All Change


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Could we not have a moratorium on ‘changed his life … forever!’?

I mean, most changes are forever, aren’t they? Even wearing green trousers and changing back to blue makes you forever someone who has worn green trousers. Even going to see Gladys Weems of Trowbridge doing a third rate poetry recital would change me forever from a guy who hasn’t seen Gladys Weems of Trowbridge doing a third rate poetry recital into a guy who has seen Gladys Weems of Trowbridge doing a third rate poetry recital.

It’s that horrible feeling when you know they’re about to add that ‘forever’ and the only question is the length of the dramatic pause, screaming ‘No! No! No!’ at the telly. It’s like Radio Three’s branding of their very wonderful New Generation Artists’ Scheme. My heart sinks when I realise that phrase is about to be applied to everyone down to the fourth trombone in some orchestra.

Oh well, in the scheme of things these repetetive phrases are a minor irritation, but it gives me something to blog about which is less depressing than Brexiteers, climate change deniers and other twats.

Oh, and if you get the chance to see Gladys Weems of Trowbridge doing a third rate poetry recital, my advice is … don’t. It will change your life … forever.

And not in a good way.


Free form waffle



The seven seas in stop that find in overgoing help for this and blindly hover into gain. For ever each and every arse a folding gibber takes the strain, to go for them that play in curtain-stretching hold for vanity.

Peace plays integral elegance of shoulder placing fruit into vessels of teasing anecdotes. Never before and hardly again we wrench aside the peeling void.

Not able to refrain replacing rabbit markers plots inherent in the chophouse sun. Forbear to comment sooner and allowed aloud along a last a lover lies in Devon clover, creamed and clotted for another rest.

Enough of theremins and ferret holes where boxes meet another’s repercharge. Go to go to, I say, go to. Turrets close the day in subtle metals.

Goodnight, dear clones, goodnight.



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It has occurred to your devoted servant that many if not all of the pomes he has translated, from Spanish, Welsh, Russian or whatever foreign tongues, have been on the subject of love and its close companion, sex.

This has led to the idea of working towards a presentation, show or set with the brilliantly witty title (I’d be a fool to deny it) of Lust in Translation. Yes, take a while to admire the clevertude.

And this brought to the foggy plains of memory a project, equally doomed to the back burner, of translating, perhaps even performing (if learning a few guitar chords were not beyond him), some of the works of the great French troubadour, George Brassens. Interpreters of his Belgian counterpart Jacques Brel, far too histrionic and mannered for the present writer, are cinque cents a douze, but poor Georgie boy seems terribly underappreciated.

The song that had presented the greatest challenge was his Complainte Des Filles De Joie (as embedded above), which was adopted by French working girls as an unofficial anthem. It is built round the idea that the euphemistic terms (parole, parole — words, words, or maybe ‘it’s true, it’s true’) are ironically less than apt — the ‘girls of joy’ don’t laugh all that often.

Now, many of his lyrics rely on street slang, and no two languages have quite the same set of evasive names for ‘indelicate’ subjects, so the original idea was to completely rewrite it, in a more anglicised style, abandoning all those repetitions for a start. But then, drawing on the excellent example of Jake Thackray, perhaps the only Englishman to make a success of coming close to the French style of song, and a frequent translator of Brassens (and Brel), an attempt has been made (taking so long this blog entry is already nearly three hours late) to render something close to the original style and even, in a few places, a translation of the actual content.

No doubt it still needs a lot of work, and it will be interesting to see how it fits into the overall scheme of things. It does sit alongside Sor Juana’s Hombres Necios (see Hastag Yo Tambien on May 1 ’19), from 300 years earlier, as another scathing attack on male hypocrisy, as long as we sandwich it with hilarious Welsh poems about failing to get laid, and a few more romantic pieces.

So this is the first draft. See what you think (warning: fucking explicit lyrics)

The Complaint of the Ladies of Pleasure

Behold the ‘ladies of the night’ [x2]
The ‘working girls’ who sell delight [x2]
And all of the other nice names you’ve heard
It’s only words, it’s only words
Like all of the other twee names you’ve heard

The French, they call them filles de joie
With typical je ne sais quoi
Yet joy is so rarely their reward
It’s only words, it’s only words
No, joy is so rarely their reward

Night and day they walk the street
It really buggers up their feet
The cost of their shoes is quite absurd
It’s only words, it’s only words
There’s no tax rebate for the costs incurred

Not making love, just joyless fucks
Giving blowjobs really sucks
With unwashed gonks who smell like turds
It’s only words, it’s only words
With unwashed gonks who smell like turds

