Monday, December 31, 2012

greetings oysters feeling

Greetings to all who come and go and  pass by.

I have had an oyster knife now for several years but never opened an oyster with it. Today on an impulse I buy 12 native oysters from the fishmonger. He gives me a demonstration to remind me what I have to do and offers me the oyster which he opens - my definition of a gentleman. While  Heidi watches and chats I sever the muscle at the edge of each of the crustacea and slide the blade round to lift the shell. I won't say I'm an expert but two plates each with six oysters arranged in a circle and  the liquor saved round the glistening mushroom-coloured flesh testify to my new accomplishment. Brownie points into the bargain because they are a surprise and Heidi loves oysters.

This morning a cleric on the radio is talking about thinking and feeling and the problems which occur when you have one without the other. I am reminded of someone I knew years ago who mocking a young dreamy young man of our acquaintance who seemed always to be surrounded by wisps  of Irish mist, parodied h is poems with one which began: "I feel I ought to tell you how I feel..."

Sunday, December 30, 2012

shoe-tree sun randomness

Christmas tree composed of red soled shoes in a shop window in Mount Street, London

It takes five or six days of  uninterrupted cloud and rain to make you appreciate the sun which rises this morning rather warily I think from behind wispy clouds.

Looking for a new pseudonym, which I am not, I would choose Random, Joe Random. Let randomness be my guide in 1213. The philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb has written a book about it called Fooled by Randomness - The Hidden life of Chance in Life and in the Market. I haven't read it yet but I have a feeling it will help. Randomness is what underlies the order of  images which I have been pasting into my scrap book for the last year or so and it is already yielding unexpected delights. Random exploration often lead to what you need need most without knowing how much you need it.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

notice Pi labels

Notice board.

I am glad that I have read The Life of Pi. Now if I see the widely praised film I won't wonder what the book was  like unaffected by the screen interpretation.

How's this for labelling? In Cameroon two men, I read, are found guilty of being gay on the grounds of their effeminate appearance and on the evidence that they were seen drinking Bailey's Irish Cream.

Friday, December 28, 2012

lines sales umbrella

Wire, vapour and wireless.

The season of Sales is upon us. God rest ye merry gentlemen!

As I pass an old lady in the street her umbrella blows inside out. "Oh oh ho ooh..." she says. When I turn to see if she is alright, the brolly has returned to its proper shape.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

pineapple dazed party

Pineapples contain mysteries and also provide a subject for the app called Paper. I forgot to say that one of its great attractions is that you draw and paint on the touch screen with the tip of your finger helped by tools, a "pencil" a "paint brush" and an "eraser" . There is a starling immediacy about  the procedure.

In the High Street following the festivities people have a dazed expression as if  they have just escaped from prison.

The holly tree in a garden on the edge of The Grove is this afternoon alive with sparrows. Some have overflowed onto neighbouring shrubs like people leaving a party to get some fresh air. From a distance the excited chirping also recalls the sound of a party where voice levels rise as alcohol takes effect.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

experiment deprived laughter

  1.  With little difficulty and a spot of self- tuition, I have installed and used for  the first  time an  app called Paper which allows you to draw, paint and handwrite on screen.  It is remarkably sensitive and versatile As I am at present looking after a neighbour's cat while she is on holiday, I ventured this clumsy thing, but nevertheless feel pleased enough with it as an experiment to post it here.
Wallowing in idleness this is the  first Christmas for as long as I can remember when I have not had the opportunity to cook  the festive meal.  But I am not complaining. Our neighbours looked after us generously.  Good company and good food and drink. I could easily get used to such idleness.

As I pass The Grove Tavern someone must be telling a joke. An explosion of laughter within is followed by waves and after shocks of raucous response. It is the sort of sound that could only be heard in an  English pub. All inhibitions forgotten.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cheers antlers wet

Merry Christmas.

In the last few years people have taken to wearing antlers at Christmas presumably in honour of reindeer.  I have not yet adopted the habit but I suppose there is time.

It is not raining at the moment. Something worth noting.
"...and Noah said to is his wife as they sat down to dine
I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine"
G K Chesterton

Sunday, December 23, 2012

trails abandoned sorry sorry


On a bench in The Grove after the rain an abandoned copy of  Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. After the rain it is sodden and unreadable. Some may say, it always was. But then I have never tried to read it or its predecessor, The Da Vinci Code.

Sainsbury's is brimming over with pre-Christmas customers. It is almost impossible to push your trolley without bumping in to someone else who is bumping into someone else. Being English we say sorry.  And they say sorry. Everyone says sorry.  A cantata of polite, good humoured apology.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

pint remote charm

A pint reflected.

