May 15th

Giving up football

By Colin

Five years ago I wrote my very first, and ashamedly my only blog to date. The title was giving up football and that was what I intended to do. To stop following the team I had supported since my father had taken me to watch as a five year old. One comment on the blog proffered that I could do no such thing and how good it would be to see my team rise again.  We had just been relegated from the Premiere League at the time.

      Well after six seasons in the second tier we are back.  Not only are we back, but we are playing the best football I have ever witnessed at the Molineux.  We have the backing of a mega wealthy Chinese company and it seems that this time we go up to compete and not just mearly survive.  I get so excited at the prospect of Wolves being one of the top clubs in the country again (the Chinese company's ten year plan) that I fear I shall soon have to invest in some of those incontinent pants so often advertised in the loo's of motorway service stations, I think they cost under a TENA.

     I moved from my birth place to Cornwall thirty years ago, but never stopped following my beloved Wolves.  I remember my then wife saying 'Why dont you support one of the local teams now'  I almost had a Rene from Allo Allo moment.... You stupid woman!!!  For a start you canot just change your team as you change your address (with the exception of glory hunters). Plus there are no football league teams in Cornwall. The 'local' team where I live in Bude is in fact Plymouth Argyle a mere 45 miles away. Most locals seem to follow one premiereship team or another, usually the ones at the top of the league.

       I have a Barbershop in Bude and as such we have some banter about football especially on a Saturday morning.  Over the years I have come in for a fair bit of stick from the glory hunters, fair enough, I can take it.  My children, especially my son were ridiculed at school for wearing the old gold and black but stuck with it.  They are now both proud Wolves supporters and that makes my chest swell with pride.

      Back on February 3rd (my birthday) myself, my son and dauaghter, my partner( a Welsh woman of rugby background) and a mate (Man Utd fan) and his girlfriend travelled up to see Wolves take on Sheffield Utd. It was an evening KO and a few drinks were imbibed in before heading to the stadium.  I was slightly aprehensive as I had been 'bigging up the Wolves' for months to my Man Utd mate, and I was praying for a good performance at the very least.  Well what a night, not just a good performance but a 3.0 thrashing of the blades.  My mate was impressed by the team and the stadium, it was my partners first ever football match and she loved it, and my son and daughter want to go again as soon as possible. The night was rounded off with a superb indian meal in Bridgenorth and fabtastic accomadation at my cousins B&B.  

     So as far as giving football up?  Not a chance.  We are just entering an exciting new era and I want to be part of it.

 

May 14th

SWIMMING POOL

By Mat

During the depths of recent unemployment - a submission - FAIL - to King's Cross SlamDunk poetry siesta - something something

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCm3Ra7TszQ

May 13th

A neglected talent

By RichardB
In 1983, on a commission from a Japanese publisher, the novelist and critic Anthony (A Clockwork Orange) Burgess wrote a book called Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939 – A Personal Choice. Why he chose 1939 as his starting point I don't know, but what emerged was a list of the seminal novels of the mid-twentieth century. Catch-22 is in there. So are A Farewell to ArmsSaturday Night and Sunday MorningThe French Lieutenant's WomanThe Catcher in the RyeBrideshead Revisited. Just about every mid-twentieth century author of any reputation puts in an appearance.
 
But there is one entry which must sorely puzzle many, even most, of the people who see that list. Pavane, by Keith Roberts. What book is this? Who is Keith Roberts? And if his book is so good, why is it so little-known?
 
A clue to one possible reason is that prominent among those who have praised it are Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and George R R Martin. Roberts wrote mainly various forms of speculative fiction, and science-fiction has always been a bit of a poor relation. People don't take it seriously. It's the trainspotting of fiction genres. You probably don't need me to tell you that SF is about the commonest no-no on agents' lists of types of MS they won't consider.
 
Even so, there are one or two other works of SF on Burgess' list, but they are all better known than Pavane.
 
But not to me. I bought and read Pavane when it first came out in paperback. I fell in love straight away, and nearly half a century (My God!) later it remains one of my very favourite novels. I still have that first-ever paperback edition, yellowed with years, softened and worn by many re-readings, but still just about holding together in one piece.
 
So what is this overlooked gem?
 
First off, it's what is known in SF circles as a fix-up, a series of separate episodes linked together by characters and place. AndPavane isn't quite science-fiction as the term is usually understood. Like Robert Harris' much more recent bestseller Fatherland (which, however, has not been pigeonholed as SF), it is a tale of alternative history, a big what if...? Taking advantage of a nation riven by Catholic-Protestant civil war following the assassination of Elizabeth I, the Spanish Armada successfully invaded England, setting off a chain reaction in which Protestantism was wiped out all ever Europe and the whole continent came under the domination of the Catholic Church. Over the centuries since, it has kept its grip on the minds and souls of the people by suppressing or even reversing progress, both technological and social, and so we are presented with a twentieth century England in which something close to the feudal system has been reimposed, and where technology has not advanced beyond the steam age. Road haulage is by traction engine, castles and monasteries are still thriving, and communication is by semaphores on tall towers (the inspiration for Terry Pratchett's clacks: I'd lay money on it). There are still large tracts of wilderness, where wolves and wild cats survive. People still believe in the Old Ones, the Fairies, the People of the Heath. And with good reason.
 
