I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Gems from humdrum dross

Tuesday morning breakfast at Tesco's café is a way of passing time while Julie, our cleaning lady, has the house to herself. Elements of ritual are creeping in.

I try to make the order (Two small Americanos no milk, bacon bap with butter, plate carrying rasher of bacon, half-slice of fried bread, fried egg) without the check-out person having to ask a question. Yes, this is junk food. That's the point.

We push our empty plates way and discuss ominous topics. Trump has sustained us for a whole year.

Also we face the car park for advanced sociological research. I once owned a BMW and became as arrogant as all BMW owners, now under threat in the Arrogance Stakes from the Audi Bunch. Parking carelessly on tarmac striped in yellow to indicate No Parking. This inalienable right comes with the make of car, you see.

SUV-borne mothers bring their children. The sub-five girls walk past our window solemnly, conscious of their expensive clothes. The boys, packed with excess energy, attempt to walk along a low narrow wall that guards the window. They flap their arms, grinning at being out of balance.

People use the ATM differently. With motorbike riders there's all that palaver of getting through layers of leather to reach their wallet. Laddish youths with shaven heads stand away from the machine, uncaring about their PINs, daring others to rob them. Those in wheelchairs must plan their movements and work sideways on. Some users count the notes, others stuff them away.

When it's raining old people (ie, those our age) approach the building with pinched faces. Those who've shopped leave briskly, glad to be off. Security men with badges loiter, trying to be inconspicuous.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018


Nick, my youngest brother, died yesterday, released from the cruelties of Alzheimers.

In the photo he's telling me to Blank Off, but jokily. I prefer to imagine he's addressing the malady that ruined him these last few years, telling it to go to Hell.

Two memories from many stand out. I was staying with him at his house in Harrogate thirty years ago and he played me the Schwarzkopf version of Strauss's Four Last Songs. "I find that beautiful," he said in a hushed voice. Oddly, I'd been given that LP some years before. I'd played it a few times but it had left little impression. Thereafter it has remained for ever in my frontal lobes: "a swansong of sublime beauty" as one critic said. Even more relevant as I near Strauss's age when he composed the music.

Scroll forward past the millennium. Nick, Sir Hugh and I are sailing in Nick's yacht Takista in the Bay of Biscay; for the first time in my life I am tremulously at one with the sea, realising nevertheless that this revelation has come too late for me to pursue. Reluctantly I'm persuaded to take the helm and I stare up at the mast-top, keeping the burgee as close to the wind as I can. Nick, who has sailed for decades, says something like, "You understand." Age adds poignancy to this observation and this lost opportunity.

Nick was rich and good luck to him. But he also suffered. The break-up of our parents' marriage when he was about four left him adrift. He commented wryly, "I had no home." Last September he stared for seconds trying to fix me in his memory. I shudder to think where he was as he did so.

One may only wish for untroubled sleep.

Monday, 8 January 2018

... amid th'encircling gloom

Dark outside and it will remain so for another hour. Low temperatures were forecast last night so will there be ice outside? I'm due a singing lesson, the first in almost three weeks, and the roads to V's house are precipitate. On top of that I'm still wheezing from the cough. Will I even get through the warm-up?

Change and decay in all around I see.
Oh art which changeth not,
Abide with me.

But what's this? An email from brother Sir Hugh, off to his bed where he doesn't expect to sleep. Like me he recently had surgery, though more major than mine. Just a line to say he's bought and read Opening Bars. And reviewed it in Amazon!

Straight off in the review he admits to being my brother. Which seems to validate that which follows. I couldn't ask for better. I guess I'll get through the warm-up, perhaps even try the Purcell.

Thanks bro.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

...muddlers in England, now abed
will hold themselves accursed...

Colette, a bright new star within Tone Deaf's commenting firmament, blogs as Aging Female Baby Boomer. Chivalry demands I ignore the first adjective other than speculating that if it is happening the byproducts include clarity of style, vigorous expression and enviable store of subject matter. The second adjective is self-evident, leaving just "baby boomer".

Until now I've depended on oral explanations which I've immediately forgotten. Today, from the dictionary, I see it refers to those born post-WW2 during a period when procreation was wildly fashionable. Which seems to say more about the BBs' parents than anything else. I had wondered - idly, very idly - whether I qualified as a boomer. I don't. Dating back to 1935 I was lucky to be born at all.

Have I capitalised on my own good luck? The jury is still out, presently being haranged by centenarian Henry Fonda in a triple-locked jury room.

Members of the British government, at each other’s throats over Brexit, are constantly looking for someone to blame for their own collective inanition. Months ago they blamed boomers - for living longer than they should, owning their own homes, spending their pensions (to which they had contributed), and generally committing the crime of quiet contentment. Conveniently forgetting that these same boomers had lived through bread rationing (1946 - 48), the Korean War, the Suez invasion, 13% unemployment (1981), 20% inflation (thanks Mrs T.), "the Troubles", recession (2009) and the popularity of "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?"

