Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Little Nigel's Big Ideas.

I read a news report recently to the effect that some high ranking person or other was denying having blocked a knighthood for Nigel Farage. It was one of those scratching of heads moments because let’s remind ourselves again just who Nigel Farage is.

© Nickcohen.com

At the moment he is a Member of the European Parliament, which isn’t considered one of the weightiest jobs in politics. Before that he was leader of UKIP, a fringe political party that isn’t even a bona fide party, being really an isolationist pressure group. UKIP has only one MP in the British Parliament. That’s it. That’s who Nigel Farage is.

And yet he thinks he should be Britain’s ambassador to the US, and presumably he thinks he should have a knighthood. He’s like one of those gauche people who bore everybody rigid at parties because he thinks the wart on his cat’s ear is of international importance and merits being discussed ad nauseum. We had one at the theatre where I used to work. He started irritating the customers and had to be warned off by the Theatre Manager. The thought of Farage being given a knighthood attracts incredulity at the very least, and if ever he does get one you may rest assured that some dastardly string has been pulled somewhere in the sewers of power.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

A Little Speculation.

I find unsolicited adverts that jump out and demand my attention so irritating that watching them is mildly painful. So I don’t. I avert my eyes and seethe quietly until they’re finished. And so I had a thought…

The world is becoming ever more polluted by the advertisers’ unwholesome brand of deceit, blackmail and attempted mind control. Their pernicious presence is hideous, and I wonder how long it will be before the people of the world will succumb to ad fatigue and the efficacy of adverts will grow weaker and weaker.

Is this the next stage in the evolution of commerce? Will it bring in its wake worldwide economic collapse? Will we go back to a poorer but saner way of living? Is it the only way to get rid of Donald Trump? Yay.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Blessing in Diguise.

It quite saddens me to contemplate the prospective demolition of my greenhouse on Monday, for greenhouses enclose a singular space suffused with a wholesome and gentle sense of tamed fecundity. I’ve been used to having it to hand for nearly eleven years now, and the loss of anything valuable is always a little irksome.

But today it struck me that for most of those years the rise of gale or storm force winds produced a sense of anxiety. The old greenhouse, being made of wood, was clearly going the way of the aged and becoming weaker, and elemental blasts always kept me on edge waiting for the sound of smashing glass and cracking timber that was inevitable in the fullness of time. Now I have one thing less to worry about, so maybe there’s a sense of relief to be taken after all.

And maybe that suggests the truth of a doctrine common in Vedic philosophy – that while it’s perfectly fine to enjoy the pleasant accoutrements of life, it’s equally a mistake to grow attached to them. Attachment, they say, is the root of all suffering. It’s a moot point which makes no allowance for our need of rollercoasters, but it’s still a point worth considering.

Acting Against Type.

I was just reading about how the witches of America are joining together to put a binding spell on Donald Trump and his supporters to deny them direction and dampen their dastardly deeds.

Well, what do you know? Here we are embroiled in an episode of the age-long battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, and the witches are very much on the side of the good guys. (And maybe they always were.) May I offer my own good wishes for more power to their candles.

And as you would expect, the conservative evangelicals are up in arms and reassuring everybody that the witches’ power is nothing compared with the power of Jesus. Well, whether it is or not I wouldn’t know, but I think it would be several leagues short of credible to suppose that Jesus would be on the side of Donald Trump. Darth Vader might be, but definitely not Jesus.

Who is Jim?

Donald Trump has a friend called Jim who doesn’t go to Paris any more. Or so he says.

When I was a little boy playing cowboys and Indians, the first person to speak was always called Jim because that was the first name we thought of for an American cowboy. There was always a cowboy called Jim, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the first captain if the Starship Enterprise was also called Jim. If John Doe is the cultural spirit of America, Jim is the fictional one.

