Monday, February 27, 2006

Pup-Pup-Puppy Power

She Had No Minders

Listening to a long remix of something by White Dove I didn’t know I had.

Lovely bells on it!

Well from higher concerns in the previous post to something which really annoys me. I seem to remember that Sherbet Fountains used to have a hole all the way through the liquorice stick so that you could get a nice kick as the dusty stuff hit the back of your throat. Of course I may be misremembering that but now they just have a stick of liquorice rendering them impotent – simply Sherbet Dabs with an edible stick. Has some EU regulation kicked in to prevent small children injuring themselves with an overly-ambitious inhalation of powder or maybe kids were using the sticks up their nose, a sort of “my first line”.? Aha! H2G2 seems to suggest that the sticks got blocked after the first few sucks and were no use anyway so the company must have decided to save money by getting rid of their liquorice boring equipment. Not that my diet allows me any sherbet, fountains, dib-dabs or throat-blasters anyway.
Dangerously Close To getting To A Point

I met that there MP of ours yesterday. I say met; I ran into her as she was leaving a social event which my daughter attended. I buttonholed her on various issues not least of which was the current situation with our adventures in the Middle East. Not worrying that the location was unsuited to an old-style political slanging-match regarding vast differences of opinion between the population and the Government – though I did acknowledge the flaws within the whip system – I ploughed on. She seemed genuinely taken aback and when I got onto the problems caused by the privatisation of various elements of the NHS which appear in some cases, to have led to deaths and upset, her burly minders were summoned from amidst the throng to indicate her displeasure at being harangued during what was after all a Church Service. I was escorted from the room to a mixture of cheers and boos.

Well I wanted all this to happen. What I actually did was smile slightly and walk on by. She did vote for the total smoking ban after all – and probably the hunting ban so she’s alright really. Hundreds of hours of intense and detailed political debate about those two are a really good use of Parliament’s time don’t you think? And why do you need to have any discussion about going to war?

But seriously folks, back to the privatisations. Two example of what I am sure the Government will put down to “teething problems” (The situation regarding dentistry is another one but I probably only mention that for a cheap political pun). The first one is the change to the system supplying oxygen to patients at home and the other is the new IT system for handling children’s vaccination records. The bottom line is that the changes to the systems are to save money. Now I am all for accountability over the finances of the NHS and I am sure you can see the foreshadowing of the old chestnut of how we can sink billions into empire-style escapades in hot and dusty places and yet hospitals seem to be funded by tombolas, but sometimes the quality of service gets hidden in a fog of structures, initiatives and action-plans. When women recently delivered of still-born babies receive requests to take the children for vaccination, there is something badly wrong. Of course, the article was in the Guardian and there maybe a talk-up of the issue for political point-scoring. It may have happened under the old system but the problem now is that it has happened under the new whizzy system which was, on the back of the fuzzy – money-saving reasons, supposed to improve the service. Sometime No-Change is very sexy indeed.

Not that being called in to get a child vaccinated means much these days. The take-up on the MMR is so low as to be worthless in our area. Many millions of words have clogged up every organ from the Star to Private Eye regarding how dangerous the Triple-Jab actually is, and I have not read most of them but both of our children have had the jab. My view is that the increase in the incidence of autism is partly down to lack of proper social interaction with children. The pathways set-up in the brain by the two-way flow of all sorts of stimuli are being modified by the significant change in how we treat kids these days. Now Bill Gates may seem to be a fluffy-cat short of being a James Bond villain, but his vaccination program is a feature so redeeming that I am able to forgive him for Visual-Source-Safe.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Culchur Vulchur

Things to not like about today –

Sleet on the way in – neither Snow nor not Snow. No use to anyone!
Having to listen to a long discussion about Sarah Kennedy in the site kitchen.

Things to like about today –

Possibility of real snow later – though hopefully after I get home.
The thought that I will probably never get to meet Sarah Kennedy.

Half-term seems to have been used as an excuse to visit some arty-type places and we have been no exception – nice new look by the way Ed. Apparently our gallery of choice was on TV last week though I cannot find any reference to it but my dad saw it. ‘Twas the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight which you may think has lots of soap adverts. You would be right but most of it is devoted to less commercial things such as one of the finest collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the country and a lot of Pre-Raph drawings which are the current subject of a display. Daughter was happy with the quiz-book style sheets displaying details from various pictures which had to be located and noted. Son was just quiet and inscrutable. Not sure if that is in the armoury of the art critic but he didn’t shout so we were happy. The walls of the main room are chock full of huge paintings including one of my favourite Pre-Raphs – The Scapegoat – I am not sure why I like it so much – a manky old goat in the middle of a very blasted landscape does not sound particularly arty but it is, so there!

