Good Night, Vieña

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

They say you know you’re getting old because the policemen are looking younger. I’d say you know you’re already old if you remember seeing policemen about on their beats.

And Shakey said there were seven ages of man. I think the real rites of passage that mark out a life are that first you go to kids’ parties (once just sarnies, jelly, ice cream; now more about competitive merchandising), then it’s graduation bashes, then weddings, maybe christenings or ‘baby showers’ (for those permitted to breed, he said, without a hint of bitterness), and I’m now at the stage where it’s increasingly what yer man Joyce called ‘funferalls’.  So far, somehow, not my own.

A month ago we had a religious service for Jinty and this week we just dispatched George, an octogenarian artist and designer. The dog collar was not a sign of worse to come as it was a pretty agnostic affair and the vicar ended by quoting one of George’s favourite comedians in saying, and may your god go with you.

As well as a fondness for life drawing, the Goons and Dave Allan, George and I shared a liking for jazz, particularly ‘Sassy’ Vaughan and Jimmy Giuffre, and I played a small part in the final farewell by being able to tell them that the track to which he wanted us to enter the chapel, the opening piece of the movie Jazz on a Summer’s Day (they’d lost the video I gave him), was The Train and the River, as performed by Giuffre, Brookmeyer and Hall. And I think I rose to the occasion, guests having been asked to wear loud ties …

It all makes one think how one would like to be seen off.  I can’t deny that I’d agree with my Dad (a natural nihilist if ever there was one, even though he probably wasn’t familiar with the term), who when asked said, “I don’t care, I’ll be dead”. But I do wonder how one would conduct a (Zen) Nihilist funeral, other than gathering everyone together and saying, He’s gone, they’re open, there’s money behind the bar.

As Mr Khayyam put it (and this might make a good reading, if you must have one):

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted — “Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more”.

I’ve often thought about the music for the last waltz. For a long time I said I’d like Long Haired Lover from Liverpool by Little Jimmy Osmond, because I hate it and only the reluctant mourners (as folks’ll only come to mine to make sure I’m gone anyway) would have to suffer it. But then I thought it was not only not nice, but what if there not only is a nafterlife, but it’s one in which you have to listen to your funeral playlist on a loop for ever?

I considered one of Dickie Strauss’s Four Last Songs, but that is apparently the most popular choice for gay funerals, and my aversion to the road most trampled extends even to the clichés of other ‘communities’. So maybe Dido’s Lament (alias When I am laid in earth; and, let’s face it, it’s the only way in which I’m ever likely to get laid) would come under the heading of ‘the only thing likely to make anyone shed a tear on that occasion’.

But I heard Carl Nielsen’s Helios overture on the radio the day before George’s last ride, and I thought the slow beginning, glorious sunrise and peaceful ebbing away might be a good thing to expose those celebrating getting shot of me to some culture and stir their souls — and maybe fool one or two into comparing my life with that glorious arc of song, distracting them from the slow drag through the mud that would be a far more apt metaphor. So until I discover a piece called Sludge, I shall maybe write that into my instructions…

At least I’ve done all my shopping for Christmas …

Advertisements

Lights Out, La Viña

Tags

, , , , ,

Not so very long ago I watched the celebrity chef Rick Stein’s Long Weekend programme filmed in my old stamping ground of Cádiz. A standout point for many viewers was the scene filmed in my old local, Bar Manteca (The Lard Bar, or Dripping Bar, as we’d have called it in Nott’n’m). As he does his piece to camera, a diminutive figure walks up to him, shouts some indistinguishable syllable and walks off, to amused applause from the regulars.  And I laughed out loud with glee, because I remembered ‘Uchi’ (pronounced Ooshie) from my days there. She shouted random things at me (and everyone else) many a time.

I was surprised on my September return to the old neighbourhood not to see her around.

And last weekend, I popped (well, limped, being at the tail end of an attack of gout) up the hill to Merchiston and the Edinburgh bookshop to see Mr Stein. Not to buy his Mexican cookbook, partly cos I already have a couple for that cuisine but mainly cos I don’t gots no moneys, waiting as I is on the local Council to help (or refuse to help) with my rent costs.