So I wonder whether Donald would give us more information with regard to this Jim character. I mean… like… you know … does he actually exist? Where does he live? What’s his phone number? Can he speak French? Does he know the difference between Appellation Contrôlée and Vin Ordinaire? Would he recognise Gallic chic and be able to distinguish it from the Barbie doll stereotype favoured by redneck Presidents? And so on… All relevant points when considering the mystery of Jim.

And then, of course, there’s another point worth mentioning. It’s questionable whether any self-respecting Parisian would want a friend of Donald Trump visiting their city. I expect they take pollution control quite seriously over there.

A Little Irony.

I see the Id-obsessed Trump’s latest stated objective is to ‘get the bad people out of this country.’ I wonder what percentage of Americans would put him top of the list for deportation if only they had the power.

Friday, 24 February 2017

A Fortuitous Omission.

Where oh where were all the Chinese girls when I was still young enough to go cap in hand to beg the honour of…

I think it fortunate that they were mostly still in China or the backstreets of Chinatowns around the globe. (The city in which I was brought up had no Chinatown.) I think I might have angered the Lady Quan Yin, and where would my life have been then? I think I wasn’t good enough and the fates were being kind.

Next time around, though…

Stormy Times.

Today’s storm saw my garden littered with fallen bins, flying bin lids, upturned garden furniture and other random detritus. Everything moveable was being rolled, dragged and generally cast about by storm force winds. That was the start. By lunchtime the winds were gusting to near-hurricane force, and soon the sound of snapping timber and breaking glass could be heard above the blast. My greenhouse is all but destroyed and only awaits the attention of a building contractor to finish the demolition job. And I noticed that my favourite big lilac tree was listing at an uncomfortable 45° angle. Whether it will be saveable with extreme surgery in the spring remains to be seen.

And then the power went out and my cordless phone became unusable. I tried to use the mobile phone but found that the network had also been taken out by the storm. Fortunately it didn’t last long. By late afternoon the storm was easing and both phone and power were restored, courtesy of the excellent efforts of the men from Western Power Distribution. Thank you, Western Power; you were today’s only hero.

So then I went out in the rain with broom and rake to clear the lane of arboreal detritus. Some of the mothers fetching their children from school slowed and acknowledged my efforts, while others – mostly in big SUVs – drove past at speed with noses in the air. If the puddles had been deep enough they would have showered me with dirty water. It’s happened before.

Meanwhile, the disturbances which have plagued the past seven weeks, leaving my brain addled and allowing me a mere 4-5 hours sleep a night, continue. And yes, I know that worse things happen at sea. But they didn’t when I was on it.

But life goes on as ever, cosmic configurations permitting.

(We live a sheltered life in Britain, you understand. We don’t get hurricanes, serious tornadoes, major earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or a government which sends warplanes to kill our children and demolish our houses. So we’re easily moved to frustration.)

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Brief Encounter in a Country Lane.

I was walking along Church Lane today when I heard a walking horse approaching from behind. As it came closer I heard a woman’s voice call out: ‘It’s a beautiful afternoon, isn’t it?’ I turned and looked up into her face, wondering what on earth was beautiful about it since there was a chill wind blowing and the sky was unremittingly grey and gloomy.

‘Not as nice as yesterday,’ was the best return I could manage while remaining on the right side of polite.

‘But at least it isn’t raining,’ she countered triumphantly. I allowed her the last word to acknowledge her victory, and then she rode on at a trot.

The fact is, I was already irritated by the resemblance of Church Lane on a Sunday afternoon in February to Blackpool Promenade on a summer Bank Holiday Monday. Not only was there a horse approaching me from behind, there was also a man a little way ahead picking up his dog’s doings from the verge with a polythene bag no doubt designed for the purpose. I said ‘hello’ to him, but omitted to mention the weather.

I used to feel the same way when I lived on the Northumberland coast and walked on the beach every day. I could just about tolerate a lone dog walker as long as they were at least a hundred yards away, but any more than that and I felt suffocated by the weight of the crowd.

