Monday, 28 February 2011

And the Winner is...

It continues to perplex me that people take any interest in the Oscars. For a start, I fail to see why it’s considered appropriate to apply the competitive principle to any field of the arts, since there are no definitive criteria by which to measure relative merit. Secondly, even if there were, the Oscars are geared almost wholly towards mainstream cinema. Some of the films that I’ve most enjoyed were never in contention because they were the ‘wrong sort’ of film. And then there’s all the lobbying and political manoeuvring that goes on, or so I’m told, which makes me wonder just how honest and objective the whole thing is anyway.

So why do people continue to believe that the Best Film really is the best film? And why do actors, directors and the like continue to get caught up in the whole silly business, to the extent that they’re prepared to make simpering asses of themselves at the ceremony? I can only assume it must come down to large doses of ego and insecurity.

Meanwhile, I have little doubt that the Oscars phenomenon amounts to little more than an already wealthy industry finding a way to further publicise itself. If that is the case, an awful lot of people are being just a little bit taken in.

Actors - A Brief Reply.

Somebody asked me recently why I don’t hold Colin Firth in much regard as an actor, and also what I think constitutes good acting. I thought about it a lot over the last couple of days and, quite frankly, the subject became too deep - too complex to go into at length in my current mood. So I’m going to make my answers as simple and short as I can.

First question first. Colin Firth is one of the Brit Pack of actors who came to prominence during the nineties. For all their undoubted skill, a fact with which I wouldn’t presume to argue, I find them colourless. Whatever conviction they might put into their character portrayals, there remains something tepid and unconvincing about them. I’ve always assumed this to have something to do with the fact that they’re products of the Thatcher years. Thatcher’s Britain was a tepid and colourless place. Even her own acolytes, the city whiz kids, looked like anaemic Puritans as they went about worshipping greed in place of Jehovah. One of Mrs T’s famous pronouncements was ‘There is no such thing as quality literature. There are books that sell and books that don’t.’ That sort of attitude set the tone for the age, and I suspect that the likes of Firth, Grant and Branagh represent the product of that tone.

As for what constitutes good acting, I wouldn’t presume to offer an opinion. There's a welter of text books and teachers infinitely better qualified to answer that one. I’m merely a consumer, not an aficionado, and all I can offer is what impresses me personally. And it’s this:

If an actor can become invisible, so that all I see is the character, I’m impressed. The first time I noticed this was when I watched Olivier play the police inspector in the film Bunny Lake is Missing. I remember realising at some point in the film that it was Olivier on the screen, and feeling surprised. For all his personal charisma and his ability to deliver the great lines of serious drama with power and precision, he could portray a character like that with such cold and quiet restraint that I was completely drawn in. It’s why I’m at odds with the established view in believing that Kenneth Branagh is not fit to lace Olivier’s boots. You only have to look honestly at their respective versions of Henry V to see that, although I don’t think it’s Branagh’s fault; I believe he’s a victim of the age that produced him.

So where does this leave the great Hollywood stars, or those British actors like Robert Carlyle and Daniel Craig who don’t really fit into the Brit Pack image? That’s where it gets complicated.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Incommunicado (almost.)

The grey blanket has descended again. I just can’t seem to shake the bloody thing off for longer than a few hours, or a day or two at most, lately. Two bright spots in the day, though:

In Mists, Morgaine has just been betrayed by prize bitch Guinevere. But now she’s being chatted up by a handsome young knight and she’s all girly and cheerful again. I like it when Morgaine is happy.

Editing the novel is like taking the journey with my leading lady all over again (to know who my leading lady is, you’d have to read the story and know a bit about Gaelic folklore.) I just finished what I think is the best chapter, and by the end of it I was almost as relieved and emotional as the MC. The Hungry Ghost Realm is not a nice place to be.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Dragons of Avalon.

The latest from Mists:

Lancelet and Morgaine are each in their own way facing a similar test – dealing with a fierce dragon that doesn’t take kindly to being denied its will. In Lance’s case it’s relatively easy. His dragon is a black slimy thing that emerges from the lake dripping caustic gunge that burns the skin and melts expensive leather boots. Morgaine, on the other hand, has to face the wrath of Guinevere who isn’t overly happy that Morgaine has manipulated Lance into an obligation to marry Elaine.

Lance says he’d rather face a horde of Saxons armed only with an axe than fight a dragon again. Personally, I think I’d take an ordinary dragon any day over a spurned woman.

Variable Perceptions.

There – it’s happening again. I had a couple of posts to make today, but I was busy with other things so they didn’t get made. I come to make them late at night and they seem hopelessly uninteresting, if not actually trivial.

I know it isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this phenomenon, but I still find it almost disturbing that the person I am at three o’clock in the afternoon is quite different from who I am – or at least how I perceive the hierarchy of values – at midnight.

And the tide’s been out for a long time. Does this mean there’s a tsunami on the way?

