Sunday, November 25, 2012

3BT, 25th November 2012

A little flock of starlings are “grazing” on the west end of Clapham Common, a minute or two on the grass alternating with a minute or two in one then another of the big trees.  Their gentle conversations are carried on in soft sweet whistlings.  The morning sun is very low, barely grazing the rooftops and as they fly away before wheeling back towards me, so their glossy backs catch the light and turn from steely grey to shining bronze.

I download a novella from Project Gutenberg, first published in 1888 by Henry James, called the Aspern Papers.  By “editing” every line whilst I transfer it from one page format to another, I am able to read it closely.  In the first paragraph, I learn that the setting is Venice, a favourite location.  How easily he evokes the charm of an old palace by the naming of parts.  And then he makes me smile at his protagonist’s gentle folly … on every page.

The soggy leaves are breaking down in to a brown porridge along the verges and hedgerows.  I had hoped for an opportunity to gather and preserve some dry leaves for a little memorial bonfire at the solstice.  I remember sitting in the cab of the truck during a morning break last week before the storms, and watching a fat wood pigeon who was pottering amongst such dry leaves at the kerbside until a curious squirrel had approached.  The wary bird took off vertically and the downdraught from his beating wings left a clear circle, about four feet in diameter, as the leaves were blown aside.

best headline of the week so far ... Mark Kennedy sues police for 'failing to stop him falling in love'

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

when we used to drive cars for a living, my wonderful friend joe bialik asked what i thought was the best driving record ever ? ... maybelline, maybe !

ecoutez ...

MaybelleneMaybellene, why can't you be true
Oh Maybellene , why can't you be true
You've started back doin' the things you used to do 

As I was motivatin' over the hill
I saw Mabellene in a Coup de Ville
A Cadillac arollin' on the open road
Nothin' will outrun my V8 Ford
The Cadillac doin' about ninety-five
She's bumper to bumper, rollin' side by side

The Cadillac pulled up ahead of the Ford
The Ford got hot and wouldn't do no more
It then got cloudy and started to rain
I tooted my horn for a passin' lane
The rainwater blowin' all under my hood
I know that I was doin' my motor good

Solo guitar 


The motor cooled down the heat went down
And that's when I heard that highway sound
The Cadillac asittin' like a ton of lead
A hundred and ten half a mile aheadv The Cadillac lookin' like it's sittin' still
And I caught Mabellene at the top of the hill

Solo guitar 

Monday, November 19, 2012

a suitably patriotic colour choice for an incognito expedition to ponty market in search of a dozen welsh cakes ...

... you could drive the effing thing right up to the effing counter in the effing market just like effing macdonalds

coming to a charity shop near you in the impending agony of choice season ... you wish !

picture via the wonderful "pleasurephoto"

the eternal optimist, indefatigable after a lifetime on the twail of the clapham common meta-wabbit

Sunday, November 18, 2012

later ... i wonder if it's too late to call a cab and knock on the door of 221b Baker Street ?

of course, if it happened in aberystwyth, then ...

after my pocket was picked in jermyn street this afternoon ...

... i went in to the churchyard of saint james' in piccadilly and sat on a bench until i'd regained some of my composure.  On weekdays the flagstones are usually hidden by stalls selling books and trinkets.  Today I found this stone laying right at my feet. James Gillray !

A favourite illustrator ...

... so just thinking of him lifted my spirits !

Saturday, November 17, 2012


On a straight path across the Common, in pouring rain, a figure moves briskly from my left to the centre of my field of vision, then turns and walks quickly ahead of me and the old dog.  An athletic young woman, lean and shapely, with black hair, in a black sweater, black tights and black boots, carrying a black rucksack.  She moves with metronomic elegance.  The soles of the boots are a pinky sort of red, like a water melon, and she is walking beneath a brolly of the same colour.  Boots and brolly are diffusely reflected on the wet asphalt path. 

On the 87 bus which is trundling from Battersea Library towards The Aldwych, a lovely and vivacious British-Jamaican lady wearing a scarlet coat wedges herself against a rail near the front and preaches loudly to the packed and captive audience, her voice full of raucous energy and laughter, on the theme of being grateful to Jesus for Life, and then she sings All Things Bright And Beautiful … badly, but with amazing grace.

At the Wellcome Foundation there is a book-stand in the shop, displaying the short picture book for the exhibition, a rich yellow jacket, the colour of English mustard, lettered in black … Death, it says on the side of the stand, books and gifts to die for.  A small boy appears and stops there, wearing the same colours, yellow jeans, black T-shirt, and with the palest freckles and pale ginger hair. Life !

Friday, November 16, 2012

off to Fortnum's later to check out their stock of Plymouth Sloe Gin

the burning question is .. can this year's window dressers attain the standards of the last ?

see the blog for last december 24th ...

bad advice just pours out of me and my big mouth

after baring his chest for the cardiologist, a friend just learned that he has an inherited heart defect

so now he is sleepless and panicky

i consoled him with the notion that he has already survived sixty years with it

but then i couldn't stop myself from blurting out

"perhaps you should be baring your chest down at the tattoo parlour ... capital letters instructing DO NOT RESUSCITATE !"

time the coastguards put out a general mermaid warning to all shipping ...

Monday, November 12, 2012

old neuro-science, well 2007 ...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

3BT, 11th November 2012

One.  After four or five days of prevarication, I find a suitable sentence to end a letter, using a freshly discovered story about real people who are long gone.  A story that still has no proper ending but will leave my readers’ eyebrows shooting up with a mixed note of suspense, incredulity, and scandalized laughter.