There is a strange corner of the main hall with two paintings which seem to have wormholes from the gallery to the places they depict. The first is 'The shortening winter's day is near a close’ by Joseph Farquharson. The copy at the link does not convey this but I felt like putting gloves on. The other one does not seem to be on the LL website; I think it was called A Breezy Day and was simply a beautifully-painted, deep-blue sea with a few yachts in the middle distance. The wind came out of the frame and the sea moved just like the picture of The Dawn Treader that Lucy, Edmund and Eustace (The abominable little prig) fell into. The fact that it is missing from the website makes me wonder if I didn’t dream it.

And one final topical drawing to be found here.

Day was not spoiled by the young man attempting to eat some berries that helpfully dangled into his reach as we walked along the side of the gallery.

Monday, February 20, 2006

50th Floor New York – With Diamonds

I dreamed of Manhattan last night, a weird dark version of the real place, like being inside in some old play from the seventies. The video cannot quite catch the depth of colour and instead comes up with some warm leathery feel to the world. I know that New York cannot really be filmed inside a studio but that is what it felt like. I walked along the river edge up where the tourists queue for the boat to Liberty Island and the squirrels wait patiently for dropped food. It should have been sunny but we were indoors alright; it was stuffy and shaded in a way that made it difficult to read anything. Even the water seemed still in a way that it would in the sink after being left for a few minutes. Maybe it was supposed to be a studio. I don’t know. Many people were leaning on the waterside railings, staring out to the statue or looking for Ellis Island, where some were thinking that their ancestors came ashore or were sent back. What else was it like? Maybe an Edward Hopper painting, like that one of the Diner – nighthawks I think.

I can smell the years of smoke, soaked into the warm chairs of this place, the breathing in of the many men who have sat in these seats, telling their stories to each other, drinking their whiskey and smoking their foul smokes until the early morning and here we are, youngish and concealed in their world, wondering why we are here. Those still here this late, seem to speak some strange language though they look as American as possible for Americans. We would be more at home in a cheap bar or café, eating breakfast eggs and drinking strong coffee to get us home, back to the tall hotel that lets us sleep away from the traffic and sirens of the toy streets down below. I want to go on the roof but my friends will not let me so I slip away and sit amongst the fans and pipes and railings that cover the asphalt. The litter can reach up here; any contamination must come from the sky so maybe it is Carbon Dioxide from the planes that stretch their vapour trails over this city, the screaming jets taking all these New Yorkers back to where they came from, before the Mayflower or Vespuggi. As well as the planes, the river below, lit by sun, is full of huge ships, fish in this sea-river, bouncing the light from the horizon up here. What if they converged on me, reflecting all the sunlight at me? I would fry, steaming in the rays as I stagger for the doorway to below. But they won’t.
My Diction Is Impeccable; It’s my Brain That’s a Mess.

Listening to - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One by Yo La Tengo

Reading – The Ghost Road by Pat Barker.

My wife was most disgusted at BBC4 showing one episode of Rik Mayall’s reading of George’s Marvellous medicine as part of Jackanory Night yesterday. She insists it would encourage bad behaviour. She wasn’t taken by Alan Bennett’s reading of Winnie-the-Pooh for the final episode either; she thinks Pooh should be read in RP. Tell it to the Americans who seem to have turned the Bear of Little Brain into some sort of backwoods’ hick rather than the gentle English Teddy he really is. I wonder what AA Milne would have thought. Could he be aa milne, a sort of kids’ ee cummings? My wife only ever saw one episode of Jackanory and despite being under whelmed with last night’s offerings, was upset that she had missed the rest. I fail to understand how she could have missed it, it being on every school day. I still watched it when I was at college and only failed to keep up with it to the end due to the demands of work days ending after it had been on. What with all the extra space on digital, should they not think about re-showing some of the classic ones? Or is that against the policy of trying to fill every possible moment of broadcast time with interactive and primary coloured dross?

It has come as a shock to me that I do not speak RP. I talk in a shallow version of ‘Eschuary’ English. In fact trying to pronounce ‘Estuary’ with the proper ‘t’ rather than the sloppy and easy ‘ch’ shows me up for the slacker I really am. Practise is required. I am not expecting any calls to come and read Winnie-the-Pooh for a triumphant return of Jackanory. Oh No! Maybe I have always had a lisp. All that trouble at school. It’s all so clear now. There is also some Scouse in there, if not in accent, in the use of some dialect. I’m not made-up about that.

I checked whether the car needed the windows de-icing this morning by running a finger across the glass of the quarter-lights at the back. It was just condensation so I got in and sat down, but flicking on the wipers revealed that the windscreen was solid and indeed in the dark the whole car was encased, leaving the interior shaded in some evil luminescence that gave me a sense of being detached from the real world. Actually it was not unpleasant and I could see the attraction of simply staying there, turning the radio on and just chilling (in more than one sense). Gary Numan knew what he was talking about. An old memory was sparked, though nothing entirely concrete, just a strange recurring thought about tea in the café at Bristol Zoo which always comes to me with a weird afternoon thunderstorm feel. I was probably under five years old when that happened but it comes back as a sort of ambivalent sort of feeling regarding the outside world being quite threatening but being with mum and dad was able to shut it all out. My dad is still around, fitter than I am but my mother died over 30 years ago, which I suppose is one reason for the mixed feelings over this. I am not making this at all clear am I? I know the feelings but not being a proper story-teller, I cannot express it in any way that is likely to convey the full depth of experience. I like afternoon thunderstorm feeling, possibly because I like the clean air after the positive Ions have been zapped. I like the light, which gels with my liking the dark better than the light.

