Saturday, 29 April 2017

Regarding the Stepfather.

When I was a kid my stepfather bought a Renault Dauphin motor car which he insisted on calling a Ren’alt Dolphin because he said there was no way he was going to start speaking that stupid foreign lingo.

This was the same stepfather who told me that Etruria and Eritrea were the same place; it was just two different ways of pronouncing it. The same stepfather who refused to allow me to continue my education beyond the age of sixteen with the words: ‘I’m not going to spend good money keeping you sitting on your fat arse in a classroom. You’ll go out and work for a living like everybody else.’ The same stepfather who eventually died in a mental hospital, having been moved there from the care home where he’d taken to sexually assaulting the blind female residents. The stepfather my mother only married because he told her I’d die of malnutrition if she didn’t. (My mother wasn’t quite that na├»ve, but she was afflicted with a neurotic tendency which can amount to the same things in some circumstances.) And there’s plenty more.

So do I regret his arrival in my life at the tender age of 6½? Of course not; I regard him as having been a primary learning experience. And it’s become apparent to me that nobody really knows what drives another person, so we cannot judge from a position of omniscience. Besides, if he hadn’t come into my life that life would have been different, and we can’t second guess fate. Who knows where my different road would have led? I might have died of malnutrition.

From Dirty Harry to Uriah Heep.

It’s quite amusing watching Trump change his spots. Until recently his approach to North Korea was all high octane, all-American machismo:

So, do you feel lucky, punk? Do you? Fire one more missile and you’ll be staring down the bad ass end of my Magnum 45.

So North Korea fires one more missile and Donald shifts his position. He takes a deft step backwards and to the left and looks out from behind Xi Jinping’s ankles, whence he oozes righteous indignation.

Those North Koreans are very bad people. They’ve fired another missile and insulted my good friend, the President of China. (And what a splendid fellow he is.) Shame on them!

It’s all a bit transparent, isn’t it?

On Bridges and Legendary Beauty.

If ever I go to China I think I’ll have to give the humpity bridges a miss. Here’s one:

It looks like half the endowment of a princess of legendary beauty in a Disney film, doesn’t it? (See previous post.) I think I might have difficulty making it to the top. Maybe I could just sail underneath and pretend to be the princess’s pet one-eyed poodle.

(The only princess I ever knew didn’t have a pet poodle, she had a cocker spaniel. And her legendary beauty was based on virtues rather more substantial than a pair of Chinese bridges.)

A Pot Shot at a Prince of Persia.

I was in a charity shop the other day rummaging through their DVDs, and I came across one called Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The man standing next to me tapped the box and said ‘Good film, that.’ ‘I rarely watch historical epics,’ I replied. ‘They’re usually too much Hollywood and not enough history.’

But then I realised that it wasn’t a historical epic, but an epic fantasy supposedly in the style of Pirates of the Caribbean. And so I decided to buy it.

I watched the first thirty two minutes last night, having had difficulty getting through the last thirty of them, at which point I switched it off because I couldn’t bear to watch any more. Predictable script, wooden acting, uninspired direction, lamentably low on plausibility even by the standards of an epic fantasy… Worst of all was the scene in which we first see the princess billed as a woman of legendary beauty. She was hanging her more-than-ample breasts, loosely encased in a less-than-ample silk bikini top, over the edge of the battlements while giving orders to the manly minions waiting to repulse the might of the Persian army. I suppose the silk was authentic, but I doubt the bikini was and I remained unconvinced. The princess would have looked more at home on one of those soft porn calendars you see in mechanics’ workshops.

But of course, it was a Disney production and therefore high on sugar but low on substance. And legendary beauty is represented by an extensive frontal battery so as to appeal to the LCD. That about says it all.

Should I engage in deeper analysis? Nope.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Beltane Beckons.

It’s nearly Beltane again. I like Beltane. Beltane Eve is the night on which courting couples gather in the local churchyard with the express intention of behaving indecorously. And Beltane itself is the day on which the biggest of the bonfires smells alluringly of roast policeman.

I didn’t have a Beltane fire last year because it didn’t feel like Beltane, and whether I shall have one this year remains to be seen. It’s not quite the same for me, you see. I’m not half of a courting couple, and even if I were I would probably find it difficult to behave quite that indecorously, whether in a churchyard or a more traditional venue like a bedroom or the back of a Ford Transit van. And I have an absolute terror of being burned alive, with the inevitable corollary that I experience the most abject horror if I witness any other sentient creature finding the same end. (I could tell the story of the poor bee, but I won’t.)

I have, however, experienced the odd bit of intriguing but apparently harmless magic on Beltane Eve. If I should decide to invite some this year, and if the denizens of other dimensions should accept the invitation, I’ll be sure to let you know.

When PC Bounces.

I read today that some academics working in an equality and diversity unit at Oxford University have issued a list ‘racial micro-aggressions’ in a newsletter. These are very bad things which you mustn’t do because they amount to ‘everyday racism.’

