Sunday, 31 October 2010

My Mind Has a Leaking Valve.

I had a blog post all lined up today. It was deep and provocative, perhaps the most spiritually profound of all my posts. I started to type it, and then I had a phone call – just an ordinary domestic call from Helen, nothing unusual. When she rang off it was time for dinner and I decided I’d come back to the post later. Guess what? When dinner was over I’d lost all interest in making the post. It’s the second time that’s happened this week. So then a third one went tumbling through my mind, and I can’t be bothered to write that one either.

That’s what happens at this time of year: high inspiration followed by deep deflation. It’s a bit of a nuisance. I’ve twice been told that my clan totem is the bear, so maybe I should just hibernate.

Clocks.

Our clocks go back an hour to GMT tonight. That's twice in one month that I've had to adjust my calculation of the time in Sydney. Is it next Sunday that America puts theirs back? And I have to work out how to change that damn silly clock in the bathroom again tomorrow.

Rites of Passage.

Somebody recently commented that I should feel freer to make reference to ‘intimate details’ in my blog. All right then, I remembered this tonight.

Back when I was a teenager, my mother was trying to give me a lecture on the dangers of adolescence. She’d spotted a ‘weakness’ in my nature, you see. (It shouldn’t have surprised her, since the same weakness was evident on both sides of my parentage. Can’t be held responsible for my genes, can I?) She wasn’t very good at that sort of thing – too reserved – and so she had to wrap it up in cryptic language while struggling to be sure that the meaning was clear. I just found the whole thing excruciatingly embarrassing! She used a phrase that used to be common in Britain: ‘There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.’ It’s used to refer to unplanned pregnancies, of course, and I remember being quite horrified. Disturbed, even. I didn’t know mothers said things like that, and what illusions I’d held on the purity of motherhood disappeared forever.

It wasn’t the only illusion to be shattered on the road to being where I am now, however. Can you believe that I was twenty eight before I knew that women shaved their legs? The first two live-ins had always done it in private. I suppose they must have hidden their razors too, because I don’t recall ever seeing a second one in the bathroom.

And I was the ripe old age of fifteen before I discovered that women’s breasts don’t have bones in them. Imagine that these days! I think my surprise at the sight of the supine young woman before me must have showed on that occasion, since I recall a reference being made to pancakes. She was older than me, and evidently disposed to take pity.

‘I wouldn’t go any further, lad,’ she said soothingly. ‘The other bit looks like a pig with its throat cut.’

How romantic! She was from Wigan, though, so maybe that explains it.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Uncommunicative, Except by Story.

So, here we go again. I was going to make two posts tonight. The first I’ve now decided isn’t worth saying, and the second I’ve forgotten altogether. No hope, I think.

As for the documentary, turns out it’s actually yet another series on the history of the Second World War. How many more do we need? I thought this was going to present a new angle on everything. Maybe it will – in time. At the end of the first hour, however, we haven’t even got to the Ardennes offensive yet.

So what else do I have to say? Not much. I’ve spent the last hour chatting-by-blog-comment to the Maid of Midlothian, the lovely Melanie of Anthropomorphica. Thanks, Mel. You were just what I needed tonight.

And just to remind anybody who might be interested, the next story will be going up in an hour or so – a day early as I said, in honour of the season. It’s one of the earlier ones, and not a particular favourite. Oddly enough, though, it’s the one for which I received the highest fee. And I seem to recall a reviewer liked it, so maybe there’s something worthy in there. A warning, though. It’s a bit long and decompressed (although not quite as decompressed as it used to be.)

Addendum.

I just want to say, in connection with the last post, that any woman I associate with the song Avalon has to be a bit bloody special. Hmm... Insert expletive.

OK, more later when I’ve watched a TV documentary on the global psychological affects or World War II. It will probably be a load of tosh. TV documentaries often are.

For What it's Worth.

The most recent addition to my playlist (the one at the bottom, if it isn’t obvious) was put there in memoriam for somebody. I pushed her away and she went, but she left a scent in the air that declines to dissipate; and the title echoes an old tune that she probably doesn’t even hum any more. Roads diverge so readily, snaking off to meander around the plains of life until they meet the mountain and re-engage.

I’m being cryptic again, I know; but it’s that time of year and I’m in that kind of mood. I did warn of some coming strangeness. Take it or leave it.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Being Closeted.

I’ve had one of those useful days today. I knuckled down and did lots of small jobs that I’d been putting off for ages.

But it’s dark now; it’s been dark for hours. All the jobs are done and I’ve been trying to write a blog post. It was an amusing anecdote, but it wasn’t coming out right. I can’t divest myself of the opinion that nobody would be remotely interested in anything I have to say. I take it I’m not alone in feeling that way sometimes.

Meanwhile, the wind is howling around the house and something keeps tapping on the door. Since it isn’t Halloween yet, I assume it’s just falling leaves. I keep thinking that it would be nice to have some company, but I’m a great believer in that old saying ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Who knows what company I might attract in a place like this and at this time of year? And although I believe it is possible to draw to us things we want by the power of wish and will, I also fear that we have no control over the means by which we get them.

Good Story News.

See Bad Story News. I discovered while checking my records tonight that there were a couple of stories published earlier this year that I overlooked and are free to go up at A Handful of Stories. Accordingly, The Thirteenth Tree will be going up on schedule on 31st October (a day early in honour of Samhain,) and then The Helvellyn Ram will appear on 15th November, followed by When the Waves Call on 1st December.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A Difficulty.

