Tuesday, 31 January 2012

On Conditions and Climate.

It seems to me that if we give of ourselves to a person, we should do so unconditionally. We shouldn’t expect to get anything back from them. I still find that difficult. It seems unbalanced and unfair; it’s all pouring out and no replenishment. There are those who would say that we should train ourselves mentally and spiritually to maintain constant reserves for self-replenishment, and I suppose we should. I’m just not there yet.

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I felt particularly cold while out walking today, even though the air temperature was a little above freezing, and I realised that there’s something missing from the weather forecast.

Forecasters used to give predicted temperatures, pure and simple. And then they started to account for the fact that cold air feels colder when it’s moving than when it’s still, and so they began to give us the apparent temperature adjusted for the wind chill factor. Well, it’s also a fact that cold air feels colder when it’s damp than when it’s dry, so I propose that the forecasters also offer a damp chill factor. That would give them something else to get wrong.

Shakespeare's Fool.

Here we are again, back to the same old familiar position. I saw it coming, of course; they gave me warning enough that this little lesson was going to be a hard one. Time to get up, change direction and move on to learn some more.

One of my erstwhile teachers once referred to her partner-in-education with the words ‘her slag side.’ What is a slag, exactly? It’s a very subjective term, of course, and so it defies precise definition. I know what it means to me, but that’s my business and my problem.

I think I should concentrate my attention on the birds and the trees from here on in. There’s a lady blackbird who hangs around me and seems to want to be my friend. What she really wants is food, I know that. I’m not a complete fool yet. Just getting there, slowly.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Headless Women.

There was a pub near to where I used to live as a kid called ‘The Quiet Woman.’ At the front of the building was a statue of a woman carrying her head underneath her arm. I seem to know a lot of headless women at the moment.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

New York, New York.

How do you do it? Every time I try even to divert my eyes from you, let alone walk away, you hold me with the stare of Medussa, petrifying my mind and leaving me feeling weak, anxious and devoid of some vital element of the life force. So come on, how do you do it? Why are you the only one who does? Where do you get the magic? Can I have some, please?

And why am I writing this as a blog post? Because I’m thinking aloud, and ‘aloud’ implies the need to be heard, and the only way to be heard when you live alone is to shout it from the blog. That’s why.

I’m angry – mostly with myself.

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Tonight’s walk was weird. There were no stars and no crescent moon, just a thick, cold, clammy mist. And yet the view was brighter than usual. How does that work?

Questions, questions...

Being Naive...

...as I most assuredly was at age nineteen going on twenty. A work colleague asked me one day:

‘You’re good at psychology, aren’t you? What do you reckon it means when a woman keeps talking about the same man all the time?’

‘She’s probably got a crush on him. Why?’

‘My wife keeps talking about you.’

I should have seen it coming and been more diplomatic, shouldn’t I? I remember hoping that my face was displaying sufficient concern to hide any sign of the unavoidable boost to my ego. Oddly enough, he was the one who helped me fight the fire in the warehouse full of butane that I wrote about many moons ago. I don’t remember now whether that happened before or after the conversation related above.

Crumbling Pillars.

I worked for three years as an administrator with an inner city charity, and subsequently had dealings with several city centre bars that helped fund the organisation. What shocked me wasn’t the issues the charity was set up to address, but the levels of corruption, bigotry, racism and crime collusion that were endemic in the council, the police and certain religious groups. It’s a world composed more of deals, decadence, deceit and discrimination than it is of decency.

Should it come as any surprise, then, that in recent years we’ve been seeing regular reports of council officials, policemen, religious leaders, and even teachers being suspended and often prosecuted for things ranging from assault to corruption to downloading child pornography? And it would be na├»ve, would it not, to imagine that those who get caught are the only ones doing it.

So what’s going on with these people we used to think of as the pillars of society? Are they becoming more inherently selfish, perverted, aggressive and corrupt, or is it just that more of them are being brought to book? I really don’t know, but maybe the child abuse scandals in the Catholic Church offer a clue. And how widespread is the problem? I don’t know that, either.

What I do wonder is where children are supposed to look for their exemplars now. Their parents? I hardly think so. Parents aren’t available for their children as they used to be. They’re all working full time in order to be fully functional in our madly materialistic society. The kids are increasingly farmed out to day nurseries and early ‘education.’ And isn’t it a worrying fact that there have been several high profile cases in Britain of day nurseries being closed down and their proprietors prosecuted for systematic child abuse?

Those children are the next generation of parents, so where are we headed?

The Good Companion.

Should anyone have taken note of my recent sleep deprivation, I can report that I finally got a full eight hours last night, broken only once and briefly while it was still dark. And here’s the interesting bit.

I seem to have spent the whole night dreaming that I was doing a job connected with the arts of some kind, and I was travelling around to exhibitions, or whatever they were, with a young woman colleague. She was sallow skinned and had black hair – maybe of mixed black/white or south Asian ethnicity. I’ve no idea who she was or who she represented.

The travelling was concluded and we returned to the office. It was morning, but I fell asleep at my desk and woke to find it was five past seven in the evening. I’d slept all day. The woman was standing in front of me with her legs placed either side of my knees. She was wearing jeans or trousers, I recall. I asked her why on earth she was still in the office that late, and she said she’d decided to work on to keep me company while I slept.

Isn’t that nice?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Nocturnal Journal.

I felt the most insistent sense that something was following me on the lane near my house tonight. There was nothing to be seen, of course; there never is when you have the feeling you’re being followed. But then, after turning the corner into Mill Lane, I heard a howl coming roughly from the direction of my house. I’ve never heard that before.

’Tis not the owl that does disturb
It is the howl that makes you ask
‘What’s on the prowl?’

