Monday, 31 December 2007
2) And this year I am really going to be bothered about ruin.
3) And no more sex. I turn 50 in 2008. I have had a good innings: 1000+ and still keen to wield the old willow. But looking back, only about 0.002% of them were sane. Attrition, it was always the attrition.
4) Canadian Air Force 5BX. Because it is unfitting that ones centre of gravity should even begin to resemble a sack of turnips.
5) Cooking. That is what men do, and exceptionally well.
6) Money. Everything I know about money, I learned from the cardboard pennies and threepenny pieces and sixpences which smelt deliciously of my primary school teacher's husband's tobacco tin. Time to move on.
7) Stop being so bloody nice. Without becoming ill-mannered.
8) Eat Tokyo. Graaraargharrgh.
9) What is the opposite of "ambiguous"? Find out and live the life.
10) Get a coffee-table book. And a coffee table to put it on. Simple, achievable.
Sunday, 30 December 2007
Of course I understand why you had to get back to your 16 year old son and nutty labrador. I understand your labrador, and why you keep standing on its paws or falling over it. Same as for the son.
Not exactly rock'n'roll, though. Just saying.
I haven't had a fuck since last February, and I'm not getting any younger, and not slowly either. When men of my age start feeling like sitcom material, we begin to panic. Like hogs in the tunnel we begin to panic.
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
I was doing okay until my Dad pointed out this dyspeptic article in the Times.
Some brand-new Department of State concludes from intensive research that Nigel Slater's recipes can be followed by 10-11 year olds (Entry Level 3 literacy) while Nigella Lawson's chocolate fudge cake defies all human understanding.
It's all about norks, from what I gather. Not cake.
Given the failure of the various Departments of Education in the past couple of decades to educate kiddies even to late-Victorian levels of literacy and numeracy, creating a new Department (DIUS) to correct for the incompetence of the first (DCSF) brings a welcome Boulting Brothers comedy touch to this our Soviet-Union-on-Sea.
No wonder the merry gentlemen in the pic are beaming. And their salaries, expenses and pensions don't cost the taxpayer that much, relatively.
Which leads me to a spot of seasonal smogging - SMOGging as in "Simple Measure of Gobbledygook", a formula which calculates a 'readability' grade from the ratio of polysyllables to words in a chunk of text. My comments on Nigella's norks etcetera scored 12.87, good for a high school graduate / Time magazine reader (note to self - must try harder).
The paragraph above scored 15.85 (some college / New York Times).
I wish you endless post-Festive fun with the SMOG calculator.
Monday, 24 December 2007
I have now spent the best part of four days lying in bed asleep or listening to Radio 4. Which is much less enjoyable than it might sound, even to the most dedicated skiver.
Why must I always drift back into consciousness at the opening music to the Archers, which I loathe?
But this afternoon, the service of seven lessons and carols from King's was awesome, and mixed with memories of the service I went to as a student. The majestic descants of Adeste Fidelis tumbling like a breaking wave. Joy.
Also joyous - drinking a yoghurt, vanilla bean and honey smoothie, impossible to do properly without making glugging noises.
This time last year I was up in Hull with my ex, in a dingy little flat she had rented while persuing her campaign as a wannabe-MP (unsuccessful to date). I started my smoothie, she objected ferociously, citing some extreme and peculiar personal reasons, and I had to go outside to finish it.
No more. Happy glug Christmas glug glug my dear, wherever you are.
Saturday, 22 December 2007
"I think she's got elements a bit like Goebbels in her attitude to culture," the historian told the Guardian. "You remember: 'Every time I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver.' "
No I don't remember. The line comes from a 1933 play by Hanns Johst, "Wenn ich Kultur höre ... entsichere ich meinen Browning."
As any fule, or at least any historian, no.
That is the lift in my apartment block and I have Spotted it and written it down in my new notebook.
Challenging, demanding, rewarding - these words and more apply to the hobby of lift-spotting.
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.
Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.
All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.
But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.
But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.
