Saturday, 21 October 2017

Variations on Cheer.

Autumn in the Shire is coming up a little short of being classically autumnal this year. On Monday we had the waspish waist of Hurricane Ophelia, and today we got the flabby flank of Storm Brian. We’re hoping that Ophelia and Brian have now taken a fancy to one another and are currently engaged in a dubious relationship at a resort somewhere on the west coast of Svalbard.

Today was gruesomely gloomy again, with cold winds, leaden skies and spitting showers. Such conditions depress my spirits mightily now that the HSP gene has become well entrenched in what still passes for a brain. Acute awareness can be quite the curse at times.

But still I went for walk with head bowed against the blast, hoping to see some traditional colour setting the dark greens and browns ablaze. There was none. It seems that as soon as the leaves wither and change their hue, brutal winds with disarmingly silly names come along and cast them cruelly to the ground.

My spirits are still depressed, so much so that I haven’t a clue how to conclude this post satisfactorily. Oh for the entrance of a cheerful sprite to cheer me up and move me to the making of a cheery post.

A Bad Day for Boney.

Today is Trafalgar Day here in Britain. It commemorates the day in 1805 when the British fleet defeated a combined French and Spanish force and thus thwarted the attempt of a man from Corsica to become Boss of the Western World.

And yet I gather that even British historians acknowledge that Bonaparte wasn’t such a bad bloke, and that he left Europe in a better state than he’d found it. So whether you cheer and sing Hearts of Oak or not is a matter of personal sensibility.

(Although bear in mind that if Napoleon had achieved his desired aim the history of Europe would have taken a different road and we might never have had the film Amelie, so I think half a cheer is in order. And I suppose I should mention Trump’s attempt to become Boss of the Western World at this juncture, but there’s not even the slightest comparison so I won’t bother. Napoleon was, after all, a small man with a big mind.)

The Happiness Sell.

There’s an ad appeared on my Hotmail page for a financial institution here in the UK. The thrust of the ad is that they’re offering overdrafts fee-free for 12 months to new accounts. (They don’t mention the interest, of course, which is separate.) Only after the first year will they start paying a fee of £182.50 a year on a £1200 overdraft (as well as the interest, of course.). And the image they use to promote this offer shows an attractive young couple looking relaxed and happy out wandering the open landscape and luxuriating in one another’s company. The message is happiness and freedom. And all because they’re now in debt. Irresistible.

Winners and Losers.

It’s tempting to speculate on whether Donald Trump is happy. I was reading this morning about a journalist who pointed out that Trump is not as rich as he says he is (as well as pointing out that the Renoir which Trump owns and claims to be genuine actually isn’t.) The self-styled big man filed a lawsuit for defamation to the tune of $5bn, and lost. If that isn’t the action of a sad little creature, it would be hard to imagine what is.

I was also reading about a man in Nottingham who was dining in a restaurant when he saw a homeless man walking past barefoot. He ran out and gave him his favourite pair of trainers which cost £120. No doubt Trump would call him a loser. It’s a word he seems to like very much and uses to denigrate anyone who is bigger than him.

So let’s consider who is the real loser here. It doesn’t take much working out, does it?

Friday, 20 October 2017

Oh No, Not Trump Again.

I see Trump’s latest ignorant tweet which links a rise in the crime rate in England and Wales with ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ finishes with the words: We must keep America safe.

America? Safe? Is he aware that the murder rate in the US is over 4x what it is in the UK? Has he given any consideration to the underlying factors in American society which might give rise to such disparity, and is he proposing to do anything about them?

I’m thoroughly tired of writing about the idiot known as Trump, but as long as he’s President of the country which likes to think of itself as leader of the free world…

A Note on Ghosts.

On young Albert Ramsbottom’s birthday
His parents asked what he’d like most
He said “to see ’Tower of London
And gaze upon Anne Boleyn’s ghost”

(That isn’t one of my ditties, by the way; it’s from the third of the Albert monologues by Stanley Holloway. If I were to write one it would be more along the lines of: If I were a ghost, what would I like most? Vanilla ice cream or some hot buttered toast? It’s one of the reasons for having gone through life without the slightest hint of fame ever attaching to me. Well, apart from the time when I appeared on a TV quiz show, of course. But the only people who found my televisual manifestation worthy of note were an actor I knew at the theatre and a bunch of young girls who stared at me through the glass doors. And that doesn’t really count as fame.)

I think about ghosts a lot, you know; I always have. My life has been full of strange experiences, many of which seem quite inexplicable without reference to the paranormal. Mel once said that it was one of the things which made me difficult to live with. Spooky things happen around me. They do.

So now one of the things I find fascinating about death is the possibility that I might finally discover whether it’s possible to join the league of ghosts. The thought of being a ghost appeals to me, although I’m not quite sure why it should since it must be a lonely sort of existence. People don’t usually invite them for tea and muffins, do they? People are not generally in the habit of boosting the poor ghost’s confidence by reassuring them that ‘you look really quite fetching today. That particular shade of off-white suits you perfectly; it matches the pallor of your skin so that one completely fails to notice the absence of colour in your eyes.’ They don’t, do they? They run away instead, and the more you run after them the more they shriek.

Besides, I’m a considerate and mostly inoffensive soul at heart and I would be more mortified at the prospect of frightening somebody than they would be at the prospect of seeing a ghost. I must admit, however, that there is one person on this planet under whose window I should like to roam in the early hours singing the first verse of Raglan Road, but I haven’t a clue where her window is these days so that possibility must lie begging. And the same impediment also applies to my other wish: to whisper in her ear at unguarded moments: ‘You once promised to tell me what the ‘y’ meant and you never did, so now I cannot rest in peace and it’s all your fault.’

