Spring Trickles

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Igor Stravinsky said that his ballet, Le Sacre du Printemps, was inspired by memories of the violent Russian spring that seemed to begin in an hour and was like the whole Earth cracking.

 Well, this year, more than ever, the Scottish Spring is like a shy maiden, that keeps poking her head round the door but lacks the confidence to make an entrance …

… for fucking months!

Oh to be in Spainland, now that April’s past! Will it never be warm here for more than a day?

Oh well, Autumn in Ronda beckons; I’m kinda fond-a Ronda

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How Sweet to be a Bloggerer … nibbles from my antisocial media week

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[A basefuck friend is to interview Neil Innes soon]

Gosh. Saw him at Uni with Grimms, in Leamington Spa when Off the Record came out and a few years back with the Bonzos. Great talent and Innes Book of Records was a gem of a show.

In 1973, my friend Dave (now my friend Jenny) was being driven into Manchester when he yelled, “Stop! There’s a duck!” Mike, the driver slammed the brakes on at great risk to life and limb, and Dave got out and came back with a large plastic duck on wheels. Later he cut the base off and wore the duck as a hat, à la “How Sweet to be an Idiot“.

A bunch of us were on a canal holiday in Stourbridge in the mid 70s, and all piled into a chippie for us teas. My ex-wife-to-be, Heidi, was wearing the duck as we got served, causing some amusement and bafflement. As we went outside to eat them, Dave took the bird back and wandered off. I stood with Heidi eating our fish suppers, when we were approached by a curious vision. ‘Twas a not-quite-young woman with a beehive hairdo, a near-transparent red lace blouse over a push-up black bra, a leather miniskirt over fishnet tights and six inch stilettos, accompanied by a short, squat chap in a tatty jumper and trousers. She had obeyed Hamlet’s injunction to ‘paint an inch thick’ and her false eyelashes reached us quite a while before she did.

“Where’s yer duck?” she asked the wife.

“Oh, it’s not mine, our mate’s got it now.”

“It’s not right. It’s not normal; you’re a weido,” she said in all seriousness. Her companion tried to pour oil on the waters — “they’re just young folk ‘aving a bit o’ fun”, but she got more and more worked up.

“No, it’s not right; she shouldn’t be allowed out. Yo sh’d be in Stafford, yo sh’d!”

Eventually she wandered off still muttering that Heidi should be locked up in said establishment and we spent the evening debating who actually looked the more ridiculous.

All inspired by Mr Innes.

 

[Some guy asked for people to fill in a survey on veganism for his studies. In the ensuing discussion someone recounted their experience of being called a murderer (which he said betrayed a lack of understanding of the legal meaning of that term) by veggie weirdos, but said if people were doing what they believed, that must be doing good…]

Is it inherently good if people do what they think is good? Probably most crimes have at least one culprit who thinks the action right. After all, Socrates said no one does evil intentionally (ie we all think our sins can be justified in some way). I think vegetarianism is ethically dubious, but most veggies seem to think they have the moral high ground.

I once told my nephew I used to be a vegan until I realised I couldn’t reconcile it with my ethical and spiritual beliefs. My sister cut in to say “you don’t have any ethical and spiritual beliefs!” I said, “exactly, so why be vegan?”

I was of course being disingenuous; I do like to think I consider such questions all the time, even though I tend to say that spirituality is an affliction of the insufficiently occupied.

I also have a character in a novel explain a lapse from vegetarianism with, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is tasty,” though I am always annoyed when people genuinely ‘justify’ being carnivores with, “but I like meat.” I like butchering small children, but it doesn’t make it right.

I think Hitler and Stalin were doing what they believed; I don’t think they made the world better, except in stmulating those who want to stop people like them doing the same again.

To be fair I think those who say meat is murder know what the legal definition is, but think that definition in being anthropocentric is inadeqaute. Of course, a standard answer is that if meat is murder, vegetarianism is genocide, as many livestock species would have to be wiped out, to release land etc.

I can’t help feeling a lot of it stems from thanatophobia.

But the debate can only be a good thing. Sadly many discussions of this topic get rather heated and angry. So far this thread is doing very well. But I agree with David Hume that philosophy is best done by convivial discussion over a bottle of wine. I suspect he’d have been less keen on social media as a platform for meaningful discourse.

