Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Trouble with Wishing.

Several people have come to the blog today by searching Easter wish list, so I got to thinking about such a list.

I decided that there is one thing that could go on it, but it’s one of those ‘be careful what you wish for’ things. It isn’t so much that it carries risk, more that it carries the certainty of big downs as well as big ups, and I wonder whether I’ve ridden the rollercoaster enough already.

Besides, I’m not really the wishing type. There’s something a bit airy-fairy about wishing. I’m more the type to generate the appropriate energy and then take the opportunity when it comes along. It’s how most of the best things have happened to me.

Another Saturday Night.

The walk tonight wasn’t wonderful. All the usual things were in place – it was a crisp, chilly night, Venus and Jupiter still appeared to want to know one another, and the first quarter moon was casting deep shadows on the lane.

But I was passed at speed four times by boy racers in souped up cars playing thump thump music out of the windows, which didn’t exactly match the atmosphere. Then I saw Cassie, the pub dog, wandering the lanes by herself. I thought it sad, and wished she’d been at home and snug in front of a fire. The piece-de-resistance, though, was finding M’Lady’s house in total darkness. I’ve never seen that before, and I admit it felt strange enough to engender a mild sense of desolation. That’s just me being silly, of course, and I soon got rid of it, but still...

It’s Saturday night, isn’t it? I’ve said before – more than once – that Saturday night isn’t my favourite time of the week.

The Internet Bazaar.

I know I’ve ranted about this before, but internet advertising is really getting on my nerves again. Surfing the net is like visiting a historic building or something else you’re interested in, and being constantly distracted and irritated by countless grubby hands pushing things into your face, and countless insistent voices yelling aggressively into your ear ‘you want some of this, you do, you do, you do, buy it, buy it, buy it, NOW!

Is there no way we can put a stop to it because it’s driving me up the bloody wall? It’s far worse than junk mail, which is easy to ignore. Junk mail is simply lines of static text that can be deleted with a couple of clicks. And yet we’re all united in regarding spam as the scourge of the internet, whilst the greater scourge seems to go unnoticed. Why? Because advertising pays for much of the internet.

Fine. I understand that. So keep the advertising, but for heaven’s sake make it static! It’s easy to look or not to look at a market stall, but it isn’t at all easy to ignore something that’s being constantly pushed into your damn face.

On Garden Centres and a Little Treat.

There are two big garden centres near here, one of which I can see across the valley from my house. I dislike garden centres. They appeal to a gardening mentality that I would have to categorise generally as ‘suburban.’ It’s all about neatness, tidiness, opulence and artificiality. They have grandiose displays of fancy flagging, decking, artificial stone water features and expensive garden furniture. And worst of all (shudder) they sell plastic robins and nesting blackbirds fixed to the top of plastic poles which people stick in the soil. Why not have plastic soil, too, so you don't get troubled by weeds? Hideous, hideous, hideous...

But that’s just my opinion. My approach to the value of gardens is simple. I like the lawn to be green, the fruit and vegetables to crop, and the flowers to be colourful. And I like an inexpensive chair to sit on and an inexpensive table on which I can rest my plate, cup or glass of beer on a warm summer’s evening. Which is what I’ve got.

*  *  *

On a completely unrelated note, I had a rare treat today. The Dowager Duchess of Mill Lane (that’s M’Lady Bella’s mama for those who haven’t been keeping up with the soap) came past me in a car. She smiled and waved. Her smile is as lovely as Sarah’s, so she made a half decent substitute for the real thing.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Getting Close to Consensus.

Aha, so it seems that Sarah really wants to be called Bella. That’s a very good choice; ‘The Lady Bella’ has a certain ring to it. Problem is, ‘Bella’ naturally abbreviates to ‘Belle,’ and that reminds me of the old joke:

What’s brown and sounds like a bell?

Duuung!

Shovels at the ready!

Maybe I could have therapy and excise all memory of the joke. Or maybe I could stop being lazy and favouring the diminutive forms of names. I’ve noticed that most of my problems in life stem from some fault or inadequacy of my own. Laziness is just one of many.

Next Bit of Free Fiction.

As promised, Hand in Hand, the creepy story set in the creepy forest, is now up at the other blog here.

Sounds Unheard and Heard.

I was upstairs earlier when I became suddenly aware of a profound quietness. It seemed unnatural, and I stood for some time trying to work what was missing. But what could be missing? It’s quiet here at night anyway, apart from the occasional low hum of a vehicle passing on the lane or the equally low rumble of an aircraft flying overhead.

I’ve had this experience a few times before, usually outside in the garden at dusk. It’s as though my senses become heightened to the almost palpable quality of deep silence. And that’s interesting, because it hints at the old doctrine found in Eastern philosophy – that the ultimate nature of existence is emptiness.

Not so when I went for my nightly walk. As I was approaching M’Lady’s house I heard the sound of two voices, one male and one female, coming from somewhere around the bottom end of Sarah’s field. The male sounded ebullient, the female excited. I wonder what that was about.

Failing.

Will somebody please shoot me?

I’ve made two posts today: one about the down side of capitalism, and the other about the trials of buying a TV online. I need to be put out of my misery before I succumb to a painful, lingering demise brought on by self-boredom. It’s the only fitting end for somebody who appears to be turning grey. I seem to be matching the weather, which is also turning grey – and colder.

I want to find something funny to say, but there’s no funny energy about. Try me later.

All I Want to Know is...

I’m having trouble with my old TV/digibox combination and I’ve decided it’s about time I got a new digital TV. So how do we do that these days? We go online, search out the item that best fits our needs, and then check out where we can get it at the lowest price.

Fine. Done that. Sainsbury’s sells just what I want and it’s currently on special offer. Their website also gives a long list of specifications, but there’s one item of information missing. The specs don’t say whether the speakers are forward facing or not. This is important because the sound from speakers that aren’t forward facing is muddier, and so it’s necessary to crank up the volume in order to be able to catch what the modern crop of mumbling actors are saying.

I just rang Sainsbury’s Customer Careline and selected the Electronic Equipment option. The man I spoke to did his best to be helpful. He consulted their own specs, the product manual and the manufacturer’s website. He couldn’t find the information, so he put me onto a more specialist team. They couldn’t tell me either, so now they have to pass the query to an even more specialist team who will, supposedly, call me tomorrow. I suggested that the simplest way to find out would be to call one of the stores that has the model in stock and ask them to have a look. That isn’t an option, apparently.