(But if ever you read this, my lady, you may be assured that my abiding fondness for you is quite undiminished and I would rather engage with perdition’s flame than cause you any distress. Have no fear; sleep peacefully. You may rejoice with confidence when somebody informs you of my demise. That’s if anybody bothers, of course.)

Happiness is a Big Supermarket.

I’ve decided that I dislike supermarkets. They’re bland, soulless places designed – at least in the aesthetic sense – to do homage only to the god of corporate identity. I consider corporate identity to be a dark, selfish demon disguised as a god, whose only concern is to engender delusion among the masses in order to sate its ravening and rapacious appetite.

I accept that supermarkets serve a practical purpose which could no longer be served by small, independent retail shops, but that in itself raises the question: is the availability of a greatly expanded range of products a good thing, or is it actually a prime example of a modern tyranny?  

Did we miss them before we had them, and is life better for the having of them? Or do they exist merely to expand the economy and produce the greatest delusion of all: the belief that people are happier now than they were in simpler times?

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Establishing Identity.

I’m not Chinese, Jeff, I’m Australian.

No, she didn’t say that, but she might have done.

So what are we: our genes or our minds? My existential musing would favour mind. Genes inform the mind, but the mind determines. And mind is suitably abstract. So I stand corrected, or would do if she’d ever said it.


No dog or horse encounters, no lady stories, no existential rambles, no nightmares worthy of note, no surreal streams of consciousness, no film reviews, no Shire happenings apart from the fact that I cleared some road drains and gave the remaining crop from my apple tree to the local school, no Trump rants since he’s being nothing more than boringly maladroit as usual…

Where do I go from here? What is life if there’s nothing to write about?

Should I bask in past glories and read some old stories which I wrote near a decade ago? Or should I climb in to a waste paper bin and get used to the new status quo?

Notice, observe, consider, imagine, write, edit, post. That’s my MO these days. I like the growth energy of my garden, but I find working on it tedious. I used to enjoy rambles around the Shire, but that was when there was reasonable prospect of meeting a ray of sunshine walking towards me (two rays actually.) I used to like capturing images on film, but that was before I discovered the limitations of a two-dimensional medium.

Nowadays I write. Without writing I am but a runner bean with no legs, a kidney bean with alcohol intolerance, a broad bean with anorexia, a French bean that’s lost its beret. My purpose is absent.

That will have to do for now. I expect there will be more eventually.

Fearful Priestess and Fake Kipling.

I think I’ve finally discovered the priestess’s Achilles’ heel. I had an email from her this morning as she was about to board her flight to Nepal (I thought she was already there, but apparently not) and she admitted to feeling nervous at the prospect of the cold in the mountains. I suppose it’s understandable really, since Himalayan temperatures, even in autumn, must be at a level to which Australians are drastically unaccustomed.

It still surprised me, though, because I’ve been observing the priestess for 7½ years, during which time the conviction has grown in me that she fears nothing at all. Seems she does: being cold. So should I smile? No, because I fear lots of things, among which is the knowledge that my greatly esteemed Lady Qin is trekking in the vicinity of some of the highest and wildest mountains in the world, thereby exposing herself to such dangers as hypothermia, attack by Yeti, and whatever else the remoter parts of the planet might have lurking.

In spite of these misgivings, however, it still occurred to me that Kathmandu must surely offer the opportunity for a new ditty. It didn’t. Try as I might, nothing dropped onto the ditty plate like seeds from an overripe melon. Until I thought of Kipling…

On the road to Kathmandu
Where the yaks all do their poo
And the smells rise up like thunder
From the roofless outside loo

And then I felt thoroughly ashamed at having the sort of lavatorial sense of humour which would seem immature in a 7-year-old.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Rambling About Non-Existence.

I was thinking today about how deep you can go when musing on the concept of colour, but it’s a simple truism to say that colour doesn’t exist except as a concept. A combination of electro-magnetic wavelengths being reflected from an object enters the eye and then proceeds by way of an electrical signal to the brain which informs that abstract thing called perception that here is a phenomenon which the receptor has been conditioned through instruction to call ‘red.’ There’s actually no such thing as red. It’s all a matter of reflection and perception, sub atomic particles and wavelengths. The universe is colourless except in our minds, and while the brain is constructed of atoms (which are also just bundles of energy) the mind is an abstract thing.

It’s the same with money. Money doesn’t exist either except as a concept. It’s just an abstract mechanism manipulated to function through confidence and consensus. You have no money in your bank account; you just think you do because the system of exchange is designed to operate through your belief that it is so. Ergo, there is also no such thing as a bank account in an objective sense. But as long as we perceive it in a quantitative sense, it works.

Pain is another one. It's all in the mind, and the mind isn't something you can put in a box.

All of which appears to vindicate my assertion that perception is the whole of the life experience, and that the fundamental nature of being is abstract.

So why do I suddenly feel constrained to say this when a thousand philosophers and holy men have said it better since time immemorial? I don’t know. I suppose I’m still trying to work out who the hell I am, who the hell you are, and what the hell we’re doing here. That’s if we really are here, of course.

Oh for a cup of coffee with the Lady B's erstwhile host. I need something to make sense and keep me sane. (Did I say 'keep'?)

Reviewing Half a Film.

I watched some more of Lost in Translation tonight, until I reached the half way point. And then I switched it off.

When I picked it off the shelf I had high hopes for this film. I like the two stars and the synopsis suggested the potential for something moving, meaningful and subtly humorous. What I’d seen by the half way point was too loud, too brash, too superficial, too predictable, too overheated; in short, too Hollywood. I found it cheap and about as compelling as wet candyfloss.

