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● 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 29 June 2024

Void, part 2

Mentioned the possibility to my daughter, Occasional Speeder, presently at Glastonbury. She said: "Don’t do a Rolling Stones - keep saying you are giving up then come back ‘one last time’."

Plus the awful sight of Old Joe stumbling through the presidential debate. Am I the person I once was?

Plus this talk about mystery. Old age maundering?

But here's what I see as the core of the matter. It starts out as deceptively simple. Just two words: Why blog?

If you feel you could answer that straight off, then you and I have a problem. If you'd like an hour to ponder, that's a step in the right direction. Take a day, even a week; I have.

But hey, this is not some variant of the English class system based on intellect. As you all know I left school at 15, never having learned how to learn. Being forced, over eight months of National Service, to absorb a very hard subject - electronics, with a dash of physics and maths - took me by the scruff of the neck. Even so I have no "method" of thinking.

Though my attitude towards singing lessons may undermine this vague conclusion. There are no easy theories

For some people blogging couldn't be simpler. They do things and then record what they've done. This strikes a chord and leaves them and their readers without awkward questions. I've done it myself.

But not always. I'm still not clear but my aim may have been to launch dialogues - exchanges which build on what has been said before. Given I am who I am, doing this while simultaneously acting as cleverclogs. My facetiousness is never far away. Laughter, I've found, can bring comfort.

Dialogues, if they are to last, require subjects that have potential. And that can mean abstractions: one such is blogging about thinking. Thinking new thoughts, that is, not recycling clich├ęs.

Perhaps. But if this is the essence of what I've done then it's not working. And, after all, Labradors are subjected to the jab because they've become fat, lazy and have reached a certain age.

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Facing the void

Tone Deaf's audience has shrunk almost to nothing. My fault, of course. There are four options.

(1) Have it “put down”, as with household pets.
(2) Continue, leading to many No Comment notifiers.
(3) Become inflammatory, insulting, libellous. Forcing responses.
(4) Trawl other new blogs for like minds. Leave comments.

Number One is simple but eliminates publicity for my books. Also, I’m an octogenarian writer. I haven’t enough time left for another novel; even short stories are a gamble. Tone Deaf’s 300-word limit suits my tired body and my much restricted waking life. Also, dialogue – real inventive dialogue, however small – is something I feed on.

Number Two: looking like a stoic who relishes failure.

Number Three might be fun but could be close to Trumpism.

I’ve tried Number Four. The process is exhausting and tends to be disappointing. Most people – other than me - are more than what they write. Mutual disapproval usually sets in after a couple of months.

It wasn’t always like that. Five or six years ago Tone Deaf (and before it, Works Well) attracted people with both time and stamina to engage in lengthy and inventive discussion.  I learnt a lot and went on to verse and singing lessons.

Told VR about these options. She said, “Well I read it.” Hmmm.

One more post to go: explaining why the well has dried up, being brutally honest.

Saturday 22 June 2024

Several good things

VR, St Albans, late 50s, before RR

Old age and one of its loathsome ailments have dealt VR a lousy hand. Normally I don’t blog about this, not thinking I’m entitled. VR thanks me for the work I now do around the house and in the garden; occasionally she complains about being helpless. More frequently she reminisces about good things.

It’s the late fifties. She’s a qualified state registered nurse yet is running a whole ward at Charing Cross Hospital (dead centre of London) in the absence of the more senior ward sister. Two days’ leave beckon and VR will spend them with her parents in Folkestone, sixty miles away. Utterly knackered, still wearing her uniform, she crosses the road and joins the ticket queue at Charing Cross station.

An unknown man behind her calls over her shoulder to the ticket clerk: “Make sure you give this nurse the right ticket and call her a porter.” (Yes, porters were available then.)

A porter arrives, takes her bag, escorts her to a less packed carriage. He calls out to the other passengers. “Anyone here going to Dover?” Dover is the stop beyond Folkestone. Hands are raised. Porter says, “This nurse will probably sleep. Make sure she’s woken to get off at Folkestone.”

VR is woken as ordered. On the platform she is greeted by another porter, ordered by the porter at Charing Cross. He guides her to a waiting taxi. She provides her parents’ address and is driven there.

 “No charge,” says the driver.

