Sunday, 30 October 2011

Why do I feel so tired?

Oh, I know, it's because my body clock is an hour ahead of my clock clock.  I wonder if anyone has computed the cost of this meaningless biannual ritual.  I have banged on about this year after year, inducing global stupefaction - but still they don't listen!  And now, I read, our government is going (no consultation, referendum, nothing like that) to convert us to Central European Time, so that ... oh, I'm too tired to go on deconstructing this idiocy.  Why can't they just accept that it gets dark in the winter and lighter in the summer, and we are where we are, in terms of the planet's rotation?  Get over it.

Saturday, 29 October 2011


It’s easy for me to say, because not many people read my blog, and I don’t regularly read that many others.  But I can’t help but become aware that, even within my narrow range, some odd things seem to happen.  People apparently masquerade.  So-called ‘blogmeets’ are arranged and, sometimes, end in tears.  And there are creepy people who visit frequently (sometimes for hours) but never ever identify themselves or comment.  (I'm not counting casual passers-by or one-off search results; I'll even let googlebot off the hook, even though I'd rather it didn't exist.)

So here are some of the rules I play by:

·         I won’t instigate a ‘blogmeet’.  If anyone wants one, they can easily contact me, and I’ll take it at face value and consider my response.  But I’ve concluded (from just my one experience) that it’s a risky endeavour.  It’s very easy for false expectations to set in when the written word is the only medium of contact. 
·         I will never pretend to be someone I’m not.  I really don’t understand why anyone would do that  – leaving aside that they’re obviously sick, they’re going to get found out, aren’t they?  So if I see someone who I suspect might be false, I’ll find them out, believe me.
·         If I find a blog that interests me and I feel inclined to read more of it, I’ll consider ‘officially’ following it, so that the author knows who I am.  (It’s not nice to feel stalked.)  And I’ll post a quick comment, introducing myself, even just a ‘hello, like your blog’.  It does no harm – they can always tell me to blog off.
·         And if I post a comment, either on my own or someone else’s blog, which I later think is inappropriate, or offensive, or plain point-missing, I’ll delete it asap (possibly replacing it with a better one).

But within that framework, I will continue to fire off my rants, raves and trivia, like it says on the tin.  I think nearly everyone conforms to these simple norms of decency.

Google plus

I've just joined Google+.  I have absolutely no idea what this means.  Something like this?

  • The ladybirds have made it into the kitchen.  I repatriated twelve, then got out the Raid spray.  I'm not particularly proud of this.
  • I have bought 'winter tyres' for the BMW, on the hope that I won't have to abandon the car quite so many times this winter.
  • Still haven't put any of the new strings on the guitars.  Must be done.
  • I have about four other things I want to blog about, but one will do for this evening (see later).

Have I got the idea?

Friday, 28 October 2011

We are the 99%

Have I got that right?  Yes, but it's a bit more complicated.  The 99% are the 2.6%, and the 1% are the 49%.  And % of what?  Those figures need to be swapped over.  Give 99% 49% and 1% 2.6%, and I guarantee we'll get more work done.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Abstruse Goose

I assume everybody already follows AG, but just in case:

(Hit 'random' for more joy.  And don't miss the hover-overs.)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Risky Parlour Game

Inspired by Z’s recent post as others see us, I’ve dreamt this up.  Probably best played after lunch on Boxing Day, but before the singing and the dancing start.

Here are the rules, as I envisage them:
Everyone gets issued with a piece of paper containing a list of adjectives (see below for a starter kit, drawn partly but not entirely from the original, but the quizmaster can tune it if s/he wants to), from which each player selects the four that they think best describe themselves.  Tick those four words.

The entries are put into a hat (or something) and then drawn at random.  (If you get your own, you throw it back in.)

Each player then has to identify the person they think has described themselves, on the entry they have drawn, write the name of that person on the back of the slip, and their own name (this is crucial), and put it back in the hat.

