Monday, 30 April 2012

Advertising and Self-Image.

In order to attract their target consumers, advertisers use images with which they think those consumers associate or to which they aspire. So what’s going on with this advert for ‘low cost’ life insurance that’s proliferating everywhere I look?

They use three head shots of people – a middle aged man, a middle aged woman and a child. Every one of them is made up and photographed to look ugly, ordinary, characterless and utterly dependent.

So, my first question is: why on earth would I want to associate with such an image? But, of course, the real question is this. Do these pictures accurately represent the self-image of the average low cost life insurance customer?

It’s difficult to write a closing sentence to this post. Let’s just say that I find the questions interesting, especially the second one.

Today's Lesson?

The morning has been one of frustration, disappointment and disturbance. This is happening a lot lately, and if there’s a lesson to be taken, it would appear to be:

Relinquish control. Sow a thousand seeds, but have no expectations. If one of them grows, accept it with equanimity; not as the gift of some nameless God, but as random rain falling from the clouds of time. Make the effort and be content with the consequences.

Can I do this? I’ve had no practice, dammit. It isn’t how we’re brought up to see things, is it?

Life Revisited - A Personal Note to Myself.

Circumstances just caused me to be reminded that the beautiful and brave Zoe Mintz of Bronx, New York inspired some of my very best blog posts. I re-read a few of them and could hardly believe that they came from my usually only passable fingers.

She inspired a lot of things in me – some good, some bad, but all enlightening. I hope she knows that her passion was precious, and her self-deprecation unwarranted. I hope she is continuing to make a difference to the lives of the impoverished, as she did to mine. I hope that fortune is smiling on her. I hope she knows how much I value the little piece of life she gave me. And I hope she knows that she won’t be forgotten.

A Minor Aside.

I think I must be getting better. I’ve started doing the getting-the-beer-bottle-to-hang-off-my-upper-lip-and-then-making-it-squeek-when-I-take-it-off thing again.

Is This Allowed?

I’m not at all sure that this is politically correct, but it jumped in there and demanded to be risked. So I’ll risk it. Besides, today could use a bit of levity.

There was a young girl from Bombay
Who declared to her mother one day:
‘Though my skin tone be bluish
I could swear that I’m Jewish
I keep belching and saying oy vey’

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Trying to Lighten Up.

My posts have all been a bit serious and miserable today, haven’t they? I was going to think of a joke or funny anecdote while I was out walking tonight, but I was too consumed with concern for the Lady Bella’s troubles, the beauty of the first quarter moon, the majesty of Venus, and the seductive splashing of water running from farmer Sillitoe’s land drain.

The nearest I came to a joke was what I saw in the mirror when I got home, and I take enough hassle over that from my pals Badger, Ratty and Mole as it is.

The Great Commercial Non Sequitor.

Back in the late 80s/early 90s, Britain was in the grip of the BSE scare (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, if you think it would help to know.) It became colloquially known as Mad Cow Disease, because cows were behaving like lunatics before being put down to save them further suffering. This raised the obvious question:

‘Is there any danger of humans catching it through eating infected beef?’

Panic flared among the vested interest groups. ‘No,’ said the farmers. ‘No,’ said the meat industry. ‘No,’ said the government and its scientists (we had a Tory government at the time, and farmers generally vote Tory.) And the reason they gave was:

‘There is no evidence that BSE can cross the species barrier from cows to humans, so beef is safe to eat.’

I was a meat eater then, and my first thought was ‘Hang on a bit, this is the classic commercial non sequitor, and a damn dangerous one at that. They’re not saying there’s any proof that the disease can’t cross the species barrier, only that there’s no evidence (yet) that it can. It doesn’t follow that it must be safe to eat beef.’

It was also revealed that cows had caught the disease by eating feed contaminated with scrapie, the ovine form of BSE, so a second question occurred to me. ‘If the disease can cross the species barrier from one mammal (the sheep) to another mammal (the cow,) why can’t it cross to the human being? We’re just another mammal, surely.’

An independent scientist appeared several times on the TV, expressing exactly the same concerns as mine and urging people to leave beef off the plate until the facts were properly established. ‘No,’ said the farmers. ‘No,’ said the meat industry. ‘No,’ said the government and its scientists. ‘There is no evidence etc, etc... It is perfectly safe to eat beef. You must continue eating beef.’ (They began to sound a bit like Daleks.) We even had the disturbing spectacle of a government minister force feeding his young daughter with a beef burger, just to leave us in no doubt.

I was left in doubt, and began exercising caution. A few years later, the PM stood up in parliament and said:

‘Er, sorry about this, but we’ve discovered a new disease in people. It’s called new variant CJD, and it’s been proved to have come from eating infected beef.’

Oh.

They did this with thalidomide, they did it with DDT, and then they did it with BSE. Despite living in a culture becoming so manically obsessed with risk avoidance that it’s virtually illegal to tie your shoe laces without first sitting down, the Establishment is prone to taking a very different view when there’s money involved. Then the message is drummed home hard: ‘Do it, do it, do it until we’ve proved beyond doubt that it’s dangerous.’

Now they’re doing it with mobile phones. I heard it again only the other day: ‘We don’t accept that there’s sufficient evidence to indicate that mobile phone use can be harmful to the brain.’ There’s that classic commercial non sequitor again, and there’s very big money tied up in mobile phones.

If I were a prolific mobile phone user, I would be taking steps to cut down drastically because I would be suspecting that one of these days we’re going to have another ‘Oh’ moment. It’s how these things work.

A Plea to the Powers.

The weather’s a bit unpleasant today – cold, wet and windy. Tomorrow will be Beltane Eve, so if there are any beings out there who can influence things, I’m wondering whether you might just arrange for it to be dry and a little less windy. I want to have a Beltane fire tomorrow night at dusk, and it matters, you know? It would be nice to have it in a modest state of comfort.

With thanks.

Oh, and while I'm on the line, being afforded the company of the right companion would be an extra bonus. But I suppose that's asking a bit too much. Good weather will do, if you'd be so kind.

Warranted Pessimism.

Britain is currently shivering slightly in difficult economic times (and we Brits are the world’s best at understatement.) Unemployment rates are at record or near-record levels, welfare is being cut back, public services are being cut back, and we’ve been told that we must all tighten our belts because we’re all in this together.

