Friday, 31 December 2010

Looking Back, and Forward.

There’s only a short time to go before we ring in 2011 over here. I know it’s customary on this night to look back over the year, but I want to make the final post of 2010 a recollection of a slightly longer story.

Thirty years ago I took my first steps outside the cultural tram lines and looked back in. I didn’t realise I was doing it at the time, although the signs should have been obvious enough. What I began to see disturbed me, and my road since then has been one of constant observation of an artificial culture being swept along on the rails of ignorance, deceit and a laissez faire attitude. Now it disturbs me even more, although I’m learning to ignore it the longer time goes on. I’m thankful for that, at least.

Fifteen years ago I realised I had been walking in a spiritual desert since giving up what I saw as the self-deluding falsehoods of Christianity and other elements of the Judaic tradition in my teens. And then I looked east and saw a chink of light. That light has led me to eschew all forms of organised religion. I feel free now to follow my own road. I expect no one to accompany me of course, since that would defeat the object. My road is my road. I preach to no one and expect no one to preach at me. Evangelicalism is, in my view, one of the world’s great enslaving forces. I’m not, as you might imagine, a fan of missionaries.

I see this as a process of liberation, but it comes at a price. It alienates me from the majority of my fellow citizens, not to mention those religious zealots who would will me to hell for my temerity. I have no sangha, as the Buddhists do. I envy them that, but I’m not a Buddhist; I’m not an anything-ist. I’m just me, trying to find those parts of the river of existence that look like the right ones to swim in and explore.

Many people will tell me I’m being foolish, and that my isolation is self-imposed and well deserved. They are entitled to their opinion, but I can say that they’re not entirely right. ‘Self-imposed’ implies volition, and it isn’t quite like that. The things and people I’ve given up represent no sacrifice; I simply don’t want them any more.

As for the consequent loneliness, it comes and goes. When it gets bad I have to grit my teeth and be persuaded that it’s all part of the journey. I firmly believe, you see, that I have many more lives to come yet. The whole concept of life seems quite preposterous viewed any other way.

Tomorrow I might lighten up again. There are many circles within circles, and this is just one of them.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Wet Blanket.

The reason I haven’t posted anything today is because this blog suddenly seems terminally tedious. The twin sparks of inspiration and connection are missing. The world feels empty. I hope it will be temporary.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

High Aspiration.

I thought you might like to see Mad Gerald who I mentioned in the recent post about the housefly. He is my exemplar; he is the man I aspire to be. I already have the lifestyle and the manic laugh, all I need now is to go that extra few yards and rise to his level of mental attainment. Then I shall be complete.

Mad Gerald is here. Do give him a look.

Veggie Alternative.

As a confirmed vegetarian, it struck me that there ought to be an alternative version of the old rhyme: ‘Christmas is a-coming and the goose is getting fat.’ So here’s my attempt.

Christmas is all over and the goose has gone to heaven.
A million birds have met their end, from Aberdeen to Devon.
I do not mean to judge you folks, you carnivores galore
I didn’t take the pledge myself ’til nineteen ninety seven.

Conditioned Delusion.

We judge ‘normality’ by the faces that society conditions people to present, not by the truth of what’s going on beneath the surface. This is but one of the many lies the culture would have us believe.

RIP Mr Fly.

One of my housefly buddies breathed his last tonight. I found him a soggy mess in a little pool of water by the sink in the kitchen. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage being impracticable, I did what I could with a paper towel but to no avail. He kicked his legs a few times, and then keeled over. He’s currently lying peacefully by a lamp in my office, poor chap. That’s sad, right?

You think I’m joking, don’t you? Not a bit of it! The fact is, there comes a time now and then in the life of a part-time loner when the company of a housefly has merit. I’ve thought of giving them names, but it isn’t easy to tell one housefly from another. Unless you’re another housefly, of course, which I’m not. Not yet. I suppose I could follow Christopher Robin’s lead and call them all Alexander, but that always struck me as a bit of a cheat. I think it best to call them all Mr Fly. Being unwilling or incapable of learning to differentiate between one fly and another, the least I can do is admit my fault and take refuge in the generic.

Would it surprise anyone to learn that my favourite character from all four series of Blackadder was Mad Gerald?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Forgetting History.

I read a news report the other day, about a man in France who was arrested and charged with insulting the flag. Apparently, he’d become frustrated with some petty official, grabbed the flag, and snapped the pole over his knee.

Well now, so ‘insulting the flag’ is a criminal offence in France. This strikes me as going some way beyond mere national pride and into the realms of jingoism. And it’s my belief that jingoism is nothing more than a sign of deep rooted national insecurity. There is, however, a bigger issue to be considered.

The perfect society would have no need of law. Such a society would be populated by people to whom ethical values are second nature, and law would be nothing more than a pointless intrusion. The fact that we need to have law is a measure of human imperfection; but have it we must because the human animal is highly imperfect.

So, allowing the concession that criminal law is necessary, let’s also accept that the only imperative in its formulation should be the protection of the innocent, the weak and the vulnerable. ‘Insulting the flag’ falls a long way short of according with that presumption. It is at best foppish, and at worst tyrannical.