I was in my kitchen today when I caught a fleeting glimpse of something fluttering outside the window. It moved like a butterfly, which surprised me because late October is not a time for butterflies in Britain. By the time I turned to look at it properly, it had gone. But then I saw several more, and watched as they danced a butterfly dance in the space formed by my kitchen wall and another that runs at right angles to it. And, of course, they weren’t butterflies; they were small, desiccated leaves caught up in swirling eddies of breeze created by the respective angles of the two walls.

So what did I make of these impostors? I made ghosts of them, shrivelled corpses of the Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies that graced the flower heads in the summer, now risen and returned to perform a lepidopteran danse macabre in anticipation of the coming season. And I sensed a note of the sardonic in their shameless impersonation, for they were mocking me with the knowledge that the dark time is here.

The period between November and January is usually a dark time for me, and it seems to have started early this year. It’s a time of frequent dips into the pit of despond. On several occasions the depression has lasted the whole three months, although that’s unusual and last year I was spared it altogether. It’s a time when acquaintances make themselves scarce, and I don’t blame them one jot for that. Ironically, it’s also a time when I push people away, sometimes quite aggressively. I’ve come to think that perhaps it’s a defence mechanism, because the pre-emptive strike at least gives me some control over the sense of abandonment. People can’t desert you if you’ve already thrown them out. Only the truest of friends refuse to leave, and I don’t need a whole handful of fingers to count the number of those I’ve had.

Accordingly, I’m not sure what this blog will bring over the next three months. It might be nothing out of the ordinary. I might have a good winter this year. Tomorrow I might be writing silly ditties again. At the moment, however, the unwelcome little imp is sitting on my shoulder and threatening to make a nuisance of himself as usual.

Please excuse my candour. As I’ve said in at least two previous posts, that’s what this blog is for. And if it sounds overly dramatic to anybody, that’s just a matter of style. There’s nothing dramatic about the experience. It’s just something miserable to observe and get through.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

De-brief.

Been doing a bit of a de-brief tonight, and I realised that there are five things I’ve always been good at:

Seeing through the fronts that people construct.

Recognising the disingenuous and other brands of falseness (not necessarily the same thing.)

Offending people.

Losing friends.

Failing to live up to others’ expectations.

Oh well, must plod on.

And, completely off the point, I’m listening to Charles Trenet’s classic rendition of La Mer. My French is almost non-existent these days, but I’m sure he says ‘mouton’ at one point. Doesn’t that mean ‘sheep?’ How on earth do sheep manage to appear in a song about the sea?

No Contest.

It’s odd that I should have read Wendy’s post this evening. I was in a coffee shop earlier, and there were two pretty young women in there. One was a tomboy type, the other a classic Barbie. The tomboy won hands down in terms of sex appeal.

And if you should read this, Wendy, being called a bumblebee rather than a thorn was rather spiffing. Thank you.

By the way, I think I might be the only Englishman left who still says ‘spiffing.’

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

No More Fruit.

I’ve always been an optimist at heart. Still am. But all the optimism in the world sometimes has to give way to resignation when a certain knowledge takes hold: the knowledge that only one thing has ever set my adrenalin flowing big time, and that it is no longer available. And all the optimism in the world also fails to convince me that anything could ever take its place.

Except enlightenment, of course.

This isn’t a negative post, merely a recognition of the fact that pragmatism must have its day. I get pleasure from many things in life: some foods, some drinks, some music, some stories, some films, some theatre, some new experiences, the company of like-minded people, the companionship of trusting animals, the scents of nature, the occasional insight into deeper levels of meaning...

But these are the succulent leaves around the base of the tree. The fruit is out of reach.

OK, this is a negative post. Maybe I’ll think of something funny to say later. Or tomorrow.

Notes on a Trip to the City.

There was an elderly couple in a shop today, discussing the relative merits of toilet roll holders. You’d think they’d have more decorum at their age, wouldn’t you? Surely, such things should be kept on the top shelf and sold in brown paper bags.

And I saw two young men having a cigarette outside the doors to the shopping mall. They were dressed in the regulation baggy trousers, big boots and hoodies. But they were also wearing woolly gloves, despite the damp but mild feel to the weather. I assumed the reason was because it was cool, rather than because it was cold.

I also heard a woman describe the unemployed as ‘these drop-outs.’

Fascinating.

Tired.

Why am I so tired tonight? Maybe it’s because I have to be up earlier than usual tomorrow. The electric power is going to be off all day and so I’ve decided to go out. Which means that if anybody should happen to drop me a comment or an e-mail overnight, it won’t get answered until late afternoon or evening.

Tiredness breeds tedium. Early night, I think. No more noise pollution from me.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Rehearsal.

My new story is coming along well. Its aim - if such a term, riddled as it is with the inherent banality of Freudian Ego, can ever be applied to the creative process - is twofold. Firstly, it seeks to explore the darker elements of the perennial battle between the conscious and the unconscious, something to which we are all prey but which most of us never even realise. Secondly, it attempts to both underline and counterpoint the nature of self as perceived within a quasi, effectively flawed existentialist framework. This, I hope, will direct the reader to re-examine the semantics and shibboleths surrounding the alternate reality existing in the deepest corners of our imperfect vision.

Just kidding. I thought I’d practice in case I ever become a commercially succesful artist in the modern world. You never know. Got to earn my £500 haircut somehow, haven’t I, so I can look cool and important on the telly?

Feminine Ammunition.

