Friday, 31 March 2017

An Alternative View.

Let’s suppose you were a ghost wandering silently and haplessly around somebody’s house (just for something to do, you understand) and you came across a child who could see you.

The child stares at you. Just stares. Doesn’t speak or move or whimper or cry: ‘Mommy, mommy, there’s a funny man in my bedroom and he’s very white!’ Just stares and stares.

Wouldn’t that be terrifying?

Thursday, 30 March 2017

An Unpopulist View.

Today was notable for pictures of people signing things which I disagree with and which will alter my future, although just how perceptibly remains to be seen. First it was Trump signing away America’s contribution to climate change effort, and then it was May signing away Britain’s formal connection with Europe.

On the latter subject, today’s Daily Mail was predictably euphoric:

WE’RE FREE!

… it cried in its predictably juvenile way. Well, as I said to the kiosk assistant in Sainsbury’s:

‘I see you’ve put the Daily Mail in the wrong place again.’

‘Why? Where should it be?’

‘Down there with the kiddies’ comics.’

The one thing that ameliorates my sense of anguish when I see the Daily Mail trespassing on the news shelves is the fact that I’m reminded that people buy it, and such a realisation encourages a sadly inevitable sense of detachment from my fellow Britons.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Lacking an Amenity.

I was just watching a YouTube video about spooky Japanese rituals, and one of them began: Go to the nearest crossroads.

And so I wondered where my nearest crossroads was and mentally ran through all the road junctions in and around the village. There are fourteen of them, and they’re all either T junctions or 3-way junctions. The nearest true crossroads is two miles away.

And that struck me as odd. A village without a crossroads? Where did they site the gibbet so as to confuse the ghosts of the hanging people?

(This tendency to become preoccupied with spooky things at bed time goes back to childhood. I slept with the light on until I was twelve. These days I rely on strong ale and whisky to be more efficacious than salt, garlic, crucifixes or light bulbs.)

A Self-Recognition Question.

Let’s suppose you’re put aboard a spaceship, alone but with all practical and recreational needs supplied and with sufficient comestibles to last you a lifetime, and then sent off on a non-return trip into deep space which will only end for you when you die. You know you will never have any sort of contact with another human being again. What would it do to your ego?

Would you continue to keep yourself clean? Would you continue to wear good looking clothes? Would you continue to trim your hair, apart from doing so sufficiently to keep it out of your eyes? In short, would you bother with yourself at all apart from serving certain practical needs? Why bother to avoid smelling bad if there’s nobody there to smell you?

And the big question: what effect would it have on your sense of self if ego suddenly became redundant? Would you have any idea who you were?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Trump and the Decadence Imperative.

I  see Trump is about to slash large parts of Obama’s policies on clean energy. Well, that’s hardly surprising. Trump is a salesman, not a statesman. He has no vision apart from the juvenile notion that the person with the biggest candyfloss is the most important. It seems that America’s enviable reputation as the world’s dirtiest country is about to be augmented, and dear old John Doe can be seen sliding nicely back towards the Dark Ages. Unfortunately, it isn’t only America which will suffer the consequences; the rest of us will have to put up with them, too.

But of course, Trump is not entirely to blame for this. America is the most rampantly free market-obsessed of the world’s largest economies; and whether you’re a free marketeer or not, one effect of free market obsession is undeniable: it proposes, supports and conditions the view that personal wealth must be the pre-eminent preoccupation of all those who want to belong. 

This is decadence at work, and I don’t use the word in its traditional moralistic sense. Decadence is simply the condition in which wealth, luxury and the drive to consume – even when it means consuming vast quantities of stuff that is irrelevant, superficial and tawdry – takes priority over more important matters. How many good Americans, I wonder, would be prepared to give up their annual cross-state trip to Disney World merely to help save the planet for future generations?

And let’s not put all the blame on America. This sad fact is true of the big western economies generally. It’s just that America is leading the way, and maybe that’s what Trump has in mind when he talks of making America great.

Still Learning.

Today I saw the woman I posted about last week (see here) and I’m wondering whether my assessment might have been wrong. She was wearing skin-tight Lycra pants which revealed a posterior that was slightly less tight than you might expect. In addition, I noticed that she has a habit of smiling nicely at strangers – nicely, note – which tends to diminish her aura of fading, major league chic. But she was still accompanied by her farmer bloke and angelic little boy, so now I’m more intrigued than ever to know her story.

Sherlock never had doubts. That’s what’s wrong with him and right with me.

And I really must try to be less obvious in my unfailing drive to observe people. A few of them have started staring back with the potential for confrontation in their eyes, and I want to approach them and say ‘Please don’t take offence. I’m only studying you.’ I suspect it might make matters worse, so I whistle and study something close and inanimate instead.

(Having said which, the young woman in Tesco who so attracts my attention was wearing a hat today. That was most interesting.)

A Reason for Ghosts.

Let’s suppose you wake up one morning to the sound of voices very close. You open your eyes and see people in the room – people you don’t recognise, although they don’t look hostile. Nevertheless you ask them who they are and what the hell they’re doing here. They don’t answer; they just keep on talking vaguely in terms you can’t quite take in.

And so you get out of bed and remonstrate with them, but they ignore you. They don’t even look at you; they continue looking in the direction of the bed. And so you look at the bed too and see yourself lying there, pale and apparently lifeless.

