The little Fiesta having spent three days entombed in the
collapsed garage with the roof sitting on top of him, I decided to take the
little guy over to the big city to be checked out. No apparent problems, but he’s
due for his annual test in a couple of weeks, so that should make assurance
While I was there I learned that Monsieur Renault has been
sold on and is now the proud steed of a pretty young nurse, and I’m told that
he’s behaving impeccably. Well he would, wouldn’t he? He is French…
Having failed to get my weekly bottle of American IPA beer,
I bought a bottle of London
porter instead. It’s dark, bitter and intense, with a hint of liquorice. And
the brewery claim to be the oldest in Britain, having started life in the
My ancestors drank this stuff, and I don’t blame them. Made
up for being treated as cannon fodder, I suppose.
The young flibbertigibbet of a cashier who I’d never seen
before asked me as I went through her till:
‘Did you get everything you wanted today?’
‘What?’ (I get so irritated by staff in chain stores who
accost me with stupid questions like ‘Are you all right there, sir?’
Repeatedly. I scowl at them. There’s a man in Homebase who drives me up the
‘Did you get everything you wanted?’
‘No. You’ve stopped selling that American IPA beer that I
used to treat myself to once a week. You’re always doing this, and I don’t like
‘Well,’ says the flibbertigibbet, ‘you could always talk to the
manager. Maybe he’ll get some in for you.’
Ha! As if…. How many times have managers told me they can
only stock what head office tells them to stock, not what their customers ask
for? You’d think Sainsbury’s would teach their flibbertigibbets to tell the
truth, wouldn’t you?
I was walking along Mill Lane tonight when something caught
my attention in the northern sky. It was a bright green disc moving at considerable
speed from right to left and on a downward trajectory, apparently heading for
earth (although that would only certainly be true if the object’s course was at
right angles to mine.) I saw it briefly through about 30° of arc before it disappeared
behind some trees.
Whatever this thing was, it was far bigger than a meteor or
a plane’s navigation light, and it was green.
I’ve never seen anything like it before. Any ideas?
I’m back on the anti-ad campaign again. My latest pet hate
is the one insurance companies use, in which a cherubic child looks most
alarmed and has a speech bubble – or the equivalent of – which says something
like ‘I can’t believe you don’t have life insurance, dad.’
The subtext, of course, is the implicit suggestion that if
you’re a parent and don’t have life insurance, you are by definition a bad
parent who cares little for his children. This amounts not only to unwarranted
presumption, but is also a form of emotional blackmail. And we’re often
advised, are we not, that it is folly ever to give in to emotional blackmail.
Ergo, one should never buy insurance from a company which
uses this ploy.
I was just listening to Loreena McKennit’s track Prospero’s Speech on YouTube. The title
said ‘with lyrics.’ The song is, unsurprisingly, a musical setting of the
speech made by Prospero at the end of The
Tempest. So, call me elitist if you like, but referring to one of
Shakespeare’s most famous passages as ‘lyrics’ seems oddly disrespectful. OK, I’m
I also noticed that the name of one of the commenters was ‘lardmonk.’
I don’t know what ‘lard’ means in other parts of the world, but in Britain it’s
the name given to refined beef fat, and when I was a kid, a common component of
the invective aimed at a person deemed to be useless was ‘ya great lump of lard!’
Lard plus Monk paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it? I wonder how he came by it.
* * *
And to hark back to a bygone age, a few nights ago I watched the Russian Dervish sequence from Riverdance. The uploader referred to the three men and three women as 'a group of virtuous dancers.' I suppose he wasn't terribly virtuoso in English.
I had the monthly Village Newsletter today. For some reason that
currently defies elucidation, I like
reading the Village Newsletter. Three notes:
1) They want ‘snow wardens’ to spread grit on the untreated
lanes of The Shire during icy weather, but they don’t say how the spreading is
to be done. I have my doubts.
2) There’s to be a Live Irish Music Night at the village pub
this Friday, but I already knew about that and decided I shouldn’t attend. Few
things are closer to my heart than Irish music, but there are impediments. For
a start, I might have to rub shoulders with somebody who isn’t my best friend
at the moment (and it isn’t who you might think it is.) Secondly, ever since
the onset of the dreaded CFS, drinking alcohol before midnight sends me a bit
lopsided, and the prospect of listening to live Irish music without a pint of
Guinness would be unconscionably sacrilegious.
3) If anybody asks me whether I’ll be attending the ‘Age UK
Roadshow,’ I might well drive my car over their feet at the first opportunity. ‘Wellness
Shop with Lisa,’ on the other hand, sounds well good for a giggle. As it
happens, however, they’re both Women’s Institute events, and I doubt they allow
men into those. Not unless, that is, you happen to be a rare male of the
species who can make jam and sing Jerusalem in a
falsetto voice at the same time.
I once did a series of posts on spooky things that have
happened to me down the years. There was one I missed out because, on the face
of it, there was no suggestion of there being anything supernatural involved.
It happened when I was married. I was going to bed late one
night, and as I opened the bedroom door my wife sat up in bed and stared at me
with terror in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong, but she didn’t answer. As
I walked across the foot of the bed she watched me all the way, still looking
scared as hell, and then she lay down again.
I concluded that she’d been asleep the whole time and didn’t
wake her, but I felt very shaken. Being stared at as though you’re a dark demon
crawling out of the wardrobe is a surprisingly spooky experience. Maybe fear is
just a strongly contagious emotion, but it still made me wonder what the hell
she was seeing that I wasn’t aware of.