Friday, 25 February 2011

Random Oddities.

I’m feeling tired, dull and altogether superfluous tonight. It’s all these alarm calls taking their toll. Just a few oddities, though.

My ex, Helen, visited me today. We spent a lot of time talking about the bloke she lives with now, and also about another one of her ex’s adventures with the women currently in his life. I like him; we have a lot in common. Still an odd choice of subject, but amusing nonetheless.

At dusk tonight the air was alive with bird song – every trill, whistle, chatter and melodious warble you could think of coming from all directions. That’s unusual for February, but very pleasant.

Mr Megane, the Red Renault of Roston, behaved himself almost impeccably on our trips to and from the railway station. I expressed my gratitude, just to let him know he’s appreciated.

Despite having known Helen for fifteen years, I still find her uncommonly attractive. Now that really is odd. In fact, it’s unprecedented.

Whilst talking to her about the search for meaning, it occurred to me that seeking knowledge is ultimately pointless because there’s actually nothing to find. No idea where that one leapt from.

I decided that I still want to go and explore those dimensions that you have to explore alone.

I’m currently doing another edit on my novel. I haven’t looked at it for nearly a year, and I’m being pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing. The chances of it ever being published, however, are still as near zero as makes no difference.

Despite developing a tendency to shrug my shoulders a lot these days, life continues to intrigue.

I bought a new toaster yesterday. I spent money. That’s maybe the oddest thing of all.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Short Excerpt.

And then I began to see pictures in my mind. They were exquisite pictures, plucked at random from the seemingly infinite reel of a rosy future, the sort of pictures whose only value is in their own self-contained reality. Rarely do they constitute anything more than a poor shadow of their ultimate expression which always falls short of, exceeds, or alters the original. But see them we do. And so we should; because it is only through our capacity to meditate, dream and visualise that we can create our own reality, uncorrupted by external forces.

Still to Come.

Must make a post about The Dead Newt on My Doorstep when I’ve considered it further. I thought of Googling ‘Newts in folklore,’ but decided against it. Sometimes there are things it’s better not to know. And something – or someone – has filled in the rabbits’ bolt hole in my garden again. I wish I knew what – or who – does that, and so neatly too. It’s odd that this is happening while I’m editing my novel. You’d know what I mean if you’d read it.

Must go to bed early. Two alarm calls in two days. I’m going to be tired tomorrow night.

Breaking News from The Mists.

For those interested in the latest developments in The Mists, the news is disturbing. Viviene – High Priestess of Avalon and Lady of the Lake – has been brutally murdered by a rabid, born-again Christian who believed he was doing God’s work. Still, at least it wasn’t wholesale genocide. That particular path to glory was still a little way in the future.

And it seems that Lancelet might not be gay after all. He’s just rescued Guinevere from the clutches of the brutish Meleagrant, and she’s so grateful she’s decided she doesn’t give a toss who knows about her designs on him. They’ve just ridden off into the sunset holding hands for all to see. They are now, apparently, an item, and I doubt that Arthur is going to be best pleased. Letting his best mate screw his wife for the sake of getting an heir is one thing, but having her taken away altogether is probably going to be just not on! I strongly suspect that poor old Lance is about to be relegated to the status of National Cad and Bounder.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

An English Anglophile.

I was thinking today...

I’m currently driving a red Renault Megane. Of all the cars I’ve had, my parents had, and the various women I’ve lived with had, only two were Renaults – and they were both red.

The first was a Renault Dauphin my stepfather bought when I was a kid. He called it a ‘Ren-awlt Dolphin.’ I told him what the correct pronunciation was, and even explained what a Dauphin was, but he would have none of it. There was no way he was going to start speaking bloody French, he said, and the car was a Dolphin whether I liked it or not.

I learned a lot from my stepfather.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Being Frank.

I went for a walk today, and took the route along Mill Lane where Sarah lives. I’d walked a little way beyond her house when I heard a woman’s voice call my name. It was Sarah with Inca, her cocker spaniel, on a lead. She hurried towards me.

‘Can we walk with you?’ she asked.

‘Of course, it would be my pleasure. But why would you want to?’

‘I’ve seen a funny man around here a couple of times and he makes me nervous.’

‘Funny? In what way?’

‘Oh, I dunno, he’s just weird and gives me the creeps.’

‘Has he ever approached you or said anything?’

‘No. He just looks at me in a way that makes me shiver.’

My next statement just leapt out, seemingly of its own volition. I swear it was somebody else talking.

‘I’m surprised any man bothers to look at you at all.’

Her face coloured for a second and she took an involuntary breath. She looked hurt and confused.

‘There’s more,’ I continued, smiling. ‘Shall I go on?’

She looked defensive and shrugged her shoulders, and so I told her how I’d made a blog post about her once. I explained how she seemed to make a conscious effort to appear plain and unassuming, but that when she started talking her personality came alive and her eyes radiated a rare beauty.