You have enough presence of mind to realise that your consciousness has left your body; you’ve heard of this happening in accounts you’ve read in which people have described near-death experiences. And so you try to get back into your body, but without success. You watch helplessly as people place your unresisting form into a bag and zip it up. You follow them as they take it downstairs and place it in the back of an ambulance. You climb into the vehicle beside them, expecting that any second you will feel a jolt as an invisible piece of elastic pulls your mind back to where it belongs. You will it; you wait. You will it harder, but to no avail.

You continue to accompany the body that you know as home, and by now you’re feeling desperate. But still you hope. It’s only a matter of time. ‘It must only be a matter of time,’ you say to yourself as you watch your body being taken into a white painted room and placed in a big drawer. They close the drawer so you can no longer see yourself. What do you do now?

Suddenly you find yourself back in your house. The bed is empty; the house is empty; the world feels empty, even though you can still hear the wind in the wires, the birds singing in the trees, and the hum of traffic on the road outside. And so you go outside and walk the lanes that are so familiar but now feel strangely remote. You don’t know what else to do.

A car approaches and you instinctively step off the road and onto the verge. The driver is somebody you recognise and you wave because old habits die hard. You know it’s only because old habits die hard. You don’t expect them to wave back and they don’t. Someone else you recognise is approaching on foot, accompanied by a dog you’ve petted a few times. The dog looks at you with curiosity in its eyes, but the human ignores you.

And then the scene begins to fade and darken into a grey mist which hides everything from view. You can no longer even see the road beneath your feet and begin to acknowledge that the inevitable has finally happened.

What do you do now? You wait because there’s no other option. But for how long?

Monday, 27 March 2017

Japanese Dietary Advice.

Recent research in Japan suggests that people who have a lot of salt in their diet are more prone to waking in the early hours needing the loo. So now I’m cured of eating TUC biscuits by the half dozen every time I take a break from the gardening.

And I just heard another Japanese man say that those who eat meat and fish are more prone to being possessed by malignant spirit entities, which says just about everything you need to know about McDonald’s customers.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Fried Sausage Dilemma.

One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I’ve been quite unable to fry sausages. My mother always grilled sausages; all the women I’ve lived with grilled sausages; I’ve always grilled sausages. The ability to fry sausages has always been the fly in my culinary ointment.

This is a shame because I’m sure I’d like them very much. I’ve seen people do it on the TV and have tried to emulate them, but without success. I can’t seem to get the amount of oil right; I can’t seem to get the temperature right; and when I try to turn them they don’t stay turned, they roll back to their previous position which is most irritating. In consequence, the result is edible but hardly satisfactory.

‘Ah,’ you might say, ‘but you don’t eat sausages; you’re vegetarian.’ I know, but there is such a thing as the vegetarian sausage. I had two for my dinner tonight with a baked potato and vegetables. I cooked them in the oven with the potato because the instructions on the pack omitted to mention grilling as an option. The only options they offered were frying or cooking them in the oven. They even said for best results, fry the sausages. But I can’t fry sausages…

Saturday, 25 March 2017

A Browser Fit for Infants.

I wanted to submit a minor complaint to Firefox about the way it functions so I found the Send Feedback button and clicked it. Do you know what you get? Before you can make your point you're required to click one of two symbols:

The first has a mouth turned up and says Firefox makes me happy.

The second has a mouth turned down and says Firefox makes me sad.

So if you have a mental age above six, you're not encouraged to send feedback. What you're encouraged to do is consider changing to IE or Chrome instead. What an odd way to run a business.

Being Clearly Undefined.

I’ve occasionally been asked whether I’m a team player, and I’ve never known whether I am or not. The problem is that while I quite like making a meaningful contribution to a team effort, I’m generally not the sort to seek activity in a team context. I need to do things in my own time and in my own way, which I suppose is why all my major passions in life (save the obvious one) have been solitary in nature.

And when I tried to find out whether I’m extrovert or introvert, the pointer on the pendulum remained dead centre and said I was neither one nor the other. The name of this undefined condition is ‘ambivert’ apparently, but you can’t go through life proclaiming ‘I’m an ambivert’, can you? You’d sound silly.

The thing is, I’ve been called odd, strange, weird, and even evil by one person (although she just didn’t have the wherewithal to understand why I was behaving the way I was – and neither did I at the time.) But they’re not really labels, are they? At least not the sort that are socially acceptable. It seems that labels just don’t stick to me. A few people have tried to pin one to my lapel, but it’s always fallen out more or less immediately.

And I’m not posting this by way of using my blog as a platform for further ego-projection, but because I imagine there must be other people out there who have the same problem and feel that they’re alone. Fear not, my friends. You are.

And I think I’ll use this as an excuse to post another of my favourite Sinéad Lohan songs:

Finding the Niche.

I finally got around to watching the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tonight. It usually takes me at least six years to give in to cultural pressure and watch a celebrated movie, but in this case I’m glad I did. It’s a bit predictable in parts, but also very funny and quite uplifting in others. And it even has moments of genuine pathos.

But pathos doesn’t lend itself to one liners; humour does, so let me offer my three favourites:

And what have you been doing today?
Well, I spent the morning giving all the cockroaches names…

I can’t plan that far ahead at my age. I don’t even buy green bananas.