The game could go in several directions from here.  The simplest is for the quizmaster just to read out the results, using a formula such as “George says that Elegant, Naïve, Challenging and Sweet describes Marcus.”  This could then be open to challenge and debate.  Alternatively, you could read out the judgements, and of whom they were made, and ask the subject to identify who saw them that way.  Or … Heck, make up your own.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Ninety-nine plus one

Here’s an idea.  Over the last few days, I’ve seen various kinds of items priced at £2.99, or suchlike.  When decimalisation came in, in 1971, this was a marketing ploy to try and fool people that they were paying £2, rather than £3.  Obviously we all saw through that pretty quickly, and nobody falls for it any more, if they ever did.  But the practice has persisted; indeed, it wasn’t anything new even back then: I remember price tags such as £1/19/6d, and of course there used to be the pernicious guinea (which worked the other way).

So, instead of giving the customer the 1p change, let’s devise a system that feeds all those pennies into some kind of kitty (preferably local rather than central), which can then be fed back into the much-needed process of bottom-up economic recovery.  The vendor loses nothing, and the purchaser won’t really notice in the larger scheme of things.  Obviously I haven’t done the maths, but I bet there’s a huge amount of money involved.

And for those who want to opt out, we can always introduce a 99p coin.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Ladies? Birds? Bugs?

I couldn’t get any pictures, but here’s a delightful one from a favourite photo-artist:

But yesterday, when the sun was full on the back of the house, there were several dozens of them.  Far more than the forty-two I rehabilitated last week during the Great Grape Picking Adventure.  At one point, I felt like a beekeeper.  I’m ashamed to say that I became less than solicitous in my behaviour towards them, and a few got swatted.  And as for the ones that decided to come indoors – well, there are rules about invasiveness, aren’t there?  They shouldn’t be immigrating hidden up my sleeves or in my hair.  I respect their right to inhabit the outdoors; they should equally respect my right to an insect-free house.  They do leave a nasty orange stain on the carpet as well.
Most of them were lurking around the back door.  I gather that this is fairly usual at this time of the year, as they look for warm places.  But I’ve never seen it on this scale before.  I can only put it down to the grape vodka.  I’ve told them and told them that it won’t be ready till the New Year, but they just don’t listen.  Tuh.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Dancing Help - The Results

Thank you all so much for your contributions.  Here's the consolidated playlist, insofar as the songs can be found on Spotify:

Dancing help

The polls are still open - vote early and often.  But I am only allowed two candidates on the RSVP card (which has to be sent off quite soon), so in the spirit of modern democracy I am ignoring all your votes and doing just what I choose, which at the moment is:

Roadrunner, by Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers (sadly not available on Spotify), and

Express Yourself, by Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band (on the playlist).

The wedding is on 5 February, so please feel free to stick this playlist (as amended) on and bop on down with us at about 10.30 p.m.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Dancing? Help!

I'm going to a wedding in February.  The invite instructs me to name 'two songs you love to dance to'.  I've come up with 'Roadrunner' by Jonathan Richman, and 'There Must Be An Angel' by Eurythmics.  I know that none of my readers are invited to the wedding, but it'd be fun to get your suggestions anyway, and they can be stored up for future reference.  Dave's ideas would be especially welcome.


This is my father’s mother.  She was a figure of awe in my family, until she died at the age of ninety in 1960, when I was eighteen.  She was called Emmeline, a good Victorian name that has been carried forward in the family to my niece (whose fortieth I will be celebrating in a few weeks’ time, as it happens, but who is not at all Victorian).

Grandma was Victorian, and suitably formidable.  Her maiden surname is also my middle name, and I firmly believe (without a shred of evidence) that this naming protocol, which continues down the generations on the male side, may have been one of the conditions of my parents being permitted to marry.  The surname is still eminent in Jersey. 
Her husband, my grandfather, although born in the same year, 1870, died in the thirties, so I know nothing of him apart from a couple of old photos.  She was evacuated to England before the invasion of Jersey, and I think she spent much of the rest of her life being shuttled between various relatives.  She was one of numerous siblings, which I guess is how the family fortune got dissipated.  Certainly there was an uncle who absconded to the Argentine and lost a bundle on ill-advised railway investments.
Of course, I was too young to know any of this background firsthand, so I’m doing a certain amount of reconstruction here.  It’s a fact to be pondered that the historical record inevitably gets diluted, even for famous people, never mind the likes of us; and there are probably now only four people alive who have direct memories of Grandma.