Swings and Roundabouts

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It’s been a busy week at Lake Grieve-Not

So you come into a bit of money and think maybe you’re on a roll, but it turns out the only roll you’re on is a bread roll, smothered in onions and about to go on a hot griddle to warm up in preparation for a slice of bacon and loads of unnameable sauce. Good job I bought me a ketchup gun.

I was also going to buy a vacuum cleaner, a cajon and a ticket for the Trans-Siberian Railway, but the best-planned lays and all that …

‘Cos between all the work being admin wallah for four competitions, teeth have gone wrong on me and expensive, gifted phones have gone awol. So that’s a few grand to sort out those problems. Two removals with the possibility of expensive implantation, possibly in Poland.

But in the midst of all this self-pity, I thought I should enlarge on those competitions I just mentioned.

Yes, as an eminence chauve of the Scottish Art Club, and one of the few members who can spell IT, your humble blogger gets to receive, collate, file and distribute for judging the entries to our ever-growing portfolio of fun competitions. And you, gentle reader, might well be a potential enterer. If you write, paint or photograph, that is.

If short stories are your thing, you’re too late. Sorry. The Short Story Competition closed for entries a couple of weeks ago, keeping me up all night as the last flood came in.

But if even shorter stories, aka Flash Fiction are more your style, and you have any masterpieces of 250 words or fewer, you might want to check out the website…

https://www.storyawards.org/aboutflashfiction/

But maybe you makes pics of people? With cameras, pencils or paintbrushes … even marble and chisels? In that case, the glorious Scottish Portrait Awards, now in its second year after an amazingly successful start in 2017, is calling for entries. And of course we has a site for that too, where you can have a look at the stuff that did well before and see if you think you have what it takes to win a big prize and a high profile.

https://www.scottishportraitawards.com/

And what’s kept me busy for the last few days is the arcane subject of embedded forms. It has made life a lot easier and led to fewer problems (and disqualifications) for entrants, having a form to fill in, rather than asking them to attach umpteen things to an email. But it ain’t plain sailing, no no no. The compromise of using a service to build and embed the form does mean accepting limitations a laboriously hand-coded solution could avoid (eg we can’t limit the file types of attachments, which is easy enough in php code). And it doesn’t handle mobile devices separately, which can lead to formatting issues. But who the hell wants to write stories on a phone?

But on the whole, the form facility offered by the lovely people at Wufoo (though on occasion I have called them similar-sounding but ruder names) is a boon and their support people have been top-notch, so I’d recommend them.

The problem we had, though, was that some users found they couldn’t see the whole form. No submit button. So they paid their moneys, which I immediately spent on riotous living (or teeth), and found they couldn’t send me no stories. Or pictures. Whatevs.

And it turns out that’s cos the embed code has a ‘height’ parameter. Plenty for most windows on most kit, but insufficient for narrow screens that bunched up the info.

So that got fixed but now most users have an acre of blank space after the submit button. Fuck it, they can live with that.

And maybe I can get some of my own writing done, while I anticipate the terror of next week’s lower right six extraction and worry about the infection down the side of the upper right five.

Life, eh? Who’d have it?

 

The Prat in the Hat

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In parody mode these days, and still obsessing on the lost Huawei …

Dr Seuss Has Technology Issues

I do not want a mobile phone!
Let me be! Leave me alone!
“Oh, what of access while you roam?”
Very simply done at home!
Except for WeChat and — oh, damn! —
“Yes, you cannot use Instagram.”
Oh dear, my pictures can’t be shown,
Until I get a mobile phone.

I do not have a mobile phone!
Must I have one of my own?
If I should get a Huawei Mate,
Should I get a Ten or Eight?
Should I get all the latest apps —
You might not want to chat, perhaps?
Oh no, your thoughts will stay unknown,
Unless I get a mobile phone!

 

and now, inspired by these disingenuous ads for gambling sites that parrot the futile message “When the fun stops, stop”, I can’t help thinking of Puck, riffing on Where the bee sucks

When the fun stops, then stop I

but that’s all I got just now.