So now I wait. Remember when life was simple?

Adopting the Economic Delusion.

I’ve heard several economists over the last few years state that the American Dream was never realistic. America has a rampantly capitalistic economy, and capitalism is essentially competitive. Where there are winners, there have to be losers. That’s the argument, apparently, and history would seem to bear it out. So here’s what interests me.

It seems to me that in a rampantly capitalistic economy, consumption is placed at the top of the list of desirable aspirations. Consumption is necessary in order to drive the economy, and so the system naturally conditions its members to view high consumers as good, and low consumers – i.e. the poor – as bad. If you then add to that the indoctrinated view that the American Dream is realistic – i.e. that everybody can be prosperous – there is a further tendency to condition those members to viewing the poor as being in some way responsible for their poverty. Thus the poor become the enemy, to be reviled because they’re letting the side down.

After the Second World War, Britain developed a mixed economy which worked perfectly well until Mrs Thatcher came along. She began the process of converting our mixed economy into an increasingly free market one, and this process is still going on. In other words, Britain is becoming ever more capitalistic.

I comes as no surprise, therefore, to read the results of several British opinion polls conducted to assess attitudes towards poverty, poor living conditions, the effects of such conditions on the wider social fabric, the desirability of maintaining a welfare state etc, etc. They show that as Britain has gone further towards embracing an almost wholly free market economy, and especially since adverse economic conditions have begun to bite, there has been a growing tendency among the generality of the population to see the poor as being so only because they’re lazy or deficient in some way. Sympathy towards the poor is waning.

And what all this means is that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and a small minority of rich people are very happy about it. Or are they? Maybe not, because it seems that such a situation produces an uncommon level of fear among rich people. The perceived need for security becomes an increasingly frantic issue because they become ever more afraid that the poor are going to rise up and get at them. History has taught that lesson, too, many times. We never had neighbourhood watch schemes in Britain when we had a mixed economy. We had no need of them because Britain was a more contented society then. Enterprise was encouraged, but the non-winners were well protected.

So are we going the right way? I don’t think so, somehow.

Questioning the Lady Abigail.

I’ve been giving some thought to the phrase ‘The Lady Abigail.’

(The reason must be obvious, so I won’t risk the assault-by-overripe-tomatoes again.)

I’m in a quandary, you see. Part of my mind thinks it’s a rather splendid epithet, but yet another part of the same mind suspects a hint of incongruity. The problem is this:

I don’t really think of Abigails as being Ladies, as such. I think of them more as the interesting but slightly spooky daughters of Midwestern farmsteads stuck in hazardous isolation twenty miles from the nearest neighbour and shoved up close to some creepy forest in which anything might lurk and probably does!

Deep breath.

So, the question is: does ‘The Lady Abigail’ survive the suspicion of being an oxymoron? And, furthermore, would it be appropriate to the demure, interesting, artistic, slightly off-beam and rather lovely Sarah – she whose raven hair and fair skin suggest the possibility of Gaelic ancestry somewhere back along the road?

(She’s going to want an explanation for this the next time I see her, and if you think I’m going to attempt an answer in a blog post, think again. I’m not quite that mad. Yet.)

*  *  *

And on the subject of creepy forests, I’ll soon be posting the latest story to have gone into print, over at the other blog. It’s called Hand in Hand and is about creepy goings on in a creepy forest. The accountant gets it. It has a thinly veiled anti-grey subtext - with plenty of fear and a little blood. Yay. And his wife is definitely no Abigail!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Minor Mystery.

It’s amazing how many people are coming onto my blog post ‘A Rustle of Dark Leaves’ by searching Google for rustle of dark leaves. I wonder why.

I like mysteries, and it’s the second time I’ve said that tonight, so it’s probably true.

Sensing a Visit.

My old electric shower packed up nearly five years ago, which is why I have to take baths these days. I haven’t replaced it because I haven’t felt in a position to afford to do so, but here’s the odd thing.

For some time now I’ve been getting a persistent sense that there’s a visitor on the way. And visitors expect to take showers, don’t they? Besides, clean people (and I would hope that any visitor would be a clean person) also expect to bathe every day, and heating up enough water for a bath is a hell of a lot more expensive than running a shower for ten minutes.

So today I’ve been sussing out some prices. Depending on the reply to an e-mail query to the manufacturer of my old shower, it seems that I can get an equivalent replacement all fitted for about £75.

So what do I do? Trust my intuition? Probably.

On My First Visit to the Imperial Palace

I just paid my first visit to the Forbidden City (the abode of M’Lady S, for the uninitiated.)

I was nervous, as you’d expect; it’s very posh and not the sort of place to which peasant stock like me is at all habituated. But you know us peasants – nothing if not presumptuous when given adequate incentive, and I had been granted an explicit invitation for the purpose of collecting some horse manure. So in I went, all ready to bow at the first hint of an encounter with the resident nobility.

There was no encounter. There was nobody at home, save the little princess who barked at me briefly. I’d been told that, in such an event, I should feel free to help myself, so that was what I set out to do.

I’d gone equipped with two buckets, but no shovel. I’d assumed that they would have a dung shovel, and so there would be no need to carry one half a mile there and half a mile back. I was a little concerned that I might not be able to find it without assistance or the opening of doors to which I hadn’t been invited; but that, it transpired, wasn’t the problem. The dung shovel was hanging in plain sight on the stable wall. The problem was that I couldn’t find the dung heap. So there I was, having dung shovel but no dung to shovel with it.

I walked home with two empty buckets, salving my disappointment by planning a blog post about today’s splendid adventure. And now you have it.

A Duty to Explain Duty.

I asked to speak to a manager in the supermarket today, to enquire as to why their tobacco and liquor prices had already gone up, given that it was only a week since the duty had been increased in the Budget.

The manager wanted no trouble. He took out his purse right away.

Oh no, that’s a line from Albert and the Lion...

Erm... what the manager actually said was that they have a high turnover of tobacco and liquor, and that the prices had gone up when the new stock had arrived last Sunday – the new stock having the higher duty applied to it. Fine, except he then admitted that all the stock already in situ was also being sold at the higher price ‘because it would be impossible to separate the new stock from the old.’

