Friday, 25 September 2009

Wrong word

In my post earlier this evening I used the word 'amorphous' to describe the culture mix of old Calabria, as documented by Norman Douglas, but it's not quite right. What I'm looking for is an adjective that captures the result, visual or saporous, of stirring various fruit syrups or purees - strawberry, blackcurrant, apple, lime - into a bowl of white yoghurt, enough to make them cross over into each other and be impossible to isolate back out, but not enough to blend them into amorphousness.

I know, it's a big ask! My new Roget's Thesaurus doesn't help at all, waste of thirty quid that was (although it did yield up 'saporous' just now).

As you can tell, there's bog-all on the telly tonight. Off to Spotify some music (Florence and the Machine, my current fave rave I think).


I see on the News that the remains of St Terese of Lisieux (two bones, to be exact) are on a grand tour of Britain, currently in Liverpool. 45,000 people have queued to touch the perspex cover which protects the casket which contains the relics, presumably in the hope of some kind of miracle.

I've been rereading a rather wonderful travel book called 'Old Calabria' by Norman Douglas, first published in 1915. He has two chapters on the numerous saints of this amorphous part of southern Italy, who grew out of the mix of invasions (Greek, Albanian, Norman, Roman, Moorish) that fermented the cultural traditions of the region. Saints were a way of digesting all that, and they grew up in droves. They had many skills, apart from the usual healing and curing and resurrecting and metamorphosing . Most of them could fly - the champion was Joseph of Copertino, who hovered over altars in many locations for most of his life. My favourite miracle was performed by Egidio of Taranto. Having learnt that a cow had been wrongly purloined and butchered by a local merchant, he caused the various parts of the cow to be reassembled, in roughly the right order, on the butcher's floor. Egidio then uttered the appropriate words, whereupon Catherine (that was the cow's name) reassembled herself and wandered off contentedly.

Douglas's final words on the subject are: 'The state of mind which engenders and cherishes such illusions is a disease, and it has been well said that you cannot refute a disease. You cannot nail ghosts to the counter.'

Monday, 21 September 2009


I just noticed in my diary that today has been International Day of Peace. So I looked it up ...

Nothing to add, really.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Cuts and Debts

These seem to be the two words into which the crisis, or whatever we call it now, has been distilled. To summarise, we need cuts in order to repay debts: is that about right?

So (I assume you agree so far, otherwise I might as well stop typing) - cuts in public expenditure are now universally accepted as essential, aren't they? The argument seems to be about what, where and when, bloody good election manifesto that! But I submit, my learned friends, a statement today from British Aerospace (purveyors of WMDs, but leave that to one side) to the effect that they are obliged to make 'cuts' at a number of their UK sites, resulting in up to 800 job losses. Well, what's good for BaE must be sauce for the government gander. So, in future, whenever Cameron, Brown or who's the other one, oh yes, Clegg - whenever they use the C word in future (and they all do now), I'd like them to attach to it the phrase 'resulting in up to nnn job losses', where 'nnn' equals their best-guess lie. I simply don't believe that nowadays you can make 'cuts', in whatever sphere, without sacking people. And of course those people have to go somewhere, if they're not to be just culled (I don't think even the BNP has proposed that yet). And guess where, they're going to go into the benefits regime, aren't they? which means the state paying them (which it was doing anyway), which must of course ultimately result in more, guess what, debt ...


OK, debt. Given that the national debt is in the order of £293768128946235 (I made that number up), or £4567890 for every man, woman, child, foetus, spermatozoon, rabbit and butterfly in the country - who do we owe it to? Who are these people who used to have all this money available to lend to governments, at a time when most humans couldn't raise the price of a Nissan Micra or a bag of Walkers? And, assuming that they haven't just borrowed it from someone else (which wouldn't really get us any further forward), are they now broke themselves? And if the UK government suddenly miraculously found itself able to repay this debt, at a stroke, what would happen then? If I were to donate to these anonymous creditors, free of any let or hindrance, the £1.5 trillion (approx) currently residing in my instant access savings account, what would they do with it? Lend it to some other impoverished government?

For every debit there's a credit. (If you ever try to read a balance sheet, an old banker's hint - the debits are the ones in the column nearest the window.)

It's a serious question, by the way. But of course we already know the answer. It's the Beatles, innit?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Residents Parking Permits

Gosh, is that the time already? It hardly seems a year since I last wrote on this subject. But yes, the application form has arrived again. This time, all that brouhaha about the return envelope has been cunningly avoided; they don't even pretend to provide an envelope any more. They even give you (in rather small print) the address you should send the form to (in an envelope presumably of your own provision, sucker).

The covering letter begins menacingly: 'At the end of September 2009 all the parking permits in your zone will expire.' I shall set the alarm, and peer eagerly from the front window, at 11.59, to watch all the little puffs of smoke, then await the squads of body-armoured parking attendants who will, I hope, descend to ticket, clamp or destroy by controlled explosion all those cars that have suddenly become outcasts, parked pariahs.

But the form! And the rules! I wouldn't dream, my friends, of inflicting the whole thing on you - read the Maastricht Treaty for light relief - besides, it's time to cook my supper (bacon eggs and mushrooms since you ask); so just a random flavour of this bureaucratic madness:
1. Moving house. You must send your permit in for cancellation, otherwise they 'will not be able to issue permit(s) to the new occupiers.' Oh yeah? Tell that to the new occupiers please. Who, incidentally, can apply for a temporary permit whilst they chase you up - they have of course to submit various proofs, one of which can be a tenancy agreement, but (here's the good bit): 'Tenancy agreements are not acceptable proofs for a full permit.' Sorry?
2. Payment. (You can buy various extras.) 'If you are paying by cash a receipt must be sent with your application.' I can't make that mean anything at all.
3. My favourite - 'We regret that no refunds are available once permits have been issued.' They regret? Then why did they say it????

I think I'll apply this time, just for the fun of it - I have about three weeks to work it all out, after all.