When I asked her about it the next day, she remembered
To those who might be interested, I can report that the car
is now free and the garage non-existent. The builders came and demolished it
today. The car appears to have escaped lightly, having apparently suffered only
a few minor bits of cosmetic damage. As for the garage…
I liked my garage. It was a hobbity sort of garage – old,
made of wood, and heavily attired in ivy. It also made the garden private, hiding
about half of it from the eyes of Shire folk and strangers alike. I like
privacy; it’s back to that old ‘pollution at the interface’ thing. So I miss
it. I do.
Life giveth and life taketh away. I no longer feel trapped,
but I’ve lost some privacy. I used to enjoy both, but life is rarely that kind
for very long. The constant state of flux is one of her few reliable
That post of mine – ‘A Poem’ – has me thinking. It seems I’ve
invented a new poetic form. You know how the Japanese have the haiku? I’ve
invented the hokumu – two lines of five and six syllables respectively, and the
first word of each line has to rhyme.
Try it at home, but don’t forget that JJ invented it. JJ has
now passed into legend.
I said I was going to make a post about the descent (or
ascent) into a reclusive mindset, did I not? I did. So here’s what seems to be
a typical route.
Let’s suppose you’re an independently minded person, a free
thinker who stands outside the cultural tram lines and looks back in. You begin
to detect the sound of consensus, the hum of Mother Culture, and you realise
that the hum operates at all levels and has a gently mesmeric effect on the
great majority of people. Once you’ve heard it you can’t stop hearing it, and
you find yourself increasingly viewing the consensus with a critical eye. In
short, I suppose it can be said that you wake up out of the trance. That’s when
the process begins:
… Once you wake up, you begin to lose common ground with
those still under the influence.
… The more you lose common ground, the more isolated you
become both emotionally and physically.
… The more isolated you become, the more you feel the need
to create your own world with your own version of reality.
… The more dependent you become on that version, the more
the encroachment of the ‘normals’ into your world feels and smells like
That’s the point at which you turn into the person who reaches
for the shotgun as soon as anybody so much as leans on your garden gate.
It doesn’t always happen that way – I’ve known a number of
free-thinking, hum-aware people who manage to co-exist perfectly well with the
ninety percenters – but it’s what can
happen, and I think the secret of avoiding it is support.
Family connections seem to help a lot, if you can maintain
them. But you also need to gather about you as many ten percenters as you can
and allow them access to your world. And you mustn’t lose sight of them,
because they’re your buffer against the pollution.
To the recluse, isolation isn’t the problem. You get used to
it and learn to be content with your own version of reality. It’s the bad smell
at the interface that drives you crazy.
I was just reading a few old posts of mine, and felt a
little wistful at the fact that I used to make the odd good one in more relaxed
times. I’m rarely in the mood these days (well, let’s say ‘at the moment’) to
tip out the box of unrelated and occasionally surreal toys, and decide which
ones to play with tonight. But, never mind; phases come and phases go.
When I was walking back up the lane tonight, something small
scurried across my path. To all appearances it was a bunch of shrivelled leaves
on a twig, blowing in the wind. ‘How many roads must a man walk down?’ I
thought. Or even up, in my case. (It’s uphill all the way from the pub.)
So anyway, the bunch of shrivelled leaves did a little pirouette
and then waited for me to catch up. And then it led the way, dancing from side
to side in my torch beam like a performer in a follow spot. It continued like
that for quite some time before eventually bowing out and returning to the
It was only a bunch of shrivelled leaves, wasn’t it? It
couldn’t have been anything in disguise, could it? No, of course it couldn’t.
Still, I’m little short of mortified that I didn’t think to applaud.
Who wants to hear the latest on the garage roof problem?
The agent called me back on Saturday and said he’d get
somebody here today. Nobody has turned up and it’ll be dark in a little over an
hour. I tried calling the agent but he didn’t pick up, neither has he returned
my call yet. So, I still don’t know when my car is going to be freed, and I
still don’t know how much damage there is. I feel trapped, and I really, really hate feeling trapped. I
think I might have been a rat in a previous life.
Meanwhile, the cold wind out there has risen to gale force.
My old house is draughty, so it gets cold when it’s windy. It’s also very dull
and we have driving sleet. Not the best of atmospheres in which to feel
I was just telling Beddy (my concrete garden bear) that life
as a human can be difficult. He reminded me that humans also have all the fun,
and I suppose he’s right. Roll on the day.
People have occasionally asked me whether I’ve ever seen a
ghost. Well, I’ve never seen a woman in grey walk through the wall with her
head underneath her arm, no, but how can I be sure that some of the people
passing me in the town aren’t ghosts? They might be, mightn’t they? So the
answer is ‘I don’t know.’
And while I’m on the subject of ghosts, here’s an
interesting little thing. I was pouring milk into my tea a couple of nights
ago, when I heard the fridge door shut behind me. I must have left it ajar when
I took the milk out. Now, there’s a slight slope on the floors in my house – it
being old an’ all – but the slope falls away from the fridge. If the door had
swung under gravity, which would be logical, it would have opened, not shut.
That’s the same fridge where I occasionally find the little mouse magnets moved
out of position. I said ‘thank you’ to whatever had shut my fridge door for me.
And talking of mouse magnets, I was pleased to see that the
tiny wood mouse who comes out at night and eats up whatever the birds have left
has survived the cold weather. He or she was there when I came back from the
walk tonight. Of course, it might have been a different wood mouse. He wasn’t
wearing a hat or anything.
Twice tonight I was surprised by the sound of the wind in
the tree branches. I’m not unfamiliar with that sound, but this was different.
The words I would usually use would be ‘roar,’ ‘moan,’ whistle,’ or ‘hiss.’
