Saturday, 21 October 2017

Variations on Cheer.

Autumn in the Shire is coming up a little short of being classically autumnal this year. On Monday we had the waspish waist of Hurricane Ophelia, and today we got the flabby flank of Storm Brian. We’re hoping that Ophelia and Brian have now taken a fancy to one another and are currently engaged in a dubious relationship at a resort somewhere on the west coast of Svalbard.

Today was gruesomely gloomy again, with cold winds, leaden skies and spitting showers. Such conditions depress my spirits mightily now that the HSP gene has become well entrenched in what still passes for a brain. Acute awareness can be quite the curse at times.

But still I went for walk with head bowed against the blast, hoping to see some traditional colour setting the dark greens and browns ablaze. There was none. It seems that as soon as the leaves wither and change their hue, brutal winds with disarmingly silly names come along and cast them cruelly to the ground.

My spirits are still depressed, so much so that I haven’t a clue how to conclude this post satisfactorily. Oh for the entrance of a cheerful sprite to cheer me up and move me to the making of a cheery post.

A Bad Day for Boney.

Today is Trafalgar Day here in Britain. It commemorates the day in 1805 when the British fleet defeated a combined French and Spanish force and thus thwarted the attempt of a man from Corsica to become Boss of the Western World.

And yet I gather that even British historians acknowledge that Bonaparte wasn’t such a bad bloke, and that he left Europe in a better state than he’d found it. So whether you cheer and sing Hearts of Oak or not is a matter of personal sensibility.

(Although bear in mind that if Napoleon had achieved his desired aim the history of Europe would have taken a different road and we might never have had the film Amelie, so I think half a cheer is in order. And I suppose I should mention Trump’s attempt to become Boss of the Western World at this juncture, but there’s not even the slightest comparison so I won’t bother. Napoleon was, after all, a small man with a big mind.)

The Happiness Sell.

There’s an ad appeared on my Hotmail page for a financial institution here in the UK. The thrust of the ad is that they’re offering overdrafts fee-free for 12 months to new accounts. (They don’t mention the interest, of course, which is separate.) Only after the first year will they start paying a fee of £182.50 a year on a £1200 overdraft (as well as the interest, of course.). And the image they use to promote this offer shows an attractive young couple looking relaxed and happy out wandering the open landscape and luxuriating in one another’s company. The message is happiness and freedom. And all because they’re now in debt. Irresistible.

Winners and Losers.

It’s tempting to speculate on whether Donald Trump is happy. I was reading this morning about a journalist who pointed out that Trump is not as rich as he says he is (as well as pointing out that the Renoir which Trump owns and claims to be genuine actually isn’t.) The self-styled big man filed a lawsuit for defamation to the tune of $5bn, and lost. If that isn’t the action of a sad little creature, it would be hard to imagine what is.

I was also reading about a man in Nottingham who was dining in a restaurant when he saw a homeless man walking past barefoot. He ran out and gave him his favourite pair of trainers which cost £120. No doubt Trump would call him a loser. It’s a word he seems to like very much and uses to denigrate anyone who is bigger than him.

So let’s consider who is the real loser here. It doesn’t take much working out, does it?

Friday, 20 October 2017

Oh No, Not Trump Again.

I see Trump’s latest ignorant tweet which links a rise in the crime rate in England and Wales with ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ finishes with the words: We must keep America safe.

America? Safe? Is he aware that the murder rate in the US is over 4x what it is in the UK? Has he given any consideration to the underlying factors in American society which might give rise to such disparity, and is he proposing to do anything about them?

I’m thoroughly tired of writing about the idiot known as Trump, but as long as he’s President of the country which likes to think of itself as leader of the free world…

A Note on Ghosts.

On young Albert Ramsbottom’s birthday
His parents asked what he’d like most
He said “to see ’Tower of London
And gaze upon Anne Boleyn’s ghost”

(That isn’t one of my ditties, by the way; it’s from the third of the Albert monologues by Stanley Holloway. If I were to write one it would be more along the lines of: If I were a ghost, what would I like most? Vanilla ice cream or some hot buttered toast? It’s one of the reasons for having gone through life without the slightest hint of fame ever attaching to me. Well, apart from the time when I appeared on a TV quiz show, of course. But the only people who found my televisual manifestation worthy of note were an actor I knew at the theatre and a bunch of young girls who stared at me through the glass doors. And that doesn’t really count as fame.)

I think about ghosts a lot, you know; I always have. My life has been full of strange experiences, many of which seem quite inexplicable without reference to the paranormal. Mel once said that it was one of the things which made me difficult to live with. Spooky things happen around me. They do.