And then I got accosted in more prosaic fashion. A set of headlights came around the bend behind me, and stopped. I walked on. The lights moved forward again, and then stopped again. I stopped, too, and watched them for a few moments. But headlights are just headlights, so I walked on again. And then they moved forward and came slowly alongside. It was a delivery van from Tesco, and the driver wanted directions to New House Farm. They were easily given and that was the end of that little adventure.

Apart from the strange light among some tree branches that was difficult to explain, and the further feeling of being followed when I got close to home, the walk back was uneventful.

And that’s probably all you’re getting tonight because I’m in a seriously low mood. Have been all day. New York continues to engender a difficult mix of emotions.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Menacing Moon.

The young crescent moon sitting low in the western sky tonight startled me. It looked menacing. I’ve ascribed many characters to the moon over the years, but ‘menacing’ was never one of them.

I tried to work out why, and all I could come up with were two unusual aspects. It looked bigger than I expected – a lot bigger than it did last night. It gave the impression of coming closer, and that suggests a hint of menace even though I know that moons do tend to look bigger when they’re close to the horizon. It was also lit around the bottom edge, so it didn’t have the usual ‘man in the moon’ look about it. My first thought was to recall the pendulum blade in the Roger Corman version of The Pit and the Pendulum.

It’s obviously just me; I’m seeing menace and other negative connotations in nearly everything at the moment. If only I could get a complete night’s sleep; I think I’ve had one so far this year. Must be all this excitement I’m getting as life plays hide and seek. Life is high and life is low. Life does come and life does go. Life is quick and life is slow. Could I fly without it? No. Don’t think so. Don’t know.

Changing direction.

Should I go and get a couple of buckets of horse manure from Sarah’s stable one day soon? Mmm...

Bad Words and Kids.

I’m a fan of the Stanley Holloway Albert series of monologues. The third is called Albert and the ’Eadsman, and tells the story of his visit to the Tower of London with his parents.

They didn’t think much to the building
Tweren’t what they’d been led to suppose
And the ‘Bad Word’ Tower didn’t impress ’em
They said Blackpool had got one of those!

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My mother had a profound dislike of the term ‘eh?’

What would you like for lunch, Jeffrey?

Eh?

Horses eat it twice a day! Say ‘pardon’ instead. I asked you what you wanted for lunch.

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And on the subject of childhood, I sometimes take a walk to M’Lady S’s house during daylight hours to see whether she’s working in the garden and I can talk to her. I did so today and she wasn’t, as usual, so I came home again. It amused me to think I was behaving like a kid going to see whether my friend Sarah is coming out to play. Is that such a bad thing?

The A-Z Thing.

Since the old fatigue problem is troubling me again and I’m devoid of original thought, seems the best thing I can do is follow the trend and do the A-Z thing. Here goes:

Age: Old enough to avoid mirrors, especially full length ones. Then again, Vaughan Williams has been described as looking like ‘an old sofa with the stuffing falling out,’ and he did pretty well until he was a hell of a lot older than me.

Bed: Double. Half empty (consciously not ‘half full.’)

Chore You Hate: Washing dishes.

Dogs: Generally the best of creatures, although I did have an unfortunate experience with one once. I was five and staying with my mother at her friend’s house in London. There was a monkey on a garden wall nearby, and I asked permission to go and look at it. ‘OK,’ said mum, ‘but don’t touch it. Monkeys bite.’ I went and looked, but didn’t touch. And then a cute little doggie came around the corner and I bent down to stroke it. Damn thing leapt up and bit me in the groin. Believe me, I came frighteningly close to qualifying for a job in a harem.

Essential Start to Your Day: Handful of hemp seeds, glass of grapefruit juice, mug of tea, trying to ignore the stress, thinking of ZM.

Favourite Colours: Primary red, saffron, some blues, light grey.

Gold or silver? Silver.

Height: This might precipitate a devastating loss, but here goes. 5ft 8”.

Instruments: Played the trombone in the school and city schools orchestras, then decided that trombones were for dorks. Changed to finger picking styles on the guitar. Now much out of practice.

Job Title: This is a joke, right?

Kids: One daughter.

Live: Debatable.

Mother’s Name: Irene. What? Who the hell would want to know that?

Nicknames: I was born a Godwin, so I was known simply as God for the first eight years of my life. Then Mr Beazley legally adopted me and I was demoted to Beezer, Bijou or Beelzebub. ‘Jeffers’ and ‘Jeffie’ have also been known. My mother generally used either ‘monstink’ or ‘ya bloody little towrag.’

Overnight Hospital Stays: Three times for operations. Hate hospitals with a passion.

Pet Peeves: Anybody trying to control me and most of the people running society.

Quote from a Movie: ‘Have you lived in Blackpool all your life?’ ‘Not yet.’ Funny Bones.

Right or Left Handed: I hold alcoholic drinks with my right hand, so I suppose I must be conventionally inclined.

Siblings: I had a half-brother, but he died of an aneurism nearly nine years ago.

Tinkerbell or Wendy? Tinkerbell at night, Wendy in the morning.

Underwear: Who’s asking?

Vegetable You Hate: Aubergines.

What Makes You Run Late? The right woman if she exists.

X-Rays You’ve Had: Teeth ad nauseum, my right little finger that I broke twice – once playing rugby, and again playing cricket, my right knee.

Yummy Foods You Make: I used to make a fabulous potato and chickpea curry, but it’s too much trouble now I live alone. Home made soups are easier, and not at all bad.

Zoo Animal: Hate zoos. If they were filled with politicians, celebrities and rich people, I’d be a regular visitor with a bag of stale buns.

Is that it? That’s it.