The expression on her face relaxed a little, and changed to one of questioning. And then she bit her bottom lip and we carried on walking. There was silence for a while. Eventually we talked about the weather.

Did this really happen or did I make it up? Guess.

Turning the Tables.

Sorry to be lavatorial again, but I was listening to something the other day about an early hot air balloon flight across the English Channel. It wasn’t going well, apparently. The balloon was losing altitude and high cliffs were looming. The occupants needed to get rid of every bit of weight they could, so they even sat on the edge of the basket and defecated as a last resort.

Wouldn’t it have been ironic if it had landed on a seagull?

No Flies on These Three.

The Mists of Avalon is really hotting up now. Here’s the rub:

Arthur is a fine king and a good and honourable man. Guinevere is insecure, but she’s a chaste Christian and prides herself on her fidelity to her husband. Lancelet is the king’s champion, his best friend, and a paragon of virtue. Problem, though. The marriage between Arthur and Guinevere was arranged, and so, try as they might, their love is fundamentally platonic. They do their level best in bed, but Gwen can’t sustain a pregnancy and she’s getting worried about producing an heir. Arthur is too, and so he comes up with a solution. It hasn’t escaped his notice that Gwen and Lance are in the habit of mentally undressing one another every time there's a banquet, and he decides that it might be a good idea to set up a ménage-a-trois. The three of them are all drunk one night, so they climb into bed together. This troubles poor Gwen, as you might imagine, but she finds a way round it. She decides that as long as she keeps her eyes shut, she won’t know which of the two is shafting her, and her conscience will be clear. Oh, right. That’s OK, then. You’ve got to laugh, haven’t you?

It gets better.

Shortly after this interesting little development, Lancelet confesses to Morgaine that he has a problem. He’s realised that it wasn’t Guinevere he’s been lusting after all these years, but Arthur! Lancelet, bless his cotton surcoat, is gay! So then you start wondering just who was putting which bits where.

Well, blow me! No, better re-phrase that. Blimey!

Monday, 21 February 2011

A Kind of Magic.

Don’t you just love those moments that are so heavily pregnant with meaning they threaten to arrest your breathing for a second? Six words, a tone of voice, and the raising of one eyebrow. Nothing more.

Is that magic?

And, in case anybody thinks otherwise, I’m the only person who knows what the hell I’m talking about.

Yet Another Visitor?

Something odd happened yesterday. It was lunchtime and I was in my living room when I heard the house phone ring in the office. I went through, picked up the call and said ‘hello.’ A voice came back almost simultaneously with ‘hello,’ and then there was silence. I assumed it was one of those automatically generated junk calls and rang off.

Then, out of idle curiosity, I checked to see what number had called. It was familiar; it was my mobile number. The mobile was sitting about eighteen inches away from the house phone on my desk. I checked the calls register in the mobile and, sure enough, it had called my home phone a few minutes earlier. It had obviously been my own voice that I’d heard coming back to me. Bear in mind that I wasn’t even in the room when the call was made, so I couldn’t have accidentally pressed a key on the mobile.

I asked a retired science teacher today if he could explain it. He scratched his head and eventually said ‘fairies.’ I wonder whether he might have been right, because the CD player in my living room switched itself on today as well. And then, shortly after that, I heard an unfamiliar sound come from the direction of the TV, which was switched off. I looked in that direction and saw a shadow pass across it.

Now do you understand why Helen was nervous about living with me?

Distorted Values.

Do you want to know what I think is one of the daftest concepts ever devised by modern society? The V.I.P. Why on earth should a quacking member of the Royal Family, or some clueless, plastic-coated celebrity be regarded as more important than a bricklayer, a car mechanic or a bus driver? Which of them could we more easily do without?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A Return of Sorts.

This is a time of testing and learning. The test is being handled as usual, and the lessons are well taken.


The flames had burned off the coals in the grate, leaving a heavy mass of bright red embers casting a gentle and friendly warmth into the room. The world beyond the closed curtains was dark and silent; even the trees had ceased their whispering and gone to rest. The only thing that looked restless was my Spanish guitar that leant uneasily against the wall at the side of the chimney breast.

Liv was reclining on the sofa that faced the fire, while I occupied my accustomed armchair alongside it. She shifted her long legs for comfort, those legs that could leap more than thirty feet in three bounds, and looked deep and long into my eyes. It was an enigmatic look, but the enigma was not for solving since it really didn’t matter. She was holding her second glass of Bristol Cream sherry firmly between cupped hands, as though guarding it from an unseen predator. She’d never had sherry before. I smiled knowingly, and said

‘You’ll be getting squiffy.’

‘Squiffy is a good word,’ she replied with no hint of hesitation.

‘Squiffy is the best of words,’ I said with a giggle.

‘Play Mr Tambourine Man for me.’

And so I did.