I did get an Elsie with him though.

… and I was able to tell him the sad news that I had seen that very morning, on all the feeds from my spiritual home what I follows, that she had died the day before.

‘Uchi’ leaves the barrio of La Viña an orphan

Today Cádiz is in mourning, especially the neighbourhood of La Viña, having heard of the death of Carmen Gutiérrez, popularly known as ‘Uchi’. She died early this morning, at 60 years of age, from respiratory failure, according to sources close to the family. Uchi was an endearing person for the city, known for her two hobbies: her bicycle and uniforms. A faithful sister, who never missed a mass at the Archconfraternity of La Palma, to whose Virgin she was devoted. She also became very popular for her interruption of the recording of a BBC programme on gastronomic tourism, when entering El Manteca in the recording with Rick Stein.

The mayor of Cádiz, José María González, has shown his regret through a statement. “One of the eternal smiles of the city is leaving. A person loved by all the gaditanas and gaditanos”, he said. Of the ‘Uchi’, González stressed that “she was a neighbour who represented a way of understanding life in La Viña”. Also, he has passed his condolences to the relatives of the deceased in these hard times.

The local representatives of the PP sent similar wishes.  The councilor [and mayor when I was there], Teófila Martínez, has joined the regret for the loss of “a dear woman that we will miss very much”.

[from andaluciainformation.es, 10th November 2017]

As another report said, a light has gone out in the streets of Cádiz.

I think it’s one of the things I love about that city, that they will give far more attention and affection to an ordinary citizen than any person of political importance or tv ‘celebrity’. The streets will be packed for the funeral, and there will be much wailing. I can’t deny I shed a tear.

And not just an ordinary person but someone who would be classified in many societies as a ‘learning difficulties’ disabled citizen, mocked or feared perhaps by the ignorant, shunned in the street or put into a special home and kept out of the way.

[That’s not entirely fair and certainly not true of all communities. I can think of one or two local characters round here who are much loved by their neighbours and whom I never pass in the street without a cheery hello. Whether their passing would make even the local news reports is another matter.]

Not that she wasn’t teased or mocked by the local kids; Cái is the home of banter from flirting to mockery, that might trouble many a politically correct sensitive type.  But woe betide any outsider who so much as looked at her askance in their presence (not easy to avoid when she’d have a wee but good humoured rant at any distinctive passer-by).

I recall her trying to make some sort of noise with a tourist’s didgeridoo on the beach once. Indeed I have photos to prove it. But she made that noise simply by shouting through it, to the amusement of one and all …

 

Ivan Illich wrote that education — institutionalised, non-convivial structures for education at least — tended to make us more stupid overall, by introducing inflexible pass or fail definitions for success and academic achievement. As he said the person who would once have been called the ‘village idiot’, entertaining and of genuine value (for anything from menial work to bringing a ray of sunshine into life generally), would now be labelled an inferior sort of person and a failure.

Well he may have been thinking of someone like the delightful Uchi (I never knew her real name back then), and her passing has certainly reminded me of the joy she could bring to the area, by something as simple as shouting at a chef.

Bits Out for the Ads

Tags

,

Head of Programme Envisionment
Channel 4

Dear Ted

Thanks for your letter. Always good to hear from you guys at Scraping the Barrel Productions. However I’m not sure we can run with your latest idea.

It is indeed true, as you say, that most game shows have a ‘celebrity’ equivalent, and we are usually open to all such ideas, not least because it can work out quite cheap if all fees go to nominated charities, as well as pulling in extra viewers for the pleb version.

And, as you point out, even First Dates now has a celebrity version. But I’m not sure that the public or even the usual raft of D-listers will be up for Celebrity Naked Attraction. I’m well aware that there are many performers and politicians out there, and not only (though damn nearly only) has-beens and wannabes, who are desperate for more exposure. Only I don’t think this is the meaning of the word most of them are thinking of, especially in the current sensitive climate.