Tonight’s sound was more like that of a bass flute, or somebody blowing over the
top of a large bottle. It started quietly, and then rose evenly like a vehicle
approaching along the road, or maybe some airborne spirit passing by. I wonder
what that was about. The moon was high and full, and I realised that one of The
Shire’s bigger houses is now empty. The man with the Close Encounters car – the
pick up truck with the bank of lights along the top which looked so mysterious
coming out of the mist – has gone, it seems. Pity. I quite liked him.
I’ve been thinking all day today about a treatise on the
subject of ‘The Process of Descent, or Ascent, into the Reclusive Mindset’ (and
the difficulties associated therewith,) but I decided there’s been quite enough
of that for the time being. Maybe I’ll make it when I’ve pulled my own mind out
of its present dolorous state and said something funny for a change.
Do you want to hear about my latest little problem? No? Stop
reading now, then.
I have an old wooden garage that is gradually rotting away.
I’ve made several running repairs on it over the years, adding spars here and
buttresses there, because I feared that a gale would bring it down one day. So
why did I continue parking in there? There were reasons to do with a lack of
off-road parking that is causing enough difficulty between my neighbour and me as it is, so I continued to strengthen
it and continued parking there.
However… The strengthening I added was all geared to
preventing sideways movement of the walls in strong wind. What I didn’t realise
was how heavy snow could be. We had heavy snow throughout Friday night, and
yesterday the weight of it brought the garage roof down. My car is now pinned
by a fallen roof that is far too heavy to lift manually. It’s going to need
mechanical lifting or jacking gear. And I’ve no idea how much damage it’s done.
The nearest town is seven miles away and there’s no bus
service here any more. Such a service isn’t commercially viable and the local
authority has stopped subsidising the minimal service we used to have. Taxis
are expensive; to use one would double the cost of my week’s shopping. So now I
wait for the landlord’s agent to send an expert, which I’m onto.
This week had already brought some nasty interpersonal
problems and several losses. It hasn’t been a good week. OK? Shutting up now.
I want to know what poetry is, by which I mean that I want
to know what distinguishes poetry from prose.
It obviously has nothing to do with rhyming, since that’s
just an outdated convention. It can’t be merely lyricism, since prose can be eminently
lyrical. It can’t be about the distillation of a story or some musings down into
the fewest number of words in order to achieve the purist form of expression.
Prose can do that too. It surely can’t be achieved by the separation of sentences
into lines. That seems to be a contrivance, and therefore insufficient to
establish the full distinction of difference.
It has to be about metre, doesn’t it? Metre serves two
purposes, both establishing structure and also providing a certainty of rhythmical
integrity rarely achievable in prose.
Is that it? I’m hoping somebody will tell me.
I could have made a post about why I’ve been absent for a
couple of days, but I’m tired of talking about ill fortune and the dangers of
walking a solitary, unconventional road. Maybe I’ll make it one of these days –
some time when I’m less afflicted by such dangers and it will sound less like
It’s been a day of sourness today, but at least something
finally came into focus. It’s been sharpening for some years and I’ve made several
references to it on this blog. Now it’s clear as a bell:
I don’t function at all well in close proximity to normal
Normal people rattle me. I find their concerns and
preoccupations largely tedious, and they find mine mostly incomprehensible. At
best, it means I have to make the effort to shift towards them if there’s to be
any interaction. At worst, it means that when they push my button and provoke
seething rage, low depression, or high anxiety, I have to put up with it. There’s
no point in trying to explain; they just don’t get it. Why would they? They’re
normal; I’m not. And I can find many examples of that going back to at least
age twelve. It included my parents and the rest of my family even at that age.
I intend neither self-aggrandisement nor self-debasement in
saying this. Neither do I imply any criticism of normal people. It’s just a
fact of life. So how do I define normal, you might ask. Normal is the set of social, intellectual and
spiritual parameters within which 90% of people function.
So, to all those abnormal people out there: hello. Nice to
make your acquaintance. We’ll never meet, but at least we can pretend to be
part of a select club – the 10% Club, where unlike but compatible minds meet.
I haven’t posted any music for a while, have I? The
following is rather nice if you’re into gentle melancholy. The accompanying video
doesn’t match the title at all, but at least most of the images are conducive
to the music. It needs to be watched full screen.
The Shire seemed bleaker than ever tonight. Snow is still
lying thick, and so there are no animals around. The pub was in darkness even
though it’s Wednesday, I haven’t seen or heard a vehicle on the road since tea
time, and the air has a spiteful, incisive chill to it.
Do you know what’s odd? The fan heater in my office is quite
loud when it’s working, and I keep hearing a woman’s voice singing among the
noise of the fan. And what’s even odder is that it only happens after midnight.
Maybe it’s that naked young woman I keep seeing in my
bathroom. She’d be a welcome sight if only she didn’t display an unfortunate
habit of turning into an old crone every time she gets close. Or maybe it’s the
twins; they’re creepy enough. I’ve tried talking to them, but they never
answer. They just stare at me.
I’ve observed that this fatigue problem, with all its myriad
symptoms, gets a lot worse in cold, damp weather. Today, the lying snow was
augmented by an atmosphere laden with near-freezing vapour, and the Ashbourne
shop was a bit of a trial. I was a good boy, though. I resisted the urge to
waste money in a coffee shop. That sort of thing is for people who are driven
to be kind to themselves, and I’ve never really had a high enough opinion of my
worth to do that. Not when I'm alone, anyway.
Besides, I can only think of two characteristics I inherited
from my mother. One is small fingers, and the other is a frugal nature. I
remember my wife saying to me one bad winter:
‘I refuse to bathe in that bloody bathroom while there are
ice crystals lying in the bathtub, and yet more ice on top of the water
in the loo.’
I pointed out that the ice would soon melt when subjected to
warm water, but she was unmoved. She took strip washes in the kitchen until the
weather warmed. At least, I assume she did. I never looked.
