Monday, May 31, 2010

“Seven Dials – This locality is celebrated as the heart of one of the poorest districts in London. Of late years various improvements have been made in the neighbourhood and the Dials are now traversed by omnibuses and have made considerable progress towards civilisation. But the locality is still a singular one, and as it lies in close proximity to the West End can be easily visited by those curious to see one of the seamier sides of the inner life of London. The readiest approach to it is from St. Martin’s Lane, crossing between Cranbourne Street and Long Acre. Turning up northwards here the stranger finds himself in a street altogether unique in its way. It is the abode of bird fanciers. Every variety of pigeon fowl and rabbit (rabbit?) can be found here, together with hawks and owls, parrots, love birds and other species native and foreign. There is a shop for specimens for the aquarium with tanks of water beetles, newts, water spiders and other aquatic creatures. Others are devoted to British song birds, larks, thrushes, bull finches, starlings, blackbirds etcetera. Here and there are shops filled with cages of every kind and one or two dog fanciers have also settled there. Passing through this lane we are in the Dials, a point where seven streets meet. If it be desired to see poor London it is better not to go straight on but to turn up any of the side streets. Here poverty is to be seen in its most painful aspects. The shops sell nothing but second or third hand articles – old dresses, old coats, old hats and at the top of the stairs of little underground cellars, old shoes, so patched and mended that it is questionable whether one particle of the original material remains in them. These streets swarm with children of all ages engaged in every type of game without the addition of expensive apparatus. Children sit on doorsteps, they play in the gutter, they chase each other in the road and dodge in and out of houses. It is evident that the School Board has not much power in the neighbourhood of the Dials. Public houses abound and it is clear that whatever there may be a lack of in this territory of St. Giles, there is no lack of money to pay for drink. At night the public houses are ablaze with light and on Saturday evenings there is a great sound of singing and shouting through the windows while the women stand outside and wait, hoping against hope that their husbands will come out before the week’s money is all spent. Nowhere within reach of the West End of London can such a glimpse of the life of the poorer classes be obtained as on a Saturday evening at the Dials.”
I note Mister Dickens refrains from mentioning that the seven Dials always had a reputation as a hotbed of criminality. Maybe he didn’t want to put off those more fortunate who came to ogle the poor. I did find it fascinating though.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I have a Polish fan. At least that’s what he tells me, bluntly and in no uncertain terms, “I am your fan” and requests I send him a signed photograph. But questions arise here. I know the internet brings together people, total strangers, from all over the world but this is the first time I have received a message from Poland and I am intrigued as to what has brought it about. The first question is why is he a fan? A fan of what? I mean how does he know about me? I have to presume it is as an actor which means some television programme(s) have been aired in Poland and this then raises the question, what photograph do I send my new fan? Any television I might have been in is now ancient history so to speak so do I send him a photo of me as a young man or as I am now? I have plenty of the former, leftovers from times when I needed them while still in the rat race. Maybe I’ll send him one of those.
The garden, thanks to our new Adam, ie Douglas Foote, looks as if it going to provide an abundance this summer which is just as well as prices rise higher and higher. I think mainly due to the cost of petrol. Yesterday we spent 50 euro and it didn’t fill the tank. A while back 30 would have done the trick. Every time we pass Haralambos’s garage the price has gone up and it now stands at 1.60 a litre! Slightly cheaper in town but never lower than 1.56 plus those odd pennies, always strange. Probably like the old days when a thing costing a pound was marked up at nineteen shillings and eleven pence ha’penny, At one time even to the three farthings till the farthing went out of existence, like the threepenny bit.
Anyway, from the garden so far, some delicious peas, very sweet, lettuce galore, lovely green beans, courgettes, strawberries. The mulberry trees and lemons have been in full fruit and now, after the glut of oranges, the apricot is taking over and the fruit already falling. Talking of a glut of oranges there are obviously still trees fruiting, probably a different variety to ours, and in Kalyves they’re selling at twelve kilos for 5 euro so at least something is still cheap. But what does one do with twelve kilos of oranges at a time unless you are a restaurant? The restaurants of course will still charge the earth for a fresh orange juice I don’t know how true it is but at one time I believe some European Quango banned the export of Cretan oranges because they were too large, can you believe it? Yes I can. Like wanting straight bananas and cucumbers,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A popular song sung by The Great Vance, star of the nineteenth century Music Halls, was “Walking In The Zoo” which it seems was one of the big things to do in the city of London, like being seen of a morning in Rotten Row. The song helped make the zoo even more popular and Vance followed up his success with “Lounging In The Aq.”