But then I thought of the woman on the horse again. She exhibited neither the dress nor the air of the usual county set women who grace the Shire’s lanes atop their immaculate steeds. She was uncommonly plain and dressed scruffily, and rode the horse without stirrups. And the horse itself was no well groomed 16½ hands hunter, but a shorter, stouter nag which more than compensated for its physical shortcomings with an engaging lack of pretension. In retrospect they seemed possibly to be my kind of people. If only the woman had said: ‘Have you noticed how the quiet of the countryside can sometimes be so profound as to become almost literally palpable?’ my future path might have veered slightly onto another heading. But they never do, you know. They never do.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Becoming Ill-Informed.

I’m becoming ever more reluctant to read the world news on the BBC website these days because every time I do so I see a picture of Trump or one his gang filling the screen. This morning it was Pence looking every bit the archetypical white, male, middle class, middle aged, hawkish servant of American sensibility in all its greatness. Facing him, but in inferior shot to the camera, was Angela Merkel looking like a sane, sensible and sensitive human being. Merkel was smiling; Pence wasn’t. I wondered why.

The problem is that every time I’m reminded of the fact that Trump and his hoods are placing themselves in the van of the free world I’m beset by a mixture of revulsion and deep suspicion, and it isn’t very nice. It isn’t.

So please, dear Americans, would you find some way of consigning these people to a dimly lit place more suited to their natures so that JJ can resume his habit of finding out what’s going in the world. If you could beat the British Empire in all its 19th century version of greatness, a mere gang of ne’er-do-wells slithering around the White House should be a piece of cake. Thank you.

Trivial Matters.

I spent some time yesterday ruminating on the difference between a focus and a passion. As is often the case, the blog post got postponed when I realised that the line between them is blurred and complex. It was going to finish with a bleat that I have neither these days, but was finally scrapped when China peeked over the eastern horizon and the priestess waved to me.

Instead I thought I’d mention the fact that I found a live newt on my kitchen floor last night. It offered no resistance at all when I picked it up and took it outside to be placed on some damp soil. I wondered whether it minded being forcibly relocated, but decided that newts probably like being cool and damp rather more than I do.

And then tonight I imagined the scene some time in the future when my ex and my daughter are likely to be clearing the contents of my house after I’m gone. It seemed particularly poignant to wonder which of them will take the half used jar of instant hot chocolate.

Meanwhile, the politicians have been proving their mettle again today. Tony Blair used the unlikely fact of his continued liberty to argue that Britain should reconsider its Brexit decision. Little Nigel Farage, a vociferous supporter of the Leave campaign, responded by saying that Blair is ‘yesterday’s man’. These are fine words coming from somebody who has not yet even attained the status of today’s man, and is most unlikely ever so to do.

And the man who replaced him as leader of UKIP was called to account for having perpetrated a rather distasteful untruth on his website. He admitted the fact and apologised, but then claimed that those who had revealed his unsavoury deception were guilty of ‘orchestrating an evil smear campaign’ against him. Such are the noises that come oozing from the halls of greatness.

(In fact, the concept of evil belongs entirely in the spiritual realm. Maybe his mind got the letters confused and he meant to say ‘vile.’ That’s a word much favoured by the tabloids and those given to irrational histrionics.)

And now I cannot but muse further on the fact that the two anagrams of ‘live’ are ‘vile’ and ‘evil.’ But then the only anagram of ‘Santa’ is ‘Satan’, and the only anagram of ‘God’ is ‘dog.’ Such meaningless patterns the universe does weave for our endless entertainment.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Instant Karma.

I mentioned in a recent post that I’ve developed the habit of saying nice things to young women whenever I get the chance. Well, today the favour was returned by way of a fortuitous encounter with a shop assistant in the Ashbourne branch of Mountain Warehouse.

You see, after several years of procrastination occasioned by my natural reluctance to part with more than about £5, I finally bought a new winter coat today. They’d originally been on sale at £249.99 but had been reduced in a late season clearance to £149.99, and then further reduced to £124.99. Half price; not bad. But still I hesitated.

