Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Cats' Eyes.

I made friends with a young husky today and noticed how intense his eyes were. They reminded me of cats’ eyes. I’d never noticed that of huskies before.

(The woman accompanying the dog, an elderly lady in a cheap woolly hat, smiled and told me: 'He's actually my son's dog, but the courts sent him away.' I assume they had a reason, and the euphemism was appreciated.)

There’s a pretty impressive cat in the following video. A big one with eyes that are wild, soulful and hypnotic. As for the women, well…

I’ve had 4-5 hours sleep every night for the past three weeks, courtesy of much disturbance. Blog posts aren’t coming easy, therefore, so do excuse yet another music video. It’s nice.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Grey Humour and Rejecting Pollution.

You know how much contempt I feel for the plethora of themed TV shows which swamp the airways and provide solace to the woolly-headed ones? Well, my current pet hate is the Isn’t Life Funny genre in which they show private webcams of kids falling over and crying while the canned laughter machine swells fit to burst. The latest trend is to film animals – you know, things like cats falling off walls – and putting them out under the title of Cats Do the Funniest Things.

The problem with these shows is that they’re fraudulent, being mostly about as funny as spending a wet February weekend in a cheap Morecombe guest house with your flatulent mother-in-law while the elements conspire to deny you any hope of escape.

And YouTube is full of them. They usually have an intro which includes the instruction: ‘try not to laugh.’ Do we need to?

*  *  *

I signed two anti-Trump petitions today (one being: We don’t want Trump coming over here. We’re happy to welcome Syrian refugees, but Trump is a dozen steps too far. It’s already got enough signatories to ensure a debate in Parliament.)

When I was a cub scout I was told that we should try to do at least one good deed every day. Mine is in the bag for today.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Suggesting a Fine Solution.

I don’t understand why Trump is closing the USA to Syrian refugees. Why is he failing to see an obvious opportunity here? Why is he not acting true to form for once? Surely he should be grabbing as many as care to come in and then sending them off to newly-revived cotton plantations in the south.

What a glorious new dawn that would be for an old American tradition. What a splendid opportunity for a few enterprising white folks to get rich and enjoy a level of luxury unparalleled since the Civil War. What a boon it would be for the American economy, and what a salutary example of how to put America first.

What are you waiting for, Mr T? Why are you faltering? You’re already trashing America’s reputation among the decent folks in the world, so why stop at half measures? That’s not your way, surely.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Mid-Atlantic Suspicions.

There’s something rotten in the state of mid-Atlantic. First we had Trump’s love affair with Putin, then we had Trump somehow managing to get elected US President, and now we have Trump holding hands with Theresa May.


And don’t forget that there was something distinctly suspicious about the way Mrs May got the job of British PM in the first place (I wrote about it at the time.) I think I should give serious consideration to climbing off the fence and becoming a conspiracy theorist.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Chicken or Egg?

Have you ever noticed that when the advertisers are trying to sell you on the idea of buying an insurance policy from the Trustus Insurance Company, they use a scenario in which a terminally naïve young couple go all doe-eyed while basking in the glow emanating from a friendly-but-authoritative man, usually in his late thirties or early forties, wearing a dark suit (usually blue), a white shirt and a tie that is at least discreet if not positively sombre? Oh, and his hair looks like it was created using waste polystyrene in the Disney prosthetic workshop.

Why do they do that? Don’t they realise that anybody with an IQ in double figures or above is instinctively mistrustful of men with artificially smart hair who strike a pose in dark suits, white shirts and discreet ties? They look like estate agents, for heavens sake.

It makes you wonder which came first: the ad man or the idiot.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Wishing for Good Riddance.

Preparatory to her visit with Donald Trump tomorrow, Theresa May says that ‘… together, the UK and US can lead the world again.’ This is typical politician speak – childish, disingenuous, populist waffle. It’s the tabloid mentality at work in the corridors of power.

She also says that she intends to ‘renew the special relationship’ between the two countries. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that in principle, but principles are in short supply at the moment. Just at the point where the rest of the world should be distancing itself from Trump and everything he stands for (like ‘waterboarding is a damn fine thing’), Mrs May is threatening to bring him closer. So what’s going on with our Prime Minister? Is she just appealing to the lowest common denominator as politicians are wont to do, or do we have another poodle in the family? What is to become of us Brits while Mrs M is contentedly settled in Donald’s lap?