I’ve just read a teenage girl’s latest blog post. She’s bitterly regretting the fact that she was shy when the man of her choice was making overtures. What? Doesn’t she realise how beguiling shyness can be. Helen was brilliant at it when I first met her. She did that soft, silent, determined look – the one that says ‘Leave me alone. I’m not coming out!’ It intrigues. It makes a man search for new ways to get over the barrier. (I’m talking about worthy men here, not the other sort.) It can even make him stumble until he trips and lies prostrate at the lady’s feet. And then she’s got him.

I’m not sure I should be giving this stuff away. Letting the side down, and all that. But women just don’t seem to understand what a range of deadly ammunition they’ve got in that little bullet belt of theirs.

Fall into the first pair of rippling biceps you see if all you want is a shot of cheap testosterone. But you’ll be greatly limiting your choices if you do.

Amusing Ambiguity.

I just realised that the blog post title Feeling Wanted is ambiguous. Do I feel wanted, do I desire some sort of experience, or do I want to be felt?

Mmm... All three?

Gallic Know-How and a Couple of Questions.

Those little eyes so helpless and appealing, one day will flash and send you crashing to the ceiling.

For the youth in the audience, that was once a very popular song. The French know a bit about that sort of thing. And now I’ve had a drink, I can ask the question I’ve been wanting to ask for a while:

Where the hell is Dominique? Has there been a tidal wave in Mumbai, or something? Losing Dominiques isn’t nice.

And another thing. I’ve just caught up with he-who-shall-be-nameless again. How on earth do people manage to write words which don’t actually say anything? Is this a skill I should cultivate?

I’ll go to Bedlam – just as soon as I’ve finished the next drink. My garret is cold tonight.

To an Ex-Pat.

She used to live in old Hong Kong,
And then the world went awfully wrong.
Within a day
She flew away
And landed in a billabong.

Bounders on the Front Bench.

As we get older we become more skilled at assessing people based on the various aspects of body language. It usually gives a truer picture than their words or even their general behaviour.

So what am I to make of the Tory front bench in parliament? You only have to look at their unfeeling eyes, their supercilious grins and their arrogant postures to realise what an objectionable bunch they are. How on earth did anybody cast a single vote for any of them? Unless those voters are pretty objectionable themselves, of course.

This post won’t be of any interest to foreign visitors. Sorry.

Opposites and Corollaries.

People occasionally say ‘I’m happy to be alive.’

It’s a nice thing to say. It’s an affirmation of life and a way of saying that they feel good. Nevertheless, it still interests me that the opposite would be:

‘I’m unhappy to be alive,’ which is another way of saying ‘I wish I were dead.’

Whereas the corollary would be:

‘I would be unhappy if I weren’t alive.’

I’m playing with semantics, aren’t I? Best open a beer and get sensible (the scotch comes later.)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Disappointment.

Received opinion on the Greatest Film of all Time usually goes for either Citizen Kane or Gone with the Wind. Mine doesn’t. I have to admit that I’ve never seen Citizen Kane, but it doesn’t seem like my sort of film. I did try to watch Gone with the Wind once, but switched off after about an hour because I found everything about it – absolutely everything – tediously turgid. Especially Olivia de Havilland.

My vote goes to Funny Bones, but I’m not going to bother explaining why because I’m not in film critic mode. Let’s just say it has so many different angles and presents them all superbly.

So, tonight I set myself the task of learning how to embed a You Tube video in a blog post. It seemed easy enough, and so off I went to You Tube looking for one of the classic clips from the film. Not there – none of them. There are a few clips, but none of the best ones.

The world is determined to disappoint me.

The Godless Moment.

I had an interesting experience at lunchtime. Quite without warning I suddenly felt supremely insignificant. I am nothing. My being is of no consequence. I don’t exist, except as some indivisible contribution to a state of reality that is beyond my comprehension.

It was a good, positive feeling. Freeing. Calming. Real.

In honour of Zhen, for whom I have much respect, I decided to call it my Godless Moment, because if I don’t exist, then any question of a transcendent God becomes completely irrelevant.

It passed fairly quickly, of course. Things like that, things I like to think of as flashes of understanding, flit across the line of my sight so quickly that I have to rely on persistence of vision to decide whether or not they really happened.

Feel free to tell me I’m delusional if you like. Is that a first person pronoun in the last sentence? See – gone already.

Ad Men.

The world of advertising is so full of bullshit that I wonder why we don’t take all those useless, overpaid advertising executives and spread them on the barley fields where their decomposing bodies would at least be doing some good.

Sarah, Sarah, No One Fairer.

Talking about girls from this or the next village, I have to say another word about Sarah who lives on Mill Lane. She of the fearsome mother. That Sarah. I’ve mentioned her before, in case anybody hadn’t noticed.

I realised tonight that one of the things that makes her so damned appealing is that she isn’t sexy. She’s beyond sexy. Her beauty is so subtle as to be transcendental. And I’m sure she doesn’t know it. I don’t think I’ve ever known anybody quite like Sarah.

Strange, but true.

I’m so glad we never bump into one another these days. We conduct our perambulations at different times of the day. I miss her dog, though.

Time to get plastered before bed. I can only claim transparency in my defence.

Helen said the other day that I’m starting to talk like an artist. I really must ask her what she meant. Boozy Dylan Thomas or Damien 'Designer-Specs' Hirst? This is important.

Actually, it isn’t. My ego is showing. Bugger!

Shrinking World.

I heard somebody claim in a TV programme tonight that one in eight American marriages are now between people who first met online. Strange to think that even as little as a hundred years ago, people grew up in small rural communities where a young man’s choice of bride lay between Elsie the milkmaid and Florence, the blacksmith’s daughter from the next village. And vice versa, of course.