Meanwhile, the latest survey shows that the richest thousand people in Britain saw their wealth rise by 4.7% in the past year. Will those thousand people, I wonder, use some of that wealth to create jobs and lift the situation back up to a more tolerable level? No, of course they won’t. That would smack of social responsibility; it might even be deemed altruistic. Heaven forbid that the entrepreneur should use such disreputable language. What they will do is seek to make yet more job cuts in their own businesses if such a move would increase profitability. They’ll even blame the recession for so doing, and they’ll become personally richer in the process. It’s what the banks have been doing for the past thirty years.

That’s how a free market economy works. That’s the cutting edge of the narrow capitalist mindset. That’s why even some American economists are saying that the American Dream was always a fallacy, callously engineered to hoodwink the American public into working hard to create a few Donald Trumps. Now we in Britain have caught the disease, courtesy of Thatcher and Blair with their ‘greed is good’ mentality. And I don’t see any way back until the boom and bust rollercoaster finally comes to the end of the rails and we go into major economic meltdown.

For the sake of the young people, I truly, truly, hope I’m wrong.

A Late Gale.

There are two sycamore trees at the bottom of my garden which frame the view across the valley. The one on the right is slightly the smaller of the two, but always comes into leaf first and is a primary harbinger of the burgeoning spring. Its leaves, though small, are now fully open and it looks very beautiful.

But the wind is gusting to gale force today – has been all night – and the small, fresh green leaves are falling like the snow of winter. My garden is littered with unfulfilled promise, and I find that a bit sad.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Politicians with Painted Faces.

The row in Britain over the new High Speed Rail Link went into clown territory today. Replying to concerns over the loss of woodland, the Transport Minister said that it needn’t be a problem because the woods could simply be moved. Environmentalists were clearly so stunned that they could offer little in reply other than ‘Er... you can’t do that...’

Cameron’s government is making such a habit of uttering the most staggeringly inept statements lately that they’re becoming quite a side show. If they weren’t pretending to run the country, we could have a good laugh at them. Unfortunately, they are.

Questioning the Value of Choice.

I just watched part of a TV programme in which all the contributors were unanimous in their support of one of the uncontested axioms of modern times:  that in certain areas of life – home entertainment was the one most frequently cited – the greatness of modern technology is that it gives us choice, choice to have whatever we want, precisely when we want it.

Well of course it is. Or is it? Let me put the simple question:

Which gives you the greater thrill: getting that train set you always wanted, beautifully gift-wrapped on Christmas morning, or being able to go out and get a train set whenever you want?

I’ve long held the nagging suspicion that the provision of endless choice, so strongly promoted in the modern world, is one of the things that’s making it all so damn plastic and boring because it takes away the thrill of the gift and the magic of the unexpected.

I remember making sure I was at home at a certain time on Saturday night to watch the latest episode of The Avengers. It was the only way to see it, so anticipating the moment when the music would start and the titles roll was very much part of the thrill. Now that it’s available on DVD to watch whenever I want, it’s become ordinary and I can’t be bothered.

A Difficult Choice.

There was a little dead bird on the road earlier, obviously squashed by the wheels of a vehicle. I gave it my best wishes and moved on. A few yards away there was another one, alive this time and looking very unsure of itself. It had the markings of a young robin and it was apparent that these two babies had fledged prematurely. I considered picking up the live one and taking it home. I wondered whether I could rear it successfully on oats and bird seed.

But then I remembered hearing that prematurely fledged birds should be left in situ, since the parents are aware of them and will continue to feed them. I turned around and saw an adult robin just a few feet away, apparently watching us. I walked off and saw the adult approach the baby.

Maybe I did the right thing; I hope so. Whether the little one will escape the attention of predators and the destructive indifference of traffic, I’ll probably never know. But I hope I did the right thing.

The Perils of Piecemeal Perception.

I just came across an advert for a computer program that enables employers to monitor their employee’s internet usage. Anybody, anywhere can buy it.

So, first things first: Anybody in any situation can make a case for being allowed to watch the activities of those in whom they believe themselves to have a legitimate interest. But that isn’t the big picture. It’s the piecemeal, fragmented picture. It’s like defining a jigsaw puzzle in terms of one piece. The big picture is this:

Western culture is becoming ever more obsessed with the surveillance mentality. Britain, for example, is said to have the greatest number of CCTV cameras per capita of any country in the world. I don’t know whether that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The damn things are everywhere. And now there are fresh proposals to allow the security services to monitor every private person’s e-mail correspondence.

Whenever individual examples of any kind of surveillance are contested, the answer is always along the lines of ‘we have a right to know this’ or ‘we’re doing this for your safety.’ This is the piecemeal approach, and it suits those with a vested interest in it because an individual piece of a jigsaw gives little clue as to what the whole picture looks like. They obviously don’t want people to see the whole picture; it doesn’t suit their purposes.

And so it goes on, bit by piecemeal bit, inexorably, hysterically, gradually bringing us closer and closer to the kind of society that Orwell envisaged as long ago as 1948. We’re getting there, and nobody is moving to stop it because nobody knows how to stop looking at each piece of a jigsaw in isolation.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1983, folks. Will anybody find a way to stop the clock?

Corporate Priorities.

I thought of making a long post about the $8m awarded to an Australian girl who was brain damaged and paralysed as a result of eating an infected KFC twister (whatever one of those is.) KFC say they are ‘deeply disappointed’ by the decision and intend to appeal (which means the family of the girl won’t see any money for God knows how many more years.)

I wondered whether KFC think a person’s life isn’t worth $8m. I wondered how much KFC pay their directors in salaries and bonuses. And I found KFC’s excuse that they were concerned for their ‘reputation’ sadly – very sadly – laughable.

I decided against making the long post. We all know what the fast food giants do to both people and animals, don’t we? So any further comment from me would surely be superfluous.

Letting the Side Down.

I caught the very end of one of my favourite films tonight – Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death.

Peter has just been given an extended lease of life by the celestial court, mainly by virtue of June’s willingness to sacrifice herself. He wakes up to see her smiling down at him.

‘Hello,’ he says. ‘Hello,’ she replies.

‘We won.’

‘I know.’

End.

At that point I fill up, thereby demonstrating just what an affront to the concept of masculinity I am. I put it down to having my moon in Pisces. If only I’d dropped in a couple of hours earlier or later, I might have been completely normal.

Or maybe it’s what comes of not having a woman around. It tends to scramble your concept of proper gender roles.

(I like gender roles, much to the chagrin of the feminists. I think there’s something organic about them.)

Friday, 27 April 2012

In Praise of the Herb.

I recently made frequent references on this blog to the problem I was having with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I also reported that dear Melanie of Anthropomorphica had recommended Ashwaghanda, and that I’d laid out the whole £15 for a two month supply.