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By the way, My Sherlock Mystery posts have now attracted 400 pageviews. I doubt the record will ever be broken. The power of television?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Defining Comfort.

I’m told that houses in Britain are built with underfloor heating as standard these days. I would hate that. ‘But it’s more efficient,’ say Those In The Know, ‘and because the heat is distributed evenly, it’s more comfortable, too.’

I have to agree that it’s probably more efficient, although it seems to me that ‘efficient’ is often used to cover the ever-increasing process of drab sanitization that’s going on in our oh-so-sophisticated culture. But more comfortable?

After the weather forecast had finished tonight, I switched off the TV set and sat quietly for forty minutes close to the coal fire in my living room – musing, reflecting and being warmed in nature’s time honoured manner. There is something gently insistent about dancing yellow flames and the pulsating glow of deep orange embers. It has a way of transporting you into a subtly different version of reality. Sarah was right when she said that life looks less threatening by a coal fire. And that’s what I call comfortable.

Being Understood.

My attitude to women’s bodies causes me a lot of problems. Most men find it utterly incomprehensible, while most women consciously misinterpret it. It’s a big issue with me and it has connections to several different principles, but maybe a line should be drawn under it now before I lose what visitors I have.

I was going to make a post about the systematic dishonesty that exists at all levels of western society, but it became too complex for a mind that’s in negative perception mode. Wherever I look today, all I see is wrongness. Such days happen.

I’m really only making this post to give dear Sarah something to read at bed time. Maybe I’ll get a shift of polarity later.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Admitting a Sensibility.

I was on a train yesterday and there was a young woman a few seats away wearing business attire. Her blouse was buttoned quite low, and when I walked down the aisle to alight, I got a good – though consciously brief – view of her lacy bra and its contents. The bra looked expensive; the woman looked cheap.

Cross Petitioning.

But Sarah, where was my bath time post comment last night? I was looking forward to it! Y

An Inconvenient Condition.

This variant of CFS that I assume I have is being a bit of a nuisance. It isn’t just the occasional rapid descent into extreme tiredness, it’s everything else that comes with it – the bouts of general weariness coupled with heart palpitations, slight dizziness, hints of nausea, and the fact that any chronic sensitivities (like old knee injuries) all hurt at the same time. I got one this morning walking around the town. I felt a bit of a wreck.

I gather that formal diagnosis is a protracted process of eliminating other possibilities like anaemia. Can I be bothered? And it seems there’s no cure anyway except rest and stress reduction. Rest isn’t so much a problem, although it’s complicated if you live alone and have to do everything for yourself. The real difficulty is removing the stress. My nature, my principles, my sensibilities, and the fact that I decline to walk the Main Street of Greyville make me naturally prone to almost constant stress. It just comes with the territory, so I suppose I’ll have to put up with the inconvenience for as long as it lasts.

Time to start the dinner. When I can be bothered.

Sitting with Sarah.

Do you know what I find interesting? As rare as the much vaunted conversations are with the much vaunted Lady of Mill Lane, we’ve had a few down the years. But it occurred to me only today that on no occasion have both of us been seated. I wonder what that says about the attitude of the controlling angels.

Music as it was Meant.

There was a busker in Derby yesterday. He was playing jigs and reels on a fiddle, and he was playing them very well. I listened for a few minutes, dropped a little money in his instrument case and walked on satisfied.

I struck me that here was music as it should be – music in the purest tradition of the art. It was obvious from the man’s face that he had music in his soul, and he was making that music for his own pleasure and the pleasure of those able to meet the connection. He had a case open to receive money from anybody who wanted to pay him, but he would have played anyway.

And I thought back to the recent proposed legislation to strengthen the grip that big business has on music, to ensure that music becomes ever more a commodity to be controlled by pecuniary interests, to make it available only to those who have the money for expensive performances and recordings, and to put further millions into the pockets of people who already have millions enough.

A Recollection.

How many times did I hear this:

‘I want to have an affair with you, but I love my husband and won’t do anything to hurt him. So I’ll have an affair with you as long as my husband never knows about it. That way he won't get hurt.’

And I remember myself saying:

‘You're missing the point. If you love your husband, you mustn’t have an affair with me. Betrayal is betrayal whether he knows about it or not.’

That was in the days when my standards were very low. They’re much higher now.

Me Again.

Right, I just had one of those CFS attacks again (if that’s what they are.) You suddenly feel ill and cold, bits of you itch, bits of you hurt, and all you want to do is lay your head on the desk and go to sleep. It’s an effort to stay awake and carry on, but that’s what you do because... that’s what you do.

So now I’ve shaken it off and gone into self-obsessive mode. Have a self-obsessed post.

1) I generally go through life trying not to offend people, and yet I’m one of the best people I know at offending people. I get a bit bemused about that sometimes.

2) I have a multi-faceted sense of humour that takes all sorts of disparate forms depending on what mood I’m in, so may I say this? If a blog post of mine appears to be possibly interpretable as a joke, it probably is.

Right now, Eva Cassidy is singing Fields of Gold and I have an e-mail to write to a beautiful and dangerous creature. Some life, this.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Propriety and Mixed Fortunes.

I was thinking...

M’Lady S is really posh, you know. She said to me:

‘I have to get back for supper.’

If she came from my side of the tracks, she would have said:

‘I’ve got go ’ome fer me tea.’

Never once in all the years I’ve known her has she ever remarked upon the glowering sky of an approaching storm with the familiar observation: ‘Ee, lad, it’s a bit black over Willy’s ’en pens.’

This is why I adopt a deferential posture when I speak to her, avoid making excessive eye contact, seek every opportunity to find something to apologise for, only talk about my seventeen children (at the last count) and the parlous state of Mrs Jeffrey’s health if she mentions them first, and struggle in a raging torrent of mental anguish because I no longer have a substantial forelock to tug.

