● 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.

Thursday 29 June 2023

Just the nearness of you

My Samsung smartphone and I have got closer and more fractious. A bit like the Macbeths (The gloomy Scottish couple) but without the bloodstained knives.

A year ago our relationship was limited to outgoing calls and playing Solitaire in medical waiting rooms. I was already an invalid and then VR became one too. Simultaneously the landline was ditched when we had fibre optics installed. My need to communicate with the outside world rose exponentially and the Samsung – opportunely – moved several steps up its career ladder.

I was half aware of what would happen. On the streets and in the supermarkets I’d seen folk of all ages feverishly thumbing away at their mini-keyboards, brows sweating, eyes protruding. What distracted fools, I said. Ineluctably I joined them.

Not that I’m into thumbing, you understand; arthritis saw to that. My problem is propinquity, the need to be near. Dare I go to the loo without that infernal machine? Chat with somebody down the driveway, hands and pockets empty? Pay for petrol, encumbered?

Yes, there’s a facility called Missed Calls. I’m more than grateful. But most of my callers – many of them medical – are represented only by multi-figure sequences which I’m incapable of memorising. Who knows?  Call ‘em all back, anyway? One turned out to be a scammist.

Attend a string quartet live? You gotta be joking.

Also I’m getting deafer. At five metres distance it’s a toss-up whether I notice the ringtone.

The smartphone knows the power it wields so there is the carrot as well as the stick. I wasn’t sad to see the landline phone go since the smartphone is ten times clearer. But I could drop the electronic bugger and be cut off from those keeping me alive.

Swings and roundabouts, I suppose. And I’m too old for either.

Thursday 22 June 2023

Another me, unknown to me

Aged twenty, in North Wales, very much
a posed pic. Forget RR, forget Tone Deaf,
forget all the confessions and assertions
I've made. What would you conclude? If
you're good I'll make my own conclusions

Looking objectively at your mirror reflection can be revelatory. Barring relations, friends and acquaintances, this is how the world sees you. Your thoughts, opinions, good and bad deeds go for nothing. You are your appearance.

Things may be inferred. That you are young or old, short-sighted (if you wear glasses), perhaps predisposed to laughter, careless about yourself (viz: a burger crumb on your lip). Handsome or ugly depending on who’s looking. But the larger elements of your character (kind/cruel, clever/slow, charitable/mean-spirited, capable/clumsy) are hidden from most onlookers.

George Orwell went further, saying, at age fifty, we all have the face we deserve. But I can’t help feeling he had one or two people in mind and didn’t like them.

My appearance recently changed and – briefly - I was vain enough to welcome this. Hist! This is no boast. You could say (metaphorically) I ended up with egg on my face. Ha, bloody ha.

Post op, mid-December, I couldn’t be bothered to get my hair cut. By yesterday it was longer than at any time in my life. My hair is white, thick, showing no signs of retreat. Detectable at a hundred yards.

More, my quiff (the bit hanging over my forehead) now incorporated a delicious wave whose potential I never knew existed. How pretty.

Simultaneously traditional hay-fever set in. Streaming eyes, sneezing, mild feverishness. I took anti-histamines with varying results. Eyes bogged as I awoke. These symptoms became unbearable.

Light-bulb moment! I dredged up my Seattle Mariners baseball cap and wore it back-to-front, keeping the hair out of my eyes. IMMEDIATE cessation of hay-fever symptoms. Hair now cut.

Alas, I did no forensics. Took no photo. Asked no comparisons. But it’s possible I may have seemed prettier. Where’s the disinterested pedestrian when you need one?


Let’s simplify what I’ve said above. We check our face in the mirror and we go out into the world. Most people we then encounter know nothing about who we are. Yet they make judgments – brief or lengthy – on us as they pass. The only truly distinctive feature about us is our face. What sort of judgment does our face encourage? By extension, how do we judge our own face?