Meanwhile, there have been protests in Australia against the celebrating of Australia Day on 26th January because of the date’s association with the subjugation and abuse of indigenous peoples. Any decent thinking person should at least respect such a view because the principle involved is the same as that which has made the N word rightly so loathsome. Australia’s Deputy PM has responded, however, by saying that the protesters should ‘crawl under a rock and hide.’ You crawl first, Mr Joyce, and we’ll be right behind you…

I wonder how the building of the B Ark is coming on. If we get all the world’s political leaders together (with the odd rare exception) we should be able to fill it in a day, and then homo sapiens can have another shot at growing up. After all, if you have diseased wood at the top of a shrub you prune it out to save the plant.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Odd Encounters and the Origin of Tiffin.

As I approached the cashier in the discount store today it became obvious that she stood out from the rest.

‘You’re not a typical P******** employee,’ I ventured.

‘Aren’t I?’ she replied.

‘No. Is this job temporary?’

‘I don’t expect to stay here very long.’

‘I’d say you have a degree.’

‘Two actually.’

‘Well there you are.’

Oddly, she didn’t ask how I knew. I didn’t, of course, it’s just that when you’ve eschewed the normal human imperative to connect with people and followed a course of incessant observation instead, you can tell quite a lot about a person before you’ve even spoken to them. So much is revealed by the eyes, the set of the mouth, their body language and their general bearing. This young woman appeared affable, relaxed, confident, and eminently capable of holding an easy, intelligent conversation, so guessing she had a degree was most unlikely to be wrong given her age and the ways of the times. She smiled throughout the transaction, and it was a genuine smile.

*  *  *

The couple in the coffee shop were very different. I was standing in the queue at the counter when I heard a piping woman’s voice from my left.

‘... and get me a piece of Belgian chocolate tiffin.’

The man to my right, who was ahead of me in the queue, was tall, angular, and had an odd sort of bearing which I won’t even try to describe.

‘What?’ he replied.

‘A piece of Belgian chocolate tiffin.’

‘A piece of what?’

‘Belgian chocolate tiffin!

‘Belgian chocolate what?’

At that point I had to intervene:

‘Tiffin,’ I repeated with contrived authority. ‘It comes originally from the term for afternoon tea during the British Raj in India.’

He said nothing, but stared at me for longer than seemed normal in the circumstances. A piping voice, rendered louder and more strident through evident frustration, assailed my left ear again:

‘A PIECE OF BELGIAN CHOCOLATE TIFFIN!’

‘Alright, alright, there’s no need to shout. The gentleman just told me what you said.’

And that was just one of many odd encounters which kept tapping me on the shoulder in Ashbourne today, mostly involving men. (Oh, apart from the elderly woman with a walking frame who pushed me aside at the coffee shop counter so that she could reach out and touch the charity donations box placed there. ‘Are you looking for something?’ I asked. Her reply was quiet and totally incomprehensible, and then she left at a pace rather less than leisurely.)

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Keeping Us in the Slime

I watched a documentary tonight on the rise and development of racial prejudice and hostility in the southern US. It was depressing as hell.

The leader of one of the many white supremacist groups said that the United States is not a nation, but a multi-cultural muddle which has no national identity. He also said that he believes in re-establishing official segregation because that’s the normal way for human society to operate. The imperative of separateness is in our blood, apparently, and shows no sign of changing

In a way he’s right, but what he seems to have failed to notice is that it’s people like him who are blocking human evolution, preventing it from growing out of a state of fear, suspicion and conflict and progressing to one of wholesome tolerance and integration. That’s why separateness remains in our blood. It isn’t set in stone; we can grow up if we want to.

It’s a classic case of self-fulfilling prophecy – coming from a state of prejudice and trying to justify it with a show of fallacious logic. And those equally prejudiced listen to him and feel vindicated and empowered and so the misery goes on.

It was also interesting to note that although Trump was never mentioned, many of the attitudes which gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan bore chilling similarities to the attitude and pronouncements of the man now holding court in the White House. America, what have you done?

And I wish I could find something funny to say for a change. One day, maybe.

Impressed by Another Emily.

The sort of disturbance which only a fellow HSP would understand continues to block out the sun and put a dampener on the writing bug. Nevertheless, I've got into the habit of watching re-runs of Wallander - an emotionally-charged detective drama set in Sweden and starring Kenneth Branagh - every Saturday night and never cease to be wowed by the music used for the title sequence.

So I Googled 'Wallander music' and tracked the singer down to this video. It's the best musical discovery I've made in years (and the TV show is pretty good, too... and it's probably better that I post a piece of music than post nothing. I think.)

Sunday, 22 January 2017

A President Missing the Point.

