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Friday 31 March 2023

Wind from the West blows balmy

There’s a pain in my hip – the one I lie on when asleep. At my age and with my medical background such a matter could well turn me into a worry-wart. So I got up, switched on my PC and sought distraction.

News from the USA: today is the beginning of the baseball season. Ah, fond memories. But I’ve rhapsodised about the great game quite recently and I’d risk boring my tiny circle of like-minded friends.

So what else?

Glaring headlines. Smiles on the faces of Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert, two of my intermediary sages. Expostulations from Mar-e-Lago.

TRUMP INDICTED. (not “indicated” as Trump himself spelled it.)

Look, who knows? Maybe his followers will set fire to the whole of Manhattan. Maybe Vladimir Putin will offer him – rent-free – a dacha overlooking the Black Sea. Kim Jong Un promote him to Foreign Secretary (In the US: Secretary of State) of North Korea.

Never mind.

Let’s just savour the moment. That a judge will have the power to say to him: “With all respect, Mr T, you surely realise that what you’ve just said is untrue.”

And truth is bliss.

Saturday 25 March 2023

Nothing sharp in the boot (US - trunk)

I honestly considered cutting my throat.

It’s a lousy way to go, I know, but despair briefly suggested that solution.

Yet those subsequently shuddering at my gory steering wheel would have marvelled at my trivial reasoning.

VR, my wife, is not well but it’s not my prerogative to reveal her private details. Saturday meant the GP would not be available. I was on my way to discuss subsidiary medical matters with the pharmacist about a mile away. I could have walked but I wanted to be back quickly, to keep VR company. I parked, got out, glanced at the back seat. No shoulder bag which held important evidential material. How could I bloody well have forgotten? Perhaps, now, I can be thankful the Skoda’s toolkit doesn’t include a machete or some such.

As I drove back to get the bag my self-anger drained away. The pharmacist was a great help and my brief flirtation with ending it all is now mildly amusing history. But this post is not primarily about illness, it’s about one of the unexpected disadvantages of old age.

I am totally in charge of the house. Providing meals, for instance. In my early sixties I did just that for two years. Now the prospect fills me with dread and I cheat. I’m required to choose clothing for VR; the wardrobe is terra australis incognita and I unhook garments to see whether they’re pullovers, trousers, skirts or long dresses. Small items need transporting from bedroom to living room and back: two dozen return stairway journeys a day because I’m forgetful. The laundry. Following up VR’s emails. Pill regimes.

Fellas who have shared their wife’s responsibilities will sneer. Say I am reaping where I failed to sow. But how many fellas know the three gradations of knickers? 

Friday 17 March 2023

King of the kitchen

What are those? You wouldn't like them.

New medical matters have intervened since my last post but, while these events have been - and are - quite demanding, I’m inclined to look for other fish to fry for the blog.

Books? Movies? Telly? Politics? Warfare? Nah, I’ve chewed on these over and over and none supports my oft-repeated belief that no blogger – even of only average intelligence – should ever confess to “there is nothing to write about”.

Grandson Ian is staying with us and in stark contrast to his granpaw he is absolutely fascinated with kitchen work. Four or five cakes (all different styles) have been baked, innumerable variants on the curry theme have appeared as if by magic, as well as quickies I’ve dreamed up just to test him (“Yeah, I feel like an omelette – a cheese omelette, that is  – oh, and perhaps with spring onions**. Sprinkled with parmesan. Why not? Fluffy of course.”)

Ian disappears for an hour and I know where he’ll be; all 6 ft 4 in. of him, bent sedulously over the sink, eagerness apparent. Is the work sometimes mere drudgery? I ask, given that all such work is drudgery for me. Very occasionally, he says. For like all proficient cooks I know of, he hates to repeat himself.

But Ian is no one-trick pony. He’s hot as the hinges of Hell on computer matters, a subject that has recently bubbled to the surface regarding a switch in my investment platform.

As recompense I offered to buy him lunch and was prepared to spend big bucks. But no, he preferred a very old-fashioned fish-and-chip shop in nearby Monmouth. It was like travelling back in time, he said. Just in case you’re wondering, my lunch (see foreground) consisted of faggots. They would be a hard sell in the USA.

**In the US – scallions. 

Thursday 9 March 2023

Laugh and then reflect

The background, by the way, is completely gorgeous

Oscar nominated movie, The Banshees of Inisherin, has a title nobody fully remembers. It is simultaneously hilarious, gruesome, profound and deeply Irish. Being Irish might have limited its appeal but a strain of parody (I think) ensures a wider audience. Since the Oscars are decided by Americans I’d be surprised if it wins - the language, its uttermost glory, is nominally English but it needs its subtitles. Certainly I needed them.

There’s also a central premise which Americans might find hard to swallow. Two men are longstanding friends; abruptly one says to the other “I no longer like you.” The other finds this hard to believe. But the first guy offers such horrific proof of this sentiment – and, horror of horrors, delivers this proof! – that there can be no doubt he was telling the truth.

Ignore the horrors, just reflect. Yes we may all change our minds, disliking someone we previously got on with. Usually due to some trauma between us. But here there is no single transformative event. The dislike is born out of intellectual analysis, a silent, private process. More than that, would you or I, having arrived at this conclusion, announce it aloud to the ex-friend?

Why not? Ah, yes.

The movie examines this situation, as a dog might worry a bone. But how can this generate hilarity? Here is a possible stumbling block. The laughter grows directly out of the language. The inverted questions (“Will I be seeing you tonight?”), the repetitions with the second statement inflected slightly differently, formality mixed up with informality (A Catholic confession which will have you in tears – of fun.). Can these things be funny? Honest! If you don’t laugh you haven’t followed the dialogue.

Even so, human beings are on trial. Most are found guilty.

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Don't expect to be comforted

Women Talking, the movie, is just that. Only during the last 10% is there some mild action, the rest being – well! – just talk. I’m not sure I would label it as entertainment but it held me.

The Guardian describes it as “important” but only gives it three stars out of five, praising the performances – all excellent – but grumbling it sometimes lapses into a school debate. I thought this was unfair. Women Talking is serious, it deals with the essence of feminism in an environment where it is hardly referred to, drama relying on what is said and the way it is expressed.

Women belonging to a religious community in rural USA at the beginning of the twentieth century (Note corrective footnote.), gather in a barn to discuss their reaction to continuing maltreatment by the men of that community. The male malefactors are never seen, in a weakish plot device they are physically absent but present as a menace. Only one man (Ben Whishaw) plays a part; sympathetic to the women but given the neutral role of writing the minutes. Gradually his sympathy grows, meshing with the women’s problems.

What should the women do? Stay and endure the pain? Stay and fight it out (How, is never articulated)? Leave?  Obligations of religion and the existence of children complicate these options. The women gradually emerge as individuals, each with different opinions. Discussion melts into argument and some blows are struck.

In a brief cameo the ever-marvellous Frances McDormand preaches Christian submission and eventually pays a price for this view.

The movie is written and directed by a woman, Sarah Polley, and I – as a mere man – think this is an essential element.

Women Talking is uncomfortable, poses painful dilemmas and encourages reflection. Strictly for adults. Are you an adult?

NOTE. My 30-year-old grandson, who saw this movie with me, points out that the events took place in 2010, not 1910 as I misheard. However visual power is achieved by setting it in a wilfully anachronistic community which has rejected many of the aspects of the oughty years.