I thought about it when thumbing through a book Chris took down from the shelves; yet another I didn’t know we had. The book is a republication of “Dickens’s Dictionary of London 1888” and was compiled not by the Charles Dicken’s but by his son. It’s a fascinating volume to thumb through.
For example, I don’t know how many policemen there are now in London (there’s never one when you want one) but in 1888 the city was divided into divisions. The City itself had a force of 888, the rest had a total of 14,106 including all ranks from superintendent to constable. That’s a lot of manpower and there wasn’t even the modern motor car to deal with. The docks seem to have had the fewest numbers. Pembroke Dockyard Division for example had no Superintendent but 2 Inspectors, 4 sergeants, 28 constables.
But back to the Zoo … “The gardens of the Zoological Society of London contain the largest and by far the best arranged collection of wild beasts, birds, and reptiles in the world, and being themselves laid out in the best taste and kept in the most perfect order, afford the best place of open-air amusement to be found in London.” It goes on to give directions as to how to get there by omnibus and metropolitan railway and the cab fare from Charing Cross is one shilling and sixpence. The entrance fee is one shilling. It goes on to describe the lions’ den, the sea-lion pond and the monkey house and, “The feeding times of the animals, when of course they hold their most crowded receptions, are as follows: the pelicans 2.30 p.m.; the otters 3p.m.; the eagles 3.30 pm (except for Wednesdays!); the lions and tigers at 4pm.
And if all that feeding has made you feel a trifle ravenous “there is a conveniently arranged refreshment room where you may order a table-d’hote dinner which they can serve under the verandah, a very agreeable institution on a summer evening.”
For a small initial outlay and yearly subscription, proposed by three members one of whom must be acquainted with you and elected by ballot, you could become a member of The Zoological Society and it would seem it was well worth it for all the perks, particularly the many free entrances you and your friends could have, meetings, publications, and a member’s wife could use his privileges on payment of one guinea per annum. Altogether an amazing deal. I wonder if Vance was a member when he went walking in the zoo.
PS: What happened to the eagles on Wednesday?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An interesting article from the Cape Argus, reviewing a book of essays by Breyten Breytenbach “Notes From The Middle World” in which in particular he nears despair on Africa. Rob Gaylard in his review writes, “This book is neither for the fainthearted nor the easily depressed”. Mr Breytenbach has written what so often in my own lame way I have tried to express in my Blogs. The language is sometimes extreme, Gaylard writes but if that’s the way the man feels, why pull punches? Going from the universal (particularly global greed) to the local, Breytenbach despises the ‘posturing and protocol that passes for public life where the need to “prance” is simply a “camouflaged expression of impotence” Along with this comes ‘hyperbole, grandstanding, demagoguery, the manipulation of myth, graft, corruption and nepotism. He applies all this to South Africa and has no truck with the usual sorry excuses for this state of affairs; colonialism, racism, the legacy of apartheid etc.
His advice to young South Africans, if they can bear to, is to leave. That in itself is a sorry state of affairs so many have despaired and left already. Canada, Australia, France the UK, yes, and even Greece is full of expat South Africans who have all fled that beautiful country and, make no bones about it, it is beautiful.
Perhaps the reason why I love train travel so much is because trains evoke images of journeys made in South Africa as a schoolboy, in particular from Durban to Port Elizabeth which meant a day, a night, and a second day’s travel, up to Bloemfontein first and then down into the Cape and in my mind’s eye I still see so much of the countryside we passed through with my head out of a window defying the flying cinders and sometimes suffering for it with an inflamed eye; isolated farms surrounded by eucalyptus trees, little country stations, the vast red expanse of Great Karoo and finally pulling into Port Elizabeth station with great excitement.
What is happening to the railways in Africa? Friends who were recently in Kenya say they saw engines lying on their sides, rusting away at the side of the track, and if the railways are lost, I am sure they will never be replaced. I suppose some of the problem is that people prefer to travel by plane now rather than by train. I don’t recollect Durban even having an airport when I was a kid. Air mail came courtesy Sunderland flying boats and what a majestic sight they were coming down to land in the harbour. Can you say land when it’s water? As I said to the young waiter in Los Angeles when he exclaimed in a horrified voice, ‘You’re travelling Amtrak! What’s wrong with flying?’
