Tuesday, 29 May 2012

I’m So Busy!

I really am.  Here’s my list for tomorrow:

Photos.  This isn’t quite what it seems.  I have to get into one of those stinking booths in the Oracle shopping centre to get two passport-type pictures of my face, both for ageing purposes.  The mandatory one is for a new driving licence, the other for a bus pass.  I can do without these reminders, to be honest.

Shoes.  I own three pairs (not including sandals and slippers).  The only ones I ever wear are now worn to below the legal tread limit.

Toilet brush.  This is for the caravan, which now has a toilet.  The need has been established.

Books and music.  Permanently on every list.

Shorts.  I seem to have thrown out my last and only pair.  That’s not strictly true, but the older ones are dysfunctional in both length and girth.

Marker pens.  As co-coordinator of the Neighbourhood Watch, I receive occasional offers from the local police (no, stop it!), the latest of which is some property-marking kits which I have to collect from the police station.  I’m trying to prepare myself for the conversation.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Strange in the Night

Big day tomorrow, so I reluctantly make my excuses and retire to my luscious accommodation.  I’m in bed and asleep by ten-thirty, which is unlike me, so it’s no surprise that I wake up at about half past three.  It’s not just that though: I’m woken by a sound.  Sounds are unusual round here.  The silence kept me awake at first.

It sounds like a dog barking.  Who?  Who who who.”  The number of who’s varying between three and, I decide, eleven.  I discount this theory though (having rearranged the duvet several times and drunk some water), for three reasons: one, there are only two dogs within a mile of here, and they only ever bark in duet, whereas this is definitely a soloist; two, they wouldn’t be allowed; and (what was three, oh yes) it doesn’t sound anything like them. 

By now I’m interested.  It’s three forty.  I toy with other possibilities while the barking recedes, circles the house and returns.  Pigs?  Definitely not.  Birds of some sort?  Local sprites rehearsing for Walpurgis?  Wolves?  Not this far south, surely.

I get up and look out.  Obviously, it stops, and I can’t see anything except weak moonlight.  I go back to bed, and it starts again.  Then fades and stops.  Then starts.  Three.  Eleven.  Nine, was that?  Is it always an odd number?  I paraphrase Michael Frayn’s line for John Cleese: It’s not the sound, I can take the sound.  It’s the silence I can’t stand.

I decide to list the Beatles’ singles chronologically.  What was the B side of ‘Love Me Do’?  Okay, A sides only.  I get to ‘Lady Madonna’.

The sun starts to rise, the barking stops, and I go to sleep, to dream (as usual) of going back to work and losing the car.

(to be continued) 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


Do you ever hear sounds that aren’t there?  I do.  I’m not sure I should be confessing this days before meeting many of my blog buddies for the first time, but don’t worry.  At least not too much.  This only happens under very specific circumstances, to wit, just when I’m due to wake up from my early morning dream sleep.  So far, it’s either the doorbell or the alarm.  Lord knows how either of these lodged themselves that deeply in the bilges of my subconscious, or wherever it is they reside  – the alarm makes some sense (although you’d think by now twelve years of not having to get up for work would have expunged it); but the doorbell, where does that come from?  As far as I can remember, nobody has ever rung my doorbell earlier than nine a.m., except by arrangement.  It’s mysterious.

This morning, though, was an interesting variant.  It was about five-thirty when the unmistakeable buzz of a flying insect woke me.  I hadn’t even started dreaming.  And it was much too early.  And it went on after my eyes and ears were definitely open.  This was the real thing.

I’m good in a crisis.  Like a super-hero, I switched on the light, sprang out of bed and grabbed a towel.  The buzzing stopped.  But I had a fix on it: somewhere around the front curtains.  I did a forensic inspection of all areas then carefully agitated the curtains.  The buzzer wasn’t falling for that.  I lowered the towel and backed away.  It was a blink-first standoff.

It blinked first, a black buzzing dot hovering near the wardrobe.  I went into full Zen warrior mode.  One swing of the towel, and the sleepy queen wasp was squirming on the floor.  I finished it off, binned it and went back to bed.

Probably two hours later the unmistakeable buzz of a flying insect woke me.  It stopped as soon as I opened my eyes.  I waited; it didn’t come back.  It wasn’t there.  Oh well, I thought, that’s an addition to the repertoire of wake-up calls.  At least they’re all based on, or drawn from, memory, so I don’t expect herds of wildebeest in the attic.  Mustn’t get complacent though; I did once hear a Coldplay record …

Saturday, 19 May 2012


I failed to complete the crossword three times running.*

That was meant to be my last thought before going to sleep last night.  I eventually did go to sleep, about two hours down the road.