I wonder how we would cope if ever we found life on other planets.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The World's Best Drink.

You know I like scotch, right? Well, hear this.

I just got myself a mug of hot chocolate. It came out of a jar, and required little work other than a lot of stirring to prevent it going lumpy. It tastes OK, but it’s nothing like the real stuff that used to get served up in the Royal Navy.

It started as a block of rock-hard, solid chocolate that had to be scraped and scraped laboriously for a long time before there was enough to make even a single drink. But then it melted quickly and smoothly when boiling water was poured over it. And when somebody brings you a big steaming mug of it after you’ve spent two hours standing on the bridge wings of a frigate, being lashed by stinging force 11 winds and continuously soaked by freezing rain and spray, there isn’t a drink in the world to touch it. Not even 25-year-old Talisker malt.

A Warning to Young Women.

I’ve decided to risk being seen as unduly alarmist. I feel the need to pass on a bit of information about men. I touched on this subject in an earlier post, but I want to take it down a slightly different line. If anybody is unfamiliar with the Freudian doctrine of Id, Ego and Super-Ego, by the way, this article explains it clearly and succinctly.

Having had an awful lot to do with women over the years, I’ve become convinced that men and women have subtly different ways of seeing life and making sense of it. As a result, I think we’re all constantly labouring under the delusion that members of the opposite sex generally understand each another. Fortunately, it isn’t usually that big a problem and sometimes it’s downright amusing. There is, however, one aspect that’s always worried me. I’ve found that most women fail to realise how easily the Ego and Super-Ego can be suppressed in men, leaving the Id fully in control.

My experience has led me to think that it happens most commonly in two types of situation:

Those which generate conflict, anger and/or fear.

Those which generate sexual arousal.

The latter is the problem area for women, especially young, attractive women. Their natural role in the game of romance is seduction, whatever the feminists claim, and too few of them realise what an unstable stick of gelignite they can be juggling with. Of course, I’m not saying that all men will be reduced to ravening animals merely at the flick of an eyebrow, but a lot of men are more easily moved to that state than most young women realise. I’ve seen it happen. And when the Id takes command, action ensues. Furthermore, that action is unsuppressed because the perpetrator doesn’t know there’s any need to suppress it. That’s a fundamental feature of the Id: it has no sense of right and wrong, nor even any grasp of reason. It runs straight and true on the basest of drives, and the result can be very unpleasant.

So my advice to young women is this. Get to know your man well before you start trying to seduce him. Be sure that he has at least a reasonably well developed higher self and a good grasp of consequences before you start tossing the bomb around. I hope my meaning is clear enough without the need to become too graphic.

The Playlist.

Listening to a person’s playlist is most illuminating. Each track they choose to put on it effectively says ‘this is a bit of who I am, or at least how I see myself.’ I suppose that means there’s something fundamentally egotistical about having a playlist at all. In my case, it also gives me something to listen to while I’m writing blog posts.

Tonight I’m flitting between Music for a Found Harmonium, and Davy Spillane’s Midnight Walker. In saying as much, I find that I can’t help making light of it. It occurs to me that I should go and hang around Sarah’s house on Mill Lane and become a Midnight Stalker.

I won’t, of course; I’m too wary of her mother. I saw her mother in the town the other day. She has a most masculine stride. Invoking her Id would be a matter of some concern to a sensitive guy like me.

Feeling Wanted.

Blogging’s been on the back burner today, courtesy of gardening, walking, and an enquiry from a publisher regarding stories for one of their anthologies. It’s nice to get enquiries like that. Makes a chap feel wanted. It should come as no surprise that I don’t often have reason to feel wanted, so it makes a pleasant change.

And I saw today that the local pub is having a bonfire night bash (5th November, for anybody unfamiliar with British traditions – Guy Fawkes Night.) I wonder how much they’ll be charging. Should I go? Be a devil. Live dangerously. Watch and listen. Mmm...

A wooden structure appeared in my garden this morning. I haven’t a clue who put it there, or why. It’s a sort of wooden cage with no top, and too heavy for one person to move. Weird. It’s almost as big a mystery as the rabbit burrow that disappeared one day, with no sign of disturbance to the surrounding ground. Who filled it in, why did they do it, and where did they get the soil from?

I was going to make a post today about young women needing to beware the masculine Id, but decided it would be unduly alarmist. I’m not entirely convinced, though, so maybe I’ll still make it one of these days.

Time I had a drink.

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Wrong Baby.

My mother once told me that the day after I was born the hospital staff gave her the wrong baby. She and a Polish woman on the same ward both decided they’d been given the wrong baby. So they swapped. Suppose they were wrong.

The Game.

It occurred to me recently that there is an essential element of game playing in all romantic relationships. I’m not saying that they’re incapable of developing into something more substantial, but for as long as they’re ‘romantic’ in nature there’s a game being played out. And the aim – as with all games - is to win. Surely it can’t be otherwise unless both parties are devoid of ego, and that isn’t very likely.

No wonder Buddhists have a habit of giving them up.

This is my 600th post. Had to be on this subject, didn’t it?

State of the Arts?

I watched the BBC’s flagship arts programme The Culture Show tonight (I’m watching a lot of TV lately, aren’t I? It’s a stress-deflecting mechanism.)

It used to be a regular of mine, but it’s a couple of years since I last saw it. I think I’ve changed a bit in that time. Or maybe the arts world has changed, because I found it largely drab, predictable, cliché-ridden, self-congratulatory, pretentious, and even politically correct in that alter-establishment sort of way that the art world has claimed for its own.