I know you would hope the show would mainly attract young, fit and buff starlets and sportspeople, but we have a commitment to diversity, and I must say the thought of Anne Widdecombe or Russell Grant being slowly exposed in all their substantial glory rather put me off my morning pain au raisin.

Also, given the rampantly incestuous nature of showbiz, there’s always the risk of someone squealing, Oh my God, it’s [insert star’s name here] at the sight of some dick or other. We can edit out the reaction, but what would we do about on and off screen repercussions?

But we aren’t kicking it into touch completely. There may be some version we can work with. And Anna says she’s up for presenting it as long as Sue’s never one of the bodies on display.

All the best

Michael

 

More Than Real Ravens

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Went to the British realists exhibition at Embra’s Modern Art II today.

As a Nottnm lad, I’m obviously a fan of Laura Knight, whose Dawn so grabbed me when I first set foot in the admin office of the RA in That London.

Not that there’s more than one picture by her, a rather idiosyncratic circus scene. But it is a fascinating show with so many paintists what was new to your correspondent. It ends on Saturday, if you was thinking of going. And if you’re wondering what to buy me as a retirement pressie (as I mentioned before, last week I hit OAPdom and the Scottish NHS scanned me for abdominal aneurysm by way of celebration), the catalogue is a snip at £20, but I still can’t afford it, at least until I hear I have housing benefit and don’t have to start looking for a large cardboard box to sleep in.

It’s not all Stanley Spencer, that era (though I have always had a soft spot for his brother Gilbert, since a print of one of his landscapes hung in my paternal gran’s retirement gulag); there’s also Hilda Carline, aka Mrs Spencer Mk I: another fine brush wielder in her own right. And a large painting by her of their maid at Cookham hangs on one wall, rather too high up for a photo … in fact photos aren’t allowed, but had her head been a about the same height as my own, I would have said to hell with these ‘rule’ things, and snapped her as the most apt yet of my Elsies. That being her name.

The problem with looking at all these competent and occasionally brilliant paintings is that it makes me feel like giving up on my own, which are neither.

I’ll be an artist — nevermore, he added, referring to the fact that he’s nearly learnt the whole of Poe’s pome ready for Saturday night’s soiree. Maybe a video will follow.

But the Assisi effort is coming on. Held up not only by chasing benefits and pension, laziness and feelings of inadequacy, but also the fact that one or more paint tubes had oozed linseed oil into the paintboxes (cheap, inadequately-blended shit) since I last did any oil painting and dried-on oil is sticky and nasty and hard to shift. Thank heaven for meths.

 

Them too

Tags

, , , , ,

Some random thoughts.

To avoid wasting time with the following, you could just follow this link instead.

http://www.upworthy.com/a-powerful-poignant-post-about-mens-role-in-the-metoo-movement-went-viral?c=ufb1&llid=GrKmq

What he said.

 

But if you are still here (you fool!) …

 

A friend once told me that my habit of smiling at women in the street was a bad thing. In fact, she insisted, smiling at a woman I didn’t know was tantamount to rape. Even the fact that I instinctively smile at anyone of any sex and purely in a friendly or amused way, should we happen to make the most fleeting of eye contact, was utterly irrelevant. The violation of my unsolicited smile was unforgivable, and I should take steps to cease doing so forthwith.

I didn’t.

But that is not to say I pooh pooh her argument entirely. For one thing I despise the folks who demand a smile in return and make crass comments to that effect, however friendly their manner might really be. I totally understand women who look fixedly at the ground as they pass and only hope they don’t really feel violated by what I hope and believe is a friendly look at a fellow human. Let’s face it, if we were dogs, we’d be discussing how invasive is a sniff of a backside.

And I do get many smiles back, mainly, it must be said, from women. Maybe there are some men who feel molested by my grins. But if we non-rapists are going to stop smiling and leave all beaming rights to the bad guys, I’d be very depressed. Victor Borge used to say that a smile is the shortest distance between two people — I do hope nobody really feels it’s all but penetrative.