Well, unless there’s an almighty coincidence going on, it seems to be working. The symptoms are coming less frequently, they’re less harsh, and they don’t last as long. So blessings upon the Melanie Ashton.

And there’s a bonus. The feared onset of increased libido did not – repeat, NOT – come to fruition, which was a relief. Better by far that dear old lib remain slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay, at least until some fairy princess comes along and mistakes me for a frog. And such an eventuality is unlikely to be enacted, since I’m not that good looking.

(I wonder whether a toad would fit the bill.)

Damn, Damn and Damn.

Earlier today I was feeling hot under the collar about damn bureaucrats, damn politicians, the damn corporate world and all the other damn bozos who are running the damn country. So I went for a walk and took the route that runs alongside the field where the sheep are.

I heard the different voices of the individual mothers, and watched the lambs racing to answer their calls. It made me smile, and smiling is damn fine therapy.

*  *  *

Did you know that there was outraged reaction among cinema goers when Clark Gable uttered the famous line ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn?’ It was considered quite a naughty word in those days, apparently.

And then Mrs Thatcher came along, which encouraged us all to become practiced in the use of rather stronger expletives.

A Red Mood and a Red Letter Day.

I had to call an official body today in a further attempt to sort out a problem. It’s one I have every year at this time (April 5th is the end of the tax year in Britain.)

I’ve been onto them twice already. I’ve sat through the menu options and irrelevant recorded announcements. I’ve talked to hidebound people who were less than helpful; and all of this is perfectly normal, I know, in these increasingly dysfunctional times.

Today I received some mail from them which didn’t solve the problem, so I steeled myself for a hell of an argument. There would have been well chosen words, I assure you, but I was still prepared for the unfortunate fact that even the best of words make little impression on brick walls.

The woman I spoke to had a nice voice. More than that, she was friendly and seemed clued up. I explained my problem calmly and carefully again, and guess what. She answered it without difficulty or hesitation. The problem no longer exists. How often does that happen these days?

I told her she was Blessed Among Women. They weren’t the exact words I used, but you get the picture. She should be in no doubt that she has earned the sincere approbation of at least one person today.

And my anger has dwindled. Which is good.

A Night of Things Invisible.

I dreamt that I was alone in a building that seemed to be a suite of offices. Everything was white and spotlessly clean – the walls, floors, furniture, everything, all except some items of indeterminate shape that blocked the passages between the furniture in places and had to be stepped over. They were grey, and reminded me of children’s play equipment.

I went to a higher floor where everything was also white, but there was no furniture; that part of the building looked unoccupied, and there were men walking around in those white, plastic scene-of-crime suits, complete with hoods. They seemed unaware of my presence. The white doors were all locked, and I sensed that there was something behind them that ‘we’ weren’t meant to know about. This was a place of dark, hidden secrets lurking behind a pristine exterior.

OK, so I’m paranoid. But then I woke up and needed a quick trip to the bathroom.

It was still dark, so I switched on the bedside lamp. It was ten past four, and I couldn’t understand why I felt cold. I still have winter weight bedding on my bed, and the last few nights I’ve been feeling a little too warm. I got out of bed to find the room uncommonly cold, which was odd because I still have the thermostatically controlled heater running in that room. I made the trip to the bathroom quickly, feeling all the time that there was something around – something unpleasant but with no power to threaten. I’ve had that feeling a few times in my bedroom. It’s woken me up once or twice, and I’ve clearly sensed where this ‘something’ stands: over in the corner by the wardrobe.

I got well under the sheets for warmth, and went back to sleep.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Another Post that Never Was.

I planned it all out you know, while I was out taking my nightly walk. It was going to be about how we live in a culture that’s becoming manically obsessed with risk avoidance – until there’s big money involved. Then it all changes. I had mobile phones and BSE in mind.

But since returning from the dark, damp lanes, I’ve been sidetracked by an issue involving something I shouldn't talk about. It’s one of those stories that is and isn’t funny, so now I’ve lost the thread.

Tomorrow, maybe.

A Little Thought.

While I was washing the dishes, it occurred to me that one of the fundamental Laws of Life states:

Noses are conditioned to itch only when both hands are occupied.

It's odd that this law doesn't seem to apply to any other part of the body.

Learning.

It seems to me that the process of learning falls more or less into two categories. There’s the focussed sort of learning that you get by listening to somebody else’s teaching, and then there’s the sort you pick up by walking your road and observing what you find. I generally prefer the latter.

Today's Big Discovery (so far...)

I was never a wearer of glasses until I started needing them for reading about ten years ago. I wear them, therefore, only for specific purposes. But this evening I went to check on the progress of the soup (pea and potato – yum) without taking them off, and do you know what I discovered?

If you lean over a pan of soup to smell it wearing glasses, they steam up. What a shock! What a lesson! What a dimbo!

Learning from the Question.

I had an e-mail tonight from somebody I haven’t corresponded with for a couple of years: Dr Leila Bawa, currently a GP in Fort William, Highlands Region. Leila is a rare and splendid person, so hearing from her was good.

But she asked me how I am (and note that ‘how’ is, coincidentally, an anagram of ‘who.’) Quite a question, that. How am I? Who am I? Mmm...

I thought about it and concocted a brief reply, and it made me realise something. For all that my life has seemed, on the surface at least, to have been the epitome of emptiness and tedium over the last two years, I’ve actually been taking quite an eventful inner journey. So it was probably all worth it.

Good; that’s that settled.

Night.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A Special Sound.

I’ve mentioned before how much I like the sound of running water in the darkness, and how there’s a deep drainage ditch near my house in which the water coming off the land splashes and gurgles after a period of rain. We’ve had a lot of rain today, and the water in the ditch was in good voice when I went out tonight.

I first became enamoured of the sound when I was working as a photographer. On one trip to the Lake District, I stayed at Glenridding Youth Hostel which stands alongside Red Tarn Beck. The dorm I used was on that side of the building, and I could hear the water babbling over the rocks before I went to sleep. The sound took a hold of me then, and it’s never relinquished its grip.

Tonight I took to wondering just what the reason is for my fascination. Is it, perhaps, a sense of mystery generated by the sound of unseen movement? Or is it that the energy of running water glows brighter in the darkness. I don’t know. Suggestions are invited.

When I got to M’Lady’s house, I found that the small gully running alongside their cottage was also in spate, so there was splashing and gurgling aplenty there, too. I liked that; it engendered a sense of connection, however fanciful, or even fantastical, it might have been.