Thursday 20 June 2024

Way to go

Shara of Oasis (inadvisedly re-christened Oasis Studio; suggests they are all still learning) has cut my hair for at least a decade. I always tip her very generously (I mean a lot.) and she always protests.

I explain: Since my hair is cut, at most, three times a year I will never make her rich. It’s great to plonk myself in the chair and not have to provide instructions. Her conversation is worth listening to.

Yesterday I told her that taking over the Chez Robinson kitchen was wearing me out. But how on earth does she cope? On her feet eight hours a day, back home, prepare a proper (cooked) meal for three. Whereas I may loll for much of the day.

Shara has a system. Front door closed she throws off her work clothes, has a shower (much rarer in the UK than the US), puts on light clothes, is able – via accumulated culinary skills – to create a proper meal within an hour. Why not, she suggested, cook in bulk and freeze the surplus for future use?

I can’t pretend my working day is as onerous as Shara’s. Also well-organised writing often leads to dull reading. The ideas arrive irregularly by unexpected Uber taxis. Writing is, in any case, self-imposed. And I’m prone to low hygiene standards.

But there was something beguiling in getting the drudgery out of the way and changing clothes. Established writers in the nineteenth century often wore dressing gowns (US: robes) at their desk. Even strange hats like the one illustrated. I do have a long US night-shirt which proved to be unsuitable for sleeping in but might hint at the lofty authority of an intellectual.

See why I tip big?

Thursday 13 June 2024

The Hitchhiker

Was this the chap who thumbed my body for
A lift? His name, well-known and ominous,
The medics put aside, went latinate
And told me buccal sulsus was my guest.

Three years ago they cut an ounce of flesh
To gain the space for me to use – let’s say -
For better things. For widening my mouth
To sing An die Musik more plausibly.

The checks were good; the Kidderminster drive 
I took was countrified. My voice? It sang.
Months passed, enough to wipe the memory
Of that unwanted, fungal traveller. 

But recently new stirrings to the left,
Just where the blades had hacked and cut,
An irksome tightness like a hangman’s noose, 
And tegument that stretched from A to B.

I thought about the villa in Bordeaux,
The sport of language in the streets,
Kin splashing in the pool; much money spent
Would all our preparations go to waste?

Is this the last or was last year the end?
Is twenty-four (three times eight) finality?
These latter years I think I’ve shrugged at death
But others are the ones who feel the pain.

But lo! A consultation just arrived,
A guy in blue sees what I cannot see.
Murmurs to me, “Just tissue badly scarred.”
The hol is on; good grief, another year.

Saturday 8 June 2024

Something of a first

Can't believe your eyes? Click to enlarge

It’s my house. The posters say “Vote Labour”. I've never previously stuck up a political poster. Ever.

Not that I’m expecting the message to be heeded. In the 26 years we’ve lived in Hereford, the city’s southern-section Labour candidate has always been a distant third in general elections. But miracles do happen, and national polls put Labour 21 points ahead of the Tories. Perhaps, perhaps.

It’s more a statement than an exhortation. I’ve never been more ashamed to be British than now. Eliot’s wry observation “…not with a bang but a whimper” has never been more apposite. Except it’s a sordid whimper. A corrupt whimper. A land where opportunism, political greed, governmental incompetence, international egotism, contempt for anyone who is differently coloured or who lives in mainland Europe are the order of the day.

A land where closed-doors finagling results in an other-worldly person becoming prime minister, ruling for forty-odd days and leaving office having cost the country £46bn. What’s that? £46,000,000,000.

Tories have ruled for 14 years. Their manifesto tells us what they intend to do. Why, you ask, did you not do these things earlier? There seems to have been plenty of time.

To curry favour Tories promise to cut taxes. But that means spending less on public aid: health, education, the elderly, even, for goodness sake (THESE ARE TORIES!) the armed forces.

The feeble-minded, queried by TV reporters, disguise their ignorance with “All politicians are the same.” Maybe; but is it conceivable the opposition would do worse?

In the past VR and I have been forced to vote tactically. The hell with that. Who knows…?

Footnote: Labour is led by a knight. Knights did chivalry. Yeah, pure bullshit, I suppose.

Friday 7 June 2024

New can be quite hard


Later I rechristened it Rustbucket

In the mid-sixties I decided to try my hand as a journalist in the USA. Easier then, but still a venturesome prank. Since I couldn’t be sure I would succeed I came alone, leaving my wife and three-year-old daughter behind in the UK.