 

This whole #metoo phenomenon is, imao, a phenomenon that is long overdue. at least in terms of the awareness it might bring; so we can hope that some good might come out of the despicable actions (allegedly) of a Hollywood mogul. People say he’s being scapegoated for an endemic problem; maybe, but if it makes a few other sleazeballs think twice and a empowers a few more of their victims to take immediate action, that’s one scapegoat worthy of its sacrifice.

 

And it is a phenomenon that should give all us blokes pause for very hard thought. Should we, rather than jumping into a #notme denial, not give some serious pondering time to whether we should be putting our hands up and accepting some responsibility, if not culpability? Even those of us, like your present blogger, who like to think we’re supportive; it’s not about beating oneself up and donning the old sackcloth and ashes, but checking not just our privilege but also our culpability and being prepared to fess up and change.

 

It’s a genuine question. I’m unsure to what extent we should do that, and perhaps more importantly how. And whatever the answer to that, there’s the next question for men and women and all points between and outwith alike: in the immortal words of Mary Beard, what are we going to do about it?

 

Yes of course there are men who are harassed and abused. I have been wolf-whistled and verbally accosted by men (in Old Compton Street, where I was wearing a very loud jacket) and women, though I take it as read, with my looks, that the attention was of a sarcastic or satiric nature, and time has definitely healed the tendency. I have been groped on underground trains and, on one tightly packed Northern Line carriage, the young woman in front of me was pressing her arse into my groin in a way that didn’t seem excusable simply as a result of the crush, a suspicion that was confirmed when the carriage population was drastically reduced and she not only stayed close, but bent down to adjust her shoes, still rubbing herself against me. But I didn’t feel violated or upset.  Nor did I find it totally enjoyable, a degree of bemused discomfort attenuating any arousal that some might have experienced.

And then there was the time of my first office job, the Seventies, the time of which folks who weren’t there say, it was different then, meaning that casual sexism was acceptable — not entirely true and it should be offset against the fact that a sexual genie was out of the very restrictive bottle of previous decades. With women’s increased sexual freedom came a lot of more unsavoury attitudes that had been festering in the bottom of the same container. It was the time of The Female Eunuch and the first full-frontal Playboy pics alike. The topless barmaid and the radical feminist had a common ancestor.

And in my IT office, an equal mix of mainly Northern men and women, amid the general banter and the crude comments, there was the occasional groped buttock or breast and sexual cajolery, but, as far as I remember, given and taken from both sexes.  A friend did sleep with the boss after a drunken party, but they had been colleagues and friends since their teens; in no way was it related to preferment (or even turning a blind eye to her erratic attendance hours) and it did result in the whole office learning how poorly the chap was endowed.

But I cannot put my hand on my heart and say with certainty that I never said or did anything that would qualify someone to say #metoo.

 

From the other side, I get more and more intrigued by the fact that I have a number of female acquaintances who insist #notme (though I have so far seen none risk the storm that might follow saying this online). And I wonder to what extent it is true that some women do get more of this attention than others (and there is no significant statistical difference that I can see between the groups, in ‘attractiveness’ or mode of dress or any other factor some might consider relevant). Or is it more likely that some are so accepting of it as part of the background noise of life, that they hardly notice it? Would that make it OK? Would that mean the others do protest too much? Well, when it seems a seamless line from whistles to rapes, no, I can’t see how it would.

Doubtless some guys who make boorish comments or whistle do not see it, at least consciously, as anything other than a compliment. Indeed, down the years, from second wave to this, when the subject has come up, there are always a few women (at least in the working classes wher your blogger comes from) who will bemoan that they’ve never been wolf-whistled and perhaps only half-jokingly wonder what’s so unattractive about them.

 

I always wonder to what extent the whole cultural pressure on women to be attractive and men to acknowledge this is a major stumbling block to progress. I can’t help thinking that while the ground floor of every department store or high street chemist is a sea of overpriced cosmetics stands, the cause of feminism, a cause that could benefit everybody, is very heavily handicapped.