Radio controls are becoming common place removing the need for wires. Today a hand held switch illuminates one of the little silver trees, the socket being hard to access, which is our only concession to Christmas decoration this year. We have a similar switch which turns on a standard lamp in the bedroom. What we forget for a moment is that unless the receivers on the plugs are differently set, a transmitter can operate a switch on the wrong receiver, turning on or off a light,unexpectedly, in another room.  I run up and down stairs for a minute or two bewildered. A little bit of careful thought and the problem is resolved.

"A Charm invests a face
Imperfectly beheld-
The lady dare not lift her Veil
For Fear it be dispelled-"
Emily Dickinson, who else?  A bit like Coleridge's belief that poetry is often at its best when imperfectly understood. And Francis Bacon's essay Of Truth  "...But I cannot tell: this same truth is a naked and open daylight that does not shew the masks and mummeries and triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily as candlelights".

A very short Christmas story is posted  in One Fine Day

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shard repeat skating

London's South Bank with its changing skyline. Centre of the picture is the newly completed Shard dwarfing the OXO Tower below it and to the left.

The proprietor of the convenience store greets me as I enter with, "how are you?"  I tell him and politely reciprocate with an enquiry about his health. I go to the the vegetable rack and pick up a bag of tomatoes which 30 seconds later I take to the counter. "How are you," he says. I tell him and politely reciprocate with an enquiry about his health.  With time predicted, according to a Mayan calendar,  to come to a complete stop tomorrow,  a lot can happen in 30 seconds.

In Calverley Grounds people are skating in the rain. Round and round the ring they go soggier by the minute. As I pass the loudspeaker is blaring Jingle Bells.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

lingering espresso rain

Leaves linger on the heavily pruned  maple in The Grove after other leaves have fallen.

The rich and busy sound of an espresso machine frothing milk.

In my notebook  I find  a stanza from Thomas Hardy's poem A January Night.  which seem appropriate in the context of the  gusty, drenching  weather visited upon us recently:
The rain smites more and more,
The east snarls and sneezes;
Through the joints of the quivering door
The water wheezes.
Smite is a good word isn't it? Makes me think of the King James Bible where in The Old Testament people seem to much engaged in smiting one another. Trouble is that in that part of the world smiting seems to go on and on. A good word to describe a bad habit.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

peeling dedications abandoned

Ivy climbs a metal post where paint is peeling.

An anthology of French literature which  I open today has a  hand-written note on the flyleaf.  I admit to finding it  intrusive. It may seem ungracious but  it prompts me to think about the practise of dedicating  books given as presents. It is something I have myself refrained from.  It  strikes me as immodest and presumptuous. On the other hand were the note-writer James Joyce or Graham Greene I realise that it would add immensely to the value the book and my pride in possessing it. As it is I have one book with a note from the author on the fly leaf of which I am duly proud and  for which I am truly grateful. It is Gorgon Times by my friend, Roderick Robinson. I am glad that he doesn't share my misgivings.

The  hideous, empty cinema behind hoardings on the corner of Church Road and Mount Pleasant will soon become an ancient monument, perhaps a tourist destination in its own right.  The people of Tunbridge Wells have stopped complaining about it. They have simply become used to it. Today I pause  on the pavement opposite to look up at the broken windows in its mountainous superstructure. I used to photograph the pigeons which took up residence in the empty rooms and auditoriums and which posed for me on  window sills and air vents as they emerged from a kip. It seems that even they have abandoned the site, for not one of them is to be seen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

meeting soggy unbelievable

Work takes a different form nowadays from my labouring days. It is interesting to glimpse it from a London street.

On the lid of a rubbish bin in The Grove a  square red Christmas card envelope with, judging by it thickness, a card inside. It has had a thorough soaking in last night's rain. The name on the envelope is illegible. It sits there a soggy reminder of loss.

In the queue in the bank a customer who has been waiting explodes angrily as he watches a teller counting little bags of silver coins. "Unbelievable," he says, "in 2012 to be counting copper and silver by hand!" It occurs to me that he is of the age that might equally have prompted him to expostulate if the teller had been using a machine, "you can't trust these new-fangled machines. Why can't we go back to hand-counting!"

Sunday, December 16, 2012

drawing parking stories

Today's wayside cat. If you think as Picassa seems to that this is a pencil drawing, it ain't. If I had  the patience, skill and time I would not draw like this, preferring instead spontaneity, liveliness and insight. Picasso rather than Picassa would be my choice. But given the opportunity I clicked the appropriate icons against the image of my original photo and here you have it.