And it’s worth pointing out that frugal people are trendy
now, or at least they should be, since they’re more environmentally-friendly.
In fact, if having a low carbon footprint were to become an Olympic event, I reckon I’d be
on the podium every time. I do.
I find myself wanting to make a long post about The Shire
and the people who live in it. It’s breaking into factions, but the trend is
definitely away from Middle Earth and towards Middle England. I’m not going to
because the subject is too complex, too dependent on personal truths and perceptions,
and pollution is a relative concept which relies on them.
What I will say is that the strength of the moon surprised
me tonight. Even though she was all but hidden behind a veil of cloud, she
still picked out the detail in the landscape clearly. It helped that the
landscape is monochrome at the moment – a black tapestry of trees, lanes and
hedgerows, stitched onto a white canvas.
I’m not sure that I belong here. I’m not sure that being a
faction of one is quite right for a place like The Shire.
The coincidence of surnames ending in –ng just provoked
another silly ditty in the ‘There was a lady…’ series:
There was a lady from Hong Kong
Whose husband’s name was Willy Wong
‘Your name I like,’
Said dear old Spike.
‘It’s just what made the cows go bong.’
It helps if you’re aware of the song.
… and no-win situations.
Shall I tell you what’s annoying? The heating in my office
doesn’t quite cope with sub-zero nights, so I have a fan heater in here to
supplement it. However, I do try not to turn it on until late because heat’s
expensive, you know? Instead, I don my woollen jacket and make a hot cup of tea
to help convince me that I’m not as cold as I think I am. So off I go into the
kitchen, which – as previously stated – is just a big fridge in the winter, and
I get even further chilled. I come back bearing my large mug of the steaming
beverage and re-take my place at the computer, only to find that the bloody
seat’s gone cold while I was away! How many things are there more uncomfortable
than sitting on a cold seat? Not many.
I’m not generally given to quoting sound bytes from the great
and the good. Though they might be laudable enough when taken in context and
with a measure of circumspection, in a general sense they’re usually overly
simplistic, often self-consciously clever to the point of pretension, and
sometimes just too damn shallow.
I’m just setting out on an introduction to Carl Jung, and I
can’t help identifying with a few things he said, such as:
‘To be normal is the ideal aim of the unsuccessful.’
‘So every man whose fate it is to go his individual way must
proceed with hopefulness and watchfulness, ever conscious of the loneliness and
Maybe this sense of the familiar can be explained by the
fact that Carl and I had a critical experience in common: enforced separation from
the mother figure at an early age. According to somebody called John Bowlby,
who I’ve never heard of but was probably very clever, this commonly leads to a
defensive attitude of emotional detachment, and to becoming self-absorbed and
self-reliant to an unusual degree.
(He makes it sound like an illness, doesn’t he? Well, I’m
gradually getting over the first condition, but rarely in public.)
And there are another couple of things that ring a bell with
‘Nobody reads my books,’ said Carl, and
‘I have such a hell of a trouble to make people see what I
Taken together, all of this makes me feel a little less
adequate than I did before.
The British Royal Family is head of the Establishment over
here. As such, its members are afforded the best education money can buy, and
that educational system always pushes them out speaking English impeccably, albeit with
a funny accent. Impeccably, that is, as defined by the Establishment.
Prince Harry is a member of the Royal Family. He’s currently
third in line of succession, and so you’d expect him to speak as impeccably as
the rest, wouldn’t you? Ah, but, Prince Harry has been in the army for a little
while, and the army is a culture unto itself. When asked whether he’d fired on
the enemy in Afghanistan,
he replied in the affirmative and continued:
‘If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then
we’ll take them out of the game.’
It’s rumoured that he’s currently practicing the received
inflections in the phrase ‘shit happens, man’ so that he can use it frequently
and with confidence. I suppose it’s a belonging thing.
I’ve finished reading Frankenstein
now. I’m glad I’ve done so, because it means I stuck to my guns and
finished what I started. It also means I won’t have to continue reading it
tomorrow. So what to make of it?
It is conjectured, I know, that Frankenstein is an allegory alluding to the dangers of playing God
with science. Well, anybody in search of allegories can find them wherever they
want to, just as easily as they can spot Jesus’s face in the bumps on a potato.
Who can know whether Mary Shelley intended it that way? Maybe she did, but if
she did, I’m afraid she executed it badly.
As I said in an earlier post, an allegory has first to work
as a plausible story, and Frankenstein is
so short on plausibility of both character and plot that the whole thing is risible.
If, as one critic of Wuthering Heights
avers, Heathcliff is a Byronic sham, then Victor Frankenstein is an utter
Byronic shambles. He’s given to such outlandishly melodramatic speech and
behaviour, and so lacking in the further reaches of fundamental reason, that it’s
impossible to take him seriously. In fact, the only one of the main characters
who argues his case convincingly is the Creature, and even that’s implausible
given the source from which he learns his linguistic skills.
As for the plot, rarely a page goes by which fails to encourage
a sense of incredulity at the sheer lack of thought given to it by the author.
At the end, for example, Victor has died on Walton’s ship, and the Creature tells
Walton that he is going to head for the furthest reaches of the North Pole,
there to build a large fire and cast himself onto it. He jumps off the ship and
onto an ice floe heading north, taking with him nothing but the clothes he
stands up in. He fails to explain where he’s going to find the materials to
make such a bonfire at the Pole, or what means he has to light it. The book is
loaded with such ludicrous lapses.
My first thought on reaching the end was to cast the book
onto my own living room fire, but I didn’t. Burning books is something I don’t
do, not even bad ones. I expect I’ll just put it away somewhere and forget
about it. I did my duty.