At least they never feel rejected
If you can’t keep your mast erected
It’s only an income stream deferred
With soothing words, with soothing words
It’s why payment up front is still preferred

The fallen women of the town
But who the fuck has dragged them down?
The moral picture’s far from blurred
It’s only words, it’s only words
To me the morality’s far from blurred

The bourgeoisie, they call them ‘whores’
The coppers chase them out of doors
And always that constant risk of ‘sterds’
It’s only words, it’s only words
Like ‘pox’ and ‘clap’ and other sterds

Oh, every day they’re there to ride
So many times they play the bride
|But for them the chimes are rarely heard
It’s only words, it’s only words
Those wedding bells are rarely heard

Come all you punters, johns and tricks —
With all your poxy, oozing pricks
Never enjoyed but just endured
It’s only words, it’s only words
You’re never enjoyed you are just endured

Oh but for fortune, my dear brother
That tart could well have been your mother
So think before you laugh or curse
“It’s only words, it’s only words”
Just think before you just make things worse


I think you’ll find it’s pronounced ‘keesh’


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Well not this one, it’s a quickie (and I wish I could remember which shop I passed last year that had a bottle of Some Young Punks Quickie in the window. I could add it to the Squid’s Fist; Passion Has Red Lips; Monsters, Monsters Attack!, and of course Naked on Roller Skates bottles from the same Ozzie winery, on my kitchen shelf).

It was an unusually busy week at Grieve-Not Lake. Your humble bloggist had a guest staying, his longest-suffering friend (since 1972 no less), came to visit on her way to Rosyth to board the good ship Balmoral, which is currently docked at St Petersburg (as I can tell by using after København and Tallinn and before continuing to Visby and Stockholm. While she was here for a few days before sailing, we went to Glasgow to see the masterpiece at the Glasgow Art Club

and, one evening, at a loose end, I suggested watching a dvd of some classic fillum she hadn’t seen before (the 1956 Launder/Gilliat black comedy The Green Man, with a brilliant Alastair Sim). The disc was duly inserted into the old steam-powered VHS/DVD/HDD machine and set to go.

A fuzzy image appeared and no sound accompanied it. After much fiddling, trying stuff on the hard drive too, pushing and pulling of connections round the back, no progress was made, but some time had passed.

With the guest in the arms of Mother Russia, it seemed a good time to have a fiddle. A proper fiddle with all the connections round the back. Which meant pulling the unit forward. Which meant knocking the wooden bowl of white go pieces off the shelf it should have been carefully removed from first, all over the floor.

After picking those up, your hapless correspondent tried every possible connection: component video, SCART, good ol’ fashioned coaxial aerial cable, all with exactly the same result (the machine predates HDMI, obvs). Things were switched off, on; connected, disconnected; combined, recombined, with only two results — blank screen or fuzzy, soundless images. And while moving the old hi-fi speakers around, to get at cables, the two completed, thousand piece jigsaws (Paton’s Reconciliation of Titania and Oberon and Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, since you ask), propped against the wall, decoded to stop being propped and disintegrate onto the floor.

Those are now put away, the dust-caked penguin slide (don’t ask) has been disassembled, and the telly stand is still in the middle of the room, no more able to show DVDs than before.

That’s why I’m not writing a blog post this week.



The Living Daylates


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xxx “No message from Commander Lowe yet, McNoodle?”
xxx “Nothing, sir. We lost him on the way back from Glasgow. CCTV picked them up dashing into GOMA to get out the rain.”
xxx “I guess somebody had to find a reason to go there eventually.”
xxx Nussbaum snickered at his own cynical wisecrack, but he was worried. Lowe was a loose cannon at the best of times. But now he was playing with fire, running round the streets of Glasgow with Paulina Kenvodski, the dangerous agent from the Welsh Marches.
xxx “Her ship sails from Rosyth tomorrow,” said the bored lassie with the laptop on her desk. “He has tae get her back to Embra in time for that, surely? And don’t say don’t call me Shirley, or I’ll feckin’ fetch ye wan.”
xxx “Relax, sister. But you’re right, her ship sails tomorrow afternoon and we’ve already arranged for agent Thompson to pick her up just after noon, disguised as a cab driver.”
xxx “That could mean trouble for Thompson!”

xxx “It’ll mean trouble for Lowe either way. If he doesn’t get his report in to Grieve-not Lake by midnight, his reader will be worried.”
xxx “You really think he has a reader, Ed?”
xxx “Nah — you’re probably right. Forget about it. He can do the blog tomorrow instead.”
xxx “But Chloë McNoodle had already shut down, folded away, bagged up and carried her laptop away to the nearest pub, before Nussbaum could finish his sentence.
xxx He shrugged, reached for his coat, and headed out after her.
xxx “Better remember the umbrella too,” he said with a grim smile. “No rain’s gonna force me into a cockamamie modern art gallery!”