But maybe that’s just because I’ve always been a lost cause in the looks stakes, and I find makeup on a woman a total turn off. Ho hum. It’s not easy being a Puritan, though it may help preserve my bi-celibate status.

 

But, as a friend says, if you think #metoo means you can’t flirt with women at all, it probably means you don’t know how to flirt properly. I could write reams about the question of flirting … maybe another day.

 

In recent months I have witnessed a couple of blokes outside a Leith boozer call to and then stand in the way of a young woman in a summer outfit. With dignity she just brushed past them and carried on her way, ignoring their ribald but not very aggressive comments. And only last week a respected retired professional gentleman has embarrassed me twice by telling women (on one occasion the life model we had just been drawing) to sit next to me, ‘because he likes pretty women’, making other ‘complimentary’ comments that would have made me uncomfortable even in the Seventies.

Now an activist friend has called on men to take action more often. As she asks, what those of us who pay such good lip service to recognising the problem (especially its sheer scale) have actually done about it. Calling out seems to be the preferred weapon, but cowardice does preserve consciousness in us all; I doubt I’d have been well received trying to show two drunks on Leith walk the error of their ways, and I’m bloody certain, even if I’d got away without physical assault. And though I did say, in admonishing tone, that I like sitting next and chatting to people, I didn’t feel able to give a lecture or start a debate on the topic, especially as the other incident was at a wake.

I know I have female friends who do call out casual sexism, such as guys at a bar discussing how to get served by the ‘hot’ barmaid, but my feeling is that po-faced lectures in such circumstances are actually counterproductive. As far as I can tell, they usually result in a stream of insults, accusations of homosexuality (and to these guys it is an accusation) and a dismissive attitude. If one calls out friends one is killing an atmosphere and quickly getting a reputation as an obsessive killjoy.

Of course the sexist is at fault throughout, but the aim must be to make things better, not just to feel one is on a moral high ground.

 

 

No doubt some will say (and have on social media already) that there’s a big jump from a compliment to a lass in a bar to assault and rape. But what has to be considered is the context and general level of background noise in which this occurs. If you’re a woman for whom a smile has been taken as an offer of sex, who has been touched lasciviously or gratuitously on public transport or groped by relatives and family friends since childhood, that compliment, that flirtatious comment might not feel so innocent or trivial. So, in the immortal words of Victoria Wood’s version of Ena Sharples, look sharp and think on. And the most important point is it’s about power and privilege, even just by dint of being male in ‘a man’s world’, the implied threat and that good old violence inherent in the system. That’s never been relevant in my low-key experiences of being on the receiving end, nor was it among colleagues in my laid-back IT departments (as far as I’m aware). As yer man who was abused in the forces (see link above) is well aware, even for him it’s a rare occurrence in a specific situation, not something he has to confront every time he leaves his front door.

 

 

Yesterday I saw an interesting point made in an article which spoke of  men in an auditorium being asked who among them took measures to avoid being attacked or hassled on a day-to-day basis, and what those measures were. Hardly any hands were raised. The contrast with the response to the same question from women was an eye-opener for many. But the odd fact remains that men are far more likely to be attacked, although less likely (though it does indeed happen) to be sexually assaulted or raped. Most people go about their daily lives without being attacked most of the time (me, two or three times in 65 years).  But that culture of drip drip drip harassment and perceived vulnerability has a huge effect on the ability to approach that life with confidence and free from fear.

 

So now we know that a large number of women, possibly all of them, certainly among the bourgeoisie and liberal ‘thinking’ classes, claim to experience harassment on a daily basis from an early age, and it seems little if any of this can be put down to oversensitivity, or whatever else some might wish to excuse it as.

The geek in me would be fascinated to see a graph or other visual showing what percentage of men were harassing women at what level. Is there a simple curve from a lot of guys smiling or leering or making comments, all the way up, via the bottom pinchers and rub-againsters, to the full-on molesters and rapists? And what would that visual aid tell us that would be of use? Probably nothing, but like I say, I do love a good graph.