Scarlett Johansson was wasted as an empty-headed creature merely bored, pretty and nothing much else, and Bill Murray played the older man with what for me is the poorer side of his professional range. The direction was little better than soap standard, the script was verging on the incoherent at times, and the only funny character was Murray’s wife who we never even see except through the faxes and letters she sends from the good ol’ US of A. And please strike Tokyo from my earlier post. The cold mountains of Nepal would probably suit me better after all.

Maybe the second half is better, but once the tone is set…

Defining Collywobbles.

Let’s see, what should I call her? How about the most significant woman in my life? That won’t really do because she has several rivals for that title. The most important woman in my life? Same objection. Let’s try the most compelling woman in my life. Mmm… no, not quite there yet. At least two other women could claim that level of status, all in different ways but it would be hard to choose between them. I think the best I can manage would be:

The woman who got under my skin a long time ago, who doesn’t know she’s there and wouldn’t want to be there, but who occupies my consciousness (in a positive light, that is) for more hours of the day than anybody else.

I know it’s a bit long winded, but at least it’s accurate. And so to the point of the post:

She smiled and waved at me today and I spent the following hour feeling shaken and mildly dysfunctional (even though the smile had more of duty than of pleasure about it.) I always do whenever I see anything even remotely connected with her. In Britain we like to call it ‘an attack of the collywobbles.’ (Although ‘collywobbles’ is defined quite liberally and has various nuances attached to it, including one relating to fear.)

And then, later that day, another, much older, woman walked into the coffee shop and also smiled at me. But it was a different sort of smile, an interested sort of smile that I found less than compelling. So then I got another attack of the collywobbles, only of a different sort than those which comprised the previous attack. At which point I considered beginning the grand tome entitled Collywobbles and Their Multifarious Hues, but I don’t expect I will.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Way Out of the Web.

I had a concentrated string of encounters with spiders a few days ago, and so I asked Mel what it means in shamanic terms. She said it means that I feel trapped in a spider’s web and am fretting because I fear that the spider will come and eat me. The message is that I should stop fretting and look the spider in the eye. That, apparently, is the way out of the web.

So much for shamanism. I’ve got a better idea.

For some years now I’ve indulged in the fantasy that one day somebody will email me and say ‘Please come to Tokyo, Jeffrey san. We want to make horror movie from one of your stories and would welcome your input. We pay for flights and all expenses, including unlimited access to the cabinet with the glass doors under TV set where all the little bottles are.’

Do you know how long it’s been since I stayed in a hotel? I think I’d better not say. And I dislike them anyway, but they probably beat spiders’ webs.

I just watched the first half of Lost in Translation, you see, and decided that I really do need an exotic experience. I think I’d prefer to leave out the frustrated young American woman with the inattentive husband, though, because that would create too much emotional disturbance and result in a resurgence of the fretting habit. But the bright lights and funny locals would do just fine.

And it wouldn’t have to be Tokyo. New York would do, or Melbourne, or Singapore – anywhere really as long as there were bright lights and funny locals. Anywhere except Nepal; I might bump into the priestess in Nepal and then the fretting would start in earnest.

Does anybody with influence ever read this blog?

Monday, 16 October 2017

Better at Sea.

A hurricane came a-visiting these fair shores today – Hurricane Ophelia by name. But of course, hurricanes are rarely classifiable as hurricanes once they’ve crossed the deep Atlantic because they’ve shrunk a bit by then and become merely storms. But today’s merely storm was particularly severe by all accounts, so let’s dignify it with the term ‘sub-hurricane.’

Ireland got the worst of it, which I sort of hoped might persuade the odd hardy soul to read my story When the Waves Call because it’s set on the west coast of Ireland in just such conditions. But I don’t suppose anybody did because it isn’t exactly famous, is it? (But note the clever link I put in because I’m good at that sort of thing.)

And it does prompt me to mention that I once spent time in a small frigate out in mid-Atlantic in the throes of such a storm. The effect it has on the deep ocean is quite remarkable, turning it into an ever moving mountain range of heaving brown water which lifts the ship onto a peak one minute, then drops it into a trough the next, while all the time the little vessel is pitching, rolling and yawing like Nijinsky on speed. It’s really quite thrilling as long as you’re not seasick (which I wasn’t) and as long as you don’t expend too much imaginative energy on the possibly deleterious consequences of such a situation. After all, you don’t get rescued when the nearest solid ground is 1,000 miles away.

In fact, we did have a man washed overboard on the first day when the storm was still but a strengthening gale, but he got rescued by a hardy boat’s crew of the bulldog breed and so, in the immortal words of Stanley Holloway, there were no wrecks and nobody drownded, in fact nothing to laugh at at all.

But back to the present. We in the middle of England are getting Ophelia’s flank tonight and the noise is not exactly thrilling, just irritating.

Losing Ladies (and Friends.)

Who am I going to chat to in Uttoxeter now that my two favourite serving wenches are serving no more?

Lucy, late of the coffee shop, has left.

‘Already?’ I said with just sufficient expression of disbelief to appear surprised but still in control of my emotions.

‘I’m afraid so.’

‘Where’s she gone?’

‘It’s personal.’ (This final and decisive statement being delivered with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink sort of look which suggested that my informant thought I should know what he meant. I didn’t, but since it’s personal it’s none of my business anyway, so that’s OK.)

Chelsea, late of another retail establishment, has also left, but at least I know where she’s gone. She’s gone to learn to minister to bodies which aren’t dead yet.

Why don’t you just say she’s gone to do nursing training?

‘Because I like to use unnecessary words and idiosyncratic means of expression so as to fill the page and encourage the belief that I’m odd.’

It’s crass, bad form, bad English, and likely to lose you friends.