Flash in the Pan


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It’s been a hectic week at Grieve-Not Lake.

As the only member of the Scottish Arts Club who can spell ‘kompewter’, I get the task of being admin wallah for the ever-growing list of competitions run by the Scottish Arts Trust.

Last weekend saw the end of submissions for the SPAs, the Scottish Portrait Awards. As most artists (and many writers) live by the motto, Never put off to tomorrow what you can leave to the last minute, your friendly blogger was up well into the small hours processing the final deluge of 200 entries (a thrid of the total). Not only that, he was distributing the next rounds of surviving short stories and flash fictions to the judging panels for those comps too.

And to cap it all, Monday saw the opening of the 2020 International Flash Fiction Competition. Yes, I know it’s 2019, and we’re still judging the entries that closed not long ago, but it has been decided (not by me!) to relocate this award to start with July, end with September, and be awarded and celebrated in January — which will be 2020. And that way the Flashers get their own dinner too, rather than being subsidiaries at the Shorties bash.

So it’s for stories of 250 words or fewer and it’s six quid to enter and the prizes are £600, £300 and £150. And this what I just wrote is far too long to qualify, and I can’t enter anyway, cos I is admin, innit?

But you can have a go…

Card Trick

— And one for his nob is game.
— Bloody ‘ell, Dad. I’ll never beat you. I reckon our Mam’s telling you my hand.
— How dare you? You know your Mam would never stand for cheating of any kind. And wipe that grin off your face, I know you think I’m twp. The staff as well. They’re always come in saying, Mornin’ Angharad. Whether that’s to humour me or take the piss — sorry, cariad — take the mickey, I don’t know but …
— So she’s here now then?
— That she is, whether you believe or not. And not stood behind you lookin’ at your cards. Five years I’ve put up with your snide comments, and I can tell you she’s not impressed, neither!
— Tell you what, Dad: why not let her prove it?
— What do you mean, lad?
— Well, can she see stuff? Could she have looked at my cards if she’d wanted?
— Course she could. She reads the paper to me an everything, what with my eyes goin’.
— Well, there you go. I’ll take a card from the pack and show it to her. If she’s really here, she’ll tell you what it is, won’t she?
— Oh, I don’t know. You know she was never one for games and gamblin’ an’ that.
— It’s not gamblin’ you old fool. It’s an experiment. Just a way of there bein’ something she could know that you and I couldn’t. Unless you don’t really believe …
— No, no. All right, she says go for it.
— OK. I’ll shuffle … I’ll take one … I’m not lookin’ either … if she’s behind me, she can see it. So what is it, our Mam? Tell Dad and he’ll tell me.
— She says … er … she says it’s the … six of clubs.
I started, nearly fell off my chair, and knocked my beer glass onto the floor, where it broke into pieces.
— Fuck me! — Oh, sorry, Mam — six of clubs it is!
— Well, there you are. What did I tell you?
For all his previous certainty, Dad seemed as surprised as I was. And then young Llinos came in to see what the noise was.
— Oh, what have you boyos been up to now? Nobody move; I’ll get a pan and brush.
— Wait a minute, gal — listen love, Gareth here’s just proved it — Angharad — show her the card, lad.
But I’d already snuck the five of hearts quietly back into the pack, hadn’t I?

And the Loser Is …


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Forgive me, gentle reader (if indeed you exist) if I don’t spend much time on this blog this week.

I’m taking advantage of a hiatus in the deluge that’s currently coming after me, to jot something, keep the words flowing and all that.

I admit it’s rare that I have anything ultra pressing in my life; the last decade or two have been a leisurely time, though this is not something I celebrate, as they have left me miserable and moneyless, and I’d rather have been working and earning and living and loving.

But as I am the only member of the Scottish Arts Club who can spell kompewter, I ended up being the admin wallah for their annual short story competition.

And then the Scottish Portrait Awards (S.P.A.s) in both fine art and photography (let’s not get into the arguments about why photography is not a fine art again).

And then as if that were not enough, the Flash Fiction Competition. And just in case this doesn’t kill me, there are plans for a Scottish Landscape Awards next year.

Now, as each of these comps gets around 400–500 entries, most of which come in in the last few days (never put of to the morrow what you can leave to the bloody last minute), the fact that they are slightly scattered through the year, means I’m usually involved with one or more. And the process for judging the writing awards involves multiple rounds of elimination, with more readers considering each piece as it progresses — and the admin wallah has to try to minimise the number of readers who have seen a story before (until the final stage where all the readers get together to decide what goes to the final arbiters — Alexander McCall Smith for the shorties, Sandra Ireland for the ‘flashers’).