Friday, 18 February 2011


People who read this blog regularly might be wondering why there have been no new posts for nearly forty eight hours. It’s because I’ve been in a very bad mood for the last few days and a toll has been taken on my normally garrulous disposition. This is just for information. I won’t go into the reason for my mood because nobody has cause to be interested. I’m sure I’ll come back on song eventually.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Early Night.

I’ve had a thought. (It’s been a dull day here – dark, wet and chilly - and dull days tend to make me dull. But at twenty past two in the morning, seems my brain just woke up.)

I wonder whether nobody’s reading L’Etranger because they think it’s in French. We did a production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the theatre once, and had people ringing up to ask whether there would be subtitles.

Oh well, I’m not changing it. I chose the title because the stranger-on-the-train might have a French connection. Subtle, eh? And it seems that, dull as it was, Tuesday was a day of French connections.

I’ll be going to bed shortly. Tomorrow is shopping day – the one day in the week when I get to have breakfast. That’s unless life still has a surprise in store.

Statistics Have Their Uses.

Oh yes they do... I know I’m covering old ground here, but this one I find interesting.

Within eighteen hours of posting Helping Jennifer at the stories blog, it had shot to number two in the pageview list with forty. It’s now twenty four hours since I posted L’Etranger and it’s had four pageviews. In my opinion, L’Etranger is the better story. It’s darker and more thoughtful, so I assume the big difference is due to the fact that Helping Jennifer is a more appealing title.

Not that this matters to me, since both stories have already been published and read elsewhere. But aspiring authors might take note that, if you want stories to be read and you’re not a recognised name, the title should not only be appropriate to the story (which L’Etranger certainly is,) it should be catchy as well.

Once a name is established, of course, it doesn’t matter. Who the hell would read a book called Martin Chuzzlewit if it hadn’t been written by Dickens?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Two More Notes.

Two notes on tonight’s entertainment:

First, I watched a very good French film called Lemming. One review said it was ‘a bit too weird for its own good,’ and while I was watching the film I was tempted to agree. But then, after it had finished, I realised that it's actually a straightforward story about ghostly possession. It just didn’t have the standard pointers, which is one of many things in its favour. So if ever you watch it, you just have to know two things. Alice is the prime mover in everything, both before and after she’s dead. And the lemming isn’t merely a lemming; it’s also a red herring.

Then I read another chapter of The Mists of Avalon. Tell you what, I’ve gone well off that childish little tart Guinevere (and so has Lancelet, apparently!) I’m off Arthur, too, for not having the balls to kick her down the nearest well. Bring back the minx Morgaine, I say. Bloody Christians!

A Complaint.

Do you know what I’m not very pleased about? I didn’t get any Valentine’s Day cards.

‘Oh, it must be, let me see...’

‘Twenty years?’

‘Yes, that’s it. It must be twenty years since I had a Valentine’s Day card.’

Find my much-beloved Mad Gerald sketch on YouTube and watch it. Alternatively, sing the words to God Only Knows to me like you mean it, and I might be sufficiently flattered as to find and post the link for you.

And while I’m on, the next story is now up at the other place. I like this one; it’s based on a real encounter. It occurs to me that the woman on the train was my very own Mad Gerald, only not as funny.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Oh, Shit!

Trust the good old news to provide some amusement and bemusement as usual. I was flicking through the channels over dinner this evening and two of them had news bulletins showing.

In the first, a football coach was rambling languidly about how the boys done good and he was over the moon. I wonder why they conduct interviews with football coaches. If they just sent a copy of the Football Coaches’ Guide to Stock Phrases to every house in the land, they wouldn’t have to. They could just flash something like 7.3.21 on the screen, and we could all look it up for ourselves.

The second had a chinless wonder waxing lyrical about how happy we all should be that Prince William has chosen his brother (well, half-brother, one assumes) to be best man at his wedding. I mean, come on. Who the (expletive deleted) cares?!

So I decided to look at the text channel instead, and that was when things became really interesting. The first headline that caught my eye was:

Men Walk on the Surface of Mars.

It seems that a couple of guys in Russsia, having spent a long time in a metal tube to replicate a lengthy space flight to the Red Planet, stepped out and walked across a sandpit in some Moscow institution. They even planted a flag! Well, you’ve got to be impressed by the standard of their preparation, haven’t you? I think I should warn my Yankee pals to be on their mettle, or else those Ruskies are going to steal a march on you this time. They’ve got sand pits.

And then I got to wondering about space flight generally. Mostly I wondered what they do about the latrines on such vessels. Do they simply eject the contents into space, like they do from trains? In which case, does that mean there are countless little conglomerations of American astronauts’ poo floating around the earth somewhere this side of the Van Allen belts like little brown satellites? And what’s the betting that if the British ever conduct a programme of manned space flight, the very first rocket will run slap bang into one of them? We won’t be able to see where we’re going for a mess of Yankee shit splattered across the windscreen! And do you know what? Given how clever those damn Yankee scientists are at calculating trajectories and stuff, they’ve probably planned it.