And then today I decided: enough was enough. I went in and tried one on. I examined it from every angle, being particularly pleased that the furry bit around the hood was detachable (because who in his right mind would go out in the rain with a furry bit around the hood? You’d feel like an Old English Sheep Dog being forced into a constitutional but wholly unwelcome walk in inclement weather by a human without a heart.) I took it to the counter and placed a bagful of questions before the young woman assistant, eventually committing myself to making one of life’s major purchases. The young woman seemed pleased, and then made the sweetest of sweet statements:

‘You’ll be pleased to know that today they’ve been reduced even further to £99.99.’

Well, are there many phrases better calculated to lighten the mind and massage the spirit than ‘… reduced even further’? I think not. I was content.

To celebrate my good fortune and continue my new-found predilection for niceness to young women, I went into the coffee shop and wished all the women assistants a Happy Valentines Day, following it with ‘I have no one else to say it to so I thought I might as well say it to you lot.’ Just in case they thought I meant it.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A Rare Racist Post.

I’ve developed a curious yen to hug a black person, only sadly I don’t know any. Abused, enslaved and foolishly reviled for centuries, they remain proud and indomitable. And they have the very best smile of all.

I once told the story on this blog about the two black boys who lived near to me when I was a kid; of how, having been negatively conditioned by post-colonial propaganda, none of us white kids would mix with them because they scared us. I still feel sad and guilty about that to this day.

Monday, 13 February 2017

On Being Selectively Nice.

It seems to have become a regular habit of mine to say something nice to a young woman on every day which provides me with the privilege of meeting one. Today’s little gift was bestowed on the young woman from whom I bought a pack of vacuum cleaner bags.

‘And thank you for the lovely smile,’ I said – without hint of affectation, I might add – to conclude the transaction. Her smile broadened slightly, no doubt in preparation for the joking and tittering to be had with her colleagues, and at my absent expense, over their tea break later in the afternoon. No matter; a niceness is a niceness when all’s said and done.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m the nicest person I know. (The fact that I’m almost the only person I know may be disregarded.) At least, I’m consistently and genuinely nice to young women, children, dogs, birds, horses, cows and sheep. All other categories, I’m ashamed to admit, have to pass an entrance exam and the success rate is alarmingly low. Accordingly, it would probably be reasonable to admit that I’m actually more honest than nice. Which of the two is the greater virtue will have to remain a moot point.

And do you want to hear today’s maddening little enigma? OK, here it is:

Today I got to see Poppy’s bottom half for the first time. (The proportions of Poppy’s bottom half have intrigued me for several years.) I also got to see Poppy’s dog for the first time; I didn’t even know that Poppy had a dog. And what a delightful dog it was. Unfortunately, I was not afforded the opportunity to be nice to either of them.

*  *  *

But of course, what I really seek to achieve is that one of these days a particularly attractive beneficiary of my propensity for niceness will say:

'Oh my dear, good sir, your niceness is an inspiration to us all. It gives us hope for the better future of mankind and illuminates my own poor life immeasurably. Is there anything I can do for you in return?'

... and I  will reply:



'Very well, then. Do you know what baked Alaska is?'


'Do you know how to make one?'

'Yes. Yes.'

'Would you make one for me?'

'Oh, yes, yes, yes! The word of affirmation! A thousand times yes!'

'Then the bargain is complete.'

And that point she will utter an involuntary squeal of delight and faint, but only temporarily. Soon I shall be afforded one of the only three aspirations left to me in this life (the others being a trip up the Yangtze and sight of the Aurora Borealis, neither of which can be baked in an oven.)

And being a vegetarian - as well as a very nice person - I prefer to see pigs taking flight rather than lying dead on a plate waiting to be consumed.

I Must be Magnetic.

I need cash and there’s a cash point no more than twenty yards away. There’s nobody using it and nobody approaching, so I stop to take my cardholder out of my bag and zip the compartment up again. That takes about five seconds.

