● 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 30 March 2024

You're very very old when...

These phenomena were more or less current in the UK between 1947 and 1951 when I was 12 – 16.

Pharmacies (then called chemists) that sold bottles of wine.

Proper cinemas in town centre and throughout suburbs where people often queued (US: stood in line) to get in.

Cinemas again: Manager of one suburban cinema wore dinner jacket as he managed the outdoors queue

Cinemas again: Offering continuous double-bills starting in the afternoon. Meaning I sometimes saw second-half of movie before I saw first half.

Groceries where very little came pre-packed. Waiting while items like flour and sugar were weighed and bagged. Encouraging endless chat between customers and those at the counter (wearing white overalls and white aprons).

Children at primary schools smacked punitively on the thigh.

Many more motorbikes than now. Ridden by men who couldn’t afford cars.

Low prices – obviously subsidised – for much more frequent public transport.

Pubs with doors open to the street; raucous noises audible to passing pedestrians.

Pedal-bikes parked casually. Suggesting (perhaps) that theft was less of a problem.

Wealth distinctions obvious in raggedy clothing worn by child “scruffs” – a middle-class word of contempt for those living in tumbledown urban streets. Such children also marked by “candles” flowing from their noses: astonishingly widespread. A son of middle-class parents I was terrified by these unfortunates.

War planes continuing to fly overhead.

Food still rationed. System sustained via book of “points” scissored away by retailer with each purchase.

The tiny bronze farthing (= quarter of penny) was being phased out. Coinage was hilarious. Half-penny, penny, two three-penny bits (One silver, the other yellowy-bronze and multi-faceted), silver six-pennies, silver shilling (= 12 pennies), silver florin (= 2 shillings), silver half-crown (= 2 shilling and 6 pennies). Foreigners, especially Americans, were baffled. Unsurprisingly. 

Thursday 28 March 2024

L'après-midi d'un invalide

It’s Maundy Thursday. A secular stepping-stone – as far as I know – to Good Friday. It’s afternoon. My multitudinous tasks are done and VR and I are resting our ailing bodies, as we do most afternoons. I’m remembering two other Maundy Thursdays, a year apart seventy years ago, when I twice experienced a musical epiphany. Should I try and re-create it? It turns out I don’t have that particular  piece of music but I have another and it’s appropriate to the time of year. I scroll through 4000-plus tracks on a laptop set aside for just these occasions.

Bach’s Easter Oratorio starts to roll.

As well as the laptop my audio reproduction system is linked to the TV and a specialised amplifier. Until recently its handiness was sometimes unfathomable and I just couldn’t be bothered. But today all is OK. I’d forgotten how rich and detailed the sound is compared with the TV, despite the improvements the amplifier brings to the TV’s normal output.

Soloists and choir sing punchily, confident in their mastery of the polyphony. The emotion is almost tangible and I’m in tears ten minutes before the end. Ironic given the music relates to the peak event in a religion I do not believe in. For forty minutes I’m un-ill.

Re, the short story (see previous posts). I’m halfway through (2525 words written) and Larry is positioned as a real person. Feeble, yes, but – if you have sympathy for disadvantaged others – a mite tragic. Ready to bring all his failings to a date arranged by a computer.

I was tempted to post this half-story as a stand-alone. But who knows when I’ll finish it? Larry deserves a beginning, a middle and an end all woven together. 

Does any reader wear titanium frame glasses? Alas, you may be offended. 

Saturday 23 March 2024

Bye bye Ian

 Pictures that emerged from Ian's visit to Hereford

On Tuesday mornings we hand over
the house to Julie, our indefatigable
cleaner, and pass time with hot-cross
buns at Tesco's caff. It's not The Savoy

During his three-week stay Ian baked
several cakes; this one's ginger flavoured.
Yes, I know it sags in the middle but I,
for one, like ' em slightly soggy 

Our house has a side bed which
tends to be ignored. During a
visit from the solar-panel cleaners
I discovered the camellia (which
I refer to as a cyclamen - but
who cares?) was in full bloom
and I escorted VR for a viewing

As a going-away present Ian prepared
these six curries to spare me from
having to prepare anything other 
than Philadelphia Cream Cheese
spread on slices of Ryvita

Thursday 21 March 2024

Taking time off

Ian is in his thirties and 6 ft 4 in.

Large parts of my waking day are repetitive. Up, shave, help VR wake, wash and dress, guide her to the Stannah Stair Lift, downstairs to her favourite chair, dole out pills, visit Tesco for essentials (esp. The Guardian), prepare simple meals, trawl the streaming services for a movie we both can stand (often the most demanding part of the day), then back to the Stannah. In between she reads and I write/sing.

Yesterday was different: her birthday with lunch at The Three Horseshoes. Although VR is mobile round the ground floor of the house her new wheelchair increases her range of operations. At the pub we pushed a conventional chair to one side and she sat at the table in her wheelchair. Much more comfortable.

However, the last fortnight she and I were, as it were, on holiday. Quite frankly we lolled and did bugger-all. Grandson Ian, over from Luton, cooked all the meals (much more adventurously), did the shopping, managed the booze – all this while getting up at the crack of dawn, walking to the gym (about three miles), doing goodness knows what exercises, and walking back. In between, chastising me in a horribly censorious tone of voice for my over-casual attitude to domestic chores.

Yet to come: an extended birthday-dinner out arranged by daughter Occasional Speeder, staying overnight at her house. Ian then returns to Luton and his mother, Professional Bleeder, comes here to Hereford and takes on Ian’s duties for another fortnight.

Moral summary. During 63 years of marriage VR bore most of the parental burdens. Journalism (a job I really enjoyed) meant I was away a lot. Now our responsibilities are reversed and the kids chip in. Though I hardly deserve it, I accept my new lot without resentment. I feel very lucky. I am lucky.

Monday 11 March 2024

Larry's first - inauspicious - steps

The idea was to write a short story that hilariously examined the hazards of computer dating. The extract below doesn’t even touch on this since, beforehand, readers must “know” the central character. He has to be a real not a cardboard cut-out. Meet Larry.

However readers of the eventual short story do have one advantage – they know that a “date” will be forthcoming. The italic paras start to hint at what sort of a man Larry is.

Months ago the shopping lists were scribbled in pencil. Then, carefully, in pen. Then in pen and in capital letters. Then enlarged on the laptop and printed out on a full A4 sheet. Ma saying, “You can’t snivel now even if you do forget your glasses.”

But glasses didn’t solve all Larry’s problems. Potatoes were of course potatoes. And tooth-paste was tooth-paste. But what was Ainsley Harriot lemon grass? Last week he’d returned home lacking this very item, defeated, terrified of asking a shelf-stacker in case he made a fool of himself. Ma had shrieked her displeasure, grabbed the car keys and stamped off.

Back in ten minutes, still angry. At least she hadn’t insisted Larry walked back to Tesco. She could have.

I’m a Brit and this is a British story using a native vocabulary. In the past US readers of Tone Deaf have flapped their hands and wondered what certain words and locutions mean. Most Brits managed to read The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Cannery Row, and the Rabbit tetralogy without external help. Try Google if you must. Better still, visit us.

Story progress: 792 words written; 3200 words (approx.) to go

Monday 4 March 2024

Larry's agony: progress report 1

Larry's progress towards his computerised date (See previous post) now stands at 774 words. For Larry to be comic I find he must suffer. Abominably. With so much suffering yet to come. Yet I made Larry; must I dislike him? For another 2500 words at least? Well, I have him wearing a most inappropriate suit and that's a start