Roberts' world building is a bit of a Marmite thing. Some readers find his loving detailing of obsolete and imaginary technologies tedious and complain that it gets in the way of the story; others, myself included, find the very same thing captivating, bringing the imagined world vividly to life, because he doesn't describe those technologies in a cold mechanical way but brings them alive by putting the reader right into the heads of those who use them – for example, writing of the screaming muscles of a trainee semaphore signaller after a hard test at the signal levers.
 
But Pavane isn't about technology, the strangeness of a re-imagined England or the politics of repression and rebellion. What it's really about, like any good novel in any genre, is people: their dreams, fears, passions, and tragedies. Its real strength is in the characters who step, living and breathing, off the page and into your heart: the road haulier whose heart is broken in love and by the inadvertent killing of his friend; the boy who dreams of becoming a signaller on the semaphore stations; the monk who, his mind turned by witnessing the horrors of the Inquisition, foments unrest by his heretical preaching; the noblewoman who provokes the first armed insurrection against Papal rule by refusing to pay an unfairly levied tax to the Church because it will cause hardship and starvation in her lands.
 
Its other strength is the power and grace of its prose. There are books, not many of them, that I will read and re-read, almost regardless of the content, for the sheer pleasure I get from the quality of the writing, and Pavane is one of that select few. Two brief examples, chosen more or less at random:
 
In the yard the puddles had crashed and tinkled under his boots, the skin of ice from the night before barely thinned.
 
On either side of the knoll the land stretched in long, speckled sweeps, paling in the frost smoke until until the outlines of distant hills blended with the curdled milk of the sky.
 
And Roberts deploys the power of that prose and of his fertile imagination in creating dramatic and moving scenes that stay with you long after you've closed the book. For my money, this is not just a great writer of science-fiction: this as a great writer, period. So why is Keith Roberts so obscure?
 
As if the handicap of working in a marginalised genre weren't enough, he was his own worst enemy, the archetypical difficult author. Sooner or later he'd pick a quarrel with everyone who published him, usually over royalties, and shower them with vitriolic, abusive letters, until no one would touch him except small presses run by enthusiasts of the genre and his writing. Even these ventures usually ended in tears. Until the advent of digital publishing, nearly everything he wrote was out of print and unobtainable except by scouring second-hand bookshops.
 
His private life seems to have followed much the same pattern. He lived alone ('in some squalor,' as someone who knew him once wrote) in a small rented flat, apparently unable to sustain lasting relationships of any kind. Particularly with women. Barmaids keep cropping up in his fiction, not only, I suspect, because he liked his beer but because the casual cameraderie of the bar-room and an arms-length chat with a girl over a bar counter were all that he could handle: friendship and romance from a safe distance. And no story of his is quite complete without a young, feisty heroine, a dream-girl conjured up from his imagination (inspired by some barmaid he'd encountered?) as a substitute for the real thing. It's a measure of Roberts' talent that he gets away with it: the results are not mawkish self-indulgence but vivid, breathing, believable characters.
 
And that's not all he got away with. In one of his other novels,Molly Zero, he took the huge risk of writing in present tense second person (It begins 'You're shivering inside your coat.'). I was doubtful until I started reading, when I was hooked instantly and stopped noticing within half-a-dozen pages. He even set two linked short stories in a public toilet. In Kaeti and Company, a set of linked short stories, he subverts the relationship between writer and characters, engaging in conversations with Kaeti, his heroine, between the stories, and recycling the same characters as if he were casting actors in a series of plays (hence the title).
 
Everything I've heard about Roberts points to him being a deeply troubled, unhappy man, but from that torment (if that's not too strong a word) emerged some wonderful writing. At least I think so. He never quite regained the heights of Pavane, which was his second published novel, but there are enough gems scattered through his works to make me eager to read anything he wrote.
 
Keith Roberts died in 2000 at the comparatively early age of 65, a victim of complications of MS.
 
Indulge me with a few minutes of your time while I leave you with a taster from Pavane. The scene is at the lowered portcullis of Corfe Castle, which in Roberts' alternative England is far from ruinous. 'This Isle' is the Isle of Purbeck.
 
She halted by the breach of the great gun, one hand resting on the iron. 'Well, My Lord,' she said in a low, clear voice. 'What will you have of us?'
 
Henry's rages were famous and spectacular; spittle flecked his beard, the standers-by heard him grind his teeth. 'Deliver me this place,' he shouted finally. And your ordnance, and yourselves. In the name of your ruler Pope John, through the authority vested in me as his lieutenant in these islands.'
 
She straightened her back, staring up at him through the gate. 'And in the name of Charles?' she asked cuttingly. 'For my liege ruler is my King. So it was with my father and so with me, My Lord; I took no vows before a foreign priest.'
 
He drew his sword, and pointed through the bars. 'That gun,' was all he could speak.
 
She still remained standing by the greatgun, fingers touching its breech and the wind moving in her hair. 'And if I refuse?'
 
He shouted again then, waving an arm; at the gesture a soldier spurred forward, lifting a bag from the pommel of his saddle. 'Then your liege-folk in this Isle pay with their homes and their property and their lives,' panted Henry, slashing at the cord that held the canvas closed. 'It'll be blood for iron, My Lady, blood for iron...' The string came free, the bag was shaken; and down before her dropped the tongues and other parts of men, cut away as was the custom of Henry's soldiers.
 