How people park their cars is I have often thought a good an indication of  character. Some  one I know backs in everywhere assuring I always think a quick getaway. Others don' t give a damn jamming their vehicles (why do policemen always refer to cars as vehicles?) into any available space at an angle regardless of whether they are occupying the space of two rather than one vehicle or whether  they are preventing another vehicle from moving. As one who has not driven a vehicle for at least 12 years, moralising compensates me for the pleasures of motoring.

In my recent state of inanition (I  noticed the French form of the word the other day and not having used it  in English let alone French decided to do so at the first opportunity) I allowed three of the stories I have been thinking about to gambol in my floating thoughts. I will post the next one when there is evidence that enough readers (if Blogger stats are to be believed) have read the last one.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

wired Bach inanition

Berries and telephone wires.
What music do you play when you are struck down by a bug which leaves you so weak that switching on the equipment and pressing the button seems an effort? Bach. Perhaps the Goldberg Variations. . Cheerful yet deeply calming. Energising .Better already.
One thing about this bug is that in reducing you to state of inanition, as you lie flat on your back, wrapped up and warm, your mind begins to float free and a remarkable sense of freedom takes over, an out of body experience. It is not at all unpleasant.

Friday, December 14, 2012

lunch catcher hoar-frost

Magpie on a gutter with seed in beak.

A Jack Russell who runs almost as fast as the ball thrown for him flies, shows off his astonishing athleticism in The Grove. He hares after the ball anticipates where its going to fall and catches it on the first bounce. I have seen him before and never tire of watching him.

From the train I admire the countryside bright with hoar-frost. Walking on the silvered fairway of a golf course are three figures with clubs silhouetted against the light.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

windows prostitutes conversation

Windows and reflections in windows.

A Russian diplomat comments as he looks through the window of his taxi in the City of London, "I see that you have the same sort of problem as we do with groups of prostitutes  outside  entrances to offices".

A man and dog in the Grove. The dog, a collie, holds a stick in its mouth. It appears only mildly interested as the man appears to be talking to it non-stop about problems with machinery and the importance of proper maintenance. Only after careful observation do you realise that the man must be talking into a microphone hidden in the collar of his jacket, the microphone connected to a telephone. But then again you can't be sure.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

vane frost name

The weather-vane on top of the Church of King Charles the Martyr in Chapel Place.

A lift to Crowborough this morning. From the car how lovely to see the fields and hedgerows silvered with frost! A panoramic view which I no longer take for granted.

After passing the checkout, waiting in Waitrose for the neighbours who are giving me a lift,  I watch the ballet of customers checking out accompanied by electronic pings of approval as they load their bags and pay their money. I am disturbed in my meditations by a voice which says, "I  can see you Joe. I can see your feet." Always a sucker for approval or at least recognition I look towards the cashier who appears to be addressing me. But I should be so lucky! Seated on the next bench is another Joe, an angelic two year old with flaxen curls and pink cheeks.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Waterloo toppling history


Sad to reflect on a diminishing Christmas card list and be reminded of new absences all too permanent.

English history is deeply ingrained, breathed in with school lessons and Shakespeare's history plays, but I still have a problem, especially in the medieval period, remembering and distinguishing between all the Williams and Henrys and  Edwards. To remind me of who's who and what they did I am reading and enjoying A Short History of England by Simon Jenkins.  It is mercifully short and sharp. Apart from nudging my memory it is a racy read, a good story.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

factory eggs profile

Production line line in the this year's Christmas card factory.

Among odd encounters at the checkout I should include today's. My purchases  advance on the conveyor but two boxes of eggs on account of their fragility remain on the belt's supporting frame. I  produce the" next customer sign",  to mark a division on the belt, when I remember the eggs. "I thought the eggs were for me," says the man at the head of the queue behind me. He has a purple nose. "Funnily enough" he adds "I bought some eggs yesterday." What I wonder can I do with that information?

From the train the figures of two men on the roof of a distant  building stand in profile against the watery sun pushing beams through streaky clouds. Dramatic figures in an urban landscape.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

ledge five salad

Shoes airing on a window-ledge above a fire escape.

I listen to Take 5 in memory of Dave Brubeck who died on December 5. When I first heard his music it sounded raspingly modern after the settled tempos of New Orleans. I hadn't realised until I read the obituaries that he studied classical composition under the French composer Darius Milhaud. Nor that Take 5 was  in fact written by Paul Desmond the saxophonist in the original Dave Brubeck Quartet. It seemed very modern when I first heard it. Now it appears as another milestone in the past.