 

 

Anyway, the day thou gavest, Earth going round Sun, has ended and this blog has rambled more than enough. I could write thirty pages more if I had world enough and time but I have a painting to finish and a novella to write, and I know I wouldn’t be likely to change the world even if anybody read this twaddle. Any regular readers will already be aware of my general ineffectitude and negative charisma. That’s another reason why I don’t engage in discussions with sexist pigs.  It’s like the old adage about teaching one to sing … it wastes your time and it annoys the (male chauvinist) pig. Not that I believe it can’t be done. I’m sure there is a way to engage (and it’s not just ‘how would you feel if that was your daughter/sister/granny?’, as double standards are, by definition, immune to that logic), but like I said, I’m no Socrates.

And, like I asked, as Mary B did before me, what are we going to do about it? That, along with Elaine Morgan’s suggestion (in The Descent of Woman)  that women will one day be encouraging men to ‘come on in; the water’s lovely’, does give me hope. It’s easy to deprecate men and, fuck me, do we deserve it, but if we can’t find a way out of the #metoo morass beyond the Solanas claim that all men are turds, nobody wins, least of all the lasses.

And they’re so sweet and lovely and sexy (I’m joking!), I’d hate for that to be the case.

 

From the Diary of a Waster

Tags

, ,

Dear Diary

This week I sorted out my stuff to become an official OG (Owd Git).  I applied weeks ago (I got a letter telling me to). If you haven’t heard within 14 days, it said, call the helpline on this number.

11 days to go: nada. After ringing a train of phone numbers, each telling me I needed to phone another, I

Oh for fuck’s sake, shut up, Cowan, you irritating twat!

Sorry about that but what’s with all the waffle on Radio 3? And now after a short segment of a Beethoven piece (no bleeding chinks, my arse), there’s that bloody boring trailer for CD Review again. Just play some fucking music, for pity’s sake (shut up for fuck’s, play music for pity’s, them’s the rules). I can’t write words, when you is talking bollocks all the time. I might as well be listening to the sea of ad-interrupted pap on Classic fm!

Where was I?  Oh yeah …

xxxxxxxxx finally got through to a very helpful bloke in Swansea. Apparently I had filled in the date my marriage ended (well, I guessed at it, after a fruitless search for decrees absolute), but not the actual date of the marriage (I could have sworn i had). Not that anyone was going to ring me and ask for it, I had to go into panic mode and spend half a day on the phone.

What struck me is that I could tell him the date right off the top of my head, 40 years after I, like all traditionally raised husbands, forgot our first anniversary.

Well, my pension starts coming in on my next birthday, when I will receive the princely sum of twenty-seven pounds and thirty-eight pence. That’s one day’s worth. I wait four weeks for the next payment which should be 28 times that.

So the rest of the day was spent applying for housing benefit. How long that will take, I have no idea. Apparently I’m entitled to reduction in Council Tax and all but £90 of my rent. So a more frugal life beckons, the savings having run out.

No matter, my Chinese chum assures me I will be famous, and thus rich, when she finishes translating Little Mr Poonlop into Mandarin. I’d better get on learning the lingo for the book signing tour.

And buying a canvas to do a painting of her on the road to Assisi …And I found time after all the bureaucracy shit to reboot the Elsies project at Lucidity Ltd’s concepts pages

Now with added nudity but all in the best possible taste.

So it could be that life will settle down to something it’s never been before … normal.

Or it could be that I’ll be living in a packing case in LiDL’s car park.

I’ll keep you posted …

 

Reading the Raven

Tags

, , , , ,

In the Club one Tuesday morning, as I sat there quietly yawning
At the crossword in the paper with its clues so recondite
As I sat and sipped my whisky, in skipped Kenneth, very frisky,
Like some half-crazed Scottish pisky, asked me, eager but polite,
“Is it, maybe, rather risky, while I have you in my sight,
“To ask a question if I might?”

