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Sunday 9 July 2023

An opportunity missed

Squalid enough to require a tidy-up?

Problem solved but ashes remain

I should have used my camera. It was truly impressive, even frightening. But I’m a words-man, I don’t instinctively think in terms of photos. Here’s the story.

Years ago I posted an image of my study on Tone Deaf. Stella – a commenter now departed to Twitter, alas – described what she saw as a mancave. My first encounter with the word; it stuck in my mind.

Over the years my mancave has become progressively more squalid. Worse still, it’s become less efficient. I just can’t find stuff. Time to tidy up, to start discarding the ramparts of rubbish. Tax statements that go back to the early oughties; investment data that’s a decade out of date.

Which means the squalor coefficient has got even worse (see pic). But, then, I must suffer to make myself more comfortable.

But here’s the problem. One cannot merely throw away old tax statements; who knows into whose hands they may fall. They need to be destroyed.

I do have a shredder but the work is painfully slow. Two or three sheets at a time.

I don’t have an incinerator as such but I do have a chimenea, its more civilised sibling. An under-used device. First step: knock on neighbours’ doors and ask their permission to temporarily pollute the local environment. Permission given.

Take a handful of paper, screw into ball, drop ball down chimenea’s chimney, more balls, a drop of methylated spirit, then a lighted match.

And wow! Flames almost a metre high roaring up out of the chimney. I was entranced. And delighted by the speed of destruction; problem solved in less than an hour.

But all I’ve got is the aftermath. No spectacular flames for you all. Just a metal basket full of ashes.

VR says such ashes may benefit the garden. Can anyone confirm?

Monday 3 July 2023

Oh for a muse of fire... etc, etc.

Can't find the photo of me on stage, haven't
the energy. Instead, here's Guildford
Cathedral. It's modern, as you may have guessed

When things go wrong in publishing (Someone gets fired. A magazine is closed. A colleague dies unexpectedly.) it’s traditional to resort to “gallows humour”, in effect to turn the bad thing into a joke.

In the early eighties a large UK publishing company decided to get rid of its specialist division in Guildford, where I worked. Without any experience I proposed writing and directing a collection of five related playlets called Guildford’s Last Launch wherein the division’s employees would perform a comical version of their coming disaster.

Although I had never acted I cast myself as the over-arching narrator linking these five pieces. Two playlets caused surprised laughter in the audience, mainly because three members of the cast had previously acted. The other playlets got by. That’s as maybe.

But how do you (ie, me) learn to act in two or three weeks? It seemed important to dress the part: black trousers and a black polo-neck endowed me with the necessary gravitas. In those days I drove to work (23 miles) and memorised my lines en route, later rewriting those that were duff. Then giving them life by shouting some, whispering others, banging the steering wheel for emphasis.

In the other direction the route I took was a busy road into London. Other drivers, caught in traffic, must have wondered if I’d been driven mad by the slow progress. But I progressed. I’m not sure I became an actor but there’s a photo of me in performance – clenched fist waving – that looks plausible. Audience laughter helped and – Good grief! – I enjoyed myself. A decade later, addressing a very mixed audience in Tokyo, I employed some tricks of timing that had gone down well in Guildford.

Yes, if an opportunity arose I’d give it a go. Old as I am.