Saturday, 23 June 2018


This cancer/kidney business has taken a depressing toll on my upper body, so much so that the view in the mirror sends my self-esteem to the basement and leaves me preoccupied with the inclination to hide. And if I do go out I can’t even wear my favourite jacket because it always was a touch on the big side for me. Now it would look like a bell tent thrown casually over a scarecrow.

It occurs to me that I need to start building myself up again, but what would be the point? Given the nature of the remaining tests and scans it might be as late as December before I know whether I have a future to accommodate, so why expend the time, effort and money on what might prove to be a lost cause?

*  *  *

Meanwhile, I watched another episode of House tonight. It was about sick babies, one of whom died. My daughter’s first baby was stillborn and I well remember my reaction to it. House is proving a difficult watch.

*  *  *

And I decline to say much about Trump’s latest cheap publicity stunt to justify his policy on migrants except to state the obvious: cheap shots are what little people take when they’ve nothing better to offer.

Friday, 22 June 2018

On Reality and Mrs T's Coat.

I’m one of those who propound the view that each of us lives in our own version of reality, but that most people’s versions are so similar that they fail to notice the small differences. And then there are a few of us – like me – whose versions of reality differ sufficiently from the norm that we do notice. So is there any point in my saying that? Is it important?

Well, it depends on how you look at it and the context in which the philosophy is being considered. Personally, I think it’s very important, but no matter. What matters to me at the moment is that I’m bored by my enforced idleness and need to find something to say before I wither on the vine and go pouf, so…

…this morning I woke up with the uncomfortable notion that a big component of my own reality had suddenly dissipated into the mist of illusion. I don’t want to say what it was because it’s private; I just think it’s interesting that a part of our reality can be whisked unceremoniously away with little or no warning and no recourse to personal choice. It leaves a hole waiting to be filled, but you can’t yet see anything to fill it with. And maybe nothing fills it; maybe you’re just left with less substance in your personal inventory; maybe it’s like having a kidney removed which requires the surrounding tissue and organs to move over and take up the space. Here endeth the first bit of gobbledegook.

*  *  *

But one of my problems these days is that I’m feeling less of a sense of attachment to the material world around me. I walk around the town feeling that the people, the buildings, the roads and the vehicles using them amount to an environment that isn’t where I come from. It feels as though I’ve been sent here to observe, make notes and report back. And I think it fortunate that I so like strong coffee and warm cheese scones spread with real butter. Such a predilection can be very grounding when you’re getting frustrated because the spaceship hasn’t turned up yet and none of the clouds have rope ladders hanging from them.

(My state of mind is perfectly fine, by the way, but I can’t vouch for anybody else’s.)

What’s really interesting, however, is that I do feel a sense of attachment and belonging to certain places around the Shire. It isn’t the physical landscape itself which draws me, though, but rather the sense of something more subtle and mysterious evoked by the combination of physical forms. It seems there are places where I can hear the singing of the wood nymphs in the magic glade, even though I can't yet find the path to get to it.

OK, so maybe my state of mind isn’t perfectly fine. Or maybe it is but it’s tuning into some little-known radio station at the far end of the spectrum. I really don’t care. Do you?

*  *  *

And on that note I have to make mention of the furore surrounding Melania Trump’s jacket. I find myself warming to that woman – maybe ill-advisedly – and feel the need to make a suggestion:

It seems that good Americans from New Mexico to New England are gnashing their teeth at the fact that she should visit the refugee camps wearing a jacket with I really don’t care do you written on the back. ‘How could she be so insensitive?’ runs the general tone of the wail.

Well, maybe she wasn’t being insensitive. She doesn’t strike me as being an insensitive person, so might there be an alternative explanation? OK, here goes:

It’s considered a well established truism in Europe that Americans don’t generally do irony, whereas we in Europe generally do. Mrs Trump is only American by adoption; she was born and brought up in Europe. So when you look at the occasional indicators that Mrs Trump is not Mr Trump’s biggest fan, maybe she was making a subtle point which went over the heads of her American detractors. Obviously I don’t know, but I like to think it eminently possible.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Big News, Little News.

The England football team won the first game of their World Cup campaign two night’s ago by beating Tunisia 2-0, and the man who scored England’s two goals happened to be called Harry. Now, you might remember that another man called Harry was one of the star attractions of a high profile wedding recently, along with a woman called Meghan. It seems the England football match gained higher TV viewer ratings than the royal wedding, and so The Sun newspaper covered its front page today with the words:


There were a couple of pictures included, but there was virtually nothing else on the front page.