When I look up there’s one person at the machine and two more waiting. It happened today. It happens all the time. How do I do it?

Saturday, 11 February 2017

A Muse from the Labyrinth.

It’s most unusual for me to be impressed by a line from a TV drama, but I heard one tonight which had a ring about it. Somebody said:

You never look at life, do you? You just drive straight through it. You should stop and sit, but find somebody to sit with you. You’re not strong enough to do it on your own. Nobody is.

I look at life all the time. I rarely do anything but stop and sit these days, and I must admit that it can be an uncomfortable calling at times. I occasionally feel the need of a shoulder to rest my head on, but where on earth does one go to find the right shoulder?

My present woes will persist for a little while yet, and the signs indicate that they will then get worse.

And wasn’t that a strange story I wrote last night? Or maybe it would be truer to say that the story wasn’t so strange, but the fact that I wrote it was.

An Unusual Visitor.

It was just gone midnight and an old man was sitting quietly in his armchair reading a story by Charles Dickens about a man being haunted by his own ghost. The embers of a coal fire glowed in the grate and every so often there was a shuffling sound as one piece of spent fuel collapsed into another. Just as he reached the part where the ghost steps out from behind the protagonist’s chair there was a knock at the old man’s door. He glanced incredulously at the clock, and then turned his gaze to the door of his apartment which was situated at the top of an old Victorian terrace. He hesitated, and then heard a second knock. It was louder and more urgent. He went to the door and opened it nervously.

Facing him was a man’s head floating in mid air, approximately on the same level as his own. The face conveyed an impression of irritation and discomfort.

‘Can I help you?’ asked the old man.

The eyes in the head stared back at him from beneath a furrowed brow, but the pale, bloodless lips remained closed.

‘Is there something the matter?’ he continued.

‘I should say there’s something the matter,’ replied the head.

‘Oh dear. What is it?’

‘What do you think it is?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Well think, man, think. I just knocked at your door, right?’

‘You did.’

‘And how do people usually knock at doors?’

‘By rapping on it with their knuckles.’

‘Right. Got it in one. Do you see any knuckles? Do you see any arms? Do you see anything but this freggin head?’


‘So what do you think I knocked on your door with? The head, that’s what. And it hurt, especially the second time.’

‘Oh, I see. I’m sorry, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting any callers at this time of night and such dreadful things happen these days. If I’d known it was only you…’

‘Yeah, yeah, not your fault I suppose. The problem is, I’ve got no way of rubbing the bloody thing. Nothing to rub it with, see?’

‘I do indeed. It must be awful for you. Would you like me to rub it?’

‘No, don’t bother. The pain’s going off now.’

The head fell silent while the eyes blinked a few times. After a few moments of pregnant silence the old man spoke again.

‘Is there something else I can help you with?’


‘Well, what I mean to say is: why did you knock on the door in the first place?’


‘You knocked on the door. Did you want something?’

The head stared back again, but this time the frown was quizzical.

‘Oh that. Oh yeah, I wondered if you’d got any sugar.’


‘Yeah, sugar. I fancied a cup of tea but I haven’t got any sugar.’

‘Oh my, that is a shame. I do indeed have sugar to spare, but would there be any point in my giving you some?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well it occurs to me to wonder how you would hold the cup since you don’t have any hands.’

‘Ah, now, I’ve thought about that and I was going to ask you whether you’d got any straws so I could suck it up.’

‘I’m afraid that would present its own problem.’

‘Would it?’

‘It would. You see, in order to suck, a person has to have lungs, and you don’t.’

The head looked down at the empty space below its neck.

‘Oh no. Damn. Well how about if you made the tea in a cup and then poured it into my mouth?’

‘I’m afraid it would make an awful mess when it ran out of the bottom of your neck. And it would be quite impossible to slake your thirst anyway without a stomach.’