I expect they meant well (although they might just have been finding one more way to justify their existence, for who can really tell?) and, of course, I have full sympathy with the principle. Racial intolerance has been one of my pet hates since childhood.

But the ball has bounced back and biffed them on the nose because one of the things listed as a must-avoid is not making proper eye contact. Whoops! Now they’re being accused of discriminating against autistic people because autistic people have difficulty making proper eye contact. Oh dear. And an emeritus professor at the University of Kent has suggested that the big boys at Oxford should ‘take a reality check.’

This is most interesting. Could it be that if you fire off large quantities of arrows too quickly rather than taking more careful aim with a smaller number of missiles, you end up missing the target and shooting yourself in the foot?

Meanwhile, the big boys at Oxford have said ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’ and promised to be more careful in future.

Mill Lane's New Magnet.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that there’s a field off Mill Lane in which are domiciled several American quarter horses, a herd of massive sheep (which must be foreign because we Brits don’t generally do massive), a Shetland pony, and three llamas. Today I saw that they have a new friend:


Ah, the donkey. We all say ‘ahhh…’ when we see a donkey, don’t we? Or at least we should, for the donkey is the animal exposition of the universal language. Frequently exploited, abused and neglected, the donkey is the animal which unites good people everywhere in the hope that all of their kind should receive a good home and tender care. And that is what I fervently wish for this one.

I used to have a special reason for frequenting Mill Lane, but that’s sadly in the past. Now I have a new reason for making the effort to stroll that way more often. It might be that, on occasion, the donkey will be close by and I can bestow upon it handfuls of fresh hay from the ungrazed side of the gate. For I think there are probably very few pleasures in life more uplifting than to bestow handfuls of fresh hay upon a donkey.

You may raise a solitary sniff, lift the single tear from your eye, and wish me well in my new endeavour.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Mystery of the M Word.

Boris Johnson, the Clown Prince of British politics, caused quite a stir today when he referred to the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as a mugwump.

This is interesting because I’d heard the word, but only in connection with a song by the Mamas and Papas. I didn’t actually know what it meant. Neither, it seems, did Boris Johnson (I read somewhere that he was confusing mugwump with oompa-loompa), so everybody is now laughing at him as usual. When BBC Radio Derby asked the Prime Minister in an interview whether she knew the meaning of mugwump, she replied ‘I am conscious of the fact that the country needs strong and stable leadership.’ (Well, we all know that rats are capable of slithering through seemingly non-existent spaces, don’t we? I’ve seen them do it. Or maybe she didn’t hear the question. Or maybe Radio Derby was unwittingly connected to a recorded announcement.) Best of all, Word doesn’t have mugwump in its dictionary, at least the UK version doesn’t.

And that, it seems, is the point: mugwump is an American word. So I looked it up.

I was informed that a mugwump is a person who remains aloof and independent, especially from party politics. (Which doesn’t mean that a mugwump can’t side with a Socialist if that Socialist is trying to make the country a nicer and fairer place to live in.) As such, it appears that I’m a mugwump, too.

So hooray for me and Jeremy. And thank you, Boris, for entertaining us with the custard pie that missed.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Logic in Being Wrong.

Let’s say a sports team wins a match by scoring a fluke goal, even though the opposition played better. At the end of the game the coach is interviewed and says: ‘We didn’t play so well today, but I’ll take the win. A win is a win.’ I’ve heard it often. They really do say that.

That attitude is understandable in professional sport because professional sport, being an arm of the entertainment industry, is driven by and on behalf of moneyed interests. But I see it percolating down to all levels. I’ve heard it from school kids. Winning is everything comes the ubiquitous cry, and nobody seems to question it. So let’s ask the question: what is sport fundamentally about?

It’s about two things: it’s about putting your own ability to the test, and it’s about proving that you are better than the opposition. So if you play badly you’ve failed the first test, and if you win even though the opposition played better you've also failed the second. So how can winning be everything?

That’s why when I played sport I always said that I would rather play well and lose than play badly and win. Playing badly but still winning left a sour taste in the mouth because the purpose of the exercise was not achieved. It simply left me trespassing on the wrong step. To my mind, that’s just simple and unassailable logic. They said I was wrong then, and they say it with even more conviction now.

On Questionnable Definitions.

I just read a news report from Paris about two police officers who revived a woman declared dead by paramedics an hour earlier. She’d had a heart attack, apparently, but they noticed her abdomen moving, checked that she had a pulse, and then performed CPR to get her heart going again. She’s currently recovering in hospital.

OK. Nice story. The officers are to be congratulated and should be given official commendations. I applaud their actions. I do. Wholeheartedly. OK?

But now the commissioner in charge of their district says they should be given a bravery award. So tell me, what did they do that was brave? Bravery means taking action in the face of danger. Where was the danger? What were they risking?

I’m seeing more and more of this lately – officialdom making dumb statements. So how are we choosing our officials these days? Where are we going wrong?