Sunday, 30 January 2011

Darling buds of January


You can't actually see them, because they're invisible to the naked lens, but trust me, those are definitely buds on the apple tree.  I hope they don't regret it - the early cold spell may have fooled them into thinking it's really the start of spring.  When I say 'thinking', of course, trees don't actually think.

There's a new white van in the Close.

Well, not new in any real sense.  It's been there since before Christmas, and is falling apart with rust and flat tyres.  The police say they can't do anything about it till someone moves it, which obviously isn't going to happen.  So we'll have to wait for the tax to expire at the end of March.  It's not even as interesting as the previous mystery van, which at least had bursts of activity to liven things up.  This one just sits there and decays.

I'm trying to finish the first 'new old song', 'Carry Me Away'.  I can hardly sit down for guitars, amps, drum machines, cryptic scribbles in notebooks.

It will get finished, though, quite soon.

I know, I'm rambling.  That's because I'M BORED!  Being bored consists of wanting to do something but not having you want to do.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

First car

I don't know why, but I fell to thinking about this on my way to the bottle bank this morning.  It was a Morris Minor, 850cc side valve model, did 0-60 in about four minutes.  Semaphor indicators, nice red leather upholstery, the back seat as comfortable as the front (don't ask).  Strictly speaking, it was my mother's, not mine: on my earnings of £10/10/- a week, after meeting my needs - beer, cigarettes, records - I couldn't be expected to finance transport as well, could I?  (Though I did have to put petrol in.)

I reached the bottle bank, and as I started to offload another hundred quid's worth of green glass, what should pull in behind me but, yes, you guessed it.  It wasn't a dead ringer - red rather than beige, the souped-up 1000cc OHV version - but I wasn't complaining.  I congratulated the owner, who was, he told me, eighty-five.  This was his fourth or fifth Minor, he thought; he bought them cheap, had them restored and kept them for a few years, then sold them at a modest profit.  'Wonderful machine,' I suggested, not quite meaning it.  'Yes,' he said.  'It's my life, really.'

For some reason, I felt old and young at the same time.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Word collection ('most useless' category)

My trusty friend Chambers just offered me the following:

'Haplography: the inadvertent writing once of what should have been written twice.'


OK, I suppose I could have written 'ofered' and writen'.  Or how about 'betrot'?  But has this haplography word ever actualy ben used?  Especialy now we have spelcheck?

Language is very very strange, init?

Friday, 21 January 2011


How easy it is
to listen to sad music
as the spring begins

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

I can't draw

 But I used to try, once upon a time.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

It must be true, I read it in my diary

I'd intended to waste the afternoon, but the new diary kept flapping its pages at me.  So I took on the annual task of transcribing the birthdays of relatives and friends from 2010 to 2011.  Thankfully, this time none of them had to be converted from red to black (this happens when someone has died during the year).

It's not a very exciting task, to be honest, so it's easy to get distracted.  The diaries I use (yes, they still take the form of hardback paper-based books, rather than any of this new-fangled technology) contain a little homily, squib or trivial pursuit for each day of the year.  Last year, it was 'trivia Q&A', the As being printed upside down below the Qs, just to make it hard for you.  Here are a couple, plucked at random from the mists of time:  'how many dominoes in a standard set?' and 'which temperature has the same value in centigrade and Fahrenheit?'  No, I'm not going to tell you.

This year, it seems to be 'little-known facts'.  I think I'd put 'facts' in 'quotes', because the entry for Thursday 27 January asserts that 'you are slightly taller in the morning than in the evening due to gravity'.  Hmm.

I know that a few scientifically-orientated people occasionally read this blog, so I'm tempted to hand this one over to them.  But I can't help speculating.  Assuming that the diary is assuming that I spend the night lying down and the day standing up (dubious territory, this), how do they know what whatever measuring instrument was used to conduct the experiment has been up to during the night, or day?  Eh?  Naturally, Collins diaries don't cite sources or peer review data, and I can't be arsed to google it.  But I do remember somebody drunkenly asserting something similar at a dinner party some months ago, and me patiently explaining that the effects of Special Relativity only apply at near-light velocities, and by definition can't be measured, at least according to quantum mechanics ...

Anybody want another diary date?

Good news

Yesterday, 17th January, was officially the most depressing day of the year, measured by suicide attempts, marital disputes or, presumably, Dave Cameron's new happiness index about which I wrote a few weeks ago.  Isn't that great news?  From now on, it can only get better.

To prove it, the sun has just come out, for the first time in a fortnight.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


I'd started to read a novel by Anne Tyler which begins with a man, about my age, who has decided to downsize and so gets rid of a lot of his possessions (she makes it sound rather easy), when the doorbell rang.  It was an antiques dealer from Brighton, enquiring whether I had anything for sale.  I don't normally respond to that kind of approach (must get one of those 'don't buy, don't sell' stickers), but I remembered this guy from a few years ago.  I explained that I really couldn't help him, and he accepted this and was about to leave, but glanced through the door and said 'I know you're not selling, but can I just have a peek at that George III oak breakfast table?'  That's the one in the hall which carries the phone, the router and the junk mail.  'Hmm, needs restoring, but ... three grand?'