‘What can you see from thousands of feet up?’ I travelled through 26 states by Amtrak and what a wonderful experience it was. My cousins in Australia I don’t think quite knew what to make of my travelling from Perth to Melbourne by train but, again, a fascinating and enjoyable experience. If ever I get back there which, somehow I very much doubt, I’ll take the train heading north. You can keep your air travel, for me it’s trains every time. It’s a great shame that in the UK train travel has got so expensive. Travelling in Greece and Italy cost peanuts in comparison.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A complaining letter in The Athens News this week from a Dutch lady making comparisons between her country and the Dutch, and Greece and the Greeks, and in many ways she is right. What she says is – well firstly she insists there is no corruption in the Netherlands as they (the people) decidedly put a stop to it and everyone, rich or poor, pays tax at 52%. In Greece tax avoidance is a number one pastime. Retirement age in Holland is 65 and in Greece 55. Greeks only work a 36 hour week as opposed to her husband’s working week of 70 hours. In the Netherlands a blue envelope arrives every three months which means time for payment of taxes. Now she complains they will be paying for the mismanagement of the Greek government and the “attitude” of the Greek people. All too true unfortunately. The Dutch contribution to the bail-out is 4.5 billion euro or 170euro per person. In total her family will pay out 880euro to help get Greece out of its mess. The big question is will Greece get out of its mess? Or does the country as a whole have some sort of death wish or fatalistic belief in what must be must be. Sacrifices of any description do not want to be made.
Of course her observations don’t cover the whole spectrum. Our garage man and supplier of bottled gas works for example from seven in the morning till ten at night six days a week and one Sunday a month and he is in his seventies.
In another letter a correspondent gives a visitor’s eye view of Greece and the first thing she picks on is the graffiti, something that has got under my skin every time I see it, especially when it vandalises large (and no doubt very expensive to replace) road signs. It would seem the only ones untouched on the national highway between Xania and Heraklion are those too high up to be reached. It is all so totally idiotic and what must visitors to the island think as tourism is one of Greece’s main sources of income? Apart from the graffiti there is also the problem of waste disposal. This beautiful country is littered with trash. Do the Greeks have no pride? Or do they still believe that everything they litter the countryside with is bio-degradable as it once was before modern packaging? Orange peel disappears – plastic doesn’t. Too many Greeks are still living in the past and it’s time to catch up with the other Europeans.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I don’t know why but there are never any comments to my Blogs. Now why would that be do you suppose? Is it because they’re rather boring? Is it because I write rubbish? Or maybe it’s because no one reads them anyway. Well, I know my sister reads them because her comments come via e-mail, and I know Lewis reads them because any grammatical error or spelling mistake and he’s onto it in a flash. There have been three or four edits after his corrections but his corrections come by e-mail as well. So why does no one ever comment (well hardly ever) on my Blogs?
One of the books on my reading list at the moment is called “Popular Entertainment Through The Ages” (no publication date) and in it is the complete text of Punch and Judy eighteenth century. To my surprise, plot wise, it is exactly as I remember seeing Punch and Judy mid twentieth century, though the language is a trifle odd, as if Punch, still Italian, is trying to speak English; and somehow I can see why modern politically correct health and safety fascists are agin it believing, as they do, that it has a deleterious effect on children. Mind you the same in their minds goes for Hans Christian Anderson and the brothers Grimm and any other writer of fairy tales. Though, as far as the fairy tales are concerned, they maintain it is because it gives the little darlings the heebies even if it ends happy ever after, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White’s heart and all that, whereas Punch and Judy inclines them towards psychopathic violence. Of course they’re still allowed to watch mindless murder and mayhem on television, a more or less constant diet of sudden and violent death that some seem only too eager to emulate but it is poor Punch who is sent into exile. But back to that wicked puppet whose doings I have to admit are pretty grisly including infanticide and the murder of poor old Judy. After a couple more murders Punch is finally caught and put in jail. Mister Ketch the hangman appears and erects his scaffold. A coffin is brought on and Mister Ketch tries to entice Punch out of his cell but he’s not having any of it. He’s already had dinner and he believes supper is unhealthy. He says he knows he’s been bad but he won’t do it again. When he is eventually brought out he tricks Mister Ketch into putting his own head in the noose and so hangs the hangman and stuffs him in the coffin. ‘That’s the way to do it!’ Now the devil appears and, after a few moments of timidity, Punch sets about him as well ending up by shouting ‘The devil is dead! The devil is dead! Huzzah! Huzzah!’ as he swings the lifeless body around on his stick. End of show.
I do seem to remember when I watched it as a kid that a crocodile came into it somewhere but I don’t know why that was. Maybe Punch killed that too. The crocodile was highly colourful with big square wooden jaws that went snap. Anyway, I don’t believe watching Punch and Judy any number of times laid me open to murderous desires and it’s a pity that another old tradition bites the dust.