So what price the Revolution?

Lacking the Killer Gene.

(Good heavens! Where did that last post come from? Dunno.)

To continue:

After I woke up this morning I fell asleep again, and had a short but unusually vivid and realistic dream. I was sitting in my armchair and thought I caught a movement outside the window. I looked up but saw nothing. And then I saw it again. A man was walking from the side of the house towards the path that runs down the garden. He was darkly complexioned and wearing military field dress – a camouflage smock and a German-style field cap. He stopped and looked at me with a serious expression. He nodded and then walked on. I woke up startled.

Later, when I went out to feed the birds, it sounded like a war zone here. The air was rent with rapid gunfire that went on and on. Somebody was obviously holding a shooting party somewhere in the vicinity.

I think I once told the story of how I was taught to shoot when I was twelve or thirteen; how I shot a crow that fell dead at my feet, and how full of self-loathing I was. I never shot anything again, and that’s what I find hard to understand. How does a human being, with all the finer feelings of which we’re capable, kill a second time?

The Philadelphia Story.

It was on the TV again this Christmas. What is it with American cities that they warrant film titles all to themselves? ‘Meet Me in St Louis’ is another one. We don’t make films called ‘Ice Cold in Barnsley’ or ‘Having Tea in Hemel Hempstead,’ do we? We Brits have got our Philadelphia stories, too, but we don’t crow about it.

Would I be wealthier?
Would I be healthier?
Would Life be even stealthier?
In Phila-fuckin’-delphia?

’Scuse the French. Must make a post about the French. They were in the news again this week.

I think I’m cracking up. I blame the extended isolation that Christmas imposes on me. Christmas Crackers, that’s what I’ve become. And Philadelphia doesn’t help.

The Twin Forces.

I was thinking tonight that the two most significant aspects of mortal life are sex and death. Alpha and Omega; the twin forces driving the wheel. I wonder if this is why the Vedic tradition so values celibacy, since the primary aim of Vedic spirituality is to find the way to get off the wheel.

I’m sure somebody else has said this, but I don’t know who.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Being Poignant.

After my mother died I had the job of clearing the house and sorting out her affairs. I did it single-handedly, and it wasn’t easy. Looking back on it now, I remember that what I found most poignant was going into her bedroom and finding the bed made. Two and a half month’s earlier she’d gone out one morning for what she’d thought would be a routine hospital appointment. What they found resulted in her spending the rest of her days in hospital being given nothing more than palliative treatment for multiple cancers. But she hadn’t known that when she made the bed. She’d assumed she would be sleeping in it again that night. I left the job of unmaking it until most of the rest of the clearance was done; it didn’t feel right somehow.

It’s odd to think that death itself isn’t poignant. Once you’re gone, you’re gone. It’s what happens to all of us; it’s life’s only certainty. Sad as it usually is for those left behind, it isn’t actually poignant. And yet there is something almost painfully poignant about the last day. My mother had approximately 28,000 days living in a human body with a name and a human identity. She had a home to come back to every night, and she interacted with all the complex bits and pieces of external life going on around her. Coming home the night before the hospital appointment was the last time she would ever do it, and two and a half months later she breathed in for the last time a mere forty minutes before midnight on the very last day.

That’s poignant.

Upping the Standard.

You know what I so dislike about those junk e-mails for PE? (I’ve already expressed my dislike of the word.) It isn’t so much the fact that they send them out. I am, after all, an adult, and I shouldn’t find the facts of life in any way disturbing. It isn’t that, it’s the terminology they use:

Enlarge your manhood!

Isn’t that such a gross way of putting it? Real lowest common denominator stuff. It reeks of human stallions with rather less brainpower than a real stallion. Why can’t they show a bit of imagination and give us something like:

Ask not what your willy can do for you, but what you can do for your willy.

With a bit of thought, they could at least be entertaining.

Coming Down to Earth.

Right, now that Christmas has passed its zenith I suppose I should start making the odd foray into the land of earnest consideration again. No more talk of socks, except to say that the ones I got for Christmas are 100% wool, thick and warm. So that’s OK. Socks are now a done deal.

Reincarnation is coming up. No preaching, of course, just something I don’t quite understand. In the meantime, however, a little word about my bank.

We’re always being told these days that every piece of paper containing any detail about us must be shredded. Society is crawling with ne’er-do-well opportunists, we’re told, people who will prise open the slightest chink in our financial curtain and steal our identities. Our accounts will be cleared out, we will be plunged into insufferable debt, and our lives will be ruined.

So, two days ago, my bank admitted that they had inadvertently sent out account details of 35,000 of their customers to the wrong people. This is no problem, they say; it constitutes no additional risk to our financial security.

Which of these contrasting positions should I believe? And should I be concerned that some potential ne’er-do-well in Hemel Hempstead or somewhere has been given full details of my bank account? Is there a bit of speaking with forked tongues going on here?

Aspiration.

