I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Kneel here

I'm trying hard to describe the contours of my backside. Legs becoming wider - calves to thighs - like a pair of adjacent ice-cream cones. Ending in two hemispheres of gluteus maximus like blobs of vanilla. Just the shapes, forget the flavours.

Now focus on that abrupt change of gradient where the straight line of the thigh becomes the outward bulge of the backside, a horizontal groove if you like. Not to be confused with the vertical groove which is for another day.

Are you clear? Have you located that horizontal groove? Please say yes. It was an important part of my anatomy up to age 15.

Boys were punished at my school by being caned on the backside. The aim was to inflict pain. With some skill the degree of pain could be increased. Lay the first slash of the cane along that horizontal groove. Lay the second slash on top of the first and the pain becomes cumulative. All the way up to six slashes. It took a careful eye and a steady hand to keep on hitting that 5 mm wide groove; most teachers were poor at teaching but all were great caners.

Did they practice? Did older teachers pass on their skills? Was caning a teacher's perquisite?

"Caning" suggests a stinging pain but that undersells the experience. The slash includes a heavier component as if the intention was also to bruise and eventually to wound. I have always been a physical coward and I'm astonished I didn't cry out while being caned. Perhaps for fear of additional strokes.

Was caning character-forming? My character is far from perfect so I’d say no. Nick, my late brother, attended a harder school and was caned until he bled.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Muted foghorn

Van Gogh made do with an ear (albeit bandaged) while Rembrandt, in the self-portraits, plotted the evolution of his knobbly nose. Bloggers who wait for arty subjects to come along are doomed to non-expression leading to permanent silence. Art is the transformation of reality and reality is all around us. The only thing that restricts me posting about my belly-button is the thought of a photograph.

Ears I’ve done, held tight against my head with Elastoplast in my babyhood. My hair’s wildness has been explored. As has my right hand, crucified by Dupuytren’s contracture. My Roman nose. How about my mouth?

How shy I’ve become. Mouths are intimate. Mine has kissed and whispered sweet nothings in its time. For the moment there is nothing bad to say and badness is a rich source of humour. There’s nothing funny about:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss

Might it even be pretty? Not weighed down with sandbags like my eyes. Ahh, here’s a mort of laughter: might I have been endowed with a woman’s mouth? Would it look better lipsticked? Those novels I’ve written where disadvantaged women rise triumphant - suppressed impulses?

Away with adolescent fancies. Through that same mouth has passed sarcasm, social solecisms and sesquipedalian slander. On the positive side it’s an orifice shaped for: “Now. Now that the sun has veiled his light...”  Dryden, set to music by Purcell. It’s not all androgyny.

Is the mouth the most significant single identifier? At 10 metres does it proclaim RR? Does it smile a lot? Only others can tell. I’d like to think it’s regularly turned down in a moue of disapproval because that seems more dignified.

Mind you I wouldn’t be without it. Where would the wine go?

Friday, 11 May 2018

Grown-up talk

When do you finally become an adult? For me it happened yesterday, early evening, as we sipped a glass or two on the patio.

VR said, "Got a call from the GP (General practitioner, otherwise family doctor). Says she couldn't ever do what I asked, couldn't ever bring herself to pull the plug."

Not surprising really.The Hippocratic Oath would forbid it. One daughter refused outright, didn't even want to talk about it. That left me, and the talk lapsed half-heartedly into the definition of certain words.

We're both in our eighties. Death is an out-of-forcus view of the horizon; each waking morning someone tweaks the binoculars and things get a bit clearer. We're organising "a lasting power of attorney", more particularly, who does what when either or both is unable to speak for ourselves - as to whether the plug should be pulled.

VR has a horror of resuscitation when everything points in the other direction. She's had personal experience, made even more poignant in that she wasn't there in person when the decision had to be taken. On the patio I bugger up the discussion making provisos, but it's not an occasion for exactitude, more for understanding and sympathy. I'll try and do better next time.

In Bergman's The Seventh Seal, Death arrives for the Knight who delays the inevitable by offering to play Death at chess. The Knight discusses a clever move with a friend only to find he's been talking to Death. It comes down to this: an ounce of intelligent foresight may outweigh a tsunami of blubbering.

Being adult, in fact. Music may help but I may be wrong.

Monday, 7 May 2018

My life and welcome to it*

Wine's becoming a problem these days.

Tone Deaf readers who date back will know my wine education was backwards way round. As a youth I occasionally drank the best wines in the world, courtesy of my father, a claret enthusiast. Wines that would today cost a fortune (eg, Ch. Margaux 2008, £4783 a case). Since then I've had to aim lower, gradually raising my sights as I became wealthier.

I became "comfortably off" but never wealthy. Alas I could still taste my father's clarets. For decades I tolerated this gap, now at 82 I am growing more impatient. Not that I'm contemplating a remortgage to pay for Ch. Margaux, but I'm spending far too much time in the Land of Remembrance of Things Past. Last night, acknowledging the year is 2018, I went under the stairs.

The wine above is a Cahors. Cahors, in central France, is a mere 150 miles from Bordeaux where Ch. Margaux is created; oenologically speaking the distance is more like that to Mars.