Aren’t you worried about having sex at your age?
No. If she dies, she dies.

But then the group of mismatched people staying at a crumbling hotel somewhere in the exotic vastness of urban India were all about the same generation as me, so maybe it meant more to me than it would to others.

*  *  *

And watching this movie reminded me of a woman called Dominique who used to read my blog in India back in its early days, and who left regular comments. The way she could express subtle nuances of meaning and mood with the minimum of language was quite extraordinary, and I still miss her all these years on.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

On Terrorism and PR.

Yesterday’s terrorist attack in London in which five people died and many more were injured was a terrible thing. That much goes without saying, even though it can be seen as another piece in a much bigger jigsaw puzzle which would take more than a blog post to address. And of course, after it was all over the politicians and police came out in front of the TV cameras to make their predictable speeches while the press worked on their predictable headlines.

They always do this. They use words like ‘hero’ and ‘cowardly’ and other words and phrases which are inaccurate and inappropriate in the circumstances. They amount to little more than an easily written fudge to suit the shallower end of understandable – and perfectly proper – public outrage. It gives the impression that they care deeply about the victims, but it makes me suspicious.

If they really do care, why can’t they come up with something original and meaningful to say? While they stand there doing the look and prating their predictable platitudes, I can’t help seeing it as little more than a public relations exercise. And that, it seems to me, is hardly doing the sufferers any favour.

Spiders in Suits.

Today’s visit to the dentist was unusually painful. ‘Can you handle it?’ asked the lady hovering over my supine form and clutching a tool of torture with unspecified intent. In such a situation the first instinct is to say ‘not really’, but instead you feel obliged to reply ‘yes, of course I can; carry on’ and wish you hadn’t been brought up to believe that big boys don’t cry.

When I was a kid, dentists were just there for when they were needed. If you had a problem you rang one and went in to get it sorted, and that was that. These days you have to register and stay registered.

‘You have to come for a check up every six months,’ they tell you, ‘and if you miss two appointments without a reason which we consider acceptable, you will be struck off and cast into the wilderness, there to suffer for all eternity as fitting punishment for your transgression against the principles of an economy in which the retail and service sectors are the twin gods of a better world.’

And so it is with most things these days. Registration is the keyword if you want to belong and function in a world controlled by the men in suits (or maybe jeans and open-necked shirts with designer labels.)

They smile and simper and say ‘We are here for you. We care about you. We will strive to help you all we can because we’re very nice people and your interests are all that matter to us (but only if you register and step into our sticky webs where you can be controlled and manipulated and maybe even consumed when it suits our purpose.)

Ordinary spiders ain’t got nothing on these guys. The world is being ruled by a new generation of superior mutant spiders now.

Thwarted.

It’s been a cold, dark, wet day again in my bit of England, so when I went into the coffee shop and the assistant asked ‘What can I do for you?’ I replied:

‘Is there any chance you might take me away to a place that is warm, dry and sunny? A place where people are on my wavelength and I can escape a system which aims to lie, cheat, manipulate, and even frighten people into spending money they don’t need to spend and can’t afford.’

And she said: ‘There’s a Thomas Cook along the road.’

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Chinese Loo Roll Mystery.

I hear the authorities have started rationing the lavatory paper in some big Chinese tourist attraction. They’ve even installed face recognition software to make sure you can’t cheat. And it’s all, apparently, due to the fact that people have been observed stuffing piles of it in their bags to take home. I wonder what they wanted it for. Paper lanterns?

Warbler Woe.

It’s turned cold again over here and this morning we had a snow shower, which is why I’m worried about the little warbler I saw at the back of the house a couple of days ago. It’s too early for warblers to be coming up from the heat of Central Africa; they usually arrive with the swallows and martins in late April or early May. For if April is said to be the cruellest month of the year, March is surely the most fickle.

Whenever I envisage March I see a picture of glorious golden daffodils shivering uncomfortably in a cold wind. She can never decide whether her allegiance lies with the dark crone of winter or the fresh virgin of spring. And that, unfortunately, makes her untrustworthy.

There’s been a bat flying at dusk the past few nights, too, but they have to come out of hibernation as early as they reasonably can to put weight on after the rigours of the winter sleep. But warblers have a choice. You’d think they’d be more sensible, wouldn’t you?

Being Unknown.

This blog gets visits from at least ten countries nearly every day; and if the evidence of the stats trackers is to be trusted, most of the visitors are regulars. I wonder why.

It’s just that it isn’t a celebrity blog or a food blog or a technology blog. There’s no theme attached to it. It isn’t even a journal, although it wanders into that territory sometimes. It’s just a rant about this, an observation of that, a muse on something else. Why would anybody bother to read the faceless and mostly inconsequential ramblings of a little nonentity living in a little house slap bang in the middle of the little England countryside? And this isn't a case of false modesty; it's just how it is.

And what I’m really curious about is whether any of these people who do me the honour of reading what I’ve taken the trouble to write gets anything like an accurate picture of who I am. Some of my posts are serious, some of them mischievous, some of them ironic, and some of them just plain kidding. Does anybody get it, I wonder? Does anybody get me? Who are you Fontana, California? You’ve been visiting anonymously the longest. And if I might quote one of my favourite Sinéad Lohan songs, Who Do You Think I Am? But thank you anyway.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Late Night Advice.