She’d come to stay with us for some weeks during each summer, in the fifties.  This was a cause for domestic repositioning in our household.  My mother was stressed out for weeks beforehand.  And Grandma played to her strengths, more or less reordering things in her own image.  She was pretty good at that.  A friend of mine makes great play (in a knowing self-referential way) of the ‘controlling female’ stereotype – she should have asked my grandmother for a few tips.
And yet, I remember her as mostly kind and wry.  If you saw the photos, you’d see that in her face.  Every late afternoon, she would retire for a while to her room; I later learned that this was for her gin.  She once criticised me for using too much toilet paper, making some joke about rationing.  And one year, it must have been about 1953, we kids had been allowed, on a hot summer day, to play in the garden with the hose.  This had to be stopped before Grandma came, but the evidence can’t have been fully concealed, because when she arrived she enquired what had been going on and elicited a confession.  I can hear her now, in her rich Victorian voice.  “Oh, don’t be silly, it’s very hot.  Of course they can play with the hose.  I almost wish I could join them.”

Thanks to my sister for details; more memories please!
And thanks to Z for sowing the seed.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Caravan diaries: end of term report

Not much to report really.  Everything drained and shut down for the winter.  Very cleverly, I managed to use the last drop of water from the tank when shaving this morning, which saved some crawling around underneath the van.

The robin came in to say hello again yesterday afternoon.  Unfortunately, this time he left a calling card - well, more than one actually.  Luckily, for some reason I had some Vanish Carpet and Upholstery Ultimate Stain Remover, which got lavishly applied.  I read the list of ingredients: anyone know the difference between Anionic Surfactants and Non-Ionic Surfactants?  I only ask.

Halfway back up the M4, I thought I'd left some milk in the fridge.  That might not have been nice by next Easter.  As it turned, I hadn't, it was there in the coldbox when I got home.  It was just that I couldn't remember having taken it out of the fridge.  Is there such a thing as a false non-memory?

I have promised myself to get down there more often next season.  The flush toilet will definitely be installed by then, which hopefully will encourage visitors (of the non-avian sort).

Sunday, 16 October 2011

GV progress report

The grapes had to be picked and processed today, for three reasons: one, risk of frost; two, some turning into raisins; and three, avian invasions.  Here they are.

The ripe ones were stripped off the stalks, and 43 ladybirds (I counted them out, you can see the first one) returned to the wild, mostly back onto the vine.  I hope they're grapeful.  Plenty of grapes were left for the birdies.

Further ingredients then had to be added:

... and here is the progress so far:

The label on the sweet jar is, of course, designed to deter any burglars who might otherwise have been tempted.  And the glass of wine is, of course, totally irrelevant.

Next update somewhere around December 17th.

I am not making this up

Last Monday I decided to cook some BlackBerries with my Apples, for breakfast.  I suspect I'm not the only one.  The Law of Unintended Consequences...

Saturday, 15 October 2011


My neighbour, whom I’ll call John, is pretty slow now, physically.  It took ten minutes to get him from his chair to the car, one step at a time, supported by his stick in one hand and my arm in the other.  He has his techniques for these familiar manoeuvres, though – stick in left hand descending the steps whilst gripping the rail with his right; get bum onto car seat first, stow the stick away and, if necessary, call for assistance in getting legs in and clear of the car door, and so forth – John is ninety-one in his body but, thank goodness, still in his seventies in his mind.
The reception girls at the dentists’, when we got there, rallied round to get him into play.  One of them said to me afterwards that this was what she liked best about the job – “Well, it’s a bit of fresh air, isn’t it?”, but I think it went deeper than that for her.  As we were getting him out of the car, he glanced down.  “Oh my goodness, I’ve come out in my slippers!”  He grinned impishly, seeing a way through the pain.  “Do you think I should go back and change?”
Eventually, when he was installed in the chair, the diagnosis was as expected: an incipient abscess behind the right canine.  I took notes about the details of the treatment and prognosis (antibiotics followed by a further consultation in a week, basically), to be passed on to his daughter (call her Barbara), whose emergency  call at 8 a.m. had got me involved in the first place, and we loaded John back into the car.  The dentist and his nurse transformed into carers and opened the French windows in the surgery to make this easier.  I delivered John back home, administered the first dose of drugs, phoned Barbara to make sure she would be au fait when she got in, made sure he was comfortable, and raced back next door for a stiff sherry.
I called this ‘Speed’, because, for John, it was a fast-moving adventure despite everything, and for me, the morning whizzed by.  It’s all relative, isn't it?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Burst Water Main - A Metaphorical Tale

At 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, a mains water pipe at the top of the hill burst.  The water continued to flow –  an awful lot of it out onto the road, down the gutters and pavements, washing leaves and litter (McDonalds cartons, Tesco bags, lager cans, fag packets) down the hill, distracting small children on their way to nursery and scaring their mums, ending up (as water does) in a lake at the bottom, beyond the capacity of the already rather feeble drains, rat-running cars and vans having to steer round it.  This went on for a day and a night.