Early Cahors is bitter - undrinkable in my view. The serious young man in glasses at the Cahors cave des vignerons warned me but I knew already. Back home the bottle went under the stairs to be forgotten.

Note the date - 2000. Back then I was still ski-ing. I pulled the cork and sniffed: rich, pungent, multi-layered. But bouquets can be treacherous. I didn't decant it, expecting sludge. After 90 minutes I tasted it and it was pretty good, if light-years away from Ch. Margaux.  A magnum of that vintage would cost £26 today, a bargain. Back in Cahors it probably cost £5.

There are seven “forgotten” bottles – all different – under the stairs. Two are whites and probably past it. I live in straitened times.

* Cribbed from SJ Perelman.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

An hour's an hour for a' that

The tide of spam swells and Starbucks invites me to a "happy hour".

Surely a misconception. A happy hour involves booze. Half-price cocktails for a limited period during the early evening have only one aim. To get you pie-eyed and incapable of movement, so you'll stay on, spend a fortune and be thrown out at closing time.

A happy hour based on coffee would have the opposite effect. Three cheap Americanos and you'd fidget like an ant in a frying pan. Address the staff in Spanish, urge revolution, speak lewdly to the opposite sex (later the same sex) and be shown the door at seven.

I have never knowingly taken part in a happy hour, perhaps because it seems so blatant. In my youth, and especially in London, I needed no such encouragement. Later I became cautious. To wake up near midnight on a tube train three stations short of Ongar was salutary.

My happy hour would be in a pub where everyone read books – hardbacks, since they show greater commitment. Or sipped quietly, listening to a lecture on hermeneutics. BBC Radio 3 on low volume, the Composer of the Week always Gesualdo. And men speaking to women in the clipped etiquette of 1950s TV commercials ("I'm going home to an evening meal of fish fingers and Pom." "O, I say, may I join you?"). Mayhem would be permitted but in a car park half a mile away.

But imagine a pub full of happy people. It would be un-English.  Most are either miserable or anticipating misery. Getting drunk and shouting isn’t happiness either; it’s a way of shutting out quotidian boredom.

How about an unhappy hour with lager brewed in the UK at twice the price? “Share your meaninglessness with us,” would have some takers I’m sure.

Sunday, 29 April 2018


These are Ralph Lauren underpants, I suspect they
are expensive.. I did once wear Hilfiger pants but
they were a gift from my mother-in-law and were
 remaindered in a sale. The elastic was tight.

Hitler and I were of course on opposing sides during WW2. More surprising, I didn't wear underpants during the conflict; I can't speak for Hitler.

This will shock US citizens. As if I'd I'd fought on the same side as Hitler. Or confessed to spitting in church. Yes, I'm known to be an oddity but not that damned odd! Why I might have... infected people.

As far as I know my Father did wear underpants but then his life was a closed book to me. He was an adult at the time (as was Hitler), I was 5 - 10 years old.

But why? you will ask. Why did I risk the health of a nation? You've got to understand, since I didn't wear underpants I didn't question their absence. Any more than I wondered why there were no bananas or Coca Cola. Perhaps there were simply no underpants for kids. Perhaps - and this is comically possible - kids' underpants were thought to be a luxury in the traditionally under-privileged north of England.

Dimly I remember the transition period when I started to wear them (because I do of course wear them now). Can't say the year, time isn't important to kids. But there was a new bulkiness in and around my groin, as if I were over-dressed down there. A certain discomfort. But then kids were born into discomfort and I had other fardels to bear (WS quote!)
I buy underpants by the half-dozen and I am influenced by the pattern. I find this astonishing; I’d like to think I was above plaids and fuchsias alternating with lobelias but I’m not. This awareness cheapens my aspirations as a writer; my mind should be on words beginning with meta-. I am at heart trivial.

Thursday, 26 April 2018


It's called a manipulation table. You lie on your belly with most of your face pushed down through a slot in the upholstery. Thus you may talk in a muffled way, fighting off an enhanced flow of saliva.

At the peak of the procedure there were 17 needles bristling my back, not one visible to me. Most were introduced into my flesh surreptitiously except one that was long enough to get through the unlovable bulge of my gluteus maximus (ie, backside). That one hurt just a bit.

I was apprehensive about two that were stuck in the back of my neck close to my skull. However my faculties continued to function.

There followed a twenty-minute wait. Although he'd clearly attempted to suppress his accent, I identified the needle-pusher as Welsh. A very minor thought occurred to me; in Wales my first name is more popular than in England, sometimes shortened to Rhodri. Rhodri sounds more vigorous, more masculine but alas it's too late to change now.

He'd been a rock climber but gave up when his "power-to-weight ratio" became unfavourable. Me too and I used the same phrase, thought I'd invented it.

The needles were removed in seconds and were disposed of. I was delighted he had the wherewithal to pay by credit card. VR was waiting in the Tesco café and as I walked there I could hold myself erect without pain, the first time for nearly four months. VR said "Go again." Later I booked another appointment.

The following day I walked the 1000 yards to pick up The Guardian at the filling station. Previously I’d been forced to use the car. A fast pace seemed to help. The next test will be whether I can stand up for my singing lesson.