Once you start looking for them, they’re everywhere.  Here are a few, drawn at random, just to amuse you:

The duchess can't bear children

He saw her duck

The chicken is ready to eat

‘Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas’  (Groucho, of course).

And this great example from Thomas Pynchon: ‘We have forests full of game and hundreds of beaters who drive the animals toward the hunters such as myself who are waiting to shoot them.’

I’ve always written, but until I retired it had been mostly what I suppose I have to call ‘technical’ writing, which is to say that precision of meaning was the success criterion.  If the readers were given any opportunity to misconstrue, I’d failed.  So that kind of writing was all, and solely, about communication of facts, past or future.  I think I did it reasonably well, that avoidance of ambiguity.

Since then I’ve dabbled more in what I suppose I have to call ‘creative’ writing.  Here, ambiguity, in its broadest sense, is what you’re aiming for a lot of the time.  You want the reader to wonder just what you meant, and to react with surprised laughter.   Poetry, of course, has it as its stock in trade, but I don’t do poetry.

According to a book I’ve never read, by Sir William Empson, there are seven types.  I can think of three, which is why I’ll never be a scholar.  But it occurs to me that if that’s true then ambiguity is pretty ambiguous itself, isn’t it?  And where is the boundary with metaphor?

I think that must be the point at which I went to sleep.

* The answer of course is that’d completed it twice but not the third time, rather than that I’d failed three times. I wouldn’t have bothered to mention that, would I?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

I'll do whatever is necessary

For logistical reasons, I had to park the car under the pigeon tree today.  Here's the outcome:

There's a metaphor in there somewhere.  At least, unlike David Cormorant, I know what needs to be done.

Monday, 14 May 2012

A Day In The Virtual Life

Most organisms work like this: you put in sustenance at one end, waste products come out of the other, the difference being the energy which drives the organism.  Much (though not all) of the internet operates on the inverse principle.  The input is excrement, or to be more precise, advertising.  The output is wonderful – creativity, humanity, unexpected revelations, disturbing attitudes – well, sometimes excrement too, but we can scrape that off our shoes and just be careful not to step on that spot again, can’t we?  But, as long as you use a bit of your own energy to discriminate, which isn’t that hard, most of it is sustenance.  So it worries me a bit that this cornucopia is so flimsy.

It delights me, though, that the advertising is so precisely targeted, more and more, to my life, circumstances and desires.  To demonstrate this, here is a typical day in my life:

I have to get up early, to welcome the team who are going to install the new solar panels.  I’ve paid for these using my new special credit card for people with bad debts.  I check the mail.  My claim for mis-sold PPI insurance, minus 30%, has been acknowledged, which is great (especially as I never bought any), as I’ll be able to spend the money on life insurance so that my non-existent dependents don’t lose out.  After breakfast – coffee made with water boiled up in the new kettle – I clean up using the new vacuum cleaner, then put on my new designer sandals, strap on the new designer handbag and take the new baby buggy out for a walk.  I don’t quite know why I’ve got that, as I distinctly remember ticking the ‘no children’ box on the dating site.

In the afternoon, I’m a bit tired, so I relax playing with my new genuine replica Victorian abacus.  After dinner (spam fritters) I listen to my third CD of ‘Jerry Lee Lewis’s Greatest Hits’; and so to bed.  Tomorrow – another day, yet more dreams to be fulfilled.  Early start again, off to the villa in Zakynthos. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Disgraceful ripoff!

I bought this new computer last month and transferred my iTunes library to it.  I'd bought a bunch of songs from Apple over the years, but I now learn that I'm only allowed to play them on a maximum of five computers, of which this is the third, and then I have to buy them again.  That's like saying that I can't read a book because I took it off a different shelf.  I am fuming, and will never buy anything from that bunch of thieves again.

Caravan Comforts

Great news!  The macerating toilet has been installed!  And it works – at least, no signs of unwanted outcomes so far.  It makes a rather nice burpy sound as it digests.  Joseph said “Don’t put anything solid down there, except toilet paper and its accompaniments,” and the operating instructions bear this out:

I can identify most of them, and it’s encouraging that they remind you not to put your hand down either.

Here are the installation instructions:

At home, the weather tends to be outside, something to be excluded.  Down here, it’s inside.  I don’t mean literally, there are no leaks, but it makes itself felt.  It’s much closer, and I like that.  I like the little rocking motion when a strong gust of wind hits, and the rhythms of raindrops on the roof.  I certainly like what it does to the sea, which I can always hear and see.  Today it’s been grey-green, flecked with white, and quite loud.  It sometimes seems to be breathing, and indeed I find my pace slowing to that of the sea and the weather.

