Friday, 18 August 2017

On Loners and Relationships.

My lady fair
The Lady Fu
Is ever coy, though not oblique

From iv’ry hair
To iv’ry shoe
She’s all a gentleman might seek

The Lady Fu is my 18" high statuette of a fine Chinese lady. I'm very fond of her. So...

I keep thinking lately about members of my family who’ve gone now – grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, my half brother, my only full blood cousin… Most of them died early between their forties and their seventies; only a few of the women made eighty. And when I do think about them I’m struck by the fact that when they went, I was one of those people in their orbit who was left behind to carry on. One day it will be my turn to leave and everybody else’s function to carry on.

Not that there are many people in my orbit, of course; I’ve never been the sort to make commitments, connections, or even close friends of any stature. Maybe that’s because I’ve never known what the word ‘love’ means, not even when it comes to grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, brothers and cousins.

Actually, that probably isn’t quite true. A psychotherapist once suggested that the only normal (whatever that means) relationships I ever had were with my daughter, my dogs Em and Penny, and Dylan the tomcat. Maybe that’s what love is. It would be nice to think so.

I suppose the salient point here is that children and animals are relatively simple creatures who give their affection unconditionally, and that means they can be regarded with a reasonable amount of trust. Adult humans, on the other hand, are too informed by cultural and environmental conditioning, a feature which produces the kind of flaws guaranteed to keep an idealist like me a bit at arms length. There have been – and still are – a very few special people whom I’ve been able to greatly like, respect and want to be with, but I doubt that would be anybody’s definition of love.

(Maybe there is one person who might qualify, but I really don’t know. I avoid the question because there seems little point in committing to a ghost.)

So is being the perennial loner a good or bad thing? It’s a pointless question. A life is a life and in the end we have little honest choice but to be authentic. Besides, being a loner encourages the tendency to observe. And if my suspicion with regard to the purpose of life is right, that probably isn’t a bad thing.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

A Source of Tragic Confusion.

How do I write a blog post after a day of technical malfunctions and frustrations which I haven’t got to the bottom of yet? Such a day puts me in sombre mood, and then I read about Barcelona.

Horrors like Barcelona – and similar attacks elsewhere in Europe this year – not only disturb me, they confuse me because I don’t know what the Islamic terrorists are trying to achieve. This isn’t the same as the terror attacks by the IRA and the Basque Separatists. They had a simple objective: they wanted independence from what they saw as an occupying foreign power.

Islamic terrorists, on the other hand, must know that they are never going to achieve territory or influence by murdering innocent civilians in Europe. It makes them visible, certainly, but it only serves to vindicate attitudes of prejudice and intolerance towards Muslims in the minds of the bigoted.

So what is the aim, exactly? This is important because Tillerson can spout all he likes about ‘bringing them to justice,’ but it won’t stop the horrors happening. To do that you have to understand why it’s happening, and then set about addressing the cause. What politicians mostly do in these circumstances is address the popular hunger for revenge, and it won’t work.

It makes me wonder – just wonder, that’s all – whether there is something behind these outrages that we don’t know about. And I suppose I’d better stop there.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Something to Talk About.

I got drawn into a conversation in the coffee shop this afternoon with two young women (one of whom I knew) and a middle aged couple. It started off as a discussion on the price of tattoos and ended with me having to explain the significance of the serpent in Gnostic spirituality. They didn’t get it, you know. They never do. If only it had been raining.

But the two strange dogs were fun. They both wanted to be my friend, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was so intent on showing me that he was the very bestest friend I could ever possibly have in the whole wide world that he took to proving it by chewing my fingers. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not known for nibbling softly.

And what about the story of the woman and the two shopping trolleys? Not enough substance to justify bothering with the details, so I’ll skip to the bottom line. As the years pass I become more and more of a fruitcake. How I long to go back a couple of decades when I could at least pretend that I was a little bit fruity.

Not Exactly Waterloo.

I read a news report this morning about a battle between Chinese and Indian troops in a disputed border area. Apparently the soldiers lined up and threw stones at each other, causing a few minor injuries.

An image formed in my mind of millions of Chinese and Indian women standing together, rolling their eyes and intoning ‘boys are useless’ in a dozen different languages.

A Tiny Epilogue.

Do you realise I haven’t mentioned the T word today? It’s hardly crossed my mind. Such relief.

(The Lady B has, though. And I was standing on the lane at twilight when a little bat suddenly appeared a few feet in front of me. It flew up and over my head, and then flew away again. I said ‘hello back.’ Such a thrill.)

Electrical Connections.

I’ve had several electric shocks in my life because I’ve always exhibited the strange tendency to suffer bouts of extreme thoughtlessness and stupidity. Like the time when I touched the element of an electric fire in a boarding house to test whether it was getting hot yet.

(Dumb.)

And then there was the time as a kid when I decided to re-invigorate an old magnet. I got two pieces of wire, wrapped one end of each around the poles of the magnet, wrapped the other ends around the live and neutral posts of a plug, then pushed it into an electric socket and threw the switch. There was an almighty bang followed by the clatter of the plug and magnet hitting the opposite wall. And the socket was all brown and melting.

My mother came up to my bedroom and asked what the ‘strange noise’ was. I made up some implausible lie on the spur of the moment and she went away satisfied. Aren’t mother’s weird?

But then I’ve become ever weirder myself as I’ve got older, seemingly in proportion to my increased circumspection around things electrical. Maybe there’s a connection.

Kate's Fans.