Two Imposters plc

Regent Road Park, Edinburgh

There’s unseen things in the undergrowth rustling,
Bustling away as I clomp on past;
Maybe a mouse but probably a blackbird,
Rummaging for juicy worms to break his fast

Two magpies flit through the bare trees chuntering,
Welcoming the sunshine with their promises of mirth;
I’m dressed for colder weather but I’m set on sauntering
As a rare day of Scottish sun warms the Earth

The old man sleeping with his life in plaggybags,
A bench for his home and a jumper for his head;
The views of the Firth and the Crags and the city
And, just for a change, I’m glad I’m not dead

24/3/18

Post Script

I took a pair of pictures with the phone she gifted;
I sat on the bench and I wrote this verse.
Then I walked off whistling and must have dropped or left it,
And the joy-led morning turned to afternoon’s curse

Aye, gentle reader, triumph and disaster. Not only had I just been checking out the venue for an exhibition of my shit in September, but I’d been celebrating, with a slice of Boston Cream Pie, some good news which I can’t say anything about for a few months. That and the first warmish day for ages and my usually miserable mood was kinda lifting.

Then I go walking a bit further, reach the Burns Monument and think I’ll take a picture of a Boston Terrier (there’s a theme here), only to find the Huawei is not in my bag or pocket. So I hotfoot it to the bench (not 2 minutes away).

No sign.

I ask people in the vicinity, I hang around them dialling the number from my old Nokia 1000, but hear nothing. Despair sets in. I ask the polis attending the nearby gun control protest, but no one’s handed it to them.

Despondently I head for home, working out what I need to change passwords on or who to notify. At this point, I realise how little I use it for anything important (compared to how much time I spend on it). Predominantly checking basefuck and twatter … and chatting to the delightful donor of said phone back in Chinaland using WeChat or Weibo.

That facility and a few photos I hadn’t yet backed up are probably the only losses. But the feeling of bereavement is disturbing. I can’t even think of a good reason to replace it, but still I beat myself up wondering how I lost it, try in vain to call  it or track it (google location can’t find it, the wash’n’go sim card has not been used, I suspect I’ve flattened the battery calling it and if someone has it and is selling or keeping it, they’ll probably have replaced the sim anyway).

But what this mainly brought home to me is one big downside of the solitary life: feeling the lack of someone to share the joy of the previous week’s news was bad enough; not having a shoulder to cry on or someone to distract me from the endless mental reruns of what I should have done is even worse.

Then I reflect sensibly and realise that this lack, in the few moments that qualify as triumph or disaster in one’s daily life, is more than balanced out by the quotidian freedom from having abuse or indeed rocks hurled at one by a live-in companion, which, when you’re as irritating as your humble blogger, is pretty much the norm.

Life, sad to say, goes on.  Ho and indeed hum.

Bristol Blues

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Bristol is hilly;
I’m rather silly;
Want a wine tasting visit?
That’s not enough, is it?
I got quite wired
Now my legs are dead tired
Climbed Park Street to the gallery
Burning many a calorie
Saw a ton of tea
By Ai Wei Wei

Sketched a quick van de Velde
(That’s ‘the Younger’, not ‘Elder’)

Then to kill the next hour
Back down via Cabot Tower

Met some very nice folks
Bored them stiff with bad jokes
But a fun afternoon
About which (maybe) more soon

So then hit the town
Get some tapas, and down
To the Old Duke for jazz
Without razmatazz
Still a great place to go
But the staff didn’t know
There’s a lifetime ban
That applies to this man
(We were kicked out the door
Way back in ’94
For doing a dance
In bold def-i-ance
Of their licence’s rules
So they said “Piss off, fools!”)

Then an uncomfy night
Feeling rather like shite
Then stroll once again
While I wait for my plane


Down by the dockside
And the oceans wide

I look a right prat
In a stovepipe hat
But yer man was no fool
On him it looks cool
Just as well, ‘cos his face
Is all over the place

 

What’s his claim to fame,
And what is his name?
Built a bridge and a steamship and built them well —
He was Isambard Kingdom [altogether now…]
Brunel!

Stress Patterns

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In Syracuse did Damocles
The ruler of his court displease
By his obsequious flattering
The great good fortune of his king.