‘It’s not the worst of my faults.’

I know.

The thing is, you see, I find that young women make much better conversationalists than young men because they have more savvy and broader minds. Middle aged people aren’t usually worth talking to because they’re too set in their ways and convinced that the panacea for the ills of modern society is a pot of white paint, and the elderly are too distracted by the need to find the nearest toilet.

That last statement is definitely going to lose you friends.

‘But I’m only kidding.’

That’s no excuse.

‘Can I plead insanity?’

No, you can apologise.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Oddments and the Colour of Voices.

When I was a kid my impatient nature was forever being addressed by that hoary old saying: Good things come to those who wait. I grew to have faith in the statement until the email was invented. The priestess is currently wandering the cold mountains of Nepal.

I keep on having the first two lines of a new ditty drop into my head. They’re very promising, too, but I find myself quite unable to complete them. It seems that a part of my brain on which I have come greatly to rely over recent years is being blocked by a mysterious force.

I talked at some length today to the ghost of the Lady B. Her replies were reticent as usual.

I read about some research which has established that magic mushrooms really are good for you, but the researchers advise us not to eat any until they have extracted the magical ingredient and formed it into an expensive pill.

No attack by the ravening black dog last night. I didn’t expect one.

I’ve been noticing lately what beautiful voices Japanese women have. They’re smooth, well modulated, quietly sensual, and the colour of new butterscotch. The priestess is part Japanese.

The Lady B’s erstwhile host also had a beautiful voice, but it was higher – more the colour of well ripened barley. It, too, was well modulated, but more direct and mature than quietly sensual. And it demonstrated an uncommon clarity of diction which allowed no excuse for repetition, while hinting at that velvet quality of feminine assertiveness which defines the value of the distaff.

The cerise hue of times past can be unsettling when the mud through which you’re attempting to trudge is becoming thicker.

Seeing Fear.

It occurs to me that the wolf-like dog which menaced me last night brought an interesting message. It’s a curious trait of humans to be frightened by things which have no substance and can do us no harm. It’s often the case that what we fear is only fear itself; we’re afraid of being frightened. Maybe that’s what the dog came to tell me, and maybe I should be grateful.

(Having my sleep disturbed by a ravening monster – however illusory – is a different matter, but that’s merely irritating.)

An Aspiration.

I think I would quite like to be one of those dishevelled old men who are the enigmatic proprietors of tiny emporiums set at the far end of quaint little alleyways, and of which the milling mass of busy shoppers are entirely unaware but to which the rare and needful people are inevitably drawn

And true to my nature I will only sell things which are old, incongruous in relation to each other, and also enigmatic – compellingly so.

And I will decline to sell any of my treasures to anyone unless I know them to be in need of some chastening lesson which only a well chosen item of my merchandise can supply.

And because I sell them at a mysteriously low price, my customers will ask how I manage to make a living. I will decline to answer, but they will remain assured that I do.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Encouraged by Coincidence.

I bought two DVDs in Ashbourne last week. One was the film Lost in Translation and the other was That Mitchell and Webb Look, Series 2.

I started the Mitchell and Webb first, and by an odd coincidence there was a line in the first episode I watched which ran ‘or Lost in Translation, in which nothing happens at all.’

Don’t you just love coincidences like that? And it’s fortunate that I have a long history of very much liking films in which nothing at all happens, so thank you David Mitchell.

A Minor but Enigmatic Horror.

Just as I was drifting into sleep last night a huge, black, wolf-like dog leapt at me from the darkness. It came from my right side and a little behind me, and its jaws were aimed at my head. I pushed it away, sat up in bed breathing heavily, muttered ‘what the hell was that?’ and eventually went back to sleep. I think it would be fair to say that it was the most frightening dream I’ve ever had.

And of course, speculation might be offered as to its cause and implications, but I’m ill-qualified to judge and so I’ll just have to hope that it doesn’t happen again.

Friday, 13 October 2017

That Kind of Day.

Friday 13th lived up to its ominous reputation today. No details, it just did. I suspect it felt honour bound to accord with the recent trend, but my unquenchable optimism continues to sustain me.

Will things be better tomorrow? Will there be a tomorrow? I expect so. Watch this space.

And do you know why I haven’t talked about the ghost of the Lady B lately – apart from the mention of the Paddington Bear hat, that is? Because she’s resting. (Note my deliberate avoidance of any reference to a famous Grimm fairy tale – original story by Charles Perrault, by the way. Too much cheese.)

A Tale of Brawn and Sweet Revenge.

I don’t remember whether I told this story before, but if I did it was a long time ago and those who were reading my efforts then have long since moved onto better things.

Time runs apace.
Time’s a blockhead.
~ somewhere in the Works of Shakespeare.

Right then…

When I was seventeen and waiting to go to Dartmouth I got a temporary job as a labourer on a building site. I was told to start on Monday.

Monday duly arrived and so did the Monday lunchtime break at around 12 o’clock. I went to the canteen armed with my British working man’s salt-of-the-earth-style haversack, which my mother had dutifully filled with my luncheon requirements, and joined the big, brawny builder types in the tea queue.

All hands clasped a big earthenware mug, apart from those who had a tin one. I held out a small teacup fashioned in translucent bone China and sporting a most attractive floral design.

Mother, why are you doing this to me?

We all sat down and the countless brawny hands of the assembled brawny builder types produced sandwiches which would have competed favourably with the doorsteps of Old England. Mine were thin, white and cut with embarrassing accuracy into quarters. I chose not to look at the big, brawny builder types since I feared what I might read in their eyes in return.

After lunch I was called to the site office and told they couldn’t keep me on. They’d just looked at my cards, they said, and discovered that I was only seventeen, and since the company operated a closed shop and union membership was restricted to those aged eighteen and over, my employment had to be terminated.