There was a silence that deepened. The colour drained slowly from Eleanor's face, leaving the skin chalk-pale as the fabric of her dress; indeed the more romantic of the watchers swore afterwards the blue leached from her very eyes, leaving them lambent and dead as the eyes of a corpse. She clenched her hands slowly, slowly relaxed them again; a long time she waited, leaning on the gun, while the rage blurred her sight, rose to a high mad shrilling that seemed to ring inside her brain, receded leaving her utterly cold. She swallowed; and when she spoke again every word seemed freshly chipped from ice. 'Why then,' she said, 'you must not leave us empty-handed, My Lord of Rye and Deal. Yet I fear my Growler will be a heavy load. Would not your task be lightened if his charge were sent before?' And before any of the people round her could guess her purpose or intervene she had snatched at the firing lanyard, and Growler leaped back pouring smoke while echoes clapped around the waiting hills.
May 13th

Neither Of Us

By Dolly

A few days ago, I woke up to a blue sky. No cloud. Well, there might have been a few wisps about, but nothing of any consequence. The sun was up, and not even a hint of wind disturbed the warm air. The tree outside my window, was starting to push leaves out. I had cereal for breakfast, and ate it standing up, admiring the morning through an open window, and thought it would be a good idea to expose the bottom half of my legs to the elements with some shorts, sandals, a tee shirt, and go out in it.

So off I went. Not exactly whistling, or tum-te-tumming a happy tune, but entering into the spirit of it all. As I walked, I considered my destination. Around the area where I live there are a number of rivers, all of them clean, and unlike canals, devoid of rusty bikes, supermarket trolleys and old television sets, although I have seen one or two footballs heading downstream towards the distant sea. Besides these, there are areas where fisherman drink coffee, eat sandwiches, and generally while away the hours. These places are not exactly ponds, neither are they lakes, but a sort of an in-between. I don't know what you could call them. Plakes? Londs? Anyway, I headed towards a river with a plake near it. After the drab, wet winter of unending grey, and a spring of cold winds, I felt as though I had been transported to a different planet, absolutely bloody wonderful! I took my time, ambling along, absorbing colours, feeling the sunshine, and taking the odd photograph of nothing in particular.

Having decided that I had reached my destination, which is usually determined by not wanting to walk any further, I turned about and retraced my steps. Now, in order to reach where I live, I have to cross the road via a zebra crossing. When I reached the crossing, I stopped, and lo and behold, you could have knocked me down with a paper bag. On the other side of the crossing, I thought I saw Jeremy Corbyn, he looked straight across and thought he saw me, but when we crossed over, it was neither of us.

May 6th

A crystal view

By mike

  I was interested in Gerry’s poetic vision of the supernatural; the universe viewed from the perspective of a crystal.  Progressive politics suggest a continual expansion of universal rights. I had wondered when these would be assigned to the mineral kingdom.  I now think these rights should be included in the Labour Party manifesto.

 

      I had researched the life of a composer of English regimental quick marches.    There will be a military band present at the Royal Wedding at Windsor. The papers report this band is that of the Irish Guards.

     However, London has become a venue for popular music and little else gets much play.  I suspect Windsor will be no different and rock bands will provide the music.  On the other hand, massed bands often perform on prime London sites; Horse-guard’s Parade being one site and Buckingham Palace  another!

    Evidence suggests that the composer’s most popular work had not been a military march but a ‘salon’ piece.  This music genre  is seldom played today.  It was the music performed in Victorian drawing rooms.  This work is scored from anything from a piano to full orchestra.   The original theme had been composed for a zither.

        My mother had been quite enterprising and added words to the piano score of a march.  The result was then sung by a local primary school.  A tape was sent to Blue Peter but they declined the offer. My mother’s Royal Wedding march was easily the best and most appropriate work that was not sung at Lady Di’s wedding!

May 2nd

Market High

By Mat

Market High

by brightonsauce

 

cowboys

Draft 1 pre-literature

Market High

The market hall is a fabulous Georgian pile with a vast internal space where once upon a time I deduce they sold fish.  Fish or seaweed.  And for my two penneth there is certainly room in the seaweed market for  a small trader/a boater such as myself  A dinghy stuffed with seaweed and moored at the beach.

‘Go on fatso, knock yourself out.’

Is what I envisage.  Tubby Lardon the weed addict gobbles giant facefulls of popping postule rock stickler, I dunno.  And then he burps and hands me a fiver.  In my trade the great danger is vibrating white ankle from standing in the shallows.

Anyway, fish at the market.  Well, there are not plenty more fish in the sea, so today the market sells bread and vegetables and cakes and stuff for handbags.  But it’s all cash, you see,  and artisan and terrifying human intercourse, all talking to each other, a great horror with the butcher.  There’s two butchers actually.  One butcher is lovely.  I need to go back and find Fred, and the tinkle in his eye during our conversation about mince and onions.  But with this cashless business business, most sensible folk haul the extra mile beyond the market up to McTescos and wander aisles searching for Mrs Furcoat Knickers and her favours.  But she is never there.

[Don’t read this baby, it’s literary fiction.  I would never make love to a stranger hag in a supermarket/divethrough into a freezer cabinet, thrust among frozen fish fingers and chips]

Now up at the market, it is rather desolate in December.  Only a handful of weebles wobbling in the spectacles and beige,  they are my people – but they do not know it as yet, [the] miserable buggers,  and time is tight, people.  And  I haven’t returned since my deafness confidence affliction.

I did visit at 4pm on Christmas Eve.  I roused Enoch from his attic, and said to my boy,

‘Come on laddie, Christmas Eve, we must share mince pies among homeless fellows, shower trinkets on the poor, purchase bottle of Givenchy no 7 for mother to drink.  Praise the Lord,’ I sang.

