Sunday, 19 November 2017

More Creature Questions.

I saw a headline yesterday which said that some dog or other – police or military, I assume – had been given the top canine medal for bravery. Well, I love dogs and I’m very appreciative of their bravery when they exhibit the quality in a good cause, but what the hell is the point of giving them medals? I imagine the poor dog sloping away thinking if this is what you get for saving the world, what on earth do you have to do to get a bone?

*  *  *

I’m curious to know whether slugs and snails freeze solid in frosty weather, and whether they resurrect themselves and carry on regardless when it warms up.

*  *  *

Do you know that I once opened a packet of bread which had been in the freezer for ten days and a moth flew out? It didn’t even have a hat on.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

A Tale of Prospective In-Laws.

When I was eighteen I knew a girl called Lyn Pedley. She was the one in whose home we used to have not-very-wild parties every Thursday night while her parents were out.

Her parents intrigued me a little because her mother seemed convinced that Lyn and I were destined to spend our lives together. I never really understood why, but it seemed transparently evident from the fact that I was the only young man who was ever invited to dinner.

I wondered whether it was because I used to let Lyn carry my guitar when we went on camping trips to Welshpool. I supposed she might have apprised them of the fact, and that maybe it was an ingrained motherly trait to assume that any eligible young male who allowed her daughter to carry his precious guitar must be about to propose. I thought it might be a tribal thing like the giving of a shark’s tooth or the standing on one leg outside the girl’s hut between sunrise and noon.

Tonight I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember whether I ever kissed Lyn Pedley. No results so far. I do remember that she had a front tooth which was coloured two different shades of white and that it fascinated the hell out of me. I never did get around to asking her how it came to be that way, and I never found out where her parents went to every Thursday night either. But I remember the night when I’d had more to drink than usual and fell asleep in the downstairs toilet. I woke up some time after her parents came home, but they pretended they hadn’t noticed. Maybe they’d decided to start as they meant to go on.

And I do apologise for being preoccupied with the maidens lately, but I do miss them so. And when you’re becoming half convinced that you haven’t much time left in the vale of tears, the memory of past maidens can be the one comfort left to you.

Friday, 17 November 2017

A Portrait in Conversations.

I had a second conversation in Ashbourne on Wednesday. The first – with the Lady B’s sister – I’ve already reported. The second went this way:

‘Are you OK?’ she asked.

(For the benefit of those who don’t know, ‘Are you OK?’ is a standard greeting in UK English entirely synonymous with ‘How are you?’)


‘Why not?’

‘I don’t feel OK.’

‘Why? What’s the problem?’

‘Life is the problem. Shall I tell you what life is? Life is when you take your first lungful of air and then set out along the road to death. That’s all life is. Where’s the cheap lettuce?’

She pointed me in the direction of an iceberg lettuce which had been reduced to 34p because it was on its Use By date.’

‘Ah, right. Thanks.’

End of conversation.

I still don’t feel OK. I’ve felt ill in more ways than one for a couple of weeks now. In fact, I don’t think I’ve felt really OK since the last time I walked up the lane with the Lady B and her lady dog. That was about six years ago, and I didn’t feel entirely OK even then because I was in the throes of my chronic fatigue problem at the time. So when she asked ‘Is that the fastest you can walk, Jeff?’ I felt embarrassed.

I sometimes wonder whether God was inventing karma when he relieved Adam of a rib.

Being Easily Led.

A young man who’s just got his first driving licence decides that he’s going to buy a new car, and so he goes to the nearest showroom which just happens to be Ford.

‘You’ve made the right decision,’ says the smarmy salesman. ‘Ford is the best car you can buy.’

‘Oh, right,’ says the na├»ve young driver. ‘Better buy a Ford then.’

And so he does, and then he drives to his friend’s house to show off his new acquisition.

‘I bought a Ford because it’s the best car you can buy,’ he boasts.

‘How do you know?’ asks his slightly more mature friend.

‘Because the salesman said so. And he should know, shouldn’t he?’

I say this because I’ve noticed that most religious adherents choose their affiliation on precisely the same basis.

Being Brave for Change.

I think I was in my mid-thirties when I decided that my dress style was due for a major overhaul. Accordingly, I started wearing my shirt collar inside the neck band of my sweater rather than outside. It took some time to become comfortable with such a radical alteration in my image, but I persevered and never looked back.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Recalling the Late Night Ladies.

I worked out tonight how many people have been in my house after about eight o’clock at night during the 11½ years of my tenancy. It didn’t take long. I remember Mel staying overnight once for some reason or other, and then there was the weekend of my first autumn here when her friend Leila fancied getting away from her internship at a London teaching hospital. (I remember she very much liked my home made soup.) So there’s the answer: two.

And do you know what one of my life’s greatest thrills was? It was the night when Zoe from somewhere-near-Philadelphia said she wanted to get away from her mother, her home, and even America, and could she come over here and live with me for a while. I said something like: ‘May I look forward to late night discussions on deep and meaningful things over a few scotches?’ and she replied ‘Yes yes, you may.’ I went to bed in a rippling haze of contented anticipation that night, but I realised eventually that it wouldn’t work. Having an attractive young American woman living in the house would have been quite an emotional pressure – if you see what I mean – which is why my disappointment was mixed with relief when she announced that she’d got a position in New York instead.