It’s all about knowing my place.

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Today has been remarkable in a lot of ways, beginning this morning with a rare and welcome e-mail from a rare and special American. And then it drooped, and then it rose again, and then that back molar I recently had repaired broke again. Days like that can be hard to keep up with. I even got called ‘delectable,’ and when you get called delectable, you know there’s an impish energy in the air and every reason to be wary of the Fates.

An Intriguing Encounter.

I got accosted on my walk tonight. I stood on the verge to let a car come past me, only it didn’t. It stopped. And then the passenger side window slid down, like passenger side windows do in films. That’s when you know the director intends a sense of menace; it’s all about putting distance between the driver and the accosted one.

(Accosted one. Gulp.)

There was a woman in the car who engaged me in general conversation, like she knew me or something. I must admit, there was something familiar about her, but there was also something about her hair...

It wasn’t long, but it was dark. Thank heavens she wasn’t wearing a long white dress, I say.

‘I have to go now,’ she said suddenly. ‘If you don’t move away from my passenger door, I’ll slide the window back up and your arms will fall off. Just see if I don’t!’

I made some of that up, just by way of being peculiar. But isn’t it a weird world when the best thing that happened to you today was being accosted by a strange woman of ethereal beauty – with dark and grown up hair – who happened to look familiar?

Accomodating the Peculiar.

I once went to a lot of trouble to explain something about myself to somebody. It was something she needed to know, and so I made the effort to explain it carefully, comprehensively and rationally. Today she asked me a question which indicated that she either hadn’t listened to me or hadn’t understood. If the former, does that indicate disrespect? If the latter, why hadn’t she understood? She’s a highly intelligent person who generally makes it her business to understand the vagaries of the human condition.

What am I trying to say here? It’s difficult to wrap it up in terms that are both succinct and explicit, but let me give it a go.

Every human being is complex up to a point. Each of us is an individual collection of attitudes, opinions, sensibilities, strengths, weaknesses and so on. It’s been my observation, however, that most people’s complex set of traits fall within a set of vaguely defined boundaries that are established by, and acceptable to, the culture in which they’re brought up.

Some of us have traits that fall outside those boundaries. Charlotte Bronte occasionally made reference to her sister Emily’s ‘peculiarities.’ Someone else recently referred to them as ‘my strangeness,’ and it seems that the majority of people are ill-equipped to understand such traits, or maybe don’t want to make the effort. It’s easier to think of us ‘extra-boundary’ people as odd, eccentric or weird. By and large, that’s OK, but not always. Sometimes a person’s peculiarities need to be understood if they’re not to be left out in the cold or have sore psychological spots rubbed raw. If somebody says ‘the very mention of that stuff that comes out of cows’ udders makes me sick to my stomach,’ the right response is not ‘what, you mean milk?’

That’s why I make the effort, even if not always successfully, to understand others’ peculiarities, and why I’m disappointed when others don’t understand and accommodate mine.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Hollow Crown.

I just quoted the following to somebody in an e-mail. It’s from Richard II and I like the philosophy. I like to think it applies to politicians, celebrities, bankers, captains of industry, selfish rich folks generally, and the likes of Alan bloody Sugar!

For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
            And tell sad stories of the death of kings
            How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
            Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
            Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
            All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
            That rounds the mortal temples of a king
            Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
            Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
            Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
            To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
            Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
            As if this flesh which walls about our life,
            Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
            Comes at the last and with a little pin
            Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!

Falling Short.

I’ve been out several times, but no sign of the Aurora. One day, maybe.

I gather there are Northern Lights cruises that go up to the Arctic Circle and cost around £1,300. It would be worth it if I had a spare £1,300. And it occurred to me that I wouldn’t bother to photograph the display. There wouldn’t be any point. Seeing the Aurora would be an experience exclusive to the moment. No two dimensional image could ever come close even to the memory of such a sight.

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Somebody is behaving oddly and it’s been bothering the life out of me for two days. I have a moderate suspicion that it might have something to do with usurpation.

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It struck me while walking up the lane tonight that if your minimum required standard is rising in indirect proportion to your capacity to attract candidates, you’ve got a problem.

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I do hope M’Lady S won’t be quite as disappointed tonight as she was last night. That sort of thing makes me feel so guilty.

A Rare Possibility.

There’s just the vaguest, outside chance that the Aurora Borealis will be visible as far south as I live tonight. That would be the event of a lifetime to me.

These are strange times, so you never know.

The Odds are Against Understanding.

Somebody asked me recently ‘are you a jealous person?’ My first inclination was to reply ‘very.’ Somebody else once said to me ‘it’s only jealousy.’ My response to that was ‘what the hell do you mean, only!

During the turbulent course of self-examination that’s been going on over the last year or so, my ‘jealousy’ has been the subject of much in-depth consideration. It’s caused more difficulty and misunderstanding than any other factor, and it’s probably been the only thing I’ve never come close to rectifying or controlling.

I finally worked out what it’s all about and why it has such a devastating effect on me. What I don’t know is whether any other individual is referring to the same thing when they use the term ‘jealousy.’ It’s become obvious from my discussions with other people that most of them aren’t. And therein lies the problem.

Most words have a universal definition. We all know what a tree is, and we all mean pretty much the same thing when we say ‘I’m cold.’ Words that describe emotion aren’t like that. They cover a broad area of universally recognised experience, but they don’t describe specifics well because each person uses a given word wholly in terms of what it means to them personally. So when somebody says ‘I’m jealous,’ the chances of us understanding exactly what they mean are very slim.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Vague.

I think I’ll be in trouble with a certain person if I don’t make a blog post today, but what to write about?