PS: Composer wanted for new musical version of Pickwick Papers. On spec but guarantee of publication!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Well yet once again I asked for rain and got it, only once again it was by courtesy of Colonel Gadaffi and the car now looks like it’s camouflaged beneath the sands of the Sahara. The winds of Crete too have been blowing a gale for the past three or four days which has knocked hell out of the plum trees; most of their fruit now lying on the ground. The winds have been somewhat chilly in fact which has meant woollies at night and a blanket on the bed – in the middle of May? Strange. The only good thing you might say of the winds is that they do tend to keep the mozzies at bay. If birds find it difficult to fly then mozzies must find it impossible and decide to stay at home. Leastways they haven’t been pestering for the last couple of days.
If you fancy a good laugh, snigger or smirk rather, spend a while reading some of the religious or supernatural sites on the internet. You have never read so much unintentional tosh in your life, that is unless you still believe in Adam and Eve because any quote or command or admonishment or warning stems right back to the old Garden of Eden, that is believing every word in the Bible to be indisputable fact. For instance one site takes to task any church that allows woman pastors or elders so the poor old Episcopalians are doomed to everlasting hell fires and that’s a fact. Does Betty Guelf know she is the head of such an organisation? Maybe that is why the archbishop thinks Sharia laws would be a good thing. Maybe Christians could go as far as their Muslim counterparts and make sure all women are buried in the bhurka. Anyway, according to that mad footballer she and her whole family are lizards from outer space so that puts them firmly in their place.
A very interesting quote from Woody Allen speaking at Cannes – 'One must have one’s delusions to live. If you look at life too honestly and too clearly life does become unbearable because it is a pretty grim enterprise.’ What must life be like (if it can even be called life) for those who simply have nothing in a world that elsewhere is so vastly rich? Someone has just won more than eighty-four million pounds in the Euro Lottery and the captains of industry and high flying bankers are once more on the ninety million kick what with salaries, bonuses and shares. At the same time in an area of India the children resort to eating mud and silica to assuage the hunger pangs and in another the money to ease food shortages has been diverted to pay for the facilities for the next Commonwealth Games. But, according to some, it would seem more important to conclude how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. They say the poor will always be with us; unfortunately the religious will be too, and that is enough of my hobbyhorse for today.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, here we go again. As though there aren’t more important matters in the world to be concerned about, The Episcopal church (ie Church of England for those not in the know) in America is kicking up a veritable storm at the proposed ordination of a woman bishop – worse still, heavens to Betsy, a lesbian! Can you believe that? A lesbian of all things! I wonder if there are any short lists in heaven for lesbians. The archbishop of Canterbury has warned it will create an even deeper fission in the church if it goes ahead but I wouldn’t take too much notice of his opinion. Isn’t he the one who said the UK should have Sharia law? But in a way he is right. Look what has happened down the ages when schisms have been created in the Christian church. Come to think of it, Islam has its own problems with Sunni versus Shia. Religion and the religious are truly a dire pain in the poepal. Look what happened to those sensible Albigenses. The Albigenses taught that there is no virtue of which we can wholly approve and no vice which we can wholly condemn. The Troubadours attacked in song the fundamental beliefs of Christians (for Christian read Roman Catholic doctrine) and waged bitter war against the clergy, not without considerable justification, many of whom they felt were violating the principles of their own religion. The result? Anathema from a thousand pulpits and the recruiting of a large army under Simon de Montfort and the papal Legate. The Albigenses, whose religious beliefs were sincerely held, put their castles, giving shelter to vassals and retainers, into a state of defence and waited. The crusaders were merciless. They besieged towns and castles and slaughtered the inhabitants or burnt them at the stake. Province was laid waste, and in the desolate land there was no one left to listen to the singing of the troubadours about the pleasures of love. In the latter part of the thirteenth century, one Guiraut Riquier, the last of the troubadours, found protection in Spain (before the inquisition took its turn and its toll obviously) and sadly he sang ‘Song should express joy, but sorrow oppresses me and I have come into the world too late.’
The election of Mary Glasspool – a jolly looking fella judging by her photograph - who has been with her partner Becki for 22 years - represents a snub by the liberal Episcopal Church to Anglicans elsewhere. The Communion has never recovered from the crisis prompted by the election in New Hampshire of Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop in November 2003. The Episcopal Church at first agreed to suspend the creation of gay bishops but reversed that decision last July so good luck to you Mary dear. Life is not a bed of roses and you have to watch out for the pricks of which there are far too many.
PS: Evidently there are already 85 secret Sharia courts in the Uk. All illegal of course but no doubt they will be left alone to go their merry way. Mustn’t upset the ultra sensitive Muslim community. Christians on the other hand don’t matter so much any more – Christmas is cancelled, no more school nativity plays in case it upsets the Muslims but you will notice no Muslim or Jewish festival is cancelled in case it upsets the Christians. Like I said, religion is a right pain the arse.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer arrived to day with knobs on and we’re only in the middle of May. Not unbearably hot but quite hot enough thank you. The animals all flaked out on the cool tiles and not wanting to move. Each evening it comes over cloudy and I hope for a drop of rain for the garden but it passes. Not that the weeds need watering. They seem to thrive come what may. (No pun intended). The steps from the road down to the house are in desperate need of a good clean up.
I wonder if the Tories threatened sort lists came to anything eventually. I’ve always felt this idea of positive discrimination in favour of any minority a complete waste of time; condescending, patronising, in some instances downright harmful and a cause of great resentment. I wouldn’t mind in the least (though it no longer effects me) if the whole of the house was nothing but women MPs. When Labour tried to gain my vote back in Hebden Bridge days, they simply could not understand my reasoning when I said that no way would I vote for someone on an all woman short list. Who was to say there was not a male candidate better qualified to represent me? I see in today’s Mail that Jan Moir is in total agreement and I hope she doesn’t mind my quoting her – ‘Poor Jacqui Smith always had the air of a woman promoted beyond her abilities, pitched into the fray of a political gender war. In a way she was a victim too. For in the last government, hot-housed female candidates and women only shortlists resulted in nothing but pain and defeat for all. Some second-raters who were not quite up to the job were promoted over others who were, just because they were female. And in the end their lack of success tainted women everywhere with the dark bloom of failure. Indeed the whole area of gender politics has become a toxic one; a big, self-serving mess used and abused by all involved.
Even at the dying of the New Labour light, Harriet Harman was still raging about getting the gender balance right, while parachuting her husband into a safe seat over women candidates. It’s a scandalette.