So now one of the things I find fascinating about death is the possibility that I might finally discover whether it’s possible to join the league of ghosts. The thought of being a ghost appeals to me, although I’m not quite sure why it should since it must be a lonely sort of existence. People don’t usually invite them for tea and muffins, do they? People are not generally in the habit of boosting the poor ghost’s confidence by reassuring them that ‘you look really quite fetching today. That particular shade of off-white suits you perfectly; it matches the pallor of your skin so that one completely fails to notice the absence of colour in your eyes.’ They don’t, do they? They run away instead, and the more you run after them the more they shriek.

Besides, I’m a considerate and mostly inoffensive soul at heart and I would be more mortified at the prospect of frightening somebody than they would be at the prospect of seeing a ghost. I must admit, however, that there is one person on this planet under whose window I should like to roam in the early hours singing the first verse of Raglan Road, but I haven’t a clue where her window is these days so that possibility must lie begging. And the same impediment also applies to my other wish: to whisper in her ear at unguarded moments: ‘You once promised to tell me what the ‘y’ meant and you never did, so now I cannot rest in peace and it’s all your fault.’

(But if ever you read this, my lady, you may be assured that my abiding fondness for you is quite undiminished and I would rather engage with perdition’s flame than cause you any distress. Have no fear; sleep peacefully. You may rejoice with confidence when somebody informs you of my demise. That’s if anybody bothers, of course.)

Happiness is a Big Supermarket.

I’ve decided that I dislike supermarkets. They’re bland, soulless places designed – at least in the aesthetic sense – to do homage only to the god of corporate identity. I consider corporate identity to be a dark, selfish demon disguised as a god, whose only concern is to engender delusion among the masses in order to sate its ravening and rapacious appetite.

I accept that supermarkets serve a practical purpose which could no longer be served by small, independent retail shops, but that in itself raises the question: is the availability of a greatly expanded range of products a good thing, or is it actually a prime example of a modern tyranny?  

Did we miss them before we had them, and is life better for the having of them? Or do they exist merely to expand the economy and produce the greatest delusion of all: the belief that people are happier now than they were in simpler times?

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Establishing Identity.

I’m not Chinese, Jeff, I’m Australian.

No, she didn’t say that, but she might have done.

So what are we: our genes or our minds? My existential musing would favour mind. Genes inform the mind, but the mind determines. And mind is suitably abstract. So I stand corrected, or would do if she’d ever said it.


No dog or horse encounters, no lady stories, no existential rambles, no nightmares worthy of note, no surreal streams of consciousness, no film reviews, no Shire happenings apart from the fact that I cleared some road drains and gave the remaining crop from my apple tree to the local school, no Trump rants since he’s being nothing more than boringly maladroit as usual…

Where do I go from here? What is life if there’s nothing to write about?

Should I bask in past glories and read some old stories which I wrote near a decade ago? Or should I climb in to a waste paper bin and get used to the new status quo?

Notice, observe, consider, imagine, write, edit, post. That’s my MO these days. I like the growth energy of my garden, but I find working on it tedious. I used to enjoy rambles around the Shire, but that was when there was reasonable prospect of meeting a ray of sunshine walking towards me (two rays actually.) I used to like capturing images on film, but that was before I discovered the limitations of a two-dimensional medium.

Nowadays I write. Without writing I am but a runner bean with no legs, a kidney bean with alcohol intolerance, a broad bean with anorexia, a French bean that’s lost its beret. My purpose is absent.

That will have to do for now. I expect there will be more eventually.

Fearful Priestess and Fake Kipling.

I think I’ve finally discovered the priestess’s Achilles’ heel. I had an email from her this morning as she was about to board her flight to Nepal (I thought she was already there, but apparently not) and she admitted to feeling nervous at the prospect of the cold in the mountains. I suppose it’s understandable really, since Himalayan temperatures, even in autumn, must be at a level to which Australians are drastically unaccustomed.

It still surprised me, though, because I’ve been observing the priestess for 7½ years, during which time the conviction has grown in me that she fears nothing at all. Seems she does: being cold. So should I smile? No, because I fear lots of things, among which is the knowledge that my greatly esteemed Lady Qin is trekking in the vicinity of some of the highest and wildest mountains in the world, thereby exposing herself to such dangers as hypothermia, attack by Yeti, and whatever else the remoter parts of the planet might have lurking.

In spite of these misgivings, however, it still occurred to me that Kathmandu must surely offer the opportunity for a new ditty. It didn’t. Try as I might, nothing dropped onto the ditty plate like seeds from an overripe melon. Until I thought of Kipling…

On the road to Kathmandu
Where the yaks all do their poo
And the smells rise up like thunder
From the roofless outside loo

And then I felt thoroughly ashamed at having the sort of lavatorial sense of humour which would seem immature in a 7-year-old.