It’s sad, isn’t it? The Sun, it seems, considers the viewing figures for a football match to be the most important event of note in the British calendar today and no doubt the coincidence of names is full justification for the belief. It makes you want to go far and away to rid yourself of the persistent sense of nausea engendered by the tabloid press. And the fact that The Sun remains one of the best selling dailies over here really doesn’t say much for the average Briton.

*  *  *

But over on the other side of the pond we have the spectre of innocent children being taken from their already beleaguered parents and placed in the sort of holding pens which civilised countries don’t even put animals into any more. Mr Trump says it’s necessary, and I suppose there’s a certain logic to commend it. I imagine the purpose is to persuade other beleaguered parents not to attempt the crossing, and I suppose it probably will in some cases.

But it means that innocent children are being used as a leverage tool, which isn't so very different from holding children up as human shields in a fire fight, a practice which the US rightly condemns every time it's observed. This is the action not of a statesman but a cruel and unprincipled tyrant, and yet I gather the latest polls indicate an approval rating of 45% for Mr Trump. And that, I would venture to suggest, doesn’t say very much for the average American.

*  *  *

My own event of note today was that I didn’t only see the Lady B, I actually spoke to her. She told me that she is doing well after giving birth to her baby, and she further told me her daughter’s name in response to my enquiry. She was also at pains to point out that she was in too much of a hurry to chat since she needed to get back to Baby M as soon as possible. Well, that’s about as good a reason as any young mother could have to keep a conversation short and I was more than happy to accede. I’d been given as much intelligence as I felt I had reasonable grounds to expect, and the interests of children must, as always, be paramount.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

On Words and Music.

I gather many people choose music to set a mood. I don’t; I have to choose music which matches my existing mood because everything else is intolerable. Tonight I was in a Rickie Lee Jones mood so I listened to some Rickie Lee Jones. And then I suddenly wanted to write something which included the words:

…a sour heat hung in the air and set my sinuses stinging.

It reminded me of a woman called Dominique from India who used to comment on my blog. I’ve never stopped missing Dominique because her restrained use of English was exemplary and commendably singular. She said very little, but her choice of words and the syntax in which they were couched opened a whole catalogue of impressions.

There’s really little point to this post; it’s just that I’m bored but not yet tired enough to go to bed. I’m still listening to Rickie Lee Jones and life looks purple at the moment. One more large scotch and then maybe I’ll close the day down. The law of gravity by which egg timers function can be troublesome at times, but maybe it doesn't matter as long as the capacity to feel remains undiminished.

Notes #Whatever.

I’ve started watching the complete episodes of House because I missed it when it was shown on the TV. It’s scaring me witless and I don’t know whether I’m going to last the course. I like Dr House a lot because in some ways he reminds me of one of my own personality types, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that he reminds me of one of the roles I play when I’m disgruntled and cynical and don’t give a monkey’s toss what anybody thinks of me. It’s the environment that gives me the chills. Doctors are doing things to patients which doctors did to me recently, and some of which they’re going to do again. And it reminds me that hospital beds are the most uncomfortable beds to be found anywhere and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they don’t want you to be occupying them any longer than is absolutely necessary. I don’t need any persuasion.

*  *  *

I was reading today about the shooting incident at the Walmart store in Washington State. I read how the gunman was ultimately shot dead by a casual shopper who just happened to have a loaded side arm in his trouser pocket. I mused on the fact that the shooting could not realistically be described as self-defence and that the only person who died was the gunman. Being European by birth, upbringing and inclination, I found the whole thing extremely bemusing, and eventually could only arrive at one bottom line: It seems to me that America is slipping off the rails and somebody needs to get a grip before it’s too late. I understand that Americans will probably disagree with me and claim with a modicum of justification that America is none of my business.

*  *  *

I saw a woman walking along a street in Uttoxeter today. She was wearing a plain denim skirt with a plain denim jacket. Her legs were bare and her shoes flat. Her hair was a little unkempt and she wasn’t pretty, and yet for some reason beyond the grasp of my analytical faculty I found her compellingly attractive in a perfectly respectable, non-lascivious sort of way. She stared at me for a long time as she was walking and I wondered whether she, too, found me unaccountably compelling in a perfectly respectable, non-lascivious sort of way. Eventually I settled on the greater likelihood that she was wondering what the hell I was looking at. One has little choice but to be realistic at my time of life.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Finding the Antidote.