Good Word, Bad Feeling.

It seems the Lady Bella and I have become estranged.

(Good word isn’t it, estranged? It puts me in mind of my favourite line from Waiting for Godot. It’s just one word: ‘Effulgent’ enunciated with reverence.)

Anyway, I’ve little doubt that the reason for M’Lady’s reluctance to associate with me is all my fault. Seriously; I’m sure it is.

But I do so miss her.

Another Plea to all Good Americans

Donald Trump has been lecturing the Scottish Parliament, trying to get them to see the error of their ways with regard to wind turbine development. He says they’re a waste of money because there’s no need to develop renewable energy sources. He says they’ll be economically counter-productive because they’ll do irreparable damage to the Scottish tourist industry. And we know why he’s getting all hot and bothered, don’t we?

It’s because he’s bought a big piece of the Scottish coast to develop a posh golf facility for rich people. It seems he doesn't have quite enough wealth yet, so he wants to trash a prime piece of wildlife habitat in order to get some more. And he’s got a problem with the fact that there’s a plan to build some offshore wind turbines that will take the edge off the view a bit. He says he’s going to suspend the development until the Scots come to their senses.

HOORAY!!!

I’m sure the majority of the Scottish Parliament are laughing their socks off at this piece-of-dung-in-an-expensive-suit, so hopefully we might see the back of him one day. But please, America, you let me down over Cameron; please don’t let me – and my fellow Brits – down over Trump. Take him back, would you, and put him where he belongs – in a freak show with the rest of the Tea Party faithful. Chain him to something immovable, but don’t throw the key away. Melt it down so there’s no danger of it ever being found.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Mutually Assured Destruction.

I see the Murdoch/News Corp scandal has reached the M.A.D. stage – ‘if I’m going down, you’re coming with me.’ So now there’s a senior politician up against the wall and the firing squad is in place, awaiting the word of command.

I like that. ‘Disgraced Tory minister’ has such a natural ring to it.

More Hints as to Who I Am.

I saw a man around the same age as me in the supermarket today. He struck me as being who I might have been had I fallen out with this culture rather earlier in life. As it was, we had little in common – at least on the surface.

He was well overweight, with long, greasy, grey hair and an untrimmed grey beard. He was wearing an old duffle coat and walking boots, and carried a huge backpack. Maybe it contained all his worldly possessions. He stood next to me in the gents and broke wind several times, and he didn’t wash his hands when he’d finished.

So, as I said...

*  *  *

On the way home the radio station played Jupiter, from Holst’s Planets Suite. Jupiter is my planetary ruler, and I love that piece. It’s the one that says ‘Shall I be serious or frivolous? Let’s try both’ and finishes on ‘What the hell? Let’s have fun.’ I turned the radio well up, and it finished just as I was pulling into my garage. It wouldn’t surprise me if they heard it as far away as Mill Lane. Sorry.

Questioning the Presumption.

I was thinking earlier about why so few black people listen to classical music. This has intrigued me for a long time, but I’m sure the answer is simple enough. Classical music, whatever its qualities, is inextricably linked with the dominance of white culture – and especially white high culture – going back to the ancient Greeks. And this is what troubles me.

Educationalists, politicians and other Establishment figures never stop telling black people that if they want to rise from the gutter and get out of the ghetto (and my choice of phrases is consciously intended to reflect Establishment attitudes,) they must study hard and gain the qualifications that mainstream education offers. Only by those means will they come to belong and, in the process, defeat racism.

This strikes me as awfully wrong because it pre-supposes that white culture is superior and black people must accept being marginalised until they embrace the fact. Isn’t it about time we moved beyond that position?

This principle was put to me some years ago when I worked for an inner city charity, and I didn’t fully get it then. I do now because it reminds me of why I’m marginalised. Telling black people that they must embrace white culture is like telling me that I must watch TV soaps and game shows if I want to belong. It’s partly why I don’t want to belong.  

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Getting Stuffed.

The need to use every night out as an excuse to spend money on prepared food is definitely a modern phenomenon. At one time people would go out to the pictures or the pub, or wherever, and then they’d go home. They might occasionally call for a cheap bag of chips on the way, but that was usually it.

Now it seems that wherever you go, you have to round off the evening by stuffing yourself full of fat, sugar and monosodium freggin’ glutamate. I swear this is going beyond a social convention and becoming a cultural neurosis.

I think I’m in a nadgy mood again. Actually, I know I am. I just counted five good reasons why.

Meeting a Man from the Motor Trade.

A new study in the UK indicates that parents are now choosing to take their children to free outdoor facilities like parks and so on, rather than buy them gadgets such as computer games. This is all to save money in these troubled times.

But there’s a problem, it seems: time. Parents don’t have the time they used to have because they’re all working long hours to give their children (and themselves) everything money can buy. Because that’s what’s important. Ironic, isn’t it?

Passing on the Gift.

I saw the new moon clear tonight when I walked down the lane, and remembered what the oracle said:

If you see the new moon clear, kiss the first person you see so that you may have a new dress.

The first, and only, person I saw was the teenage son of New House Farm. I decided I wasn’t all that bothered about having a new dress at the moment.

(And guess whose house looked unoccupied again tonight.)

 *  *  *

According to Google stats, the number of page views I've had since getting the tracker facility in July 2010 currently stands at exactly 35,000. I wonder whether I'll be blogging long enough to make the million.

Not as Easy as it Used to Be.

I finally received my new tenancy agreement today, so, suitably bolstered, I decided to start doing the photographs of the local sights. (I’m not sure whether to include myself in any of these shots. I’ve often been greeted with the exclamation ‘what a sight!’ but I don’t think that counts.)

Anyway, today was warm and dry with some sunshine, so off I trudged, heavily laden with my old bag of camera equipment and a tripod. I got to the first port of call and set everything up. And then I discovered that the camera wasn’t working. I need to cut a long story short here. The problem was with the little circular screw-in plate that covers the battery housing. Attempts to correct it only compounded the issue and I was forced to pick everything up and trudge home again to get tools to sort the damn thing out. (I was spitting expletives loudly at the bloody universe the whole way home!) And then I trudged all the way back to start doing what I’d originally started doing an hour earlier.

What was I saying about the day starting badly?

The rest of the shoot went OK, but I realised how glad I am that I didn’t have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the days when I did this sort of thing for a living. I would often walk ten or more miles in hill country in those days carrying that lot, and hardly give it a second thought. Today I did about two and I’m fit to drop.