Once a team from the water company had turned up, closed the road and started up their drills and diggers, the flow, which had turned yellowish-brown by now, went down to a rill, then a trickle, then ceased, leaving a load of silt in the gutters and on the pavements.   By Friday, they had filled in their hole, re-opened the road and departed, leaving the silt behind.  Rat-run traffic got back to normal.  No long-term harm done.  The rain washed the silt away down the drains.

The above is all true.  What follows is made up.

Turns out that the reason the water main burst was that, in order to supply the new housing estate, the water company felt obliged to increase the pressure down the main, so that’s what they did.  But the housing estate was uninhabited, because the houses couldn’t be sold.  So the increased pressure had nowhere to go.  By a bizarre coincidence, everyone in the avenue happened to turn their mains taps off at exactly 11.30 on that Tuesday.  The pipe couldn’t cope.

The authorities knew that water companies are too big to fail.  They quickly installed even more powerful pumps at the top of the mains pipe, to ensure that this near-catastrophic supply failure could never happen again.  They also took measures to ensure that, if anyone should be silly enough to move into the new housing estate, they wouldn’t be able to afford water.  And they outsourced silt disposal to a newly-formed Russo-Chinese consortium.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

OK, here you go ...

June Tabor – Ragged Kingdom

'Love will Tear Us Apart', I feel.  But it's all pretty emotive.


It’s a nice old-fashioned word, isn’t it?  The Young Foundation, as I’m sure you’ll have seen,  has chosen it to describe the quality people seem most to value in their community.  To quote from the summary on their website:

“[The report argues that] civility is the largely invisible ‘glue' that holds communities together and that experiences of incivility cause hurt, stress and deeper social problems, and has a bigger impact of people's sense of social health than crime statistics. Perhaps most significantly it shows that civility operates on a reciprocal basis and that it is ‘contagious'.”  It goes on, though, to warn that “… people, while quick to see incivility in others, seem far less aware of how their own behaviour can offend.”

At the risk of sounding cynical (moi?), I think there’s a third dimension lurking in there, which is the risk of one’s well-intentioned civil behaviour inadvertently causing, at least, irritation.  Just this morning, I spent half an hour circling an inadequate multi-storey car park in search of a space.  Many other drivers were doing the same.  This car park has clear ‘give way’ markings, which unfortunately give precedence to incoming traffic, an obvious design flaw.  So some new arrivals, recognising that I had a kind of moral precedence, would pause and wave me through.  Very decent of them; but by the time we’d resolved the conflict between their desire to be civil and my wariness at breaking the rules, between us we’d probably added several minutes to the process of deciding it was all a waste of time and heading off back home.

There are many other permutations of how the principle of civility can result in discomfiture.  Just one example: you are walking along a country path.  In the distance you see someone approaching.  Civility requires that you acknowledge each other with a smile and perhaps a word of greeting.  But at what point do you do this?  Too soon and it’ll be missed, and they’ll think you’ve blanked them; leave it too late and they’ll think the same.  It can be very stressful.  I could go on (I said “well done” to a small child who’d succeeded in balancing all the way along the top of a garden wall, and the mother rather obviously thought I was a pervert); the point is, being civil can be more complicated than just being rude.

I leave you with a literary illustration, from ‘The Virginian’ (Owen Wister, 1902):

‘Trampas spoke. "Your bet, you son-of-a --.” The Virginian's pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man Trampas: "When you call me that, smile."’

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ideative Plagiarism?

I do hope not.  But recently whenever I start to compose a comment, it ends up as an essay or a rant, and I don’t think it’s polite to post essay-sized comments on other people’s blogs, let alone rants.  (Or is it?  No idea.  I don’t really know the rules of blogiquette.)