Gift-of-the-gab got me a job and I spent the next three months at the Pittsburgh Y until VR and daughter arrived on the SS United States. In New York that is.

During this time everything I did - other than the journalism - was new and often perversely difficult; but that was why I’d come, wasn’t it? An impossibly aggressive realtor resembled an enemy from the Middle Ages. I half expected this egg-shaped man to throw down his gauntlet as prelude to a duel with pitchforks. Which I’m sure I’d have won.

I needed to equip the flat, a job I’d only shared with VR in the UK. Obviously we’d need a frying pan. I disdained Teflon, being entranced by a ferocious looking thing – more weapon than cooking utensil – fashioned as one piece (including handle) in cast iron. Probably weighing one stone. To avoid being asked the obvious question I’ll let US readers down lightly: that’s fourteen pounds.

As far as I remember VR only used it once. Apart from its discouraging weight the only job it did well was to raise the temperature of the integral handle to white heat.

Later I got fed up of travelling to work on a tram manufactured according to the same principles as the frying pan (ie, excess weight seen as a virtue). On a whimsy I acquired a used Volvo 122, deemed a luxury car in the UK, rated a sub-compact in the Iron City. My colleagues saw me as deluded.

Different points of view y’unnerstand.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Nuptials tested

Here are two frying pans; actually one’s an omelette pan but never mind that snivelling detail; both have been used to fry food.

Now guess the difference in price between them. I’ll make things easier: guess what multiple of price distinguishes one from the other.

Still not interested? OK, a more telling clue. One’s a Le Creuset.

And the Le Creuset costs six to eight times more than the other (off the shelf at Tesco).

Plus I owe VR an apology. She bought the Le Creuset more than thirty years ago when we lived in Kingston-upon-Thames. No doubt I ate many an omelette it cooked. But these days VR’s condition has meant I now operate the kitchen and with it the Le Creuset. The standard of culinary competence has dropped to what we in the UK call the “greasy spoon” level.

Recently VR discovered I’d hotted up a fish finger in the Le Creuset. Said, “You can’t do that in an omelette pan.” But omelettes are not part of my repertoire and if what VR said is an unbreakable law then the Le Creuset would gather dust. “Besides,” VR added, “the Le Creuset cost a lot of money.”

I may have replied prices are relative with the passage of time.

Tell the truth, the Le Creuset looked very robust. Alas, I found its weak point. I accidentally caused it to fall from the shelf. The handle speared the floor causing massive leverage; as you see the handle and a large segment of the pan are now separate from the pan’s main body.

I decided to replace it at my expense. That’s when I discovered the passage of time had updated VR’s claim about price. Hence the cheapo.

Happily, our 63-year-old marriage remains in one piece.

Saturday 1 June 2024

Jus de l'orange

Yes, I’m aware of the 34 guilty verdicts in New York. But don’t get over-optimistic. Think about US politics in abstractions; it’s easier that way.

Trump. A law breaker, willing to break the law again, a felon. This should exclude him from political office. Blame the founding fathers

Trump supporters. Driven by four forces: Fear, Greed, Misguided Patriotism and (the great majority) Ignorance.

Fear: Without Trump certain politicians would lose their expectations of power. Even to disagree puts them at risk. Regard them as AI lemmings.

Greed. Those with commercial control. Looking for beneficial changes in tax law and in the relaxation of statutes that preserve employee rights.

Misguided Patriotism. Seen by some as “My country right or wrong”.

Ignorance (It takes different forms). Trump, now a politician, gained national recognition via a TV programme viewed by many with virtually no interest in, and/or knowledge of, politicians in general. To them Trump’s competitors are a mere blur. 

Trump speaks demotically and – when off script – chaotically. Just like many under-educated parts of the electorate. Thus there is a bond.

Trump offers extreme and contrary self-serving opinions as if they were established facts. Again, a bond with those who cannot, or are too lazy, to search for corroboration. 

Trump implicitly supports physical action without mentioning all its consequences. This appeals to those who enjoy abrupt brawling in bars and who believe all difficult problems can be solved with guns.

Those who have (metaphorically yet fatally) turned their faces away from Trump, hoping he will simply disappear.