I see that Israel has given approval for hundreds of homes to be built in occupied East Jerusalem as a result of the pro-Israeli Trump taking office. ‘Now we can build,’ they are crowing triumphantly, and the Palestinians face yet more abuse and humiliation.

You know, when Trump talks about defeating terrorism he seems to be missing a fundamental point (as you would expect of such a man, I suppose.) Doesn’t he realise that he is conniving in the very actions that spawn terrorism in the first place? And if Israel’s bullying behaviour in occupied Palestinian territory does produce a terrorist outrage, and Americans do get killed or have their limbs blown away, I hope that the citizens of the US will have the good sense to lay the first level of blame firmly at the steps of the White House.

Feeling the Trump Touch.

I just read that the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, is to visit Washington on Friday for talks with Donald Trump. This is interesting because I’m dying to see whether he will shake her hand as he would with a man, or whether he’ll grab her where he says he likes to grab women. Fingers crossed (or legs in the case of Mrs May.)

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Inauguration Note.

I’ve never agreed with the maxim that manners maketh man. My view is that it’s mind which makes and defines man – especially higher mind.

And that’s what’s so worrying about Trump. Such a big body, such a big ego, such a big bank balance, but such a woefully small mind. Or maybe his mind isn’t so small, for how can I really know? Certainly his words and behaviour indicate a paucity of decency and adroit thinking, but maybe he’s only pretending to be dumb in order to garner the approbation of a certain corner of the American electorate. I haven’t failed to notice that bigger minds than mine even in America have called him a fraud often enough.

And that makes the situation all the more worrying. It’s why thinking people in the rest of the world are concerned about the pernicious influence his presidency might have on us. He says he wants to make the world a better place, and he also says he wants to get the Mexican wall built quickly. There’s an odd paradox there because if you want to make the world a better place you don’t build walls, you build bridges. He says he intends to put America first. Didn’t Hitler say the same about Germany?

Friday, 20 January 2017

Declining the Offer.

I just watched the first fifty minutes of a film called Snow Cake. So far the protagonist, Alex, has made connections with three women.

The first is a teenager who is delightfully dippy and utterly compelling. She gets killed in the first few minutes when the car being driven by Alex is run off the road by a careless truck driver.

The second is the teenager’s mother, a high functioning autistic woman who is difficult to relate to but fascinating in an academic sort of way. She persuades Alex to stay over until Tuesday when the garbage collection is due. She can’t touch garbage, she says, and now that her daughter is dead there’s nobody to put it out.

Then there’s the woman next door, a raven-haired and achingly attractive 30-something who just oozes sultry. She invites Alex over for a meal, and half way through she says: ‘I like you. I really like you. I hate having sex on a full stomach, so why don’t we skip the rest and get to it?’ ‘If I’m to be honest,’ replies Alex, ‘it’s what I came round for.’ ‘Good,’ says Ms raven-haired seductress, ‘I’m glad we cleared that up.’

Alarm bells rang. Having it made that easy would be a bit like being given a plate of sawdust for dinner. It would be all bulk and no substance. And so I found myself wanting to change the script, and watching a film becomes more difficult when you want to change the script because you feel it's taken a wrong turn. I left it just as the Sultry One was taking her boots off.

I expect I’ll pick it up again tomorrow because the direction might change again. Besides, it stars Alan Rickman who is one of my favourite actors. And his character was so like me until he said ‘If I’m to be honest, it’s what I came round for.’ I would have got up at that point and said ‘I have to go now.’ And when the raven haired beauty asked ‘Are you offended?’ I would have replied: ‘No, just impotent.’

Thursday, 19 January 2017

On Being Vanilla Man.

I seem to have found the stirrings of a desire to start blogging again. It came about as a result of watching a video on YouTube which suggested that I should be mentoring indigo children in order to assist in the final destruction of the dark forces brought to expression by the likes of Trump, Assad, Netanyahu etc. Well there you go. My life has meaning after all. I count. I have a self (of sorts.) Hooray. Carry on blogging. OK.

So where should I start? Where I left off? Mmm… not so sure about that. Starting where you left off is a bit like leaving half your dinner to go cold and stand festering for three days, settling down for seventy two hours sleep, and then carrying on even though the fat has congealed on the cold plate and suspicious green bits have begun appearing on the edges of things. But where else? 

Right then, since it helps to walk for a while before you start running, let’s go for something non-taxing to get me back in the habit. Let’s start with the fact of discovering that I’m a vanilla type.

I came across it in a book I was reading on the search for the English eccentric. It was introduced by one of the declared eccentrics who was interviewed for the purpose of research. She was a high class dominatrix, and she explained that a vanilla type is anyone who is not into bondage, domination, anything which falls under the general banner of sado-masochism, or anyone not blessed with an addiction to any other extreme sexual fetishes. It derives from the fact that people who only like ice cream if it’s vanilla flavoured are irretrievably conventional and therefore terminally boring.