*  *  *

In lighter vein:

I saw a cow playing with a pheasant today. At least, the cow was playing. The poor old pheasant was just trying to run away.

Starting the Day Badly.

I got up this morning to a most unpleasant sense of abandonment. I thought of telling the whole story as an allegory – the story of meeting a fellow misfit on the high road among the hills etc, etc – but decided against it. I’ve said enough wrong things for one week (or maybe it would be truer to suggest that I’ve said enough right things, but said them badly.)

The dogs have gone out for the day today, which means I can work in the garden free of being constantly warned off my own piece of ground by two lovable, but unduly territorial, canines. Since most of the morning has already gone, I suppose I’d better get on with it. Unfortunately, I’ve also fallen prey to an odd range of physical pains, which doesn’t bode well for the gardening. I think the CFS is letting me know that it isn’t easily so defeated. It seems to be one of the hazards of walking the high road among the hills.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Mill Lane and a Mangled Finger.

Whilst walking along Mill Lane tonight, my slightly fevered mind took me back to an incident at school when I was about nine. I trapped a finger nail rather badly and was taken away to be tended to. Only I wasn’t really tended to; I was simply given a seat in the area between the headmaster’s office and the staff room where I was to await transport home. I sat there patiently, looking down just once to see that the chair legs were standing in a pool of blood flowing freely from my injured finger.

The headmaster took on the job of driving me home. I assume some sort of dressing must have been applied because I don’t recall dripping blood on his upholstery, and I should think he would have insisted on such an eventuality being precluded anyway. What I do remember is feeling dizzy, feverish and nauseous, and I vaguely remember being concerned at the possibility of throwing up in the headmaster’s car. I didn’t. We reached my home without incident and I was helped into the house and onto the sofa in the living room.

I remember lying there, still feeling dizzy, feverish and nauseous, and also being irritated by the fact that the head and my mother were chatting on the doorstep. It seemed to me that I and my injury didn’t matter. I didn’t like that, so I called out:

‘Mum!’

‘OK, I’m coming,’ she called back, and appeared a few seconds later. ‘What is it?’ she asked.

I didn’t know what it was. I only knew that I’d felt ignored and didn’t like it. I don’t recall what excuse I came up with (it was probably a good one; I was very good at compiling excuses in those days,) but at least I didn’t feel ignored any more. And I recovered eventually; I even got a new finger nail for good measure.

So why would this little incident from so long ago creep back into my consciousness whilst walking along Mill Lane? I don’t know for certain, but I have a theory.

(Jeffrey's good at theories, too.)

I think it might have been put there to remind me that when I feel I need somebody, I don’t – not really. I just want the attention.

Then again, my theories have been known to be wrong occasionally.

Evidence of Old England.

There’s an interesting feature of the English countryside called the sunken lane. These are lanes whose road surface is substantially lower than the fields on either side, effectively forming a gorge. Received opinion as to what caused them seems unanimous. They’re said to have been created over hundreds of years by the daily practice of driving herds of pigs to the woods where they could forage for truffles. Country lanes had soft surfaces until relatively recently, and the weight of people and animals across a span of centuries caused them to sink gradually. The loss of woodland, changes in farming practices and modern tarmac road surfaces have now set this phenomenon in stone, as it were.

What I find fascinating about them is that by plotting their location, it’s easy to see which routes the mediaeval smallholders used in taking their pigs out every day. And, further, it’s possible to guess where the woodland was in those days.

We have several where I live, and the best of them is a short lane leading downhill from the main village. It’s called The Hollow, and the land surface towers up to fifteen feet above the road in places. The sides are precipitate, fit only for negotiation by the more agile animals like squirrels and badgers, and they’ve been colonised by wild plants. There is a spread of wild primroses in the lighter stretch near the top, but most of the sides are swathed in that most ubiquitous of woodland plants – wild garlic. The flowers are just starting to come out, so in a couple of weeks or so it will be awash with white.

Circumstances being conducive, I’ll take a picture and post it here.

Approaching Beltane.

Just a week to go to Beltane Eve. Beltane is the only celebration I actually feel, so it’s the only one I get excited about.

I got some wood together today for a small bonfire. I’d like to do more this year; I’d like to celebrate it with somebody; I’d even like to buy somebody a gift, like normal people do at Christmas. But who would I give it to?

I mentioned the problem in a recent post. There are only four people I would consider eligible. One hasn’t spoken to me in months, another wouldn’t share my passion for the occasion, and the two who would both live abroad.

Pity about number two. Seems I’m still walking that high road in the hills alone.

This all sounds like complete bullshit, doesn’t it? I know. It’s late.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Who Reconsidered.

I didn’t go along with them when they sang ‘I want to die before I get old.’

But lately I’ve been coming to think that I don’t have the means or the mentality to be old. I don’t have the family connections to wrap me in cotton wool, I’m not at all accepting of physical or mental degradation, and I’ve lived all my life for the seeking of things that old men can’t have.

It seems to me that being old is about being settled – physically, mentally and emotionally. I would be happy to settle in one spot, and where I live at the moment seems as good as any – for the moment. But the rest? No. I’ve always been impulsive, impatient and inquisitive, and I see no prospect of that changing. So unless I can find something to want that old men can have, well...

And just in case you’re wondering: no, I haven’t given up yet.

*  *  *

While I was typing this, that figure passed across my office window again. Just as before, the dogs barked prior to my seeing it. And just as before, there was nobody visible when I went out to check. Maybe it was the same person whose shadow stood next to mine on the lane the other night. Weird, eh?

Drying Paint and Joggers.

The main BBC TV channel was showing the London Marathon live at lunchtime.

I don’t understand this. I can well understand why somebody would want to take part, but I don’t see what’s entertaining about watching a load of people jogging along a street. I wonder whether TV has become so entrenched in the national mentality that a fundamental presumption applies:

If it’s on the TV it must be entertaining, so I’ll watch it and convince myself I’m being entertained.

Is that it, or is it me? Does my bafflement simply indicate some deficiency on my part? Do feel free to offer an opinion.

On Developing Relationships.

I was thinking this morning about the development of relationships. It’s a fascinating process because it happens through a combination of both tangible and intangible factors.

On the tangible side you have the unequivocal words and direct actions. On the intangible side you have the reading between the lines, the assessment of circumstances, the interpretation of body language and the recognition of a look in the eyes. When they all add up, it’s easy to get drawn into a sense of, and belief in, the apparent reality of closeness.