He growled and humped the pillow with his enormous genitals.  Finally, I dragged them both out of the sack.  He washed it and swallowed his coffee down,  and together we explored the wonderful and mysterious catacombs underneath the market.  A world designed for chaps such as ourselves.  A comic stall, a second hand book shop, mod clothing, records, lps of bandleaders from ’49.  A paradise, a little tired around the ears.  They maybe did deserve some customers, and what was the point of removing a pile of Warlords from here,  and piling them 100 yards down the street I began to realise.  But among those dreadful stalls of crock-shit, one single micro-business gleamed like a pearl.

‘Cowboys and Indians of The Frontier,’ estab 1973.

We rushed through the doors.   Enoch donned a headpiece, a tomahawk, and holding his tin of white lightning in my hand I reached for a Colt 45 and a sombrero.  We had not enjoyed such great pleasures since the millennium firework.  I shot him to death and I chewed my cheroot.

But yes, of course, it was quite unlike the final scene in the Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  He snapped shut his pocket watch, and there, slouched behind the till was the most disgusting and unhappy blob miserable shop-keeper and southerner I have ever witnessed in my life.

Bearded, and packaged in the distress of the 52-57 crime bracket, he pointed a stubby digit at my chest, and then he raised this finger toward the sign – ‘Do Not Touch,’ it said.

Well, I spat my cheroot to the floor.  ‘Sorry Dad,’ I said, ‘Are these quilts genuine Cherokee?’ I continued, and fingered the beads on the cabinet.

Again he pointed to his sign.

I knew in that moment this man was not to be the great companion I seek in Skaboeuff. This chap was not to be my buddy and inspiration down  at the Pipe & Anchor hostelry.

We removed the garments and left his store in our underpants.  Caught in the moment, and in the festivities, I hung my suede pigskin upon his mannequin.  I am too ashamed to return.

That’s all for now.  As summer approaches, I will go find my friend again.  It was probably seasonal–affected disorder on his behalf.  The shop-keepers down there,  I considered a place among them , and my plastic spitfires might yet rule the world one day.  But that day I couldn’t see any one of the fellows making more than fifty pence a session.  I’m sure summer crowds will bring a smile to all their lips.  All the best, and to everybody.

May 1st

Unknown, Alternative Historical Facts

By Dolly

 

 

 

           Lientenat Colonel George Armstrong Custer         

June, 1876, and the combined tribes of the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet along with some Crow and Arapaho, numbering approximately ten thousand, left their reservations, gathered and camped along the banks of the Little Big Horn and Rosebud rivers, and defied the United States Government by refusing to return, saying they’d had enough of being buggered about. They also said they were more than a little pissed off with being lied to and cheated out of their land by the white man, and insisted they weren’t moving. The government once again ordered them to return to their reservations, and once again they refused. The general feeling amongst the tribes, was along the lines of, 'if you think you’re hard enough!'………

The United States government responded by sending a column of troops under the command of Brigadier General Terry, with twelve companies of the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer.

Now, it is a little known fact that Custer was a keen ornithologist, and had a copy of the Boys Own Book of Birds, which he took with him everywhere he went, quite often boring the arse off fellows officers by ‘waffling on about bloody birds’, as one officer put it. He was ordered to proceed towards the Little Big Horn River.

While all this hoo-ha was going on, some of the chiefs of the combined tribes had a meeting. The subject was the 7th Cavalry, and Custer in particular, who no one seemed to like. Sitting Bull called him a ‘lying bastard’, Crazy Horse thought he was ‘an out and out twat’, and Red Horse and Rain in the Face both agreed he should ‘get his bloody hair cut and stop

 

poncing about trying to look like an Indian with long hair.’

It was around this

time that Two Fingers, a Northern Cheyenne chief thought he’s stick his oar in.

For students, or anyone else who might be interested in North American Indian culture, the following might be of some interest. Two Fingers was previously known as Buffalo Nose, and the reason he changed his name gives a rare insight into how Indian names were arrived at. Buffalo Nose, as he then was, was called Buffalo Nose for, well, obvious reasons if you had met him in the flesh, and noticed the size and shape of a very prominent nasal feature.

His dad, Bear Head, after pacing up and down all night outside the maternity wigwam, was called in to see the product of his loins.

‘What’s that on his face?’ he asked.

‘It’s his nose,’ said one of the midwife squaws.

‘He looks like a bloody buffalo,’ said a shocked Bear Head.

‘What are we going to call him?’ said his mum, Silly Cow.

'Buffalo Nose,' said Bear Head. 'What else?'

Anyway, Buffalo Nose had noticed that white men often insulted each other by sticking two fingers up at each other. Whatever the meaning of the two fingers gesture, and sometimes a one finger gesture, it seemed to work, as the party it was being inflicted upon became more than a little agitated, and in some instances almost homicidal. Buffalo Nose tried it on some of his friends, without much success, as they didn’t understand the meaning of the two and sometimes one finger gesture. He switched to sticking his fingers up

 

at the white man instead. This had an immediate effect, especially if he stuck

his tongue out at the same time, and shouted 'nah,nah,na,nah,nah!' Every white man he did it to, went red faced with rage, to such an extent, that some of them even started showing signs of epilepsy, and it didn’t matter if it was

one finger or two either, the effect was the same, which was great news for Buffalo Nose. He changed his name to Two Fingers, and told everyone he knew about it, and it started to become popular among the tribes, especially the young warriors.

