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.

Friday, 30 May 2014

'Tis the genes, of course


It was inevitable I would be at loggerheads with my father - a deeply opinionated, mainly insensitive oenophile with Tory leanings. And that when I reached 78, the age he died, that cameo would equally describe me once "Tory" was replaced by "Leftie".

But what about books? My father's enthusiasms were dry-fly fishing for brown trout and beagling (chasing after hare with dogs). His early reading reflected these matters:  Surtees' Jorrocks Jaunts and Jollities, Sassoon's Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Cobbett's Rural Rides (but with the reformist themes ignored). Later his tastes widened but by then I had lost interest.

When he became ill he was reduced to asking me to lend him books. I had to think hard choosing titles. He didn't care for Michael Frayn who wrote the play Copenhagen (about quantum mechanics) and the novel, Spies, but I had more successes than failures. In fact he never returned Mark Twain's Roughing It.

The high-spot was his joy at Nabokov's comic novel Pnin. He read aloud the key sentence in the first chapter: "He is on the wrong train." and I realised we had more in common than I thought. A rapprochement ensued.

JOE'S NUDGE
Something more difficult:

It is time that I wrote my will;
I choose upstanding men
That climb the streams until
The fountain leap, and at dawn
Drop their cast at the side
Of dripping stone;...


Reasons why. You must stop here, so I must too. The language is simple even if the aim - establishing the poet's preference for "pure" instincts - is metaphorical. The will grabs your lapels, the poetry (“climb the streams”, “the fountain leap”) says you are in intelligent hands. You are inclined to read on.

Yeats. (I swear I had no idea.)

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Hay: Hunger returns

Hay, final day. Hungry again; no sandwiches; made do with vanilla ice cream cone.

President Allende. Colombian historian describes lead-up to democratic election of  Marxist president in copper-rich Chile, followed by "hands everywhere, finger-prints nowhere" military coup engineered by Kissinger, CIA and the other usual suspects from the North.

Container ships. Moving and enthusiastic account of life aboard two Maersk container ships, huge as small towns yet managed by crews as small as 21. Revels in the detached existence of modern-day merchant marine where ships discharge and load within 24 hours at special ports distant from centres of population, sustaining China's economic miracle over our wide oceans.

Jane Austen. Interactive presentation in which audience is invited to explore The Blessed Jane's novels at the micro level, guessing who smiled 40-plus times in Mansfield Park and speculating on the horrors of living with, and conceiving a child by, the dreaded Mr Collins.

Freakenomics. Lateral ways of solving hard problems by adopting a child's mindset and asking the "wrong" questions. One present project: why does increased wealth not bring happiness?  The jury is, as they say, out for the moment.

P. J. O'Rourke. That extreme US rarity - a journalist who employs his Republicanism wittily - explains the emergence of the self-centred Baby Boomer generation, post WW2 and especially in the US, and how this has tended to trivialise public life and aspirations. Has soft spot for the way Barack Obama dresses.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Hay: Hunger problem cured

Hay Day 2. Blood sugar problems avoided with home-made roast lamb sandwiches. Judgments thus more measured.

Rose Heilbron. Daughter Hilary (arbitration barrister) reminisces about her mum, Britain's first female Queen's Counsellor ("silk"), later  Britain's second female circuit judge. Tony Blair's unjustifiably maligned wife, Cherie Booth (also barrister), contributes.

UK Blunders. Very skilled prof, specialist in UK government/parliamentary affairs, picks  twelve worst political/government blunders costing Brit taxpayer squillions: eg, project to privatise maintenance of London's underground system costs £500m (and two years) to draw up contract.

Bach. Conductor John Eliot Gardner, with musical examples (my throat contracts; tears incipient), talks about great JSB's early life. Has written book.

Curating. Heavily accented, 200-words/min, badly cadenced German (Swiss?) speaks incomprehensibly about art curating turned into conceptual art. Group meets in North London service station, projects movie against side of stationary bus, etc, etc. You know the sort of thing.

Opera. Nathalie Dessay, French coloratura operatic soprano, on eve of retirement, speaks of future career as straight actress. Hopes to live to be 95 and appear in Beckett's Happy Days. Superb technician but range of operas, dictated by her type of voice (clips shown), are all alien to me: esp. Lucia di Lammermoor.