Jonn Donne, 1572-1631, "A Nocturnal Upon St Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day"
Since the calendar changed to Gregorian in 1752 (and you can see from the timeline on the Wiki page how behindhand the British were) St Lucy's Day is no longer the Winter Solstice.
But who cares, it is also an excuse to post this painting of St Lucy's Day by Carl Larsson (1908).
Friday, 21 December 2007
David McMahon at Authorblog asks two questions for this week's weekend wandering:
If you got the chance to go back to your childhood, whom would you like to say thank you to?
Definitely to the lady who was standing by her garden gate as I aged seven or eight was walking home from school. She gave me a brandy-snap whose deliciousness I still remember. I can still see her vaguely in my mind's eye. And the brandy-snap.
When did you last write or receive a love letter?
That would be 1978, either to or from Heather, who ran off with another woman. Not surprising - a virgin at twenty, I was entirely incompetent sexually, and Gill was evidently not.
On the night of the Seduction, Gill's Mini broke down some where outside Oxford. I was sent out into the rain to find a phone box and call the RAC.
There was a camper van parked in the forecourt of a manor-housey hotel, and a woman who had taken an overdose of pills and was in an hysterical state, abandoned by her lover. It took me an hour or so to calm her down, and then the phone in the call box started to ring.
It was her lover, who kept calling me "my friend" in that vile lower-middle English manner, and thanking me for looking after her. I asked him why he had not helped, and he hung up. He was watching me from somewhere in the hotel. The lights were all out.
So back at last to the Mini, the windows thickly steamed up and...
Blogista: Yes, that is a little on the sad side.
My Christmas present to myself (and what else in this season of Joy matters?): Tolstoy's "War and Peace" in the new and unbeatably excellent translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Not often I stop reading something to laugh in sheer delight. I have even been tempted to sing, which is not a good thing for the world.
Constance Garnett translated many of the Russian classics - by the yard, at speed, with endless silly errors, leaving out passages that looked tricky in order to keep the pace up - into Polite Anglo-Novelese, which more or less wrecks them. For decades her works have been the standard editions.
So when I read War and Peace in the 70s I thought it was impressive in scope but dull as ditchwater, as dull as Dostoyevskii, Turgenev and Chekhov, who had been Garnetted in the same way. Josef Brodsky remarked that the "reason English-speaking readers can barely tell the difference between Tolstoy and Dostoevsky is that they aren't reading the prose of either one. They're reading Constance Garnett."
But this? It is pure delight.
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
Monday, 17 December 2007
Sunday, 16 December 2007
Saturday, 15 December 2007
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
Up to then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for the ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.
Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.
So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
Philip Larkin, "Annus Mirabilis", 1967
We had an Empire once... here is John Dryden's "Annus Mirabilis", 1666, making the best of the Great Plague, the Great Fire and numerous trouncings at the hands of the Dutch.
Those pesky Dutch, eh? Grrrrrr. There follow another 299 stanzas of blatant lying, nowadays known as 'spin'. Though no-one attempts the dignity of rhyme these days, not even rhyme as bad as Dryden's. Grrrrrr.
1 In thriving arts long time had Holland grown,
Crouching at home and cruel when abroad:
Scarce leaving us the means to claim our own;
Our King they courted, and our merchants awed.
2 Trade, which, like blood, should circularly flow,
Stopp'd in their channels, found its freedom lost:
Thither the wealth of all the world did go,
And seem'd but shipwreck'd on so base a coast.
3 For them alone the heavens had kindly heat;
In eastern quarries ripening precious dew:
For them the Idumæan balm did sweat,
And in hot Ceylon spicy forests grew.
4 The sun but seem'd the labourer of the year;
Each waxing moon supplied her watery store,
To swell those tides, which from the line did bear
Their brimful vessels to the Belgian shore.
5 Thus mighty in her ships, stood Carthage long,
And swept the riches of the world from far;
Yet stoop'd to Rome, less wealthy, but more strong:
And this may prove our second Punic war.