One of the nice things about listening to a Kate Rusby track is that you can read the comments without fearing that you're going to be turned even further off the human race by a bunch of pea-brained, angry bigots who have trouble spelling a three letter word but insist on putting ten exclamation marks at the end of every hate-filled statement.

That was a long sentence, wasn't it? Long sentences sometimes work. Don't argue with the writer! (Whoops, an exclamation mark.) 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Another Probably Pointless Muse.

I was wondering today what life would be like if we didn’t have a physical body, if all we had was a disembodied consciousness. A voice came from somewhere over the rainbow and asked a question:

‘How would you move about if you didn’t have a body?’

‘Easy. I reckon consciousness is able to move a lot quicker and more easily than a clumpy old physical form. And it can go anywhere.’

‘Fair enough, but how would you experience things like pleasure and pain, and that wonderful feeling you get when you sate a heavy thirst?’

‘No problem. All sensation is essentially abstract and so exists solely in the consciousness.’

‘I realise that, but what medium would you use to trigger the abstract, which is what bodies do? You couldn’t, for example, build a wall and feel the resultant pleasure of achievement, could you?’

‘I think you could, yes. It would be a matter of learning to harness the latent ability of consciousness to manipulate dense matter. I’ve long suspected it was what the ancients did before humans became engrossed in their bodies and forgot the knack.’

‘OK. Think on and we’ll talk some more sometime.’

So that’s what I intend to do. (Although I do admit to sometimes wondering why I bother.)

*  *  *

So should I now make the post on why I think being well off and comfortable tends to lead to an insidious process of ethical, sociological and spiritual stagnation? Don’t think so. Somebody I know might read it and think it’s aimed at her. Besides, I tried it on one person recently and her only response was: ‘Yes, rich people become too obsessed with material things.’

No: missing the point. Obsession with material values is a universal condition affecting all classes in the wealthier parts of the world. There’s a lot more to it than that. Maybe another time.

The Charlottesville Irony.

The right wingers in the US routinely use the First Amendment – in particular the right to freedom of speech and peaceable assembly – as constitutional justification for spouting an ideology which is at least racist and often Fascist.

Logically they have every right to do that, and the dividing line between justifiable free speech and incitement to hatred and prejudice is indeed blurred. The irony is that if the alt-right aficionados were to get their way and create what would essentially be a Fascist state – or at least something resembling South Africa before the abolition of apartheid – free speech and peaceable assembly would be the first casualty.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Old Stuff and New.

It isn’t only Trump and the Lady B who have been dominating this blog lately, it’s also been the special quality of twilight. Clearly I need to find something else to be obsessive about since obsessives become boring after a while, but tonight’s does deserve a brief mention.

My special friends the bats gave me the best show they’ve given me for a long time, swooping and swerving to within a foot of my face at times. I like to think that they’re giving me a special welcome, but I suppose it might just be that I’m surrounded by tiny flying things attracted to my body heat. Whatever it is, it feels like a welcome and that’s good enough for me.

And then there were the snails, three small ones creeping along the window sill outside my office as the darkness descended and the rain came on a little heavier. There’s something childlike about snails, something of the essence of innocence which makes them such endearing creatures. And 3 is my favourite number, so it isn’t so surprising that I should stand mildly in awe of them until the rain persuaded me that it was time for a hot cup of tea and a closing of the curtains for the night. 

*  *  *

So, just to change the subject:

Today I gave somebody my standard autumn gripe, the one that runs:

Autumn: season of falling light, lengthening shadows, chilling air and a landscape clothed in the colours of death and decay. I’m a spring and summer man to the core. If humans can invent the pause button, why can’t nature?

She nodded earnestly and then said: ‘And all those leaves you have to sweep up. Just when you think you’ve finished, you turn around and the place is covered again.’

Message missed, maybe? Who knows and why complain?

I’d also just seen an elderly man with a much younger woman of obvious south-east Asian extraction, and assumed from their body language (without any evidence but instinct, you understand, so I might have been wrong) that he was a man of some little wealth and she a Thai bride. So I asked my young companion whether she would be prepared to marry a man of eighty and move half way across the world to a different culture, just so as to have a more comfortable lifestyle. She looked genuinely interested and said: ‘I’d need notice of that question. I’ll think about it over the next two hours of my shift.’

I talk to her most weeks. She has that unassuming brand of prettiness and a delightfully light air about her. What’s odd is that this seems to be happening a lot to me lately – attractive young women have suddenly started to seek my company and want to talk to me enthusiastically. I suppose it’s all down to advancing years. And I’m not complaining.

Meaningful Conversation.

I was out on my walk for a long time today. I bumped into this elderly woman, you see, somebody I occasionally meet coming the other way and with whom I exchange a few pleasantries.

‘I haven’t seen you for ages,’ she said. ‘Have you been ill?’

Been ill? Why should I have been ill, silly old bat? Not wishing to cause offence, however, I restricted my reply to:

‘I’ve been ill all my life. Up here, you know. Diseased mind.’

I was hoping she would ask ‘You’re not one of them psychopaths, are you?’ to which I could have replied: ‘No; I’m quite the opposite. That’s the problem.’ But she didn’t. We talked about shopping instead, mostly along the lines of the relative merits of Tesco and Sainsbury’s. And then she launched into what I assumed to be her favourite anecdote of the moment.

‘I was in Tesco the other day and I thought “I think I’ll get me ’usband a jelly.” (He likes jelly.) “But I won’t get him the usual orange or lemon one,” (that’s what he usually has) “I’ll get him a blackcurrant one instead.” And you know what? They didn’t have any.’