Are there no Dylan Thomases any more? No James Joyces? Are there no tortured souls starving in garrets and holding up mirrors to the world, whilst consigning themselves to premature demise through drink and drugs because it’s the only way they know how to stay sane enough to keep the mirror aloft?

What’s happened to the Romance, the unavoidable sacrifice? It’s all so prissy and comfortable now. It’s all about being far out for far out’s sake, and then being lauded into trendy celebrity on the steed of fawning and overblown congratulation. It’s a world of wine bars, riverside apartments and designer spectacles. Or so the BBC would have us believe.

The only bit I enjoyed was the feature on Alisdair Grey, the Glaswegian writer and painter. That might be because I knew his ex-wife and their son for several years, or it might be because he recognised when his ego was showing and wasn’t afraid to admit it.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

A Reason to be Irritated.

Here’s a little cause for irritation.

You start talking to somebody and soon begin to feel a strong sense of connection with them. The feeling gathers pace, but other feelings come along with it. Inappropriate feelings, feelings that can never find adequate expression. They start to eat away at you until the only way out is to break off contact. It stings a bit, but you know it’s for the best. So that’s what you do.

And then the acid settles and you realise that you still feel the sense of connection; the warmth is still there. But you can’t go back because you know yourself too well, and that knowledge tells you that the same thing would just happen again. So you have to stay away.

That’s a shame.

The Bourgeois Barrier.

The history of humanity is dominated by the constant treading down of the lower classes by a small, elite minority of rich and powerful people. England is no exception to this and has seen its fair share of uprisings down the centuries, from the Peasants Revolt in 1381 to the Chartist Movement during the Industrial Revolution.

I would argue that, although less extreme, the same thing is still happening. Identities have changed, of course. Where the tyrants were once the King and his landed gentry, and then the rich Victorian capitalists, now the tyrant is less easily identified. It’s a vague thing we might call ‘the system,’ represented by the bankers, the city whiz kids and prominent entrepreneurs like Gates and Branson - people who have far more money than they can ever hope to spend. The ‘peasants’ are now those stuck in low paid jobs, the unemployed, the homeless, the working class pensioners, the incapacitated, those not fundamentally equipped to do the jobs that are available in the modern world, and those living on or below the bread line in disadvantaged areas.

Based on the lessons of history, the time would appear ripe for another uprising, but it won’t happen because the system has been very clever in learning how to protect itself. It has contrived to place a formidable barrier between the tyrant and the downtrodden. It has created a burgeoning bourgeoisie, and keeps them content by feeding them a largely false notion of ‘aspiration.’ It gives them shiny badges to wear as symbols of their status and allegiance – the latest motor cars, the four bedroom detached houses in smart areas, the fashionable clothes, the high tech gadgets, the foreign holidays, the baubles, bangles and beads. It has carefully nurtured several generations of people into a rigid belief that this is the only proper way to live a human life. And it has unashamedly conditioned the bourgeoisie to look up to the tyrants and down at the peasants.

And so the peasants no longer have the power of majority. They can't reach their oppressors because there simply aren’t enough of them to sweep aside the indolent majority holding the middle ground. All they can do is smoulder until things feel so bad that they’re moved to riot. It happened several times in Britain during the Thatcher years, and I suspect it will happen again before too long. And if it does, the peasants will be held up to the hating gaze of the decent, aspirational middle classes as articles of repulsion. They will be easily denounced as dangerous and irresponsible. But two questions have to be asked here.

Who are the really dangerous and irresponsible people, the peasants or the tyrants who kick them when they’re down? And who are the real pawns in this sordid game, the lower orders or the burgeoning bourgeoisie?

Translating West Yorkshire.

According to Google stats (yes, I know; why doesn’t he shut up about bloody stats? Because I like them.) So anyway, according to the aforesaid, two people read my article on Cathy and Heathcliff last night – one from Pakistan and one from Venezuela. How strange. I would have thought that Wuthering Heights would be too culturally removed to be of any interest to people from Pakistan or Venezuela. I can only assume they ignored Joseph completely. Even the English have difficulty understanding a word of what he says. Charlotte Bronte’s revision smoothed out his dialect, but he’s just about incomprehensible in Emily’s original.

Deja Vu

Sidney's at it again. See Another Failing. Sidney really is a hoot, but I'm not telling you where I bump into him. And I'm well aware that I shouldn't succumb to unkind thoughts, because it isn't good for me - not even when I find it funny. Pity really, 'cos I don't find too many things funny at the moment.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

When Togetherness Appeals.

I was bored tonight. I had nothing to blog about, there were no e-mails in my inbox, I didn’t feel like reading and there was nothing on the TV I fancied. So I watched Riverdance again, and realised something interesting.

Although I’ve always been the type to do my own thing in my own way, and almost invariably alone, what appeals to me when I watch dance is the element of ensemble. I get the biggest thrill from watching two or more people doing the same thing at the same time (especially when it’s a bunch of pretty colleens in short green dresses and black tights!) There’s something wholesomely together about it - a number of people all pulling in the same direction. I like that in others.

More evidence that I don’t belong, I suppose.

Bad Story News.

Of the stories I originally lined up for the other blog, only four now remain. I’ve decided that two of them simply aren’t up to scratch, and a third one (L’Etranger) has just been accepted for a second publication some time in 2011. Although there is no contractual impediment, it would be less than polite to include on my blog a story that a publisher is lining up for inclusion in a magazine. Accordingly, only one now remains and that will be going up on 1st November.