‘Oh. I suppose you’re right. So what you’re saying is, there wouldn’t be any point in me eating or drinking at all?’

‘I fear not.’

‘That’s a shame.’

‘Indeed. Have you ever eaten or drunk anything before?’

‘Don’t remember.’

‘Where do you come from exactly?’

‘Erm… Don’t remember.’

‘Do you remember anything before you knocked on my door?’

The head went silent for some time while its eyes rolled this way and that.


‘As I suspected.’

‘Suspected what?’

‘Can’t you guess?’

The eyes stared long and hard until the light of understanding dawned.

‘You think I’m just a figment of your imagination, right?’

‘I think it most probable.’

‘Mmm… that’s a bit hard to swallow, if you’ll excuse the irony, but I don’t suppose I have a choice. So what should I do now?’


‘Disappear… disappear… disappear… Go pouf, you mean?’

‘Something like that.’

‘OK. Right. I suppose I’d better. Life’s a funny old thing, isn’t it? Oh well, it was nice talking to you.’

‘You too.’

There was a sudden silent explosion as the head fragmented into a shower of what looked like fine flour, which fell rapidly but disappeared before it hit the floor. The old man returned to his armchair, raked the embers and added a little more coal. And then he went back to reading The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain which was just beginning to get interesting.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Being Cynical.

The dating site ads have started appearing on my YouTube page again after a long lay off, including the Ukrainian one which is offering the same lady from Kiev as it did twelve months ago. Not doing very well, is she, even though she has all the credentials – fulsome bosom, low-cut top, long auburn hair, ample foundation to hide the defects, a come hither smile and the stated aim of meeting ‘a REAL MAN.’ So I wonder why she’s still being paraded around the auctioneer’s ring.

Maybe she smells bad. Maybe her table manners aren’t too good. Maybe her fulsome bosom makes a habit of knocking the wine glass over. Maybe she has trouble getting beyond the state of the weather in conversation. Maybe her foundation runs in the heat of passion. Maybe REAL MEN don’t go in for dating ad sites, only artificial ones.

Or maybe I'm not the sort to warrant upper case letters. Maybe I should stop listening to Chinese women with butterscotch voices and captivating eyes singing Buddhist mantras. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. Maybe I should shut up and be my age for a change. Maybe I need lessons in how to relate to the real world.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Spotting a Pale Sun.

Those who favour me with attention to my scribblings might remember the personage of Ms Wong who once got occasional mentions here. I had a dream about her a couple of nights ago and it seems she dreamt of me the same night. You know, I’ve never been the sort to seek connections, having always been first and foremost driven by the need to explore and observe, and yet connections seem to happen anyway. I'm not complaining.

*  *  *

Two young women stood with their dogs outside the entrance to Sainsbury’s today. One dog was a little fluffy thing being held close to a young breast and wrapped in copious layers of various fabrics as proof against the cold. The other, a much bigger mongrel, stood manfully and patiently by his human’s side sans coat, sans layers, sans everything. I smiled at him and he came over to say hello. What more can I say about the wonder of dogs?

*  *  *

And the girl in the coffee shop who normally treats me like something-the-cat-brought-in-having-first-devoured-and-then-regurgitated-it (how many more times must I type that?) was abnormally chatty and friendly today.

*  *  *

The sky is still full of dark clouds in the world of JJ, but bright spots do sometimes appear and a pale sun breaks through to remind me that there is a universe beyond the festering blanket.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Kind of Ageism.

I’ve learned something interesting about stress. It paints lines on the face; it hardens the mouth and conveys to the eyes a look of non-belonging. When you’re young it projects an aura of the troubled and interesting, but when you’re getting older it just makes you look older.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Being Counsel for the Neurotic Tendency.