“You who sits, unkempt, unshaven, would you care to read ‘The Raven’,
“Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, at our ghoulish party night?
“Join the poor accurséd bleeders, whom we’ve chosen to be readers,
“With Poe’s morbid morsels feed us, dressed in red and black (not white):
“Read that tale of broken-hearted sorrowing without respite?”
And I answered, “Yeah — all right.”

But, as I thought on this arrangement I recalled a prior engagement,
Something that could cause estrangement, scheduled for that self-same night
A promise made to someone’s daughter, to a fair maid that I sought to
Meet up with across the water, for a promise of delight.
This I solved with simple slaughter, hid the body out of sight,
Freeing me to say “All right.”

Thus I could begin preparing, working out what I’d be wearing;
Found a smoking cap in velvet on a crafts and clothing site.
Chose a shirt and jacket, fitting for the seat where I’d be sitting,
Reading words to have them shitting, shitting in their pants with fright.
Could I bring them fear and trembling, with a thrill of dark delight?
A small voice answered, “Yeah — all right.”

How short-lived my soul’s elation, pointless all my preparation,
Themis will have reparation for my wicked appetite:
For my dreadful deeds my curse is I must learn those doleful verses
Which in fear my soul rehearses all day long without respite,
Knowing until time reverses nothing can my soul requite,
All because I said, “All right.”


I sent some stuff on a slow boat to China this week. Then I made the mistake of telling the recipient that’s what I’d done and found myself having to explain why I’d used the phrase, that the boat wasn’t necessarily slow …

But in researching the date of the song (1948), I discovered that it gets its name from a phrase used in Noo Yoick poker playing circles, as frequented by the songwriter, Frank Loesser, to describe a player who loses steadily but handsomely.

You learn something new every day.
Unfortunately, at my age, you tend to forget it a few days later.

 

The Danikils

Tags

, , , , ,

It’s UK National Poetry Day Tomorrow.

And, purely coincidentally, as I went to bed in the wee small hours, I suddenly had a Proustian flashback to a poem called The Danikils, by ‘T.Y.’

T.Y. was a lad called Alan Tinsley and his effort was on the front page of my earliest effort at journalistic excellence, a class newspaper, set as a project by an English teacher (the name and other identifying features of whom have completely left my brain).

Rather like Dr Johnson’s dog on its hind legs, we were a least as surprised that Tinsley had done this at all as by any qualities it may have had. He had never been noted as a creative mind, an average student (given that he was already in an above average grammar school setting), more inclined to science subjects than arts and lit. Indeed I often wondered if he’d found this parody elsewhere and sneaked it in, but that would not really have been like him either. Then again, I’ve written things myself which I’ve suspected were too good to be original (but every man likes the smell of his own farts, as they say), and wondered if I’d dug them from some dormant memory.

I doubt it was a great parody. Technically it was a matter of taking Wordsworth’s Daffodils and tweaking a few words here and there. I shouldn’t knock that approach, I use it far too often myself, even fifty years on. And the effect of Tinsley’s effort seemed very funny at the time, and not just to us sixteen-year-olds; the teacher was mighty impressed and also mighty surprised.

I wish I could remember more of it. I think the line ‘vacant and expensive mood’ was in there, but I have a feeling someone else, a professional writist like Paul Jennings may have used it too. Only one bit really sticks — I can’t even recall whether he wandered lonely as a cloud or some variation thereon, but lines three to six were definitely …

When all at once I spied a crowd
A host of hairy Danikils
Beside the pool, beneath the trees
Doing the dance of the cheddar cheese.

Well, it just goes to prove my assertion that anyone can do this parody stuff, and undermine any ambition I might have to sell myself as anything special, though I am assured by small Chinese women that I’m a genius.

And I’ve been asked to recite (or at least read) The Raven for the Scottish Arts Club’s Halloween Poe evening. I can’t think of that without tweaking the first line in a Tinsleyish manner myself. It always comes to my mind as …

Once, upon a midnight dreary, as I sat with Wallace Beery …

But I shall dress in black and do it straight of course. I’m even buying a smoking cap to wear as I read it from an armchair…

A video may follow. Or not.