Judge. Brian Leveson, 14 years a judge, now senior, oversaw press behaviour enquiry, speaks on principles of being judge. Lips sealed on many matters but plays straight bat with great style. Many lawyers, even retired judge, ask questions from audience. Deliberate, well-chosen utterances an enormous comfort.

Pol Roger champagne (Winston Churchill's favourite) a super aperitif to dinner that evening.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Hay: Hunger-driven carping

Yesterday at Hay 1. Two slices of toast at home before I left and not a minute throughout the day to snatch a bite until dinner at 20.30; diminishing blood sugar levels a powerful  stimulant to harsh critical reactions.

Edward St Aubyn. Famous for Melrose trilogy of novels. One of VR's favourite stylists. Has lived a tortured life and novels reflect this. Good laconic interviewee, very much in the English style.

Translation. Huge project aimed at pointing out how differences in languages and difficulties in translation of philosophy source books, etc, lead to "foreign" versions of such philosophies. Eg: "justice" in English is thought to embody such ideas as fairness, whereas in France same word is concerned with punishment and penalties. Demanding stuff but worth it.

WW1 novels
by two young women (Shamsie/Young), one from Pakistan, the other English, shockingly badly served by young, inadequate, rambling interlocutor from British Council. He should have been horse-whipped and fed to ravening pigs.

Massive civil engineering projects
involving tunnelling. Including underground railway station, built only 34 meters away from Big Ben in London's Crossrail project. A "high profile project" given that Big Ben already tilts a few millimeters out of vertical (which I didn't know). All ended happily; our legislators were not rained on by falling bell.

Bercow (Speaker of House of Commons). A complete tennis nut has published his choice: Twenty Best Male Tennis Players ever. Equally tennis-nut audience.

Friday, 23 May 2014

A cyber Post-It

What follows must inevitably be boring. Sorry.

Faithful readers will recognise it's that time of year at Tone Deaf. Three days devoted to the Hay Festival with friends up from London (plus, for the first time, grandson Ian), then a rest, then a fortnight at a villa near Beziers. It's what I'm going to do and is thus unamenable to wit or controversy. Again I apologise.

Hay is where I re-charge my intellectual batteries: sixteen sessions intended to prove the width of my interests, but revealing me as nothing more than a dilettante. Reflecting on my so-called career which was based on being familiar with tiny bits of lots and lots. As with:

The latest novel of Edward St Aubyn. Who he? Dunno. Gonna find out.

The difficulties of translating fiction. A perennial fascination.

Rose Heilbron, Britain's first female senior judge.

John Bercow, speaker (ie, chairman) of the House of Commons, also Wimbledon-level tennis umpire.

Conductor John Eliot Gardner, lovingly about Bach.

How to be a museum curator.

The short, unhappy life of Chile's President Allende.

Plus nine others.

JOE'S NUDGE
The Poet's Tongue, my source book, includes more modern stuff and I find familiar lines. This is cheating; blind extracts are our meat. Here's one:

Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.


Reasons why. This is poetry but it's straightforward. You’ve read Joe's Nudge; do you need my help? "Graspest" was aptly chosen but that's what poets do. Same with concise "dreamless head". But read the last line. The meaning’s clear - it could be prose but isn't. Say why. Take a thousand words. Take two thousand. Concentrate on “about”.
Tennyson, 1809 - 1892

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A Northern despatch


Lister's Mill, Bradford. Local legend said you could drive a coach and pair round the chimney top. Few tried.


West Riding strange
Short story, 982 words


Gladys’s mother turned at the door: “I’ll say good-night to you both.”

I bid her good-night.

“Night, mum,” Gladys called from the kitchen.

The door closed behind Mrs Baxter. I said, “Was your mother’s ‘you both’ significant?”

Gladys came in from the kitchen casually holding a tea-towel, she being too magnificent for such an accessory.  “I’m thirty-one. My mother thinks I'm near dead as a woman. She’d match me with the milkman. Not that he isn’t ruddy-cheeked; not that he hasn’t got designs.”

“Ruddy-cheeked? Better looking?”

“Than you? No.”

A judgment delivered dismissively. But then Gladys could do that.

I asked, “Is that your mother’s opinion?”

“This week she asked about the age difference between you and me. Could it be overlooked? I kidded her; said you were already doing that.”