Good on you, Jan Moir. Not only a very readable journalist whose column I always look forward to and enjoy but a bloody sensible one to boot.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I have been informed, though I don’t now how reliable it is, that ninety percent of accidents happen in the home and, after my little contretemps the other morning with a bowl of boiling porridge, I am not disputing it. It takes only a moment of carelessness or loss of concentration and shit-creek looms. I took the bowl out of the microwave and saw that the porridge had practically boiled over as I put it down on the butcher’s block. I used a tea trowel to do this but then picked the bowl up again without and, of course, my fingers slipped on the porridge lined rim and over went the bowl. Quick reaction to stop it from falling and shattering on the tiled floor but half the boiling porridge hit the table top, the stretcher beneath, my clothes, my slippers, the floor and worst of all my right hand. It took only a second to place the bowl back on the block before the hand was under the cold water tap. Relief form pain. Later rubbed it with a cutting from the aloe vera and no problem. The hand looked perfectly normal until late evening when one small blister appeared on the little finger. Weird that it should have taken so long but even that has more or less gone now.
I ate what was left in the bowl and then started to clear up which was more of a nuisance than anything else. Glutinous porridge tends to stick wherever it touches. Thank goodness I was right next to the sink or the result could have been a very burnt hand.
It’s probably just as well neither of the others was here or it could have been panic stations.
For the last few evenings we have noted the most wonderful scent in the house and couldn’t work out what it was. I thought at first it was what I call the ‘honey tree’ in the garden whose scent is absolutely wonderful but no, it was coming from the conservatory part of the breakfast room and it turned out to be this plant – I have no idea what it is called as I am simply no botanist – which for years stood about three feet high and then suddenly, whoosh, the bugger took off and now stands about nine feet tall, almost touching the roof. It is currently flowering, masses of white bloom and there is no scent during the day but the minute the sun goes down the house is permeated with this wonderful perfume. Aerosol manufacturers eat your hearts out; you can’t beat nature.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chris and Douglas bought me a swish stamp album for my birthday last month and, seeing as to how I am currently more or less an invalid due to my lungs evidently being shot to pieces, every movement a gasp and a wheeze (sounds like one of those puffs for a Music Hall comic) which is strange because, sitting still you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong at all the breathing is so easy. So I have spent a week “doing” stamps and what a surprise I have had. I never realised just how extensive my collection is. Over the years I have merely put them away in boxes or envelopes and thought no more about them so how many hundreds I have to sort out I dread to think. The American ones on their own can virtually fill the book. Well, not quite, but almost. It’s been interesting though I must say, especially that, at the moment there is no writing on the cards. Not in the mood as yet to start Thornton King number five. Too much research to do first and I probably need a rest from writing anyway. Would simply love to get stuck into the garden again but the wheezy old chest won’t allow it.
Douglas is back in England for his latest proddings and probings. His flight was at sparrow yesterday morning which meant he and Chris both being up by five to set off for the airport. It’s a long journey time wise: Xania to Athens, Athens to London, London to Exeter, Exeter to Torquay. No wonder he’s fed up with travelling. The return journey will be made via Paris which is evidently shorter and cheaper than schlepping all the way up to Heathrow or Gatwick.
Chris has been getting a whole load of ballet DVDs. They’re out every fortnight. The latest was ‘La Sylphide from the Paris Opera which, despite its production and good dancing, I still find one of the most boring pieces ever, like Giselle. Previous to that we had ‘Excelsior’ something neither of us had ever heard of and what a great bit of Victorian style ballyhoo (and a hoot to boot) it is with a cast of thousands. I have never seen a ballet with so much callisthenics in it.
So cavalier Dave has won Beauty’s hand and Tories and Libs are in bed together while the Beast retires to lick its wounds. Can’t say I feel particularly sorry for him. He has always struck me as a rather unpleasant character. I wonder if that one little slip of the tongue, those two little words ‘bigoted woman’ could have had a major effect. Interesting thought.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I finally (after how many months?) finished ‘A Strange Eventful History’ the story of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving -584 pages of it. It wasn’t that it was hard going but, as a bedside book having only two or three pages read a night, that is why it took so long. The last section of the book is devoted to Gordon Craig who I wanted to talk about, but I have since discovered on my bookshelf the biography written by his son, so maybe I will leave it until I have finished that and have a more rounded picture because up to now all I can think of is that he was a totally screwed, crazy mixed up kid for his entire life. His behaviour towards women was appalling (shades of Tolstoy) though they all seemed to find him extremely attractive, in fact besotted might be a better word. I lost count of how many there were or how many children both legitimate and illegitimate. His affair with Isadora Duncan I didn’t know about and that probably lasted the longest. Her two children unfortunately drowned in an accident when the car in which they were seated was not properly secured on a river bank and rolled into the water.
But just why Craig was considered this great icon of the late nineteenth early twentieth century theatre I still have no idea. Maybe son Edward will enlighten me. His writing, seeing as to how it is about daddy, can be a wee bit on the twee side at times, for example –“a baby boy was born” Mum would have had an useful lot of trouble if a big boy had been born or if it had been a baby something else – a lemur perhaps?
So the election in the UK is over and the Tories have come in with the most votes and the most seats, but all the forecasting seemed to have been correct in that the result is a hung parliament. The talk now is all about will Beast Brown wanting to slip into bed with Beauty Nick in order to stay on in power? I can’t see it as being a particularly healthy situation.
Greece meanwhile stumbles from crisis to crisis, from strike to strike, from demonstration to demonstration and, this being Greece, not without unaccompanied and senseless violence. I am beginning to think the Greeks might have a death wish. Certainly their trade unions seem to be still living with the dinosaurs. Talking of which, evidently scientists have discovered that 4% of homo sapiens carry the Neanderthal genome – maybe that’s where the violence comes from.
And here is a thought: thirteen years of a socialist government has brought Britain virtually to its knees and ten years of a conservative government has done the same for Greece. Ain’t that weird? What does it prove? That all political parties are the same and you simply cannot trust any politician further than you can throw him, or her as the case might be? Maybe.
In the meantime Cavalier Dave is wooing Beauty Nick which does seem more logical because even if Beast Gordon won fair maiden’s hand they still wouldn’t reach a majority so what would be the point?
Do you think the whole country is panting to know the outcome? I should imagine ennui must have set in by now.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