Two Notes.

Two notes of little import before I go and make dinner (just because I feel like typing something.)

1) There’ll be another story going up later tonight. This is one of my favourites.

2) One advantage of not having anything to do with Facebook is that you don’t get fooled by those junk e-mails that say Sarah sent you a message on Facebook.

Just So You Know...

Re. the last post:

I’m not sexist. I do realise that the husband is likely to be just as putrid as his wife (except when he’s working away from home, of course, which men still do rather more than women.)

Ah, wedded bliss. To misquote Will:

’Tis a consummation devoutly to be avoided.’

Putrefaction and petrification differ so much in function, yet have a certain essence in common.

A Valentine's Day Message from a Husband Who's Wife Has Stopped Doing the Sort of Things that Girlfriends Do as a Matter of Course.

I love the spot upon your nose
I love the mould between your toes

I love the stench that comes and goes,
The gravy stains upon your clothes,
And dribbles on your panty hose.

My dearest dear, there might be those
Who look with pity, I suppose
Upon my choice as I compose
These lines which now draw to a close.

Happy Valentines Day, you putrid old wreck.

Who’s a cynic tonight, then?


Like most people, I suppose, I’ve always been prone to seeing faces in things like clouds and fire embers. But in some moods, I only have to close my eyes to see them appearing and disappearing on the back of my eyelids. And I mean really see them, plain as day in sharp detail, like photographs being projected on a screen. I never recognise them; they’re never people I know. I haven’t a clue who they are or where they come from. That’s weird, ain’t it?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Another Failing.

With Valentine’s Day nearly upon us, it occurs to me to ponder why I could never be any woman’s husband. I simply don’t have the skills, the strengths or the inclination. I just don’t see myself as a husband.

I was going to make a post about Bono and the row over the song he’s endorsed. Couldn’t be bothered. When I’m in a bad mood it’s easier to be self-indulgent.


It’s 2.35 and I’m restless. Restless, restless, restless. I see iced gateaux and imaginary invitations in the mists. Time for bed, I suppose.


I’ve now had three tracks become unavailable on my playlist because the copyright owners have taken them off YouTube. The latest casualty is Avalon, which is ironic since I’m currently getting deep into The Mists of Avalon and becoming attuned to the Avalon mindset.

The point is, however, that I don’t like this one little bit. For as much as the free marketeers would have me thrown into a pit and stoned to death, I still feel that there’s something insanely wrong about denying people access to music because they’re not paying for it. Music should be above that sort of impoverished mentality. Music resides on a higher plane than commerce.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A First.

There’s something afoot, I swear it. Something’s going on behind a veil, something meant for me. It doesn’t feel bad, just tinglingly mysterious, and I haven’t a clue what it is. I’ve been feeling this way for a week or so, and nearly posted about it before. It felt silly then, but it’s getting stronger. This is a state of mind to which I’m not accustomed. Aren’t first times interesting?

An Explanation, if it's Needed

I hope I can count on everybody knowing me well enough by now to realise that the first paragraph of the last post was a complete piss-take. I can, can’t I?

Sorry to feel the need to explain myself, but you never know...

Letting My Mad Friend Have a Word.

Hey, is this cool or is this cool? I just found ‘Smart Dressed Man’ by ZZ Top on YouTube. Man, that takes me back! I was near-crazy about this band at one time. So I wrote a poem to celebrate.

Your presence sets my heart aflame
Your smile just makes me weak.
I thought about you when I went
Upstairs to take a leak.


Author’s note.

I did not write this. Mad Jeffrey has only gone and woken up! Bugger. Somebody put the box on his head, would you? My only comment pertains to the women in the video. Sexy, but short on chic.

In the Swim.

I spent about twenty minutes today talking to a woman from the village who was out walking her dog. She’s a lawyer (the woman, that is, not the dog. The dog was a Labrador.) She and her husband are members of the professional set who haunt the English countryside these days. Nevertheless, we did have a perfectly reasonable, intelligent conversation. And her teenage daughter wants to become a gypsy, apparently, a desire to which the lawyer takes exception, but I begged to differ.

So there you have it; I can still relate to real people, if only for twenty minutes. But I just realised that it’s probably why I feel so tired tonight. The effort has obviously taken its toll.

Comedy TV.

Following hard on the heels of the girl who thinks she might be allergic to sperm, tonight’s offering was another ‘medical’ programme called Embarrassing Bodies. This one featured a woman whose nipples are in the wrong place. OK, I understand that this might cause some genuine consternation to the poor woman so afflicted, but I wonder whether the people who write the synopses for these programmes do so with a straight face.

There’s some bloody funny stuff on the TV at the moment. Pity the programmes that are supposed to be funny usually aren’t.

Friday, 11 February 2011


For some reason I keep hearing Groucho Marx saying:

‘That’s enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?’

All due to recent correspondence, no doubt.