An unlikely image arose; she statuesque on my arm, walking down the aisle of a Noncomformist church in, say, Wyke. The image faded. Out of pure mischief she might take that walk. What was unlikely was the sequel.

She tossed the tea-towel into the kitchen, let it fall where it might. “All that walking. I’m knackered. And for no great reward. I was out of place along the canal towpath.”

“It was the towpath that was out of place."

She smiled. “Clever with your la-di-dahs.”

“You inspire me. Why not stretch out on the couch.”

“I might doze off,” she said.

“No you won’t.” I said. “I’ll see to that.”

She liked me to be ambiguous; hated direct references to her looks. As a reward she sat on the couch and tucked up her feet.

I said, “Can I slide this chair nearer? Your hair fascinates me, always has. I need to work out how you do it.”

“You’ve had plenty of time. All those bus trips up from Forster Square. Peering like a schoolboy.”

“I’ve never been this close.”

She turned her head from side to side to show the arrangement. Said, “I could never understand why it took you so long to ask. It’s not as if you haven’t the gift of the gab.”

“I think you’re a looker, you don’t. But there’s a point where your sort of looks go contrary and become forbidding.” She opened her mouth but I was ahead. “Ironically you’re not remote. You just hate being bored.”

She nodded and had the hair to do it well - as high as the crown the Queen wore for her coronation. Tall yet dignified.

“Have you worked out how?” she asked.

“I might have. Your hair’s pretty long; you probably let it down in the evening. Too spiffy for a solicitor’s office, hence the upsweep. But there’s none of those tight plaits German women used to go in for. You brush it as a vertical column, give it two loose twists, then coil it using pins.”

“One partner said it was too seductive. Having it long.” she said, po-faced.

“Not surprised. Might pervert the cause of justice. It took time to realise you use a very fine net. Even more surprising, the net itself – or rather, its effect – is also stunning.”

“Really!” Her eyebrows rose.

“A reassurance. That the hairdo will survive.”

“You’ve earned yourself a finger-tip tour.” She took my hand and touched it against the side of her head. “You may be surprised.”

“It’s so thick, so springy.”

We were alarmingly close, I could feel her breath. “You consider yourself intelligent,” she murmured. “You’re only inches away. Ask me something else.”

“That pale pink lipstick.”

“Any idea why?”

It was a privilege to be so close. “The shape of your lips. Too much colour and you’d be gilding the lily.”

“Congratulations. But there’s one other question. An oddity.”

Giving me licence to rove the contours. The heavy bones and square chin she so detested, the earlobes with their tiny studs “I’ve always thought…” I broke off, not wanting to find fault.

“Go on. You’re on t’ right track.”

“A lot of make-up?”

She squeezed my hand. “How clever. The price I pay for being brought up close to Lister’s Mill. Underneath, my complexion isn’t anything to boast about.”

“You didn’t have to tell me.”

“I did.”

“But why?”

“Your last opportunity to show how clever you are.”

It wasn’t a mocking smile – my first reaction - it was an expression  of affection. I moved fractionally nearer; her lips parted, her head tilted back. I drew away and bowed down.

“Nay then,” she whispered, slipping back into Bradfordian.

“I’ve teased, played the joker, tried to be what you want. But I’m still one of the extras, no star.”

She raised my chin. “You remember seeing me on the bus? Of course you do. Always on the upper deck. Pretty horrible up there, it’s where the smokers went. My mother told me to stop smoking, it made me look like a man. My knobbly face. She made me cry and I don’t often do that.”

I could smell her perfume, I touched her hair again, knowing I was entitled to that, at least.

“It’s not knobbly,” I said.

“Then what is it?”

“Strong. Capable. The way women need to be in the West Riding. Noble even.”

We both straightened up, apart now. She smiled lopsidedly. “There are admirers;  most irritate me. They can’t choose their words. I’m not beautiful, certainly not pretty. Perhaps I’m sexy but that’s a condition, not a description. Only you tried.”

She stroked my cheek as if she were my mother. “That thing about the canal bank. You have the feel for what touches me.”

“It’s what touches me.”

“There! You did it again. But…”

“Aye, there’s always a but.”

She kissed me on the cheek - the first time and I knew I’d have to make it the last. She said, “I’m twelve years older and it feels strange.”

“West Riding strange?”

“Aye love, West Riding strange.”

