Saturday, 31 December 2011

366 Resolutions Per Annum

And all of them the same:  "TODAY, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT".

I won't keep them all, of course; probably not even a quarter.  But waking up with the thought in my mind won't do any harm.

Actually, even if the last word gets left off, that'll still be something.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Review Of The Year 2011

Lesson Learnt: Tread carefully, but step out with conviction when you do.

Lesson Not Learnt: Don’t wear white shirts to dinner parties.

Best Thing Said To Me: Not telling.  Runner-up: “You are lovely.”

Worst Thing Said To Me: “I really enjoyed our friendship.”

Answered Question: “Does the Higgs boson exist?”  (Answer: maybe.)

Unanswered Question: “What did I come up here for?”

Achievement: Playing the guitar for two hours on Boxing Day after a six month lay-off.

Non-achievement: Painting the kitchen ceiling (winner for three years running).

Un-understood Word: Meme.

Culinary Discovery: Wilkin’s Tomato Ketchup.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Glassman Cameth, and other stories

I don’t know about you, but when I’m hanging around waiting for a crucial phone call or doorbell, I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else.  Today, I could be excused this character defect, because I wasn’t allowed to get on with many of the things I should have done.  I couldn’t do much in the way of tidying and cleaning until Forensics came, and there was no point in Glassman attending before Forensics.  And I found it impossible to settle down to a book or a movie.  I couldn’t even summon the willpower to throw away the Christmas presents.  (Only kidding: see below.)

Anyway, Forensics came and dusted for prints of finger and foot and whatever else they do.  He didn’t hold out a lot of hope: Idiot was apparently smart enough to wear gloves, and the shoes were, well, just shoes.  This was confirmed within an hour or so by phone.  The case is still open, obviously, and they’re looking for tie-ins with other similar ones.  They’ll catch Idiot eventually, but I’m losing interest in that.  (Although I’d like to meet him face to face and explain to him, at length, exactly what he’s done, until he breaks down in tears.  I could do it, and society would benefit in a small, not big, way.)
The glass people had promised to come ‘as soon as possible’ today and do their best.  That is exactly what happened.  An exhausted but charming young Glassman arrived at seven thirty this evening, all ready to do boarding up or whatever it took to make me safe.  He’d been doing this for ten hours.  We quickly agreed that nothing more could practically be done to make me safe.  I’d been worried about the glass in the small leaded window in the living room, which has been there since 1929 (the glass, I mean, as well as the room).  “Amber Flemish,” he said.  “We can find that.”  As he left, he shook his head and said something about Idiot which made me laugh.  “Looks like he was more interested in the box than the present.”

Which leads me neat(ish)ly on to other news:
  • The Boxing Day fourteen-part harmony sing-song went pretty well.  In fact it went pretty well for about two hours, until I claimed blisters on my fingers.  (And by the way, does anyone know why, according to the authorities, it was Ringo rather than George or Paul who shouted that?  Drummers don’t get blisters on their fingers, do they?)
  • I joked about throwing away presents, but some of them, eventually, will be.  There’s a limit to how many jars of home-made chutney a guy can get through in a year.
  • The major present was a Kindle.  I will research further.  The instruction manual says ‘plug it in’.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Bleedin’ Amateurs

As I was leaving here on Christmas day in the morning, I remember mentally checking that I’d secured the perimeter according to Standard Operating Procedures, and then for some reason thinking ‘I’ll probably have been burgled when I get back’.  And when I did get back this afternoon, as I unlocked and opened the gates to the drive, before I could see the house itself, I thought ‘I’ve been burgled’.  I don’t know whether this makes me psychic or paranoid.

