● 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.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

Elusive yet ever present

There are words we’ve used all our adult lives, regularly, sometimes more than once a day, which have never been explained to us and we’ve never checked in the dictionary. Yet we use them confidently and unquestioningly

Today’s word is “thought”? So what is it?

A thing that occurs in our brain? True but childishly incomplete. Blood flows through our brain. Electric impulses pass by. Confirmation is received that what we’ve just experienced is a smell, an image, pain, etc. Thought helps make sense of a fact remembered.

Thought sounds as if might be static; in fact it can be a sequence. Rather marvellously, a thought may start out as a problem and end up as a solution. Even more marvellously, thought allows us to come to conclusions about ourselves that are unique, known nowhere else.

Thought helps us judge the outside world, saying what’s good and what’s bad. And we – using thought – may define how good is good and how bad is bad.

We may apply thought to simple visible things – a vacuum cleaner, an earring, a hamburger – or things that are theoretical and therefore invisible – politics, charity, forgetfulness. In some cases these latter abstractions may even take on unbidden shapes and colours; thus we have a green opinion about philately.

We may convert thought into other forms which others may examine. As with this post I’m writing.

And we may think about thought itself. See it as an asset even a friend. Except that thought isn’t always beneficial, it may develop strengths and uncontrollably impose itself on us, making us uncomfortable.

It could be that our thoughts are our greatest quality. Or our worst. It can help if we exercise our thoughts, making them fitter for the job.

Why not consider that final sentence? Thoughtfully.

Sunday 28 January 2024

Drowning in ignorance

Chosen as dark grey for an obvious reason

Needs an answer (NAA) 1. My Skoda was bought in 2016. Due to the pandemic and various medical imperatives it has only travelled 50,000 miles. Regularly serviced, it is always garaged at night and the engine starts up first whir. The battery is original; should I change the battery now or wait until I find myself cursing?

NAA 2. I have worn this heavy jumper (see pic) continuously since early autumn 2023. Still unwashed. When will it become, unmistakably, a social disaster?

NAA 3. At my own request I was given Barbra Streisand’s autobiography for Christmas. The turgidity of Long Hard Road (qv) has delayed my tackling her but I’m now done with lithium-ion stuff. Barbra runs to 970 pages and weighs 1.3 kg. I have a damaged rh shoulder; has anyone any appropriate ergonomic advice to counter future stresses? 

NAA 4. Only sympathetic responses for this one. My op for mouth cancer in August 2021 left me with weakened muscles at the lh end of my mouth. Putting things bluntly – when I drink, I dribble at the left. Any suggestions?

NAA 5. Here you need to know what a stud-wall is. Suppose you wanted to hang a picture (weighing, say, 1 kg) on such a wall. What hook fitment would be guaranteed secure? Note: the one that opens up as a parallelogram when tightened isn’t – in my late mother-in-law’s words – “worth a light”. Also, finding and screwing into the stud-wall’s solid framework is beyond my diagnostic competence. 

NAA 6. Should all outdoor pot-plants, withered into crackly brownness by the first sharp frost, be cropped down to, say, 10 cm?

NAA 7. Why am I the only wine-drinker on Earth who knows that whites from the Southern Rhone succeed best in the cost/flavour equation?  

Sunday 21 January 2024

Roles reversed; results rotten

For sixty-two years VR fed me. A year ago illness descended; since then I’ve fed her. Not with any distinction, I should add. Luckily she is an utterly uncomplaining diner and I fear I’ve got away with culinary murder.

I’d like to say I’ve cooked for her but that would be a gross fib. More precisely I’ve – sort of – prepared food. And when I’m sure I’ve served something that doesn’t visibly make her gip I tend to repeat it. Over and over.

If this sounds heartless, the alternative is unthinkable. Two days ago I did a mushroom-based stir-fry with boned chicken thighs to give it relevance. One sears the chicken, doesn’t one? I asked. VR nodded. However the maximum tolerable gap between “seared” and “over-seared” is measured in milliseconds. A whiff of conflagration sent my heart into my boots. The underneath of a test piece of chicken turned out to be jet black And oh, oh, so bitter to taste. Yet VR ate her portion stoically and in silence.

I can’t pretend I enjoy turning out meals. For one thing I always forget to retrieve stuff from the freezer in good time. This results in lengthy experiments with the microwave’s Defrost function suggesting it would be more productive if I simply breathed on the mini-iceberg.

Also I’m continuously harassed. Meals are all about time’s wing├Ęd chariot and its speeds are variable. I try to imagine the degrees of synchronicity that would be needed to bring a full roast dinner (Rare beef, roast potatoes, green beans, sprouts and gravy.) to the table – simultaneously and properly cooked. Syncope just around the corner.

Plus, of course, guilt. VR has performed such tasks over six decades with great skill. Pro-tem I’m spending more on our mutually shared wine cellar.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Picking up the threads. Or not?

To compensate for Long Hard Road (see below) I am re-reading the MS of my novel Rictangular Lenses, title intentionally misspelled, started six years ago, dropped inexplicably after 56,000 words, still unfinished. Yes, re-reading drafts for no good reason is pathetic; a form of self-abuse.

And “unfinished” is inexact. The story, as is, follows an upward trajectory. A woman living dully in the UK Midlands, takes male-dominated management by the scruff of the neck, succeeds on character, is now paid a lot. A free-ranging investment agent, she identifies commercial opportunities and gives their existing (male) managers hell. The last written page has her arriving in Paris to check the “true” viability of a company that may profit from more cash.