The walk was a bit tricky tonight. Most of the lane surfaces
were slippery, and who wants to risk a potentially injurious tumble when the
forecast temperature is -10°C? Accordingly, it was necessary to keep finding
areas of snow or frozen slush in the middle of the road or on the verges where
they existed. And that led me (as is my want, poor sod) into two areas of
When you consider what a massive range of temperatures the
universe is capable of producing – from the unimaginable heat at the surface of
the sun to the intense cold of outer space – how vulnerable it makes you feel to
realise just what a tiny fraction of that range the human animal is capable of
But then the constant changing of position to find safe
ground had me reflecting on the following question: Allowing for rather more
hazardous circumstances than those in which I was engaged, how should one
approach a seriously hazardous journey? Is it better to draw strength and
inspiration from a contemplation of the goal, or is it better to remove all
thought of the destination and concentrate on each footstep?
I erred on the side of the latter, not least because, to the
traveller, the destination doesn’t exist until he gets there. And what surer
way is there of arriving safely than to focus on completing each step
This post has the tone of a sermon about it, don’t you think?
Sorry. I reckon it comes from reading that bloody book Frankenstein. I finished it tonight. More on that later.
The friendliest birds in my garden at the moment are the
female blackbirds. When I go out with food – and even sometimes when I go out
empty handed – they hang around me, or follow me, or hop ahead of me. I greet them
all by name, which is easy because they’re all called Mrs B. (How on earth they
organise their mail deliveries is beyond me. I wonder the same about the women
who live west of the Seven Sisters in the Scottish Highland, who are all called
So, today I hitched up the huskies and took the trusty sled to
the retail park on the edge of Uttoxeter. And guess what. I was walking between
the place where I get cheap coffee and the place where I get cheap oats, and
there was a female blackbird behaving just the same as the ones do in my garden.
‘Hello, Mrs B,’ I said, and I swear she answered me.
I wonder whether universal consciousness is at work here.
All female blackbirds the world over are friends with JJ, because JJ comes
bearing food. What a nice idea.
You see how the world turns when you're blessed with CFS? Last night at this time I was afflicted with devastating fatigue and a severe attack of the chills coming perilously close to hypothermia. Tonight I'm dancing energetically to Caribbean Blue. But only briefly.
My footprints have always been quite close to the central line
with both feet pointing almost straight ahead. But tonight I looked at my
prints in the snow and found that something was amiss. They were still close
together and the right foot still pointed almost straight ahead, but the left
one was several more degrees to the outside. I’ve become lopsided. Should this
worry me? Might it even explain the silly ditties?
There was a lady from Baghdad
Whose compass skills were very bad
She sailed one day
But ended up in Trinidad
Maybe my multiple personalities are to blame. Maybe one of
them is controlling the right foot, but a different one the left. What will happen
when they want to go in different directions? Will both eyes water at the same time?
Some bright and creative people over here in the bright and
have just completed a bright and creative musical project. They left some
sheets of manuscript paper where the birds would deposit their droppings, and
then turned the poo blots into a musical score.
The news report said that the piece is called ‘Bird Sheet
Music,’ which might be a deliberate malapropism, or it might be a misprint.
Seems to me that there’s a word very close to ‘sheet’ that would not only be more
obviously appropriate, but also deliver a telling double meaning.
We have icicles! Icicles are surprisingly uncommon these
days. The temperature rose briefly yesterday and melted a little of the snow on
the roofs, so now they’re fringed with icicles. It would look quite pretty if
only there was sunshine to make them sparkle.
That’s what’s unusual about the current weather. If we get a
big snow in Britain,
the front normally moves away quickly and either a high or low pressure system
sets in. One gives us a few days of cold, sunny weather, the other a mild
period with a thaw. Not so this time. The weather remains bleak, grey and
frozen, with a biting east wind and frequent snow showers.
And here’s an interesting side issue. To save money, the
only room I keep heated during the day is my office, only adding heat elsewhere
at night when I need it. Consequently, the temperature in most of my house at
the moment is lower than it was last night when I was having the inner chill
problem. But I don’t have the inner chill problem now. I feel cold on the
outside, but not on the inside, which is how it should be. That’s what CFS is
like. One day you’re struggling to stay afloat in a heavy sea, the next you’re
swimming normally again. Well, almost normally.
And just to prove that I’m swimming almost normally, here’s the latest in the little ‘there was a lady’
series. I know they’re not very good, but they keep my mind ticking over. Just…
There was a lady from Tibet
Who kept a yeti as a pet
’Twas very rude
Ate all her food
How silly can a lady get?
Groan time. And time for me to attend to the needs of my
avian friends. They’re hanging around waiting for food. As Captain Oates said: ‘I
may be gone some time.’
Tonight was a bit rough. The old fatigue problem produces
different symptoms from day to day which seem to depend on such disparate
factors as the weather and the price of baked beans. Tonight’s symptoms were:
1) Such extreme tiredness that you feel drunk.
2) An inability to stop feeling chilled inside to a
debilitating degree, even sitting in a warm room. Ironically, this gets much
worse if you succumb to the extreme tiredness and fall asleep.
Taken together they make you feel a bit low and desirous of
moving beyond them, but how? I decided to watch a Lord of the Rings video on
YouTube which contains many shots of Cate Blanchett’s eyes and general body
language, at least one of which gives me an adrenalin rush every time I see it.
I swear all human life is there, and they brought me back to life as if by
Conversely, I’m irritated by a statement on a website that
Ms Blanchett is ‘half American and half Australian.’ I thought about that and
decided it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And then I thought of making a post
about why it doesn’t make a lot
sense, but chose not to.