Among the catalogue of my many execrable failings I have to list the tendency to be neurotic. It’s an unfortunate trait because it adds a further pound of plumbs to the rich pudding of a stressful life, but it does have one thing to commend it. It works like this:

Something appears to be malfunctioning and in kicks the NT. The nerve ends start to fray and the imperative to fight the real or imagined demon (you don’t know which it is at that point) takes you over body and soul. You investigate; you observe; you annotate; you fret; you think. That’s the important bit: you think. You weigh up all the possibilities and permutations until they are seemingly exhausted, finding reasons to justify your anxiety and reasons not to. And then you call in the expert. You place your dossier before him and ask: ‘Do I have reason to be concerned here, and, if so, what is the appropriate cause of action?’

And then the expert, realising that you’re a bright old thing who has already worked out more about the functioning and malfunctioning of the item in question than is generally known to the common herd, awards you the right to be made privy to arcane knowledge usually reserved for the cognoscenti. So then your mind settles, confident in the intelligence that either the demon is no more than a misty illusion, or that there is a means by which it can be destroyed. Hence the neurotic tendency gives you a head start in the lifelong learning stakes.

(And at the end of it all you die anyway and the whole process was probably pointless, but that’s another story.)

Monday, 6 February 2017

Attempting Improvement.

I sometimes have difficulty replying to the bigotry I encounter on YouTube. I have to concentrate hard if I’m to respond eloquently and rationally, but without anger or vindictiveness – to follow the Buddhist, and entirely proper in my opinion, edict to exercise non-judgemental observation. I frequently fail in this regard when it comes to my blog posts, tending instead to allow the primal me to show through. But evidence suggests that a lot more people read my YouTube comments than read my blog, so I have to be more careful.

I had this problem tonight. I think I’m getting better at it. It is, after all, my soul that’s at stake.

And you may accuse me of a little arrogance if you wish, and I wouldn’t entirely disagree. I’m trying to get better at that, too. I’ve almost completely excised didacticism from my system, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

On Righteous Gentrification.

This is a picture of Arlington Row in the village of Bibury, Gloucestershire.

Bibury is in the area of England known as The Cotswolds, famous for its pretty villages and quaint cottages built of oolitic limestone. It’s one of the most visited of all Britain’s tourist areas, and Arlington Row is one of the most photographed of all subjects. Countless versions have appeared down the years in books and magazines, and on postcards, calendars, jigsaw puzzles and chocolate boxes. It’s also much favoured by the snap-shooting tourists.

But there’s a crisis in this idyllic corner of the scepter’d isle. An 84-year-old man who lives in one of the cottages has a car which he parks on the road outside his house, and the car is yellow. People are naturally horrified. They say it’s destroying the aesthetic integrity of the locality. Many tourists have taken to Facebook to complain that it’s spoiling their snapshots and must go. And now somebody has taken the situation into their own hands and vandalised the car, scratching deep gouges into the paintwork including the word Move. As far as I know, nobody has asked whether the venerable old gentleman has ever complained about the hordes of prying tourists invading his environment on a daily basis pretty much throughout the year. Maybe nobody has ever thought of it like that.

I leave you to make your own judgement regarding the sense of priorities evident among those of a strictly suburban persuasion. But it’s heartening to read that the aged owner of the offending vehicle has said that if he has to buy a new car, he’ll be sure to get a lime green one. I think hot orange might be more fitting.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

A Flaxen Mystery.

I found a hair lying across my office desk this morning. It was blond and measured 21'', so presumably a woman’s hair. The problem is that I haven’t known a woman with blond hair as long as that since Sheona McCormack screwed up my perception of time and sense of reality back in 1995, and there certainly hasn’t been one in my house.

I wonder if it was an angel leaving me a message of support. Given my current state of mind, I’m prepared to clutch at any straw (or hair of the same colour.)

A Frank Personal Note.

I’m beset by a range of difficult issues at the moment, each of which is both enervating and maddening to a greater or lesser extent, and the cumulative effect sometimes comes close to being unmanageable.

(Today I paid out rather more money than I cared to afford in order to be rid of one of them, only it hasn’t worked. It’s simply changed the nature of the issue. What then? I also made the phone call to arrange to do something I’ve been dreading for over a year – and still am.)