And do you know what one of my most gut-wrenching moments was? It was the time when I got an email one night from the Lady B after she had reluctantly attended an event at the village hall. It said: ‘I kept anticipating your arrival, but somehow I knew you wouldn’t turn up.’ I felt as though I’d just accidentally dropped the cute little puppy onto a bed of sharp nails. (The Lady B never did set foot in my house, by the way, even in the days when we were getting on.)

And the result of such musings leads me to wonder whether I really am quite the misanthropic, reclusive curmudgeon I think I am, or whether life has just pushed me in that direction and I’ve come to believe my own publicity. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Neat Words.

A colleague of Mel’s uses an expression which she apparently picked up from her mother. She assumed it was a well known local saying, but nobody else seems to have heard it before. It runs:

I’ve lost my appetite and found Moby Dick’s.

I hope it shouldn’t need to be pointed out that it means ‘I’m hungry.’ I happen to think that it’s quite a clever and catchy expression which deserves greater currency and wider usage, so do feel free to pass it around. And it occurs to me that it might be an American expression, so if any American reading this is familiar with it, please let me know.


Anybody who read my post Not Quite a Lady B Post might be interested to know that I finally managed to have about 60 seconds of conversation with the Lady B’s sister today. You wouldn’t think it possible to live half a mile from somebody in a relatively close-knit community for 11½ years and never get to talk to them, would you? I can attest to the fact that it is.

I even got to ask her the big question: ‘How do you manage to be so mysterious?’ to which she answered ‘I am mysterious.’ Well now, that’s like giving somebody a pickaxe in the Klondike and pointing out the little slivers of shiny yellow metal lying close to the big hole in the rock face. Could you leave it at that and walk away? I did. So did she, but then she had the advantage of being the source of the shiny yellow metal.

Ah well, at least the encounter managed to lift my depression - as well as the inconvenient physical phenomena which accompany it - for at least an hour. That takes some doing, so many thanks and congratulations to the Lady B’s sister. And considering the way I’ve abused my body through the course of my life, I doubt I’ll still be around in another 11½ years so I expect today’s encounter will prove to be altogether unique for this life.

(I seem to recall that I once made a post about my fascination with the concept of sisterhood. I suppose it’s all to do with the combination of familial bond and that peculiarly feminine form of power which we men find both compelling and mysterious. Or maybe it’s the more prosaic perception that two pounds buys twice as many cupcakes as one.)

On Being a Space Cadet.

I mentioned in my last post that one of the aspirations I hold for my next life is to be an astronaut. I’ve long fancied being an astronaut as long as I’m a lone astronaut. That’s because I find the idea of being all alone in the deep darkness of the cosmos, millions of miles from the nearest human, highly appealing.

But there’s a drawback. Anybody who has seen the movie Moon will realise that three years without company can be a bit galling even for a confirmed misanthrope like me. It can send you off the wall in ways which are unpleasant rather than merely interesting, which is why I feel ambivalent towards the prospect.

But now I’ve thought some more. This is the future we’re talking about, isn’t it? There will no doubt be a vastly updated version of Skype which will enable you to call up attractive young women from all over mother earth and say ‘Hey babe, talk to me. I’m in orbit around a different planet.’ And when you’ve wooed her with your obvious charms, your sense of adventure, and your clever misquoting of Mr Beeblebrox, she will probably be able to join you in hologram form standing on the little round thing in the corner of the comms deck. And when she sees how fit you are (because you use the gym a lot, right?) she will readily agree to you joining her in Sydney or San Francisco or Salford, or wherever she lives, when you next get back on leave.

Good idea? I think so. And you will, of course, hide the sublime irony contained within this glorious idyll – that the world is now ruled by women and the term ‘hey babe’ is a serious criminal offence, punishment for which is to be sent off to explore the deep darkness of the cosmos as a lone and unwilling astronaut (trust the women to bring back the press gang and legitimise it with understandable feminist sensibility.) You wouldn’t want her to know that it’s why you’re on this damn spaceship in the first place, would you? You would rather she be impressed by your sense of adventure.

My posts all seem to be about death and the maidens lately, don’t they? I hope to get back to my old self eventually, if and when my old self manages to conquer the current mental and physical aberrations.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Late Developer.

There’s an ad appeared on my YouTube home page which reads:

What did you want to be when you were young?

Well now, all little boys wanted to be engine drivers when I was young, except me. I didn’t. When I was a kid I wanted to be a missionary. And then I changed my mind and wanted to be a film star. At age fifteen I briefly wanted to be a geologist, and then at seventeen the yen turned to law school and becoming a barrister. By my early twenties I’d settled on becoming an author. And then (and then) by the time I reached thirty I wished I’d become an engine driver.

I suppose the appeal of being an engine driver is all the romance that comes with it – the pulling of the chain to sound the whistle, the charging through the mountain pass in the snow with a whole regiment of pine trees for an audience, and the going into bars in strange towns and cities to chat up the local colleens who would ask: ‘Hey mister, you stink of sweat and smoke. Where’ve you been?’ and I could answer: ‘I’ve been everywhere, little lady, except one. How are you fixed?’ I think I would have been the politest engine driver ever to exult in the sounding of a whistle.

And now I’m forced to concentrate on my next life. At the moment I’m torn between being an astronaut and Emperor of China.

(The black dog is currently trying to open a can of Meaty Pieces with his teeth, by the way, which is why I’m able to make this post.)