‘Met him once,’ said Two Fingers, referring to Custer.

‘Yeah?’ said Crazy Horse. ‘What happened?’

‘Totally boring,’ said Two Fingers. ‘Kept waffling on about bloody birds. He even had a book on them called the Boys Own Book of Birds.’

’You’re kidding,’ said Four Horns. ‘You’re ‘aving a laugh.’

‘I kid you not,’ said Two Fingers. ‘I was trying on my new war bonnet at the time, you know, the fancy one with all the feathers. Anyway, he started rhyming off all the birds that the feathers came from, and showing me in his Boys Own Book of bloody Birds. Can you believe it? As if I didn’t know already. The bloody cheek!’

There was a lot of head shaking and tutting from the chiefs, as the story only confirmed what each one already thought of Custer.

 

The terrain around the Little Big Horn River in Montana is known to have high bluffs, ravines, and to undulate to such an extent that it is thought that an army could hide in one of the dips. It was here in June 1876, that

 

Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his entire command

perished at the hand of the combined tribes of the Sioux, Cheyenne, Blackfeet and Arapaho, in what is now known as Custer’s Last Stand.

It was here that a relief column found the remains of Custer’s command. At first, they assumed all had perished, but to their amazement,

they found one survivor, a Sergeant called Fanshaw. Unfortunately, by the look of his wounds, he wouldn’t be a survivor for much longer, and sure enough he died soon after they found him and was unable to give a full account of the battle. However, he was able to give an account of what happened in the moments before the battle commenced.

According to Sergeant Fanshaw, Custer was a bit peeved that day as he had forgotten to pack his Boy’s Own Book of Birds. However, this disappointment was offset by the thought that they were going to the Little Big Horn River, where Custer hoped to see ‘a significant amount of interesting water fowl’, as Sergeant Fanshaw quoted.

The column, led by Custer, with Sergeant Fanshaw in attendance, topped a rise and stopped, as Custer had spotted a number of birds swooping and diving. He dismounted, took out his field glasses, and began to observe the diving, swooping birds.

‘Lovely plumage sergeant,’ he said. ‘Lovely plumage. What a pity I haven’t got my Boy’s Own Book of Birds, I could have told you what they were. Come and have a look Sergeant, have a look at the lovely plumage.’

Reluctantly, the sergeant dismounted, took the field glasses, and trained them on the birds. After a few moments, he handed the glasses back.

 

‘Isn’t that a sight?’ said Custer, excitedly.

Sergeant Fanshaw, whether he agreed or not, nodded that it was. It was at this moment, that the Sergeant turned around in order to remount his horse, and caught sight of the massed ranks of the Indians.

‘Lovely plumage,’ repeated Custer. ‘Lovely plumage.’

‘Never mind the lovely plumage,’ said the sergeant. ‘Look at all those fucking Indians!’

‘What Indians?’ said Custer, who was facing the wrong way, and still observing the diving, swooping birds.

The sergeant tapped him on the shoulder and pointed. ‘Those Indians.’

Custer turned around. ‘Oh,’ he said, putting the field glasses to his eyes. ‘Those Indians.’

       

He observed them for a few minutes with his field glasses. Taking them away from his eyes, he turned to the sergeant and said, ’you know, there’s a chief down there with a war bonnet on, and I think some of the feathers are from a Lesser Spotted Ring Tailed Oozle Thingy, which is very rare, although I can’t be sure they’re from a Lesser Spotted Ring Tailed Oozle Thingy. I’ll have to write a letter to the Society of Birds when we get back. If only I had my Boy’s Own Book of Birds with me, I could tell you what bird every feather came from. What a minute, who‘s that next to Crazy Horse? Well, well, would you believe it, its that rascally scallywag Two Fingers. You know I once met him, he was called Buffalo Nose at the time, and with good reason. God, he was ugly!’

It was at this point in the narrative that Sergeant Fanshaw groaned and

grabbed the sleeve of the nearest trooper.

‘We never had a chance. They were all over us! Lovely fucking plumage he said. Lesser Spotted Ring Tailed Oozle Thingy he said, we didn’t stand a chance!’

He softly moaned and died, as his body gave one final shudder, his breath one last, rasping gasp. His eyes rolled once, and he was gone.

 

 

Apr 29th

Cats of Skaboeuff

By Mat

Cats of Skaboeuff

 

95% polished toward sense, my 'play' for today - over on Drysailorboy - f f ref :) 

 

Union jack: hugely symbolic.

Top floors overhang the glistening cobbles.  Houses have names like Captain’s Rest, the Skipper’s Return; narrow dwellings toward a delightful harbour.

Our own rental is the narrowest of all the houses.  At  Boatswain’s Folly, and as is our rental privilege, we removed the rusting eighteenth century name-plate, retired the letters to our skip, and now gleaming and welcoming Seaview hangs over the entrance-way.  Much more appropriate and revealing of the property’s quality.

Although, as I alluded before, our house serves as Seagulls’ Toilet.  Windows are lacquered in sheets of shit, guano curtains the vista.  Other gulls live in cliffs to our left side under the castle walls.