Great Dionysius, his lord,
By all this ‘praise’ was getting bored
And so devised a demonstration
Of a king’s true situation:

He said, ‘Come — sit upon my throne
Above the court, all on your own;
Over a feast of state preside,
With all your wants and needs supplied

The table groaned with food so rich
And wines so sweet but — here’s the bitch —
A huge sword hung above his chair
Suspended by a single hair,

To show the stress great power brings
To the uneasy heads of kings,
So he could not enjoy the feast
But begged his lord to be released.

Poor Damocles! I think I know
Just how you felt, so long ago.
My life now makes me realise
Just what such stories symbolise

It’s hard to stay serene, Confucian,
While all these things need resolution
And I just cannot concentrate
With all these swords above my pate

1
The taxman tells me I’m to blame
For leaving it too late to claim
The fifty pence that he owes me
One hundred pounds the penalty,

Although my records seem to show
I sent it in a year ago
I’ve spent another sixty pence
To post some words in my defence

But will they let me off the fine
Or just insist the fault is mine?
I watch the letter box all day
In fear of being told to pay.

2
Then there’s the power company —
My gas and electricity.
Two years of problems with no bill:
They say it’s sorted now — but still

When I look at my web account,
My balance shows a null amount,
But reading my last bill, it sounds
As if I owe five hundred pounds;

And looking at my meter — strange —
The counters never seem to change.
I’m terrified of costly mail —
Or even being thrown in jail!

3
Less scary, but still stressful is
The fact I’m lined up for a quiz.
The top prize in this t v game:
Ten thousand pounds and (not much) fame

They’d said they’d ring and let me know
Almost two whole weeks ago —
Instead of doing anything
I sit and wait for phones to ring

4
And that gives me another way
My dental visit to delay
At least one molar has to go
But I don’t want a space, and so

A false replacement would be nice —
Three thousand pounds should just suffice
So wait and see if I, perhaps,
Can win the cash to fill the gaps

5
Those aren’t the only things, for sure,
That have me feeling insecure
Losses greater and more dear
I don’t feel I can mention here

But, like with quiz show, power and tax,
I wish that I could just relax,
As, like the other swords so bright,
They’ll come down — when the time is right

 

 

[Stop Press: the taxperson has waived the penalty, so that’s one sword fewer]

Plus ça Change

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Just been listening to a new radio station, both the most and least diverse in the history of broadcasting.

Same fm plays every kind of music every day. Light classical in the early morning, Rock around the clock, for fifteen minutes every other hour on the hour, a symphony in the afternoon … even a poem every other hour on the other hour. And jazz in the wee small hours. But the reason for its name and its USP — well, its Point which is certainly Unique, but, many would say, not exactly Selling, is that it plays exactly the same pieces, in the same recordings, at the same time each day.

At least the announcers, the DJs, the continuity people, are ‘live’ — even though they say exactly the same words at the same times each day. And the adverts are equally unchanging, which will make things interesting if one of the sponsors ever wants to change or goes out of business.

But this isn’t as gimmicky or even downright nuts as it sounds, insists the station’s founder, Nerys Weems.

“People want a station that’s familiar, that they can return to like an old sofa”, she says. “It’s not as if there aren’t a hundred stations out there where things change every day.”

So, if you are particularly fond of Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic’s 1975 recording of Anton Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony, you always know where you can find it at three in the afternoon. And perhaps insomniacs will enjoy knowing that they can hear the same selection of easy listening hits in the wee small hours every sleepless night, even if shift workers might go elsewhere in search of a little less predictability.

Weems also points out that many well-known cable channels on television now show same stuff over and over, but in unpredictable ways. Looking closely at the schedules for movie, crime and comedy channels shows that they can only really afford the rights to a certain number of programmes at any given time.

“You might have to keep scanning the schedules of Gold to find that episode of The Good Life that you love, but if you’re a particular fan of Philip Larkin reading This Be The Verse, with Same fm, you know you can hear it at 11pm — every night, should you wish to.”

It remains to be seen if this channel will catch on, perhaps spawning many imitators with their own line-up — or whether the gimmick will rapidly wear thin. But your reviewer must be off now, as he notices (without even having to check their website) it’s time for Led Zeppelin.

It’s not been a long time since Rock and Roll. Twenty-three hours and fifty-six minutes to be precise. Well, as the station’s publicity says, “The more things change, the more you need Same fm”.