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.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Gliding's preferable

SIPs - simple inexpensive pleasures. An occasional series.

This post is not about butter and/or bread it's about my personal attitude towards buttering bread. Margarine has a brief walk-on/walk-off part and can be dealt with quickly. During and immediately after WW2 margarine (Hard g or soft g?) may have been smeared on bread in our household, I wouldn't know. It may have been unpleasant to taste, I wouldn't know that. What I do remember is that margarine-smeared bread carried intense social stigma. Only cads and those living below the poverty line ate it.

Aged about eight I was allowed to spread my own bread - long before the introduction of sliced bread (proof of moral degeneracy according to Daily Mail readers) or microwaves. I didn't enjoy this task. Applying rock-hard butter  to roughly hacked bread resulted in a plateful of crumb-covered greasy balls. Yes there were techniques but adults weren't telling. And don't let's talk about sticking butter under the grill; one always left it there too long.

Toast became even more popular since it better resisted spreading. I think, but cannot be sure, I took the line of least resistance and gave up bread-and-butter for several decades. Marriage seemed to coincide with the ready availability of spreadable butter that was also palatable. Our favoured brand has a sick-making name: Lurpak. But we're not slavish. Kerrygold (above) was on offer. The bread is Polish and is one of the best arguments for retaining EU freedom of movement.

No one has written an ode to spreadable butter and I don't intend to start. No doubt there are atavists who swear by intractable butter. Me, I swear at it.  Spreadable butter has removed a minor irritation which, cumulatively, might have driven me to the grave by now.

Let's laud Lurpak.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Pro or anti?

Here's a dilemma: should I sing Who is Sylvia? in English or German?

For Brexiteers it's a no-brainer. Having been told via the word of God (ie, The Daily Mail) the song was by Shakespeare who, despite a foreign-sounding name, came from the Midlands, it's gotta be like we all speak, innit?

However the setting is by Schubert. Admittedly he was an EU native and therefore to be isolated, yet his setting not only fits the German translation but also the original English. Which is quite clever. And Schubert died young and therefore deserves Brexit's tendency to be maudlin.

Words or music? The choice cannot be resolved and Richard Strauss (alas, another non-Brit) wrote an opera called Capriccio to prove the point.

As a treacherous reactionary Remoaner I'm happy to sing both.

Who is Sylvia?

An Sylvia

But in doing so, despite rusty German, I saw there were textual differences. So I asked my great friend and super-linguist Rouchswalve (whose impossible-to-pronounce blogonym I shorten to RW (zS) - the bracketed letters standing for "zu schwer" or, in Brexit, "too difficult") to re-translate the German. Here it is and as a tribute to her skills and friendliness I shall break my normal 300-word limit for Tone Deaf posts.

Who is Sylvia, O say,
That fields of nature should praise her
Beautiful and tender I watch her approach
Proven by heaven’s grace and traces
That all are devoted to her.


Is she beautiful and good too?
Like gentle childhood, charm refreshes
To her eye rushes Cupid
Where he heals his blindness
And whiles in sweet peace.


For Sylvia, sound, O tune
For lovely Sylvia’s honour
She exceeds every charm by far
Which earth can grant
For her, garlands and chords of strings!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Ever try soot?

Did a post about brisket at the week-end; posted it; deleted it 24 hr later. Reason: bad taste.

No matter, I can write a post about anything. And I mean anything. Even if it's truly boring. Let's say tooth-paste.

Being old I have a historical perspective. I was born in an era when one didn't just squeeze flat the tube (seemingly made of lead), one slit it down the side and scraped out the last traces for a final economy brush-over. But economy could be pushed further. Tooth-paste also came in a flat circular tin which contained what can only be described as a chemical hockey-puck. These never got used up, mainly because they didn't create any foam; the hockey-puck could have been made of granite.

Another tinned tooth-paste was called Eucryl and I was astonished to see in Tesco the brand still survives. But not the original format. Old Eucryl came as powder; accidentally knock the tin over and, whoops! you were reduced to using soot (see pic). I never tried soot, thought it might be a hoax.

Smokers had their own tooth-paste. Possibly sweepings from the floor of a company manufacturing industrial diamonds. I didn't smoke. Didn't need to. West Riding air was an even more effective poison.

In the USA, as one might expect in such a health-conscious country, tooth-paste was sold in huge quantities with special plungers. Not quite as extreme as detergents labelled Large, Enormous, and Home Laundry. The latter was just this side of requiring casters for ease of movement
.
It's difficult occupying your mind while cleaning your teeth. You can't usefully read or sing. You can of course think: Ask yourself am I being taken for a ride with all this expensive, probably unnecessary stuff?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Road and more road

My Worst Journeys. An occasional series

This is Tryfan in North Wales. In 1955, on leave from the RAF I spent time near Tryfan rock-climbing. A main road, the A5, passes by and I intended to hitch-hike 140 miles back to Bradford. I knew the drill, had hitch-hiked to London for a couple of holidays.

I reached the northern coast road quite quickly and turned east to pass through (preferably bypass) the resort towns Llanfairfechan, Conway and Colwyn Bay en route to Chester. A sunny summer day, lots of traffic.

You may stand forlorn at the roadside, cocking your thumb. I prefer to walk since it provides an impression of progress. But the more you walk the more you have to walk. You see a significant junction or a roundabout some way ahead and you must get to the far side, otherwise you may stop a car that's turning off. That morning and early afternoon I passed many junctions and roundabouts.