I’ve just been watching the Annie Lennox ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ video again. Can I be the drummer, please? Looks like my kind of job.

Saturday's Bits of Randomness.

I discovered something about myself today. If I drink during the day, it tends to make me forthright to the point of belligerence. If I drink late at night, on the other hand, it makes me relaxed and silly. Fancy taking this long to find that out! Good job I only drink during the day at Christmas.

And I forgot the new ‘visitor’ story last night. I was sitting in my office when I heard a clatter in the kitchen. I went to check it out and found the dish drainer tray at the side of the sink skewed over at an angle, a position I would never leave it in because I’m a bit fussy about things being in the right place. Besides, there was nothing else to explain the clatter. It’s odd that nearly all the strange things that happen in this house happen on that side. The kitchen is an extension that was added rather later than the original house. I wonder if it’s built on an Indian burial ground.

Being fanciful, aren’t I?

And there are some damn weird coincidences going on with a track on my playlist, but I’d prefer to keep that one private. Now I’m teasing.

Hope the real Father Christmas sprinkled lots of peace and light around today. It’s officially Boxing Day here. And bloody cold.

My current dilemma is whether to finish off the Ardbeg or make do with Bells.

I found this quotation on Mei-shan’s blog. Couldn’t agree more.

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible- Carl Jung (via hauswittgenstein)"

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Day.

So then, that was Christmas Day 2010.

I opened my presents, made sure the birds got lots of food, made a fire in the living room, took Frothgar for a drive to put some charge in his battery, drank some Ardbeg Islay single malt scotch, made an offensive blog post, had an enjoyable dinner, smoked a cigar, read another chapter of Possession (I have to sit an examination on it when somebody gets back from New Zealand) and watched a couple of comedy shows on the TV (good ones, needless to say.) So what’s next, or is that it? I’m bored now.

I know: would you like to hear what my four Christmas presents were? OK.

A hamper of fancy food items from an expensive food store. Unfortunately, I haven’t a clue what most of it is, much less what I’m supposed to do with it. But that’s all good.

Socks.

A big green candle that keeps going out. I suspect the wick isn’t long enough. Story of my life, that. But, as someone once reassured me, ‘It isn’t the gun that’s important, it’s the gunner.’ Some women are more discerning than others.

Scotch.

More scotch.

I know, that’s five. Two came together. The fact that four people got me a Christmas present came close to making me choke. No kid; I’m serious! People giving me things has that effect. That’s why I need the scotch, to help me get over it.

So now I’m listening to some music, and when that’s finished I’ll screw my courage to the sticking place and head off to the frigid wasteland that is my bathroom to get clean. Not that I’m dirty, you understand, just fastidious. And, who knows, somebody might call one of these days and ask to examine my credentials.

On which note, I passed Sarah and her mother in the lane today. Our vehicles crossed on the ice. They didn’t wave. Neither did Sarah or her mother.

When the bathing’s done, I have e-mails to write (especially to the person who sent the socks, because I really needed some new socks,) scotch to drink, and a warm bed to go to. And then it’ll be Boxing Day.

Hope everybody had a Christmas Day at least as good as mine.

Pros and Cons.

As it’s still Christmas...

Things I dislike about Christmas:

The exoteric Christian ‘message,’ which I don’t believe has anything to do with Jesus’ ministry.

The words to Christmas carols, for the same reason.

The fact that Christmas has been hijacked by crass commercialism.

The pressures that get heaped on poor people to spend money they can’t afford. As if their lives aren’t difficult enough already.

The Coca Cola version of Santa Claus – surely one of the best brainwashing tricks in the history of mankind. Not as big as the exoteric Christian message, but close.

The fact that millions of innocent birds and animals are slaughtered, so that people can say ‘Ooh, doesn’t that look great’ at the dinner table.

Christmas editions of TV crap that are even crappier than the un-Christmas editions. I left this until last because at least we don’t have to watch them.

Things I like about Christmas:

The fact that people are, for once, inclined towards peace and love rather than suspicion and hate. Please don’t tell me this has anything to do with the Christian ‘message,’ because it existed long before Christianity was foisted on the world by a load of people who didn’t even know Jesus.

Bringing colour, light, and the natural world into the house during the darkest and coldest part of the annual cycle.

Seeing children’s eyes light up with wonder. I love to see kids feeling magic.

Drinking a rare single malt scotch while preparing the Christmas dinner. Which is what I’m doing at the moment.

The fact that terrestrial TV shows a few decent films, which I can record to help pass the dark nights through January.

----------------------------------------

This is a personal opinion, of course. Yell at me if you like. I’ve had several rare single malts and, frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn.

Christmas Eve Randomness.

I wonder whether I should go to bed early tonight. The remnants of the fire are almost cool enough to allow SC to gain access without singeing his vitals, and I’ve left the mince pies and port in the living room so he can help himself if he feels so inclined.

Do you know what’s strange? I’ve had four Christmas presents this year. I haven’t had that many since my mother died fifteen years ago. I thought of putting them into a pillow case and leaving them at the end of the bed. I reasoned that I might forget I’d put them there, and get a nice surprise when I wake up. No Rupert Bear annual or chocolate selection box, though. It wouldn’t be the same. Besides, contrary to my own and others opinion, I’m not quite that off my head.