READER'S NOTE. The woman (name unknown) existed, as did her hairdo. So did the bus trips she took. I existed, albeit two years younger. The rest is fantasy. Nothing happened before or since.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Full stop. Capital letter

There are certain, rare moments in life when what went before stops dead. When what follows is quite different. Marriage is one obvious junction and ours occurred in 1960. This was Wednesday, December 28 1965. I suspected life would change but it’s taken forty-nine years to say just how much.

In the New York Port Authority building (above) a barber, shaving me with a cut-throat razor, noticed a neck rash and suggested a massage. The rash was not unexpected. More than a day before, wearing a three-piece suit. I had travelled by train from Bradford to Glasgow. A bus had transported me to Prestwick airport on the western Clyde. A propellor plane took eleven hours to fly to Iceland, and seventeen hours to Kennedy. I wore the suit to avoid carrying it, I sweated, a rash formed.

In my pocket was a bus-ticket to Pittsburgh. The carrier was Continental Trailways not, as I had romantically hoped, Greyhound. Romance, curiosity, daring and a year's hard work had brought me to this point. I was about to start a six-year stay in the USA by my own choice.

Six years in a foreign country. Forget the common language, the USA is far more "foreign" than say France and Germany where I had lived for short periods. Its foreignness shaped my life.

When I returned I saw Britain differently. More international, less comfortable. Less charitable, better informed. Secular. More cramped. I was more communal and (inexplicably) more confident. Less prone to cliché. Better informed about industry. I supported US world views until leftwing friends (rare in Pennsylvania) compensated.

There's more but the romantic 1965 innocent with the sore neck had gone for good. A carpet rolled up. But how many other carpets since? We’ll see.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Garden Of Eden disturbed

Brian, our gardener, is my age but fitter. When not dead-heading he trots up the Brecon Beacons.

He's also a Baptist church deacon and rather weak on how souls were saved prior to 0 AD. All those Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon types baffled to find themselves roasting in Hell.

VR and I believe gardens are for sitting in and for contemplating while drinking Bloody Marys. Yet - reluctantly - we must still manage our plot.

This is because Brian is a horticultural conservative who limits himself to secateurs when pruning. Whereas decades of watching Gardeners World on telly (a shriving ritual made bearable with red wine) have taught us more powerful devices are needed.

Thus we bring in Mr Massacre, an Irishman who recently broke his chainsaw cutting back our ivy. Afterwards Brian tuts at the savagery and we wonder whether we have enough vodka. Unnecessary ideological chat ensues

Where every prospect pleases,
And only Man is vile. 


Subsequently added to the above couplet at Lucas's suggestion:

In vain with lavish kindness,
The gifts of God are strown,
The heathen in his blindness
Bows down to wood and stone

JOE'S NUDGE
Oh come one, let's have a real poem, one I recognise immediately without the author’s name. These are later lines to make things slightly harder.

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter for us, like Death, our death.


Reasons why. I feel as if I'm pointing at The Night Watch and saying: "That's good!" The pessimism,  the sense of being a pawn, the realistic ending seeming to justify the pessimism. The weary yet conversational voice. The deployment of language never bettered.

T.S. Eliot. (The) Journey of the Magi

Monday, 12 May 2014

Add to your earthly pleasures

The best bread - squashy, slightly warm - is hardest to manage. Grip it and it collapses in one direction, cut it and it collapses in another, however sharp the bread knife.

Note: My mum called it a "bread saw" but the phrase angers VR. A North vs. South thing.

You need a bread slicer. Oh, no I don't, you say. It would occupy too much kitchen work surface. You would, I promise you.

The action is instantaneous yet sensuous; zing, and it's done. All memories of haggled, torn bread slices, pinched in the middle, despatched into oblivion. Cost £40 at Lakeland, made like a Lexus, infinitely adjustable. Too much? You're buying the aesthetics of a well-designed machine.

Cuts meat too. Zing! Zing! No more dining-table macho and that brouhaha with the steel. But don’t just watch; use it. The rotating steel blade will worry you but it shouldn't; it's designed to be safe. Use it and you'll be seduced. If it were a film star it would be Cary Grant (or Susan Sarandon).

JOE'S NUDGE
You sang it as a shaky school treble? So what? It has survived – magnificently.

Fairest Isle, all Isles Excelling,
Seat of Pleasures and of Loves;
Venus here will chuse her Dwelling
And forsake her Cyprian Groves.

.....