How far did I walk? It's a blur. At the worst bit the main road met an estuary and I traversed a network of unproductive suburban roads. I departed Wales, entering the land of Transport Deprivation. I knew myself to be cursed, a modern-day Walking Dutchman. I ran out of intellectual resources, unable to think constructively, unable to hold the unremitting labour at bay. My target was meaningless, the road led nowhere and I lacked identity.

A smallish pick-up stopped and I luxuriated on sacks that contained the remains of slaughtered chickens. But only for a few miles. Thereafter the processes that compile memories broke down completely and I have no idea what happened that evening. A train perhaps?

Years later I drove that road but uneasily. Rhyl is Hell, see my long short-story, The Little Black Book.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Who's that at the door?

"Bicycle Maintenance/Repairs. Home Visits." announced a passing van - a service new to me. In Monmouth too, Wales not renowned for forward thinking.

Obviously I'm out of touch. I took bikes seriously for yonks, one benefit being that maintenance and repair were up to me, no arcane skills needed, thus no rapacious invoices. Once, from curiosity, I disassembled and reassembled the bearings in my bike's bottom-bracket. Only people with time on their hands and nothing in their heads do that.

I was shocked when brother Sir Hugh admitted (reluctantly; he could see I was a disbeliever) taking his mountain bike “in” for servicing. As to house calls it seemed a van would hardly be necessary; vagrant bike mechanics could travel by bus, tools a'pocket, reading an improving novel.

Is there further potential for house-calls?

● Medical emergencies: but it may have been tried.
● Extracting thick-ended corks from Italian wine bottles.
● Cat manicures.
● Stripping film-wrapped CDs (Patience a must).
● Finding and bringing in nomadic wheelie bins.
● Priest to forgive lefty for being lefty.
● Hungry immigrant to eat last cold slice of pizza.
● Ringing doorbell (Is-it-audible-on-the-loo? check)
● Tory utters Brexit agitprop through letter-slot
● Maternal type comforts smoking pariahs outdoors.
● Choir sings national anthem to doubting patriots.
● The Police! (Just joking.)
● Michael Gove! (Not joking at all.)
● Michael McIntyre! (Incapable of joking.)
● Reporting all Hallowe’en pranksters now in jail.
● Unexpectedly touting for garden work, post-dusk.
● Distraction ploy for thief presently ransacking kitchen.
● Delivering End Of World Is Nigh flyers.
● Commandant, so-called ISIS, seeks sanctuary.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Bolt-holes

Despite an intensely funny half-hour of Have I Got News For You, the UK’s long-running satirical telly programme, VR didn't want to talk about Trump or Brexit any more. Wanted to blot them both out.

In my mind's eye we're on the dangerous dirt road to Port Underwood, a tree-covered fiord on NZ's South Island, the most beautiful place in the Universe. Two days with the welcoming and sophisticated Rousches.

We're emerging from St David's Hall, Cardiff, having heard Herbert Blomstedt conduct the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Brahms’ third symphony - as if the music had been composed there and then, for the first time, just for us.

Anniversary dinner at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons and the sagacious sommelier is offering VR a loan of his spectacles to read the wine list.

A family inspects our house in Kingston-upon-Thames. It's a hot day, the French windows are open, the little fountain (based on a stone mill-wheel) tinkles in the garden, and our daughter, Occasional Speeder, lolls in an easy chair. The family's father says, "I'd like to live here." and we know we've made a sale.

We've driven VR's mum, Edna. who's notoriously anti-Wales, up through the Elan Valley past the reservoir and on towards Rhayader. Edna says, "I'm so sleepy but I have to stay awake. It's so lovely."

I've read Patrick O'Brian's twenty-novel Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin series three times, VR twice. One of us, it doesn't matter who, is saying, "Do you remember when Stephen..." We laugh in recognition.

VR’s been in the kitchen while I’ve manhandled English in my study. I come down and there’s Eggs Mornay for dinner. Unexpectedly.

February 2012. Or 2013. Or 2014. The cough’s gone.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Hard to take

I'm moderately sure anyone who reads Tone Deaf doesn’t support Trump. So here’s sympathy without qualification.

It is hard to pick even a grain of comfort. A week ago a BBC reporter interviewed the head of the largest Evangelical college in the USA, a man who might have run a mile from DJT. But no, he would vote Trump "with a view to the next thirty years". Didn't want a pro-Choice judge appointed to the Supreme Court.

Recently, during a lengthy BBC programme about the Rust Belt, I sensed a hollow feeling. A montage of Trump statements was shown, all delivered in the by-now familiar style - simple short statements, preceded and followed by longish pauses. An ideal way of addressing blue-collar workers with little education who haven't worked for the last ten years and won't for the next ten. The cumulative effect was hypnotic and inescapable.

I'd thought Trump was running a dumb campaign, in fact it was incredibly smart. Lies and the insults made you want to watch his speeches and when you got there you couldn't avoid his message. Will he betray those hopeless folk in Johnstown and nearby? The question is irrelevant. He was aiming to get elected. If he's got time he may toss them a crust; far better to be a businessman presently paying taxes. There could be a Christmas prezzie on the way.

The best hope is he'll only last one term. The Chinese, presently flooding the world with cheap steel, superfluous to their needs, may have something to say about any curtailment of that market. And don't the Chinese own half a trillion dollars of US debt, a fairly big lever during negotiations?

Two hideous expressions of democracy: Trump and Brexit.