I don't do advice, but I felt like rebelling.

Here are four things that always take longer than you thought they would, thus eating up the time and making life seem shorter:

1. Sex
2. Gardening
3. Talking to people
4. Questioning the meaning of life

Don’t do any of them.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Noticing the Incongruous.

Today in the town I saw the woman who attracted a brief mention in an earlier post. She only passed by me on that occasion, but today we spent about fifteen minutes in distant company in a coffee shop, so now I can describe her more fully.

She was tall, attractive, slim and perfectly proportioned (in the way that conventional taste would universally recognise), with long, shapely legs and long, honey blonde hair. She walked with the sort of elegant ease which one might associate with someone used to walking elegantly for a living, and at any distance beyond twenty feet it would be natural to speculate that she might have been a thirty-something ex-, or even current, fashion model. Today the distance between us was less than twenty feet, and when she turned and smiled at me (heaven knows why) I could see the lines encroaching on the space around her eyes and beginning to radiate from the corners of her mouth and the edges of her lips. She looked nearer fifty, but still carried an air of fading, major league chic.

And today she was not alone. Today she had a man with her. He looked to be in his forties and projected a more vernacular impression, being dressed in workaday clothes and possessed of the kind of body language which one might associate with a smallhold farmer. He wore a baseball cap and ate with his mouth open.

Between the two sat a little boy of around three. He was active but quietly behaved, and both his looks and hair colour left little doubt that he was the woman’s son. Whether he was their son was impossible to assess.

In short, they didn’t match. Contented they might have been – and that was the impression I took from their general demeanour – but they didn’t fit the conventional family picture at all. And that’s why I was greatly intrigued and wanted to go over and ask them:

‘Excuse me, but would you mind telling me your story from the beginning so I can write it up on my blog and satisfy my curiosity at the same time.’

 And one day, when I’ve graduated as a fully qualified English eccentric, I just might.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

A Rhythm Thing.

'I’m not a musician. I’m a drummer.'

This is a question I’ve been pondering off and on all my life and it still confuses me. And I’m glad I don’t get any comments on this blog any more, or I fear I’d be drowning in a sea of smart Alecs (aka earnest people) by tomorrow morning.

I used to be earnest. It was good for my reputation but bad for my self-respect. And this track brought the question to light again.


Ang and Don: Minutes of the Meeting.

I’ve been wondering all day how Angela and Donald have been getting along. In particular, I wondered whether they’d need an ice bucket to accompany the lunchtime drinks, or whether the G&Ts would freeze over without assistance. And then I wondered what the tone of their conversation might be.

‘Hey, little lady – er, Mrs Heinkel – how about…’

‘Merkel.’

‘Say again.’

‘Merkel. My name’s Merkel, not Heinkel.’

‘No kid.’

‘No kid.’

‘Well anyways, how about you and me hold hands when we go out to meet the press?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘Why not, for Christ’s sake?’

‘Because I’m very choosy about whose hand I’m prepared to hold.’

‘Aw, c’mon now. The Brit bitch did it – April whatever-her-name-is.’

‘May.’

‘April May? Damn; that’s some cool name.’

‘No, her surname is May. Her first name is Theresa. There is no April.’

‘No kid.’

‘No kid.’

‘Well anyways, if she could do it, why can’t you?’

‘Because you have what I believe is called a ‘special relationship’ with the British. Heaven know why.’

‘We do?’

‘Supposedly.’

‘No kid.’

‘No kid. And I’m not British, I’m German.’

‘So what? British, German, what the hell? You’re all the same over there, just a bunch of dumbass faggots who let women be President.’

‘I’m not a President. Neither is Mrs May.’

‘No?’

‘No.’

‘No kid.’

Sigh

‘Now you just look’ee here, you (expletive deleted) Kraut whore. You’re in my country now, and I’m King. It’s the first duty of every woman to do what a man tells her, especially when he’s King.’

‘Not in my book, it isn’t. You’re a little out of touch with the times, Mr Trump.’

‘But we have so much in common, little lady. We both got our wires tapped by the enemies of the people.’

‘I don’t believe that’s true.’

‘So who needs truth?’

‘Do you have any evidence?’

‘Who needs evidence?’

‘Quite.’

‘Now you’re just being hysterical. Typical woman. You only have to grab their pussy and they become hysterical. Who needs ’em?’

‘Given the lamentable paucity of reason and restraint in your own pronouncements, Mr Trump, I’d say that’s just a mite hypocritical.'

'Stop calling me Mr Trump! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! It's President Trump and don't you forget it.'

'I certainly won't. President, eh? You do surprise me. In that case I’ll make you an offer.’

‘You will?’

‘I will.’

‘No kid.’

‘No kid. I’ll betray my finer feelings and hold your hand if you’ll take your wig off.’

‘Now come on, you (expletive deleted) liberal ass wipe. That’s way below the belt.’

‘I know. It’s where my boot should be.’

‘OK, OK. If you’re going to play the sassy (expletive deleted) German slut, I guess we’d better start talking some policy.’

‘I’d rather just go home.’

Can you guess which side I’m on?

Friday, 17 March 2017

On Truth and the Down Time.

I had to call my ISP today and got a recorded announcement which said:

Due to unusually high call demand our wait time is currently approaching fifteen minutes.