Half an hour later, after some fascinating insights into some of my furniture and other items not for sale (and some startling valuations), he left his card and departed empty-handed.  A charming person, and completely genuine.  But it got me thinking: sooner or later, one way or another, I'm going to leave this house.  Whichever way, it'll be a downsize.  And someone, hopefully me but potentially whatever poor sod I appoint to clear up after me, is going to have to sort this lot out.  Never mind what I can see, just wandering from room to room, there's the workshop, the study, the garage, the loft ... just the loft alone contains enough antique hi-fi to start up a science museum ...  I ought to make a start.

Later on, I needed to check on the spelling of some Italian words (shop names, as it happens) for my so-called autobiography.  I knew I had a little Italian dictionary somewhere, and eventually found it, in a box full of old travel brochures which would certainly have gone without a thought into that skip of the discarded past.  I know that everyone's past eventually gets discarded, but ...

This afternoon, the doorbell rang again.  It was a lady who lives down the road but would quite like to move up to the posh end, to be nearer her daughter who's five doors up from me.  So, she said, I thought I'd be cheeky and ask everyone whether they were thinking about moving - especially, she said, this lovely house.  I was tempted to say make me an offer, contents included.  But I didn't.

Roll on the spring, when I can get down to the caravan, where everything is here and now and it's all good stuff.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Undercooked shark steak

I haven't had a good rant for ages, and I feel the need for one, so it may as well be about banks.  And government.  And everything in between.

Bob Diamond, the newly appointed boss of Barclays, was hauled over the coals of a Commons select committee this morning, to be grilled on the hot topic of 'bankers' bonuses'.  Of course, the coals were lukewarm, and he didn't even get lightly char-broiled.  His people had, as one's people do, thoroughly prepared him for the inevitable questions from the viciously aggressive prawns of the committee, so he was able to say, with an apparently straight face, that there has been a period of 'remorse and apology' from the banks (WHAT??) but now we need to achieve closure and move on, and blah blah; and that he can't say whether or not he'll be renouncing his bonus this year because he hasn't yet been told how much it is (is that relevant?) and anyway he'll have to ask the wife (I'm not making any of this up); and, most barefacedly blatantly, that the invaluable contribution of the investment banking industry to the UK economy mustn't be overlooked and must be rewarded.

He was filmed afterwards leaving the committee venue, smiling coyly, as well he might. 

Why hasn't anyone (except me, but I don't count) suggested that these bonuses be in some way tied to what the beneficiaries claim to have done to earn them?  By that, I don't just mean how much so-called money they appear to have made, but how they did it.  Make the recipient justify it.  Reward good core activities like responsible lending, payment services - all the things we used to rely on banks to do - but don't, don't reward the kind of bubble-blowing that got us into this mess in the first place and seems poised to do it again.

But then, I'm just a shrimp amongst a sea full of raw prawns.  We don't stand a chance against the sharks, especially when we don't know how to cook them.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

More Music

New Year Resolution #5.  So, the easy bit first: music I've already made and recorded.  In this case, just two more songs from the 87 tapes - no more of those will be published, because they're not good enough.  These two, though, I think are.

Hopelessly Lost

Local Girls

The next phases will be:

  • More recent recordings, from 2003 or thereabouts (maybe - they were made for a musical which I've abandoned for now, and I'm not sure they stand up on their own.  I'll check them out.)
  • Songs written in the past but not yet recorded.  (This requires an element of drudgery, but I think there are a few worth preserving, maybe 3 or 4 out of about 200)
  • Songs not yet written.  This will require creativity, collaboration, hard work, and above all fun.

Friday, 7 January 2011


Rosie suggested a hex might be one way of fixing her inconsiderate neighbours, so I immediately dived for Chambers dictionary, as I do whenever a word catches my eye.  There are apparently three different meanings, and putting them together I deduce that we're talking about a hexadecimal bringing of misfortune, by a witch, using uranium hexafluoride.  Is that about right?

The preceding word in the dictionary, by the way, is 'hewgh', which means 'imitating the whistling of an arrow', at least according to Shakespeare.  The subsequent one is 'hey'.  Why am I so enthralled by this stuff?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

White van

The original white van is back after twelve months' absence.  It'll be there until March now.  Oh dear, this is an omen of some kind.  Tomorrow the bicycle will appear, chained to the lamppost opposite, and I'll know I'm stuck in some kind of Groundhog Year as well as the usual Day.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Christmas Card Audit 2010

Snow/Snowmen/Snowflakes:                          12
Christmas trees/Baubles:                                  9
Santas/Reindeer:                                              8
Animals/Birds:                                                 7
(of which Robins:                                             2)
Nativities/Wise Men/Angels:                           5
Comical:                                                           4
Twelve Days:                                                   2

Special categories:
Homemade (not including photos):            4
Cards with glued-on glitter:                       9
ecards/email:                                             4
Wonderfully weird:                                   4 (try harder next year please)

And finally, the Awards:

Best Nativity: Madonna Of The Village, by Marc Chagall
Best Santa: Santa is sitting on the Moon, holding a fishing line with a star on the end.  I think it's meant to mean "When You Fish Upon A Star", but I may be wrong.

BEST CARD: as is often the case, goes to my dear friend Moll, for this (enlarge to appreciate):

                                              Copyright Mollie Hall.  Reproduced by permission.