Gentle Murmurs, sweet complaining,
Sighs that blow the Fire of Love,
Soft Repulses, kind Disdaining,
Shall be all the Pains you prove.


Reasons why. Puts you there; says how it will go. Lovers so in love they may tease each other (Soft Repulses, kind Disdaining) - all the better to make up. Brilliant adjectives: all familiar, yet all perfectly set.

John Dryden!!! (1631 – 1700). I was so cruel on April 18 2014.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Do you prefer rose-tinted?

For me there were no golden eras, just dubious memories darkened by conveniently forgotten reality. In those days I was worse informed, worse fed, usually colder, more parochial, more obviously a victim of "things".


Light bulbs popped quicker.

Time wasted buying basics.

Intermittent hot water.

No sliced bread (nor the twenty varieties Tesco offers routinely).

No distant places.

No fridges or freezers (just a delusional "pantry" theory),

Thicker, more inaccessible tins.

Cars that needed perpetual cossetting.

A cash only society.

Compulsory military service.

Unassailable authority.

Shorter lives.

If you've lasted this long, as I have, look around, do an honest balance sheet and conclude one would wouldn't have the fifties back at any price.

JOE'S NUDGE
You're either touched by this or you've bogged down on Optick:

I gave to Hope, a Watch of mine but he
An Anchor gave to me.
Then a old Prayer-book I did present:
And he an Optick sent.

With that I gave a Phial full of tears:
But he a few green ears.
Ah, loiterer! I'll no more, no more I'll bring:
I did expect a Ring.


Reason why. The last line, what else?

George Herbert (1593 - 1633)

Monday, 5 May 2014

Nietzsche on two wheels

The Unloved
Short story 985 words

Brands Hatch has a light-controlled grid where engines are kept running and riders sit astride. Doing away with push-starts which eight-stone Beryl found wearisome; struggling to fire up the Suzuki as male racers roared by on either side. Here she would pick up places before even changing gear.

Beryl fanned the throttle, eyeing the official at the trackside, waiting to cross over, to alert the starter.  Familiar in his blazer, shooting his cuffs, nodding, calm amid the noise. Off he strode.

Down came Beryl’s visor, up went the revs. First gear selected, feet on tip-toe. Sensing not seeing the rev-counter, two kay short of red-line. On the pylon – the first of five lights.

Now! The clutch lever sprung, the bike jagging forward. From behind something hard and massy punched her shoulder but quickly she was away, among the faster starters. Eeee-uh, second gear. Eeee-uh, third. The front wheel felt light from too much power. Roll back? A joke! She braked and heeled right for Paddock.

Beryl hung precisely off the bike, the world aslant, following a file of six, drifting – like her – to the left, into the dip and up towards Druids. Nearing the hairpin a blur of orange, behind on the inside,  coming up fast. Fast, past her and… too fast. A last-year Repsol hard ridden which would – there it went! – run wide at Druids. As she, hugging the line, slipped inside and hurried down to the left-hander.

Graham Hill’s Bend. Quite different now, the marshalls’ station in revetted turf dismantled and cleared away. Protection for track officials but at a price. Gone now.

▌▌Her race was minutes away but she left the Suzuki and watched over the fence. Dennis was worth it. She saw him glide through the others at Paddock, a crowded and scary sight. At the apex he edged forward, testing another rider, making him bottle, drop back. Second now, Dennis had only the Swede to beat. Nip and tuck, the racing he relished. Chances were he’d win.

Eric in filthy overalls stood beside Beryl, smoking, shaking his head. “Not this time,” Eric said.

She was outraged. “Dennis’ll play with him. Show him a wheel most corners. Take him at Stirling with five laps left.”

“Not this time.”

“Thorsson’s grown wings?”

“See his front wheel.”

It took her a couple of laps.

“The brake disc,” she said. “It’s huge.”

“Composites too. The disc costs a grand. But worth it.”

Two more laps and Beryl understood. Normally Dennis would have outbraked Thorsson, moving up, teasing. Today he wasn’t close. Paddock was the key. Beryl saw Dennis’s right hand squeeze the brake lever fifty yards before Thorsson did. Saw the gap widen.

“What can Dennis do?”

Eric shrugged. “Start saving.”

“Dennis won’t give up.”

“That’s what frightens me.”

