have sticky buns; got you this." Sub-editor: "Ah, a little iced sarcophagous."

Saturday afternoon in reporters’ room. Hacks playing cards on green baize board waiting to take telephoned reports of sporting events. Clumsy teaboy (not me) spills mug of tea. Deputy chief reporter: “Oh, xxxx that. Look what you’ve done. Monte xxxx-ing Carlo!”

Reporters got paid extra (One penny a line) for chat pieces. I’d just done an unusual, fictional chat piece. Much older, set-in-his-ways reporter, BP, says: “Oh I wouldn’t send that in.” In fact it’s published top of the column, decorated with special artwork. Mention BP’s reaction to MH, a much sharper reporter. “That’s BP, isn’t it? He does the straight news story for the news pages. Adds a ‘however’ and a ‘meanwhile’ and that’s his chat piece.”

BP, just back from interviewing nonagenarian woman at an outlying village: “She’s regular at the Wesleyan Reform Church. Goes on about the old days. Preachers thought nothing of doing sermons lasting an hour and a half.” CS, our local boss (sighing): “Aye, they’d stone the buggers, these days.”

Sub-editors’ room. News story printouts from the agencies arrive from the teleprinter room via an antiquated rope conveyor fitted with fearsome clips. Red light goes on indicating something special. Chief sub: “What do you reckon. War? King dead? Or just bloody politics?”

 Sub-editor, exasperatedly, looking up from article he’s correcting. “Another damn ‘pronounced’! Someone bring in XX (a reporter) who wrote this.” By the time XX arrives the sub-editor is standing on the large table shared by the subs. Sub-editor points down at XX and shouts, “I pronounce you bloody well dead.”

Saturday 14 January 2023

Perhaps reduced to monosyllables

The Invalid

That’s how it is, I know now I must play
The role of invalid until I meet
The Crack of Doom. And readers thus informed,
Supported by the warmth of well-meant hearts,
Desiring little from me in response,
Will ask me gently: How are you today?

And find me silent. Why such churlishness?
Has illness made me inarticulate?
Stopping the fountain of egregious chat
That source of anger and of mystery,
That feignèd wit which cracks like icicles
And brings about a wintry solitude

The answer is I’m doomed to co-exist,
As landlord to a most inventive guest,
Who knows me better than I know myself,
Filing his claws – For yes, he’s masculine – 
To scour down crannies in my privacy
And wound the organs of necessity.

He means me ill, wants me to show him fear,
His job is painful and well recognised.
We’re all supposed to speak in hushèd tones
A mark of honour for his worldwide fame.
Oh, panjandrum of puking pestilence,
Pustular pride pleads pyromania

I took the other road and chose divorce
Broke his house rules and made the upper floor,
He’s there below, a threat to life and limb,
I may not beat him but I’ll refuse him awe,
Avert my face and turn up Figaro,
Dwell on great thoughts beyond his baneful sphere.

Revised 12 hours later

Wednesday 11 January 2023

Careful, now

I have an urge to be different.  Reading (that’s books and other permanent matter as opposed to social media gobbets) is good, isn’t it? A sign of intelligence, an ability to concentrate?

Well, yes and no. Consider the question: Why do we read? Might our reasons and/or our subsequent experiences be ambiguous? Let’s see.

For entertainment. Passing time pleasurably. But suppose we find a best-seller (ie, it’s supposed to be easy-ish.) hard going. As I did with the Hobbit-dom. Am I at odds with the majority?

For information. Usually applies to non-fiction but can take in certain fictions (eg, the novels of Richard Powers.) We find the subject matter dull, revolting, over-technical. Are we open about this?

It’s a classic. Written over a hundred years ago. About another country. In an intractable translation. Characters who behave oddly by modern standards. Dare we denigrate “the experts”?

Because clever people approve of it. It turns out to be beyond us. Are we un-clever then?

“Everyone’s reading it”. We don’t like it but need to appear up-to-date with our friends. We worry about being negative.

It’s a movie but once it was a book. A book we never read, a fact we’re terrified about revealing. It might undermine our self-proclaimed reputation as a book reader.

It’s, say, anti-Catholic and we are Catholic. Does reading it betray our religious beliefs?

It’s less than a hundred pages and we associate quality with length. Always assuming we have strong wrists, best ignore it. Who wants to be thought lightweight?

WARNING Some above situations may be resolved by being frank. But – strangely enough – the world doesn’t always enjoy the company of frank people. Calling a spade a spade is OK for gardeners, not necessarily for book-circle members. It’s why euphemisms were invented. 

Tuesday 10 January 2023

Have you ever been there?

Ou sont les neiges d'antan?
Where indeed?
Let's not be bitter about time's passage

Sport may enhance fitness and encourage camaraderie but it is essentially pointless. Its so-called benefits may be pursued more efficiently in other ways.

Ski-ing was my favourite sport for a couple of decades until increasing age told me it was a long drawn-out form of suicide. That there was a good chance I’d die on the slopes. And ski-ing was even more pointless – and misunderstood – than many other more accessible sports.

Ask a non-skier: What’s the point of ski-ing? Chances are the response would be: To get to the bottom. Wrong. The bottom of the slope is incidental. One arrives there because one has taken the ski-lift as a means of storing the energy on which ski-ing is based. Gravity’s energy.

If one discards the coarser explanations (“It’s a licensed grope.”) ballroom dancing provides the best analogy. One doesn’t dance to cross the ballroom. Or to perform endless circles round it. It is the way one does these things.  The pursuit of grace. Same with ski-ing.