The cats, constant companions, are resilient in the face of the bird menace.

bagpuss

Boris prowls the alleys, his todger scents every lamp post – and our kitchen – if he has broken and entered again.  I rush him with the broom handle when he ejaculates on my socks, my washing piled, [although advantages – see M&S patrol].  I am grateful for the social interaction with a real man, and for because Pepper, our own official cat is a dreadful guard cat and gay, probably, difficult to establish and not relevant.  I love gay cats, quite gay myself but not a gay cat.  STOP.  He lies bare-chested and alluring whilst Boris ravages teacups and our biscuits.  Boris completes the nap in my armchair and farts,  prowls for skank Shelby and her alley-cat attitudes.  Dirty Shelby is the white cat and very dirty, a smudge of black on her thigh.  Harlot of all the hours, she runs up into the centre of town with the folk, and is more of a rat cat, I believe.  Shocked to find her drinking at men’s feet outside the terrorist pub.

The town, home to this one [and only] Red Hand Commando, [& Rangers FC] outpost in the whole of England.  Exotic blue, white and red banners billow above windows proclaiming Britischer Velkommen [good], and where, on our special days, the 5th, the 12th,  and the 25th, our men in the bowler hats and the orange sausages, sasheses, and drums, the whole pot doggerel, bang past our windows.  A key in my door and I am unavailable for lynching.  Bloody marvellous in my estimation, bastion of Ulster pop music unheralded for one hundred miles. ’Take me home Shankhill Road’ blasts out the pub doors.

Enoch rushes to this hardest pub in England.  My boy is indestructible.

twits in Cov

Enoch & Companion Lyserger Acid

‘Hallo chappies,’ he says, ‘wonderful, your sectarian nonsense, and my father’s hobby, y’know?’ he says.

Surrounded by bullet heads he is flushed seven times according to the masonic ritual, and  throttled among drip trays.

‘Stop,’ cries the landlord, who finds him the amusing dandy souvenir, aside parrot and bullets.  And such is my quality in rearing eccentric history fanatics.

Enoch relays to them,  he shall be back to play guitar medley for Battle of the Boyne fireworks, but stumbles, a traitor across the cobbles, to the Happy Shamrock which dominates the left curb, and he consumes eight pints of their Guinness novelty.  Skaboeuff is like Lilliput.

As to my own outpost and flagpole – the hotel bar years might be upon one? Thinking to find the swishest hotel up in in town, don military blazer from the Oxfam, set me  barside as raconteur,  and poppy the size of my face.  Maybe some medals, my Blue Peter badges?  I’ll keep you all posted.

In reference to primary Olympian pursuits, the 4000 is jolly polished.  I think ten days until my deadlines [or get a job, prick].  I insert extra erotica, and find the erotica more stimulating than the boring story laid underneath her metaphor. Maybe I should cut to the chase, write a 4000 gang-shag, by god what stamina, BORING maybe I should smear some shit on our walls?

When I feel this way in my shit it is time for a swim.  It is like Reykjavik  in that North harbour, and I am certainly very brave with a total nude immersion and strokes in the steely waters, my hands are numb, and my head aches, my penis is a sturdy rudder, as ever.  I swim in full view, but to date none of the tourist buses have slowed, and none of the by-standers have cheered me on, although the black dog took my boots.  A fool stood in the off-licence, with my one boot and my two feet on my feet.  They would, finally they would take my card and the lady said – did I need a lift to my hospital?

Probably that’s what she said.  I have said how pipple talk the 18c English up here in the regional masterpiece, and I am learning fast, luvves.  Yes, I think another display swim @ 4pm.  Surf report says 10 foot for Tuesday.  Great anxiety for I shall die in the sea on Tuesday.  All the best, Alfred the Great exile, retired amateur-pro surfer, and blogger. x

 

See below – proper Brighton surf  @6 foot 2016

board n boat

shorts c/o Powerpaint, thank you

Apr 29th

The music of the times. Well, the 'Star'

By mike

The music of the times - well, the ‘Star’

 ‘.....It was a time when I was not the lenient, almost foolishly good natured critic I have since become...’

                                        Bernard Shaw   (The ‘Star’  15 August of 1877.  ‘Vocalists of the Season’)

 

      There is a source for the music of the late Victorian period.   Bernard Shaw had been a music critic.  He reviewed concerts from 1876 to 1893 for the ‘Star’ newspaper

     A London theatre has been presenting a season of Oscar Wilde plays and a few days ago I saw their new production of ‘An Ideal Husband‘  Among the cast are Edward Fox and his son Freddie Fox. 

     A local cinema lists this production as a live screening on 05/06/2018.  It might be shown at a cinema near you.

   Edward Fox plays Lord Caversham and his son plays Lord Goring.  Goring is the son of Lord Caversham.  Goring is often portrayed as an image of Wilde.  When Lord Caversham asks his son, “Do you always really understand what you say, sir?” and his son  replies, “Yes, father, if I listen attentively,”  perhaps a certain frisson has been added to the scene due to the actors’ relationship?

   In these productions, the theatre curtains are drawn while the set is changed.    

   During these intervals, some of the cast emerge from the wings and entertain the audience with  songs and music of the period.  In ‘An Ideal Husband’ a violinist plays what I think is ‘salon’ music.  

 

   I have three huge volumes of Shaw’s music criticism on my bookshelves.  I cannot really recommend them as general reading.  I think I got them in a remainder shop many years ago.  I thumbed through the first volume last night.  In an article published in the ‘Scottish Music Monthly of Dec 1894, Shaw explains why he became a music critic.

     ‘.....My own plan was a simple one. I joined the staff of a new daily paper as a leader writer. My exploits in this department spread such terror and confusion that my proposal to turn my attention to music criticism was hailed with inexpressible relief.....’  