I’m tired of thinking about the dry, boring stuff like education mania, shopping addiction and damn politicians, and my mind isn’t running in a particularly spiritual vein, apart from wondering again whether insanity might be a form of spiritual awakening. The weather is wild and unsettling today, and there’s a vagueness about my personal reality – lots of musings, but nothing sufficiently well ordered to turn into words.

I would like somebody to touch my arm, though. The last person to do that was Sarah, about six months ago. And I had a dream last night in which I kissed the back of a woman’s hand because she’d given me advice on pruning a tree. I’ve no idea who she was.

Should I have a drink before dinner?

No.

End of post.

J'Accuse Education Mania.

I read a headline in a newspaper the other day which said ‘Should the school day be longer?’ And today I read that some government minister has said that schools which ‘fail to push bright pupils’ will be ‘exposed.’

A local parent of a teenage girl tells me that 25% of the pupils in her school are on anti-stress medication. And we all know that universities spew out thousands of graduates every year, many of whom end up working as call centre operatives or stacking shelves in supermarkets because there are far too few graduate level jobs available – that’s if they’re lucky enough to get a job at all. And even the concept of ‘graduate level’ is largely manufactured anyway.

The fact should be obvious to anybody with a brain cell that extended higher education is simply unnecessary except in the professions. Degree mania only exists because a combination of greed and the capitalist economy failed to deliver the bright new dawn that was predicted in the 1960’s. It isn’t about education at all, but about getting surplus people off the streets.

So when are these damn politicians going to get off our kids’ backs and let them grow into well balanced adults with a more comprehensive view of what being human is all about?

Oh, and by the way, the new story is now up at the other blog.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Absent Lady and the Sound of Water.

I want to know where Sarah is,
I want to know right now.
Has she been trampled by a sheep,
Or eaten by a cow?
I think it most unlikely, so
I haven’t got a clue.
I s’ppose she’s just gone off me now
’Cos that’s what women do.

This is what I get up to on my nocturnal rambles – writing stuff like this in my head. It distracts me from the shapes I think I see lurking in the darker shadows.

Tell you what was good tonight, though. There’s a deep, wide drainage ditch at the side of the lane close to my house. We’ve had incessant rain today, so it had a lot of water in it, and the sound of running water in the darkness is really quite splendid.

Not Making Profit.

If I received £1 for every time somebody visited my post Sherlock Survives: The Theory, I would now have enough to buy more than a hundred and fifty bottles of Bombardier premium English ale. Maybe it’s fortunate that my blog is free-to-air.

And if anybody’s interested, I’ll be posting another story, The Accordion Player, at the other blog soon. It got published last month and is now available for reprint. It's one of my favourites. That’ll be free-to-air, too.

A Rare Day and a Bottle of Beer.

Do you know what? I’m in a rare good mood today. Don’t know why, since there’s no obvious reason for it. These things just seem to happen occasionally, so we might as well enjoy them when they do.

(Actually, there might be a reason for my good mood. The Woman in America is showing her mettle; she’s demonstrating that she’s not only a scintillating, beguiling personality, but also a damn fine person. Having somebody like that in your life has to be good, right?)

So anyway, I’ve had this bottle of Bombardier premium English ale sitting on the bookcase in my office since before Christmas. I need to keep a good level of control over alcohol, because I’m rather fond of the stuff and it could do me some damage if I allowed it to get too big for its boots. I make rules about how much I allow myself to drink, and when I allow myself to do it. The bottle of Bombardier wasn’t fitting in with the regime, which is why it’s been sitting there for about a month.

I just rebelled.

‘If you want that bottle of beer, JJ, just drink the f***ing thing! Forget your rules and regimes, laudable though they may be, and go with the desire for once. When it’s gone it won’t be able to tempt you any more, will it? Then you can go back to your rules. Makes sense? Good. Makes sense. Get on with it.’

So I’m having a drink before dinner. It’s a beautiful dark red colour and tastes wonderful.

(So when am I going to finish up that bottle of Royal Lochnagar 12-year-old single malt? The next time I’m in a good mood, I suppose. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the celebratory post.)

One of Those Days.

You know the sort I mean.

You’re carrying a tray through from the kitchen. On it is placed a bowl of soup that’s been overfilled, so it’s within a millimetre of impersonating Niagara Falls. You’re being very, very careful to hold it steady and level, and then just as you’re passing from one room to another and there’s nowhere to put the tray down, your nose decides to sneeze. Impeccable timing.

I’ve been having a lot of days like that lately.

Paranoia.

Somebody from Kyoto read my blog post The Superiority of Oriental Madness.

Suppose it was a mad woman. Suppose she can afford the air fare to Britain. There’s enough information on my blog to enable anybody to get my address if they know how to go about it. Remember the woman with long dark hair and wearing a long white dress, standing at the end of the wall in the dark? Imagine an oriental version. I’m trying not to. Gulp...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Hello, Sal.

I decline to apologise for making a blog post just to say ‘hello’ to my friend, Sarah, since I don’t know any other way of going about it. I’m in the mood for saying ‘hello’ to somebody and the options are a bit limited.

I had a thought that I might stand a couple of fields away from her house, at just about this time of night, and call ‘Saaa-raaah...’ across the darkness of the Derbyshire landscape, like the ghosts do in horror films set in New England. That would be spooky, wouldn’t it? But somebody else might hear it, and recognise the voice, and I might get arrested, or a reputation...

So I didn’t.

1775 Revisited.

It’s been a day of quiet sadness today. The good thing about quiet sadness is that, unlike high anxiety and deep depression, it does at least allow you to continue functioning. And that’s why I was interested to see that Britain and America have gone to war again.