Wildlife report: I think there are three other humans here.  I waved to one of them, Gordon, when he passed with his greyhound just now, and we’ll chat tomorrow.  A flock of seabirds just wheeled over, at least a hundred, black against the sky.  They circled three times then were gone.  I couldn’t tell what species, but they seemed big enough to be gannets, though that can’t be right. 

No rabbits.  Not in season yet.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Recurring Dream

Do you have one?  I do.  Read on to find out what it is.

I usually wake up around six thirty, turn over and go back to sleep until ten past eight, knowing that there’s a dream coming.  They’re generally the usual instantly forgotten gubbish, but this morning’s was highly entertaining until the end.  I’ll summarise – the original was like a David Lynch film.

I park the car in a leafy square in Islington and make my way to my appointment, which is in a building that turns out to be my old redbrick secondary school.  There are two corridors, one on each side of the assembly hall, but I’m only allowed to use one of them.  I get redirected into the forbidden corridor, but manage to find my way to the assembly hall, which has been revamped as an open plan office space.  Sheila, who has offered me the job, explains that, whilst they really want to employ me, they don’t have a desk for me at the moment.  I protest, and she says I’ll have to talk to Rupert Murdoch, but he’s not available so Ed Balls will deal with it.

I must have walked out, because I’m now trying to find my way back to the car.  An old woman in a fleamarket gives me directions, and I get a lift from some roadworkers in their very crowded blue pickup truck.  When I reach Down Square, as it’s called, I find that it’s been turned into an excavated building site, like a china clay pit.  I remember that I’d parked the car right up on the edge, but when I get there it’s gone.  I can see some rusty cars way down in the bottom of the pit, but mine’s not among them.  This is where I say “Oh no, not that again,” and wake up.  It’s ten past eight.

The recurring dream is, of course, called ‘Losing the Car’.  It crops up every year or so.  It stems from an incident during my first honeymoon, when we’d rented a Cortina, driven it to London , parked it somewhere in Bayswater and later spent an hour combing the grid of identical streets before finding it, to one-way recriminations.  That was a mistake, which obviously went in deep.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Deficit? What deficit?

Here’s a plan, Mervyn, Gideon, guys.

Invent something.  Doesn’t matter what, just make sure it’s highly addictive to 16-24s and advertising agencies.  You can do that in your bedroom, easy, especially over a raspberry pie and a side dish of html.

Run it for a couple of years, then launch an IPO and flog it for $100bn.  Deficit, toodle pip!

Uh-oh.  Oxymoron iceberg on the port bow.  You need an idea.  And you’re a government.  Oh well. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Rupert Bear

This is going to be pretty inconsequential.

I don’t know why, and I’m wary of delving too deep – but I was instructed the other day to write about this Rupert.  I think it was a ploy to distract me from the other one.  I don’t really have much to say on the subject, to be honest.  Comics weren’t big in our household when I was a child, and Rupert wasn’t even a character in the forbidden Beano or Dandy, never mind the permitted Eagle and Girl, neither of which as I remember were heavy on anthropomorphism.  In fact I don’t think R. B. figured in any comics at all.  It seems (from my exhaustive research, which is technically limited, like a high end BMW, by my attention span of 155 seconds per subject on Wikipedia) that he was a daily strip in the Express, which certainly never crossed the threshold. 

And yet I had no trouble picturing him.  Even before Rog kindly pointed me towards some visuals, that red sweater, those yellow and black chequered trews, that scarf and those bovver boots, it all sprang into sight.  His mates were a pretty oddly clad bunch too.  Looking at the pictures, I think they’re the Bullingdon Club in mufti – but at least they’re all clothed from neck to toe.  Unlike some of their colleagues in toonworld:

·         Bugs Bunny, Korky the Kat, Tom and Jerry are all nude, but don’t have genitals or, mostly, posterior cleavage.

·         Mickey Mouse wears shorts, sometimes with braces, but is usually topless. American abroad.  Minnie is a flapper.

·         Donald Duck and, more worryingly, Winnie the Pooh, wear tops but are naked from the waist down, reminding me of certain German tourists in Fuerteventura.

·         We won’t go into Fritz The Cat, if you don’t mind.

·         And we will draw a veil over Tinkerbell’s famous flash too.

Incidentally, the collective for bears is ‘a sleuth’, which I don’t think Rupert was.  That was Tintin, who was a human (of sorts).

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Weather Forecast

Many things in the public domain are making me angry at the moment, but I don't want to rant, so instead here's the view from my landing window just after sunset this evening:

By the way, does anyone out there have a Rupert Bear annual?