I am not sure why I have decided to put myself though The Ghost Road. To Serve Them All My Days had the decency to not describe the horrors of the trench war in any detail, because the author respected the fact that he could never describe something so horrible that he had not been through. That was the beauty of it; you got a window onto the world then, enough detail to explain the actions of the hero. It seems that people are more and more prepared to detail the most horrific things, things which they cannot possibly experience. We cannot say whether those experiences are right or wrong. I have been moved by many of these stories and films but am I right to think that maybe I am being manipulated into thinking a particular way?

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Crown For A Peasant

There is the last one, strung across the barbed wire, face down, a diver into hell from the hell they gave him on earth. I close my eyes against the shakes again, imagining him arcing up to heaven with God at his side. But this means nothing to those of us left behind because even the thought of eternal life fades out in comparison to these muddy places. Oblivion is about all we can hope for. I don’t know if he is there but at least he is not here.

I think I cannot trust myself to pick up this one, apart from the terrible possibility of his complete physical disintegration; there is the chance of my mind following him. I turn myself round, smuts in my eye again I think but maybe it is fear. Of course it is fear. After a few times, I used to like looking at the faces until they began to turn up in my dreams, blackened heads with mud for hair and worse things. Now I get them out of my sight and back to collection places.

Someday they will put up nice fields of flowers around these limed pits, something to remember them all by, somewhere for the relatives to come and see but why spend all the money on that? Money, the politics that lead to war, they are all the same thing when you compare it to what we live through. Maybe the historians will throw old battles back at me, a pile of sentences, dry as dust, a justification in the style of this is the way its always been; the intelligent ones send us animals out to fight for them. This time it’s different; the machines guns stutter out far more of the officers than they can replace from the gentlemen who started out commanding us and now down the ranks they are picking up anybody. They have broken the ceiling which kept us apart and us rough clods know how things are for the world. Maybe in the long run this will be then end of the partition, some sort of revolution. In the end we are all equal and those of us who get back will tell everyone. We will make sure everyone will remember and the world will change. I want to be sure than in 100 years time, the people, none of whom have gone to fight, will remember what we went through. Maybe it will just fade in their memory and then it will start all over again.

We should take photographs; write home, all the things that the old soldiers could not do. I think of the old bowmen, stumbling back into their villages, quiet and resolved to be happy for those that loved them and sad for those who have no one to come home to them. They didn’t say how terrible things were, but we can. We don’t need the wars, except to get revenge for the death of some fat aristocrat or the need to make profit from other things. Sometimes I feel that I must be mad saying this, because from call-up to this moment, everyone has been good to us. Even the Germans carried some of our wounded men back to our trenches. That is what is so mad; in minute a man can go from machine gunning a man to cleaning a wound he himself inflicted. It’s the same with all these conventions and treaties. How can you make rules about war? It’s not a game you can define. Even the honourable players have to deceive the enemy; no one stands up like in a duel to allow the other fellow to get a good shot. If we could go invisible by selling our souls to the devil (as if we haven’t already) we would do it to creep round the back of the trenches and then drop on the Bosch like Greek fire. And then we would patch up the burns and send them home, if they survive. Where can we say we will not be sneaky, that we will not carry out atrocities? Then the lucky ones will pack up, go home and pretend to our families that we were all good.

I sometimes wonder if those back home, believe what is happening out here, well what they are told by the newspapers. One day the war will end and could we ever go back to good relations? We cannot get over that feeling of resentment that must remain. I dreamed of the end of the war last night but I saw clouds and darkness in the heart of the countryside. Not the poor wretches who live around here for they will come back to this wasteland and make it green and pleasant again. No, I see the celebrations on one side and the despair on the other. And then it starts all over again. War on war on war without end. Machine guns will chatter down through this century and the next and when we are all fought out in this small muddy corner, we will join together and find someone weaker than ourselves to start playing with. Those boys who made the tanks will think up bigger and better things to kill people with until the young men (and probably the women as well by then) will just be rank-upon-rank marching into deep pits as the guns cut them down. Those are my dreams at the moment.

We will make it back tonight, for it seems very quiet. I can only look forward to bad food, welcome though it will be and some reading in the corner. All those brave big men who came out here, ribbing us quieter ones over our books, are either dead or huddle with us, borrowing our poems and stories of green home. Bet the Germans are the same, only just over there. I could shout and ask them with no effort. What are you reading jerry? Want to send it over? I can swap you for The Rubaiyat. Got a fag?
Time For A Few Jars Down At The Old Snuff And Whippet.