     In the ’Star‘ ( 4th October 1889)  he begins a review titled ‘A Defence of Ballet’ with the comment: ‘....it is all but thirteen years  since I went to the Lyceum  theatre one November evening to hear the Carl Rosa Opera company perform..”    It was a time, he comments, when: ’.... I was not the lenient, almost foolishly good natured critic I have since become.....’

 

    The English musical word can only offer great thanks for the mellowing of Mr Shaw.  On the 15 August of 1877 in article called ‘Vocalists of the Season’ he notes Madame Antoinette Stirling’  ‘......She is a perfectly unconventional artist....of the safe old croaking school..”  

      Shaw approves of her recital but notes the accepted method of singing ballads:

     “Mrs Stirling’s style is coloured by a remarkable mannerism.   Such peculiarities, however, are invariably attractive.  It is only affectation that repels.  Ballad singing is usually accompanied by coquettish smirks a smile at the end of each stave, and an absurd prolongation of the pathetic phrases, by way of apology for the absence of legitimate effect.  The mob applauds and the judicious hearer recoils ...’

      This must be the Puritan Shaw speaking but he was an advocate -almost a disciple  - of Wagner.   His portrayal of the ballad singer of 1877 is much as the singer would be portrayed today. I recall they were portrayed in this fashion in the two earlier plays in the Wilde season.

      An American paper ‘The Poverty Bay Herald 29, June 1893’  reviews a recital of Madame Antoinette Stirling in a favourable light and lists the ballads she sings.  ‘The Lost Chord’ by Sullivan is s ballad that is still recalled.

Apr 26th

The Jewelled Sea  

By Gerry

I’m just being a bit mystical here, so please feel free to ignore.

 

*****

 

In 627 A.D., King Edwin of Northumbria considered converting to Christianity but first he consulted his advisers. One spoke up approximately as follows: “The present life of man upon earth, O king, seems to me like to the flight of a sparrow through the house where you sit at supper with your ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes and the hall is warmed. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out another, is safe from the weather for a short space, but then it vanishes from our sight. That is how our lives appear, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing certain at all” (adapted from Bede, Ecclesiastical History of England, chapter XIII).

 

For many people “nothing certain at all” remains more or less the verdict, though there have been attempts to remedy that.

 

In 1882 the Society for Psychical Research was set up to collect and scrutinise the numerous accounts that suggested some sort of afterlife. The accounts kept coming, mostly published independently of the SPR. For instance, in 1940 Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding, the victor of the Battle of Britain, was sacked for saving world civilization so decided to fly even higher by investigating the Beyond. Casting about for the best sources of information, he chose the likes of Life Beyond the Veil (Rev. G. Vale Owen), The Living Dead Man (Elsa Barker) and Gone West (J.S.M. Ward), publishing extracts from these in his resulting book, Many Mansions (1943). More recently, celebrated mediums such as Betty Shine, Gordon Smith and Doris Stokes have published well-received volumes of their experiences.

 

Not everyone is impressed by this. A frequent verdict is the revelations are either too saccharine or too mundane. To put it flippantly, post-mortem existence reduces – in some accounts at least – to a matter of mixing with nice people in nice places and finding nice things to do – unless, of course, you’ve been nasty, in which case you find nasty people, nasty places, and not much nice to do.

 

Some descriptions, however, are more inspiring, carrying a sense of extra dimensions. Like actually seeing the sap in a tree. Like actually perceiving the life force in each creature. Like actually seeing the soul inside a person (so there can be no fibbing in “Summerland”; you’re an open book.) And the colours are more glorious. And everyone looks closer to their ideal self. And everything shimmers at the edges.

 

Of course, the sceptic can retort, “Nah, it’s just a load of wish-fulfilment” but such a verdict, though pleasingly emphatic, is hard to prove. It’s a bit like claiming the town of Los Cristianos in Tenerife cannot exist because, for some people, it fulfils their wishes as a holiday destination.

 

Talking of holidays, let’s stay with Tenerife because the island provides a handy angle on travel writing, which is what we’re talking about here – for both the saccharine accounts and the inspiring ones are travellers tales of a sort, albeit to destinations where return travel is notoriously difficult to arrange (though not impossible if we’re talking about those deathbed resuscitations known acronymically as NDEs – or Near Death Experiences).

 

Consider it like this. First-time visitors to Los Cristianos might be delighted to find Irish pubs aplenty and no lack of cafes serving full English breakfasts. Their postcards home might therefore describe the pleasures of quasi-familiar treats, along with a certain amount of adapting to local practice. In effect: “mixing with nice people in nice places and finding nice things to do.”

 

Other travellers, though, may head out of town and send back very different reports, enthusing about the volcano and its quasi-lunar surroundings, or heading away from tourist spots entirely to seek the lesser known spots in the island.

 

So far so familiar, but let us now despatch our correspondents further into the metaphorical Beyond. Some will explore so far they send back tales of scarcely describable scenery, scarcely describable experiences, scarcely describable relationships.

 

After a while, they go so far out that words can’t do the job any more.

 

And eventually “the dew-drop slips into the shining sea” (as Sir Edwin Arnold put it: The Light of Asia, 1879).

 

So let us not despair if a few accounts are thuddingly mundane. Descriptions will be as variable as the people who send them.