Unfortunately, it seems there are more intangible factors than tangible ones, so sometimes you get it wrong. When you do, it isn’t usually difficult to draw yourself out again. It’s just a bit unpleasant.

A Lesson on Ideals.

Tonight’s Kate Bush session produced a surprising and not at all pleasant experience. I set another of her albums to run in one tab while I did other things in others, and I found myself suffering a curious and deep discomfort.

I couldn’t understand it. Never For Ever is an excellent album full of excellent tracks, and my high opinion of Kate Bush must be obvious by now. Eventually I decided it must be an association thing, so I thought back to what I was doing when I had that album originally and listened to it frequently. And there was the key.

At that time I was trying to enjoy life in a way that ran counter to my high ideals, ideals I’d had since childhood. I was trying to fit in with the received attitudes of the times; I was trying to belong, and I wasn’t being true to myself. In short, I greatly dislike the person I was then – or was at least trying to be. And therein lies the conflict and resultant discomfort: reliving who I was then and setting it next to who I am now.

Living up to your ideals sets you adrift. It alienates you, and alienation can be uncomfortable at times. But it isn’t as uncomfortable as trying to live without them.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A Worrying Direction.

The British government is proposing to enact a law requiring that all new puppies be electronically tagged. They say it will make it easier to prosecute the owners of dangerous dogs.

I find several things about this further foray into nanny statehood disquieting, but I suppose the biggest one comes down to the simple question:

Is it such a big step to go from tagging puppies to tagging human babies? I’m sure they could come up with plausible excuses for that, too – at least, plausible enough to persuade the sheep who are now soundly conditioned to having their every movement in public watched.

Do we really want to be going down that road?

An Undirected Message to the Priestess.

The following won’t mean a damn thing to anybody. My only reason for saying it is that I want to set it free into the flow of prana, and the blog seemed the best way of doing so. You can stop reading now.

There is in a corner of Avalon a little apple tree that is forever dedicated to the priestess far, far away. And every year when it blesses me with blossom, it seems that her sleeping form stirs in my heart, and smiles.

You didn’t read it, did you? Tell me you didn’t.

Greenhorn.

I just made a bad mistake. I prepared my usual hot chocolate when I came in from the walk, and then decided I was peckish. So I grabbed a packet of crisps.

No. Crisps and hot chocolate don’t mix. Crisps are savoury, so they go well with tea and beer. Cream doughnuts and pastries are a better match for hot chocolate.

Wouldn’t you think I'd have known that by now?

High Life in Halifax.

Getting a visit from Halifax, Nova Scotia reminded me of an incident when I was seventeen and a naval officer cadet. I told the full story in a blog post back in the Middle Ages some time, but the bare bones warrant repetition.

Our ship was visiting Halifax as part of a NATO review. A fellow cadet and I managed to organise a blind date with two local girls, and took them out for a meal. One was fat and one was thin, but they both ate like horses and we were paying for the food. They said very little. Too busy eating, I suppose.

When the plates and our pockets were empty, we went and sat on a green space overlooking the harbour to watch a fireworks display. The girls remained silent, until one of them said:

‘We’re going now. Thanks for the food.’

And off they went.

We learn something every day, don’t we?

I Come Cheap, Russia.

I swear somebody from Russia is compiling a book of my blog posts. 227 page views in one week.

This is highly flattering, whoever you are, and I don’t need royalties or anything. A trip to St Petersburg would be nice, though. I’d like that.

Dave of the Dead.

I knew a zombie once. Let’s call him Dave, even though his actual name was something else.

He wasn’t a real zombie, obviously. He didn’t do the jerky gestures or anything, but I swear he had no soul. Can you imagine a person with no character? Nothing. He was easily the blandest person I ever knew. Dave defined bland.

His girlfriend was a (platonic) friend of mine. She was pretty, lively, highly intelligent and characterful. She had a master’s degree in European History or some such, and I was always intrigued by the question ‘what the hell is she doing with Dave?’ I wasn’t the only one. Everybody who knew her asked the same question.

So one day I managed to put it to her: ‘What the hell are you doing with Dave?’ They weren’t the words I used of course – I was a bit more diplomatic than that – but it amounted to the same thing.

‘He’s safe,’ she said.

Point taken. None of my business. Each to his (or her) own.

They’re parents now. To the same child...

Witch Hunt by Slug: Another Kate Bush Post.

I’m back to one of my old questions:

How much money does a recording artist have to make from one of their tracks or albums before they’ve been adequately recompensed for their efforts and can now graciously allow the poorer people to enjoy their creations free?

I see the latest witch hunt against YouTube has just finished in Germany and sentence has been passed. YouTube lost and now stands condemned.

But of course, it seems it isn’t so much the artists themselves who are playing Matthew Hopkins here, but the fat slugs in suits who control the music industry. Are slugs capable of learning, I wonder, that music might be a commodity, but it’s also a hell of a lot more?

But, but...

Here I sit listening to a whole Kate Bush album provided free by YouTube, seemingly courtesy of KateBushMusic.

Thank you, Kate. I always was a bit in love with you, and you always were a true artist above and beyond anything slugs would understand.

I do hope I’m not wrong.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Pecuniary Nature of Viewpoint.

Anti-monarchist protesters in Bahrain are causing difficulties for the world of F1 motor racing. Western politicians are calling them ‘pro-democracy campaigners.’ No doubt like-minded activists in other parts of the Arab world will see them as fellow freedom fighters. The Crown Prince of Bahrain referred to them as ‘criminal extremists.’

Maybe the next time we have inconvenient mass protest movements here in the west (I’m thinking Wall Street and St Paul’s Cathedral, for example,) we should be circumspect in our view of the descriptions applied to them by our own Establishment figures.

More Brief Notes.

My walk down the lane tonight was accompanied by the gentle coo-wicking of a tawny owl. The natural sounds of night always have something splendidly primeval about them.

There was another moving shadow that wasn’t mine on the hedge, but at least I worked out a possible – if unproven – rational explanation for that one.

The Lady Bella has become silent, invisible and mysterious. Or so it seems to me.

And I’m in a horribly doom-laden mood. I’m sure it must have something to do with the dark of the moon, although a certain news item didn’t help.

Being the Homeless Mut.

Do you know what I feel like today?

A stray dog.

Everybody’s ignoring me. Blog visits are at an all-time low and nobody’s answering my e-mails. The rabbit in the garden ran away when I went out, and the little-girl-on-the-bike in the lane merely frowned when I said ‘hello.’

Maybe I’ve grown even uglier overnight.

Maybe I’m carrying the energy of the dark moon around.