150 years since the death of Heine.

The lamp-posts in the new village round here all seem to have a few crows on them this morning; enough to make me keep half an eye out for a fat man with a cigar. This feeling is not helped by the slightly unsettling light of this time of year.

We started watching To Serve Them All My Days in order last night which is why the death of Heine is up there as he was mentioned in the second episode. I have to say that I seem to have forgotten most of the atmosphere of the original though it is in no way disappointing. Andrew Davies’ involvement is obvious with a definite similarity to his adaptation of Pride and Prejudice though I think Jane Austen actually wrote the jokes in that from what my wife said. Must read it I suppose. Too many books! I need to define reading time rather than just getting the odd moment before sleep.

PJ’s service in the trenches has made me realise that I no longer know anyone who remembers the First World War. One of my aunts was born in 1912 and could just about remember the tail end of hostilities. I never actually asked her about that because she was an officer in charge of the radar operators on the south coast during what Giles would always refer to as ‘The Last Lot’. Of course that was much more interesting to talk about. With her being a maths teacher in real life she was the only person in the family able to talk about Horizon programmes. I should have asked her more before she died. Both of my Grandfathers were in the army, one as an officer (for a short time before he ‘relinquished the commission’ (See here for more). His brother joined up and was killed in France and a relative of his (and therefore mine of course) was Albert Farrar Gatliff who as a general was a pallbearer for the Unknown Soldier. My other grandfather had a more lowly rank – I need to ask my Dad about that. My father’s father was born in 1900 so he must have joined up towards the end of the war.

My wife made comment about the descent of my family down the social scale calling herself ‘A docker’s daughter’. I got angry at this hopefully in an endearing, old-style socialist sort of a way. Her father lied about his age during WWII in order to join The Marines and was discovered (according to family legend) and sent home from The Hood before it was sunk by the Bismarck. (A submariner who was on the same ward as me when I was in hospital said that so many men were sent home from the Hood that it was wonder that it had any crew left.) When he eventually managed to join up properly, he finally got posted out east on The Duke of York just in time to be in the honour guard for Admiral Bruce Fraser arriving in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese Surrender. This is not legend as we have photos. He was probably disappointed at not seeing action and it certainly makes him an equal if not a better to anyone in my family.

All this has been done at a rush. It needs to be structured better.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hey! What Troubles You?

Theme for the week’s titles is obviously an exclamation followed by a question! Or is it?

Drama overload here at the moment. I finally felt flush enough to splash out on the boxed set of To Serve Them All My Days which is waiting patiently for anything more than the quick scan I did last night. The reason for a not-instant viewing is that we had the DVD of Vera Drake to watch last night. I think I had the normal male jitters about a film with such a subject matter. However, despite the downbeat ending, the little details and implied connections (surprising for A Mike Leigh film I thought) bring about a feeling of colour and evocation of the period that lifts the story above the sordid tale it could have been given the water-cooler thumbnail sketch of the plot that most people know. I’m not sure it would change the mind of people with particularly polarised views on abortion but then I suspect Mike Leigh does not ever try to change opinion, rather he presents a story and lets you make up your own mind. The only point that this film could make legitimately, is that possibly the only ‘wrong’ in the film is that society pressurises people to do illegal things simply because what they enjoy is deemed immoral. You may say we have gone too far the other way in our search for hedonism but that is just the old fuddy-duddy in me I suppose.

I had to bite my tongue when the policeman read the caution to Vera Drake. Life On Mars has caused me to say “That’s not how it goes” at every arrest caution I hear. My wife said she heard me say it in her head but I promise my internal censor stopped me.

You will not believe this but a seventies-style phone ring has just gone off at a desk close to here. I assume it is on a mobile. It is exactly like the one at the start of The Rockford Files.

What I did watch of To Serve Them All My Days did not disappoint. The colour is faded, the sound is mono but the screenplay, the acting, the emotion that pervades it all is glorious. It struck me immediately that you could not get away with such long pauses in a drama today. This seemed like believable real life. Think about your life and how much of it is hanging around waiting for something to happen. This seems to evoke this reality without letting the plot stagnate; walking on the moors, calmly looking out to sea, all done without words, let you get an idea of the internal feelings of the characters without having to voice them explicitly with junk phrases. Very few TV writers these days seem to be able to do this; everything has to be said forcibly without pause for thought. Of course, they had 13 episodes to do TSTAMD and I suspect that this would be too much for a programme commissioner these days. Life on Mars is eight episodes. The only programme with such length now is Casualty (and its sister show of course) but this has long retreated from being able to leave unresolved endings and turned into soap where the only people who really seem to matter to the writers are the staff. I remember the complex thoughts that were sparked by leaving a situation unresolved for a patient or relative who was not going to be in the next episode. I don’t really watch now so I don’t know how much this still happens but it seems to just be a big game of Doctors and Nurses from what I have seen.