That argument doesn’t really ring true, does it, since all they had to do was hold the new stock back until the old stuff was gone. So what this means is that Sainsbury’s are making extra profit by selling old stock at an unjustifiably inflated price – which isn’t illegal, but it’s certainly unethical.

And this is the kind of thing that most people don’t realise is going on, because most people don’t understand how duty works and nobody explains it to them.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Three Notes on the Progression of Young Women.

As I was walking past the village pub tonight I fancied a pint, but I had no money on me so I walked on.

For some reason it reminded me of being fifteen and going on holiday with my friend Barry. Neither of us had yet developed a drinking habit – that was to come a few months later in my case – but we both fancied a taste of beer one night, and so we bought a bottle and shared it while we walked along the beach in the darkness.

Two older teenage girls came past watching us. One of them spoke:

‘Have you two drunk that whole bottle of beer? All on your own? Wow!’

It was the first intimation I had of the predilection for sarcasm which young women are wont to display towards teenage boys. I suppose it’s a pre-emptive attempt to establish the dominant psychological position for later use. And yet, interestingly, they only seem to do it when they have the support of a group or companion.

*  *  *

Having paid her close respects to both Jupiter and Venus over the past three nights, the young but burgeoning moon is now moving off eastwards into the darker part of the sky. Soon she will take up her position as unchallenged Queen of the Firmament, before fading with little grace as all monarchs do. The difference is that she will be back a couple of weeks later to run the cycle all over again.

*  *  *

I realised tonight that Abi and I live in completely different worlds. She lives in a young woman’s world, replete with physical friends and myriad activities. I, on the other hand, inhabit a sort of twilight zone in which there is Helen at a distance, my daughter at a greater distance, and a group of ghostly people scattered around cyberspace who talk to me through the ether.

Three Bits of March Madness.

First I read about the captain of an airliner travelling from New York to San Francisco who had to be restrained and placed under the aviation equivalent of house arrest after turning a bit strange.

Then I read about a British Government Minister advising everybody to store jerry cans full of petrol in their sheds to ameliorate the effects of the impending strike by tanker drivers. He has been soundly told off by the Fire Brigade, who have been telling us for as long as I can remember: ‘Under no circumstances must you ever store petrol in jerry cans in your shed.’

But the best of all: I read that there’s a proposal being put forward in America to penalise anybody who doesn’t have private medical insurance. I admit that I was lucky enough to be born in Britain after the advent of the NHS, and so I’ve spent all my life to date being entitled to high quality medical care completely free. And I do realise that America is a bit backward when it comes to getting people with more money than they’re ever going to need to spend some of it on something useful for a change – like providing health care for everybody, even the poor who, by definition, don't deserve it. I still have a question, however.

As far as I understand the situation, the people who don’t have medical insurance in America are generally those who are too poor to afford it. So how are you going to penalise them? What are you going to take from people who already have nothing? What am I missing?

Having to Go.

I just did tonight’s funnies on Bree’s blog. Sod! Now I don’t have any left for this one. Have a ditty instead. It’s not very good.

There was a young woman called Jo
Who said that she really must go.
‘Go where?’ asked her lover
‘Up the stair, you daft bugger.
The old bladder is all set to blow.’

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

I Told You So.

A review into last summer’s riots in Britain has put the blame firmly on social problems and a lack of confidence in the police. The government has reluctantly admitted that their contemporary reaction to the event was unreasonably narrow.

What did I say at the time?

‘Riots don’t happen in a contented society.’

Meanwhile, some of the rioters are serving prison sentences longer than some paedophiles get. I would have no hesitation in adding to the above:

Lack of confidence in the government.

A Rustle of Dark Leaves.

Anybody interested in spooky tales set among the deep, dark woods might like to know about this new paperback from Misanthrope Press that came out today. I have a personal interest in it, and I’m very taken with the jacket design.

The Daily Bits.

Having been occupied with a variety of other things today, I haven’t seen any news reports yet. That means I have no politicians or affairs, foreign or domestic, to rant about or laugh at. I’m also not in the mood for going deeply into anything social, philosophical or spiritual. Accordingly, all I can think to write are a few little notes pertaining to the prosecution of my personal day. That will have to do, so here goes.

Helen visited today, and I discovered that her relationships with her two principle male companions are highly unconventional. Helen is, in some ways, even more unconventional than me.

*  *  *

One of those companions is, apparently, as fixated on Venus, Jupiter and the moon as I am. He pointed their pattern out to her a couple of nights ago. So there’s a coincidence.

*  *  *

She appears to have the unconscious ability to put a hex on my car. The last two times she’s visited, the car has developed a problem (a different one each time) that has cast doubt on the prospect of being able to drive her back to the railway station. On both occasions the problem cleared itself and the journey was made without incident.

*  *  *

So, having made a few mentions of Helen, may I now revert to more familiar territory at the risk of having overripe tomatoes cast in my direction? OK, here goes:

Readers of long standing might remember that my first ever post about Sarah (or Abi, as I now like to think of her) referred to the fact that she was a plain, unassuming young woman who displayed a rare inner beauty. I think it only fair to update the picture and point out that the beauty is no longer confined to the inside. Abi has blossomed.

*  *  *

I saw her again today, having seen her yesterday. Seeing Abi on consecutive days is unprecedented, and has to stop before she tires of me completely and I slump into a slough of despond.

*  *  *

ANFSCD. (Come on, think!)

*  *  *

I’m frequently amazed at how many planes there are in the night sky over our little village. They’re more noticeable at night because of their flashing lights.

*  *  *

And on the same subject, I can’t get the hang of the navigation lights on aeroplanes. Every plane seems to have different ones, which obviously cannot be. I’m familiar with the lights carried by ships; they’re relatively simple. I could tell in pitch darkness whether a ship was on a collision course with mine, or running on a parallel course, or passing in the opposite direction, or running ahead of me. Not so with planes, which I assume is because planes operate in three dimensional space, whereas ships operate in only two.

*  *  *

While out on my walk tonight, it was interesting to note that the teenage son of the people at New House Farm was most courteous in allowing me to pass before driving his noisy, souped up something-or-other out onto the road. Those people driving their new, expensive SUVs, however, were less so.