Sad. Failed. Night.

Girls, Big and Small.

Just a little addendum to my recent post about little girls. I was saying something like this to my daughter recently, and it seems she feels the same way about little boys. She says they need more TLC because, according to her, little girls are tougher. Since she has considerably more experience of children than I have, I must demur to her opinion. And it sounds about right anyway.

On the subject of bigger girls, I’m greatly enjoying Mists of Avalon, and I’m definitely becoming a Morgaine man. She has the spirit to defy the laws of the universe, minx or not. (Or maybe that’s what minxes do.) Not sure I’d want to get too close to her in real life, though. She’d scare me witless.

A Rare Re-blog.

Since my brain’s a bit empty at the moment, I make no apology for copying something I read on another blog. It encapsulates why I think the nutty people are the best of people, and why I so miss Mad Jeffrey who seems to be in extended sleep mode at the moment. (Maybe a charming princess will come along and wake him up one of these days. Nothing like reversing the gender roles, eh?) Anyway, this is Elizabeth Gilbert writing about the poet Ruth Stone.

As [Stone] was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out, working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barrelling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming...cause it would shake the earth under her feet, she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, run like hell to the house as she would be chased by this poem. The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Other times she wouldn't be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn't get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would continue on across the landscape looking for 'another poet'. And then there were these times, there were moments where she would almost miss it. She is running to the house and is looking for the paper and the poem passes through her. She grabs a pencil just as it's going through her and she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. In those instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact, but backwards, from the last word to the first.

I expect we’d put a fancy label on her these days – fill her up with medication, send her to some form of corrective ‘educational establishment,’ and subject her to a lifetime of psychotherapy.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Once a Pagan...

I’ve got to the point in The Mists of Avalon where the proud and world-weary Igraine is attending the wedding of her beloved son Arthur, High King of Britain, to the beautiful Guinevere (can’t be bothered to look up the Welsh spelling.) So what does she see, much to her consternation?

The beautiful Guinevere is singularly failing to hide the fact that she’s got the serious hots for Arthur’s best friend, and Arthur only has eyes for his half-sister, Morgaine.

Bloody hell! Poor Igraine; and she’s trying so hard to be a good Christian.

Thank Heaven for Little Girls?

I was just listening to Fields of Gold again and I had a chastening thought. What the hell would I do if a woman really did say to me ‘Will you stay with me? Will you be my love?’

This has a ring to it. It’s an echo of that classic image in which a little girl who’s lost her father somehow looks up at you with imploring eyes and says ‘Will you be my daddy now, please?’

Problem. I’m the world’s greatest sucker when it comes to little girls. I can’t refuse them anything. They’re magical and sacrosanct, princesses all; and princesses have the power to command in a way kings never can. I swear that if the world was ruled by little girls instead of turd-like politicians, I’d be going through life no more than a grovelling earthworm!

So maybe it’s a good job nobody’s ever going to say it to me.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A Short Rant for Emily.

I’m going to keep this very short.

I saw the DVD of the recent BBC adaptation of Wuthering Heights in the supermarket today. I watched it when it was first shown. It’s a good drama, but in my opinion it doesn’t merely miss the point, it goes in the opposite direction. I do so wish the world would stop treating that book as little more than a Mills and Boon romance set on the Yorkshire Moors.

Please, world, try to understand Emily Bronte; then you might understand her novel.

Year of the White Rabbit.

Two little notes from today:

First, it was heartening to be given proof positive that the axe-wielding David Cameron meant what he said when he uttered the immortal words ‘We’re all in this together.’ It was reported today that the Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland has agreed to have his salary pegged at its 2008 level. It means the poor chap has to struggle through yet another year on a mere £1.2m, bless him.

Second, we have a series on Brit TV called The Joys of Teen Sex. I’ve never seen it, but I gather it’s meant to be serious. The TV listings said that tonight’s episode is about a girl who thinks she might be allergic to sperm. I deleted my comment in deference to those of a delicate constitution.

This is real fall-off-the-chair-in-fits-of-laughing stuff. Twice in one day! And it occurs to me that we used to think of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four as the great prophetic masterpiece. Maybe we should revise that notion and go for Alice in Wonderland instead.

Being Rejected.

I had my novel rejected today by the only mainstream publisher I’ve found which takes direct submissions. No big deal there, of course; rejections are ten-a –penny. Problem is, all the agents I sent it to declined it as well. I’m guessing I’ve written a masterpiece!

So what do I do? Listen to ‘Land Down Under,’ that’s what. Why that silly bloody song never fails to give me a lift, I really don’t know. The reggae rhythm, probably.

I hear it’s hot in Sydney.

One Day, Em...