I went to a phone box and rang my mother.

‘I’ve been fired,’ I told her.




‘I had an argument with the foreman and pushed him off the scaffold. He’s been taken to hospital.’

‘OMG!!!’ (Or whatever passed for OMG!!! in pre-internet days.)

And then, of course, I confessed the joke. But at least I’d had my revenge for the teacup and sandwiches. I’d also learned how to push a heavy wheelbarrow over a narrow plank (it’s just matter of confidence, like swimming and arranging dates) and how to throw two bricks at a time to a pair of brawny hands attached to a brawny bricklayer up on the scaffolding. Neither skill has ever served me since, sad to say, but I’m not dead yet so who knows?


I see the US has pulled out of UNESCO, citing the UN body’s ‘excessively anti-Israel bias.’ I suppose it’s not surprising really, given that over the past few years many of us have felt a teensie bit disappointed with America over what we view as its excessively pro-Israel bias. I sent an email to Barack Obama on the issue. He replied: ‘It’s complicated.’


The Diurnal Jekyll and Hyde Problem.

All my life I’ve been subject to an odd phenomenon: the person who wakes up in my body in the morning isn’t the same person who went to sleep in it the night before. The waking person usually holds shift all through the day and into the evening, and sometimes carries on until quite late at night. But at some point he undergoes a curious metamorphosis.

He stops being sensible, preferring instead to adopt a mixture of subversion and silliness. He hates all expressions of earnestness with a passion. He acknowledges the fact that moths are really fairies in disguise, rates aardvarks above academics, and would rather talk about the positive aspects of insanity than the State of the Union. (Neither of them understands how the hell Trump got to be President, but that’s pretty universal.)

Take the last post, for example, the one about hedonism. It was written yesterday, partly through the daylight hours and partly in early evening. When I came to post it later, the other guy had come on shift.

‘What the hell is this pile of shite?’ he asked sardonically. ‘It’s too serious, too rational, too grey; it stinks of earnestness, for heaven’s sake. It makes you look like the sort of person who went to school and wears a necktie sometimes. Do you? Wear a necktie, that is? No? No. So do not post the bloody thing. It’s bilge.’

And so I didn’t. The problem was that the current incumbent had nothing particular to say about anything that was either subversive or silly, and that’s why there were no blog posts last night. I watched another Japanese horror movie instead.

(Actually, I only watched half of it because the night shift operative has a very short attention span. As for the movie, it’s called Kaidan and I’m very much enjoying it. The only problem is that the male protagonist is uncannily like me in attitude and behaviour, so I’m finding him lacking credibility and somewhat dislikeable. The women are good, though, and mostly pretty.)

A Note on Hedonism.

I was thinking about the documentary I watched recently on the composer, Delius, and decided that I dislike hedonism and hedonists. Delius was described by one person as ‘the ultimate hedonist.’ Oh dear, that’s a shame. Sorry, Frederick, but I do still find your music exquisite.

I asked myself why I dislike hedonism, and it occurred to me that hedonism is the antithesis of Puritanism. So does that make me a Puritan? I certainly wouldn’t say so, and I’m sure that those who know me would agree. I think part of the problem is that whereas hedonists see pleasure as an absolute end in itself, I’m more inclined to want to explore the nature and meaning of pleasure. So is that a reason to dislike hedonists? Not really. I needed to go further, and so I checked the definition of the word on OED online. It said:

The pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.

Nothing much wrong with that, is there? What’s so wrong with pursuing pleasure, or even being sensually self-indulgent? I read a little further to the philosophical definition:

The ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.

‘Highest good.’ ‘Proper aim.’ Ah, maybe now we’re getting somewhere, because it seems to me that hedonism, when taken to its ultimate expression, is a weak and shallow philosophy. It tends to subvert, or even cast aside altogether, all those other principles and aspirations which it seems necessary to consider if life is to have any value – idealistic principles like altruism, duty, high ethical standards, and maybe most of all, the quest to discover what, if anything, lies beyond the material reality in which we exist as material beings. And so it seems to me that hedonism is only justified if you have engaged with that quest and satisfied yourself – honestly and without any quantifiable cause for doubt – that nothing lies beyond it. Such a conclusion is certainly not provable and the world is awash with anecdotal evidence to the contrary, and thus I am not so persuaded. I suppose that’s why I dislike hedonism.

I know someone who is a hedonist by inclination, but is also a searcher for truth and the meaning of life. She is, like me, an explorer of the human condition and the nature of perception. As such, she is inevitably driven to make regular forays into the great existential conundrum, and that’s when she hits conflict. It’s hardly surprising.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Categories and Upheavals.

It has come to my notice that my blog posts might broadly be categorised into five types:

Those which pretend to be serious

Those which pretend to be funny

Those which pretend to be ironic

Those which pretend to show a window on my world, past and present

Those which pretend to give the impression that I’m old, ugly, useless and slightly insane


Nothing much happened today unless you count the young guy in Sainsbury’s who stopped me and said ‘we’ve got stoneground wholemeal bread again.’ (Being remembered for your complaints is really exciting.)

Chloe wasn’t there to either talk or complain to, and I couldn’t be bothered to complain about anything to the woman I usually complain to either. She was wearing one of those contraptions which connect the ear to the mouth a là Thunderbirds Are Go, which is most intimidating because they give the impression that the wearer is far too busy engaging with managers, the emergency services, Mission Control, Will Smith and random aliens to be bothered with mere customers.