I commiserated, naturally, but I have to admit that when I did wrest myself from her presence it was with a lighter heart. And that’s why I was out on my walk for a long time today.

(My erstwhile conversations with the Lady B’s human alter-ego were never like that. And the old lady didn’t even have a dog. And why am I so obsessed with Trump and the Lady B these days? Something to do with needing deep darkness and bright light to balance my faltering step, perhaps.)

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Being a YouTube Angel.

I replied to somebody’s comment on YouTube a few weeks ago. I complimented her on sensing something significant in a seemingly innocuous lyric. Today she came back to me with:

Thanks nobody's said something like that to me before.

The structure is imperfect and the syntax suggestive of regional vernacular, but that isn’t the point. The point is that some tiny thing I said touched somebody’s heart and made her happy, even if only for a few seconds. Isn’t that splendid? Doesn’t it make you think that your life hasn’t been a pointless exercise after all?

And something else I’ve learned on YouTube: The fact that a comment has received 276 likes is no guarantee that the statement was worth making or even that it made any sense. The majority of the most insightful and cogently argued comments get few likes or none at all. That’s when you learn why wars are fought, institutionalised stupidity is rampant, and Donald Trump lives in the White House.

A Little Note on the Trump Phenomenon.

So what do I say about Charlottesville and Trump’s response? Nothing much; it’s all being said by more important names than mine. I suppose the bigger picture here is that the cracks which were papered over 150 years ago are still there and maybe growing, and that the overriding impression is that America is a culture in crisis. And Trump isn’t helping.

Hey ho, let’s go briefly back a day or two to another crisis in Venezuela and Trump’s response to that one. Is there any situation anywhere in the world to which the President won’t suggest the possibility of a military response? And what about at home? Will he be mooting a military response to Obamacare next? He’s one funny guy.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

America's Little Issue.

Today I’ve been reading about the primitive little minds in America which haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that the abolition of slavery was a good thing. It struck me as interesting that in spite of their white supremacist convictions, the good old racists of Virginia should sometimes ape Islamic jihadist methodology. And I thought it an odd coincidence that the term alt-right is only one letter different from all right.

The woman I talk to in Sainsbury’s is much travelled, but she told me the other day that she’d never been to America. ‘Wouldn’t want to,’ she continued, ‘especially now.’ You can sort of understand why, can’t you?

Sometimes I fret a little for good Americans, and I’m glad that I think the latter day bearers of the Klan tradition are going to lose.

On August.

It seems to me that summer gets shorter every year. It feels like only a week since I was looking for the first swallow to appear, yet today I was wishing them well as they hunted to garner reserves for the long flight home. It’s only a few days since I talked about the plumping green elderberries, but today I saw that some of them are already turning black. And the leaves on ash and oak, beech and sycamore, willow and aspen are drying and hissing in the cool breeze.

Next stop autumn. Autumn: season of falling light, lengthening shadows, chilling air and a landscape clothed in the colours of death and decay. I’m a spring and summer man to the core. However much I recognise that the system requires things to decay, die and be reborn as something else, I still can’t help questioning why I should have to go along with it against my will. If humans can invent a pause button, why can’t nature? And on a more intensely personal level, I need the energy of growth to give me life. Without it there’s a part of me that wilts with the falling leaves.

A Beetle in Distress.

When I went upstairs to take a leak a few minutes ago there was a strange-looking beetle struggling on one of the stair treads. There he was on his back, legs akimbo and flailing about in all directions.

It struck me that he’d probably fallen off one tread and landed upside down on the one below, and that even if he was able to right himself he’d probably keep on doing it. So what was I supposed to do about that? Sit with him all night and keep turning him over every time he landed on his back?

I brought him downstairs instead and put him on the carpet where the floor is flat, and then told him to be careful. All I have to do now is make sure I don’t tread on him when I go to bed. Damsels in distress I can handle, but beetles are a different kettle of fish.

Friday, 11 August 2017

At a Loss.

What the hell am I going to write about tonight? Having just read another of my own stories I’m in lyrical mood, but what has there been about today to sate the lyrical juices? Nothing. Summer continues to fade in the leafy lanes of the Shire, the flox flowers continue to scent the garden, the moths flitted and the bats flew close at twilight… But I’ve done all that.

And there hasn’t been much happening on the dumbass politicians front either. I’ve done Trump and North Korea to death and I’m growing ever wearier of Donald the Iddite’s ego. That man is becoming so tedious that I almost wish he would start WWIII so the human race could have the fresh start it desperately needs, but I would rather it happened peacefully.

And the Lady B’s ghost hasn’t visited for over a week. I do so miss the Lady B but I have no control over the revenant’s ramblings. It was ever thus with her human alter-ego back in the old days. And I’m not in the mood for earnest ruminations on whether the old are wiser than the young (except to say that I’m not at all certain they are.)

Ah well, best leave it at that then and hope some imp of curiosity leaps out from a dark corner when the beer and music flow later.

A later thought:

I forgot to mention recently that I read a story from Australia about a teenager whose feet were savagely attacked in the sea off Melbourne. Was it a shark? Nope. A saltwater crocodile? Nope. A Portuguese Man 'O War, maybe? Nope. Sea fleas. That's the sort of news report we need more of. Beats Trump and North Korea, doesn't it? (Maybe somebody could even persuade Donald to stick his head underwater in the sea off Melbourne.)

Gun Talk.

The first thing I read in the news this morning was a statement by the US Defense Secretary saying that diplomacy is ‘gaining results’ with regard to the North Korean situation.

