Wednesday, 27 November 2013

(9, 3)

Shed the end of a vigorous song - and a tear.  Monkeys may puzzle no more.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


We were running a bit late, for reasons I won’t go into.  The curry house was booked for quarter to nine, and it was twenty to, with a ten minute drive in between.  At this point, she performed one of her party tricks.
“Have you seen my keys?”
Several minutes later, “Doesn’t matter,” she said, “I’ll take one of the spares.”  It was a blue one.
(I should explain that Bee’s spare keys are colour-coded – blue for front door, red for back, yellow for patio.)
The curries were quite nice.  As were the Cobras and the entertainment.  (There was a football team in).  Indian restaurants do seem to be quite loud on a Saturday night, don’t they?  We had one of those inaudible conversations, paid the bill, motored back up to the house and unlocked the front door.  Except we didn’t.

I’ve never been locked out of my own house (except that one time I was), even less someone else’s.  The blue key didn’t fit the blue door.  Or the yellow door or the red door or even the green door.  (The Green Door doesn’t exist, despite what Frankie Vaughan might tell you.)
We’re not ones to panic.  In this kind of situation, I almost wonder whether failure to panic is the most sensible reaction.  But we didn’t.  All sorts of options were considered, culminating in ‘Get a locksmith’.  Ever tried that in a semi-rural location at half-eleven p.m. on a Saturday night?  The solution is ‘Ask a policeman.’
The local police station was closed, of course, but there was a phone by the door, through which we got a couple of numbers.  About forty-five minutes later the super lock man turned up.  He had a magic device which opened the door without doing any damage (I won’t give details just in case any burglars read this blog – but “just as well you didn’t double-lock it”, he said).  Apparently, some locksmiths will smash the lock even if they don’t need to, for the extra revenue.  Not this one.
So then we spent the rest of the night filling in the insurance claim form.

(The keys were behind the radio.  The blue spare key was a red one.)

(There is a lie concealed within this post.  See if you can spot it.)


Friday, 15 November 2013

Best laid plans

It’s been an unusual couple of days, which has to be good.  Unusual is good.  About eleven o’clock Wednesday, as I was finishing my cold coffee and mapping out the plan, which entailed all sorts of domesticity, the phone rang.  Well, there’s an event!

Sam, who’s between jobs and delivering cars around the country to scrape a living, was stuck at Reading station, having missed the train to Newbury by four minutes.  (I was subsequently told that the timetables have been shifted forward by four minutes due to the absence of the scheduled leaves on the lines; I’m not sure I believe this.)  Could I help?  Course I could.  Pick you up at Reading station in about fifteen.
If you’ve been to Reading station recently, you probably need counselling.  There’s been a huge cosmetic makeover, which as far as I can work out has halved the number of platforms whilst doubling the time needed to get between any two locations.  (I’m probably being unfair; after all, they’ve only been at it for three years, hardly enough time to break something which was working fine, let alone repair it.)
I go there rarely nowadays, and he even less, so neither of us was particularly aware of the various  ‘pick-up’ or ‘drop-off’ points.  We had a hilarious series of phone conversations – “What can you see?”  “Cars in a car park.”  “I can see a pub called, um –“  “You’re in the wrong place…” “So are you!” – before we finally hooked up and set off for Greenham Common.  We had a really good chat, which wouldn’t otherwise have happened. 

Next day, Bee phoned me to let me know that someone had done a bit of road rage and seemed to want to reverse into her as she was parking, so she’d switched on her hazard lights, seen the aggressor off and caught the train to London.  When she got back six hours later, the hazards were still on, but the car battery  wasn’t.  She called the rescue people and spent some time wandering round Waitrose until they called back to suggest that she’d best be getting a taxi home. 
The taxi driver, on learning of her predicament, suggested that, instead of taking her home, he used his jump leads to start her car.  Naturally, she snapped this offer up.  He then thought he’d better follow her, just to make sure she didn’t break down on the way.  I don’t know yet whether he made any charge, I’ll find out; I suspect not.  Aren’t people decent?

The other good news is that Waitrose now do ossobuco cuts of veal, so that’s Saturday’s dinner sorted.  It does mean that I’ve had to buy a pack of the despised saffron, but hey! One in ten years is pardonable, innit?  Not even I would put turmeric in a risotto alla Milanese.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Who knows?

Yes thank you, I’ve had a nice blogbreak, and flushed out a few self-inflicted misconceptions, such as that there were categories – rants, raves and trivia – into which each post had to exclusively fall.  Hence the changed headline.  So here goes.  Put this into a category of your own choice, if you like; though I’d rather you didn’t.

I was going to spend a lot of time and effort in researching some answers, but it’s too late (in every sense), so instead here are ten questions.

1.      What proportion of current cabinet ministers are Old Etonians?

2.      Of these, how many are women?

3.      What proportion of the population are Old Etonians?

4.      What proportion of the population are women?

5.      How many current cabinet ministers inherited their wealth?

6.      Of these, how many are women?

7.      How many current cabinet ministers have worked for their living?

8.      Of these, how many worked outside the fields of public relations, law, or media?

9.      Please rate the following qualifications for a politician: rhetoric; forcefulness; logicality; consistency; empathy.

10.  Why can’t a woman be more like a man?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Farewell to a good old friend

Graham Livermore, who died last week, was the trombonist in Dave Anthony’s Moods throughout their existence.  He was also, I think, my closest friend within the band.  All 1960s groups had their internal frictions and ours was no exception: it’s unlikely that eight randomly selected personalities are going to get on, all the time, all together.  So alliances would form, shift, split and realign.  But Graham and I, I like to believe, stuck together.
He was a talented musician; nobody who heard him would question that.  He could play anything you put in front of him, reproduce by ear a tune someone might hum or play to him, and (dare I say) improvise more thoughtfully than anyone else in the band.  His solos on ‘Summertime’, which became his showcase number, were always melodies in their own right – sung from the soul, as it were – and I don’t think I ever heard the same one twice.
These qualities were, I suspect, not fully appreciated, by either his audiences or his colleagues, because Graham was the antithesis of a showman.  The one time he had a crack at ‘mak show’, somewhere in the bleak Midlands, a stupid girl grabbed the end of his slide and did some damage to his trombone.  Typically, he laughed it off, forgave her, got it fixed and carried on.  I don’t think I ever saw him angry.
In Italy, we’d share rooms at whatever pensione we fetched up in.  At our base camp in Milan, we evolved a system whereby the speakers were either side of the two beds, so each of us got his fair share of the stereo.   We listened to one another’s music: I brought ‘Smiley Smile’, he brought Ornette Coleman.  Later (once we’d been told to shut down the noise), he would use a set of coloured crayons to draw exquisite abstract visions, which he’d then screw up and throw away.
I haven’t caught the best thing about Graham, which was his dry, sometimes almost undetectable humour.  Once, after listening to Coleman’s ‘Double Quartet’, he looked across at me and, with a straight face, enquired “Why do they play like that?”  Another time, he pointed out that you could catch Coltrane, Davis and the rest repeating, recycling, the same licks in their solos.  “I do wish I knew what they were,” he remarked.  
When I was between marriages in the late eighties, we briefly became close again.  He hadn’t changed in the intervening twenty years.  He’d grown a lot of hair and beard, and was living in his parents’ house in what some might consider squalor.  It didn’t matter to me.

I spoke to Graham once, on the phone, about three years ago.  We had a nice little chat about music.  He was, he confessed, “a bit stoned.”  He spent his time, he said, making sculptures out of waste materials, which he hung from the ceiling. 
“They’re all different,” he told me.  I believed him.