And this week is the closing week for portrait submissions from artists and photographers from or based in Bonny Scotland. If previous years are anything to go by (and numbers are similar), I expect about 300 paintings, a handful of sculptures and 200+ photographs to hit the inbox over the weekend and on Monday. The first year I did this, the Delightful Jing had paid me to go to Paris (many women pay me to go places, but this was unusual in that she was paying me to go to where she was, rather than away), and I had a flight at 0630 — a bad move, when it took me until 4am to process all the incoming. I have nothing but bed rest booked next week — and a visit to the Glasgow Art Club to see my own piccie of said lass on the wall there.

Which admittedly is not a patch on Daniel Murray’s winning painting from last year—

But it’s worse than that, he’s dead, Jim. Not only do I have that to cope with, but rounds of both story readings end in the next couple of days too. So I have to collate 13 teams’ results, feed them into the correct spreadsheets and generate the lists of stories for each of the (rejigged) next round groups, so they all get to see stuff that is mostly new to them and make sure they can access the files and and and … and mainly, not send a mix of pix, and tales and whatever to the wrong people. But like I say, it’s only one week a year. I may yet come out of it alive, worse luck.

On the off chance you want to make my burden even greater, you can enter the competition here (if eligible).

What did I say about not spending much time on this? Hahaha. And just as I finish, the first of today’s paintings comes in.

Back on your heads…

Lies, Damned Lies and … More Damned Lies



Another Angry Voice on Facebook recently posted a thing about Nigel Farage’s placeholder presumptive, Boris Johnson, referring to the time he opposed the closure of 40 London Underground ticket offices in 2008 but, once mayor in 2013, signed off on plans to close every single office on the system.

Now it is true that this is a rather typical rant about ‘anything we can find to rant about’, when we should simply be arguing against the shite policies this bastard supports now, from Brexit to general reactionary populist nastiness. And the counter argument that in the intervening demi-decade, technology had changed, as had people’s habits, making manned ticket offices a waste of resources, may have some weight. But even if it does, there’s still the simple fact that what a politician says to court favour is rarely any reflection on what he or she would really like to do. And sometimes it seems an intentionally wicked joke.

As I commented on the original post …

It’s a long and honourable tradition: Thatcher gets elected on the strength of ‘Labour isn’t working’ and 1.5m unemployed, planning to treble that figure to create a low-wage economy.

Boris, Farage etc campaign for Brexit to give imaginary money to the NHS, planning to privatise as much of it as possible straight after.

It’s a tradition that allows you to sneer at and treat with contempt the very voters you get to support you.

We (collectively) never learn.

Off With His (Coke)Head


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Watching the circus that is the Tory leadership race, I couldn’t help thinking how amusing competitive men can be, especially when things descend into a basic dick-waving contest.

Even more so when one of the participants, in his eagerness to be top dog, oversteps a line. In Gove’s case, a line or more of charlie.

A number of instances came to mind. For one, in David Lodge’s book, Changing Places, an American college lecturer gets drawn into a game of ‘Humiliation’ (I have sat at the very Lausanne lakeside eatery where that game was first played, talking to one of the original participants). The object of this game for university English lecturers, is for each to name a classic work that they haven’t actually read. They then get a point for each player who has read it. In the book English self-deprecation (and tenured posts) come up against American competitiveness (and lesser job security). Doing badly in the game, the US player admits to never having read Hamlet, winning the game — but losing his job.

So when it came to gaining street cred and honesty brownie points by building on Bill Clinton’s classic, ‘but I didn’t inhale’, one hopeful after another confessed to (but regretted of course) some earlier indiscretion, until Mikey Gove had to up the ante with coke-fuelled parties. Oops. Sadly this ended the game before the bidding went up to heroin or crack.

The best example has to be that which won a Darwin Award in 1996 (given annually for people who die due to spectacular stupidity before they can pass their dumbass genes on to another generation). As the awards website puts it:

Polish farmer Krystof Azninski staked a strong claim to being Europe’s most macho man by cutting off his own head in 1995. Azninski, 30, had been drinking with friends when it was suggested they strip naked and play some “men’s games”. Initially they hit each other over the head with frozen turnips, but then one man upped the ante by seizing a chainsaw and cutting off the end of his foot. Not to be outdone, Azninski grabbed the saw and, shouting “Watch this then,” he swung at his own head and chopped it off.

Go on Tory candidates; you know you want to. We want you to, anyway.