 

If this analogy doesn’t do a complete job, let’s try another. I’ve always quite favoured the great water-cycle view of human existence. The idea is we fall from clouds in the form of raindrops, then arrive on earth where we have various adventures – soaking into the soil perhaps, getting drawn into grass, eaten by a cow, leaving the cow by a milking machine, arriving in someone’s kitchen, being poured onto Weetabix, getting scraped down the sink with the portions that weren’t eaten, flowing through various pipes, becoming cleaned in a sewage farm, and so on. The analogy is somewhat rambunctious, but the key point is all the adventures happen in or on solid ground, and can therefore represent earthly existence. So far.

 

Eventually, though, the myriad drops arrive at a river and move away from solid ground. They have now arrived metaphorically at the first part of the Beyond, staying approximately within sight of terra firma and therefore maintaining semi-earthlike outlooks and concerns. Finally, however, the river widens, the banks recede, and they flow into the sea, leaving the land behind and becoming absorbed in the magnificent rolling immensity.

 

(Ah yes, how I loved to play on the beach at Whitby – age eight or nine – stopping every now and then to stare at the great blue yonder. Just that, stopping to stare.)

 

By the way, if you favour reincarnation, the droplet can always evaporate again – maybe from the sea, maybe the river – and return to the clouds, ready for another episode of earthly ups and downs.

 

Here comes a big question, though: would it be the same droplet? Let’s remember that line from Sir Edwin Arnold: “The dewdrop slips into the shining sea.” Does the drop lose its surface tension and thereby merge entirely with its neighbours, thus ceasing to be itself?

 

Annihilation or expansion?

 

There’s actually quite an appeal to the great merging, the great absorption – even the great cosmic loss-of-self. (Come on, it can be a drag, can’t it, staying relentlessly tethered to yourself?)

 

But there’s also a substantial appeal to not getting annihilated. After all, it would be a mighty waste if, at the end of a life – or perhaps numerous lives – well spent, with lessons learned, virtues stacked and merits accumulated, we promptly cease to exist.

 

So what’s the solution?

 

Well, let me tell you about a dream.

 

To be honest, it wasn’t a dream but a session of hypnosis. I’d decided, somewhat untypically, to indulge my curiosity and try some past-life regression. The hypnosis itself was a delight: you’re both awake and not awake (a state worthy of much pondering), but the results were mixed. I found the alleged past lives tedious – can scarcely remember them now – but the in-between portions were thrilling, especially as follows.

 

A tedious ex-life had just finished, and I was most likely travelling towards another, but in the meantime I was afloat inside a jewelled sea. Diamonds, rubies, amethysts, sapphires, emeralds, citrines, aquamarines, every colour imaginable – and you can add a few that aren’t. They floated over and about me, welcoming and rounded. Maybe the resulting environment should have been sharp-edged and jostling, but my clear recollection is the jewels were soft as bubbles, amiable as balloons.

 

Nonetheless, they still had their facets, myriad and glittering.

 

Now, those facets seemed – and this is a key impression – to be hard-won personality traits. I felt I was surrounded by actual beings, human or otherwise, each jewel shining with hard-won virtues, its rough edges smoothed, honourable scars perfected, and facets dizzyingly multiplied.

 

But how did they shine? Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and the rest are dull unless light passes through and around them. They need an environment of light. Otherwise they are scarcely worth calling jewels. Blank. Empty.

 

At this point I must go beyond the dream – extrapolate from it rather than just remember – because it seems to me that the light can provide a response to the great mystical question: are we ultimately annihilated? Or not?

 

The latter, I would suggest.

 

What happens, arguably, is the light renders each jewel greater than it ever was. That light – here’s the mystical paradox – gives each being access to the entire universe. The furthest jewel is joined to all others by light, as if via a vast cosmic internet. The most obscure details and wonders become shared because of the light that shines through all. It is omnipresence. It is the fibre-optic cable without need of fibre. It is the whole universe. It is home.

 

Well, anyway, that’s how it appears to me when I contemplate the dream from afar. And yes, it was a dream under hypnosis, which may or may not affect its validity. But – getting back to earth – does it have any resonance? I mean, we’re all built on standard mammalian lines: head, thorax, abdomen, four limbs, five senses. We are regrettably delicate creatures, with easily lacerated skin and cringingly vulnerable innards. So, here’s the thing, can we really contemplate ourselves as jewels?

 

Not physically, no. Not literally either. But how about imaginatively? Could I envisage you, the next person, the creature in the mirror, as a jewel – unlimited by size or situation, lit from within and without, facets shimmering till they swallow the entire person in dazzle?

 

Well, we all have our aspects, our hard-won struggles, we are all multi-talented authors of our own lives, amalgams of scarce imagined capacities, midwife helpers of others, co-creators of the planet around us. Connected. Shining. Being.

 

So let’s not rule it out.

 

No, let’s not do that.

 

And the raindrop that fell to earth may have had a Dickensian life of tough luck and lowly transformations, poor thing, but every now and then it could nonetheless catch the light and sparkle with riotous glee.

 

And the travellers to Tenerife may have rolled drunkenly from pub to breakfast caff with only a few snores in between, but they could still exult in the glorious sun and smile its reflection to each other.

 

And the sparrow that flew across King Edwin’s feasting hall was not so much a refugee from harsh weather as an ambassador from regions of infinite rolling colours – swarming with light, nay dazzling with light, indeed jewelled with light unending.

 

*****

 

Footnote: I do not, of course, seek to persuade anyone by this piece. I am merely enthusing, as I might about, say, the music of Louis Armstrong or the paintings of John Martin.

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