No?

Did I ever mention that I met two reindeer a couple of Christmases ago? They were the most incredibly beautiful creatures. If I had some land, I think I would have some reindeer. And donkeys.

And so, at the risk of being boiled in my own pudding...

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY.

Shy Fly.

There’s a housefly that spends all day sitting on the window frame in my cold bathroom. I keep telling him that it’s warmer downstairs and he’s quite welcome to come and join me, but no. He still sits there, only becoming active when I put the heater on preparatory to bathing. Then he flies about merrily like it’s Christmas, or something.

I wonder which of us is more off our head.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Non-Christmas Frivolity.

There’s a panel ad on my flag counter page. At the top it says:

LOOKING FOR LOVE?

Underneath that is a picture of a very attractive redhead. And underneath that it says:

GET A DATE FOR AUTUMN

GO

So I pressed GO, and got a screen that said:

27th OCTOBER.

I made the last bit up.

More Christmas Frivolity.

Only minutes ago I realised there’s one thing I like about Christmas.

We get it before America does.

Nah, nah, nah nah nah.

I think the effect of two glasses of port and an unaccustomed panatela hasn’t worn off yet.

Blogger's Christmas.

As it’s only three weeks away from my first blogging anniversary, I’m wondering whether I should start preparing an end of year address. You know, like the Queen’s Christmas Message. Delusions of grandeur stuff.

‘My computer and I...’ Lot’s of royal We’s, and so on.

In the meantime, I’m wondering what’s going to happen over Christmas. Is everybody going to desert me because they’re too occupied with sleeping off various forms of over-indulgence? Should I be prepared for this? Should I over-indulge and sleep a lot so that I don’t notice?

I’ve been lots of things at Christmas, you see – many of them bad - but never a blogger.

Sydney Time.

I just realised that it's now Christmas Day in Sydney, NSW. Most cordial of season's greetings to all the lovely Sydney folks. Blessings, guys. Stay cool; avoid heatstroke.

Christmas in the summer? Silly place! Humbug!

Christmas Eve.

‘Tis now officially Christmas Eve, and I remembered tonight what my favourite feature of Christmas was when I was a kid.

My mother used to set the Christmas tree on a bed of cotton wool to represent snow, and then surround it with a little tableau consisting of reindeers, Santa Clauses, pine trees and so on. And the whole thing was illuminated by the lights on the tree. It was a bit of magic that went on throughout the Christmas period.

It was also a common practice to write one’s gift requests on a piece of paper and release them into the fireplace, so that they disappeared up the chimney. That was the way to send them to Santa, I was told. Bloody silly idea! I wonder how many chimney fires were caused that way. Humbug!

I’m expecting the first visit when the clock strikes twelve...

The Mintz Insistence.

It’s silly ditty time again. As I said in my last post, the habitual winter depression has caught hold of me tonight and I needed something to take my mind off it - which is probably why this ditty isn’t as silly as the silly ditties usually are. All this week, Zoe’s surname has been knocking on the door of my ditty consciousness and demanding rhymes. Tonight, it was disinclined to be denied any longer.

I’ve never seen Miss Zoe Mintz

I’ve never seen her wearing chintz,
Or watched her eyes flair up with glints
Like sparks from striking sharpened flints;
Nor seen her hair cascade with hints
Of horse hair, lit with auburn tints

Mysterious Miss Zoe Mintz.

The Best Laid Plans...

The weather forecast last night was uncharacteristically positive. ‘One thing I can promise you,’ said the weather woman, ‘is that there won’t be any snow tomorrow. It’ll be a dry day with some sunshine, and the temperature should lift just above freezing.’

This was good news because I was getting short of some items of clothing, so I decided to do a wash and put it out on the clothes line. I hate using the electric dryer, you see – too expensive and bad for the environment.

First job this morning then; a load of socks, underwear, shirts and T shirts went into the washing machine and then migrated to the clothes line. I checked them optimistically at 3 pm. The shirts had dried a bit, the socks and underwear hadn’t dried at all, the T shirts were stiff because of the sub-zero temperature, and it was snowing anyway. So I brought them in, only to find that a bird had crapped on one item just to add insult to injury.

And then I got a phone call from a debt collection company pressuring me over a £2,000 debt that isn’t even morally mine. I never saw any of the money; it was incurred on somebody else’s behalf with the promise of repayment that never materialised. But it’s in my name so I’m stuck with it. It took a good fifteen minutes and all my powers of persuasion – honed over many years of struggling financially – to get them to review the case in six months time.

Nice timing, eh?

--------------------

The above was written earlier. My friend Mr Winter Depression has climbed onto my shoulders tonight. I wonder how long he’ll stay there.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Tonight's Dose of Randomness.

Can you believe that I was going to make another post today on the subject of ‘intimations of mortality?’ The issue has raised its head again as a result of my neighbour’s troubles. It’s too late in the day, though (or too early if you want to be pedantic.) I don’t really do serious at this time of night. I’ll put it on the pending pile.

