Saturday, 21 April 2018

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

On a whim over breakfast, I suggested that we go for an outing.  The choices were the coast or Bury St Edmunds, and I was pleased that Z opted for the latter.  I used to collect cathedrals.  Failing memory and neglect mean that I can’t name them all, but I can recall a few favourites – Winchester, Salisbury, especially Chichester – and now I can add this one.

It’s quite austere as cathedrals go.  Its main nave dates from 1503, so probably the cathedral as we see it was born too late to be too much of a victim of the Reformation depravation.  The relatively low-key flashy bits are mostly later add-ons; though my sole source of historical information, a little brochure handed to me by a charming greeter, of whom later, is confusing to say the least.  The showpiece stained glass Susanna window, for example, is dated around 1480, so must have been recycled from somewhere.  And it’s called St Edmundsbury, which makes one wonder which came first, the saint or the town?  I’ll have to look it up.*
The man who welcomed us proved to have Yagnub origins, to have been slightly acquainted with the Sage, and to have a few bits of Lowestoft china which he might want to sell at some time.  Z was quite moved by this reminder of the power of coincidence, I think.
Next time we go there, we will take a picture of a commemorative wall plaque that manages to write the history, from tragic to happy, of several generations of a local eighteenth century family; find out more about the project (comparable in scale to the Fishguard Last Invasion tapestry) that resulted in hundreds of uniquely embroidered kneelers on the pews, one for each and every parish in the diocese and well beyond, as far as we could make out; and walk in the cloisters.

Afterwards, we wandered out and around the town, admiring how graciously ancient buildings have mostly managed to absorb modern commercial functions, and unsuccessfully looking for non-chain-outlet food, before we took off and found a well-concealed but deservedly popular lunch venue at a vineyard just off the A143.

*Or await a clarifying comment from one of my many readers…

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Caravan Diaries – Rules?

There are rules.  I’d always known this, of course, just never knew what they were.  Joseph has remedied this by publishing a long list of them, mostly aimed at preventing and penalising sub-letting.  He assures me that they don’t really apply to the likes of me.

If I didn’t know as much as I do about how Pembrokeshire works, I’d find that slightly patronising.  As it is, I decide to find it amusing.  He’s a nice man whose spirit and skills are in practicality – mechanical problem-solving, farming – not in commercial rental management, and some people have undoubtedly been taking advantage.  But he really should have had someone check it out before publishing.  Some of these so-called ‘rules’ are absurd, not to say self-contradictory, and a lawyer would have a field day if it ever came to it – not that it will, Pembrokeshire law is mostly about how to avoid itself.

Some things called O-rings in the shower mixer unit have been damaged, probably by my insufficient unscrewing of the tiny grub screws when removing it for over-wintering, resulting in a slight, steady drip.  Joseph might have some spare ones, or can get some, and will fit them.  A list of the rescues he’s performed for me over the years would bore you to snores and probably overflow the internet.  I have to allow him a few stupid rules, don’t I?
The sea never changes, and is never the same.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Rules Are Made To Be Broken

We were discussing Picasso the other evening, and how he needed to learn the fundamental skills of his craft, and the understood rules of his medium, before he could afford to ignore both of those imposters and become a true artist.

I’m now listening to Cecil Taylor doing something comparable to improvised jazz.  The first track on ‘The World of Cecil Taylor’ (Candid 9006, 1960) is called ‘Air’, and could easily be discounted as just a bunch of, let’s say, well-enhanced would-be’s plonking around on their piano, drums and bass to demonstrate their undoubted mastery of the skills without ending up making anything approaching real music – until you get halfway through, and the age-old jazz trick of ‘fours with the drummer’ kicks in.  At which point you realise that Cecil on piano and Dennis Charles on drums are actually playing the same phrases, competitively bouncing them off each other and winding each other’s last shot up to the next level, and that they know the rules too.  At which point you – or at any rate I – burst out laughing.
But it’s track two that really proves my point (if I have one).  It’s a corny ballad from South Pacific called ‘This Nearly Was Mine’.  Taylor mischievously tears it apart and stitches it back together like a child playing with a dressing-up box – but the song never gets lost; and I imagined that he was feeling, and expressing, a variant of what Rodgers was after when he tried to catch Emile’s emotions when he thought he’d lost Nellie.
But I’ve stretched this far enough, so I’m off to antidote with a chunk of The Clash. Who also knew how to break the rules they knew.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Climate and Weather

Everyone except Donald Trump knows the difference between these, right?  So how to explain it to him?  I thought about it until I felt I understood it myself a bit, then came up with this analogy.  Don’t drill any deeper into it than I have, because it will crumble.

Imagine a broad highway.  It has edges and fairly predictable curves, but not much else in the way of controls.  That’s the climate.
Now imagine you’re driving along this highway.  The lack of controls means you can take any number of paths within the existing edges and curves.  You’re the weather.
Now someone comes along and, unpredictably, moves the edges and reroutes the curves.  That’s climate change.
Most of the time you (the weather) will carry on as you always have. But the more the climate highway gets wider or narrower, bendier or straighter, the more likely you are to crash.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Hills Are Alive

Sadly, nobody made a 1970s horror film with that title.  They had Eyes.  (But if so, they must’ve been alive, surely?  You can’t have eyes if you’re dead – you can only have deadeyes.)