I’ve just seen the time so it is goodbye for now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

That Was A Single Malt! What Kind Of Monster Are You?

I was talking about the end of handwriting yesterday and here is something a lot more structured about that very topic. All of which means I can rant about how I can't get a decent handwriting pen like the blue, extended cartridge pens we were given at school.

I have been seriously distracted in the last few minutes so this is about it for today. No spell-check either.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I Was A Diving Duck

Listening to Pizzicato Five.

I am turning into Martin from Ever-Decreasing Circles.

Today is a Molesworth day I think, if only because I have been reminded about it by this story about Reginald Molehusband who my wife has often reminisced about. Maybe she knows where he is. So Chiz Chiz you weeds! This also makes me think that Mr Cheney could just as well have been on a Snipe hunt rather than a Quail hunt. As Molesworth was fond of saying, he’s so wet you could shoot Snipe of his back. So it’s only the Snipe Hunt that does not exist, ‘cos I’ve seen plenty of real Snipe. Oh link heaven!

Do you ever forget to finish a cup of tea or coffee? I’ve just found the remains of some de-caff on the desk here. Now I usually have some sort of stacked flag inside my head which only pops when the last dregs have been sunk but recently I have been noticing that I am starting to loose this faculty. Am I just getting old? Compared with my late teens, I am a lot more together regarding such things but I am wondering whether I have passed my peak. Wittering about the inside of one’s head is always good material for an online blog isn’t it? There is still so much to be done; it would be a shame to loose the ability to do it.

I did have loads of ideas for stuff for today but the tiny little holes in my head have put paid to that. My grey-matter is surely beginning to resemble a Sierpinski Gasket. Well it would if my brain was triangular but there you go.

Friday, February 10, 2006

If I Was From Mongolia You Would Call Me An Ethno-Muso-Geek.

Listening to the Steve Reich Simulator. You'll get to hear it one day.

I used to be happy with simple things. I think I could be again. I fact I think I would be happier if all the complexity just fell away right now! Got that?
I Met That There Beatrice Dalle Last Week

I sit next to this man while at work. I am still reserving judgement on the music but I have to say that Nagasaki does exactly etc …

There was some wonderful music for the drive this morning and it all mixed up with the lights over the view towards Winter Hill and the unexpected biscuity smell which came in at some point to make it all seem very relaxing. The biscuit was the same smell as that of the general cooking smells which came from out domestic science lab which of course brought back great sheets of memory of that time.

Anyway the real content for today should be based on the Horizon programme about Dark Matter which was on last night. Now horizon has gone downhill a lot recently – too much gimmicky graphics and the concentration on disagreements in the scientific community but they could not have done this show without highlighting the conflicts between various models of the Cosmos. They did talk about some “accepted model” but who accepts it? Anyway it was an area I’ve not really bothered about a lot and was quite interesting. My wife was away to her diary despite me asking her why she happily sat through the programme about Intelligent Design vs. evolution but couldn’t face the physics. I suspect I answered my own question with the question itself there. Bottom line here is that a small part of the universe is formed of atoms – this is the bit we see – stuff like coffee, aardvarks and us – some of it is the old Dark matter which we can’t see and indeed can’t detect at all and the rest – most of it – is whizzy Dark Energy which sounds like The Force to me. All very nice with the loose ends not only tied off but wrapped up with pretty bits of pink tape just to keep it really tidy. Oh well! It would be good to know that this was the end of it but of course the real final answer just keeps receding into the distance, trying to get back to God I like to think.

The early part of the programme did make me think of a question I have long been meaning to investigate. Some early work which confirmed the need for the existence of Dark matter, involved the measurement of the speed of stars as they obit the centre of a galaxy. Now the speed of the planets around the sun decreases on a defined basis the further you get from the sun. Stars in Galaxies however, seem to orbit at a constant speed and it was this observation that prompted the thought that it was the extra Dark Matter which was doing this (in a way I cannot explain because I don’t know enough about gravity and even less about how Gravity affect Dark matter). Now I have to leave this argument here but something I have worried about for years is if galaxies appear distorted because of the difference in time for light to travel to us from their opposite edges. Galaxies are hundreds of thousands of light years across and there rotation time is measured in hundreds of thousands of years (may need to check that). Therefore, should the positions of the stars on the furthest edge of a galaxy be not where they should be in relation to the real position of the closer stars. Even if the galaxy is face on to us, trig will mean that the distance to the outer stars is longer than to the inner stars. It all probably just cancels out – I have this gut feeling that circular motion produces smooth curves. I wish I could be bothered to stuff some numbers into what must be simple equations. Well I suppose relativity comes in – or does it? We are talking about the time it appears to take to us for the light to travel the extra distance. How about a later report ?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Affianced Officer Material

Listening to something ambient – might be The Orb

No sense of anything now. A mood reference to ‘no weather days’ (© DO deBorde – about 1989). Some nice music in the earphones though – not anything heavy. I did want to start this entry with the heading “War Poem” which was going to be a skewed reference to the fact that I will never have the experiences which are probably necessary to be able to write poems of such power. The BBC have an interesting article about Owen and Sassoon which is probably why the idea is in my head. I am horrified to admit that I have been thinking about war poets simply because what they lived through seems romantic from such a distance. I am not sure the blood, mud and shellshock would be so appealing from close up. I also now feel guilty about what amounts to an internal lessening of the importance of their experiences. The fact is they went through the worst possible times and anything else is not important. Look at this cover for some frame of reference. Not a lot more I want to say on this.