The prospect may terrify some, fascinate others. Some (often for dubious motives) may regard such self-scrutiny as unhealthy. To those I say, bollocks. It’s a legitimate subject; give it a whirl. Try to be honest and - yes - it's going to be hard; lies are, however, acceptable provided they’re amusing. Outright self-aggrandisement is  boring.

Friday 16 June 2023

TOB updated

While The Orange Buffoon was still US president, Tone Deaf comments were full of gloom and despondency. I urged readers to adopt another response: to laugh at TOB. Mainly because TOB found laughter harder to handle than condemnation. Also, it’s more fun to laugh than to sob.

My readers disagreed. TOB was too serious for laughter, they said. Unaware, it seems, that laughter can be a deadly weapon.

For I lived through World War Two when the Allies (ie, the anti-Nazis) faced their own Orange Buffoon. And yes, although Adolf Hitler was a mass murderer, he did sport a ridiculous moustache. And Herman Göring, Hitler’s head of the Luftwaffe (ie, the air force), was inordinately fat. The cartoonists made hay and we did too. Songs too (To the tune Colonel Bogey):

Hitler has only got one ball,
Göring has two but very small,
Himmler is rather sim'lar,
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all.

And if you don’t know who Himmler and Goebbels were, count yourself lucky.

Imagine, you’re in a bar and TOB walks in. Except he’s an ordinary Joe. What would your reaction be? The pancake make-up and the sugar-shovel hairdo would have you grinning straightaway. He orders a Diet Coke, so what’s he doing in a bar? But he speaks in that fluty, almost musical voice the real TOB reserves for saying the US is corrupt.

A half-drunk at the bar (It could be me.) says something disparaging. TOB forms his lips into the pre-kiss rosebud shape, simpers and makes a petulant sound. Where’ve you seen that before? That’s right: a six-week-old baby refusing milk.

Come on. This guy’s straight out of a circus. So treat him accordingly

Write a comic song. What does Trump rhyme with? You got it.


Tone Deaf readers didn't agree with my suggestion that laughing at the ex-president (say TOB, it's shorter)  might undermine his outrageous behahaviour. General reaction: you don't laugh at Satan.

Others think differently. On YouTube Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC's very serious political commentator, asked three legal beagles (Andrew Weissman - former federal prosecutor, Neal Katyal - former acting Solicitor General, Bradley Moss - national security attorney) to react to TOB's answers to some surprisingly tough questions, with follow-ups - on Fox News! - about the purloined documents.

The atmosphere at MSNBC was unusual; fun was in the air. Even O'Donnell could hardly suppress his giggles. TOB's blundering was mercilessly exposed. Weissman characterised TOB as "uncertain" and "scared". Katyal said the present documents prosecutor, Jack Smith, could take on TOB as additional counsel and let him prosecute himself. Moss said the clip clearly showed TOB would be changing his plea to Insanity.

Very refreshing. Laughing at someone isn't often a sign of approval.

Tuesday 13 June 2023

A sort of ring-a-ring-of-roses

August 2018 I was part of a good-humoured discussion at my brother’s blog (Conrad Walks). Others contributed and my brother announced that – at 34 comments – we’d broken the record for a single Conrad Walks post. Was 100 comments a possibility? I wondered.

Wondered aloud.

Not only a possibility, a reality. I’d forgotten this sportive project until recently. Dimly it came back; many dropped out, leaving it to me and Phreerunner (a retired accountant, but much more than that) to slug it out. The hundredth comment should have been his but he graciously ceded it, saying it was my idea.

What subjects, then?

At one point I suggested Blogger might intervene; "We'll never make it," I said. Brother (Sir Hugh) seemed relieved. But Phreerunner (PR) persisted.

So I resumed, dealing with my Austin Cambridge (My worst car), my BSA Bantam (Ditto motorbike), Wrynose Pass in the Lake District, why I wasn’t a backpacker, and the Col d'Iseran in summer.