This isn’t quite the end of the road, though. Two further stories – Helping Jennifer and Changing Places - are due for publication in 2011. Once they have seen the light of day, and assuming there is no time element in the rights requirement, they can go up at A Handful of Stories.

That's if anybody is interested.

Second Infancy.

There’s an advert up on my Hotmail home page for Tena. Don’t they make ladies’ monthly things? It says ‘Bladder weakness occurs in 1 in 9 men,’ so they’re presumably selling something to catch the drips.

Let me get this right. Are they saying that if I walk around the town tomorrow and count nine men at random, I can be sure that one of them is either wearing a nappy or wondering why his legs suddenly feel warm?

Politics.

I spent over an hour at lunchtime watching the Chancellor’s public spending cuts announcement on the TV.

The first thing that struck me was that if ever there was a place deserving of Shakespeare’s phrase ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,’ the House of Commons has to be it. All that yowling, roaring, stamping of feet and empty rhetoric. And it’s all pointless because Ministers sit around a table deciding what they want to do, and then do it anyway. It’s part of the illusion of democracy.

What disturbs me more, however, is the extent to which ministers fail to comprehend the realities of life at street level. They play the intellectual game of high economics, guided by intellectual experts like the Bank of England and the IMF; but they evidently have little understanding of the effect that game will have on the lives of ordinary people down here among the grass roots. I’m sure they see themselves as chess players, protecting the ‘important’ pieces while having no qualms about sacrificing the pawns. And it struck me yet again that there is no place for qualities like compassion and a broad social understanding, let alone wisdom, in politics. Politics concerns itself only with the shallowest end of life, and I think its practitioners are mostly the shallowest of people.

Maybe you think I’m being unduly cynical. Maybe I am; but I’ve spent a long time down at this level, and I spent three years working with an inner city charity. I’ve seen things that government ministers don’t even know exist. Or, if they do, they put an interpretation on them that is prejudiced, uninformed and horribly wrong.

I feel inclined to give this blog up. The game of life is so full of ignorance and hypocrisy that talking about it is becoming tedious. And who am I talking to anyway?

I probably won’t.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Manipulating Opinion.

I find it odd that people put so much faith in opinion polls, especially when it’s apparent that the results so often support the interests of the people commissioning them. The reason for that is simple enough: too many of them aren’t conducted properly.

Opinion polls are useful as long as the core sample is genuinely representative of the general view, and as long as the right questions are asked. Too often they’re not; they’re carefully manipulated to give the desired result. One example:

Let’s suppose a debate is raging over whether hunting with dogs should be banned. On one side you have an organisation in favour of a ban, so they conduct a poll in large towns and cities where there’s no tradition of hunting. They ask the question ‘Do you think hunting with dogs is cruel?’ The people they talk to have no vested interest in hunting, so most of them answer the question with an obvious ‘yes.’ Another organisation, which largely exists to represent the interests of the landed gentry, is against the ban. They conduct their poll in small towns and villages in rural areas where hunting has long been a tradition, and ask the question ‘Do you think hunting should be banned?’ People don’t like losing their traditions, whether they’re justifiable or not, so the majority predictably answer ‘no.’ Voila! Both sides claim 75% support for their view and insist that democracy is on their side. It’s all nonsense, but those who want to believe it now feel vindicated. And this isn’t theoretical. It happened in Britain a few years ago.

The most meaningless polls of all, of course, are the ‘open’ type conducted by the media and on the internet. These are the type in which a question is thrown out to a general audience with an invitation to vote. The problem here is that most periodicals and websites attract a typical reader with a partisan leaning, and so the views that come in are usually only given by people with a strong opinion in a particular direction. They’re a million miles from representing the consensus, and are completely meaningless. Yet people still believe them, and no doubt plenty of non-aligned people have their opinions swayed by them.

The basic point to make here is that opinion polls should be treated with mistrust unless certain facts are known: how and where the poll was conducted, how big the core sample was, and exactly what questions were asked. All too often these facts are not disclosed, because all too often opinion polls are about manipulation, not information.

What's in a Name. 2

According to Google stats, somebody in China read my story Mr Grimshaw last night. Having people read my stories is a source of some pleasure to me, and it must be obvious by now that I have a special interest in China and old Chinese culture. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine that a native Chinese person, however good their command of English, would grasp the nuance contained within the name ‘Albert Grimshaw’ at all well. That’s a shame because it means there’s a layer of perception, however small, missing. So then I came to wonder what would happen if the story were ever to be translated into one of the Chinese languages. Is there a Chinese equivalent of Albert Grimshaw?

And while I’m on the subject of stats, it appears that my ‘best selling’ blog post of all time is ‘Rule by Numbers: the BMI Story’ with thirty nine page views. I wonder why.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Being Scooby Doo.

I’ve just been talking to Helen. I always get further insights into my nature when I’ve been talking to Helen, and I have a retrospective message for all the women in my life over the years:

If you’d only realised that I’m just a soppy, boisterous dog with a few emotional issues and psychological aberrations, and treated me accordingly, we’d have got on much better.

Simple.

I plan to be a stray mountain rescue dog in my next life. There’s somebody I have to meet. In fact, I’m banking on her taking me in.

C’mon. Work that one out. Tee hee?

Building the Barricades.

Angela Merkel has gone public with the ‘opinion’ that multiculturalism has proved a complete failure in Germany. Coincidentally (!) national opinion polls indicate that 30% of Germans believe the country is now ‘overrun with foreigners.’