My heart sank when I read it. I only like ice cream if it’s vanilla flavoured, you see. It’s a cross I’ve borne all my life. I welcome all variations of taste as long as the flavour is vanilla. Vanilla defines ice cream, and ice cream which tastes of anything else is therefore tainted and inferior. I’m also thoroughly turned off by the thought of bondage, domination, or anything which falls under the general banner of sado-masochism. And such addictions as I have don’t include extreme sexual fetishes. Ergo, I’m as vanilla as vanilla can be.

But here’s the odd thing: When it comes to the fragrances available in such things as essential oils and scented candles, one of my least favourite smells is vanilla. I find it quite obnoxious, and admit to being strictly a frankincense and sandalwood man. So may I be excused, do you think, on the grounds that I am at least contrary?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Emulating Jacob.

'Marley has been dead these seven years,' Scrooge replied. 'He died seven years ago this very night.'

By an odd coincidence, or rather a paltry contrivance, this blog echoes the fact by having been born seven years ago this very night. That’s why I’m making this post: seven is my favourite number and I decided that I should be abdicating my duty to my foibles if the blog failed to reach the seven year milestone. So what, you may ask, happened on 23rd November to cause the locomotive to run out of steam, stop dead on the tracks and fall into premature silence. Well, it’s like this:

The process of blogging amounts to standing on a platform and talking to the wind. The platform is one’s sense of self – which is what drives all of us to communicate – and on November 23rd all the various selves which occupy what I still like to think of as my mind fell asleep. The overseer which stands over these minions and determines which shall speak and which shall not was suddenly bereft of workers, and had no option but to shut up shop and occupy the consequently lazy hours with reading, wrestling with crosswords and sudoku, and watching such TV shows as might be found tolerable. (To prove the exception to the rule, you might have noticed that on 8th January the minion which specialises in enigmatic asides woke up suddenly in the aftermath of a troublesome dream and rushed off to give vent to his inclination while the overseer was watching a re-run of The Avengers or Inspector George Gently or some such, and then fell asleep again. The fact remains, however, that no platform means no blog, and so the hiatus has persisted.)

That’s part of the explanation, but there are also the dark issues which have been washing over me like the dingy sludge from a cesspit for some years now. They’ve been coming thick and fast with little respite. There have been too many of them for too long and their accumulation has suddenly become so enervating as to produce a state of mind which isn’t conducive to communication.

And therefore I have to consider the question: has this blog run its course and come to its natural end as all my other focuses have done before it? I’m not the sort to have a lifelong focus, you see, any more than I’m the sort to have a lifelong career or a lifelong partner. I don’t generally do lifelong things. Focuses, like careers and partnerships, need to have a certain intensity about them if they are to be worthy of the title, and intense matters function like fires: they burn hot until the fuel runs out, and then they die to a cold nothingness, never to return. It’s why I never go back – there’s nothing to go back to except a pile of ashes and some memories. And I suppose it’s why I live alone in a rented house at subsistence level and have so few assets that the selling of them would hardly buy me a new winter coat. People like me acquire little in life that is material, and accumulate even less. If you’ll excuse the paraphrase, I have nothing to declare except my genuineness.

The fact is, I don’t know about the blog yet. I still feel disposed to write occasionally, even though I’m becoming inclined to suspect that nothing I want to say is worth saying, and it seems reasonable to suggest that the best reason to write is not to inform, entertain or provoke consideration, but simply because it’s what you want to do. So maybe it's still alive, or maybe it isn't.

And this post is hopelessly incomplete, rather badly written, and probably pointless, but it’s going up anyway because I said it would. And I did say that it would be massively and unremittingly self-centred, didn't I, so maybe there's a little irony being served at least.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

An Insignificant Recollection.

She always seemed anxious to talk to me. She even gave the impression that she needed some sort of connection with me, although the nature of that connection was never revealed. The problem was that whenever she did talk to me, she always did so from the top of a crenelated stone wall while I stood on the field below; and between us there was ever a moat, a raised drawbridge, a portcullis and a barbican. It was a position of impregnability from which she could step away and disappear at any moment of her choosing, and that’s what she always did.

I don’t think she ever checks into this blog now so she’ll never know I was talking about her. (Or even thinking of her.)

There’s a lot of tension in the air at the moment. I intend to make another post on January 14th if not before. It will probably be massively and unremittingly self-centred.