Somebody found my blog this evening by searching Google for it’s Nelson’s willy. Blogging can be such fun sometimes.

It’s been a day of mixed connections. The woman-who-runs-the-pet-shop’s daughter smiled at me in a way that I found somewhat enervating. Jeffrey the jelly. Phew! But then I saw a beautiful chocolate Labrador tied up outside a branch of WH Smith’s. She looked at me, too – sadly. I don’t think she was happy being tied up, poor thing.

Our overnight snowfall only amounted to about two inches and the traffic soon compressed it to ice. Frothy, bless him, coped with it just fine, but I didn’t. I slipped on it about ten times just taking a letter to the post box. I do wish the media would shut up about the bloody weather, though. It doesn’t change anything, it just makes us feel more oppressed by the elements. Let’s just get through it, shall we? It is officially winter now.

I watched an interview on a news channel last night about the weather. The anchorman interviewed a scientist and an engineer on how one addresses the issue ‘making public services resilient (the new buzz word) to weather conditions is a balance between cost and probability.’ The engineer spoke for some time, effectively saying nothing more than ‘making public services resilient to weather conditions is a balance between cost and probability.’ The scientist talked about something else entirely. Why the hell do they bother? I could have used that ten minutes watching a re-run of Popeye or something.

My watch strap has broken. It’s a black Casio, and I want a black plastic strap to replace the old one. I tried to get one in Ashbourne, my local town. No joy; Ashbourne is a bit too snobbish for that kind of thing. Ashbourne does leather straps and expensive gold bracelets. Ashbourne doesn’t do plastic. I wonder whether I belong here.

Sometimes I think I’m really irritating.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Getting it Right.

Back to a favourite subject of mine: Women, God bless them every one!

When I was eighteen I started seeing a girl called Pauline McNicol. She was very lovely. Her dad was an Irish bricklayer, and she’d inherited nearly black hair and big, beautiful, dark Irish eyes. And her parents both liked me, which was unusual. So did her three kid sisters. It was a poor but happy household, and I felt comfortable there.

A week into our liaison, she asked me:

‘Do you mind if I carry on going to The Crystal on Sundays?’

The Crystal was a popular nightclub in the area. I told her that of course I didn’t. I’d only known her for a week, and I didn’t own her anyway. I wasn’t sure why she was asking. She looked at me very sweetly, kissed me and said:

‘Thanks. You’re a good ’un.’

Three weeks later – on Boxing Day, for heaven’s sake - she finished with me. She told me that I was ‘just too nice.’ She cited the case of The Crystal as an example. Apparently, she would have preferred it if I’d been more domineering. Seems they were the sort of men she liked. I took her home and never saw her again. I still think about her every Christmas, though.

I tried being more domineering with other women, but that didn’t work either. I got yelled at for it. Life can be a complicated creature sometimes.

Saving the Day.

I went and did my final bits of grocery shopping before the Christmas break today. There was a small problem; their delivery vehicle had become stuck in bad weather conditions somewhere, and the shelves were looking a bit denuded. The fruit and veg section was particularly badly affected, but guess what? The liquor shelves were as full as ever! Whooo!

I see only one rational explanation for this: Mercury might have gone retrograde, but good old Bacchus is still around. Thank you, Mr B.

Study in Reticence.

You know how it is with some people. They stay silent, but they watch you. You know they’re watching you, and you know they’re observing you. You also know that the two things aren’t quite the same. One might well be disinterested, but the other is taking you in, working you out, soaking up the signals without reflecting them, mentally undressing your psyche. Sometimes you’re intrigued, sometimes you’re uneasy, sometimes you cultivate indifference because it helps avoid frustration. They exist in blogland, where they tease like distant butterflies.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Still here - Sort Of.

You haven’t had the pleasure of me today yet, have you?

(Oh, God, I suppose I should explain that the above is an old Brit sitcom joke. OK? Right then.)

The reason is that I’ve been otherwise engaged doing one of four things.

Spending time with Helen - having a solstice bonfire, enjoying a meal, watching a Harry Potter film, and listening to her rant about a variety of things; mostly the fact that commercial breaks kept interrupting the Harry Potter film.

Spending what seemed like almost as much time waiting for her delayed train to turn up this morning, and for another delayed train to arrive at the station and carry her homeward this evening. It seems the British rail system has even more trouble with cold weather than it does with autumn leaves. I once spent four hours sitting on a train stuck out in the wilds with no power on a very cold Boxing Day night. That was fifteen years ago. Nothing changes much.

Going through the two hour process of lighting a fire in my living room much later than usual. It hadn’t been practicable to do it while Helen was here, for reasons that would take too long to explain.

Sitting in front of said fire watching a rather good little comedy horror film called Severance, because it was a lot warmer there than it was in my office. We’ve got -10C again tonight, with more snow forecast.

So, here I am now with nothing of any consequence to say except: Happy Solstice. Oh, and when the clouds clear the full moon, it looks absolutely splendid shining on the icy landscape.