Nothing else seems important to write about though I suppose we should look at these ancient sacrifices as the reason why we should carry on to make everything better still. Seeing the terrible time that people had even within the last 70 years on such things as Who Do You Think You Are, is enough to make one thankful for the mediocrity which we live with today. Jane Horrocks was brought to meet a distant cousin in last night’s show. They were both related to the rich Horrocks cottonopolis family though his direct line was from the mill owners while her line came down through poor mill employees. She made some comment about the levelling of the social strata these days which chimed with Stephen Fry’s observation of how we have it so much easier these days compared with even very recent times. The show also seems to bring about a very tangible compression of time. In A Child’s History of the World by VM Hillyer, the author points out that the time since Christ walked the earth is just 19 consecutive lives of 100 years – he was writing in the twenties. Looking at photographs and constructing the events around those names from the past brings those times close in. As I get older, time seems to speed up but a side-affect of this is the bringing of the past closer and these investigations with professional detail, many pictures and visits to the real places, increases that compression to the extent that 100 years just takes us back to yesterday.

Those dusky shapes in old memories are coalescing like smoke returning to its source, figures in the distance like someone seen through much water are getting closer. They seem to have my face or something like my face or maybe the faces of my children. I see men in battledress, so immune to the trials of their days, that nothing will ever bother them again. There are lone figures in the wilderness, listening for the sound of Loons against the dark forest that ruins down to the lake, pioneers in newly-discovered lands, feeling through the unknown periods of history to find safe places to settle, to bring up children, to lead the life that the many wars were designed to safeguard. And we send more off into the black uncertainty everyday, men in madness filled with fear and building hate of enemies or officers. There is a wordless chant in their heads, a black torrent of sound that mirrors the lack of meaning in their orders. Real pain is a release from the false hurting in the head, the thumping absence of coherence in what they are told to do. Walk into the path of convoys, take a bullet for a friend or scream insults just to make them throw that bottle, pick up that stick or stone, take fire to get home. But never tell anyone you are afraid for that is the greatest shame. They will shoot you for it for they do not see that fear is caused by all this. And still no pardon now.
Punky Muzzle

Listening to Another Day On Earth by Brian English National Opera.

Even more light today and a slight feeling of unreality due to a weird dream about me in control of a miniature army of mini-submarines like the one they sent out to sink the Tirpitz. I can’t actually find any pictures to link to but they were like overgrown torpedoes with space for two divers to sit on it and a detachable charge which was stuck to the bottom of the target. I seem to remember that in real life the ‘crew’ of one of these was captured and was actually on the deck when their charge detonated. I think this crippled the ship but it wasn’t actually put out of action until the good old RAF boys (note the descent into ‘gen’ lingo here) bombed it with tallboys. I still marvel at how dropping Chests of Drawers could do any real damage to a ship but there you go. A diversion from the dream. My subs were about 8 inches long and I launched them from one side of some sort of swimming pool though I was intensely aware that the clear water and lack of night cover meant that their progress across the ersatz fjord was always visible to the miniature Kriegsmariners swarming over the target. I look forward to some analysis but you have to be aware that I am not a Freudian and all such analysis will be discounted as flawed and worthless.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

ne Aesopum quidem trivit

Listening To :-
Chick Corea

Just the thing for a sunny winter's day though I'd rather be out walking (limping actually but that's a tale for another time).

To keep up some clichés I have mostly been reading this site. Can't remember any of the latin now but hey! When am I going to get a chance to use any of it round here? I want to be clever - I really do. I want to write deep stuff like The Da Vinci Code - stuff with a real foot in reality. Stuff like this random Wednesday:-

I wake up to the sound of some electronic music from years ago. We have gone back to real instruments now or if we haven't, things that sound like real instruments. Seconds later, I can consider standing up; my eyes are clear and what is around me can begin to coalesce. I dreamed some scientific theory but, like Coleridge, A Person From Porlock interrupted me, taking me away from the prize I thought "In The Bag". No drugs here though. This is just lack of sleep. Out of the spring that builds the land around here now, I walk with no direction though with some purpose. A rebirth this is, some refreshing draught of sweet, clean air, swept of the particulates that plague us in the crumbling cities, but here, it comes from the sea, from the mountains, frozen in the heights and wetted in the evaporation off lakes. I see new, clean, green leaves waving into white noise in the gentle breezes, sashaying across the view, there and back again, whispering something we cannot quite make out, something of love or friendship in this new land. It might be cold but you don't often get weather like this here.