Diplomacy? Did I read that right? You mean they’ve finally locked Trump away in a secure institution? Nope. False dawn. Trump comes back with his ‘locked and loaded’ statement. Reality sadly reasserted.

And just take a look at this picture of Trump and the Sycophantic Sidekick. Note what it says on the water bottle labels:

Further and timely evidence that, to Donald Trump, being President of the USA isn’t really about America. It’s about Donald Trump.

A Mother's Instinct.

It was the anniversary of my mother’s death yesterday, and I just remembered something she once said to me:

‘I saw how you looked at that girl in the fairground at Great Yarmouth. I always knew I’d have trouble with you. Just like your father.’

That’s the one thing she understood about me, poor thing. RIP ma.

The Lager Effect.

Tonight’s beer is a continental lager which comes in a very attractive bottle and has a most interesting quality: being 5.5%ABV and being lager, it makes you drunk before you’ve even tasted it. That’s because it doesn’t taste of anything. Lager never does. I don’t know why people drink the stuff; I don’t know why I bought this bottle.

Oh yes I do. It’s because it was cheap, came in a very attractive bottle, and was 5.5%ABV. It is, therefore, high on anaesthetizing function and kind on the pocket, even though the taste buds are left standing around saying ‘what the hell are we doing here?’

Tonight I was going to make the post on whether age brings wisdom, but I don’t think I‘ll bother. I might make it tomorrow or I might not. The problem with tomorrows is that they always bring the dreaded imperative to get out of bed wondering whether I’ll survive another day in a human body, whether I’ll fall apart, or whether I’ll stay inside my shell and hope that nobody wants to say ‘hello.’ They usually don’t.

Do I know where hell is? Hell is in ‘hello.’
~ Paint Your Wagon.

Priestesses, the Venerable Borg, and Lady B’s ghost are excepted.

The Egg and Cress War Looms.

Did you know that the Dutch are trying to poison all us Europeans with eggs contaminated with something called fibronil? There have been headlines, product recalls and gnashing of gums from the Arran Islands to Ankara. And do you further realise what this means for me personally? It means that I might be unable to purchase my favoured egg and cress lunchtime sandwich from Sainsbury’s next week.

Should I complain to the manager, I ask myself (which is what I frequently do in Sainsbury’s.)

‘Excuse me, my good man (because we British are very polite when we complain.) Why are your chiller shelves bereft of egg and cress sandwiches?’

‘Don’t blame me, mate. Blame the Dutch.’

‘Do you know of any such persons of Low Country provenance in the vicinity?’

‘Erm… no.’

‘Very well. This calls for drastic measures.’

And then I would have to go into the car park and look for a car with NL on the number plate, and the steering wheel in the wrong place, and wait with patient determination for the owners to make their return. And then I would have to accost them with:

‘Excuse me, my good Dutchman (because we British are even more polite to foreigners, just to show them how fabulous we are and how fabulous they could also be if only they would care to emulate us.) What do you mean by contaminating our fair ovoid fare? (That’s to confuse them with a neat little homophone which will cause confusion and give me the upper hand.) Do you have no care at all that I have been forced to consume the less favoured cheese and onion today? What have you to say for yourself? I think you’re a bounder, sir, and I’ve a good mind to biff you on the nose.’ (Unless it was a woman, of course, because we don’t call women sir.)

And then the Dutchman (or woman) would give me whatever look passes for askance in the Low Countries and shrug the shrug of non-comprehension. (At which point I would have the presence of mind not to assume that he or she was French because we British expect all persons domiciled south and east of the Channel to shrug when they’re losing the argument.)

And where would all this lead, you might ask. And well you might. Trump’s got nothing on me when I’m roused, you know.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Fat Kids and Eye Rolls.

This business with North Korea is becoming all too silly. On the one hand we have a bunch of kids in North Korea thumbing their noses at the US and threatening to drop a few (rather expensive) missiles in the sea around Guam, and on the other we have Donald the Iddite jumping around like the fat kid in the school yard yelling the kind of mindless invective which is the speciality of fat kids in school yards.

If Trump really has the confidence to know that the US could wipe North Korea off the map – which I imagine it probably could – then let him demonstrate the fact by adopting a calm and quietly authoritative manner. That’s what intelligent people speaking from a position of strength do.

The way Trump is going he’s not only putting America’s reputation on the line – because the rest of the world is rolling its eyes at the hot air coming out of his mouth – he’s also in danger of leaving it to the Chinese to decide whether or not to allow WWIII to start (which they’d probably have the good sense not to do, thankfully.)

So would somebody please throw a wet towel over Trump’s head and lock him securely in a padded nursery somewhere far away, so the rest of us can give the muscles which make our eyes roll a rest.

Being Recognised.

The woman I talk to in Sainsbury’s was back today. She came over to me and asked:

‘What are you going to complain about now?’

‘Nothing,’ I answered earnestly. ‘I’m perfectly happy. Well, apart from…’

And I just got called a douchebag on YouTube again, just because I questioned an absurdly illogical comment.

It isn’t easy maintaining a reputation, you know.

Oh, and there was a woman in the coffee shop who was holding a baby to her chest. Only she wasn’t looking at the baby, she was staring most intensely at me. Had I been a few years younger I would have suspected the imminent arrival of a paternity suit. And it was most unusual because it’s generally the babies who stare menacingly at me, not the mothers.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Spreading Blight.