video

Release of Video Promo for my latest book Dead on Target

Saturday, May 8, 2010

‘There is a sin of secret impurity frequent among lads, and the misery it causes no tongue can fully tell. I know it for a fact. Through this sin a dark veil has been cast over the lives of tens of thousands of schoolboys, and all the freshness, and gladness and power of youth have perished beneath it…’

‘Virtue is strong and beautiful, Eric, and vice is downcast in her awful presence…’

‘We do beseech you to take heed to the warning voice. Otherwise you will most certainly reap the inevitable result of a shattered frame and possible insanity and early death…’

‘Lose your purity of heart, Eric, and you have lost a jewel which the whole world cannot replace…’

Question -‘Is self-pollution as prevalent as they say it is?’ Answer – ‘It has been rightly said that ninety-nine out of a hundred boys of this depraved generation engage in this vile practice and the other one in a hundred conceals the truth…’

So there you are, one hundred percent masturbate and despite the dire warnings face a shattered frame, insanity and an early death so how come the asylums weren’t bursting at the seams and how come so many masturbating boys managed to arrive at a ripe old age?

‘And a truly shocking proportion, alas, is true even of our girls…’

Case history: ‘A young woman aged twenty-two years came under my care in a state of the worst form of insanity. She was furious, noisy, filthy, pale and bloodless. Having no appetite, she was reduced in flesh and strength. Finding her one day calmer than usual, I hinted to her on the subject of masturbation, and informed her that only if she abandoned it might she get well. She promised to follow my advice strictly. In two weeks she was perceptibly better. At the end of six months she was in excellent health, was quite fleshy, and became perfectly sane…’

Then there was Professor Fowler. ‘Professor Fowler I need your help. For a long time a fire smouldered within me but it was never ignited by my husband. Now another man has captivated my heart. He has created in me a literal frenzy of passion and I am sexually insatiable. What to do?’ (You have to admit the lady was quite poetic about it.)