I’ve heard the same recorded announcement every time I’ve called them for the past five years, and you know what that means. It means that the call demand they’re experiencing at the moment isn’t unusually high at all, it’s normal. The truth of the matter is that they have insufficient staff to answer the normal call demand any quicker than fifteen minutes.

Which means that the company is lying to me, and I don’t like that. And I’ve told them so, only the problem is that the person to whom I’m expressing my disquiet is not the person who’s telling me the lie. He’s some poor, hard working technician who’s doing his level best to be polite, friendly and helpful, and give every customer the time it takes to handle their problem effectively. The fault lies with the post-truth era in which we are living, which might be summarised as:

It’s perfectly acceptable in business, politics, the media, and pretty much all other areas involving public communication, to tell whatever lies best suit your nefarious purposes as long as you can be reasonably sure of getting away with it.

They get away with it.

*  *  *

I didn’t make a post last night – in fact I did hardly anything at all last night – because I was experiencing an unusually deep level of depression. I’m no stranger to depression, but that one perplexed even me. How on earth do you get to a state where you can’t face any sort of creative or practical activity, you can’t face listening to music, you can’t face the prospect of taking a shower, you can’t even face knowing anybody? You even have to force yourself to summon sufficient energy to go to bed. All you feel is a sense of mental suffocation from the weight of near-palpable darkness pushing in on you from all sides.

Interesting, isn’t it? I suppose there’s probably a pill for it, but I don’t do pills.

Counting My Blessings.

We’re having another storm again tonight, the third in about seven weeks. Only I don’t have to worry about my greenhouse being destroyed this time because the last one did that. Aren’t I lucky?

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Speaking Plain American.

It took me a very long time to remember how Americans pronounce the name Des Moines. (It appears the iconoclastic tendency so beloved of our colonial cousins is even more marked in the pronouncing of French than it is in the writing of English…)

Today my blog received a visit from Des Plaines, Illinois, and I’m hoping that some friendly American who has learned to recognise when I’m joking and when I’m not will answer a question: If Des Moines is pronounced de’moyn, how on earth is Des Plaines pronounced?

Mary's Words.

I’d never read any George Eliot until a couple of weeks ago, but thought I should because she has a connection with the area where I live (her paternal ancestors lived about a mile up the hill from here and are buried in the local church.) I thought I’d start with her first novel, Adam Bede, and tonight she had this to say about those who are a bit different from the norm:

…and we must learn to accommodate ourselves to the discovery that some of those cunningly fashioned instruments called human souls have only a very limited range of music, and will not vibrate in the least under a touch that fills others with tremulous rapture or quivering agony.

I keep telling people this, you know, I do. But they never get it. Oh, they understand the principle well enough, but utterly fail to apply it when confronted with the spectre of the tremulous and the quivering.

I think I would have got on with George Eliot, and have cause to be confident that she would have allowed me to call her Mary. As well as being very expert at both observing and describing human nature and characteristics, her words betray a sense of humour that was both dry and a little sly, in consequence of which she makes me smile a lot. And she has one of her leading female characters say this about the folly of an intelligent woman marrying a stupid man:

I allays say I’d never marry a man as had got no brains; for where’s the use of a woman having brains of her own if she’s shackled to a geek as everybody’s a-laughing at? She might as well dress herself fine to sit back’ards on a donkey.*

For my own part, I find it irritating that I make a habit of becoming enthralled by women writers who died before my granddad was born.

Mary Anne Evans
1819-1880 

Edited to add:

I think it wouldn't go amiss to offer the suggestion that the final sentence performs two functions. On the surface it's an amusing little parable describing the folly inherent in being an intelligent woman who marries a stupid man. At a deeper level, it's also a pithy summing up of one of the principles at the core of the fight for female emancipation. Whether she intended it to perform that function I wouldn't know, but it fits the bill nicely.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Being Unimpressed.

I’ve been seeing an awful lot of big prestige cars around the town lately – big new Bentleys, Mercs, Lexuses and the rest – and today I took to musing on the reason why I instinctively look on the owners of such vehicles with derision.

The first and most obvious suspicion is that I’m afflicted with a case of inverted snobbery, and that isn’t a good thing with which to be afflicted. But no; inverted snobbery stems from inner feelings of inferiority, deprivation and envy, and I don’t feel any of those things. I know full well that if I were to become a millionaire tomorrow, I wouldn’t dream of buying a big prestige car. So what is it?

Well, I came to the conclusion that it stems from an audit trail of suspicions. I suspect that most people who buy such cars do so for the sake of show – to declare their perception of superior status to the world. And that leads to the further suspicion that it stems from naked ego, and I can’t help suspecting that naked ego is a bi-product of the Id-obsessed mind which is blind to the finer and deeper impulses of life. And the natural inclination is to further suspect that such people have strong psychopathic tendencies. I dislike psychopaths, as most of us do.

This is a generalisation, of course; I do realise that at best there will always be exceptions to the general principle, and at worst I might be completely wrong. And so I must try to be at least more polite to the owners of big prestige cars than I am to men dressed in smart hunting gear who ride down the lane on their admittedly splendid steeds, out for a day of fun riding down a fox and torturing it to death. When they say ‘good morning’ to me I frown back and decline to return the greeting. I suppose that’s a fault of mine. Must try harder.