It seems that, according to botanists, the new Canadian
banknotes have the wrong leaf on
them. Experts say that it’s the leaf of a Norwegian species of maple, not the
‘You’re being pedantic,’ say the Canadians. ‘It’s only meant
to be a graphic representation of a maple leaf.’
So who’s right? I seem to recall that the Canadians describe
their flag as ‘A Canadian Maple leaf in red…’ Are they now covering their embarrassment
with a convenient excuse, or are the botanists being pedantic?
Oh for such matters of great import to keep our minds from
atrophying in the mire of mere trivialities. Such as, for example, Oxfam’s
assertion that the world’s richest hundred people (yes, just 100) have enough
wealth to end world poverty four times over. Though the detail might be
complex, I’m sure Oxfam have a valid point here. They’re asking that we
reorganise the way in which the world operates so as to achieve a better
balance between the masses who die of want, and the tiny minority who bathe in
I think the wrong people are in charge to have any hope of
that happening, and maybe there’s a bigger picture to consider anyway.
No more whinges about winter, eh? It’s becoming tiresome,
right? Right. No more whinges about winter. (But may I just mention that the
temperature in my kitchen tonight is 5°C. The recommended temperature range for
fridges is 2-5°C, which officially makes my kitchen a very big fridge.)
Mel said to me tonight:
‘All experience is neutral. It’s only the construction we
put on it that defines it as good or bad.’
This is a glass half full/ half empty thing, right? I agree.
So if you get leprosy, you should see it as a damn fine way of losing weight
without recourse to diet or exercise. Got it.
My probable Irish ancestry just came up with a poem in order
to demonstrate that we Irish make very good poets – which is much better than
eating them like we used to.
There was a lady from Bangkok Who kept a rabbit down her frock Upon the hour Come sun or shower It popped up like a cuckoo clock
I shouldn’t have mentioned the retreat from Moscow. The coincidence of similarities was
all too evident tonight. The Shire is bleak and snowbound, with an eye-watering
wind whispering replies to the grunts of my footfalls on ice-encrusted snow. I
was, at least, grateful that I didn’t have dysentery.
I followed a set of fresh footprints when I walked down the
lane. They were about the same size as mine, and I wondered who’d made them. Who
would be crazy enough to go out walking on such an inhospitable night as this?
Apart from a dog fox, that is. I heard one barking close by,
just as I set foot on my path when I got home. I turned around and saw him break
cover a few yards away. His dark, shaggy shape watched me for a few moments, and
then trotted on. I hope his coat was warmer than mine.
I once spent all of a freezing Saturday in the loft of an
old cottage, clearing 2ft snowdrifts to avert the damage they might have done
when they melted. The reason for the snowy intrusion was that much of the
torching had fallen off over the century of the house's existence, and the previous day’s
blizzard had driven an awful lot of the white stuff through the gaps.
(Torching, by the way, is the plaster-like concoction which they used to seal
the gaps behind the tiles in the days before roofing felt.)
When I moved into this house in 2006, I persuaded the
landlord to have the torching renewed so that I wouldn’t have the same problem
again. They did a good job, but apparently not good enough. Since we’re being
treated to a bit of a blizzard today, I thought I’d go and check. Most of the
torching is good, but there were still four or five piles of snow that had come
through gaps, one of which wasn’t small enough for comfort. I thought I’d
better get a shovel and a big plastic bag and remove it.
The loft here is difficult to get into through the tiny
entrance in the bathroom ceiling. And it’s too small to move around in
comfortably. You have to crawl, feeling all the time for the joists which are
hidden by lagging laid at right angles. And then you have to stretch and twist
to get at the snow. And lofts are always cold, dark, dirty places at the best
of times. Mercifully, it was a much smaller job than the last one.
Memories might only be faded photographs of something that
doesn’t exist any more, but sometimes they can be significant. They can put
down markers to a story still extant. They show you where you were then
compared with where you are now, and you wonder how the hell you got from one
to the other. And nothing is better at triggering memories than music.
So it is with this. It’s all about priestesses and playing
games and discovering what is most profound in human connection.
It’s also a timeless little gem, even if it doesn’t trigger
any memories and have you glancing at Elysian Fields.
You know, the previous post could have been a lot longer.
When I’m out walking the lanes at night, I get these little germs (which isn’t
a typo) of observation, and they grow into long discourses, and I decide to
make a post about them when I get back.
But who wants to read long philosophical discourses from
somebody who isn’t even a philosopher? Bigger minds than mine have had a go at
philosophy, and still all they’ve come up with is Yet Another Theory. So
instead, I try to distil it down to something short, just for the sake of
having something to write. I suppose that makes me the philosophical equivalent
of a poet or a glass of gin.
Be glad you’re not accompanying me on a night walk down the
lane. You’d probably get a long discourse from a strange being huddled inside a
tattered coat and a woolly hat. You’d get bored, and probably faint or
something. You might even feint a faint, just to shut me up.
It’s still snowing out there, and this is only the showery
phase. The big stuff is coming to bury us tomorrow. And here’s a ditty from the
swamp creature. I don’t see him very often, thankfully.
I met a lady from Peru
And, being polite, said
‘how d’you do.’
‘Front, back or side,’
She said with pride.
‘Just any way you want
Turned out she was a hairdresser.
So much of life is about perception rather than reality, you
know. And talking of life, guess who I might be having a conversation with this
weekend, for the first time in two years. A star in the west, that’s who.
Tonight’s walk wasn’t quite as cold as last night’s, but it
was still a bit chilly. And the wind had risen, which made it feel colder. And
it was snowing. I trudged on, taking in the atmosphere of it all.
It occurred to me that if any of the locals saw me out tonight,
they would probably be even more convinced of my strangeness than they are
already. (What am I talking about? What’s this ‘locals’ business? I’m a local.