*   *   *

I was also interested to observe just how much light even a shallow crescent moon throws down. We're only a few days into the new cycle, but already the shadows cast on the road are quite distinct.

*  *  *

So may I now have the rest of the night off?

Will the Fates be Kind?

I’ve been too busy to make a late blog post tonight, and now it’s 1.45 and I’m tired. I’m listening to Long Time Traveller again and musing on why I love this place so much.

The patchwork landscape, the unpolluted night sky, the mediaeval church and Jacobean manor house, the timeless feel of a traditional rural community, the beautiful and enigmatic lady Sarah...

I wonder how long the Fates will allow me to enjoy it. The Fates have always played the stern parent in the way they’ve orchestrated my life. There's always been a bit of hard love about them. I wonder whether they’ve mellowed yet.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Re-naming M'Lady and Two Little Notes.

I’ve been meaning to ask Sarah how she feels about her name. ‘Sarah’ is a good name, but it’s also fairly common, whereas Sarah is a most uncommon person. So I took to considering tonight what I think she should be called. Not easy, but then...

Voila! Eureka! Gadzooks!

I remembered my favourite scene from a Harry Potter film. It’s one in which Hermione slaps Harry’s hands and takes over the doing of something that he’s fumbling. It’s a real ‘boys are useless’ moment, and I love such moments.

Well, Sarah did something similar to me today, and I’ve said before that there’s something Hermioneish about her. (I think it has something to do with that soft, feminine assertiveness in the eyes, the sort that’s impossible for a mere male to contest, but I’m not sure – yet.)

So anyway, Hermione seemed to fit the bill perfectly. But there’s a problem, isn’t there? It’s a bit of a bloody mouthful, right? And how does one abbreviate it? It doesn’t exactly lend itself to a pet diminutive, does it?

Ah, well, looks like it’s back to the drawing board. Better stick with ‘Sal’ for the time being, Sal. Hope you don’t mind.

*  *  *

And now for something completely different:

I developed a theory tonight as to how I could make Waitrose’s bog standard dark chocolate drink palatable. I just tried it and it worked brilliantly. Clever JJ.

*  *  *

The three members of the courtly triumvirate I wrote about last night have done a little dance and radically altered their relative positions. Jupiter is now falling further towards the horizon and weakening. The crescent moon, on the other hand, has switched sides and moved up close to Venus.

This reminds me of something personal. I wonder whether they look the same from Washington Heights. I expect they do.

Two Big News Items.

1) News of the year first:

M’Lady S consented to my accompanying her and the princess on a short walk today. You may rest assured that I remained half a pace back and, for the most part, kept my head properly bowed. JJ is nothing if not proper. Had I been wearing a hat, I would have removed it, of course. But I wasn’t, so that was all right.

Now all I have to do is wait for the dizziness to wear off. She told me that she plays the piano and writes songs, you see, so how was a bout of dizziness to be avoided?

2) News of the week:

I’m finally starting to get somewhere with the house contract business. It isn’t signed, sealed and delivered yet, but it’s looking OK. Tying the agent down to specific undertakings is proving difficult so there’s a certain amount of reading between the lines to be done, but there’s cause for moderate optimism.

Yay...

At One With the Leader.

Cameron is now embroiled in an embarrassing cash-for-access scandal. He says he knew nothing about it – the private dinner parties he gave were for ‘old friends who just happened to be wealthy backers.’ Oh, right. That’s OK, then. We believe him, don’t we, because believing politicians is what we do, isn’t it?

It would be nice to think that Mr Cameron might soon wish he hadn’t come back from America. Then he and I would be of like mind for once.

An Unlisted Side Effect.

I’ve been taking my Ashwagandha capsules for four days now, and tonight I washed my hair. It felt stiff; the comb had trouble going through it.

Could this have something to do with the recommended root – most efficacious in every way – I wonder. And, if so, what will happen next? Will chunks fall out or will the missing bits reappear, perhaps?

Watch this space.

And I’ve already got the ‘well, as long as that was the only thing that...’ joke, thank you. That should stop Mad Melanie giving vent to her irrepressibly lowbrow sense of humour.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Fruitless Detour.

From the distant vantage point of Church Lane today, I saw someone who looked like M’Lady S wheeling a wheelbarrow across their field. Being ever the opportunist, I walked around that way in the hope of paying obeisance to said Lady in person.

I wasn’t to be. The Little Princess was in evidence, frolicking around the same field, but the only evidence of the Lady’s presence was a mere hint of black hair floating briefly across the inner courtyard of the Forbidden City. This is a place to which the raggle-taggle peasantry of my ilk are not permitted without explicit invitation, and so I wended my lonely way homeward.

The Power of Three.

Some sights have to be seen to be appreciated; description won’t really do. Nevertheless, it’ll have to in this case because it’s all I have.

The western sky at twilight this evening showed me something I’ve never seen before. Venus, Jupiter and the new moon sat close together forming a triangle, long before the sky was dark enough for other stars to be visible. So startlingly brilliant were they that they might have been embroidered in silver silk on a magician’s royal blue gown. And they sat high, dominating even the petrol blue and hot orange of the sunset hugging the horizon. When I went out for my walk later, they’d sunk a little lower and occupied a dark space in the dark sky, holding court before the myriad lesser stars of the firmament.

And there they hung in splendid harmony, the three brightest bodies in the night sky: The Beautiful One, the Sage, and the Weaver of Dreams. A most compelling triumvirate, you must admit.

This has to bode something, doesn’t it? But what, and for whom, I have no idea. What I do know is that the current run of negative circumstances has had me in a troubled mood today, but seeing this magnificent threesome gave me quite a lift.

My Sort of Girlie Pics.

If you have a mere two minutes to spare, this is my antidote to Playboy Magazine. It's also my kind of music. Watch and listen or don't, as you choose.

But please know that I am not the chauvinist some people seem to think I am; neither am I a misogynist, as has been suggested once or twice. My attitude to women and the whole gender issue is unconventional. To the feminine principle it is highly respectful, regarding it as naturally superior to the masculine, and that sensibility inevitably colours my view of the individual.

But the problem with standing outside the tram lines is that your words get filtered and distorted when they pass back through the veil. Meaning is lost in the maelstrom of conformist reaction, be it conservative, liberal or merely contemporary. And you may well ask how I define the feminine and masculine principles anyway. Quite.