Monday, 13 March 2017

On Fighting Fatigue and Felines.

Now that Mistress Spring is taking her first teetering steps through the temporal imperative of the new season, I’m too busy outdoors to write blog posts during the day, and at night I’m too tired. It seems the old chronic fatigue thing is making a comeback because if I try to read I fall asleep in the armchair. And if I try to watch the TV I fall asleep. And if I try to do a crossword or Sudoku puzzle I fall asleep. And when I wake up after an hour or two (or three or even four) I’m immediately consumed with a desperate desire to fall asleep again. And if I try to fight it off and make a cup of tea it takes a very big effort just to get to the kitchen, and when I get back to the living room with the hard-earned hot beverage I fall asleep again. This is just one of the symptoms of chronic fatigue. There are more.

During one such journey down into the Dark Land of Nod last night I dreamt I was being attacked by a black leopard. I was a little frightened as you might expect, but not as much as you might also expect. I knew that if I concentrated hard to counter his moves, and if I believed sufficiently in my own strength to keep his claws and teeth at bay, I could defend myself adequately. And so I did. At one point I had him on his back with both his front legs pinned to the ground, and than I felt sorry for the poor lad and let him go. He walked quietly away none the worse for his experience, and I was very pleased for him and even more pleased with myself for getting it right. Sounds terribly shamanic, doesn’t it?

Well, while I attach much credence to shamanism, I don’t think there was anything other-worldly about my black leopard. I think he was just the black cat that’s taken to visiting my garden, no doubt attracted by the family of rats that are hanging around at the moment. As for the rest, I’ve no doubt it was merely the mind’s way of addressing the vicissitudes of life which have been a little troublesome for the past fifteen years.

And having ended on a prosaic note, it’s now time for a shower, a bottle of extra strong IPA, and a dip into the Dark Land of YouTube to see whether anybody has attacked me for making derogatory comments about their bloody awful taste in music. I promise I’ll try to fight back with equanimity and just the right amount of compassion as I consider due in the circumstances.

(And I might just add that several women of varying ages kept staring at me in Uttoxeter today. It happens sometimes. I wish I knew why.)

Saturday, 11 March 2017

A Transatlantic Woman Question.

I’ve noticed an interesting difference between English women and American women. If an English woman is keen to keep a man’s approbation but he says something to annoy her, she will usually tend to stay quiet. An American woman, on the other hand, will probably fly at him with claws well bared. So does that suggest that English women are more insecure and timid, or does it suggest that they’re more aware of connections and consequences and are therefore more inclined to be circumspect? (Some might suggest that English women have better manners, but I couldn’t possibly comment.)

This difference only applies, of course, during the early stages of a relationship. Once the relationship is well established the distinction disappears. Does that give us a clue?

Oddments.

When you’re a writer – by inclination at least, if not profession – having nothing to say is a heavy cross to carry. But so it has been for me for the past couple of days.

I could have told the story of another bit of instant karmic reward to which I was treated on Wednesday, but it was only worth 90p in monetary terms so it seemed a bit trivial.

I could have related the fact of my going into a sort of shut down state last night (or was it the night before?), presumably as a final physical act of submission to fifteen years of continual (though not quite continuous) stress. But I seem to have bounced back now so why dwell on it?

It might be worth publishing the following picture of somebody who was once a big player in my life without saying who it is, so people can mumble: ‘Why the hell does he publish anonymous pictures? What’s the point? Is he a complete idiot, or what?’ and I can answer 1. ‘Because it amuses me to be irritatingly cryptic,’ 2. 'Because I'm proud of her and proud to have had her good opinion at one time,' and 3. ‘Probably.’

 
And there was one other thing that amused me a couple of days ago but which I forgot to mention. I read that Little Nigel (Farage, that is) was complaining that he and Donald Trump are ‘the most vilified people in the world.’ Well, it probably isn’t quite true, but let’s be kind and allow him his Little Delusion since there's nothing else to fuel the poor chap's need to feel important.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

A Day in the Life.

A day on which my bank screwed up and were impervious to all attempts to contact them. (It was Santander. I believe in naming names when I’m feeling angry and frustrated.)

A day on which I realised how naïve Google can be when it comes to the psychology of advertising. Can’t be bothered to explain right now – maybe I will another day.

A day on which I finally understood what makes the most beautiful woman I ever met… erm… the most beautiful woman I ever met. And why it’s probably better that I never see her again, although I expect I probably shall. The suffering goes on.

A day without dog fixes or missions to rescue the errant balloons of little ladies, but a woman in Sainsbury’s did keep touching my arm for some reason. And I did make it up with my old enemy, the Sainsbury’s manager, because I was feeling magnanimous.

And guess who showed his face again – my old friend the llama. Maybe I’ll publish the minutes of the meeting when it isn’t past my bed time.

It’s past my bed time.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A Little Big Moment.

In the gathering gloom of twilight you see a face of some significance from your past, and the face looks back at you. And nobody speaks, and nobody smiles, and nobody waves, and for the next fifteen minutes you’re quite unable to concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing.

The Salome Touch.

I was reminded tonight of that hoary old saying: ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ What a weak and shabbily prosaic attitude that betrays. Of the five women I’ve lived with during my relatively short life to date, one stood out as easily the best cook by miles. The relationship was a disaster.