I might think of something else to say later when I’ve permitted myself the luxury of supplementary heating in my office and my brain thaws out. Hopefully.

Unfazed.

Here’s another funny story while I’m in the mood. I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but it could well be.

A typical, hard-as-nails Lancashire lass from one of the mill towns was walking home one day when a man, reclining against a car, dropped his zip and exposed himself. She continued homeward, relatively unconcerned, but called the police to report the incident.

The policewoman who went to the house showed due regard for the victim’s feelings when questioning her:

‘I’m sorry to have to ask you this, but it’s important for legal reasons. Did he have an erection?’

‘No, chuck,’ said the woman. ‘I think it were a Ford Escort.’

Funny Old Bard.

One of my all time favourite quotations from Shakespeare is:

...the sheeted dead did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.

I think it’s supposed to be creepy, but I find it hilarious. It evokes an image of draped women, arms a-flinging, going

‘SQUEEEEEK... squeak...squeak...squeak’

While the men shuffle along in chorus with

‘Gibbergibbergibbergibber.’

I’m sure Tim Burton could make a song and dance routine out of it.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Scraping the Barrel.

I must be a bit preoccupied today because I’ve been trying to think of something to post about and I seem to have become non compos mentis, or whatever the phrase is. (Blimey, Word hasn’t squiggled it. You mean I’m right?)

You don’t want to know how many years I’ve had the hots for Sally Philips, do you? Thought not.

How about the Mystery of the White Dust on the Inside of My Underpants? I notice it every time I change them, so that makes three times this month already. How does that happen? It’s been occupying my deductive faculty for years and I haven’t got to the bottom of it yet. No, I don’t use talcum powder. Neither do I take my trousers down while cleaning the ashes out of the grate or using flour to make dumplings. So it must be magic, right? Fairy dust – the sort that magic wands sprinkle when shaken by experienced practitioners in Disney cartoons. So, the next mystery: Which experienced practitioner has been sticking her wand down the front of my trousers? And why do I never notice her doing it? And what’s the bloody point anyway?

Which reminds me of a joke.

I met Sally Phillips once. I sidled up to her and said ‘I’d really like to make love to you,’ and she said ‘Well, if ever you do and I find out about, there’ll be trouble!’ Seems she must have heard about the parsnip. Britain’s a small country.

And in true blogging tradition, I think I might run a competition. The first person to get the right number of jokes in this post (not counting Sally Phillips’ punch line) will get a year’s free subscription to my undying gratitude.

A Final Thought Before Retiring.

This thought occured to me just as I was finishing my fourth scotch.

Life has a way of ingratiating itself into one’s psyche, even when a cheese and tomato sandwich offers the prospect of more instant gratification.

Out of the mouths of babes and bottles...

Moons and Money.

Did you know that Tuesday will be a day of rare astronomical significance? The winter solstice, a full moon, and a total eclipse of the moon all take place on the same day, apparently. Should we expect momentous things to happen?

I got that one from Jeanne’s blog.

And on a completely different note:

I was in a pub once and fell into conversation with somebody. We were talking about alcohol, and I asked him whether he liked scotch.

‘I do,’ he said, ‘but I can’t touch the stuff with what I’ve got.’

‘Really? What have you got?’

‘50p.’

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Yuletide Ambivalence.

In honour of the season, I decorated my living room with Yuletide bits and pieces today. I now have green tinsel draped along two shelves and on the chimney breast, some little red rosettes, a few groups of multi-coloured baubles hanging in strategic positions, and fairy lights zig-zagging across the window. Hope all you fans of Christmas are pleased with me.

Christmas is still humbug, though. And do you know what’s bugging me at the moment? Every time I flick through the TV channels I encounter at least one group of people singing carols. It isn’t the sound of it that troubles me, since I always have the sound muted when I flick through channels. It’s the smiles. Smiles? That’s not the right word for them. Smiles are nice. The expressions these people wear suggest that the various directors have all applied the stock instruction: ‘Now luvvies, do joy; give me rapture; make the world believe you actually take this stuff seriously.’ Only choristers aren't trained actors, are they? They don’t know how to do joy or give the man rapture, and make it convincing. So what we end up with is a bunch of artificial, vomit-inducing expressions that don’t convince me of anything other than the fact that Christmas is humbug.

I do confess, however, that I pay some heed to the more wholesome aspects of Christmas. I’ve bought a bottle of port and a pack of cigars.

A Small Paradox.

The snow we had yesterday wasn’t as heavy as the last lot, and it made sense to sweep it off the paths rather than use a shovel. So that’s what I did. It meant spending about half an hour sweeping vigorously whilst standing in an unaccustomed position on a slope. The result was both uncomfortable and mildly amusing. This morning I had stiffness in my left buttock. At least it was, as far as I recall, a new experience.

And then it occurred to me that the ageing process in men produces an unfortunate paradox. While certain parts of the body become more readily inclined to stiffness, others display the opposite tendency. My stiff upper lip, for example, is rather less firm than it used to be.