Was I distracting PR from more serious stuff; should I write his comments and his answers? He laughed at that. Kitchen Utensils I Have Never Used led to talk of mandolins and colanders. Truthfulness and Politicians absorbed half a thousand words. Scruffiness of journalists. An aside about lobster racing. The artistic proportions of bronze winches used on yachts. 

But was I running dry? – wedging in part of a short story and a sonnet about a ski-ing accident, both mine. Not at all. Welcome boots, singing and Mozart.

Also, why had Brits taken to drinking water from bottles in the streets? 

I was astonished at the length of the comments. And at the sustained enthusiasm. At its quixotry. Ah, to be 82 again.

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Weh ist mir

Rare as the Mona Lisa. 

Signs of RR in a penitential  act of gardening. 

Repeat after me: Ah, that I should be so cursed.

Sunday 4 June 2023

Elysian Fields, but without dying...*

I never actually played on the Bowling Green

Squeezing this into 300 words will be hard, but that’s my rule. Entering journalism at 15 was like winning a Nobel prize, if without the money. Quickly I realised I’d outgrown my home city, Bradford. Even more so, parochial Bingley. I yearned for London; see why, below

● Many press conferences were held in the West End, London’s swanky bit, just over 2 miles from where I worked. I always walked. For the smell of it and the snotty company of uncaring Londoners.

● Drama happened. Crossing the Thames at low water (by bridge) I saw a male corpse, legs and arms outstretched, half embedded in the mud. Death could hardly have been more anonymous.

● After a press do, having imbibed “one or two”, I’d call in at Foyles, London’s best-known bookshop. An awkward assembly of smallish rooms with an unnecessarily antique method for paying. Londoners learn to tolerate discomfort.

● London’s pubs are notoriously unwelcoming and costly. Even so, London hosts the best pub in the world: The Trafalgar, on the very edge of the Thames, near Greenwich. Sit in the curve of a bow window; downstream The Dome, an arena resembling a huge flattened mushroom; ahead the towers of Canary Wharf – London’s Wall Street; upstream hints of Tower Bridge.

● VR, then VT, was a nurse at Charing Cross Hospital, within spitting distance of Trafalgar Square. We courted each other in what Dr Johnson called The Great Wen. Nowhere could have been more romantic.

● Saw my first opera in London, Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

● Lunched at Rules, the Savoy, Le Gavroche, three mega-pricey restaurants. Somebody else paid.

● Bought wine at Berry Bros, as did the late Queen.

*... and without being obvious.

Thursday 1 June 2023

Eventually, they stopped gladiator fights

Tell me - just how does he re-assume the vertical?

I’ve always been fascinated by motorbike racing. But only recently have I asked myself am I morally entitled to this fascination? Should I, in fact, ‘fess up?

The first races, in the early fifties, were shocking in retrospect. Racers roared down narrow lanes in a private park; I watched from the lane side separated only by a single rope strung between short posts. No protection whatsoever, only a warning I shouldn’t get too close.

Bikes got faster. On the Isle of Man, a 30-plus-mile circuit follows conventional rural and suburban roads, defined by stone walls and house corners. Eventually someone went round at an average 100 mph. The present record is 135 mph. That’s average speed; to achieve this, bikes travel at close to 200 mph in some parts. On two wheels!

Meanwhile better tyre technology means racers may lean over even further to get through corners faster. In present international MotoGP races, the angle between bike and road is less than 45 degrees. Now the racer’s elbow scrapes the ground.

Cameras are so small a bike racer may carry several; not just to record the rapidly changing view ahead but showing his foot changing gear, and his right hand applying the brake. To the YouTube viewer the sensation is thrilling.

Thrilling because of the danger. Deaths during practice and races in the IoM are shocking. Riders wear one-piece leather suits and expensive helmets. Offering only marginal protection when hitting a drystone wall at 120 mph.

At other circuits large run-off areas make racing safer. Rider deaths are down but I can remember the bad old days and the IoM races still happen. After all, bike racing is only bloody entertainment.

Racers do what they wish; my thrills are vicarious. Am I justified? Probably not. Should I stop watching? Hmmm.