Here are the arms from the counter of the "Royal Charles", in the Rijksmuseum. The ship was captured in 1667 when the Dutch raided the Medway.
Blogista: Still awake?
Readers: No. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. None of us have read even this far, actually. Zzzzzzz.
Get your own.
Odd that there aren't any good pics of Epstein's "Visitation" on the interweb. I blame Al Gore and the Treaty of Lisbon.
In any case this sculpture should not be displayed in a garden, it should be standing in a long and gloomy corridor.
Friday, 14 December 2007
Thursday, 13 December 2007
Sunday, 9 December 2007
Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne interrogate Bess Clarke, at Manningtree, Essex, Tuesday 24 March 1645.
Three women recruited by Hopkins and three other witnesses have already sat up through three nights with Clarke waiting for her familiars to appear, without result (women were employed to search people's bodies for signs of witchcraft, plague symptoms, pregnancy in felons hoping to avoid the gallows, and so on).
On the third night, Hopkins and Stearne themselves arrive, wait, and are about ready to leave when
asking only that they should not hurt her, Clarke begged them to stay, adding: 'I will shew you my Impes, for they bee ready to come.'
[she tells of her 'carnall copulation' with Satan, then calls for her familiar Holt, who does not appear. They wait for half an hour]
Then Hopkins, Stearne and the other watchers became aware of another presence. Before their eyes crept a white creature, like a cat but smaller, which silently greeted its mistress before retreating into the shadows. Next she called 'Jermarah!' According to Hopkins, 'there appeared an Impe like to a Dog, which was white, with some sandy spots, and seemed to be very fat and plumpe, with very short legges, who forthwith vanished away.' The one after that, 'Vinegar Tom', Stearne described as 'like a Greyhound, with legs as long as a Stagge.' There followed an imp resembling a polecat or ferret, and one like a toad. Were there more? asked Hopkins. The same ones would return in different shapes, Clarke replied, but there was another who had not yet appeared: a black beast called 'Sacke & Sugar', still out at work. It would be home soon, she promised, and would tear Master Stearne into pieces for trying to have her swum in the river. But when 'Sacke & Sugar' finally arrived, it seemed to be no more than a harmless rabbit. None the less, Clarke assured Stearne he was lucky it had not leapt onto his face, squeezed itself down his throat, and deposited 'a feast of Toades' in his belly.
Malcom Gaskill, 'Witchfinders', 2005.
Clarke was hanged at Chelmsford on Friday 18th July. The whole story is a fascinating and tragic one.
I would like to read the original accounts. Gaskill remarks of the trial, "the names of the imps in the indictment were surely the inventions of Satan", I am not clear whether this is a paraphrase or Gaskill's embellishment. The names sound to me like perfectly common, even traditional, names for domestic pets, which makes the lurid accusations seem even more pathetic.
and here a brilliant Boer couple, Piet and Tonny Kamper, who totally swing it rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
The Karl Denver Trio yodel valiantly while time bears its sons away (and the sweater girls who appear at 01:05:45:18 or thereabouts)
Bert Kaempfert and the Kriegsmarine bring this to your local elevator (pity, but this is the one your louche Aunt, whom the family won't talk about ever, loved)
while the Kingston Trio, after a little light backchat, give a spirited account
The Edlos, from the Bay Area... cutie alert (I don't mean the bloke in the hat)...
The Flying Pickets have also covered Wimoweh, but this is "Only You" because it reminds me of losing the only woman I ever really loved in 1983, and also Deirdre and Catherine in short order after that. And Gillian.
I have Brian Eno's "Wimoweh" on the original 45 in store somewhere in Fulham. I hope.
Nobody's Friend for all your Wimoweh / Mbube needs.
Box Dancers Everywhere: We've broken an ankle and torn a ligament, but thank you thank you thank you.
Blogista: My pleasure.
Box Dancers Everywhere: It's the way you can swing your hip on the offbeat at the third corner, and wave your hands in the air when...
Blogista: Really, don't mention it.
Let's get echt.