I  was in a Poundland store today and noticed a new addition to their range of cheap decorative items for people who are easily pleased. This one was a piece of coloured plastic about 12”x5” with a short length of cord attached so as to enable the hanging of it in a prominent place, there – I presume – to astonish sundry visitors with the wit and wisdom contained within its message. It said:

DREAMS
Believe you can and
your half way there

There was a manager close by directing some members of staff in the business of filling shelves. I took one of these gems over to him and asked:

‘Are you actually selling these things?’

‘Why?’

I pointed to the word ‘your’ and awaited a response. It took a while but it came eventually.

‘You mean it should have an apostrophe?’

‘And an e.’

‘We just sell ’em, mate. We don’t design ’em.’

I decided the conversation had run its course and left it there, but you know what? It’s one thing seeing ‘your’ for ‘you’re’ written by ignoramuses on YouTube, but to see it set in stone (or plastic to be precise) and sold in a shop is something else entirely.

After Kipling.

I just set the alarm on my little mobile phone which cost all of £15.99 from Tesco, and which I feed with about £5-a-year's worth of credits. That's because I hardly ever use it except to reply to the odd text from the one person who sends them to me.

You're supposed to feel guilty these days if your phone fits easily into the pocket of your jeans and doesn't have the power to read Facebook posts from Alpha Centauri, aren't you? Am I? A little ditty jumped onto my desk and said 'post me.' So I'll do that instead of wasting money on a megaG smart phone. I'm sure the sweet spaceship will still swing low to carry me home when it's time.

If I bought myself a smart phone
Would I be a different bloke?
Would I be somehow superior
If I learned to prod and poke?

Or would I lose the lessons
That I learn from twilight skies
And the hint of deepest meaning
In a Chinese lady’s eyes?

I suspect I’d be a martyr
To the ways of modern times
And the path laid out by robots
And the hill up which it climbs

So I think I’ll stick with wand’ring
Down the road to Mandalay
Taking refuge in my ramblings
And the view across the bay

Whatever Happened to the Brothers?

It strikes me as odd that nuns are still a common sight on the streets of the western world, but you never see monks, do you? This kind of thing is a common sight on every street corner:



But how often do you take a stroll in the park and see this:

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Wrong Picture.

I’m coming to the conclusion that the designers of astrological iconography got it wrong when they assigned the fish to Pisces. It’s becoming my considered opinion that it should have been given to Gemini.

I’m discovering that Geminis are like those big golden carp which the Chinese love to have swimming in their ponds and under their humpity bridges. They make excellent companions but are too self-willed and slippery to hold onto. Try to stroke one or pick one up and it’ll be through your fingers and on the other side of the pond (or hiding under the humpity bridge) before you can say ‘Where’ve you gone?’

And I’m only kidding (cheaply and at the expense of two of the most splendid people I know) simply because life isn’t giving me much to write posts about at the moment.

(And incidentally, it’s also my considered opinion – based on personal experience – that the role of Pisces women is to punish Sagittarian men for past crimes. Only I can’t think of an icon for Nemesis.)

Beware the Politicians' Ploy.

Back in 1982 Argentina sent troops to occupy the Falkland Islands (or Malvinas to the Argentineans) which were British sovereign territory. Britain sent a combined army and navy task force to re-take the islands and a war was fought, ending ten weeks later with a British victory.

There were questions asked in Britain at the time – and subsequently – about the known and possible diplomatic and military manoeuvring which surrounded the conflict, not least because Mrs Thatcher’s popularity rating had been low before the war but rose massively as a result of the victory. That rise was attributed then, and continues to be attributed, to ‘The Falklands Factor.’

Because it has long been recognised that the popularity of a national leader gets a big boost from military victory, and so the suspicion naturally arises that taking the opportunity to go into a winnable war might be a ploy engineered to achieve that end: unite your supporters and detractors behind you in a common cause that will bring success to your country, and everybody will suddenly start cheering you.

And that’s why I think Americans should exercise a measure of circumspection in the matter of Donald Trump’s dealings with North Korea, and especially his ‘fire and fury’ statement which he made today. No doubt that statement alone has sent the rednecks hollering with ecstatic hubris and flinging their hats heavenwards. Let’s hope it doesn’t give Mr Trump too much encouragement.

Being a Failed Poet.

No, one more blog post to come tonight. I’m trying to build up my stock of silly ditties, so I thought I’d copy this email I just sent to somebody. Now can you see why I’m best ignored?

Oh Mistress Qin, Oh Mistress Qin
I’d like to rummage in your bin
Imagine what I’d find in there
A stale pork pie, a scrap of hair

I’d eat the one and save the rest
To lay upon my heaving breast
When all the world is turning cold
And I’m returning to the mold.

It probably won't be long at this rate. Insanity is almost as dangerous as smoking.

Reluctant Roles.

Would you believe that two people now claim me as their mentor? And if you think that’s odd, do you know what’s really odd? They’re both Chinese. Isn’t life interesting?

So is that it for blog posts today? I think so. I’ve just written a very long (mentoring-style) email and my eyes are tired. Besides, nothing of note happened today, unless you count the young boy who smiled at me, the tiny female creature in a pram who scowled at me, and the young woman in the coffee shop who was unusually nice to me as usual.

I don’t understand why people don’t just ignore me; it’s what I aim for. I suppose I should put it down to yet another failure and be glad of the fact.

Time now for alcohol and some Chinese music on YouTube, just to psyche myself up for another probable day living in a human body. I wonder whether I’ll ever get used to it.

Monday, 7 August 2017

The Chimpanzee's Picnic.