Because, as soon as I got out of the car, I saw that I had indeed been burgled.  The clue was that the kitchen window was wide open.  (I should explain that this is a window which has not until now been opened since 1992, by the last burglar, after which I fitted locks, painted it shut and bought the alarm system.)  I walked round to the front door and entered.  The alarm made all the right noises as I disarmed it.  I saw that, in fact, two windows in the kitchen had been smashed.  One pane of the six in the back door, and one of the eight in the now-open window.  I went straight to the living room, naturally, because that’s where most of the obviously tradeable valuables are.  I could immediately see that nothing had been taken (not even this elderly laptop) or disturbed.  (When you live alone, you develop an intimate knowledge of your own disorder.)  I went through to the dining room.  The side window had been smashed, but the secondary double glazing had defeated them.  I checked the rest of the house and found that a little pane in the leaded window on the other side had been smashed too.  Nothing missing anywhere.  That made the score four windows, no swag.
The bright young PC arrived pretty quickly.  “You’re my first today,” he told me.  “Only just came on shift.  But they’ve been pretty busy already, and I’ve got a couple more after you.  Looks like there’s this one idiot on a spree last night.”
I agreed.  Idiot.  The first try, in the dining room, should have given him a clue.  You can’t break secondary glazing.  But that didn’t deter him, and he persevered – hadn’t he noticed that there was an alarm? – until finally he managed to get into the kitchen, opened the door to the hall (which is where the alarm gets triggered, for the benefit of any future burglars who may be reading this) and scarpered empty-handed.
Idiot is the only word.  Bleedin’ amateurs.  A professional would only have broken one window, and got away maybe with a few bits of insured stuff.  I wouldn’t have liked that, but in a sense I’d have preferred it.  I’d have been less uncomfortable with rationality than with mindlessness.  Although a professional, of course, wouldn’t even have tried it.
Oh, apart from that I had a brilliant Christmas.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas

Well, to paraphrase Groucho, have whatever kind of Christmas you choose.  Personally, I'm going for a few Merry and Bright days.

Advance announcement of the Best Card award, which as usual goes to my darling friend Molly:

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Whatever can he have meant?

R was telling her brother, M, about her wood-burning stove, and the deal she'd done with a tree surgeon friend which provided her with a more or less unlimited supply of logs.  Just then the summons came to go through for supper.  As we climbed to our feet, M caught my eye.  "I wish I could get wood whenever I wanted," he muttered.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


You have all been endowed, for twenty four hours, with the honorary title of "Glorious Comrade Defenders Of The Heavenly Rainbow Of Blogdom".  Rejoice!

Oh, and  this might cheer you up.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


Two places to my left, P was conducting an animated conversation about immigration with M, two places to my right.  P is M's father, so they compete - in this case, in volume.  Meanwhile, C was explaining, to A seated opposite her, how a random Scotsman, forty years ago, had transformed somebody or other's life with some unasked-for advice.  C is married to P, so has learnt about volume over the years.  Meanwhile, behind me on the iPod docker, Prince was tearing through 'Let's Go Crazy' from Purple Rain.  Music always drives everything else out of my ears at the best of times.  Meanwhile, I was having a quiet conversation with R and D, to my immediate right and left (P and C's daughter and granddaughter), about my trip to Jersey last weekend.  D said something I didn't catch (it turned out to be 'Guernsey'), so I said "What?"  C looked across at me.  "Are you sure you're not going a bit deaf?" she said.

A bit later, someone said "Stuff an old pillow up the chimney."  I definitely heard that.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


So, why do we have different knives and forks for fish?  And why do we feel compelled to use them?

And how come I'm finding it impossible to do a typo, even deliberately?

Only asjing.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


This started from my reviewing my Christmas card list.

It’s that time of the year, isn’t it?  I like to think that I belong to quite a few communities.  But if I’m honest, I’m not sure whether I do.  So I need to analyse this.  Bear with me.  (Or don’t, click off now – but see my last paragraph.)
Years ago, I formed a concept that a community might consist of a number of people who might be thinking of each other at any one time.  The closeness of the community could be measured by the probability of that happening, and actual face-to-face meetings were an outcome of that probability.  Originally, and for many centuries, people had to be within walking or riding distance, so you’d be constantly aware of all that, and of the subtle shifts within it.  If you wanted to move in or out, you had to physically duck and weave.  I’m not just talking Jane Austen: even in my teens, in the fifties, you had to keep a bright eye open for who might walk up the high street or through the youth club door, and who they were with in relation to who you were with.  So communities shifted and mutated.
The theory held, with extension, after the telephone became cheap enough for parents to permit its use.  Although the interaction was long-distance, it still depended on the precept that you would be thinking of the person you phoned.  The nature of the community didn’t really change, it just stretched.  The relationships within it remained the same.  And of course you could always pretend not to be there, or ring off.
And then along came the internet, 2.0.  I started blogging, and that was fine.  Although I didn’t actually know any of the people, I could feel that there was a community out there, to which I could belong, within a rather reconstructed set of rules.  It was a bit like being at a conference in Dusseldorf  or somewhere, where you don’t know anyone but can easily relate, because you have at least a bit of common ground – and of course you can always walk away.
This is where we came in.  I’ve joined a few social sites, and I get invites to befriend hundreds of people whom I don’t know, will never know, and who only know of me as a friend of a friend of a friend.  That’s exactly like my Christmas card list.  I’ve got it down from eighty-something to thirty-six, just by eliminating all those with whom I feel absolutely no sense of community.
Am I being churlish?  Probably.  So I promise to do nothing but frivolous posts from now until 2012, starting tomorrow.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Surprise, surprise