Unusually for me, Rictangular lacks a plot outline and is based entirely on the appearance and behaviour of a woman I watched for an hour in a Birmingham restaurant. Accompanied, but he a mere cipher. Much observation posted in November 2015 . An extract:

SHE. Hair imperfectly dyed blonde (irregular dark streaks) swept up from neck with largish bun on top, deliberately loose strands of hair, petite face with pink/white makeup, black mascara, prominent convex cheeks, glasses with slot-like lenses and black and white sidebars (tapering towards the ear), white tight-fitting knitted pullover/blouse buttoned up to scalloped collar detailed in red, thin upper body with prominent, seemingly spherical breasts, hands with coloured nails regularly in motion.

Speaks conversationally yet – paradoxically - assertively, even occasionally shrilly but not unpleasantly. Not in charge but talking/acting with conviction. Ate salad.

So what happens next? I think Paris was to be pivotal, otherwise it’s a blank. Tiny hint suggests a huge change in direction. Also that the novel will be – must be – much longer. Temptation re-tickles my creative glands. Have I time enough?

Sunday 7 January 2024

Progress is harder than the road

Not at all like this

I am presently reading Long Hard Road. Unless you’ve noticed accidental hints I’ve dropped in recent posts – posts few have read – you may guess at the subject matter. A sequel, or prequel perhaps, of Jack Kerouac’s novel with a slightly similar title? The autobiography of a personnel manager with a highway surfacing sub-contractor? The brief life and early suicide of a folk guitarist who unwisely chose to trim his own hedge? A Mississipi congressman’s even briefer attempts to woo Mary McCarthy?

None of these. But don’t guess too hard. I decided I needed to be better informed – technically – about the electric car.

Not about the car itself, of course. Such a vehicle is no more interesting than a power drill fitted with wheels. Lacking an overhead camshaft, direct fuel injection or a hemi cylinder head there’s little to wax lyrical about. In fact, one way of identifying an electric car as it sighs past is the absence of an exhaust pipe. Absences don’t usually excite. They’re difficult to tweak

No, the nerdy bit is the battery. Specifically the lithium-ion battery. Ions you may have heard of, they’re sort of attached to – or detached from – the atom. Hard info so we may ignore them. Lithium is… well, stuff.  A chemical element, yeah. Symbol Li, yea-ea-ah. Atomic number 3; is that good or bad? Highly reactive and flammable. O wow! Bring it on.

Look, I’m only a third the way through Long Hard Road. All I can say for the moment it took decades to develop the battery’s anode and cathode. And they’re truly basic. I haven’t really touched on the internal goo. 

Regard this post as a prelude to thrilling techno leaps forward. Usually measured – if past pages are any guide – in sub-millimetres.

Saturday 6 January 2024

Touching on my dim past

I care little about the British royal family yet I watched some of The Crown TV series with interest. Those episodes embraced an era I lived through and during which my fledgling awareness of the links between national events in the UK started to develop. 

Even more so with Oppenheimer. I was too young for Hiroshima although I’ve subsequently absorbed just enough physics to appreciate the scientific and argumentative roots which brought about the bomb. But the plotline and I (historically) became more political simultaneously as McCarthyism raised its ugly head, covered in the final hour of the movie.

Oppenheimer is long (181 minutes) and it needs to be. Every twist and turn of the dilemma RO faced is both detailed and animated in trenchant dialogue and a persuasively realised cast of characters. It was fashionable to demonise RO’s latter-day tormenters at the time but the movie reminds us that the bomb – as a principle – threatened all of us and the very world itself, then as now.

A true dilemma in that no one was a hundred percent right.

For a time I loathed the USA. I think I was vaguely aware of the injustices (And the ingratitude!) heaped upon RO but he was just one of many victims. Think of the black-listed writers. On the other side: think of the celebrities who flipped.

Decades later it took a few months living in an unremarkable Pittsburgh suburb to achieve a more balanced view of a country I’ve tended to regard as a multi-faceted continent.

The movie won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s not obscure, the story is well told, but its aims are serious. Someone once said the Brits can’t stand too much reality. No reason why Americans should be any different. See it anyway.

Thursday 4 January 2024

Not just a book in the Bible

Ever asked: has my life been a success? Most don’t for good reason. The answer must be Yes because the alternative is unthinkable. Most lives revolve round very big matters like marriage, children, relationships and employment. Who would dare conclude that any - or all - of these had failed?

But success may be measured in lesser ways; say, how many revelations experienced along the way?  Not a trivial concern. Revelations occur mainly to those with an open mind - the opposite of a closed mind which is no kind of asset.

Geography. For me the USA was all revelation, good and bad; I’ve written about this endlessly. But before that, my solitary holidays in London. Dimly I perceived the excitement and stimuli of a large cosmopolitan city. Sure, there were disadvantages but I was a journalist and needed to know about things – at first hand. Rural surroundings could wait until the professional urges had dimmed.

Bird watching. A revelation that failed. For a year or so I found it fascinating but I needed a knowledgeable companion to bounce off my questions and ideas. None arrived. In any case, writing novels was tightening its grip.

Language. The seventies, a time of Euro-excitement, long before the false promises of Brexit. My employer allowed me two mornings a week (Just think of that!) to re-learn French. Years later I interviewed people in French for my magazine. But studying another language also informs you about your mother tongue.

Computers. Tools that enormously improved my way of writing (and of the subjects I tackled) plus my editing of magazines. Gorged on them from the start. And still do.

Serious illness. Bad, of course, but an unexpected and invaluable aid to self-examination and regard for others.

Singing. Ah, yes.