I had another one of those experiences last night. I wake up while it’s still dark and think I can sense a presence in the room. I always look over to the same corner and think there’s just a hint of a dark shape there. I put it down to a shadow and go back to sleep, since the sense is always one of observation rather than malevolence. I used to get the same feeling in a wood close to where I once lived. Maybe it’s dear Emily wanting me to come out and play on Penistone Crags. Serves me right for that time about fifteen months ago when I wanted to drive to Haworth and dig her up. I really did, you know. I had the Emily bug that bad.

I sometimes wonder what part the late night drinking plays. Could it be the alcohol that instigates the phenomenon, or could it be that the alcohol is what helps me to remain blasé about it? Do I care?

When such things appear in The Mists of Avalon, it’s always the Death Crone. But the last time she appeared to Viviene, it was to tell her that she wasn’t about to die. So what’s the point of that?

I think I’ll have an extra scotch tonight. Bring on the pink elephants.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Not an Accusation.

Somebody once suggested I might be a closet misogynist. I doubt that’s true, but there are times when I feel inclined to beware the inconstancy of women. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that women are generally more inclined to infidelity than men, but it has been my experience that when women do stray they care less.

Of course, my experience is limited, and so I judge not.

Nevertheless, at the moment I’m in the mood to beware the inconstancy of women.

My Primary Failing.

Somebody whose innate wisdom I have come to respect pointed out to me recently that my attitudes and opinions don’t come from reading what other people have to say in books, but from personal (and I hope keen) observation.

It was a revelation; I’d honestly never thought about it like that before. It probably explains why I fail to impress. To impress people you have to quote sources. Experience – and maybe a bit of intuition – simply won’t do. Hopefully, I’ll get it right in my next life.

And now it’s just gone 2.15.
To sleep, methinks, perchance to dream.
I’ll be the cat that gets the cream
And things will be but what they seem.

The illusion must be resisted when people disappoint.

All Becomes Clear.

A new study suggests that feeding young children on a diet high in processed food lowers their IQ in later life. I see. So that explains the politicians, the celebrities, the footballers and the media executives. Burgers and instant mashed potato. Sorted.

So what explains the intellectuals?

Monday, 7 February 2011

Poor Morse.

One of my all time favourite TV characters was Inspector Morse. He was a Romantic who hid the fact well most of the time. Intolerant, outspoken and even a little pompous on the surface, he was flawed, vulnerable and even a little emotional underneath. He was also a bit of a romantic on the side.

In one episode, the attractive young pathologist is keen to go out for a drink with him, and Morse is a bit made up about it. So off they go to a quiet English country pub and sit in the beer garden on a warm summer’s evening. Perfect. Lo and behold, along comes one of the pathologist’s old student friends and says ‘Fancy seeing you here.’

Morse has to play the gentleman, of course. ‘No, no, not at all. You two go off and have a good time. Enjoy yourselves.’ And we all know that the smile is just a cover.

That was Morse’s perennial problem. For all he was good at his job, and an interesting, intelligent, sensitive, multi-faceted personality, nobody ever wanted to get close to him. There was always something better to do, or somebody else to hang out with.


You’ll probably be sorry to hear that JJ’s mind seems to be easing out of the dark limbo state it’s been occupying for the past few days. Feeling feverish and having sore sinuses and a sore throat didn’t help, but that was probably due to the weather. So anyway, it’s possible I’ll be getting back to normal soon. Two little notes in the meantime.

1) Googlewag’s latest search term picked up on my late-night leitmotif. It said:

JJ Beazley. One word. Arse.

No amusement this time, just general agreement. 'Current State' is herby discontinued.

2) I had one of my best ever junk e-mails today. The name of the sender suggested it came from somebody to whom English was not their first language. That might explain the subject line, which was:

Blow up your penis.

Maybe it wasn’t junk, but I doubt that any of the women who might express such an imprecation in earnest would know my e-mail address.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Current State17

One word:


One thought:

There are those who insist that life should be taken by the scruff of the neck and forced to give you what you want. That approach never worked for me. I tried it a few times, but discovered that life is bigger, stronger and tougher than I ever was. She always let me know, in pretty decisive terms, that she would give me what was right for me and what I was entitled to. I even got a few black eyes in the process. I learned to wait for her to request an invitation, and since then she’s given me some amazing things. I’m in a waiting phase at the moment.

Reversing the Hex.

Quite early on in The Mists of Avalon, somebody puts a hex on Igraine’s husband, Gorlois, so that - if you’ll excuse the expression - he can’t get it up. This is to ensure that her son-bearing potential is reserved for her coming liaison with Uther Pendragon.

I think somebody has done the same with my mind, for the intended return to normality hasn’t happened today. My mental faculty feels failed and flaccid. I am positively fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf.

I tried reading, watching the TV and listening to music. They only held my interest for as long as they lasted. I was briefly disgusted by David Cameron’s latest descent into ignoble opportunism, but I’ve long since ceased to expect anything better of senior politicians so there didn’t seem much point in getting too excited about it. I was briefly amused that somebody found my blog by searching jean butler legs, but that failed to ignite any lasting enthusiasm. I had a short conversation with a retired science teacher about the extent to which birds are capable of abstract thought. Not a lot of joy there. And somebody gave me two bottles of whisky, which produced a mild and brief sense of euphoria, but the only lasting effect was to have me calculating how much money I’d save on my next two visits to Sainsbury’s.