It wasn’t anything like a military operation, because intelligence was involved, and it worked. (That is to say, it achieved its objective; and it had one.)  A few marginal things went wrong – the helium balloons didn’t turn up and had to be hastily reorganised; the seating plan for the five-course dinner had to be last-minute adjusted for arcane reasons, with potential mis-delivery of pre-ordered courses; Boy (whose thirtieth this was, in Jersey) threatened, on receipt of programmed red herring texts, to go to the airport and collect people who’d actually arrived the previous day – but in general the General did an amazing job.  I think she tired, during the evening, of being reminded that when she was eighteen she wanted to join the Army.

I know him pretty well, so I was certain, when Boy walked into that bar, that his surprise was genuine.  He’s not the kind of guy who habitually fakes stuff; and he lives, mostly, on the surface: not being devious himself, he doesn’t suspect others of it.  So the massed choir singing ‘Happy Birthday To You’ (in several different keys) may have momentarily thrown him emotionally, but he bounced back.  After handshakes and kisses all round (I got both), he looked at his father and said “Any chance of a drink, then?”
At any party, there have to be a few, er, moments.  Bloke provided them.  Bloke is an enforced non-drinker, due to recent fatherhood, but obviously grabs the opportunity when it jumps up and licks his face.  I’d guess that he’d stoked up the prospect of getting tanked for weeks, and shovelled in more and more fuel the nearer the event drew.  Of course, what happens is that you peak far too soon.  What happens after that depends on what the booze uncovers.  (In my case, I’ve been told, I get mellowly amorous, so I’ve learnt – mostly – to contain that, although being seated between the two most attractive girls in the room didn’t help; I didn’t know which way to turn, but thank you, General…)  In Bloke’s case, evidently, it’s Clarksonian banter.  You know what I mean.  There’s a fine line in there; blokeish ‘banter’ can easily tip over into obnoxious bullying, and the bully, even though he (it’s very rarely, though not never, ‘she’) might still have hazy sight of his behaviour, he has nowhere to go except more of the same.
I won’t go into details, even though he certainly won’t read this.  Eventually he was quietly made to shut up.  It didn’t spoil anything, and most people probably didn’t even notice it.  I intervened a couple of times, and ended up having my shoulder figuratively cried on, at two a.m., when he’d got a glimmering of what he’d done and subsided into faux-remorse.  And I’d only met him for the first time that afternoon.  But I’ve learnt to deal with that kind of business.
You don’t need me to tell you that Sunday was a bad weather day.  Luckily nobody felt much like walking the five mile length of St Ouen’s Bay.  Driving back from Southampton airport, through monsoon rain, I heard Boy’s Nana say “Shame it had to be spoiled by the rain.”  I’ve learnt to deal with Nana too, so I just grunted and carried on driving.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


No, not that!  Not even this from 1958.  This is about the real thing.  I was sidetracked the other day, by an itchy thumb, to write at more length than I’d intended about the only tumble, thus far, that has left a detectable trace (at least on the outside of me – I have no way of knowing about the mental consequences of being dropped on my head all those times before I was three).  But there have been others, so here are just a few.