Dennis, a distant, blurred figure in dark green leathers, seemed to radiate frustration. The smoothness had gone, his helmet rose jerkily, the bike wriggled out of corners. Beryl tested herself: said, risk it through Clearways, carry speed into the main straight, take advantage of her lightweight body.

But Dennis was three stones heavier.

Druids did for Dennis. Raggedly he made up five yards on the approach, kept it tight with his boot scraping the tarmac, then redlined the engine into Thorsson’s slipstream. Beryl knew immediately – he’d stay off the brake on the descent.

But physics is physics. Tyres squealed, the bike jacknifed left and right tossing Dennis aside. Arms and legs outstretched, turning like a propeller, he hit the  marshalls’ station and slid down to bury his helmeted head in the long grass.

Eric said to Beryl, “I’ll start your engine. You’ll have to hurry.”

On the formation lap it had started to rain. During the race the usual leaders diced too hard and slid off. Others too. Beryl finished fourth, her best ever at that time. Riding cautiously.

They had Dennis strapped to a stretcher, waiting for the helicopter, his head between two orange cubes of styrofoam. His eyes were open, his mouth angry. As Beryl bent over he mouthed two words. Soundlessly, but Beryl read his lips: “Fuck off.”

When Thorsson came calling three weeks later at Snetterton it was a natural succession. Dennis, facing a year of physiotherapy, had refused to see Beryl. Poor English had rendered Thorsson socially timid and he was considerate in bed. They shared his motor-home until he returned to trial a rally car in Sweden and kill himself against an obdurate pine tree. In Britain sponsors trucked away the racing bike with its composites disc but nobody claimed the motor-home and Beryl took it over by default. Eric hovered but it was a class thing; Eric was only a mechanic.

▌▌On the fourth lap, now in fifth place, Beryl approached Druids, aware that her hair had loosened and was flapping in the wind. In close racing the sight encouraged some men to try intimidation.

Certain she would catch the fourth place Yamaha she had time to identify the point where Dennis had been forced to brake - vainly - for the left-hander. A good racer, Dennis. But too impatient. A month or two of overtime and he could well have saved up the thousand pounds. Beaten Thorsson the logical way.

Beryl had a composites disc of her own and knew the Yamaha rider didn’t. Overtaking, perhaps at Clearways, would feel like good sex, not least because he was a bloke. Lollopy, too tall for bike racing. Out of the corner she tucked behind the fairing, her shoulder throbbing from the blow at the start, but tasting what lay ahead.

Bike racing was worth risking her life. She’d known that from the start, the hell with what they said about women. But you had to think things out. Dennis didn’t understand. Would he ever race again? He’d been faster than her but would he still be? She rather thought not. It would be good to beat him.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Uncaring youth

During and after the war coal was brought in sacks to our house on a horse-drawn wagon. I had no interest in this.

Men avalanched the coal into our cellar through a small hatch on the side of the house. My mother locked up at 11 pm and I had no key. But I was slender enough to slide through the coal hatch.

Clothing impregnated with coal dust was something I could live with.

Later, as a drinker, I spurned the coal hatch, shinned up the external fall pipe, stood on the horizontal access pipe to the loo, fiddled open the little window, and slid in head first. The tricky bit was avoiding entering the loo head first.

Had the fall pipe pulled away from the house wall I would have fallen twelve feet, broken my back on the cellar steps hand-rail, then continued to fall ten more feet down the steps. At the time I lacked imagination and now regard this as a blessing.

Later, I bought a key.

JOE'S NUDGE

See what you think:

It's in Bolton Hall, and the clock strikes One,
And the roast beef's brown and the boil'd meat's done,
And the barbecu'd suckling pig's crisp'd to a turn,
And the pancakes are fried, and beginning  to burn;
The fat stubble-goose swims in gravy and juice,
With the mustard and apple-sauce ready for use;


Reasons why: Poetically unambitious but enhanced by impeccable ten-syllable-line scansion (read it aloud). The dishes are incorporated without need for word or phrase distortion. The poem practices simple virtues and the rhythm drives our salivary anticipation. This is a meal you could sit down to now – provided you weren’t vegetarian.

R.H.Barham, (1788 – 1845)

NOTE: Lucas, Joe Hyam's brother, has written a poem commemorating the lives of Joe and Heidi, his partner. Read it on http://pomesonpoets.blogspot.co.uk/ even if they are unknown to you.