‘You’re on the brink of insanity. Your whole nervous system is on the point of giving out.’

‘I know it but can you tell me the cause?’

‘Amatory excitement. If it is continued any longer, you will become either paralysed or else stark raving mad.’

And now for something completely different: the shortest piece of fiction in English literature. From “The Comic News” 1884.

THRILLING!
In Three Chapters

CHAPTER 1.

He was there. So was the other. Neither knew the other.
Both wore hats. Nothing happened. And so on.

CHAPTER 11.

The air was heavy. They passed on in silence. A dumb cat
winked at a coal heaver’s apprentice. Tears washed away the
memory of the oldest inhabitant. Two postmen waltzed. Never more.

CHAPTER111.

Time passed by. So did the policeman. Night cast her shadow
around as Vivian walked into North Wales and took a voice
lozenge. Repentance came too late. The train had started. Where
Are we now?

The End.

Weird, these Victorians. No?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Have finished writing “The Museum Mysteries” and am very pleased with my first horror story. Eat your heart out Edgar, eat your heart out Wilkie, eat your heart out Henry. It has finally turned out to be a novella rather than something more substantial; 43000 words as opposed to say 90000, and if that’s how it was meant to be, fine. Any more would simply be padding. So Douglas came up with the terrific suggestion that it’s published together with a selection of short stories and that is what we will do. Occasionally over the years I have written some short stories. Fortunately everything’s been kept (except for opus One Act Two, and a story called “Tefu’s Tent Peg” seems to have got lost as well) and I have gone through everything on the shelves in my study, finding stuff I didn’t even know I had written, or had no memory of anyway, and even taking a peek at the first few pages not having a clue as to what a piece is really all about. If time allowed I could take a dozen television plays, let alone stage plays, and turn them into novels but I don’t think that is any longer on the cards.

What I did come across was the file “Say What Shall my Song Be Tonight” and I didn’t realise how close I had got to putting together a full evening’s entertainment.
‘Say what shall my song be tonight,
And the strain at your bidding shall flow.
Shall the measure be sportive and light?
Or its murmurs be mournful and low?
Shall the days that are gone flit before thee?
The freshness of childhood come o’er thee?
Shall the past yield its smiles and its tears,
or the future its hopes and its fears?
Say, say, oh say, what shall my song be tonight?

Also there were extracts from “Eric” or “Little By Little” and “A Boy At Fifteen”. 1880. “Eric” had gone to nineteen editions!
‘The first time that Eric heard indecent words in dormitory No 7 he was shocked beyond bound or measure. Dark though it was, he felt himself blushing to the roots of his hair, and then growing pale again, while a hot dew was left upon his forehead…’

“A Boy At Fifteen” 1903, “Be most careful, therefore, to avoid all thoughts and actions, sights and sounds, which would in any way degrade the high purpose of your body…”

The Reverend George Everard(!) in his capital book for boys called “Your Innings” says, ‘There is a snake or a serpent, or whatever else you may call it, that creeps into many a school and leaves many of the lads with a bite that injures them for life. They carry the mark of it to their graves. It takes all the brightness out of their lives. It always brings with it a bondage and tyranny which follows them every step of their journey. Only lately a few young man were talking over the matter. They came from fifteen public schools and in every one of them this terrible enemy was known to exist.’

More of this wonderful stuff to follow.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I received the following e-mail from my sister and I am sure, reviving more memories for me as it does, she won’t mind my using it as today’s Blog; adding to the list full Christmas dinners eaten in the heat of midsummer, junior birthday parties, adolescent parties, teenage parties, dances; boys in their tuxedos, girls in their best dresses, milk bars and juke boxes, pinball machines, holidays on guest farms and with relations, visits to the homes of school friends down the south coast.

“Reading your latest Blog, 28th April, you brought back many memories for me of the good times of our young days and I really think we had the best years compared to life for the young ones these days. Even travel was a much better experience with a three week cruise to get to the UK and knowing the stay would be a long one, the cabin trunk was packed to the full. Touring Europe was by car with a passport with visas on many pages to pass through the borders to each little country. Exchange money to the local currency and buy souvenirs not made in China and experience the true nationality of French, Italian, Austrian etc. etc.

A roast at lunch time on Sundays and then crumpets or scones with tea in the afternoon, often made by yourself. The camping at Inyoni rocks with those heavy bell army tents, one for the ladies and one for the men. The kids confined to sleeping in the cars.
The old primus stove pumped up to boil the water for tea and so on.

I remember your St. John's competition between teams from different districts and your team lost points because you missed seeing the gas masks hanging in front of the building prop you were to enter to rescue people from. I think what was supposed to have been a fire. We were trying to prompt you from the audience.