This time the issue isn’t tea and taxation, but the fate of the leap second – that’s the second that’s added to world clocks every so often to keep them in line with natural forces. The Colonists want to scrap the practice on the grounds that it confuses navigation and communication systems. The Crown wants to retain it to avoid long term consequences. The news report didn’t say which side the Mohawks took.

The first battle resulted in a stand off, apparently, and is to be rejoined in three years time. That’s 94,608,000 seconds... from...

Now.

The Trouble with Stars.

The portents were right on this occasion.

When I was a kid I loved plasticine. The fascination I had with it was both sensuous and tactile, so much so that I used to put it in my mouth and chew it. How much closer can you get to something than consuming it?

And that’s the problem with stars: you can't get close to them. All you can do is gaze at them in awe from a distance until they drop beneath the horizon, or a cloud blocks the view, or you simply stop watching and go home. It’s a one way street with stars: some inner part of us needs them, but they have no need of us.

Lunchtime at last.

Jittery.

I’ve been unaccountably jittery all day. Metaphorically speaking, there’s a dark space in the sky where a star ought to be. And tonight, when I was returning from my walk, I saw an incredibly big and bright star in the southern sky. When I looked again, it had gone. Last night I saw the most brilliant shooting star ever. A huge ball of light fell vertically through about ten degrees of arc, then burned up.

I suppose we shouldn’t see portents in things – just get on with tomorrow and whatever it brings.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Joining the Protest.

To all good Americans:

Would you please ensure that corporate and political interests in your fine country don’t enact laws that further enrich those who already have more money than they could ever hope to spend, and also provide the means by which the American Establishment is able to control what the people of the world are and are not allowed to know.

Thank you.

And while I’m on the subject of politicians, I see that Cameron has accused Argentina of ‘colonialism’ for wanting to renew talks on the future of the Falkland Islands. While I accept the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their nationality, it does seem a bit rich when a British Prime Minister accuses another country of colonialism. In fact, it has to be the hoot of the week, and further enhances Cameron’s claim to be Britain’s answer to GW Bush.

Devastation.

I took my guitar with me on my walk tonight, fully intending to pace slowly back and forth in front of the abode of M’Lady S, wearing my very wannest expression and singing random verses of Santa Lucia. To my horror, I found the house in darkness and trudged sadly home, my faith in life’s bounty crushed and torn to slivers of reeking flesh by the slavering jaws of outrageous disappointment.

I got home and consoled myself with a mug of hot chocolate, only to hear a tapping at the window. Tap, tap, tap, tap it went. And do you know who it was? Bloody Greta Garbo!

(For those unfamiliar with the classics of British comedy, google ‘bloody Greta Garbo’ and watch the video. It will explain everything.)

Weredog?

I generally finished my shift at the theatre some time between 12.30 and 1am, and the ten minute walk home was usually very quiet because it fell in the lull between the closing of the pubs, theatres, concert halls and cinemas, and the later rush that happened when the nightclubs and casinos finished. And so it was that night.

The first part of the route home was a two hundred yard walk downhill on the main road, before crossing over and turning right into Victoria Street on which I lived. There were no vehicles or any pedestrians to disturb the peace until I approached the end of my street, at which point I saw two men walking uphill on the other side of the road and approaching the same junction.

Their staggering walk indicated they were drunk, which irritated me a bit because drunks have a habit of doing irritating things – like barging into you and throwing up without warning! I hoped they would cross the end of Victoria Street and continue uphill so I wouldn’t have to get too close to them. One of them did, but the other turned left – which meant I would be following him once I turned into the same street. I crossed the road, came around the end of a high wall, and turned into Victoria Street, expecting the drunk to be a few yards ahead of me.

There was no drunk. Instead, in just about exactly the spot where I expected him to be, there was a big dog. At least, it looked vaguely like a dog, but unlike any dog I’d ever seen. It was about the height of a German Shepherd and looked something similar to that breed, except that it had a substantially broader head and shoulders. I confess to thinking that it looked like something not of this world, and it was standing in the middle of the pavement, facing me and staring coldly into my eyes. Apart from the two of us, the street was deserted.

I stopped for a moment and considered the facts. The timing of events and the layout of the properties precluded any possibility of the drunken man having entered a house, and there was nowhere else he could have gone either. I looked at the dog again, which was still blocking my way and fixing me with that devilish stare. What was there to do except take the risk and walk around it? There was no way of escaping the beast had it wanted to attack, and it was showing no obvious signs of aggression anyway. It looked very spooky, but not necessarily vicious, so walk past I did. It walked alongside me all the way home, occasionally nudging my leg with its outsize head. When I reached my front door I pointed along the street, said ‘go home now,’ and it trotted away quite happily.

I wondered later whether the two men I’d seen approaching the junction were not two men at all, but one man and a dog. I threw the idea out. The road is well lit, and the dog wouldn’t have been the height of a man even if it had been standing on its hind legs. Besides, I’d seen the second man turn left and walk into Victoria Street. Could I really have mistaken a dog for a man on a well lit urban street and at a distance of less than a hundred feet? I hardly think so. I wasn’t tired and hadn’t had a drink. So where had the second man gone?

As for the dog, all I can say is that I lived on that street for nearly ten years and it was the only one I ever saw loose. I’d never seen it before and I never saw it again. And it was certainly the oddest looking dog I’ve ever seen. In fact, the memory of it stayed with me and I had it vaguely in mind when I described the demon in the wood in Odyssey. And isn’t it a bit strange that it should have been standing on the very spot where the drunken man should have been? So, as the station master in The Ghost Train famously said:

‘If it be a natural thing, where do it come from, where do it go?’

Desert Island Brit.