What's more...

...this beer is making me burp like a banshee. OK, banshees don't burp. I don't care. It's alliterative.

'The Burping Banshee.' There's got to be a story in that somewhere.

Is There Anybody There?

Where is everybody? Nobody’s talking to me, nobody’s making blog posts, and Feedjit’s down for maintenance so I can’t see whether any of my nearest and dearest are even visiting.

On top of that it’s bloody cold, my internet’s running slow and I’ve got a toothache. And the sniffles.

Woe is me. My way of life is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf. I’m feeling sorry for myself. And why is it that when my night storage heater cuts in at 1 am, the room gets colder? There’s something definitely up with reality today.

I said to somebody yesterday ‘Don’t you just appreciate summer in weather like this?’ That’s the problem, isn’t it? We have this stupid tendency to appreciate things most when we haven’t got them. You humans are a funny lot!

Life! One of these days I'm going to get one.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Freedom? What's That?

I read this on somebody’s blog:

Any existence without freedom is a kind of death.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sounds like something I would heartily agree with. In fact, I do agree with the essence of it. The problem is that it’s actually meaningless, in a universal sense, without first defining ‘freedom.’

How many people can honestly say that they spend their lives doing exactly what they want, when they want? How many of us can say that we live lives totally untouched by bureaucracy, laws, forms of state control, familial responsibility and/or corporate exigency?

So what is freedom exactly? If the above quotation is taken literally, we’re all dead.

Nuking the Truth.

I see the Bank of America is the latest big gun to be trained on truth. You have to be impressed by the sheer brass neck of the corporate world, don’t you? But then, why wouldn’t they be that way? There’s little, if any risk, involved. They know the Establishment is on their side, and that most people are too enslaved to the system to do anything about it.

All the C's.

I took Frothgar for a drive around the lanes today to try and keep his battery in good nick. The lanes are snow-covered and single track in most places. At one point I encountered another vehicle coming the other way and backed into a field gateway to let him through. A second vehicle was following the first, but he didn’t take the opportunity to come through as well. Instead, he backed into another field gateway further along the lane to give me my turn to drive on. This is how human beings should behave.

This is why I so dislike Competitive Corporate Commercial Crap. Competitiveness might make a few people richer, but I’m quite convinced that life works better, and people are generally happier, if we employ Cooperation as the first principle instead.

True, we wouldn’t have as many gadgets and trinkets, but what’s more important in life? Being more content or having more gadgets and trinkets?

Old Topics.

Did somebody once say ‘Life is a fickle woman?’ Well if they didn’t, they should have done. Can't be bothered to expand. It's lunchtime and I have snow to clear. And I'm cold.

Yet More Random Thoughts.

I had an e-mail today from a woman who said she liked my blog and they wanted to pay me to link to their site. I’ve usually found that the things people want to pay me to do are things I don’t want to do. So I deleted it.

I’ve been in an irritable mood today. I’ve been irritated by things I read, things I saw and heard on the TV, and by the fact that people who usually talk to me haven’t. This is a shame because my neighbour has gone to spend a few days with his daughter, which means I can play my music as loud as I like. But I’m not in the mood.

I never tire of hearing Eva Cassidy’s version of Fields of Gold. It still tugs a bit.

I’ve fallen prey tonight to an old compulsion of mine – when it’s cold I get a strange urge to gorge on cheese and pickled onions. I indulge it, but only so far. I stop short of gorging. I’m in control. (yay)

Two people have given me Christmas gifts – Nigel’s wife and Fred’s daughter. This doesn’t happen.

Several people have levelled the imprecation ‘Scrooge!’ at me when I told them I generally ignore Christmas. They misunderstand. I’m no Scrooge. My reasons for disliking Christmas are many and varied, and built upon a lifetime of earnest consideration. Ebeneezer’s reasons were different.

I realised today that the classic Irish question ‘...but are you a Catholic Buddhist or a Protestant Buddhist?’ isn’t quite as illogical as it sounds.

The novelty of snow soon wears thin.

My beer is making me feel colder, but if I hurry through it I’ll start the scotch too early and drink too much. Who knows, somebody might want an answer to a post comment at three o’clock in the morning. Some hope!

There’s somebody I want to take to bed with me, to keep me warm through the long winter nights. Fortunately, she doesn’t know it. Women’s thighs have suddenly attained a level of almost unparalleled prominence on my list of things devoutly to be wish’d.

I’m bored. Anybody who says ‘only boring people get bored’ will be boiled in their own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through their heart.

The End.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Life, Again.

Somebody asked me a series of questions tonight:

‘Should I dedicate my life to alleviating the suffering of others? How should I balance concern for others with concern for myself? Is there a middle way?’

Effectively, they’re all part of the same question, and the only reply I could offer was:

‘Why do you want to alleviate suffering?’

This isn’t as simple as it sounds, and it leads to some interesting issues. What is the difference, for example, between compassion and sentimentality? Unless there is a firm understanding of that consideration, I don’t see how anybody could know where the middle road should lie. Dedicating one’s life to alleviating suffering without first understanding that one could lead to lunacy or suicide. And the end of the line on this question is the same as it is on all serious questions:

‘What is life? Does it have a purpose? Is there a concept of reality beyond the most obvious?’