Anyway, this one is about tasting wine.  (You know who you are!)  Quite a few years ago, I went to a wine-tasting at my friend P’s.  He was, at the time, a stakeholder in a small mail-order wine merchant, and he’d organised this event, ostensibly for promotional purposes.  P lives just round a few corners, so I was able to walk there and (theoretically) back.  This was a Saturday evening.
The guy who ran the show was absolutely brilliant.  As C (Mrs P) supplied suitable snacks and canapés, he took us through fifteen wines, carefully and informatively leading us from the lightest of light Loires to a dense, almost treacly Barolo, and you really did taste the differences as we progressed.  It was a memorable evening, or would have been had the ‘no swallowing’ rule been rigorously imposed.  As it was, I wanted to order a case of something or other, but the order form somehow became indecipherable.  I seem to remember dancing later on.  And the journey home was, well, staggering.
What I really wanted to say was, it’s impossible to quaff in those quantities nowadays.  Obviously age and degeneration are factors here, but it’s also very hard to find a wine under 14% these days.  I forgot my glasses a while back, so couldn’t read the small print and accidentally came back with two bottles of something which proudly claimed to contain sixteen per cent alcohol.  Sixteen per cent!  That’s practically sherry.  I don’t want to swig near-sherry with my dinner.  Do the producers honestly believe that all we want from our wine is ever-increasing amounts of alcohol?
Anyway anyway, talking of glasses, I found two of  these

at the back of the sideboard, and now I’m going to be sleeping all night with that infuriating jingle. 

Oh, and whoever is constantly hitting my blog with Googlebot, please stop doing it, it's really annoying.  Thank you.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Quality of Stuff

This was going to be a comment on somebody else’s blog, but it ran away with itself.  As I’m inclined to do, too.

Robert Pirsig went mad trying to define the idea of ‘quality’, or so he claimed.  But he was a philosopher; I come at it from a more practical perspective.
The question is: why do we, or some of us, retain unmanageable quantities of objects which have no intrinsic or practical value?  It can’t just be inertia (although that plays a part, at least for me).  Certainly, I know that my attic contains at least a dozen items of redundant hi-fi equipment that just got dumped up there when upgrades took place; and I know that I can get rid of most of these (once I’ve recruited a willing helper to get them down from the loft – I’m not doing that on my own) by a wide variety of means.  But then I think about just one of them – a beautiful Technics turntable with a smoked Perspex lid and anodised aluminium bodywork – and its elegance is projected into my mind, even though I haven’t seen it for ten years and I know it doesn’t work.  This obviously has some aesthetic worth (it probably belongs in a design museum somewhere) – but that’s not where the quality resides.  That resides in what it did.
I have about 400 vinyl LPs in various boxes up in the third bedroom (aka the dustbowl).  And that’s not counting the other hundred or so in the sideboard down here.  Most of them are worthless, financially (although if anyone wants to make me an offer for a near-mint first pressing of ‘Led Zeppelin’, the one with the turquoise sleeve lettering, start bidding); many are musically too.  But they all, every single one, have this thing I’m calling ‘quality’.  So this afternoon I went up and plucked out just three, more or less at random.  Here they are, with what gives them quality, for me.
The Crusaders : Street Life.  Dancing to the title track with a girl called Victoria at a boring party in about 1984, when my divorce was blossoming.  I never saw her again.
Blood Sweat and Tears : Child Is Father To The Man.  1968, trying to persuade the horn section to play more like those guys.  A very intense drunken debate with all the enthusiasm on my side.
Little Feat : Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.  An inexplicable visit to a stoner friend of a friend somewhere in Surrey, desperate to take a puff but not allowed.
I could go on, but you’re asleep.  But you get my drift.  Every object contains quality, to the extent that it contains the past.  They are all, more or less, Madeleine cakes.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Does anyone else have this problem?

Most of the Blogspot sites I visit allow me to comment as my Google account, by default.  But others require me to 'select profile'.   I select 'Google account'.  It tells me to sign in (even though I already am), and when I do so I get the following very helpful message: 'Cookie value is null for FormRestoration'.

Any hints/tips?  I'm reluctant to throw this into the seething swamp of Google's so-called 'help'.