The essence of ski-ing is in making turns. One quickly learns that this is harder than it looks. Because of the need to avoid going faster and causing suicide to arrive more quickly. Open up the skis into a vee shape and one may ski – and turn – very slowly. A scritching ugly form of locomotion. The aim is to ski and turn with the skis parallel. Many skiers never quite manage this.

But when one does the sense of effortlessness and elegant movement becomes inescapable. One feels more handsome, more intelligent and more controlled. And this happens in areas of extreme natural beauty. One stops ski-ing briefly, ordering a mulled wine at a café, watching others ski by. Sharing their grace vicariously and without envy.

Soccer? Those depressingly gormless crowds. Nah. 

Saturday 7 January 2023

All for Avus

Riding the Matchless/Ajay trials bike through the woods.
My expression suggests this is not among my natural skills

Farcical! A Lambretta scooter allegedly modified
for rough riding. As you see I remain unmodified

An MC reader wrote in about pillion riders adopting a sidesaddle
position. Looks dangerous to me. Never mind, it gave the lovely Kay
a chance to show off her legs. I may even have worn a tie as tribute 

I'm riding this Velocette on a friend's Scottish estate,
hence no crash helmet. The pillion passenger is his son

Some vehicles have four wheels. Here's my Beemer near
the top of Mount Ventoux, a famously severe stage in the TdF

Unlike T S Eliot’s Prufrock, Blogger Avus has not measured out his  life in teacups but in vehicles. He’s had dozens and it’s hard to say whether he prefers acquiring them to going places with them. Hardly any have turned out to be duds, which I find remarkable. Based on an accumulated fleet a tenth the size of Avus's half of mine were disappointments. Maybe I’m not discriminating enough. Maybe I just wanted to go to places and do other things.

However I am not without experience. The first three photos here were all taken when I worked on a weekly magazine called Motor Cycling, a grave career mistake on my part. I had a passing interest in motorised two-wheelers but I’m predominantly a writer, It’s my view that one doesn’t write one’s best when the subject is confined to a hobby. Abstractions open up the world, material matters quickly reveal their limited potential. Logistics is what I’m best at

Avus has commented on my blog since the year Dot, and I’ve returned the favour. Recently I mentioned I’d once ridden a works bike prepared for a long-distance endurance event (not in fact a race) over rough terrain. Avus said he’d like to see the photo taken and here it is among other oddities. Avus’s first reaction would be to say I’d got the make wrong, it’s a Matchless not an AJS. I’d reply in two words: badge engineering. One reason why neither of  these makes is extant.

Tuesday 3 January 2023

After the blade

I surprised myself being philosophical about cancer. But the related surgery – round my neck – was another matter.

Would it threaten my singing? If so, was this swallowing the camel while straining at the gnat? Just a hobby, eh? No! Singing had opened an inner door I hardly knew existed. Allowing me to articulate a form of beauty rather than merely appreciate it. Create that which had not existed. Fuse physical exertion with secret hope. Singing is as muscular as marathon running however ludicrous that sounds.

Christmas intervened. I emailed V, my teacher, suggesting something shorter than the normal 90-minute lesson. An extended, simpler warm-up rather than the demanding exercise this had now become. Allowing her to assess the present quality of my singing voice and to measure improvement – if any – from this point.

Before the Skype screen became active I chose six of the easier songs from my repertoire and sang them to myself. It’s difficult to judge one’s own voice but I seemed hoarser. Also less confident. That latter quality is more than a state of mind, it can be go, no-go.

So, I suppose, we would fence. V setting out to encourage me but never generally, only in a technical musical way. I seeking to penetrate any hidden faults V had noticed but had not announced. The classic teacher/student relationship.

I wasn’t breathing from below. I modified my method. High notes were out but mid-high notes were easier than I had expected. V introduced a familiar eight-note sequence from a song I knew but couldn’t label. Clever!

V’s enthusiasm was real at the end. I saw this; we’ve listened to each other for six years. But these were early days. Don’t force it, she said. Another half hour next Friday. 

Not a cold ward, just cold blood

Heatable bean bag (in fetching red tartan) in right hand;
left hand inserted through frontal kangaroo pouch will 
draw bean bag into pregnancy position. RR, soon to be
warm as toast, wearing his new Lushforest hoodie

OK I fibbed, but through ignorance not though malice. Not that ignorance is a great excuse, there’s far too much of it about. I apologise.

My December 19 post, Polar News, described the discomforts of trying to sleep, post op, in a hospital ward where the heating seemed to be at a less-than-normal tropical level. Having to wear my outdoor trousers and thick jacket under the sheets, even which didn’t work.

I complained to the visiting surgeon the following morning and the only thing on my side is she sort of acknowledged the lower ambient temperature (which may have been slightly reduced because of cost) rather than point to a more likely reason.

When I got home I again felt cold but I couldn’t blame the heating. VR and I are old people, we need the warmth. Yet even at 19 deg C my bones rattled chilly. Soon the real culprit was identified; blood thinner medication had reduced my blood to the consistency of tap-water but without changing my physiology to that of a penguin.

Christmas approaching, my two daughters took over. The first online purchase consisted of a modern electric blanket. Formerly such blankets lay flat on the mattress; distorting them risked damaging the cable and shorting the supply. Now much more flexible, they may be wrapped round you and their output adjusted with a multi-level switch. Nor do they need to be switched on for long periods. You retain their heat by wearing a Lushforest oversized furry hoodie. Bought online.

The hoodie also has a kangaroo pouch at the front. Into which you may slip a bean bag, heated for 4 min in the microwave, and thereafter stalk around the house as if fully pregnant. But warm.

I’m glad the NHS wasn’t at fault.