I have my own views, of course, but I’m not here to preach. All I’ll say is that in the absence of an answer to the ultimate question, I don’t see how anybody can be certain of anything.

We or I.

This is a question to women everywhere, but especially American women.

One of the women whose blog I read has announced in her latest post that she’s expecting a baby. She does so by saying: ‘X (her partner) and I are expecting a baby.’ I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman express it that way. I’m used to the simple statement ‘I’m pregnant.’

Clearly, one sees the event in terms of the partnership, while the other sees it in primarily self-oriented terms. So what I’m curious to know is whether the former is a common mode of expression in America. Is this a cultural difference between Americans and Brits? I could, of course, ask the woman in question, but I’m interested in having a more universal opinion.

Both of Us.

I just read my last post again with the mind of the morning Me, and I’ve decided not to take it down. Egotistical it might be, but it’s truthful and quite succinctly written. In fact, it’s not half bad for an alcohol-affected and slightly sleep-deprived brain - so much so that I wonder whether it was my brain that conceived it at all. And it occurred to me that even the pragmatic, rational side that predominates during the daylight hours gets just as big a kick from seeing the record of overnight visits. It’s almost like waking up on Christmas morning and seeing the bag of presents that Santa Claus has left. I think the two sides of me are learning to accept one another.

OK, enough. This is sinking into mawkishness, and the morning Me is less inclined to that sort of thing. So, feel free to comment if you want to.

Late Night Confession.

I’m so easily given to self-delusion at this time in the diurnal cycle, when the scotch and the deep night energies conspire to nudge me towards imagined dimensions. The very witching time of night awakens a conscious dream state, in which I’m laid open to the thrilling or devastating effect of a single word or tone of voice. If ever we meet, stand clear between midnight and 4 am. Thrills walk hand in hand with the potential for confusion. I will look at you in the morning and ask who you are. I will remember, but I will weigh you differently.

This is a difficult confession, but I might as well be known. Please don’t comment on this. I’ll want to delete it tomorrow.

Ode to My Ageing Parsnip.

If Wordsworth can be imagined to have written an ode to The Withered Turnip, I think it only fair to acknowledge the parsnip in like manner. Of course, those inclined to seeing double entendre at the mere slip of a garter might read it differently.

My ageing parsnip’s past its best
It’s gone all soft and droopy.
I think it’s time it had a name;
I think I’ll call it Snoopy.

I’m not a Snoopy, quoth the veg,
I’m nothing like a beagle.
I think that you should call me Rex
Because I’m rather regal.

Changing Faces.

Isn’t it odd how you can sometimes look in the mirror and see a moderately pleasant human face, and then at other times you see something akin to a grizzled King Edward potato looking back at you? I suppose that’s better than a withered turnip. As for ageing parsnips that are going all soft and droopy, well... Not much use for those in the modern, high octane world, is there?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Being Wilty.

I’ve been doing a Kaetlyn these past few days – going to bed at the usual ungodly hour, but getting up earlier because of the problems with the van, the need to get groceries and so on. So tonight I’m feeling a bit wilty. (Good word, wilty; I just made it up.) It’s actually quite a pleasant feeling. I’ll probably wake up after midnight, as I usually do. And I’ve got a bag of onion rings at the side of my desk that I can’t stop raiding.

Deep and meaningful stuff you’re getting here!

Tricky and Frustrating Day.

More vehicle problems today, and another visit from the breakdown service. There followed two hours of driving, first in pelting rain and then snow, to try and get the damn problem sorted once and for all. In the process, I encountered a surprising run of difficulties and delays in trying to get some air into a half-deflated tyre. Hopefully, the damn problem is now sorted. But watch this space.

When I got home at around four, I found a police car parked at the bottom of my path and a message on voice mail from my disabled neighbour’s son-in-law. It seems my neighbour had activated his alarm and the first response unit had sent the police to investigate. The son-in-law asked if I could go round to find out what was happening.

There were three young policewomen attending to Fred, and he was sitting there happy as a pig in muck! He’d had a fall in the bathroom, apparently, and couldn’t get up again. The policewomen had got him back to his armchair and made him a cup of tea. Well I never! One of the young women was pretty scrummy, so I asked indignantly whether she would come and pick me up if ever I fell over.

No I didn’t. I was a model of decorum and propriety, as befitted the situation. I think I should be proud of myself.

No Mysoginist, Me.

Do you know what gets my goat about some women? Fickleness!

I’m here.

Good.

I don’t like what you just did, so I’m going.

OK, I’ll get over it.

Hello. I’m back.

Oh, right. Nice to see you.

Changed my mind. I’m going again.

Er...

This observation does not apply to all women, but I expect I’ll get a barrage of ICBMs anyway. Am I joking? Not sure; too much scotch. ‘Time for bed,’ said Zebedee. Tomorrow could be difficult.