So, for the moment at least, it seems I have to admit to needing something that is not only external but also inspired to get me up and running again. Something pleasant, I might emphasise, or at least something that produces the required tingle in a way that is not unpleasant. In short, some nice magic.

I think I might be barking up an empty tree.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Current State16

One word:


One thought:

The extent of my social intercourse is being determined entirely by other people at the moment. I don’t go to them; they come to me. Does that set me on a pedestal or in a pit? I suppose it depends on the reason. The reasons vary from person to person, but in the end it boils down to the fact that I get whatever people are prepared to give me. This is only ego. It really doesn’t matter. It just makes up for all those times I was a pain in the arse by forcing my attentions on the undeserving. I intend a return to normality tomorrow. The wind is forecast to die down. I suspect this is a form of cabin fever. That’s OK; I’ve had it worse than this.


Today has been one of those flat days when everything I can mentally grasp seems grindingly trivial, and whatever is out there that has any real meaning is too far away. A limbo day, I suppose. I had three posts lined up, but each one seemed utterly not worth writing about when I came to do it. I get days like that sometimes. I don’t find them depressing, just frustrating.

Still, the wild but mild weather did allow me to get out into the garden this afternoon to clear some more dead stuff – a job that would have been done in the autumn if the Arctic Circle hadn’t moved south before it was finished.

Talking of the wind, it’s been reaching intimidating ferocity tonight. And a man was killed not far from here when a tree fell on his car. The news report said it was a silver Mercedes. Why? In what way is the make and colour of the car germane to the story of a man being killed by a tree? The media do that, don’t they?

Blonde, twenty five-year-old Ms Prendergast told reporters...

The fact that Ms Prendergast is blonde and aged twenty five rarely has anything whatever to do with the story. And have you noticed that they don’t mention her hair colour if she’s a brunette or redhead, only if she’s blonde?

See. Trivial.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Current State15

One word:


One thought:

If it be a nat’ral thing, where do it come from? Where do it go?
- from ‘The Ghost Train’ (a delightful old British film which includes uber-prude Kathleen Harrison getting drunk and saying ‘knobs’ a lot. My kind of humour.)

Missing the Benefit.

Changes in the weather often affect me to a surprising degree. I was struck by a state of extreme weariness this afternoon, and it stayed with me all evening. The only thing I can put it down to is the weather, which has turned mild but very windy.

Right now it’s a-wailin’ and a-moanin’ like a polecat with piles, and my whole evening has been punctuated with lots of howling and roaring sounds. The problem with this house is that the sound of the wind is really only noticeable downstairs where the fireplaces are. It’s loudest in the chimneys, you see. Upstairs I can hardly hear it at all. This is a shame because I’m definitely intending to have an early night tonight, and it would have been nice to settle under the duvet with a bit of elemental wildness making its presence felt beyond the window. I suppose I’ll just have to imagine it.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


Yes, I know you must be sick to the back teeth of hearing me go on about Google search terms. But just indulge me on this one, would you? How in the name of all that’s holy does somebody find my blog by searching unfamiliarcocks?


Prostituting Music.

Do you know what bothers me about the music industry? The fact that it’s an industry.

I said in a much earlier post that I believe musicians to be the master race. Music is the gift to the gods, or the universe, or the higher consciousness, or whatever you want to call it. And that’s how it’s been treated though thousands of years of bards, minstrels and the music of the common people. Yet in a mere three hundred years of hedonistic patronage and the entrepreneurial spirit, we’ve turned it into a commodity and subjected it to the dynamics of an industry. And what sort of people run industries? Men who think that life is all about indoor swimming pools and BMWs.

The one advantage of it being an industry is that a greater choice of music is made available to a greater number of people. Good, then let it be a non profit-making industry.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse.

For some years before I turned pro, I was a keen amateur photographer. I was also much more into the swim of general life then, and so I encountered several other amateur photographers as well as being an avid reader of the better quality magazines. I noticed that my peers tended to fall into one of two categories when it came to gadgets like filters and extreme focal length lenses. There were those who took the view:

‘This is the picture I want to make. Is there a gadget that would help me do it better?’

And then there were those who took the converse view:

‘Here’s a gadget. What can I do with it to make a picture that will look fancy?’

Since I turned to writing, I’ve noticed that a lot of aspiring writers do the same with words. My own view is that writers need to find their own dialect, and it doesn’t have to be clever. What it needs to be is suitable for whatever the writer wants to say. Sometimes it needs to be lyrical, sometimes it needs to be quirky, and sometimes it needs to be simple.

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m a great lover of well crafted English. What turns me off is when it looks forced for its own sake.