I judge as I must, but I try hard not be judgemental. There's a subtle difference.

And it really doesn't matter, since I really don't matter.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

That Special Something.

I met another Sarah today, a friendly, talkative one who lives at the bottom of the lane near the pub. She’s older than M’Lady – more urbane, more extrovert I would say, and there appeared to be nothing remotely strange about her. We talked for quite some time in the warm sunshine of an unseasonably spring-like March day. As far as I recall, the conversation was mostly about pernicious weeds, Canada, bears, and a shared interest in Oxfordshire. It passed a pleasant half hour; and to round it off, she touched my arm. Well, fancy that.

So do I now have to write about Sarahs 1 and 2?

No. Let it be irrevocably stated here that there is only one Sarah.

Today's Two Personal Lessons.

1) Never invest a living space with the emotionally-charged status of ‘home,’ since nowhere is safe.

2) Avoid associating with women except on a familial or superficial level.

You don’t want the long versions, do you? I couldn’t be bothered to give them even if you did.

On second thoughts, there is one exception to item (2.) Probably.

A Limited Medium.

It’s occurred to me a lot over the last few years just how limited the written word is as a medium of communication. Even in the most skilled hands, it can’t hold a candle to direct personal contact when it comes to expressing the more rarefied subtleties.

So what does this say about our understanding of history, when we only have the written word to go on? Good, maybe, but it could be better.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Blind Leading the Blind.

The government in Britain is proposing to introduce a minimum price of 40p a unit for alcoholic drinks. They say it’s to drive the scourge of binge drinking off the streets.

Well now, hang on a minute. The scourge to which the government is referring is the prolific practice among young people of getting well tanked up in town centre bars into the early hours of the morning, and then staggering around the place behaving in a way that is somewhat short of decorous. The problem here is that the price of drinks in pubs and bars is already considerably higher than 40p a unit, so I’m not sure how they think it’s going to make a difference.

And then there’s the more obvious point. Does this bunch of naïve, out-of-touch airheads who currently pass for a government really believe that young people will forego their most favoured form of recreation even if the price of drinks did go up a bit? No; they’ll just grumble and pay the higher price.

I suspect, however, that the government is not being quite so airheaded as they might seem. I suspect they know full well that it won’t make any difference, but are indulging in the usual knee jerk reaction in order to persuade the naïve, airheaded denizens of middle England that the men in suits are doing something about a problem which said denizens find disturbing. Which, of course, they’re not.

What this proposed minimum price would do, however, is make it that much more difficult for poorer people to drink quietly and cheaply at home. That figures, since the present government appears to be on a crusade to make life more difficult for poorer people. Ex public schoolboys brought up in the Thatcher era don’t, I strongly suspect, have a lot of time for poorer people, so I suppose it’s understandable.

Being the VSP.

As I was walking past my garage at dusk this evening, I spoke to my car as I always do.

‘Night, night, Mr Renault,’ I said cheerily. ‘See you in the morning.’

And then I heard the sound of footfalls on the lane, the other side of my tall privet hedge. A young woman was walking past with a dog, and she gave me a quizzical look. She walked on a few more paces, and then turned to look at me again. (That makes two double takes in one week.) This should go some way to cementing my reputation as the Village Strange Person.

‘Ere, you know that bloke who lives at Merrybower?’

‘The ugly one who limps sometimes?’

‘That’s the one.’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, I heard him talking to his car tonight.’

‘Really?’

‘Yup.’

‘Well there you are, then. I always said he was a Very Strange Person.’

I don’t think anybody’s heard me talking to the trees, the bunnies, or the bats yet. But I expect they will one day.

The Rostonville Horror.

I just noticed that there appeared to be water lying behind the overflow bypass at the top of the sink in the bathroom. I tested it by filling the sink to see whether the overflow was free. It wasn’t, so I put some chemical drain cleaner in.

I soon wished I hadn’t. The cleaner obviously reacted with whatever is causing the blockage, and soon there was black, slimy gunge flowing out of the overflow and into the sink. It looked and smelt disgusting, and the smell is now permeating the whole house.

So where does this sort of thing happen? In 70s-style horror films, that’s where. If black slimy mud starts running down the stairs, I just might let you know before I vacate the house and seek refuge at a motel.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Advocating Caution.

The recent terrible events in Toulouse naturally evoke horror and great sympathy, but they also provoke questions and tempt the formation of opinions. I mustn’t do that because I’m not sufficiently well acquainted with the facts, and so I must refrain from even the suggestion of a comment relating specifically to the circumstances.

There is, however, one general point that can and should be made:

Being anti-Israeli is not the same thing as being anti-Semitic. One might follow from the other, but not necessarily. This is something Mr Netanyahu should bear mind before he opens his mouth to utter premature and overly simplistic judgements.

Two Little Oddities.

I said earlier that my blog is eerily deserted today. Well, so it has remained. According to all the stats trackers, it’s had only about 10% of the number of visitors it’s usually had by this time of the day. One expects a certain amount of fluctuation, but not by that much. And so I’m wondering whether there’s an accessibility problem going on. Google changed all the blogger addresses recently, changing the .com suffixes to country or regional ones. Mine is now.co.uk, and it would be typical of Google to make changes and leave a load of problems littering their wake.

So, if anybody’s had difficulty accessing my blog, would you please let me know whenever you can so that I can have a moan at Google. It won’t be the first time.

*  *  *

I was passed in Mill Lane tonight by a suspicious vehicle. It was an old Land Rover with an apparently open roof, because there was the head and torso of a person up above roof level and carrying a red lantern. It was travelling slowly and would stop every so often, at which point the roof sitter would shine the lantern around. This is the second time I’ve seen it, so what’s that all about?

The It Girl and Dave.

I’ve mentioned Victoria Coren on this blog before. She has it – you know, It, that certain something which is far more than mere sex appeal. It’s a combination of looks, personality, wit, intelligence, body language –especially from the eyes – and other things that would be difficult to identify.

Well, it appears that dear Vicky is to marry David Mitchell, who is, in my opinion, easily the funniest and most incisive of the country’s ranters. (He's better than me. Ahem.) He’s also a more than adequate comedy actor. So good luck to you Dave, old lad. My hopes of spending a quiet weekend on some deserted tropical island with the lovely V have now been irrevocably dashed, but for you, mate...