It bothers me a bit when I get visitors to my blog from the UK after midnight. That means somebody else must still be up, and I don’t like that. I want the world to be asleep at this time of night. I want it to be as a desert island. I want it to myself - just me, the night and the music.

Of course, it would be different if the right sort of company were available, but there’s no hope of that. So go to sleep.

Rob may consider himself excused from the above. I got used to him being around after midnight when I worked at the theatre. And talking of the theatre, I must tell the strange story of the weredog. Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A Little Homage to Lisa.

You’ve heard me refer to The Woman in America a few times, right? Well, here’s the rub.

She and I have corresponded by e-mail and spoken on skype. I’ve been mean to her a couple of times, and she’s been mean back rather more often. But that’s all good, because being mean to somebody (by which I mean the go-away-and-never-darken-my-doorstep-again sort of mean) usually indicates a combination of honesty, fear and insecurity, all of which are essential to a vibrant relationship (well, they are if you’re a bit weird like me.)

The fact is though, she’s been a major part of engendering in me a profound process of self-examination and subsequent realisation that has clarified much of my understanding of, and attitude towards, the whole subject of the masculine:feminine connection. Don’t you think it’s pretty incredible that somebody you’ve never met, and almost certainly never will meet, can be such a jewel in the crown of learning? That’s big, right? The Woman in America is a genuine VIP.

It’s maybe a trifle unfortunate that all this new found understanding has come too late to be of any practical value, but life’s like that. And, hey, there are more lives to come, no?

(Sorry to descend into the triter end of the vernacular, but at least I avoided ‘who loves ya, baby?’ Except in parentheses. Which is OK.)

A Strange Sense of Humour.

I’m currently listening to an album of Irish traditional music, so very kindly sent to me by the incomparable Kaetlyn McCafferty of Ohio, USA. (Slainte, McCafferty.)

The thing is, though, it sends my mind off into the Irish connection, and my first point of contact with said connection is (sorry about this) Father Ted. And every time I think of Father Ted, the first lines that spring to mind are Dougal (a young priest) saying ‘Jesus is great, isn’t he Ted?’ and Ted (an older priest) replying ‘Yeah, Dougal, he’s great

Does anybody else find that as enduringly funny as I do? Or is it me?

The Power of Television.

My post Sherlock Survives: The Theory (about the mysterious ending to a BBC TV drama) has now taken over top spot in the list of all time most-viewed posts. The visitors have come not just from the UK and Ireland, as you’d expect, but from as far afield as the US, Australia, Asia and all corners of Europe including Russia.

But this post isn’t about statistics. It’s about the fact that a TV programme can unite people all over the world in the quest for an answer to a question: how did Sherlock Holmes, a fictional character, survive the fall from the roof of Bart’s Hospital?

TV’s big, isn’t it? Imagine what a tremendous power for good it could be in the world if only we concentrated on putting it to that use. But let’s not be too cynical because, just occasionally, we do.

If I Ruled the World...

...the first thing I would do is BAN dating sites. How have we become so superficial, so lacking in soul, that we permit such a monstrous assault on the purity, the beauty, the mystical significance of the true masculine:feminine connection? How have we come to treat it as nothing more than a candyfloss on a stick, to be peddled by a street vendor at a dollar each? Where did the respect go?

Their grotesque commercials are invading my web space at every turn, and they’re getting to me now. I respect women, and it disturbs me to see them lined up on a tray next to the hot dogs, somehow imagining that it’s all in the name of empowerment and equality.

This is an old rant, I know. I think I might turn to drink. That’s one thing of mystical significance that I don’t mind buying off the shelf.

The Superiority of Oriental Madness.

What I said in the previous post about my fear of mad women – I just realised it’s the reason why The Audition is a very rare example of a horror film I find truly horrific. The female protagonist is so beautiful, so still, so deliberate, so devoid of emotion while she tortures the poor guy lying immobilised on the floor.

The genuinely frightening mad woman isn’t the one who runs around shrieking and setting the bedroom ablaze. That’s the impoverished Hollywood-style version, a la Fatal Attraction. It’s the one who looks anything but mad while she’s doing the most hideously mad things.

I reckon the Japanese understand mad women. They have the best of them. Must remember to keep my distance if ever I encounter one.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Rambles on the Ramble.

I was cold on my walk tonight, which is unusual. I think tonight is probably the coldest of the winter so far.

But coldness of the body is perhaps easier to bear than coldness of the spirit. Imagine my mortification when M’Lady S told me: ‘I can see you sitting by a coal fire.’ Such a statement has one anticipating the pipe and slippers joke. Poor JJ. It’s a shame for me, isn’t it?

I gave a spirited rendition of The Parting Glass – for the benefit of the little people, you understand – whilst walking down the lane from my house. (That was before I became too cold to sing.) There was no applause.

And I had a chilling thought when I walked out of the house into the blackness of a moonless night. I imagined walking around the corner of the wall, and there at the end of the path, held in the beam of the torch, is a woman in a long white dress, with long black hair, standing stock still and staring intensely into my eyes. That’s spooky.

Did I ever write a post about my lifelong fear of mad women? (I’m talking Mrs Rochester, not Margaret Thatcher.) I used to have a recurring nightmare about one when I was a little boy. And I can’t think of a suitable joke.

Time to get wet.

Lone...

... and two of its derivatives:

There have been times in my life when I have been, or at least perceived as being, a loner. There have also been times in my life when I have been unequivocally lonely. And there have been times in my life when I’ve been neither.

As a result, I’ve been able to observe reactions to both the loner and the lonely person from all angles, and what I’ve noticed is this:

People generally shun both, the former because they anticipate rejection, and the latter because they fear that they will be clung to and smothered with excessive attention. And the lesson to be taken is that if you’re not a genuine loner, be sure not to be perceived as such, otherwise you’re very likely to know what loneliness feels like before too long.