Maybe I’m even more undesirable than I thought I was.

... or madder.

Maybe I need to wag my tail harder.

Anybody throwing the odd bone or two away?

Favouring Non-Alignment.

The Avaaz people just sent me a petition to sign. It seems the President of Uzbekistan has ordered the covert removal of women’s uteruses as a means of forced sterilisation, and Avaaz wants the US to stop funding the bastard until he sees the light. I agree; I think his policy is a terrible thing and I signed the petition. Where I fall out with Avaaz is over their reference to this as ‘a women’s rights issue.’

This is not a women’s rights issue, any more than abortion is a women’s rights issue. The denial of the right to motherhood and the killing of foetuses are universal issues. They’re issues central to human rights and the sanctity of life. They affect all of us equally. They have nothing to do with gender politics until the totalitarian tendency among the liberal alter-establishment seeks to make them so. It might be asked 'if this is a women's rights issue, why not only send the petition to women?'

It gets my goat that politically correct, right-on liberals have to hang every form of abuse onto the peg of one of their narrow shibboleths. Those shibboleths are generally worthy, but they must also be flexible and not allowed to rule beyond reason. It irritates me beyond measure that any honest attempt to take issue with any detail of their sanctimonious posturing leads to howling, hysterical accusations of right wing bigotry. I’ve seen it in action. I’ve been personally affected by it and fought my case with logic - usually unsuccessfully. It’s ugly and irrational, and it’s why I have no more time for narrow minded liberals than I have for narrow minded conservatives. The leaders of both tend to be ridiculously polarised and their ranks too full of sheep.

And I resisted the urge to swear.

Signs of Ageing.

In spite of Jo’s touching vote of confidence, I have to say that the ageing process is real and may be described simply as:

The phenomenon in which what you see in the mirror grows increasingly unlike what you expected to see.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Troubled Walk.

Tonight's walk was oddly disquieting. Everything was normal until I was about half way between the pub and Sarah’s house on Mill Lane. I saw what was undoubtedly a torch moving around the front of the property, one of those modern ones with a blue light. I assumed that somebody had come out the house and was maybe looking for something. No mystery there, but it was something I hadn’t seen before.

A few seconds later, something dashed across the lane a couple of feet in front of me and disappeared through the hedge on the other side of the road. It was too dark to identify the creature, but I assumed it was probably a fox, since it was about the right size. Again, nothing odd about that, but it was something else I hadn’t seen before.

The next occurrence was a bit stranger. As I was passing the Lady’s house, I distinctly heard a female voice utter one syllable – as though somebody had started to say something, but changed their mind.

...and the best was yet to come...

On my way back I was passing the houses at the bottom of my lane. A single security light was on and it was casting my shadow against the hedgerow. I looked at it and saw a second, bigger shadow next to mine. It was just as dark and just as ‘solid’ as my own. I turned around expecting there to be somebody at my shoulder, but there was nobody. When I turned back, the second shadow was gone. I understand light and shadow; I used to be a pro photographer. The situation was such that there could logically only have been one shadow. So what was throwing the second one? And where did it go? I expect there's a rational explanation, but I don't know what it is.

Mixed Fortunes.

Went to the theatre again today after returning Frothgarssen to his ancestral homeland and retaking possession of the moody Frenchman. I arrived in the middle of a wake for the deceased theatre critic of the local newspaper, so talking to Rob in the bar wasn’t as free as it usually is. There were lots of people in black milling about, and a man in dark grey (I think) making a speech badly. I left to walk down to the town centre, since time had flown by and I was becoming desperate for my Gregg’s vegetable pasty.

I got waylaid in the foyer by two old pals. First there was Jed, an actor of Irish extraction who did several shows at The Vic during my time working there. We talked about Brian Friel (Jed’s first stint at The Vic had been in Friel’s play Translations, one of my favourites) and the different ways of using the English language. And then Jo walked in...

Jo left the theatre even before I did, so it must have been at least a dozen years since I’d seen her. How shall I describe Jo? Let’s avoid the word ‘beautiful,’ since that word is a minefield of nuances and interpretations. Let’s say that she is – to my perception – possibly the loveliest woman I’ve ever known. Lovely to look at, with a lovely voice, a lovely smile and a lovely personality. I greeted her cordially.

‘Jo! How nice to see you. You haven’t aged!’

‘Jeff! Neither have you!’

‘Whoo!’

And so the day took on a convivial, complete and wholesome identity. Until, that is, I discovered that one of the ‘new’ tyres that Nigel had put on the Renault as part of its facelift was losing air. Which is a nuisance, right? So then I became extremely irritated again.

Will a time ever come when I get three nice things happen consecutively?

Ancient Natives.

I get a lot of visits to my post My Sort of Girlie Pics from people searching ‘girlie pics’ on Google. I got a rare variant tonight. Some person from Memphis, Tennessee came here by searching ‘girlie picts.’

Some advice, my friend. It’s the north of Scotland you want for them. Look for the ones who are painted blue and have long, greasy hair. And exchange your Stetson for a steel-reinforced crash helmet, ’cos they ain’t no Memphis Belles. They even kept the Romans at bay.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A Lifelong Fault.

I carry the ball to my mistress, drop it at her feet and wait. I'm staring earnestly at it - for about two seconds. I look up at her and she’s ignoring me, so I bark. It means

‘C’mon, c’mon, throw the ball. Throw the ball. Now.’

She continues to ignore me, so I pick the ball up again and drop it onto her foot this time. Nope. No good. I rise up and give her leg a nudge with my front paws. Still nothing, so I pant in an engaging way. I'm very good at that. Then I try wagging my tail and smiling nicely. That has to work, surely. Nope.

I become frustrated and do three pirouettes, Dougal-style. The mistress is away in a dream somewhere. I might as well not exist. How can a dog like me not exist? Has the world gone mad? I bark more urgently this time:

‘C’mon, will ya? Throw the freggin’ ball!’

Dog mind. A fault I never got rid of.

Kate Bush 2

For some reason I’ve become fixated on the music of Kate Bush again. I’ve taken to spending long periods on YouTube in the early hours, listening to track after old track and going to bed late.

My first fixation was back in the days when she was riding high at the forefront of popular music, and I remember it having quite a profound effect on me. So now I’m reliving a lot of the old feelings and influences, and I’m wondering what it means. Does it mean that I’m getting a second bite of a cherry that I didn’t appreciate at the time? Does it mean that there were lessons to be learned back then, and now they’re being reinforced? Or does it mean nothing at all?