I would love to be a fly on the wall when you argue, though. Your arguments are going to be good.

*  *  *

My blog is eerily deserted today. I wonder why.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Dusting Off the Thunderbirds Puppets.

I saw the trailer for the latest episode of Suits tonight, and do you know what? Sitting there among all those plastic puppets with their nylon hair, PVC teeth, synthetic, all-in-one outfits and Thunderbirds Are Go expressions, was a beautiful red headed girl who looked human. She really did. She was being yelled at by one of the puppets and looked upset, poor thing. I didn’t have the sound on at the time, but I suspect the real reason for her distress had little to do with being yelled at by a puppet. I think it might rather have been due to her sudden realisation that landing a part in Suits is even worse than being captured by the Borg.

Straddling the Generations.

I watched a TV programme earlier – a selection of clips from the archives of a chart music show that was big when I was in my teens. I found my consciousness splitting: one half went off to be a teenager again, re-living the senses, the perceptions, the images, even the smells associated with the teenage me. The other half stood aside and observed with mild amusement. It was like being my own parent and my own child at the same time.

Commentary on the Shopping Trip.

You know how you can tell the difference between a casual glance in your direction and a pointed stare? Well, in Ashbourne today, five different women pointedly stared at me. Why did they do that? I don’t know. One went so far as to smile as though she knew me, while a second did a double take (that was the worrying one.) The other three simply did a ‘what the hell is it?’ stare. I consulted my reflection in a shop window, but could see nothing unusual or amiss. Presumably, the five women could. Hey, ho.

*  *  *

I went into the health food shop, swallowed hard and bought the Ashwagandha. I explained to the two women assistants that I was concerned about the possible libidinous complications, and agreed to buy the stuff in return for their undertaking to appear as witnesses for the defence should any legal proceedings be precipitated. They smiled, which I took as concurrence.

*  *  *

Then I went to the DIY and Garden Centre to get a plant for an empty spot in my garden. The shop is on a small, modern retail park where all the doors are electric. The first one opened as I approached; the second one opened as I approached; the barrier gates opened as I approached. I didn’t have to check my stride one iota, and it was then that I became consumed with irritation. I very nearly yelled at the gates: ‘Will you please stop being so bloody servile!’

Where was the voice message that says ‘I’m so glad to have been of service to you, and I really, really hope you enjoy your shopping. If anything should cause you the least irritation, please feel free to kick me.’ Why don’t they have a big dummy standing there that tugs its forelock and bows as you walk past? I hate that sort of thing. I do.

I didn’t yell. I held myself back. Maybe next time, when I’m even madder than I am already.

Feeling the Difference.

When I first went outside this morning I was struck by a sense of something different. Even though it’s no warmer than it was yesterday, there was a feel and smell about the air that said spring. And, coincidentally, the wood pigeons were calling from all directions.

I wonder whether it has anything to do with the fact that the equinox occurred yesterday morning, so today is the first full day of the new season. That fact only occurred to me later. Could it be evidence of a growing attunement to the natural cycles? It would be nice to think so.

Seeing the Grail.

Today I had to shift my consciousness back into that world from which I would prefer to stand one step removed: the world of mortal man, the world without magic or imagination, the world between the tram lines. There were financial matters to be dealt with, procedures to re-arrange, phone calls to make and take, and preliminary spring gardening work to do.

Shifting back isn’t coming easily, which is a shame because I seem to be in at least partial respite from the fatigue problem at the moment. I’m up and raring to make a whizzo blog post. But I can’t think of anything to talk about except the tram line stuff, and I’ve no great desire to do that. There is, however, one gleaming jewel shining forth among, and transcending, all that dull stuff.

I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for all my life.

This has the gravitas of the Grail quest about it, but there would be no point trying to explain since it would be incomprehensible to all but those truly in the know – and there are only two of us. What might be of general interest is this:

Having found what I’ve been looking for all my life, I’m quite unable to take possession of it – yet. I can see it clearly enough, but only across a temporal and physical divide. I can engage with it up to a point, and even venerate it, but I can’t hold it in my hands – yet.

This is not a one life issue. One life is but a drop in the ocean of illusory time and so it causes no dismay, only the recognition of a bigger picture. I’m content with that.

Me? Content? Seems like it, and tomorrow I might even get back to normal.

And, by the way, this is my 2,500th post. A little milestone.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

You Failed, America.

I spit on thee, America. I send elephants from India to defecate mightily on the White House lawn. I send monkeys from Madagascar to scale Mount Rushmore, urinating down every God-forsaken nose. I send polar bears from the Arctic wastes to scare the living daylights out of your pampered poodles, and students from London, Ontario to vomit gallons of half-digested Guinness on the manicured green spaces of Beverly Hills.

You let Cameron out. How could you do that to me?

Having a Day Off.

Yesterday was one of those difficult days characterised by a continuous succession of frustrations, irritations, delays, minor misfortunes, precious people being absent, and things breaking. It started with the first phone call in the morning and continued until bed time. Can you believe this: the last thing I do before going to bed is clean my teeth. In the process of so doing, the broken molar that has been repaired twice broke again. While I’m cleaning my teeth?!  That has to be Lady Fate taking the piss, doesn’t it?

Such days happen, I know, but that’s why I wasn’t regaling cyberspace with outcries and asides yesterday. I wasn’t in the mood. Still aren’t, really, but a chap can only stay silent for so long.

Monday, 19 March 2012

There Goes Another Illusion.

As a kid I loved historical epic films, and my stand-out favourite was El Cid.

‘If you cannot help me live, Jimena, you must help me die.’

Yeah! Great stuff. (Actually, I remember disliking that bit, but it’s the one quotation I remember so it must have had some sort of impact. I also remember finding the evil, scheming Queen Urraca infinitely more beautiful than the saintly heroine, Jimena, but that’s just me.)

So, anyway...

Tonight, all these years on and all those battles of my own fought in the interim, I finally got around to googling El Cid to get the real story. And do you know what? His full title was El Cid Campeador, which is Spanish for ‘Sidney the gay bullfighter.’

Bit of a let down, that.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Risking the Elixir.