Sherlock Survives: The Theory.

There have now been a hundred and sixty page views of the Sherlock Mystery posts, which suggests that the subject is a matter of some import! So maybe I should offer a theory as to how Sherlock survived.

OK. It seems to me that Sherlock had worked out Moriarty’s plan in advance, and the clue has to be in the following facts:

1) Sherlock chose the meeting place on the roof of Bart’s Hospital, and he chose the place on the ledge from which to jump.

2) Shortly before that, he had gone to see Molly (the mortuary attendant) and when she’d asked him ‘What do you want?’ he’d replied ‘I want you.’ Since Sherlock isn’t the most romantic of men, it’s reasonable to conclude that he wanted to use her as part of a plan.

3) When he was on the ledge and talking to Watson by mobile phone, he was most insistent that Watson should hold his position, and it might be recalled that there was an obstruction preventing full view of the fall.

My guess, then, is that he arranged with Molly to provide something to break his fall, maybe a laundry bin or something. She would also have been able to provide a bottle of human blood to make the scene look authentic, and she would have been able to take care of the mortuary end of things. The body given to the undertaker was probably that of some homeless and nameless individual who would have been destined for a pauper’s funeral anyway. The one thing that troubles me is that Sherlock’s ‘body’ would have been carried inside the hospital where a doctor would have needed to pronounce him dead. Maybe Molly was able to pose as a doctor and get away with the ruse in the heat of the moment. Sherlock had said earlier in the programme that you can make anything believable if you go about it the right way. And I noticed the deliberate way he threw his mobile phone behind him before jumping. I assume he'd recorded the whole conversation with Moriarty and left it there to be found and clear his reputation.

So that’s it, for what it’s worth. I assume there’ll be another series, because it would be cheating indeed to leave the whole thing hanging. We’ll just have to wait for it to arrive, won’t we?

Feasting on Feeling.

I just stood at the junction of my lane and Church Lane for some time, taking in the sweep of the sunny landscape. It struck me, as it always does, how beautiful it is. But then I realised that I wasn’t just observing the landscape, I was also observing myself observing the landscape. And that was when that old, insistent little voice began to whisper quietly again:

‘This isn’t as real as it looks, you know, and neither are you. The nearest you can get to reality is the feeling.’

So maybe that’s why I’m so in awe of the process of feeling. If there’s one area of life in which I would describe myself as an epicure, that would be it. Feeling for the sake of feeling. A connoisseur of feeling.

So that took me onto the next question. Does it mean that the people who feel things most deeply, most sharply, most insistently, are the ones who are closest to a more real level of reality?

I think it must be one of those days.

Being at the Centre of a Hologram.

A couple of days ago I woke up with a sense that everybody had gone. I was obviously (or at least apparently) wrong about that. Today I woke up with a sense that some sort of reality shift had happened. I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m only as mad as I think I am.

But it did get me wondering again about the belief – which has some credence in quantum circles, apparently (cf the film What the Bleep Do We Know?) – that we’re all living in some sort of hologram in which everything only exists because we believe it does.

This is a difficult idea to take on board. Surely it can’t be right that all those people and circumstances within and beyond my orbit are merely creations of my own perception. Anybody reading this will obviously agree!

And yet I have a nagging suspicion that there’s some truth in it – somewhere – somehow...

A Rare Political Rant.

Riots on the streets, strikes, demonstrations, public sector workers being forced to take a pay cut, pensioners having their winter fuel allowance reduced, arts bodies and charities going out of existence due to funding cuts, rural transport all but disappearing... And all down to the much trumpeted need to reduce the budget deficit. We are, as Cameron infamously said, ‘all in this together.’

So now a Cabinet Minister says that the taxpayer should foot the bill to provide the Queen with a new Royal Yacht to mark her diamond jubilee. I expect there will be questions in the House. I can see the prospect of one senior Tory MP imploding. (That, at least, would be good news.) And I do hope the dear old Queen will have the good judgement to decline the gift and help Mr Gove disappear up his own rectum. Maybe he will find there the world in which he truly belongs.

A People Day.

I spoke with Helen on the phone for a long time today (she was en route to Genoa – the one in Italy that they named the cake after,) I had the rare pleasure of speaking with M’Lady S in person, the metaphorical switchboard to my blog got jammed with callers enquiring after an answer to the mystery of Sherlock’s survival, and... and... The Woman in America kept showing her face at my window just when I felt most attuned to her.

Why is the world beating a path to my door today? Can I cope? I think I need some alone time.

Must make that post about the difference in the way people respond to the loner and the lonely person. Not tonight, though. I’m more in the mood for drinking than thinking.

And why on earth do I keep hearing Colin Clive uttering the famous line She’s alive! She’s alive!

Sherlock: Epilogue.

Bath time musing was devoted to two subjects tonight (enough to stop me falling asleep.)

One was the formulation of a theory regarding the Sherlock subterfuge. It’s obvious enough that the clue lies with Holmes telling Molly ‘I want you,’ and telling Watson to ‘stay where you are.’ A general explanation seemed simple enough with a little thought, but there was one pitfall which I’ll bet Pemberton (or whoever writes the next episode) won’t cover. On reflection, it surprises me a little that they showed Holmes alive and well at the end – Conan Doyle didn’t do that after the fight at the Reichenbach Falls. But of course, he had intended to kill off the character, and was persuaded to explain his survival and bring him back in order to meet public demand. I just wonder whether it would have been better to leave Sherlock invisible, but display a ‘...to be continued’ note on the screen.

The second is private, but if you want a clue, think two composers and a poet.

I must be in the mood for mysteries tonight.