You might be pleased to hear that the pills worked and I’m no longer cheerful, so that’s a relief. I’m not quite back to my more accustomed level of top grade glumness yet, but I’m making a valiant effort to get there.

Maybe I should watch some World Cup football on the TV. I might be especially well advised to pay heed to the so-called pundits to whom the schedulers allot a ridiculous amount of air time before and after the match, and even for the whole of the half time interval if it’s on the BBC (no adverts, you see.)

This is the problem with life. It rarely gives us anything truly thrilling to stir the blood like dishevelled Japanese ghosts crawling out of the TV set. Instead we get sports so-called pundits spewing out trivial but self-important rubbish which lands on the carpet and leaves an irritating stain.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Becoming Glumless.

Something’s bothering me. I’ve been feeling cheerful for a little over 24 hours and I’m getting worried.

I’m not supposed to be cheerful. I don’t try to be cheerful. I’ve spent years cultivating a glum persona fit to outdo Marvin and Eeyore combined, and look what happens: I get a sudden attack of debilitating cheerfulness.

So what’s gone wrong? Could it be a hormonal imbalance? Is it some kind of infection? Could I be coming down with manic depression and starting on the up stroke? Have I been possessed by the ghost of some mediaeval king’s fool who wants to come back just to find out what corn flakes taste like? Do I need to start carrying a bell?

And where do I go for help? A doctor? A psychiatrist? An exorcist? A shaman from the upper reaches of the Orinoco?

And is this condition treatable or one of the remaining Great Mysteries of Modern Medicine? Do anti-cheerfulness pills exist, or is the only known cure some foul-tasting plant only found in the remotest corner of Sumatra and guarded day and night by man-eating tigers?

Will I survive it? Is it a life sentence? Will I ever frown again? Might I be confined to a cheerful person’s colony? Will they write a book about my condition in sufficient time for me to enjoy some royalties? Does anybody have any vinegar?

But I do still feel a bit ill and I do still have some pains, so maybe there’s hope for me yet.

Friday, 15 June 2018

In Praise of Vindictive Women.

I suspect that part of my current blogging problem has something to do with the fact that I rarely get a full night’s sleep these days, although I did get a good seven hours last night. Actually, that’s not quite true. I was called out of bed once by my urinary tract infection, but that’s an improvement on the more usual twice. (The antibiotics didn’t work, by the way.)

I blame all this on the woman doctor who performed my last cystoscopy back in February. I think she must have been a feminist or something because I’ve never been entirely free of a UTI since. She was the one who asked me whether I’d ever considered giving up smoking, and when I replied in the negative she included the fact in her report to my GP. I thought that a little vindictive, and it’s also irrational because UTIs are one of the few conditions (unlike sore toes, earache and dandruff) which are not claimed to be caused by smoking.

I do apologise if my posts have been rambling and meaningless lately. Do feel free to blame whatever and whoever you like as long as it’s not me.

And have a listen to this if you’ve got nothing better to do. It’s quite rollicking and sung in German. The only word I understand is ‘wind.’ They talk about it a lot in hospitals.

A Note on Romania.

I’m conscious of the fact that I rarely mention Romania these days. That’s a shame because I get regular visits from one or two people in Romania. Romania has the Carpathian Mountains to its credit, and the Carpathian Mountains look quite delightful in a wild and misty sort of way. My dentist is Romanian and is the best dentist I’ve ever had, and she’s nothing at all like Bram Stoker’s depiction of Romanians. I did have an unpleasant experience with a Romanian woman once, but I’m over it now.

So welcome Romanians. Do come again.

I’m in a strangely mixed up mood tonight, combining enigmatic statements with arcane humour to insignificant effect. I would very much like to feel better so that I can return to my more accessible self. Hope springs eternal.

A Taste for Accents.

I’m really into accents, you know. They colour the personality far more than most people seem to imagine.

I love the way Australians say ‘no.’

I love the way Slavic women say ‘what do you do?’

I love the way German men say ‘my father was wonderful; he was a wonderful father.’

I love the way French women say ‘why don’t you call her your future ex-girlfriend?’

I love the way refined English women say ‘big boys don’t cry.’

I love the way the Irish say ‘and the top of everything else to you.’

And I love the way young women with New England accents inflect the name Jeffrey.

I’ve heard them all, and I could go on, but why bother?