Two.     More than twenty years ago, some friends took me up on to the roof of Painswick House on a moonlit night.  You could make out distant hills and woods whilst the polished sky was so bright.  We had explored the lovely library of the house and I had re-discovered there that slightly scandalous poem by Edna St Vincent Millay which begins “ I being born a woman, and distressed …”   and so I showed it there and then to a third party whose willing person I was developing a passion for at that time, a passion that growed and growed, but has long since been set aside.

I, being born a woman and distressed 
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body's weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn wtih pity, -- let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

A lovely moment that I had since forgotten. But, anyways, The Loved One hath brungen home a precious and scholarly booke, Sir Roy Strong’s The Artist and The Garden, and she placed it on the lectern by the window after I’d hurriedly read the first two chapters.  So, this morning, sleepless again, after about a week of intermittent and aimless page-turning, I was looking at one of the less spectacular brown pictures, printed small, and was admiring it’s decorative painted border.  

It was painted by Thomas Robins in 1748 and is a poorly drawn representation of the “folly” named “Pan’s Lodge”, in the grounds of that same Painswick House, but is an imaginatively and splendidly preposterous invention on the part of the Artist.  As Strong puts it, “Robins turns the grounds of Painswick House in to a rococo reverie of frolicking satyrs”.  However, Robins’ value as an artist was in his talent for lively incident and he had produced a border full of birds, and even a bird’s nest, so that the border distracts the viewer from the picture's subject.  

It was about five in the morning when I discovered this picture and a bright crescent moon had just appeared outside my window, next to a brilliant star.  In that moment, which only lasted a few seconds, whilst my swivelling eye began to take in the details for the first time, and as I compared Robins' delineation of the two owls, so there came from the dark trees only a few feet away, the real hoot of a real owl.

Three.    Later still, whilst re-reading between the lines of a very good book that I’m “editing” about those dead persons, making some new intuitions, joyfully, though too late in life to be of great use, about what is sensibly called “Women’s Intuition.” A subject which should be part of the National Curriculum.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

the guardian prints an extract from an Owen Sheers poem which seems entirely appropriate for this weekend

photo from the internet .... (Reuters/USAF/Senior Airman Tyler Price)

Home to Roost (extract)

By Owen Sheers
I don't remember any of what happened.
Just those howls, like dogs, as we drove out.
The fields and trees all black and green.
Perhaps some of the very first rounds.
But nothing else.
I had to pick it all up second hand,
as my hearing came back in the chopper,
and then again in Bastion.
How when my driver had reversed
he'd hit a roadside IED.
How the explosion had hit a fuel tank, or ammo tin
right under me.
Shot me out, like a jack in the box,
60 feet. And then how it had all kicked off.
Rockets, grenades. The lot.
They took me straight to Rose Cottage.
A special room in the medical centre
deep among the tents and containers of Bastion.
A room for the lads or lasses who'd taken a hit,
which even the surgeons on camp couldn't fix.
It was manned, back then, by two blokes,
staff sergeants Andy and Tom. It was them
who took me in, off the ambulance,
and into their room. It smelt of sweet tea.
"That scent," Andy said to me. "It's the Eau de Toilette. Rose.
The Afghans insist we spray it on their guys."
"Don't worry though Arthur," Tom added on my other side.
"You'll soon get used to it. We did."
And then they laughed. Not for themselves
but for me, I could tell. And they carried on talking too,
chatting me through all they'd do,
as they put what they'd found of me onto a shelf,
saying "sorry it's so cold Arthur",
which it was, like a fridge.
Then they said "sleep well" before sliding it shut.
My first night of three in Rose Cottage.
I saw them again just before I left.
When they slid me out into the light again,
still passing the time of day
as they placed me in the coffin
that would carry me home.
Always calling me by name.
"Not long now Arthur."
"You'll be back in no time."
Gently, they lowered the lid
then, like two maids making a bed,
they unfolded, smoothed and checked for snags,
before draping me in the colours of the flag.
• From Pink Mist, a verse drama by Owen Sheers, to be published next year by Faber. Theatre of War, a documentary about the play Sheers created with wounded soldiers, The Two Worlds of Charlie F, is on BBC2 on 13 November.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

sweet voices of reason ( part 99 ) ... oliver sacks talks about what hallucinations can tell us about human conciousness

and a subsequent book review from will self ...

and one from new york

Saturday, November 3, 2012

turned out nice again ...

in conversation with dev ...

i took dev by surprise for this picture, holding the camera in my lap whilst we talked on a sunny park bench

we'd been talking about kindness and tolerance and he suggested that england was a far kinder place than india

we have pensions and welfare, and he has no fear of being neglected here on account of age and infirmity

then he went on to talk about dogmatism and conformity, saying that in india a family would often expect an unmarried daughter to commit suicide if she was having a child

and then he said that although he no longer believes in heaven and hell, he'd rather go to hell in the company of a "pandit", than go to heaven with ten thousand conformists

the vulcan can no longer fly

when i was a teenager, during the difficult times we called the cold war, one might sometimes hear a single vulcan on its way north during a still night

they were armed with atom bombs and were supposedly prepared to cross the baltic if required, on their way to bomb strategic targets in russia, if war had broken out between east and west

the idea was that they would fly in beneath  the radar whilst everyone was watching the exchange of inter continental ballistic missiles far above them

the engines crackled and roared like no other plane i knew and sometimes i fancied you might glimpse the flames as the plane climbed

i often used to wonder if tonight was the night ?

but the thought only came to me some decades later that we had been living "in a moral vacuum"