It’s only in recent years that I’ve discovered a profound truth: the way to my heart is not through my stomach, but through song and dance. And I’m not talking opera singers and ballet dancers here, but something rather more instinctive and organic. A woman who can sing or move well without really trying automatically gets a Pass Go and Collect £200 card. And isn’t it a shame that you should make such a discovery just when it’s too late to change your search terms?

Footnote:

A woman to whom I was once quite close said to me on several occasions: ‘Dancers have the best legs.’ Well, there you are.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Earning the Shiny Armour.

There was a little girl walking through the town today accompanied by two elderly women. She was holding a long ribbon to which was secured a gaily coloured helium balloon crafted in seductively shiny foil which hovered dutifully about two feet above her head until a rogue gust of wind snatched it away.

Her two companions were powerless to act, of course, being neither fleet of foot nor possessed of sufficiently keen reflexes. But JJ was at hand, and JJ was always good at catching things (he always fielded close to the bat when playing cricket, don’t you know, for those who comprehend the significance of the fact.) And so JJ caught the ribbon and arrested the errant balloon, and then returned it to its rightful owner who smiled a sweet smile of relief and thanks. (He thought she looked a little awestruck, but then JJ was ever given to dreaming of helping little ladies in need of rescue.) In any event the episode ended without tears and everyone was happy, and at such moments does life look a little more deserving of the effort it takes to live it.

And it might be more than mere coincidence that I’d just come out of the Asda store where the self-service till had given me an extra 2p piece in my change. I’d naturally offered to return it, being the sort of person I am, but they’d told me I might retain the fruits of my good fortune with their blessing and congratulation.

I think I ought to celebrate, but I’ve forgotten how.

Mexicans, Mongols and Walls.

It’s interesting to compare Trump’s Mexican wall project with the Great Wall of China. On the surface it might be seen as an example of history repeating itself, but there are a few differences:

1. The Great Wall is a lot longer. Even without the many branches it’s equivalent to about twice the width of the USA.

2. Those who conceived and ordered its construction – mostly the Ming Dynasty emperors – would, I think it fair to say, have been wiser, more erudite and much broader of mind and vision than the creature known as Trump.

3. It was built to protect the most enduring of the world’s great ancient civilisations from attack by barbarian hordes. The real threat posed by mediaeval Mongols was not quite the same as the current perceived threat from modern Mexican migrants. And, let’s be honest, the USA is not exactly a great ancient civilisation.

There is, however, one similarity which might come to fruition. For all its might and expert engineering, the Great Wall ultimately failed to keep the Mongols out. Time will tell.

Questioning Received Wisdom.

I was looking at the pieces of coal in the coal scuttle tonight, wondering whether there were two pieces anywhere in the world that were exactly the same. I remembered being told at school that while snowflakes were all of the same general pattern, no two were identical.

I wanted to ask a mathematician whether it was possible that variations on a fixed pattern template could be infinite and allow no repetition. It seemed unlikely to me, and if the mathematician had said that the number of variations was calculable and finite, and that repetition was a random possibility, then the teachers would have been either misguided or lying. Unfortunately, I never knew any mathematicians so I never got to find out.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

TV Education.

Tonight I caught a few seconds of one of those super hero films. I came in at the point where the pouty young blonde woman with hair that’s just spent ten hours in a poodle parlour is doing mean about as convincingly as Trump does being a president. She screws up her eyes by way of indicating a snarl and shoots fiery bolts at the big bad guy with the bulging bronze pecs who then goes up in flames. Only he doesn’t because bronze doesn’t burn easily, so the handsome young good guy wraps him in black polythene and the world is saved from a fate worse than paying money to go and watch that sort of stuff. And it occurred to me that it probably had a PG rating, and it further occurred to me that there’s a rating missing from the list. U7: not suitable for persons over the age of seven. And then I fell asleep.

When I woke up the adverts were on. Ad after ad showed people ordering a range of lifestyle peripherals online using a mobile phone, and I really wasn’t sure for a while whether I was watching an ad for fancy furniture or an ad for mobile phones. (I had the sound off as usual.) And you know what? I somehow managed not to care.

I also noticed that there are a lot of TV ads at the moment trying to sell holidays to those with enough money to afford them. Anaemic people attired in innocuous dress and sporting smiles that are at best vacuous but mostly merely simpering look dreamily out onto a blue paradise while brown skinned people with artificial grins bring them plates of something unidentifiable to prove how wonderful life really is. And I thought of all those countless millions of poor people in the world who are suffering for want of food and clean water because all they had was taken from them in the name of imperialism so that the dreamily unaware could be persuaded to make a very small number of people disgustingly rich. And then I fell asleep again (because I’m still recovering from eight weeks of sleep deprivation.)

And then it was time for a re-run of a Father Ted episode. Ah, that’s better. Tonight’s running joke was ‘Oh no, Father, she’s not a nun. She’s a woman all right.’ And a level of sanity was restored at last (although I couldn’t be sure whether the rest had all been part of a bad dream.)

Passing on the Porn.

When I first got a new TV and became the excited recipient of Freeview channels, I explored the rarefied selection newly on offer and discovered that there were a few porn channels to be savoured late at night. I watched one (purely to serve my sense of curiosity, you understand) for about thirty seconds.