We never know, do we? Not unless we put two and two together and it becomes obvious, which it rarely does with me because I’m too dim.

But at least I now know what The Kick Inside is all about, and that’s a relief.


Just a Different Form of Crucifixion.

It’s obvious enough that Establishments ancient and modern have felt, and continue to feel, the need to shackle the radical and destroy the subversive. So, here’s the proposal:

Let’s suppose for a minute that the story of Jesus as reported in the canonical Gospels is reasonably accurate. That should leave us in no doubt that he was both a radical and a subversive. And then let’s further suppose that his entry on the world stage had been delayed by two thousand years. Let’s suppose that he turned up now, fresh and unknown, in modern day America, preaching the same message.

Does anyone seriously doubt that his treatment at the hands of the CIA would be any less harsh than it allegedly was at the hands of the Romans?

And I know I’m not the first person to say this, but I thought it was about time it went on the blog.

Being Complicated.

I sometimes think that being me is a bit like being a parent with ten kids. The kids do most of the talking, and they each have their own areas of interest. Occasionally those areas overlap, so then there’s more than one kid talking. Sometimes they disagree and squabble, sometimes they agree and support each other. Most of the time the parent keeps a watchful eye on them and stops them going too far with their ideas, opinions or reactions.

But then there are the times when the parent is asleep, or simply not paying attention, and only discovers later what the kid has said. A tongue wagging is called for:

‘Look what you said to that nice lady in America, Jeffrey 9. You might have hurt her feelings and that was very naughty. Don’t do it again.’

Well, the ten Jeffreys are like any other ten kids. Some of them do as they’re told, and some of them don’t. And they’re all me.

The Missing Element.

The late night posts have all come and gone without being committed to print. None of them quite caught my imagination sufficiently. There’s one left, so I suppose I might as well throw it down for the sake of not going to bed on an empty blog.

I’m cursed with an impulsive nature. Nothing big, by and large, just little things like coming downstairs at five o’clock in the morning and sending an e-mail because there’s something I have to say and I don’t believe in waiting until tomorrow. Or driving a hundred miles to the coast on a whim because I’ve had a sudden yen to see the moon over the sea. Or leaving the office in the middle of a job and finding a phone box so I can call somebody, just because I want to hear the sound of her voice and that’s a damn sight more important than the stupid job!

Little things, but people don’t like it. It breaks the rhythm, and people like the security of rhythms and regular behaviour.

In all my life I’ve never been involved with anybody who was half as impulsive as I am. In all my life I’ve never been involved with anybody who understood that the way to a Romantic’s heart is not through his stomach, but through the simple expedient of making a madly impulsive gesture. And in all my life I’ve never heard a knock on my door in the early hours and opened it to find the right person standing there with the words ‘I had to see you. It wouldn’t wait.’ And now I’ve got to this point in my life, it isn’t going to happen.

So nobody’s life is perfect, is it?

Night.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Numbering the Sheep.

My walk took me through the field at the top the lane where the people from Home Farm keep their sheep. They have lambs now – two or three kiddies per momma. They have numbers, too. Momma 17 has a big 17 painted on her flanks, while the kiddies have little 17s painted on theirs. I suppose it helps foster a sense of belonging.

They’re not there for the sheep’s benefit, you bozo. They’re there so the farmer knows which lambs belong to which ewes.

Really?

Of course.

Belong?

Of course.

You mean sheep don't read Khalil Gibran?

You're a nutter, mate.

Oh, well. What a shame. Anyway, however big a dampener my boring friend here wants to put on things, the fact may be stated without fear of reasonable contradiction that the lambs are insufferably cute.

Sometimes... Confessions of a Pointless Person.

I have two niggly little problems: relating to life and relating to people. I’ve had lots of practice, but I still can’t seem to get the hang of it all. I suppose the way to get over it is not to take either life or people seriously – or myself, come to that. And very often I don’t.

But then it gets late in the day (or early in the morning, to be precise.) I have a couple of drinks and these little imps start appearing. Sometimes they come singly, and sometimes in groups. Sometimes the members of the group work together to reinforce the point they’re trying to make, and sometimes they compete to confuse me. But the words they always finish with are ‘take this seriously, it matters.’

And so I do, and then I become troubled or excited or depressed or something. At that point I often engage in troublesome communications with people who are important to me. I say things because they seem like the right thing to say, only to look back on them the next morning and wish I hadn’t. So I consider apologising, but usually don’t. Instead, I take the view that it’s only life so what the hell – and the person I wrote to probably doesn’t give a monkey’s toss about me or my stupid message anyway. And then I go about the day and try to find something to be interested in.

I sometimes wonder how I manage to have an IQ of 157 (allegedly) and still end up being so pointless.

Off for a walk now. Maybe I’ll find something to be interested in.

Breaking the Seal.

The word ‘virgin’ is sometimes used in a figurative sense, such as when referring to untrodden snow or a soldier’s first experience of combat. That’s OK. What bugs me is the modern habit of calling a man’s first experience of sex ‘losing his virginity.’ That, too, can be seen in a figurative sense, but it bugs me because it fudges an important issue. It’s another piece of silly political correctness, this time courtesy of the old-style feminist movement who wanted the world to believe that men and women are the same. They’re not. Equal, yes, but not the same. (Don’t I just hate what isms do to the feeble minded.)

The losing of virginity is not about having sex for the first time, it’s about the breaking of a seal. Men don’t have a seal. We’re not made that way and we don’t function that way. We don’t have that privilege and so we don’t have the means to bestow the honour.

As I see it, the important issue should be obvious. The seal is a woman’s most precious jewel; it is her only true dowry. It’s one area in which women have the edge, balancing the man’s greater physical power. In that case, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that women be extremely discerning in their choice of the man to whom they give their greatest gift? It is, after all, non-returnable.

And can I say yet again, just to waylay the predictable reaction: this is not about old fashioned attitudes, religious edict, or morality. I left those behind a long time ago. It’s about the idealism of worth and balance.

The Flaw in Being Frank.

I would define frankness as:

Being inclined to tell people the truth as you see it, even if it’s unpalatable, when you really don’t need to say anything at all.

This brings us up against the Buddhist principle of useful and non-useful truth – but that’s getting a bit heavy, so let’s keep it simple. I’ve found that being frank causes difficulty in a simpler sense. People don’t like hearing things which they find unpalatable, so if they know you’re the sort to say them anyway, they tend to regard you as being akin to an unexploded bomb and keep their distance.

So maybe frankness is a fault. I’ll add it to the list of mine.