I’ve decided to get some ashwaghanda the next time I go into town, and trust that no libidinous complications ensue. Hopefully, any side effects will be easier to handle:

I’ll get some ashwaghanda said
Old JJ to himself
Perhaps more rum
I’ll then become
Or turn into an elf

(One of these days I’m going to start talking like Rupert Bear. It’ll be OK as long as I don’t find myself wearing yellow check trousers.)

No doubt M’Lady will be the first to inform me should any disturbing changes become evident. That’s if she’s still around, of course. The Abode of S looked depressingly unoccupied again tonight.

Notes on the Night Sky.

God’s obviously been painting something silver using a roller. There are millions and millions of tiny paint splashes all over the sky.

But, the big news:

Tonight, for the first time in my whole life, I saw two shooting stars within a few seconds of one another. They couldn’t have been part of a meteor shower because one came from my right and was moving south, the other came over my head moving south west.

And I was right about Venus and Jupiter changing relative position. The brilliant, beautiful lady is now almost directly above the bringer of wisdom. He used to be the only star in the firmament she didn’t dominate. He isn't any more.

Should I be reading omens into all this?

Educational Goodbyes.

I recently had to let go of somebody who was, and remains, more than precious. I had to do so in order that she could follow her own road without interference or hindrance from me, and also, I have to admit, to save myself a lot of pointless suffering.

It was an interesting experience, both enervating and energising at the same time. It was like being cut down and then lifted up horizontally. The obvious analogy would be that of a wheat stalk being harvested so as to complete its purpose.

I had to do this once before, several years ago, but that was easier. It was a gentler, more gradual process; the person involved made it so. That was a rehearsal, I suppose; the latest episode was more like a first night performance.

OK, Mr Director – been there and done that now. Any chance of an easier scene next?

Abandoning the Post.

How many times do I start writing a blog post, only to realise that I’m opening a topic which is far too big and complex for such a restricted medium? Today’s example began:

‘It only really sunk in today that the despoilment of the natural environment began when humans started farming.’

I followed it through in my mind and ended up falling into that bottomless pit:

‘Why are we here?’

So forget that one.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Them Handsome Irishmen.

Since it's still just about St Paddy's Day, I thought I'd post a picture of dear old Shane (as somebody who uploaded a song to YouTube billed him: 'Shane McGowan and the Popes.' Er...) I'm sure he won't mind.


I only discovered tonight that he it was who wrote the song Aisling:

Fare thee well me black haired diamond
Fare thee well me own Aisling

I've decided that can be Melanie's song.

Dark by name and hair and nature
A truly, dearly, darkly crayture.

That was my heavily contrived attempt at doing an Irish accent in writing! (And finding something to rhyme with 'nature.') Sorry Mel. It's the thought that counts.

It is the thought that counts, isn't it?

Fearing the Wrath of the Mistress.

I’m agitated again, but only because I’m trembling with trepidation. The problem is that I’ve only written two blog posts since the last time the Mistress of Mill Lane graced me with a visit. I say ‘graced,’ but it’s really a matter of keeping the peasant stock on a tight rein. If I don’t make at least five posts a day, she yells at me.

‘Where’s my bed time reading?’ she shrieks through a pair of blazing eyes set in a visage terrible, reddened and fearsome with the blood of anger. ‘Write!’ she commands. And then she calls me names like ‘great flake of festering fishcake’ and ‘pathetic slop from a slimy slurry pit.’ She’s endlessly inventive with her insults, and devastatingly creative with her alliterative acumen.

The real nasty, though, is the thing she hits me with. I don’t know what it is, but it’s heavy and wet. She stands behind me and aims for my right ear; and then I feel the shockwave, reel under the blinding headache, and slump sickened over my desk to the echo of something going ‘slosh.’ And ‘slosh’ again.

And then she cackles... ’Tis a terrible, enervating sound that has me longing to be swathed in chains and cast into the deepest of the dark dungeons without sustenance. It is at least quiet down there, and merely cold.

Until the next time I fail...

Another Step Along the Wrong Road.

Let me say at the outset that having an affair with a married woman is generally a bad thing. In fact, depending on the attitude and sensibilities of the woman’s husband, it can be a supremely bad thing. Extreme suffering has been known to ensue. Violence has been known to ensue. Even murders and suicides have been known to ensue. Unless the relationship between said woman and her husband is emotionally and practically defunct, I disapprove most strongly of having affairs with married women.

Perversely, however, it used to have one thing to ‘commend’ it. It was clandestine; it was difficult to achieve; it carried risk; it was, therefore, exciting. It appears that this is something else the drive for commercial opportunity is trying to destroy. There are now dating sites specifically designed to provide men with married women to have affairs with. Isn’t this negating the very impetus that drives some men to want affairs with married women?

And so the world continues to grow sadder. Whether you see this latest example as a dilution of standards, or whether you see it as yet another move towards painting the world grey, it isn’t very good, is it?

Bloody Google!

I’m agitated.

Again?

Yes, again. Go away.

I’ve just spent ages re-setting things that had gone haywire in my blog. I don’t know whether it was Google who screwed up or my computer, but since nothing else seems to have got itself out of kilter, I’m assuming it was Google. One of the most irritating problems stemmed from joining the forum group so I could ask a question (you didn’t used to have to join anything to ask a question, but that’s Google for you these days.) The problem was that I inadvertently ticked the wrong e-mail option, and ended up having my Googlemail inbox inundated with every single post to every single bloody discussion topic! They were coming in at the rate of about thirty an hour. Ms Pixie Pomfret Cake from San Remo, for example, was having trouble with her followers. Well, with a name like that, you would, wouldn’t you? Actually, I’m having trouble with my followers, too. By default, as it were. They’ve disappeared.

Never mind. The wrong settings have now been re-set and everything seems to be working again (except the missing followers, which is definitely Google’s fault – they’ve admitted it.)

So I’m agitated. Google seems to be cracking up and I’m one of its many victims. I came to within a whisker of changing to Wordpress tonight, but cooled off once I’d got things sorted. One day, perhaps.

Grrr and goodnight.

Friday, 16 March 2012

A Difficult Admission and Visiting M'Lady.

This is the empty part of the day when I should be writing blog posts. The problem is that I’ve been experiencing a sense of inner conflict ever since I watched a documentary earlier about the Falklands War, this year being the thirtieth anniversary.