Should I make a post about this? Should I explain why I think the whole thing is riddled with hypocrisy, xenophobia and the politicians’ practice of blindly pandering to public opinion? Where would I start? The mentality that brought about the Third Reich? The reasons for expanding the European Union? The legacy of Western European imperialism? Should I ramble on about the human tendency to take without giving back, the incomprehensible fantasy of racial purity, or the highly dubious notion that it should matter even if it did exist?

It would be a long and complex post, I think - and I’m tired. So probably not. I think I’ll make do with casting those few seeds.

Meanwhile, on an altogether more wholesome level, I was so glad to see the Indian flag appear again after a long absence. If that was you, Dominique, I missed you.

Getting Cold Feet.

The last post was a bit miserable, wasn’t it? I feel a bit sorry for those people who accessed it based on the title, expecting to find something cosy and life-affirming. The season doesn’t help much. The dying of the daylight does tend to lead me towards melancholia, and sometimes worse. And last night, winter sent a message to say she’s on her way.

The temperature where I live fell below freezing, which is why I was woken up at 4.30 am by my feet inadvertently straying into that area of the Arctic Ocean masquerading as the bottom of my bed. No heating on in the bedroom yet, you see. So now I’m faced with a decision between:

Turning the heating on – too expensive.

Finding myself a sleeping partner – too intrusive (and besides, she’d have to be old and ugly to want the job. Somebody’s grandma, I expect.)

Breaking out the bed socks - a bit Dickensian, but the best option in the circumstances.

I don’t suppose anybody really wanted to know that, but my blogging cap has gone missing. I had a long phone call tonight that’s thrown me off my stride. What’s the hope that I might be tripping the light fantastic tomorrow?

Slim.

But you never know.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Family Values.

I once saw a male actor in tears because his grandmother had died. If it had been his dog, I would have empathised completely. But a grandparent? What’s one of those?

OK, I’m being rhetorical. This is my experience of grandparents:

As far as I know, I saw quite a lot of my paternal grandmother until my parents separated when I was five. After that, very little. She moved away from the area when I was about nine, and died when I was twelve. I have only vague memories of her.

My maternal grandmother was a little unusual. I’m told she’d been a woman of... what should we call it? Easy virtue? That sounds moralistic, which I certainly don’t mean to be. How she’d lived her life is none of my business. The fact is, however, that my mother had suffered somewhat at the hands of her own mother’s unconventional habits, and there was clearly some tension between them. Even though she lived until I was in my late twenties, I never had much to do with her.

Then there was my stepfather’s father. He came onto the scene when I was six and died four years later. In the interim, I’d seen him three or four times a year because he lived 150 miles away in London.

That’s it. Three grandparents, none of them close. All three represented no more than a theoretical concept of attachment.

And almost the same is true of the rest of my ‘family.’ My parents’ separation was messy. First my mother disappeared; then she came back and my father left. My half brother, who was much older than me and whom I idolised, chose to enter the army at the same time and never lived at home again. It wasn’t long before I stopped idolising him, and nobody falls harder than the one who’s fallen off a pedestal. My mother remarried a year later and my stepfather turned out to be a petty martinet who specialised in different forms of abuse depending on who he was dealing with. In my case it was mostly emotional, so there wasn’t a great deal of familial warmth there. What few cousins I had were kept at arms length by the strained nature of the relationship between my mother and stepfather.

I suppose that’s why I made a unilateral declaration of independence at age fourteen. I did my own thing from then on, whether my parents approved or not.

Eventually I had a daughter of my own, but circumstances took me away from her when she was at the same age as I’d been when my own parents had separated. That sort of thing raises a barrier that never fully comes down. And, just to bring this post full circle, the irony is that I became a grandfather myself at age forty two. I had no idea what a granddad was supposed to be or how he was supposed to behave. I still haven’t. More to the point, I have an abiding sense – quite wrongly, I admit – that grandparents are irrelevant anyway.

None of this is meant to evoke pity. Everybody’s life takes its own course, and everybody has to accept whatever roads they are able to walk. The only point I’m making is that I haven’t a clue what the term ‘family values’ means. I’ve always had to find my own people, and that search never ends.

Unbalanced.

Maybe I overdid the smut today. Fact is, I’m in rehab – from a situation in which I fear I might have handed out more hurt than I foolishly believed I’d been subjected to. That isn’t fair, and it’s bothering me.

Tomorrow I’ll come clean again. A post about grandparents, perhaps. Things don’t come much cleaner than grandparents, do they? Even when they smell bad and get in the way.

(I remember the tongue lashing I got for making that joke in the theatre once. Ha!)

First Impressions.

I had sex with a 38-year-old woman today. The occasion had much to commend it. It stood out rather (stop sniggering, Jenkins) for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve never had sex with a woman that old before; and secondly, I found it quite impossible to divest myself (Jenkins! How many more times?) of the curious and continuous urge to regale the dear lady with that song from the old children’s TV series:

Andy Pandy’s coming to play. La, la-la, la-lah lah.

A trifle odd, don’t you think? Or, for the benefit of American readers, ‘what’s up with that?’ (Jenkins, get off the floor immediately! Your mind would make a suitable repository for black slimy things with pointy ears and bad breath.)

And of course, I made it all up – well, apart from one statement which happens to be true. The fact is, only the most desperate of 38-year-old women would favour me with so much as the time of day these days, let alone a position of prominence. I did so to give anybody who happens to read it a chance to consider their reaction.