There’s a Richard Rossbach track on YouTube which I occasionally listen to because I quite like it. It’s loosely based on an Irish folk song, but has been so heavily manipulated, electrified, synthesised, commercialised, and generally messed about with that it’s now strictly MOR.

But of course, it’s laden with comments like ‘The Irish write great music’, ‘OMG I love Irish Music’, ‘Now I want to go home to Ireland’, and similar shite. So I commented ‘Pleasant, but it’s about as Irish as a tin of black treacle pretending to be a pint of Guinness.’

I expected to get hailed on with the proverbial fruit, but nothing. Not a like, not a dislike, not a single yell of misspelt indignation indignashen.

Where are they all? If I go down in the woods today, should I go in disguise?

(And incidentally, people commenting on Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 kept referring to it as a song, so I said ‘this isn’t a song.’ And now I’m watching them all argue about what a song is. Great fun.)

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Being Guardian of the Bowl.

I walked around via Green Lane again today and found another flying insect which was not flying but drowning (after Stevie Smith) in the dogs’ water bowl. It wasn’t a bee this time, but it still got rescued.

I’ve often wondered what the hell I’m supposed to be doing while I'm down here. Maybe now I know.

The Wrong Basis for Judgement.

Somebody towards whom my feelings were ambivalent said something this week which threw a switch. Ambivalence has now changed to dislike and dark clouds are gathering again.

It raises an interesting side issue. When somebody I like does something which irritates I tend towards tolerance. When somebody I dislike does the same thing I can be most intolerant, and I suspect that’s true of most of us. It’s obviously irrational to judge a person’s actions mildly or harshly depending on how you feel about them personally, but it does seem to be a fact of human nature.

I think it plays a large part in the tensions we often see between the police and ethnic minorities, especially in America where it’s a particularly virulent issue at the moment. I think it has a lot to with the way in which the culture and the Establishment conditions people to view those of different race, ethnicity or colour. And that’s why I think it will take at least a generation – probably more – to work itself out of the sub-system naturally.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Dream On.

My visitor from Brazil just arrived on my blog again, and this is where the problem starts.

When I see Brazil arriving on my blog I imagine there being five beach volleyball players from Rio all sitting around a laptop at half time rapt in fevered adoration. Their bodies are gently glowing in the tropical heat and they are saying…

‘Ah, here is the man we have been waiting for all the nineteen years of our lives. Finally we have found our Messiah. Let us give up prancing in the sand. Let us give up being the girls from Ipanema. Let us stop worshipping our long, seductive thighs and grant those thighs the honour of worshiping him instead. Let us journey to him across stormy waters and throw ourselves at his feet, there to grant him everything his wish and his whim commands.’

… when it’s more likely to be an 87-year-old professor from Sao Paulo University researching a learned tome on Why Are the English So Weird?

Soon be time to go and dream some proper dreams.

A Strange and Sad Imperative.

I was reading earlier about some lunatic in one of the Sydney universities who is going around scrawling graffiti in the toilets saying ‘Kill the Chinese.’

It reminded me of a YouTube video I watched once about the city of Shanghai. One Chinese man had commented ‘Kill all foreign dogs.’ He wasn’t referring to canines.

Wouldn’t you think the human race would have grown up a bit by now?

Friday, 4 August 2017

A Little Tale of Rescue and Rumination.

This blog has been a bit introspective and philosophical lately; it’s even come close to being earnest on occasion, heaven forbid. So I thought I’d lighten up with today’s little tale of rescuing a damsel in distress.

She was a bee. (How do I know the bee was female? Because she was a worker honey bee and all worker honey bees are female – or so they say.) Anyway…

I was strolling at a leisurely pace down Green Lane on the far side of the Shire when I passed the house where the owners leave a bowl of water out for the benefit of passing dogs. Now, it is a little known fact that while bowls of water might benefit passing dogs, they can be hazardous to passing bees. I looked down into this particular bowl and saw a little bee floundering on her back on the surface of the water. Her legs were going in all directions and I decided that she was neither dancing nor training for the village bee swimming gala. She was genuinely in distress.

OK, little lady, it’s your lucky day. I put my forefinger into the water and flipped her onto her front (well, her underneath I suppose, she being a bee an’ all.) I did this not because front crawl, breast stroke and butterfly are easier to perform than backstroke, but so that I could then present the same finger for her to crawl onto, which she did. She was then placed carefully onto a nearby leaf where I watched her preening and drying herself in the sunshine for quite some time.

She never said ‘thank you.’ She didn’t, but I decided to trust the old maxim that virtue is its own reward and chose not to be offended. (I did, however, question whether rescuing a bee could truly be called virtuous. I decided that it could, since the sun was shining and that’s always a good sign.)

Epilogue

I had a terrible thought. Suppose she’d stung me? If she’d done that she would have died a death rather more dreadful than expiry by drowning, and how would I have felt then? What price misplaced virtue? I should have used a leaf to lift her out, shouldn’t I? I expect bees are more trusting of leaves than they are of humans, and would be less likely to sting them.

Whew! Lesson learned for next time.

Primeval Genius.

I suppose it must be a reasonable assumption that musical traditions developed around the world quite independently of each other a very long time ago. Do you realise what that means?

It means that way back in our primeval past – probably during an era which we associate with grunters, cave dwellers and wearers of animal hide sweatshirts – there arose a bunch of geniuses who recognised that if you put sounds of different pitch together in the right relationship it produces something which is not only pleasant but also capable of making people feel different.

That’s quite a feat, and we don’t even know their names.

Lady B and the HSP.