There’s something about the subject of war that shakes me up. All the forces of higher consciousness tell me that war is a hideous and unforgivable business, beyond which the human race should have moved by now. And so I truly believe – absolutely. And yet somewhere deep inside is a primeval instinct that remains fascinated by the idea of playing a game for the ultimate stakes. It seems the warrior mentality isn’t quite dead yet, and I suppose that’s what the politicians rely on when they send young men off to butcher and be butchered.

*  *  *

To take my mind off it, I think I’ll write an e-mail to Sarah. Tomorrow is her birthday, you see, and so I’ll write it now but send it after she’s gone to bed. That’ll be like playing Santa Claus, won’t it? That’s much nicer. And I do hope their chimney’s been swept.

So What About the Rest of Today?

My horoscope in the TV listings magazine (which I read about twice a year when I’m especially bored) said I’m on top form this week. Nothing stands in my way; every difficulty is seen as an opportunity for advancement. Sounds good, eh?

I think my mother must have got the dates mixed up when she told me what day I was born.

So then I heard myself having the following conversation with somebody:

‘I’m a fraud, you know.’

‘Why?’

‘I’m not human.’

‘In what way?’

‘I’m actually a formless alien being from somewhere on the other side of the galaxy, just occupying this body for a while.’

‘Aren’t we all?’

‘Are we? Oh, right. That’s good. If I stop pretending, will you?’

All sorted. Ah, but then dear old Blackadder has to jump in with a clip from one of his best scenes:

‘You’re not... er... mad, are you?’

‘Yes, I’m very mad, thank you.’

I think it could be one of those days.

Paying for Nothing.

The issue of celebrity product endorsement is a bit odd, isn’t it? A company goes to a celebrity and pays him or her a crazy amount of money for doing nothing more than allowing his or her name to be used on the packaging and POS displays. As a result, enough extra people buy the product to enable the company to not only recoup the crazy amount of money they paid to the celebrity, but also make extra profit for themselves. What a damn silly way to conduct a culture. And it isn’t surprising that I purposefully avoid buying anything with a celebrity endorsement attached to it because I know that, if I did, I would be paying more for the product than it’s worth.

Sense at last.

Seeing Through the Rulers, Maybe.

I have a nagging suspicion that those who pursue the drive to rule others are, in so doing, expressing some deep seated insecurity. I have reasons for thinking as much, both observational and from personal experience.

If I’m right, it would seem that all those infamous, self-made historical tyrants – Alexander, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Margaret Thatcher – were actually deeply insecure people. And I suppose the great granddaddy of them all would have to be God. Ah... but... God, as the concept is usually perceived, probably doesn’t exist, so that would say something about people’s need to be ruled, wouldn't it?

Next question.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Notes on the Walk and a Recollection.

The first thing I did when I set off down the lane tonight was have a small sneezing fit. It was caused by the imminent change in the weather, no doubt. It’s set to turn colder, windier and wetter here, and that sort of change always affects the upper part of my body in one way or another. In the process, I realised why I hate sneezing so much: it’s the fact that it doesn’t give you a choice.

*  *  *

There’s a big village not far from here – 3½ miles by road, about 2 miles across the landscape. It has street lamps and a minor league football ground with floodlights, which were on tonight. Together they lit up the misty atmosphere to quite a height, and the glowing atmosphere infused the road surface and verges with an eerie glow of their own. The night continues to surprise me with its many moods.

*  *  *

The lighting at M’Lady’s abode was super little-and-low tonight. Maybe they’re all out carousing somewhere. Maybe they’ll wake me up when they roll back at four o’clock in the morning, hooting horns and singing ‘Ten Green Bottles Standing on a Wall.’ I think I just went through a time warp.

*  *  *

I remembered while I was walking that it’s the Ides of March today. I remembered 15th March 1995; it was the night I ‘lost’ Sheona McCormack. It snowed heavily that night, and after the snow softened to near-slush, the temperature plummeted and the slush turned to cratered ice. I walked Sheona home at 4am, trying to tread carefully because every footfall sounded like the report of a shotgun and I was concerned about disturbing the neighbours. The full moon was at her brilliant best in the clear night sky. Sheona stopped to admire it. I wasn’t in the mood.

Admitting a Failing.

Two of the lines I most like quoting at appropriate moments are:

1) Manuel’s line from Fawlty Towers (when the major thinks it’s the moose’s head that’s talking:)

‘I can speak English. I learnt it from a book.’

2) Count Dracula’s line from the old Universal Studios classic:

‘Ah, the children of the night. What music they make.’

The problem is this: Manuel is supposed to be Spanish, and Bela Lugosi was Hungarian, but when I quote their lines the accent sounds pretty much the same. Which isn’t very good, is it?

And I can’t do American – Bronx, Deep South, west coast, or any other – for toffee. The only accents I can make a passable stab at are Lancashire, Welsh and French. Which is a bit odd.

Adrift at 1.15am.

My internet went down at 1.15 this morning, which isn’t a good time for my internet to go down. 1.15am is when the internet becomes the umbilical cord keeping me attached to the material world. To suggest another analogy, it’s the security wire that keeps me tethered to the spaceship while I’m out in the coldness of space looking back. Life can be lonely at 1.15am, and having the security wire break is a little bothersome. I went to bed earlier than usual with a nagging sense that there was something important missing.

All of which is just something else to observe on the little journey of life. Do you know, I’ve only had broadband for just over two years. Before that I used the internet for little other than e-mail, since dial-up connections are very expensive. Before that, I didn’t even know how the internet worked, and before that – for the majority of my life, in fact – there was no internet.

How life does move on, always providing something new to cock your head at and say ‘gosh, isn’t that interesting?’

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Decisions.

I think I saw M’Lady S this morning. Two women were riding up the lane on bikes just as I was about to drive off to the town. (Two women on bikes usually includes Sarah, you understand. We don’t really do variation in this part of the world.)

I thought of indicating once, to look like a wink, but decided it would be presumptuous. Then I thought of setting the hazards going just once to suggest a blink, but that seemed somehow uncouth. (Don’t ask me why.) So I drove off unrequited on my quest for ashwagandha. And look where that got me!

Life’s tough sometimes.