And it looks like I’ll soon be giving Sainsbury’s the push anyway because they’re bringing in a techno version of the Stasi to ensure that riff-raff like me don’t take liberties with the Rules of State in the matter of parking. Perception is the whole of the life experience, and one of my current perceptions is that Sainsbury’s standards are seriously slipping.

Whoops, I forgot category #6: the Sainsbury’s Post. Where would Wednesday be without a Sainsbury’s post? Indeed, where will Wednesday be without a Sainsbury’s post? I suppose it will have to become a Tesco post instead, only it will probably be on a Monday. Will I cope with the rigours of refugee status?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Donald: Flippant and Factual.

When I was searching Google Images for pictures of dear old Quas, I came across this:

So, be honest, who does Charles Laughton look like in this picture? I mean no disrespect here, but… well… he does, doesn’t he? And so I’m tempted to be flippant and ask two questions of Americans:

1. Does the White House have a bell tower (with gargoyles)?

2. Has Melania ever been known to stifle a shriek when Donald swaggers onto the stage?

So far, so good; this is just an innocent bit of fun. But on a more serious note, I gather that Donald is forever boasting about what a high IQ he has. Well, from what we’ve seen so far, that seems highly unlikely. But if he has, it can mean only one thing: as a person and a President he’s seriously under-achieving.

Proving Madness.

I read an interesting statistic this morning. Last year in the UK, 67,000 people were detained under the Mental Health Act. That’s very nearly one in every thousand of the population. So in a city of, say, half a million people, approximately 500 of them are mad.

And then it occurred to me that if I got detained under said Act, I would find it very difficult to protest my innocence since the powers that be would only have to produce my blog as evidence for the prosecution and the jury would declare: ‘this man is as mad as a March hare on LSD. Tie him to a tree in yonder wood and let the crows gorge upon the corruption that is his being.’ Or words to that effect. And I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on (not that you need one if you’re tied to a tree, but you know what I mean.)

(The first two sentences of this post could have led to a discourse of great depth and substance, but it didn’t.)

And I was reminded again tonight that there are few sights more compelling in this grey world made winter by the grip of psychopaths than that of a beautiful woman riding a horse at speed (which isn’t the same as a beautiful woman on speed riding a horse.) And such is especially true if her hair is long and streams in the draught to mirror the flow of the horse’s tail.

I had another post to make today but I’ve forgotten what it was. I think it might have been connected with hats in some way, but that’s probably because I’m still in thrall to the sight of a ghost walking past my garden with two women companions. I swear it was wearing a hat, and I had the oddest notion that it was a Paddington Bear hat. In all my life I have only ever once seen anybody wear such a hat. The memory of it is etched in gold (or blue to be precise) and stands unmoving and unmovable in my mind while everything around it crumbles to dust and is transmogrified into countless sibilant insects scurrying hither and thither.

And on the subject of hats, here is a picture of the only hat I possess (apart from the woolly winter type):

I have to point out, however, that at no time in my life did I look like the guy wearing it. This is closer:

Ah, if only I had the hair... And while I’m at it, you might as well have a picture of Esmeralda, aka She Who Shrieks.

You can see why I'm sans hope, sans charity, sans everything, can't you?

Monday, 9 October 2017

Being Bored.

English villages aren’t what they used to be. If, as a stranger, you’d come down my lane a hundred or so years ago – having passed the gibbet which I speculate stood at the top of the lane where the road has three branches – you would probably have had a few pitchforks pointed at you by men in smocks chewing bits of straw and smelling of stale sweat and toilets.

Nowadays you’d probably be ignored completely by professional people driving their children to be schooled in the Little Englander factory (which was going to be the subject of a post but I decided against it) in new or newish prestige cars, mostly black. And whereas the bucolic bastions of yesteryear voted Tory because the local bigwig told them to, the latter-day incomers still vote Tory because they believe that might is right and might is money. Oh, and the local witch isn't frightening any more, merely irritating.

The romance is missing. Oh for the smell of stale sweat and toilets. Or maybe not. And I am exaggerating slightly because today was singularly uneventful and I needed to write something. But it’s partly true.

I kept wanting a sandwich again tonight. I had a rice cake instead. Next up is beer, scotch and buttered toast, but first I have to get wet.

Delius: Man and Music.

I watched the first half of a BBC documentary on the composer Frederick Delius last night. I sometimes wonder why the lives and minds of composers fascinate me so much, and why I’m drawn to documentaries on them more than almost any other subject – especially when the composer under scrutiny belongs to the English Late Romantic School.

I suppose it’s because the subject of music itself fascinates me. Music is very important to me and I regard it as the foremost of all the creative disciplines. The others generally need, at least to some extent, to be passed through the filter of the mind in order to be appreciated. Music has the capacity to go straight to the heart. And what intrigues me about music is this:

The standard chromatic scale has eleven notes. Just eleven. And yet composers somehow manage to keep on finding new ways to arrange those notes into an ever growing catalogue of melodies which have never been heard before. Many of those melodies can touch and sear the heart with tremendous power, leaving the sensitive soul breathless and tear-ridden. If I were to write a melody it would reach the bottom of a trash can without touching the sides. How on earth do they do it?

And they are endlessly inventive in finding new ways to present those melodies with colour, harmony, structure and a variety of accompaniments. More than that, they go on and on finding new ways to broaden the scope of the whole subject. May it be speculated that music has no limits, that it is a rare example of something that is truly infinite? Maybe a mathematician might know the answer to that one, but I don’t and so the concept fascinates me.

One documentary interviewee, himself a composer, was asked what he thought made the music of Delius so special. He replied: ‘oh, undoubtedly its sensuality.’ And that, I think, is true of all the music of the English Late Romantics; it all has one form of sensuality or another at its core. In Delius’s case, at least in his early works, there is much of the carnal form. Sir Thomas Beecham, a conductor who was an early champion of Delius, called him ‘a goat.’ And Poor Delius spent the last ten years of his life blind and paralysed from the effects of syphilis. It seems that what drove a great composer could also punish him quite horribly. Hardly seems fair, does it?