So, moving rapidly on: everyone agrees that The Sound of Music is the best awful song ever written, in the best awful musical ever written, at least by R&H.  A school of thought suggests that they should have packed it in after Carousel, and I have some sympathy with that, only bidding South Pacific as a preferred quit point.  But they knew what they were doing.  Well, they’d both been in the trade, individually and then together, for half a century or more.  (The first trace I can find of Rodgers as a composer is a song called ‘Any Old Place with You’, with Lorenz Hart, in 1919; and of Hammerstein writing, with Otto Harbach and Herbert Stothart, a musical called ‘Jimmie’ in 1920, from which no songs, perhaps thankfully, seem to have survived.)
Anyway, what I’d meant to write about (prompted by some thoughts about rhythm, melody and harmony) – the actual sound of the stuff – will have to wait for another day.  Besides, there aren’t any hills around here.
(to be continued...)

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Christmas Card Audit 2017

Executive Summary:

·        No startling variations from last year evince themselves, apart from the decline in the snowy category.  This may be due to the misappropriation during 2017 of the word ‘snowflake’.

·        Several animals and birds (such as foxes, cats and owls) are resting, but will doubtless be back.  Others (dogs and nuthatches)are debuting: we wish them well.

·        The slight reduction in the volume of glued-on glitter is to be welcomed.  I read that the stuff is the next ecological-disaster-in-waiting.

·        A cute little girl has replaced a choirboy.  I’m saying nothing.


The full figures (2016’s, where applicable, in brackets):


Snow/Snowmen/Snowflakes:                 4 (10)

Santas/Reindeer:                                   3 (3)

Animals/Birds:                                      12 (12)

of which          

Robins:                                     2 (3)

Free-range reindeer:                  3 (3)

Horses:                                     1 (1)

Foxes:                                      0 (1)

Sheep:                                      2 (1)

Cats:                                        0 (1)

Squirrels:                                  0 (1)

Wrens:                                     1 (1)

Owls:                                       0 (1)

Penguins:                                 1 (1)

Partridges (in pear tree):            0 (1)

Bullfinches:                              0 (1)

Dogs:                                       1

Nuthatches:                              1

Landscapes:                                          3 (4)

Nativities/Wise Men/Angels:                 6 (7)

Christmas trees/Baubles:                       4 (9)

Abstract:                                              4 (2)

Mail-letterboxes:                                   1 (3)

Choirboys:                                            0 (1)

Booze:                                                  1 (1)

Flowers:                                               1

Forests/woods:                                      3

Cute children:                                       1

Houses:                                                1


Special categories:


Homemade/designed:                            3 (4)

Cards with glued-on glitter:                   8 (10)

Wonderfully weird:                               3 (1)

Posh yet restrained:                               1


Again, I can’t nominate a Card of the Year– they are all equal in their various ways.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Astany Portorm (3, 4, 2, 1, 5)

When I got back here on Tuesday, everything was fine.  I worry occasionally and slightly – has the house burned down? (unlikely, I’d have been told); has the boiler broken down (that’s happened); has a power cut switched off the alarm and then failed to switch it back on again (nightmare scenario) ….

No, all was fine.  So I went up the supermarket to stock up for the few days I’d be here.  Also fine.  But.
When I got back, I opened the front door (as one does) then closed it.  Except that the latch pushy-in-and-out thingy didn’t push out.  I have, of course, two locks on this door, so as it wasn’t an immediately urgent problem – not up there with the alarm – I investigated briefly, determined that the lock was knackered beyond repair, and got on with what was left of the day.
Wednesday was spent finding a replacement lock that near enough matched the dead one.  I ended up at Reading’s wonderful long-lived ironmongers, Drews, where a cheerfully caring young man helped me find what I needed, leaving me with what proved to be a presciently potent parting platitude – ‘hope it goes all right!’
Don’t worry, I shall now cut to the title.  After, at about 3 o’clock when the light was starting to fail, discovering that the pre-existing hole in the door was too big (the spindly thingy that connects the outside to the inside has to be precisely aligned, which the right-sized hole will achieve automatically whereas a too-big one permits the thingy to wobble around, making it really hard to join it all up, and… where was I?), I gave up and moved on.
Of course, this morning, after a good night’s sleep (apart from the wind – not internal, there was a serious storm going on outside) I dealt with that now minor impediment in minutes flat (well, about twenty of them) and completed the installation.
This is where I found that I needed to shim out the thingy that’s attached to the door frame, which catches the lock’s pushy-in-and-out thingy and causes the lock to, erm, lock, by about a quarter of an inch.  I needed a little bit of wood just that thick.  But where to find such a thing?  The idea of having to haul down to yet another diy joint was not on.  It had to be locally sourced.  Another twenty minutes head scratching and wandering around ensued, then the solution caught my eye.
About thirty years ago, it seems that some kind body gave us a presentation bottle of Dow’s Vintage Port.  The box it came in now contains old forks, parties for the use of.  It was in the garage/workshop/study.  Ah, maybe…!  Yes, its lid is exactly the right thickness and width (3”) for the shim I needed.  All I had to do was saw off the right length and drill three holes in it.  The forks aren’t quite as well protected as they were, but they’ll survive.
As the post title says – ‘Any Port In A Storm’.