Anyway, if you're craving comments from me but not getting any, it's not for lack of trying!

Prolepsis, and other words

He doesn't actually start speaking for another 15 minutes, min, but 'The World At One' and other sources reliably, proleptically inform me that amongst other things, Cameron is going to say words to the effect of 'There is light at the end of the tunnel, and my path leads there', and also that  'We can turn the ship around.'  And that we don't need to pay off the Mastercard after all.

I'm a bit confused now, because not having a visual imagination I can't quite construct the metaphorical imagery being called for here.  So, there's this tunnel we're in, right, with more than one path through it?  And there's this light at the end of it?  And it's wide enough to turn a ship around in?  Oh well, I'm sure it'll all be clear by teatime.  But, my credit card bill, £29.02 (Waterstones and Spotify, since you ask) is due in three days' time.  Am I meant to pay it off, or not, or seek independent financial advice?  Come on, Dave, help me. 

Turning to far more important matters, today is the centenary of the birth of Brian O'Nolan, aka Flann O'Brien, aka Myles na Gcopaleen.  I shall speedread 'The Third Policeman' this evening to mark the occasion.  Here's Gerald Scarfe's cover illustration.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Fun with yoghurt

If you open your fridge door, you will probably be able to see a gap, down at the bottom, between the door shelf (the one where you keep the fruit juice carton, the jar of olives and the half-empty bottle of sauvignon blanc) and the wall of the fridge.  If you get the angle just right, it is possible, whilst getting out your Tuesday night left-over meal, to knock a tub of yoghurt off an upper shelf and make it lodge very accurately into this gap, without you noticing.
You then have to slam the fridge door quite vigorously.  Get it right, and the yoghurt tub will split precisely down its vertical axis and distribute its contents neatly all over the newly purchased fresh vegetables and salad in the cooler tray. 

I haven’t yet tried this with a full tub of yoghurt, this one was three-quarters empty, but I did conduct a comparable yoghurt-related experiment earlier this year:  exciting curry

[Count yourselves lucky, I was going to write about Theresa's black cat in Plymouth or wherever it was, or Gideon, or worse.]

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Same Difference (Caravan Diaries)

It was meant to be very different from my last visit.  But of course, a lot of it was the same.   No obvious disasters, except the grass, which I was expecting: my propensity towards fantasy always leads me to hope that the Flymo fairy has visited in my absence – it did actually happen once.  But no, everything’s the same.  The usual number of rabbits are bouncing around, scuttling off into their hedge-holes whenever they sense an approaching human (they’re right, we’d kill them if we caught them).  A flock of guinea fowl stroll across the field, insouciantly bluffing that they’re not lost.  An unknown butterfly perches on the top of the toolstore.  I open the windows.  My local robin pops into the kitchen, looks up at me, and decides that exit might just be the best strategy.  Robins know exactly where the pushing edge of their luck is.  Within ten minutes, six buzzy flies have entered, immediately claiming that they didn’t really mean to do that.  What is wrong with them?  Don’t they like it out there?  They’re not even politicians, for God’s sake.

I cut the grass.  I walk through the tunnels to the village to get a newspaper.  (It takes more than two days to break addictions.)  I wander down to the low tide line, checking to make sure the geology hasn’t changed too much in fifty years.  (The streams, though, never carve the same course twice across the sand.)  I catch up with a few neighbours.  Kids, grandkids, all doing well.  I manage to intercept Henry, pay the rent and chat about events.  He tells me "Oh well, you're young", which pleases me no end, especially his shocked reaction when I tell him my actual age.

Last time, back in June, it was different.  I’d just come from my first and last face to face meeting with someone, after a long long-distance relationship.  I believed I was deeply in love.  I didn’t want to be here, because there’s no contact with the outside world – no internet, not usually any phone signal – and those were the things I was craving.  I didn’t know what I was doing there.  Late one evening, extraordinarily, the mobile rang.  The call lasted only a few seconds, but I knew who it was.  So I climbed up to the top of the hill and perched on the stile, where there’s usually a signal, called back, and had the conversation.

Yesterday evening,  I stuck on an iPod playlist on shuffle.  It gave me ‘Simple Twist of Fate’, from Blood on the Tracks’.   It all came back, and I realised it wasn’t really different at all.