Sunday Notes.

You know, the more I read and hear the words of those who control our world, the more I’m becoming convinced that wisdom is the exclusive preserve of children and mad people. Maybe that’s why Shakespeare had Lady Macduff’s son spouting wise words in Macbeth, a possibility which seemed to escape my English teacher judging by her pejorative comments regarding Lady Macduff’s son.

It surprises me to note how many people don’t talk to me any more. I suppose I could put it down to my looking like a fictional French bell ringer, but most of the people who used to talk to me don’t know what I look like (the one who does may be forgiven) so it must have something to do with my personality. Maybe it’s too excessively vibrant.

I think I saw a ghost walking up the lane past my house with two women this evening, but I couldn’t be sure because my view of them was too brief. Whatever it was, I think it was wearing a hat. Comments like this get you noticed.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

A Fridge with ESP.

I went into the kitchen earlier to make a jug of coffee and noticed that the fridge motor wasn’t running. Now, I do realise that fridges aren’t supposed to run all the time; they switch on and off under the control of a thermostat. I do know that, and yet I’m still a little neurotic in the matter of fridges having had issues with them over the past few years. But just as I was feeling the first hint of the old neurotic tendency, the motor cut in and off it went.

I went over to it, patted it affectionately and said ‘Thank you for reading my mind.’  That’s the kind of Artificial Intelligence I like.

Kiss My Ass, Corker.

How amusing it is to see the President of the United States and one of America’s top politicians trading childlike insults by tweet, and being apparently unconcerned that the world is reading them. I suppose it’s an American thing – like placing your right hand on your heart when the national anthem is played – and the kind of candour for which we should all be truly grateful.

The Allure of the Sandwich Maker.

I was thinking about sandwiches earlier (I do sometimes) and it occurred to me to wonder how long it is since anybody made me one. Making somebody a sandwich is a nice thing to do, isn’t it? You sometimes hear the line in movie scripts:

Are you hungry? I could make you a sandwich if you like.

How sweet…

I couldn’t be sure how long it is since anybody made me a sandwich, but given the history of my domestic circumstances and the proclivities of various partners, I reckon it must be at least twenty seven years. That’s a long time, and so I decided that I could grow quite enamoured of a person who made me a sandwich (but only so long as that person was female, preferably on the youngish side, pleasant of appearance and disposition, and someone in whom I could invest a high level of confidence that their hands would not be contaminated by the residue of any sort of bodily function. Even bell ringers have standards.)

Needing Amplitude.

Over the past few years I appear to have developed a certain level of gluten-intolerance. Whether it’s a high or low level I wouldn’t know, since I’ve never been gluten-intolerant before. Nevertheless, I am aware of it and I know that I could opt to change to a gluten-free diet. I decline to do so because:

1. Gluten-free products are considerably more expensive than their normal equivalents.

2. Gluten-free products aren’t as nice as their normal equivalents, and having something to eat which I actually like is one of the few positive prospects left to a reclusive person who is, coincidentally, also starting to look like Charles Laughton wearing lots of gruesome make up, only I don’t need the make up (just the bells and somewhere to hide from Esmeralda.)

3. Changing to a gluten-free diet is taking the straight line approach. Not changing to a gluten-free diet is the up and down approach. I’ve always been an up and down sort of person and I intend to stay that way for as long as I can. I gather some bi-polar sufferers decline medication for the same reason.

The up and down type

Saturday, 7 October 2017


At one time the most valuable people in society were those who could make and build and repair things. They were the bricklayers, the woodworkers, the stonemasons, the wheelwrights, the carpenters, the blacksmiths, and so on. The most valuable people in modern economies are the consumers, those with lots of money to spend, along with the innovators who can dream up new things for them to spend it on, and those who pride themselves on being able to persuade people to do so.

And isn’t a sad indictment of human nature that the fastest growing industry is probably the phishing scam?  

Giving Names to the Queens.

Do you know that in all my life, as far as I’m aware, I’ve never known an Abigail, Isabella or Aisling? And yet they are my three favourite women’s names.

Abigail has long been my favourite. It belongs to a quiet, hard working girl with a dark edge and an air of mystery about her. Her hair is long, brown and lustrous, and her chestnut eyes carry the qualities of knowing and dreaming in equal measure. Abi says little, but she gets whatever she needs with seeming ease and you return her stare at your peril. If you hear her calling you from a distance in the night, you try to go back to sleep and hope for the best. She would be at home in an M Night Shyamalan film, ensconced within the deep, dark woods of remotest Pennsylvania.

Isabella is my second favourite. Her raven hair falls naturally in waves, and she is thought to be the strongest evidence to date of the rumoured liaison between a maternal ancestor and a Spanish prisoner of war in Napoleonic times. She is quiet too, but more from pride and self-consciousness than mystery. She speaks when she wishes to and not until, and her sharp hazel eyes are ever capable of ensnaring those who think themselves impervious to ensnarement. Bella would be at home ruling some colonial mansion set deep in the bayous of Louisiana.

Aisling is my third favourite. She is a minx, a leprechaun, a sly yet principled little weaver of honest mischief. Her wayward, flame-red hair sets light to those whose suspicions she arouses, while her deep blue eyes could tickle a daisy one minute and blow the moon from its orbit the next. She has a temper that is quick to rise and quick to fall, and a laugh like the shyest of sirens competing with the gale. Ash belongs on the sea cliffs of Connemara where the wild Atlantic rages, content to be alone and daring the elements to subdue her spirits.