Not that I’m suggesting they should, of course; that’s their choice. And if they do, I don’t want to know what they discover. I’d rather practice my present predilection for unanswered questions.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Being Seen.

I was thinking today about how much faith people put in their appearance. I’m told that a person’s mood and self-esteem can be significantly affected by what they’re wearing.

Not me. If I wear posh clothes I just feel pretentious. I’ve had so many years of wearing things that hang on by a thread that I’ve been cured of that one. I’m tempted to wonder why we don’t all become nudists.

But that could pose a problem for the men. If wearing your heart on your sleeve is bad enough, think about the consequences of...

Maybe it’s not such a good idea.

Maria's Story.

Maria Sondule has started off a round robin story that I’ve added to, and it would be nice if others were to carry it on. If anybody wants to write the next few sentences, please let me know as a comment to this post. I will then nominate the next contributor, who can post the updated story to their blog. That will avoid having multiple people contributing simultaneously. Maria’s opening is in white, and my addition in colour.

Once upon a time there lived a very attractive princess named Floosabella. However, this princess was not like other princesses because she was a frog, and she lived in a cave by the pond. One day after checking herself in the mirror Floosabella decided to go out to find a catfish that she’d heard of called Gruntanberpalot.

He was said to live a mile away in a small creek that ran off the main river. She’d decided that making his acquaintance would serve two purposes. First, he was believed to be the ugliest creature in existence, and so might reasonably be expected to regard her as a belle of the highest order; and second, he didn’t know her name, so she could make a new one up. She’d grown heartily tired, you see, of being called ‘Floosie’ by the others in the frog pond; which was why she’d taken up residence in the cave in the first place.

The moon was full as she set off through the undergrowth, and soon she spied

Come on, Baby...

When a fire is lit in me, it has to consume the person who set it. Anything less leaves me feeling horribly empty and frustrated. Always did.

Maybe it comes from being a Sagittarian with Scorpio rising and a moon in Pisces. Fire + water = steam. Bad news.

Getting there. Slowly.

I’m looking at my computer microphone. She’s tall and black, with a flexible stem. She curvaceous. She has a name.

Time I went to bed.

Friday, 15 October 2010

A Regrettable Trend.

It won’t have gone unnoticed that I haven’t been the happiest bunny in the burrow lately. That’s because things have been going on that have been giving me cause to feel miffed, mortified, miserable, manic or jut plain pissed off (Americans may drop the ‘off’) on an almost daily basis.

Now, I do realise that hearing somebody constantly carp about the same dreary subject gets tedious after a while. As my mother used to say, ‘for God’s sake, change the bloody record.’ Quite, but certain issues have a habit of holding one’s attention for as long as they last, and the same record keeps jumping into your hand whether you like it or not. And, as I explained in an earlier post, my blog largely exists to provide me with a sounding board. Since I rarely talk to a confidant from one week to the next, anything I want to say goes here. And that means you lot get it all. Sorry, but that’s how it is. Love me, love my blog, or words to that effect. So now I’m going to regale the assembled multitude – my blog – with the latest thing that’s making me ratty. Leave now if you don’t want to hear it. Fair enough?

One of my few decent qualities is that I’m a loyal friend to anybody who manages to get that close. And, believe it or not, I was even totally faithful in all my romantic liaisons as long as the relationship retained its integrity. Take it from me, I can be remarkably selfless and supportive in close relationships, and the few of them I form tend to get established quickly. That’s because I’m generally good at weighing people up quickly. Occasionally, however, I get it wrong, and I usually discover the mistakes pretty quickly too. I soon see that I’m being faced with one or more of the few things that cause me to walk away without a second word or backward glance. Here’s the list:

Being teased.
Being toyed with.
Being pushed unceremoniously aside in favour of a perceived better prospect.
Being exploited.
Being manipulated.
Being treated with indifference.
Being treated as an unending source of emotional sustenance without being afforded the benefit of reciprocation. (And no, that isn’t quite the same thing as being taken for granted.)

The list might not be exhaustive, but it will do for now.

I do understand that most of these are simply a matter of pride; and I understand that pride is a manifestation of ego; and I understand that ego is the basis of almost all human weakness. So I have a weakness. I have several. Don’t we all?

I fully expect this to be a passing phase, and that everything will soon be back to normal, whatever ‘normal’ is. That will make it easier to read. I know that some people feel uneasy when faced with what they see as ‘too much information.’ I don’t see why, and I can’t be responsible for their sensibilities anyway. I was made transparent. That’s all there is to it.

Thought for the Cold Light of Day.

How real must seem the mirages and phantoms to a thirsty man crossing an arid plain.

How foolish he must feel when he reaches out to grasp a span of empty air, or lifts a handful of dust to his blistering mouth.

And how long must it be before he asks the question:

‘Am I the phantom? Am I the mirage?’

This is not as dark as it might sound. Merely a muse on the illusion to which I believe every one of us is subject. We play the game; that’s all.

There is Something Rotten...

I’ve just been looking at my stats. For heaven’s sake, Denmark, talk to me, would you?

I’m going to bed. My friend John Barleycorn is messing with my brain. Goodnight.

Illusions.

Just as:

The sunset is an illusion, but the beauty is real.

So,

Life is an illusion, but the choices are real.

I wonder whether I should be more careful. The roads not travelled disappear with our decisions, and the people walking them fade into facsimiles. Choices might never be wrong, but they can be detrimental to our interests. Today is done. Tomorrow will be different. Emptier? Fuller? Time, that other great illusion, will tell. Should I believe any of it?