I see people in the distance, two, a couple, a man and woman I make out as they get closer, here on a visit from somewhere less hospitable, dressed for summer and marvelling at how warm it is, as the ice forms on my ears and nose, making me shiver and rattle like a corpse a priori. We smile and laugh, tell the requisite anecdotes about how we got here and move on with goodbyes and promises to write. I never will and nor will they - the effort of trudging out here again too much for such scientists in such remote places. Now far off against the low sun, the slope of the hill extends their shadows to me, touching me across kilometres of empty space, though not empty, filled with this sweet air and icy cold. I love everybody at this moment, but they do not all love me. I anger some so much just by existing and cannot work out why. Just by being, I am an enemy. How do you make up your mind on that without being or going mad? My faults are the faults of my betters and that is enough. Toss ‘em all into the sea and we shall find out how clever they are then. Correct use of ellipsis is ….
A Riot In My Home

There is light in the sky in the mornings now. Not very much but it is there. Every year the seasons come around - they will do whatever madness we humans get up to - and yet every year we comment about how the mornings are lighter. It is a need for consistency.

I suppose of course, that we might set off some sort of bomb and make the world slow down or tilt another way but currently that is beyond us. What is not beyond us is dropping our reliance on oil. The Swedes seem to be on the right track here. We should be up there with them rather than floundering in the oil slick created by the mess we left in Palestine. Let the fundementalists on all sides fade into the background when the wells run dry. The main difference between the various fundementalists is that the non-western ones don't seem to get elected. Oops! Maybe I was wrong. Maybe being elected makes them less fundemental. Oops again!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ah, bitter chill it was!

Look down and all is decay – blackness at the wheels of the car, cold salt and grit mixed up with the dirt of many feet across this place. I see no nature save the leafless trees and the failing fauna left to spend in the ditches round about. Maybe there are shoots in those wiry branches, pained in the frost but making it through to warmer weather but I do not see them. Aye unsought all this is. A day to rest and forget all this would be welcome. And water cleans the ground, long storms, long winds, the ice that rests clear of stream and valley, cracks and falls in the start of spring.

No! It’s better than that really.

Listening to Shuffle – currently Mary’s Music

I finished To Serve Them All My Days yesterday – probably the third time I have read it but this time I could understand a lot more of the history and got a lot more from the characters. It gelled with my recent comment about the desirability of a new austerity. The people in this book were of a more privileged class than me and yet they had so few possessions. What they did have they made the most of. I want an Ipod but it won’t make me a better person. What will these days; some improving reading or spending all day writing poetry? Maybe not! I will get rid of some stuff this weekend. A few books. My wife has suggested a few Cds but that is not going to happen.

Daughter’s obsession with Rome and The Romans continues. I went in to kiss her goodbye this morning and woke her up. As I went down the stairs she called me back to ask what the proper name for the “that thing that Roman Soldiers do with their shields”. She means a Testudo. Maybe I should get her to learn latin. We shall start with the old lie.

Along with a desire to jettison some baggage I found myself occasionally regretting that I had not seen service. I am the biggest coward going and there is no way I would wish a war on anyone. It was as if I could only think that such travails would, like my improving reading, make me a better person; either that or dead. Here we live in a relatively stable age despite the attempts of idiots to make us think otherwise, so we do not need a war or 6 x £605,000,000 warships to keep people in work. How about some new deal, some movement of skills into something we could really do with? Still growth is the thing. It keeps me in work but sometimes I wonder whether we need all the activity that goes with it. On the one hand you have an extreme paring down of the services that companies offer to their customers (often brought in under the perverse and Newspeak excuse of improving customer service) and on the other you have the pushing of new things and services that we quite obviously do not need. The next big thing is HDTV. In my experience, most people sit in from of the Wide-screen tellies happily accepting a squeezed or stretched picture because they can’t be bothered to set the thing up properly. I once had an argument with someone in a pub about WS. This was before I had digital TV and I had read the little bit of blurb in the radio Times which said that Digital TV (then only through satellite) was required to get true widescreen. My opponent in the argument said that this was not true. I am convinced that I was right and still am – any techies please feel free to put me right. Anyway when people are so dim they can’t see that the TV is wrong, then what is the point of HDTV? It is like Excel! Most people use for “doing lists” – they use about 5% of the capabilities. Even the whiz-kids on it probably don’t use more than 50%. They use it because it is there but they get uppity when a new version comes out and they haven’t got it.

Rant over I think.

Friday, February 03, 2006

If You See a Boat You Think May Be in Trouble…

Listening to various Stereolab

Having read this about the Coastguard Public Information Film) I was reminded of this from yesterday’s Material World. I was picturing a hulking-great lump of wood stuffed with state-of-the-art tech – all silver and black – not this organic thing. Quite amazing!