Colette says she was "roughly, not gently, bred" in the industrial upper Midwest. Obviously she is entitled to be a boomer, even an exploder. But "boomers" doesn't sound British - too dynamic, I suppose. Muddlers we have been and must be. Defy me!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Mount Imagination

Still coughing, I turn to other diversions.

There's a ski-run in Val Thorens called Cima Caron. When you emerge from the cable-car it's as if you're on the viewing terrace of the Empire State Building. Except there are no protective walls or barriers and you're wearing skis. You feel exposed.

Twenty-five steep metres take you to a narrow ledge, always over-populated. You feel inclined to stay, especially if you know what follows. You don't stay because there are too many jostling elbows.

The next 150 metres seem to follow a spiral route round the top (ie, narrow) end of a giant cone. It's steep and oh-so-high and the last 10 metres are a killer. Others who've preceded you, frightened by the gradient, have followed the same traversing path and all have come to a halt at the same spot. Causing a deepening trough to form.

You know that if you end up stationary in that trough it will be Hell's own job to get out. You know you must skirt the outer edge of the trough - hanging over eternity - and then make a quick awkward 180 deg turn left from a horizontal line. Such turns even when successful are laborious and ugly; also there is a brief moment when you directly face the beckoning depths.

I've done that run twice, both times on my own. Many years ago. Since I no longer ski my amour propre is not at risk. I imagine myself gliding past the trough on the last two inches of viable snow, turning smoothly towards the fearful slope and then on, through that angle, to a reassuring traverse. And keeping going with another smooth turn. Leaving others further up the face, scared, still to resolve the problem.

Good luck, guys.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

A book and a bit of Wagner

Opening Bars, previously sub-titled A Late-life Musical Adventure, is now available through Amazon - see the right-hand side of my home page. If you can run to £6.95  I'd appreciate a line or two in Amazon's review facility as proof that someone other than I and my publisher have read it

As most of you will know it's about music, specifically singing. But it's also about changing course in old age. At the time lessons seemed like pure whimsy, now singing has taken over my life and V thinks I've made good progress. Certainly I can now enjoy the sound of my own voice, although presently I'm grounded by a surly cough.

It doesn't have to be singing. To be seized as I have been is to say a fig for growing old and incompetent. It's just that singing is a physical, aesthetic and intellectual pursuit, thus body and mind get a work-out. I'm quietly proud I had the moxie.

BUT I DO have other interests, as my Christmas prezzies show. Wine continues to fascinate and I wouldn't be the man I am if my trousers didn't stay up. These braces are swanky and may encourage me to wear them outside my shirt.

Christmas was raucous in the extreme with a full house for two nights. To ensure Professional Bleeder slept in comfort we bought an inflatable mattress with its own built-in pump. Deflation - an often forgotten chore - is done in just over a minute.

PB heard her first opera (Britten's Turn of the Screw) with us a couple of years ago. Now she has 23 of them under her belt. Last night we watched Das Rheingold, three more to complete Wagner's Ring cycle.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

A cut above (amended Dec 28,29)

"It will leave a scar," said Dr X.

"Yeah, but will it add character to my face?"

"I prefer not to guess," said Dr X neutrally. I pondered: adding character implied character already existed. During a long lifetime I haven't gathered a scrap of evidence to support this. A serious lapse.

I was asked what I'd done for a living. Mentioned journalism, and elaborated, saying I once visited Venezuela. "To do what?" "Observe a steel plant," I said. "Oh," said my audience.

Professional Bleeder was in the waiting room, happily sustained by her Kindle. She told me other patients had grumbled at the time I was taking in surgery - two hours in total. None grumbled when I appeared and it was only when I caught sight of my face in a window and noticed the size of the dressing that I understood why.

As we walked towards the bus station I noticed people staring at me then averting their eyes. It gave me a sense of power. No doubt illusory.

On Friday there will be a Wound Review.

SON-IN-LAW Darren gave me this personalised tea-towel for Christmas. The tiny circle of my novel readers will recognise its origins. I am considering converting it into a body gilet.

Coms 1 (text). Grandson Ian to Daughter 1 - his Mum: "Can't wait until the Wound Review. Will he be using the star system: one star (worst), five stars (best)?"
Coms 2 (text). Daughter 2: "Is The Quibbler - ie, RR - OK?"
Daughter 1: "He's toying with mixing kirs (ie, white wine and cassis liqueur)."
Daughter 2: "Tell him to stop toying and start pouring."
Coms 3 (email). RR: "Prezzie transferred. Alas the post-surgical dressing has so thickened my head, the r/h sidebar of my glasses pressses onerously on the wound which is beginning to lose the effects of the anaesthetic. It’s not glamorous being old I can tell you. Grandad."
Grandson Ian: "Thank you very much. Hope you feel better soon and your head returns to normal thickness."

After Christmas dinner, courtesy Occasional Speeder, we watched
the Walter Disney CGI movie "Frozen"

CHARACTER-FORMING? The Practice Nurse thought so and is looking forward to taking the 14 stitches out next Wednesday. For my money leaving the stitches be seems more decorative. I'm having the extracted stitches woven into a basket - ant-size.