It consisted of some overly endowed thirty-something lying on a bed wearing only a pair of scanty knickers and talking rubbish to a dangerously inadequate bozo on the phone. Every so often she would wiggle her rear end and shake the mammaries with seductive intent. It was about as erotic as a five-day-old abandoned banana skin rotting in the gutter behind the gasworks on a wet and windy Wednesday night in Wigan, so I never bothered again.

Sometimes I’m glad I’m not young any more. When I was young I had to exercise and balance my tastes, my predilections, my standards and my strangenesses. It was very complicated at times.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Being of Robin Mind.

I had an email tonight from a special person I haven't seen for some time, a woman I’ve known for more than twenty years ever since she was a 1st year student at the university in my home town. It seems she’s always known something I thought only I knew.

It’s interesting that we seem to give off signals without knowing it. We think we’re in control, but really we’re not. I always behaved towards her with proper restraint and respect; there was no meaningful meeting of eyes across a crowded room or anywhere else. I never made any advance of any kind because we were both in settled relationships. And yet she knew. Maybe women are good at that kind of thing, or maybe it’s because she’s Chinese and the Chinese are good at that sort of thing. How would I know? I’ve long since given up trying to solve the mysteries of life. She says she’d like to see me again, but I’m not so sure.

The robin springs to mind, you see. In my experience, the robin is unique among birds. All wild creatures get used to our habits and respond to them, but only the robin actively anticipates them. Only the robin makes eye contact with curiosity written all over its handsome little form. Sometimes it even seems to be willing you to get on with it. That's why the robin is my favourite bird.

And there’s an interesting fact about robins: they disappear in late summer after the breeding season is finished. According to the bird experts, it’s because they retire to secluded places to go through the moulting process. It seems they dislike being seen in a raggedy condition, and it’s a fact that I’ve never seen a robin looking raggedy.

Well, maybe it’s the same with us when we’re getting older. Getting older means becoming ever more raggedy, and maybe some of us don’t like to be seen in a raggedy condition. It’s a human thing, or maybe it’s a robin thing.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Cornucopia..

Every day of the week somebody, somewhere, is writing a new piece of music that is different from every other piece of music. It's being going on for a very long time. Where does it all come from?

Musing Again.

Even as the wind grows stronger and its strident voice ever more insistent, I just heard the sound of a commercial airliner going overhead. One plane alone in a wild sky, full of people I don’t know going I know not where. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

And I’m currently listening to this, which is rather nice. I gather it comes from the film Flowers of War which I decline to watch because I fear the subject matter would choke me to death, but I’m told it’s very good.

On Death and Social Detritus.

After a mild, bright and pleasant day, tonight has turned filthy again: cold, wet and windy with frequent rain squalls clattering at the windows seemingly intent on gaining access if only they could. That sound always makes me wonder about homeless people. How on earth do they cope on nights like this?

There was a homeless man who used to wander the estate where I lived as a kid, only we didn’t call them homeless then. They were known simply as tramps, or more euphemistically as ‘gentlemen of the road.’ (Oddly, there were no ladies of the road. The gentlemen were hard to spot, but the women were completely invisible.)

Our local gentleman used to hang around garden gates waiting for the soft hearted ones – like my mother – to take them a little food and a hot cup of tea, and then he wouldn’t be seen again for weeks. I suppose he and his kind had a territory, rather like salesmen. There were far fewer of them in those days, of course, unlike these more enlightened times when the Free Market God has grown so much more powerful and the wealth gap between rich and poor so much more massive in consequence. The pressures on people to conform are all but irresistible now, and those who fall through the cracks are easily swept aside.

The odd thing is that I never knew what happened to him. Nobody ever said he’d died, but he obviously must have done. It’s odd, isn’t it, that you rarely hear about the finding of dead homeless people. Is there a homeless person’s graveyard somewhere; or do they, like birds, die in some wood or hedgerow away from prying eyes never to be seen again? Or do the local authorities have dedicated teams (what a fine expression) who go around at dead of night collecting society’s detritus – rather like the ‘night soil men’ of old – and disposing of it quietly? And do the media quietly ignore the work of the bone collectors because those of us with homes and cars and insurance policies and multiple televisions don’t want to know? We are, after all, the successful ones, and it is rightly decreed that the failures are the architects of their own downfall and fit only to be ignored.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Ones Who Drifted Away.

I’ve suddenly taken to reminiscing about the lost ladies – those who beckoned with their come hither eyes and invited me to join them on their cloud, only to drift away at the last moment leaving me to plummet unceremoniously and unsatisfied back to earth. Besotted then, I’m merely sotted now, which is my excuse for making this my first post of the new month.

There was Angie and Janet
And Sarah and Sue
And Hélène and Zoe
And a few others too

I’m not bitter. I don’t do bitterness. A toast to you ladies, wherever you are (and however old you look now.) And I suppose I should confess that Hélène was not strictly one of them. She was just a brief and unrequited encounter, but it’s good to have a bit of Gallic chic in a ditty, isn’t it? It is.

Hearing a Sinead Lohan album and an old Beatles track brought me here (as they say on YouTube.) Forget the Beatles, though. They never wrote lyrics half as good as Ms Lohan. I was besotted with her, too, back in the 90s, but nobody seems to know where she is or what she’s doing nowadays. Sailing by, I expect.