For years, we went to south Pembrokeshire for our summer holidays.  Our rented house was just up the hill from Wiseman’s Bridge beach, and it was always my secret ambition to be first down there and up to the top of the Big Rock.  This particular year, I was probably eight, I ran too fast down the road and swerved to avoid an approaching car.  Unthinkable today, of course, but cars were few and far between then.  I went over forwards and removed much of the skin from my right knee.  Why is this memorable?  Because I still remember, as if I were hearing it, my instant thought: “I’m not going to cry!”  And I didn’t.
Fast forward to 1967, Milan.  We have somehow fallen in with a patroness who collects artistic butterflies on Friday evenings in her huge apartment.  She has an invisible husband and an all too visible daughter.  I am forced to play a duet with someone who claims to be Django Reinhardt’s son, and might well be.  We leave as the sun is rising, and decide it’d be fun to see if we can jump between a number of raised traffic islands, spaced about two metres apart.  I can, twice: but not three times.  This time, it’s my left cheek.  I tell a lie to my girlfriend about slipping on a dropped ice cream.  She asks me what flavour it was.
You know those ‘director chairs’, the sort of rectangular ones which have ‘Michael Winner’ or something written on the back?  Well, there’s a subspecies in which the backrest is on pivots, so that you can lean comfortably back into it whilst watching the rushes or whatever it is directors do.  Do not, under any circumstances, reach out to one of these to steady yourself when stumbling on an uneven garden path after consuming three blue cocktails.  In fact, do not under any circumstances ever consume a blue cocktail.  Cracked rib that time.
I could go on.  The time my foot missed the skid mat in the shower in a hotel room as I attempted to turn it down from scalding; the time I unwisely accepted, and smoked, an unaccustomed cigarette and then tried to walk up a steep grassy slope in the dark; the time when I lost my dancing balance and narrowly avoided landing on top of a sleeping small child on a sofa …  but I think I have delighted you enough.  We all fall once in a while.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Made of this?

I'm sorry I couldn't find my original 45 of 'Catch a Falling Star'.  I think my brother has it in his garage.  But here are a few that rang bells for me:

Saturday, 3 December 2011


On Any Questions, Jeremy *unt, the *ulture Secretary, said that various measures (I really can’t remember what they were, and it doesn’t matter because they’ll have changed by this time tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure you and I won’t like them, and don’t know anybody who will) are necessary in order to regain “the confidence of the Markets”.  I’ll write that again: the confidence of the Markets.

I have a very limited circle of acquaintanceship, which doesn’t include any Markets.  But apparently there are now only 2.7 degrees of separation, rather than the pre-digital six, between me and everybody else on the planet.  So send, please, the following question to 2.7 people, and ask them to pass it on to another 2.7:
“How much confidence do you have in the Markets?”
You can rate it on a scale of 0 to 1.  Answers on a comment please, enclosing a food stamp. 

Friday, 2 December 2011

Scar Itch

I was going to write a comical piece about the several times in my life that I have fallen over, and the consequences; but then I got this itch in the pulp of my right thumb.  Proust did taste and smell, of course, and we all do sight and sound, all the time.  But there aren’t many times, I think, when the sense of touch triggers a madeleine moment.  This is one.

It was the early summer of 1964, a Saturday evening.  We used to go to the Bure Club at Highcliffe as often as we could afford it.  It was one of the only two places to be in the Bournemouth area (the other being the Disque a Gogo in Holdenhurst Road).  The big visiting American blues names played the Bure: Hooker, Muddy, I forget who else.  On this occasion it was the Animals, and it was important to be there early, so as to get a couple of beers sunk and be near the front when they came on.  We were anti-Animals, for all sorts of reasons.  They were slick, commercial, about to sell out and, to be honest, just too bloody good.  Whereas we were thrashing around trying to put together a group, any sort of group.  A drummer, any sort of drummer, was number three on my wish list, after a couple of girls whose names I remember (but had better not mention here).
I was late.  I’m not sure why, probably due to negotiation with my parents about use of the car, a ritual which had to be performed even though the outcome was always the same (ending with and don’t forget to put some petrol in!).  So I parked up and ran.  You had to park outside the grounds and then proceed on foot through the entrance and up a gravel drive.  In the middle of the gateway there was one of those sticking-up metal stops that prevent the gate going the wrong way when it’s closed.  That’s what I tripped over.
And that’s the fall-over – the film.  My legs stop dead whilst the rest of me carries on.  My right arm goes out to break the fall, palm first.  Gravel digs in.  I get up, rather too quickly, and carry on; blood is dribbling from my hand, but I find a handkerchief and mop it up.  It doesn’t seem too bad.  I get inside the club …
Three days later, Dr Hall-Reid (rather viciously I thought) scrubbed away the incipient gangrene or whatever it was, put a dressing on, prescribed some penicillin and told me I was lucky.  Some sympathetic musical colleague said ‘Yes, lucky it wasn’t your left, or you wouldn’t be able to play.’
The scar’s survived, for five decades.  It’s tiny, quarter of an inch long and just detectable by touch if you know it’s there.  It throws up an itch every so often.