So there you have it. Come to think of it, I’ve never know a Phoebe either, but that’s probably just as well since Phoebe isn’t a favourite.

The Appeal of Nippon.

I’ve started watching a Japanese horror film about a man whose internal organs are disintegrating and going slurp, slurp, rumble, rumble, splosh in the process. After 40 minutes running time we haven’t actually seen him yet, but several doctors who have peered at him through the screen have stood back with that look in their eyes which only the Japanese can do, and said:

He smiled at me!

Now can you understand why I’m so enamoured of Japanese horror films? Who else would make such a one as that? And it wouldn't surprise me if they used Smell-O-Vision in Japanese screenings.

Please Mr Postman.

You know how it is when you’re hoping to get an email from some special person whose presence on the planet is of substantial import to you. You check your inbox in the morning, and then several times during the day, and again before you go to bed at night. And the sense of deflation grows with each empty inbox until you begin to grow weary of deflation.

And then expectation is relegated to hope, and hope is replaced by doubt, and doubt takes on the mantle of predictable resignation. The days grow into weeks and the weeks into months until resignation becomes a matter of routine. And then one day you open your inbox as usual and…

…nothing again.

‘Twas another gloomy day today. Do you know that here in the Shire we’ve had rain on thirty of the last thirty four days? The postman says he’s growing tired of the capricious nature of the British climate these days. (Only he didn’t use the word ‘capricious’, which is strictly a writers’ and clever clogs’ word.)

But at least the weather keeps me frequently closeted indoors, thus obviating the possibility of causing distress to any children, dogs, horses or damsels who might be perambulating the lanes and public footpaths of our little domain. I miss the bells, though. I need bells to give me a sense of purpose.

(Did you know that Quasimodo escaped the murderous mob at the end of Hugo’s classic? He expired peacefully from starvation wrapped in the arms of his beloved and very dead Esmeralda. Does that sound like a consummation devoutly to be wished?)

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Culture Divide and Cracking Up.

I made a joke recently on a YouTube video made by the Tan twins from Singapore. They didn’t get it. I assumed it was because they’re Chinese and that the Chinese have a different sense of humour than we westerners. By way of an example, here is China’s Number One joke:

An old man was walking along a track between two mountains in the region of Jiangnan. One mountain said to the other:

‘Let’s jump on him and crush him.’

‘We can’t,’ said the other mountain.

‘Why not?’

‘We’re mountains. We can’t move.’

‘Oh, no. Forgot about that. Damn.’

I’ve heard it said that when that joke was told on State Radio one morning during the rush hour, the whole of Beijing came to a standstill because all the drivers were immobilised by convulsive laughter. And here’s China’s Number Two joke:

During a particularly bad smog in Beijing, a woman said to her husband:

‘Let’s take a drive out of the city and escape this suffocating air.’

‘We can’t,’ said her husband.

‘Why not?’

‘We wouldn’t know which road to take. It’s too foggy.’

‘Oh, right. Didn’t think about that. Damn.’

See what I mean? And it’s an interesting feature of Chinese jokes that they’re required by law to end with the word ‘damn.’ I gather it comes from the days of Chairman Mao when all statements which carried a note of levity were required to end with: ‘Damn the Yankee Imperialists,’ but that this has now been relaxed to a simple ‘damn’ for old time’s sake and in the cause of economic exigency.

And I must point out here to any Chinese person who might read it that this post is also a joke. I’m something of a Sinophile and have considerable respect for your music, your dance, your art, your sense of civilisation, your quiet and restrained mannerisms, your peaceful outlook on life, your respect for natural forces, your goldfish, your bulgy-eyed dragons, your humpity bridges, your peach blossom, your pepperpot mountains, your attitude towards the sanctity of tea, your noodles, and your maidens – especially the Tan twins from Singapore. And the yangqin happens to be my favourite musical instrument when played in the Chinese style. Greetings Chinese people.

*  *  *

Vis-à-vis last night’s embittered post, it will be noted that I found the computer in the bell tower. Only I have to use it sparingly because Esmeralda keeps hanging around and if she spots me she will probably shriek, and that would hurt my feelings. At least there are no mirrors up here.

*  *  *

And at the risk of being sued by somebody, here are the Tan twins from Singapore:

 And this is one of their best videos:

Hiding, Not Swinging.

Blog posts were suspended today because I suddenly realised I’m becoming physically repulsive and it put me in a bad mood. I might be back if I can find a computer in the bell tower.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Blind Date by Spam.

Tonight I got what I think is the best spam email (probably a phishing scam, even) I’ve ever had. It said:

Can we be lovers in Newark in three days?

And it purportedly came from a woman.

Well now, if that doesn’t tempt you to click the link. But it was dated 10/5/17, which is the American format, so I assumed she meant Newark, NJ, not Newark, Nottinghamshire. Thwarted again! The air fare, you know…

I didn’t click the link.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Wrong Sort of Horror.

I watched the start of a Japanese horror film (which shall be nameless) last night. It appears to tell the story of two young women who accidentally take a wrong turn and end up in a mysterious village buried deep in the mountains, there to be hounded by a torch-bearing mob, strung up on a suspended apparatus, and have one of their legs cut off while the mob cheers.

Will I be watching the rest of it? Are you kidding? When violence is germane to a deeper plot it’s acceptable, but when extreme violence is the plot it becomes merely sordid. I might be strange, but I’m not that sort of strange. I assume those who watch such films also take pleasure in pulling the wings off butterflies, or maybe they content themselves with watching others do it.

And maybe somebody somewhere will tell me that I’m missing the deeper plot by not watching it through. I’ll take the risk.