What do you do when you wake up prematurely every morning with a painful knot of anxiety in your midriff, and so going to bed is difficult because you know what’s coming next and it isn’t very nice? Go to a doctor and get anti-stress medication? I don’t think so. How would I be aware of the things I want to be aware of and feel the things I want to feel if I started taking zombie pills? And how would I retain the mental faculty to express the things I want to express (I would have to stop throwing pithy paper darts at Trump, for example, and that would be a gross dereliction of my duty as a concerned inhabitant of the earth realm.)

So what do you do? As far as I can see, the only thing to do is carry on putting one foot in front of the other, shouldering the weight of cares and trying to ignore the repetitive hammer blows to the head. I suppose that’s what you do. And you push aside the nasty little imp who keeps telling you to give up and just go because the effort isn’t worth it. I never was one for taking advice.

*  *  *

I was told recently that I’m a person of higher frequency, and that such people comprise 1% of the population. Ha! Do I believe it? I don’t do belief but I’m open to anything which can’t be disproved, so maybe. I do exhibit most of the proclaimed symptoms and they do make life difficult, but there’s a problem. Such people are apparently supposed to be ‘light workers’, whatever they are. In that at least I can claim to be a total failure without fear of being accused of unwarranted self-deprecation.

Friday, 3 February 2017

On Rowling and the Trump Trolls.

I see JK Rowling is in trouble with Trump’s brigade of brainless Orcs. (And I do hope she’ll forgive my authorial cross-reference, but Orcs and Trump do go so well together.) They’re most put out by the fact that she went public and criticised the travel ban, and are venting their anaemic spleens on her Twitter account. They say they’re going to burn her books and DVDs. They say she’s disgusting and should keep out of politics.

Fortunately, Ms Rowling is not only an extremely attractive woman, she’s also an extremely rich and intelligent one. And so she’s holding her ground pithily and pointedly, explaining to them in words of few syllables that she’s already got their money so why should she care what they do with the bits of paper and plastic. If they had any sense they’d see that she’s laughing at them, but I think it most unlikely that they have.

I wonder whether the wizened ones are aware that she criticised Trump quite expertly long before the Great Accident of History happened and he somehow became President. I read her essay. It seemed like me talking in somebody else’s choice of words.

And so, as the world polarises into the good and intelligent people on one side of the Trump fence (not the Mexican one this time) and the nasty, dumb cave dwellers on the other, I’m so glad to see JK on our side. Welcome, lady. Your contribution is much valued.

*  *  *

Meanwhile, back in the Shire, I have the mystery of T88 to consider. Is there a metamorphosis going on here? And since I do so like to be irritatingly enigmatic now and then, I’ll leave it at that. (Except maybe to say that if I’d seen the rest and it read SLD, there would no longer be a mystery. Don’t even think about it unless your initials happen to be SLD.)

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Quotes and Qualities.

I made a blog post recently in which I paraphrased a quotation attributed to Oscar Wilde, substituting ‘genuineness’ for ‘genius.’ It occurred to me that if I were to be remembered for either quality, I would rather it be for the former. Being a genius is merely a matter of genetic accident, whereas being genuine is a quality that can be nurtured and developed, rather like a favourite orchid.

And then I remembered two notable quotations which escaped the lips of two notable world leaders in recent times. One was Donald Trump’s idée fixe: ‘I will make America great.’ The other came from Angela Merkel who said: ‘I will not abandon the refugees.’ The first is a vote winner; the second puts you on the political ropes. And that’s why I’m not the biggest fan of the human race.

Three Ladies.

When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning or in rain?

And shall we rail from blasted heath
Or rest contented in Mill Lane? 
~ Will and JJ

You haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, have you? It’s about today's rare encounter in Ashbourne. That’ll do. I’m only making the post because I was impatient to see February (1) in that little list at the side of the blog.