I mean really echt.
Theodcyninga, thrym gefrunon...
Memorise the next few lines, recite them fiercely from a streetside cafe table (Starbucks? Noooo we do not do Starbucks, wee-wee has its attractions but there are limits), and...
Just say "hwaet!", most of the punters will be enthralled by that alone.
Saturday, 8 December 2007
Readers: How do we know that you aren't in Holyhead? Or Farnham?
Readers: And how do you know that we aren't?
Blogista: I think it is a fair assumption that...
Readers: "Assume" begins with an "ass".
Blogista: I'm more of a tits man, myself.
Readers: Fehhhhhh we all know that's not true.
Thursday, 6 December 2007
Not vanished spirits, varnished sprits. Joke.
"One evening coming in with a candle I was startled to hear him say a little tremulously, 'I am lying here in the dark waiting for death.' The light was within a foot of his eyes. I forced myself to murmur, 'Oh, nonsense!' and stood over him as if transfixed.
"Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn't touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror -- of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision -- he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:"'The horror! The horror!'"
Marlowe is, at one remove, the Narrator. He is, as he always is in this story, wrong.
Joseph Conrad, "Heart of Darkness", 1902
Monday, 3 December 2007
oh, and the pearly cocktail onions and cocktail sausages and waxy maraschino cherries if you were really sophisticated...
and the green maraschino cherries if you were really --- sophisticated...
There was Buck the Schmuck (hello, Buck), first student in Cambridge to own a digital watch, a bezeled brick-sized thing which he'd poke around with a while before announcing, "the time is precisely..." as if anybody gave a shit. He is probably now a Captain of Industry. I still have to try hard, to manage my time to the nearest month.
The universal belief that if you tasted the wine, and didn't send it back for being 'corked', you had to drink all of it however poisonous, and could never get your money back or another bottle in its place. That is why all English restaurants sold only Bull's Blood or Blue Nun (re-labelled) at 1000% markups, to claw back the cash from...
Buck the Schmuck (indeed), who insisted that a glass of wine with the teensiest speck of cork in it was 'corked'...
(a passing flip of the paw to the Polish girl in a tacky Mehican restaurant in Preston Street, Brighton, who poured me a huge slug of wine from m'bottle, looked at it in horror, and rushed away to throw it down the sink, because it had the teensiest speck of cork in it. Thanks for a nearly sober evening, devushka)...
There was London under leaden autumn skies, all the buildings still black with ancient soot, the rigid pink napery and weighty cutlery on the table in an Italian restaurant in Soho, a postprandial whore at Frith or Greek Street or at Shepherds Market, a brandy or two in a smelly pub and the last train home at 10:35...
And the innumerate Buck the Schmuck (again), first 'pocket' calculator in &c, a million times slower than my then intensely fast mental arithmetic, but people were beginning to believe only in machines.
And Buck the Schmuck (si monumentum requiris) whose wallet had a concertina of plastic containing about 1,000 of the new 'credit card' things - he would order his lady (foxy - 1970s!) a drink (rum'n'black - 1970s!) and accidentally let it dangle to the floor as he moved to pay. Which got him no more sex than my fumblings for the last of my change in my Oxfam zoot suit, viz zero.
I used then to have a body like Michelangelo's "David" and an impenetrable innocence. Now I'm more a sack of spuds powered by the two-stroke motor of lust. Neither works.
Sunday, 2 December 2007
(update : and even the "пуск" bit would appear to be a lot of hokum, going by the actual 'real' video. So it never happened, but then again what ever did? Poosk!)
As seen in this BBC kakarealnostmeloodramoo: could they be implying the young man's famous smile was helped along by panzer schokolade or similar?
(update : it wasn't, but Cold War II is on the way and propaganda is what the state broadcasting corporation is there for)
Note the risible attempts at smoking going on here - it will soon be a forgotten art, and then how will you know who the baddies are? They will have to take to wearing black hats again. Oh, they are. Belt and braces, eh, Aunty Beeb?