The ghost of the Lady Bella continues to haunt me day and night. She fills my sleep with disturbing dreams. She shows me waking visions of events unseen by my physical eyes, visions which arrest my breathing and force me to change the record before I suffocate. She taunts me with recollections of fleeting but precious moments pregnant with real or imagined significance. She is quietly insistent, and her quietness was always what made her irresistible. Her human alter-ego has now decamped to somewhere far off, like Alpha Centauri or Betelgeuse or maybe the edge of space and time, but her ghost remains close and visits frequently.

My Ego tells me that there is no such thing as the ghost of the Lady B; she is merely a figment of a fevered and delusional imagination. She is largely, he says, a symptom of the curse allegedly attributable to the HSP gene which conveys to the recipient the twin qualities of hyper-awareness and torrid emotional response. It’s just part of my general strangeness and will go of its own accord eventually. I’ve been hearing such reassurance for some years now, and the issue continues to get worse.

Maybe that’s why my Super Ego steps in and overrules his junior, advising him that reality is rarely that straightforward. He tells me to ignore the rationalist who would insist that the haunting is a simple product of some mental abnormality for which a pill may be prescribed to facilitate exorcism. He suggests that there really is some mysterious connection at work of a type unknown to rationalists and scientists, and that it’s more a matter of managing it than curing it. Being an HSP is not the cause, but the means by which I am made aware of it.

So to whose advice should I attach most credence? Well, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that for all the disturbance she causes me – sometime reaching a debilitating level – I quite like being haunted by the Lady B. She adds colour to a grey world, and that can’t be a wholly bad thing.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Musing in the Shire.

I noticed that the thistles in Church Lane have gone to seed now. I think of the ubiquitous thistle not as the marker of the turning season, but as the harbinger. The neighbouring willowherb is still very much in the pink to remind us that the summer is not yet fully run.

On the other side of the hedgerow the wheat is uniformly gold and waiting only for a run of dry days and the harvest, while the tufted maize cobs in another field are plumping nicely. And the hedgerow itself is replete with fattening green berries hanging proudly off the elder bushes.

In a few weeks time the same berries will be black as coal. The willowherb will have turned to wool, the wheat fields with be empty of all but harsh stubble, and the corn cobs will be a thing of memory. And then the marker will be laid out for all to see.

In one way I find the cycle of the seasons rich and reassuring, but in another way they proclaim the twin troubles which haunt the musing mind: the grumbling issues of corporeality and mortality. And that is why I never come close to accepting that what I see and what I hear and what I feel and what I taste and what I smell, and even what I sense, is the whole substance of reality and my place in it.

And I fondly hope that the Lady B’s ghost reads this; it’s the sort of thing which I used to so like saying to her. No doubt such a hope is forlorn.

Progressing to the Artificial.

I’ve realised that the only part of me which I fully accept (even though I know there’s room for improvement) is my higher mind: the Super Ego in Freudian terms. I’m becoming increasingly suspicious of the Ego and I dislike the Id quite profoundly. (My new moniker for the US Pres, by the way, is 'Donald the Iddite.')

So now I’m thinking that I should really be one of those beings who used to crop up in Star Trek­ – the ones composed entirely of mental energy and floated around in the ether communicating telepathically. I’m also thinking along the lines of: ‘Since we think of ourselves as being so technologically advanced, why don’t we set about designing plastic bodies which don’t excrete anything, and to which, therefore, participles like ‘running’ and ‘dripping’ never apply. And then there would be the minor matter of finding a way to transfer our higher minds into them, an exercise which might prove a little more difficult. Assistance from gods or aliens (assuming they’re different) might be needed with that one.

And that brings me back to words again, and another one which I find distasteful: ‘stain.’ Stains trouble me, and therefore so does the word. Oddly, however, I find the word ‘blot’ not only acceptable but quite characterful. I suspect it’s because ‘blot’ is associated with ink and the endeavour to transcribe the workings of the higher mind into communicable form.

(And need I add that my Ego occasionally whispers a question to the Super Ego: ‘Have you considered the possibility that you might – only might, I hasten to add – be mentally ill?’ ‘Of course,’ replies SE. ‘Do you think I’m stupid?’)

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Absences and Oddities.

Today was notable for the absence of things. The woman I usually talk to in Sainsbury’s wasn’t at work today. Neither was the woman I usually talk to in the coffee shop. No dogs befriended me and no babies stared menacingly at me from the safety of buggies (they frequently do, you know. I scowl back manfully but they always win.) And despite the twilight being warm and a little wet, there wasn’t a single slug or snail to be seen anywhere.

Still, the bats flew closer than usual this evening and there was a lone moth feeding on some pink flowers in my garden. I’m rather fond of those flowers even though I’m not the biggest fan of pink. I don’t know what they’re called but they smell nice. Smell matters a lot to me, you see. Smell is one of those sensory experiences – like the sound of music – which can send my mood plummeting or soaring depending on whether it’s bad or good.

(Sudden thought:

I bet I said that about the odd girl or two when I was a teenager.

‘Hey, who’s that floozy you’ve been hanging about with?’

‘Dunno, mate; don’t know her name. But she smells nice.’

Only kidding. Never in my life have I ever hung about with a woman whose name I didn’t know. Erm… apart from that strange woman reclining on a huge bed in a room above an Italian restaurant in Soho once. But everybody in the room was weird – except me – and I don’t recall any of them smelling of anything except something resembling bonfires.)