But then, I think I’m strange, so that’s OK. To continue…) They might ask me ‘Why
the hell do you do it?’ So, failing the close attentions of a fellow local, I
asked myself the same question (talking to myself comes naturally anyway –
Well, for the experience I suppose. A case can, and often
is, made for the assertion that:
a) Since the past no longer exists and the future is
unknown, there is only now (even though a case can also be made for the
assertion that now doesn’t exist either. And yet it does – or seems to – in an
odd, incomprehensible sort of way, so let’s go along with it for the sake of
b) Life is experience; experience is life. There is nothing
else at this level.
OK then, the reason I’m doing it is for the experience.
Doesn’t that just make perfect sense?
I started feeding the birds the first winter I lived here. I
wanted to help them through the lean time, and I expect I did. But it leaves me
with a dilemma.
When the weather is as consistently cold as it is at the
moment, the birds become frantic. The ground remains frozen and there are no
seeds or berries to be had (for some reason, the ivy hasn’t fruited this year –
presumably because of the exceptionally wet summer.) And so they’re turning to
me, and the job of keeping them supplied is almost full time.
No doubt I’m helping some to survive who would otherwise die
of cold and starvation. That seems good. On the other hand, they’re dependent
on me, and that doesn’t. What does one do? Harden the heart and let nature take
its course? There’s a certain rightness about that, but I would find it
extremely difficult to do.
Tell you what: going out for a walk on a night like tonight
is a bit like being part of the retreat from Moscow.
OK, maybe it isn’t quite as bad. At least I had several
layers of clothing and a woolly hat on. And I didn’t have quite so far to walk,
or dysentery, or hunger pangs. And maybe it wasn’t quite as cold as it gets in
a Russian winter. But it gives you some idea of what it might have been like.
Maybe my current dislike of winter stems from having
departed a previous life while retreating from Moscow. There’s an interesting thought.
When the outside temperature drops as low as -5° Celsius, I
take it as adequate cue to don my seriously good gloves when I go out for the
night walk. Tonight being forecast to drop rather lower than minus five, on
went the gloves.
All my life I’d wanted a pair of seriously good gloves, and
last winter I finally laid out the money and bought the most expensive pair the
shop had in stock. They’re heavy and thick, like boxing gloves with fingers.
They have a fleece lining as well as the body insulation, and they have lots of
fancy buckles and straps, the exact purpose of which eludes me but they look
good. Best of all, they’re black, with the maker’s logo – White Rock – embossed
in red. In short, they’re a pretty swanky pair of gloves. I assume they’re
pukka skiers’ gloves, and skiers are a swanky bunch, aren’t they? They drive
I did think of dropping into the pub, just to swank with my
swanky gloves, but thought better of it. The good burghers would have looked at
my dirty wellies, my raggedy work jeans, my winter coat that’s falling apart at
the seams (it really is literally
falling apart at the seams) and my tatty old woolly hat, and then declared:
‘There is incongruity afoot here. The gloves do not match this
ill-attired peasant. He must have stolen them from a rich person’s Volvo. Seize
People have been accused, tried and convicted on flimsier
evidence than that.
I might have been summarily suspended by the neck from the
nearest tree. At very least I would have been taken before the magistrate and
condemned to having my autumn years spent in ignominious incarceration.
I gave the pub a wide berth.
If you think that’s implausible, you should read Frankenstein. It gets sillier and
sillier by the page. It reminds me of a story I wrote when I was nine, the
denouement of which revolved upon the unlikely incidence of a match falling
from somebody’s pocket and striking, thus setting a fire which razed the
witches’ house to the ground. Frankenstein
is becoming that bad. It lends itself to the gnawing suspicion that it was
written by an immature nine-year-old with no clue as to how things work, but
with a skill for writing impeccable but stodgy and turgid English. I’m reading
it now for two reasons:
1) I like to finish what I start.
2) The sheer implausibility of it all is becoming an
amusement in itself.
I lost £2 in Ashbourne today. That is, I lost the voucher
half of my car park ticket which would have enabled me to claim it back against
my shopping in the supermarket.
I know £2 isn’t a lot of money, but it’s the principle. I
hate waste in all things. And it’s what it represents – the negative flow of
money energy that’s been dogging my footsteps for the past couple of years. It’s
about time it turned positive, as it usually does eventually. But how do you
choose the time? Was it right to go without lunch to recompense myself for the
lost two pounds? Is that how it’s done? Probably not.
‘Let’s look on the
bright side,’ said father.
‘What can’t be ’elped
must be endured.’
OK, let’s look on the bright side. There should be a joke
coming, but I can’t think of a good one. It’s cold in my office, so I’m off to
You know, there’s something going on in my life at the
moment. It’s subtle and distant, but highly significant. And it’s a secret. Bye
Ever since the weather turned full zero, by which I mean
that the temperature is staying below freezing even during the day, my garden
has become a refugee camp for the local birds. Every morning when I go out with
food, they’re perched in battalions on greenhouse, hedgerow and shrub, waiting
and watching. And the amount of food that usually lasts two hours is gone in
about fifteen minutes. I had to buy double rations of oats in the supermarket
today. British garden birds seem to favour porridge oats above all else when
the weather gets this cold.
Meanwhile, The Shire looks a bit like a Christmas cake. The
tree branches have been heavily laden with thick hoar frost all day; and even
I, hater of winter that I am, can’t fail to be impressed by the beauty.
YouTube doesn’t charge, but since few things come free in
this world, there’s still a price to pay. The price – as is usually the case
with ‘free’ internet things – is being subjected to the soul-destroying
blatherings of the admen. Let’s face it, there aren’t many good adverts out
there. Most of them are either inherently mindless, or at least aimed in the general
direction of mindless people.