Maybe a little more consideration of the past would be useful in the world as it is. Growth! That’s the thing. I often consider how our present economy would be looked at from the point of view of someone in the fifties or even the thirties. Personally I have too much stuff and though I know I do not need most of it, I just can’t throw much of it away. I was discussing ipods and stuff with my colleague yesterday – all my CDs would not fit on even the largest ipod and to listen to them all would take over thirty days. Even the 10% of the collection on WMP here throws up stuff I haven’t heard for years. Despite this there is no way I could get rid of any CD – even if they were all ripped and backed up. The hard currency of the little silver disk, the jewel case and the sleeve notes makes that impossible. Then there are the limited edition things, with their strange boxes and artwork. 4AD went through a phase of releasing some beautiful limited edition CD boxes – University by Throwing Muses is especially wonderful as is the ladybird-book-sized box for Belly’s second album. What would those poor people in their stark living rooms (TV if you were lucky) make of the clutter that surrounds us? I have an occasional impulse to throw everything but the essentials away but it passes. The kids would hate me forever as well. A certain amount of austerity seems quite attractive.

Shuffle – Shuffle – Shuffle.

Ohh – The Dresses Song by Lisa Germano – heard in Probe Records after work one day where they refused to sell it to me because I was in a suit (Or is that a episode in Julian Cope’s biog?).
Woodland Fairies playing folk through a large amp while trying to assess their various relationships – just … er … abject adjective failure here. Get it!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Nobody Died In 1931

She moves like smoke, a cloud from some Celtic land, bringing gifts and scent from the far world. Her father dug coal in the old days and her brothers followed him down the mine, the main agents of socialism with a view of the future that was better than their present or past. And now we have this compromise, with murder excused in open debate, and no solutions that take less than a week to define. She moves through the door and we ache for something that was promised and will never come, the better world of dishevelled men and women, the tweed-suited politicians form when I first took interest. And all we do is complain about a missing tie or an inappropriate jacket on Remembrance Day. Who still alive came through that? Who cares today? Over the top with straight tie and pressed battle dress is what it’s all about, into the clouds as if on parade, into the gas like a Sunday stroll in autumn. Who dies on days like these? And some desk-man who couldn’t cut it in any military, still refuses the pardons of boys made mad by this war.

She brings home the last one, though not the very last, dead through someone else’s ambition and obedience to something we all believe he cannot control. We would tell those donkeys where to go with their foreign wars and headlong rush for statesmanship. Kick him upstairs? Downstairs more like! Smoke and bearers here, white women carrying the dead they know will never end, carrying the pain of families and the numbness of the rest if us to the fact that men are dying because of a mistake.

It could be a boring Wednesday today but it feels more like Sunday, some autumn Sunday with the wind just strong enough to lift the leaves and send the dry dust up into the shallow sun. This is the worst time for me, something of this feeling due to going back to school, but mostly for itself. All those Sunday hours I could have filled with doing something important or improving and we just damned the stream down by the bridge across the common or threw sticks at the trees. What twelve-year-old boy would write poetry or read a classic? The laureate is mad with his list of books all children should read by fifteen. Maybe the essence of them is correct; they are children’s books written for adults so if you took the stories they would be fine. They have done it with the Odyssey. By red-hot iron, by bound Axe, by suspended rings with a mode of spinning; one of these things will tell the future. Let us take out the eye of the Cyclops; by blinding him we clear our own vision for the smoke from the altar which indicates her passing through here, the dead guardian of soldiers gone to earth, to dust, to muddy fields for feet of worthless ground that belongs to no one who fights for it.

It is shady summer now. The two of us lie in heat under some tree out of sight of our parents occupied with real things, black-and-white things on paper that tell our future and how bad a place the rest of the world is. Why don’t they emigrate to somewhere better than this? We could all go and live in some dusty shack on the Steppes, living of potatoes and vodka, waving a red flag every Friday to show our loyalty to collective. No, we will stay here in this land, this greenly padded countryside, with the rain and the wind and the snow and this ever-lasting summer. We sledged over the dry, grassy hill, remarked on by the people we met on the way there. Down over the hill feeling like honourable children staying with the arch-duke and so privileged to be happy and rich at this time. And we were between wars, thinking the worst mud was gone and we were safe, not seeing the shadows, the darkness over the hill, promising us real snow for the sledge rather than this sweaty compromise.

The flower girl is here again, poor but happy as they say on the continent. The white petals pour like snow from her basket, making a trail, a line of where she has been or maybe where she will go now we have time in our control. Who died has hit me now though the girl carries on not knowing this. They have taught me the back-and-forth of the last war, the failed assaults and the last push that led to failure and an ending after all. I began to hear of the poor boys shot for being afraid and know it all fails when you begin to fight yourself. Imagine the horror of that death, how they word the notification and then leave you to the shame that lasts a century. Pardon them all, even the mad conscript running from that bloody idiot and his pointing finger. Like me. I am a coward. You want to kill me for it?