Don’t Shoot the Piano Player

Tags

, , , , ,

“Let’s stop romanticising the misguided, possibly dangerous actions of spurned men.
On Saturday, the Bristol Post reported the story of how a 34-year-old man was intending to play one of the city’s public pianos in order to “win” back his ex girlfriend. Calling the woman who he’d been dating for four months “Rapunzel”, the stunt was intended to show off how much he loved her.
As is fairly typical in these kinds of stories, the Post branded the stunt as romantic, calling Luke Howard “heartbroken”, tagging his efforts as “dedication” in their tweet. However, in refusing to accept his ex girlfriend’s “no”, and by making a huge public statement demanding that she recognises his “love” for her, Howard’s behaviour is not romantic. It’s entitled – and it’s symptomatic of a wider problem of men’s harassment of their exes.
This is not the first time that women have been told to accept men not taking no for an answer as a romantic gesture. From John Cusack’s ghetto blaster in Say Anything… to the best man’s creepy filming of his friend’s bride in Love Actually, the ideal of a heartbroken man harassing the object of his affection has been sold to us as true love over and over again.
But there’s nothing romantic about refusing to accept that a woman has a right to leave you. It’s not a love story when a woman tells a man “no” and he demands she change it to a “yes”.”
[various posts, originating on a site called The Pool, I think]

I find the reactions in some quarters to this poor, suffering sod most upsetting, What mean-minded miserable buggers there are in this world. HAve they never been dumped? Or even loved?

On what basis are people extrapolating shit about ‘entitlement’, and his not accepting her ‘right’ to leave him? It’s a dumbass gesture born of wretchedness, and I’ll agree the guy seems a bit of a wet twerp, but at most it’s a case of pleading, not ‘demanding’. I see no evidence in article or interview of him not ‘accepting her right’, but he seems to be trying to exercise his own right of appeal (not very appealingly, it must be said). And unless the poor lass lives near the piano or he’s lugging around wherever she goes, he’s hardly ‘harrassing’ her.

Personally, I would support a policy of summary execution for anyone who dumps their partner without good demonstrable cause (though not after such a short relationship as his with ‘Rapunzel’, and with the proviso that the dumpee has to agree to it — and that after a cooling-off period). If I stabbed someone I could cause them extreme pain and some possible impairment, and I would quite rightly be castigated and punished for it, but the wounds would heal in short order, and life continue much as it was.  Dumping someone who loves you can cause at least as much anguish, physical pain, and even seriously increase their risk of heart failure, leaving internal scars that time does little more than stick plasters over, and which make successive relationships harder to hold down; but the law doesn’t even get involved unless the sufferer acts unreasonably and illegally. Even then the victim gets all the blame and deprecation, rather than any support or help.

Theologists used to say (maybe still do) that the greatest sin is to break a vow. If free will is the main gift of the deity, we take a great step by surrendering it to a promise.  So the greatest insult to said deity is to throw the gift back in Her face by breaking our word. And the same people who demand (and they are demanding) that guys simply accept the pain of being dumped are usually those who bemoan the lack of commitment shown by so many blokes these days. I have heard someone say that their vow to stay for better for worse, ‘didn’t include if it made me miserable’. For fuck’s sake, it’s no vow if you’re only saying ‘I promise to stay as long as it makes me happy’! And anyway, statistics show that a great many dumpers come to regret it later, by which times. I’d be the last to say ‘suck it up’ about any misery it does cause, but to cause even more misery to get out of it is morally no better than stealing to solve your cash flow problems.

But like I say, the guy seems to be making a prize pranny of himself. Stephen Pinker suggested that the irrational actions of the rejected have evolved to make the rejectee scared and more likely to stay around out of physical fear. I rather think they’re there to ensure the separation. Grand romantic gestures, and all the other things that a man or woman will do when scrabbling with bleeding fingertips to cling onto a crumbling cliff, do little more than make us look complete twats that no one could possibly love. That will kill any tendency to guilt feelings in the dumper, so they can go off and mate with some fresh supplier of eggs or sperm.  Life, eh?