I remember crying that you had died when you played a part in the Glenwood High school play, title I think "The Devils Eye". Remember
that you had actually been pierced in the University play when you played Hotspur and concerned that you would be stabbed to death.

Your Blog Monday 26th - Don’t forget the song "Perfect Day" too. This I think Mom and Dad sang as a duet. Dad would place one hand on the piano to help him steady his shaking legs when he sang. Such nerves he had about singing for an audience and yet such a lovely voice. The piano shook and one could feel the vibration on the floor.”

Thanks, Ceri, and I’m sure there’s such a lot we’ve left out.







__________

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Continuing the musical saga; of ‘Opus One’ only the first act still exists. Somewhere down the years Act Two got lost; not that it matters. Despite it being a load of old rubbish I was surprised on rereading it to find I quite enjoyed my very first attempt at lyric writing and even then seemed to be fond of “laundry list” numbers. There is one in Garibaldi all about an ice cream parlour listing the various flavours available and there is a kinda one in ‘Peter Pan’ – ‘Soggy Green Cake’. There is also one in ‘Pickwick, ‘Whatever You Want I Can Get it’ sung by Roker the jailor.
WHATEVERYOU WANT I’VE GOT IT,
WHATEVER I’VE NOT I CAN GET.
SO WHATEVER YOU WANT JUST YOU TROT IT OUT,
THERE’S NOTHING’S BAMBOOZLED ME YET.

WHATEVER IS IN YOUR POCKET,
WILL PAY FOR MY SERVICE WITH EASE,
FOR WHATEVER YOU WANT I WILL KNOCK IT OFF,
MY ONLY DESIRE IS TO PLEASE.

A BOTTLE OF BURGUNDY, SHERRY, OR SACK,
A PHEASANT OR TWO AS A SNACK.
THE LASS YOU DESIRE, A MALE VOICE CHOIR,
WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU LACK.

A SHERATON TABLE, A FOUR POSTER BED,
SOME PILLOWS TO REST YOUR OLD HEAD.
A SURGEON TO BLEED YOU, A MASSEUR TO KNEAD YOU,
A PARSON SHOULD YOU WANT TO WED.

THERE’S NOTHING IN THIS WHOLE WIDE WORLD
THAT MONEY CANNOT BUY,
SO IF YOU’VE THE MEANS TO GET THE BEANS
THE GRAVY WILL FOLLOW BYE AND BYE.

CHORUS: WHATEVER YOU WANT HE’S GOT IT.
ROKER: WHATEVER I’VE NOT I CAN GET.
CHORUS: SO WHATEVER YOU WANT JUST YOU TROT IT OUT,
TOGETHER: THERE’S NOTHING’S BAMBOOZLED HIM/ME YET.

ROKER: MY SERVICE IS NOT FOR GRATIS,
A NICE LITTLE WICKET I’M ON,
FOR I’M REALLY A NAT’RUL BORN ARTIST
AND THEY SAY LIFE IS SHORT BUT I’M LONG.

A STATUE OF VENUS, A REMBRANDT OR TWO,
TO LIGHT UP THE GLOOM OF YOUR VIEW.
A SILVER GILT BANGLE THAT WILL NOT JANGLE
THE WAY RUSTY CHAINS TEND TO DO.
A BUKHARA CARPET, A LOUIS COMMODE,
SOME WEDGWOOD, SOME DRESDEN, SOME SPODE,
’A VOLUME BY DICKENS, MAYBE SOME CHICKENS,
I KNOW WHERE THERE’S OPIUM STOWED.

and more...

The one in ‘Opus One’ is all about small-ads. But there’s nothing new, here’s an example of
a laundry list number from the Music Hall, 1881

HERE WAS PLUMS AND PRUNES AND CHERRIES
AND CITRONS AND RAISINS AND CINNAMON TOO,
THERE WAS NUTMEGS, CLOVES AND BERRIES,
AND THE CRUST IT WAS LAID ON WITH GLUE.
THERE WAS CARAWAY SEEDS IN ABUNDANCE-
TWOULD BUILD UP A FINE STOMACH ACHE –
YOU WOULD KILL A MAN TWICE AFTER EATING A SLICE
OF MISS HOOLIGAN’S CHRISTMAS CAKE.

And here’s an example of what I referred to earlier as being a crappy Music Hall lyric –

Slap-Bang! Here we are again!
Here we are again! Here we are again!
Slap-Bang! Here we are again!
Such jolly dogs are we!

Guess it kept the boys in the upper circle happy as they could all join in slap-banging, and anyway right up to date, someone sent me a CD of a musical which has been a big hit on the continent, and one of the lyrics goes. ‘What are you going to do now? What are you going to do now? What are you going to do now? What are you going to do now? What are you going to do now?’ ‘What are you going to do now?’ ad infinitem. Great stuff, huh?