So, off you go to YouTube and select a piece of music that
you’re in the mood to hear. Music, as all non-mindless people know, is capable
of transporting us to an infinite number of alternate dimensions – dimensions to
which we want to be transported – dimensions that are difficult to access any
other way. This is the nearest most of us get to the magical world beyond the
rainbow. And what do we get first as an aperitif? Some overweight, brain dead
bozo rampaging up and down a train like a warthog on speed, trying to find his executive-style
wife so he can give her the latest, multi-chemically-impregnated offering from
junk food f****** heaven! And when the music does eventually get underway,
another advert jumps up on the screen to obscure the accompanying video.
Sad, shameful, hideous.
If we have to have ads, couldn’t they at least try to pick
ones that match the magic?
All of which proves, I suppose, that there aren’t any HSP
types in the advertising business.
However much a story is meant to be an allegory, it still
needs to make sense as a story, right? Well, there’s an awful lot in the story
of Frankenstein that’s irrational or
implausible. Most of it I’ve tried to ignore, but this is the big one:
Victor’s narrative never says how he actually made the creature. I was assuming he’d
put random bits of cadavers together, partly because
the films take that route, and partly because there was early reference to scouring graveyards and
charnel houses for bodies. But he never actually says that’s how it was done.
And maybe it wasn’t.
Mr C has now prevailed upon V to make him a mate and
threatened dire consequences if he doesn’t comply, so that’s what V is
currently engaged in. And where’s he gone to make the second creature? To a small,
remote island in the Orkneys which only has three shacks on it, one of which V
has rented to do the job. And all he has with him is his laboratory equipment. And
there’s no mention of graveyards this time.
Hmmm… I suspect that Mary has glossed over a pretty
important element here, but time will tell. Reading on.
Call me a wimp and a whingepot if you like, but I don’t like
winter. It constricts my energies and irritates my mind; it makes me
uncomfortable and I’ve had enough of it now. Yes, I know all the arguments
about natural cycles and things, but they don’t get snow in the Amazon basin
do they, and that’s natural enough. The birds don’t like it either. They were
in a bad mood today, especially the blackbirds.
So anyway, The Shire had an air of frigid desolation about
it tonight. The pub was in darkness, some of the bigger houses were in
darkness, not a single vehicle passed me, no dog barked, no owl hooted, and no
wind whispered in the branches. The only sign of life I saw consisted of a pair
of arms clad in pink engaged in some presumably mundane occupation at the
kitchen window of a cottage in Mill
Lane. They at least were moving, I think. The cars
standing out in the open, however, looked abandoned, left to atrophy by their
human owners and subsequently claimed by the Winter Queen for her petrified
menagerie. Even Mistress Moon was wearing her spooky aspect in which the yellow
crescent lies on the underside instead of on the right as a proper waxing
crescent should. Seeing the two horns turned upward, it was easy to imagine
that two sinister eyes might suddenly open and stare at me.
And might I mention that my fingers were tingling, even
though I was wearing gloves?
My fingers were tingling, even though I was wearing gloves.
There’s a woman I sometimes see walking around the lanes,
pushing a baby buggy with one hand while controlling two dogs on leads with the
other. I always admired her skill in doing that. I saw her again today, only
this time she had the baby buggy and four
dogs on leads.
This has to be down to the famed female skill for
multi-tasking, doesn’t it? Either that or the dogs were huskies in a past life
and are conditioned to walk parallel with each other and in a straight line.
Maybe they even think they’re pulling the baby buggy.
Whatever the answer, all four dogs seemed happy, and there are
few delights in life to match the sight of a happy dog. Whether the woman and
the baby were happy I have no idea. I find the body language of babies quite
incomprehensible, and the woman was wearing a hat.
You know how some people can eat a whole box of chocolates
in one sitting? (They usually have blue hair, a surfeit of maladjusted poodles
and a 50” TV set, but not always.) Well, I’m the same with bread. Give me a
loaf of good quality bread and I have great difficulty putting it away until
Oddly, I’m not keen on most of the centres you get in boxed
chocolates, especially the fruit creams. The invention of lime cream chocolates
has to be one of the very lowest points of human endeavour. Hand made Belgian
chocolates, on the other hand, are something else again. Come to think of it, I
haven’t had a hand made Belgian chocolate for about twenty years. I have a
vague memory of savouring one while watching the TV alone one Christmas – Ghostbusters, I think it was, or maybe Eraserhead. It definitely wasn’t the
Queen’s Christmas Broadcast. I would have had too much respect for the chocolate.
Time for another scotch. That’s more of a comforting habit
than a fetish.
I've never had money because I've never been driven by money. I received little formal education beyond the age of sixteen, which isn't such a bad thing since you get a different angle on life that way. Learning what you want and need to learn often reveals things that the system's road keeps hidden.
Anyone interested in viewing the availablity of my novel Odyssey or novella The Gift Horse can do so here.
To Be Retained...
...until death do re-unite or the Priestess return to Avalon.
Khalil Gibran on Children.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
OMAR KAYYAM ON REGRET.
The moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on. Nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
Herman Hess on Nobility
There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self .
I have another blog called A Handful of Stories on which I've posted some of my short fiction. Most of it has been published by a variety of independent small press publishers, so somebody other than me must have thought it worth reading.
All the permanent pictures and some of the posted ones on this blog are my copyright. Most of them, however, are placed with a picture library which holds the licensing rights. I don't, therefore, have the legal right to grant permission to use them.
An Inhabitant of the Hungry Ghost Realm
This character appears in one of my short stories, and also in the novel. He's sadder than he looks, poor thing.