The big news today, however, was that I found exactly the pair of jeans I’ve been seeking for months. They were in a charity shop priced at £9.99. They were brand new – with all the labels still attached – were originally from M&S, and their proper price was £39.50. I also nearly bought a bed head from another charity shop (because I haven’t had a bed head for twenty seven years) but realised it wouldn’t fit in the car.

And that brings me back to a favourite subject. When I was a kid I had a wooden bed head. It smelt so nice that I used to sniff and sniff and sniff it, and then I used to chew it. (Except at Easter and Christmas when I ate chocolate in bed instead.)

Variation on a Pet Gripe.

I wrote a post recently about the current habit of spelling “you’re” as “your.” Tonight – for the first time ever – I read a comment on YouTube in which somebody spelled “your” as “you’re.” I replied “Thanks for the novelty.”

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

A Muse on Names.

I’ve heard it said that some Native North American Indian tribes used the practice of calling their babies after the first thing the mother saw after giving birth. So it might be Running Elk, Swooping Eagle, Leaping Salmon, Defecating Bear, that sort of thing. If such had been the practice at my birth, I wouldn’t have been given the utterly prosaic name Jeffrey. I would have been called Singing Bird, because my mother said the first thing she saw after I was born was a blackbird singing on the sill outside the window.

But times have changed. Nowadays there would be only two names available to new mothers.

‘And what’s your name, little chap?’

‘People With Funny Hats And Pieces Of Cloth Covering Their Noses And Mouths, Miss.’

Thank you. And what’s your name, little girl?’

‘Machine With Moving Green Zig-Zaggy Lines, Miss.’

I suppose the odd exception might come along in those cases where the sprog insists on coming into the world on the back seat of a car before they make it to the hospital. He or she could be called Policeman Wiping The Sweat Off His Brow, but they would be a rarity. Are we going in the right direction?

Preferences.

During my childhood my mother said to me several times that she liked the idea of me growing up to become a doctor. When I was around fourteen, however, and expressed the desire to extend my education, go to university, and enter a profession, she became much more cautious and said that I would be much better off going to a local factory to do an apprenticeship. ‘You’re never out of a job if you’ve got a trade,’ she said. I tried to explain that I didn’t want a job, I wanted a life, but the attitude of a cautious mother is a difficult draft animal to shift.

Maybe she didn’t think of doctoring as a profession; maybe she thought you just grew up to be one. I wouldn’t know, and in the end I didn’t do either (not unless you regard being a deviant riding a rollercoaster as some sort of profession, which I don’t suppose you do.)

And I would never have made the grade as a doctor anyway because I really don’t like bodies very much. I read somewhere once that a body is a thin membrane of skin containing a bag of filth, and that’s pretty much how I see it. Especially when it comes to excretions. Oh my giddy aunt, the excretions! Be they planned or unplanned, voluntary or involuntary, healthy or unhealthy, any hint of excretions in the vicinity has my consciousness screaming to escape the body it’s trapped in. Doctors deal in excretions. Not for me.

And that reminds me that the word ‘diarrhoea’ is the most difficult word in the English language to remember how to spell. I haven’t got there yet; I had to use the spell checker to write it in this post. Not that I have much occasion to write it generally, of course, but writing fiction can sometimes lead you to the sort of places you’d rather avoid. I remember the word being used once in Satre’s novel The Age of Reason. It’s my most abiding memory of the book. Descriptions of the Parisian landscape and the man who was going to drown his cats in the Seine (but didn’t) take second place.

This evening I spent ages watching two moths feeding on the sweet pea flowers. Wholesome fare. No excretions, just hints of Titania and her entourage. It was twilight, of course…

Very Briefly.

I don’t think I want to talk much about today’s two episodes of note: the lost cat and the conversation with a gorilla.

The lost cat incident ended satisfactorily, the only injury being some scratches to my arm. The gorilla was a different matter.

He was a big, burly clod of a bailiff from some debt collection agency (the debt in question being nothing to do with me, I hasten to add.) The circumstances led us into a confrontational situation and the conversation became heated. He was pushy and insufferably impertinent; I accused him of behaving ultra vires. I also told him that much of what he was saying was bullshit. And then he left.

End of story. End of blogging for today.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Dripping Woes.

I’m tired of things dripping.

No, no, not my nose this time: two taps and the shower. Colds go on their own; plumbers are expensive.

(‘Dripping’ is another word which conjures a whole load of mostly unwholesome images. What a life. What a language.)

Belated Greetings, Em.

My very favourite ghost, dear Emily Brontë, is scowling at me because I omitted to celebrate her birthday on my blog yesterday.

Emily Brontë was born on 30th July 1818 at Thornton, Yorkshire, England. She wrote Wuthering Heights and quite a lot of poetry. Please try to understand her because she was a bit special; she was a true deviant in the classic mould. It isn’t easy, but she’s worth the effort.

This is a million miles from
what Emily wrote.
Don't be fooled.

Experts Out.

I just watched the opening title sequence of The Third Man on YouTube – just the titles, you understand, and the famous zither theme. It made me want to watch the film again.

The accompanying recommendations included a 4.38 piece in which Bogdanovitch explains why The Third Man is so brilliant. I don’t want to know why it’s brilliant. It just is. As soon as some expert starts explaining why a film is brilliant it loses the core of its appeal, because you become an observer of technique rather than being subsumed into the story and the atmosphere. The Third Man is the sort of film which is better felt than analyzed.

Film noir is all about being subsumed into the story and the atmosphere. It’s a kind of magic. So would Mr Bogdanovitch and all the other experts please shut up and allow us to be transported into another dimension unhindered by expert opinion.