It is hard to be greedy for salad, which perhaps explains the poster in the window of Pizza Hut in The Strand which offers "Free unlimited salad all day every day".

A character in a seedy novel pursues the author of the book in the new short story  called The Stalker which I have just posted in One Fine Day.

Friday, December 07, 2012

on the way naked rent


Though not proud of the picture I was glad to capture this pigeon coming in to land.

Who (or what?) do women find attractive in men? And men in women?  See  yesterday's Tone Deaf. The topic still on my mind I am startled  this evening when my other half says: "Look there's a naked man." We are in the men's clothes department of Hooper's on a special shopping evening. The absence of enthusiasm in her voice is instructive. There is indeed a naked young man noticeable for his fake tan and aspiring muscularity.  He is  wearing only a pair of rather unprepossessing shorts. One assumes he is there to promote the sale of underwear, but doesn't appear to be succeeding. The burgers of Tunbridge Wells, male and female, most wearing overcoats against the cold outside appear to be steering clear of him. As we do. "No", says the Mrs, " he's not my type. Male strippers do not and have never appealed.

A significant reduction in alcohol in-take in comparison with previous occasions,  impelled on my part  by the exigencies of age, does not seem to  affect the  level of conversation at Wednesday's Retreat meeting and afterwards at the Kings Arms. As we go on talking we refrain  by mutual consent from a  second refill though occupying a premium table in the busy real ale pub. "That's our rent," says RR casting a sad eye on our nearly empty glasses. Somewhere buried there are the remnants of a drinking etiquette which requires you to sink pint after pint until you sail towards oblivion.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

life snowflakes identity

Neighbours. Probably the two commonest inhabitants of The Grove.

Huge snowflakes glide down outside the window this morning, as big as saucers they seem to be.

Despite snow on the line, I am no more than two minutes late for my meeting with the possessor of two noms de plumes so deeply ingrained that I cannot always remember the real name under which he now blogs. There, sitting in the bar of the Bloggers, Retreat is Barrett Bonden, Lorenzo da Ponte and Roderick Robinson. Problem is that I have always known him as "Robbie" so that for a time I find it difficult to adjust to the shifting spectrum of nomenclature. He, in response to a request which I forget that I made, is wearing his navy blue ship captain's cap. This doesn't make it easier as I cannot  in nearly 50 years recall  seeing him in any form of headgear.   An item on the agenda is to define the short story. It enters both our minds at one point  that maybe we are in the midst of one. After nearly six  amusing hours of failure to define the short story and much else, we part company; he into the bowels of the London tube, and on to the distant Welsh Marches; I to the heights of Waterloo East Station and on to the fleshpots of Tunbridge Wells.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

last leaves off-cuts cheese

Hanging on. Self-portrait.

Christmas card time again. Mine is printed, trimmed and folded. The off-cuts are not being wasted. Some fold into a square. These will become individually tailored cards. Others form a strip which folds over to make  tailored book marks.

Two lads try to order lunch at The Compasses. When they learn that an office party in progress  and that they will have to wait up to an hour, they pop across the road to the chippie and emerge with a disposable dish of crispy pancakes and chips. The chips are layered with melted cheese a delicacy that is apparently catching on all over the country. To avoid embarrassment they do not return to the pub but join us in the smokers' shelter outside. They offer us a chip dripping with cheese. It is good, but we decide, lethal.

Monday, December 03, 2012

roosting ennui brewing

You may think that you have seen this picture before, because I posted one very similar last year. Similar starlings if not the same ones were settling down to roost in the same tree in The Grove this Autumn as last Autumn, but I am  not ashamed of repetition.  The seasons don't apologise for it. Meanwhile perhaps differences matter more than we are prepared to admit.

Ennui is my favourite French word. It sums up an almost sensual abandonment of purpose, an idleness which is at the same time irritating and  melancholic. A world-weariness which embraces tedium, a tedium  which lulls the frenzy of getting and spending. An annoyance which manages both to  grate the senses and to soothe them.  It impossible to find an English equivalent which matches it for internal music or layered meaning. Poets like Baudelaire and Mallarmé liked it it because it evoked  the sad, disentegrating world of sensuality and despair in which they lived. The first line of Mallarmé's poem Brise Marine sums it up..." La chair est triste, hélas! and j'ai lu tous les livres!". The flesh is sad, alas and I've read all the books." A sort of self-mockery and ironic wit buried there I always think. I find its musical equivalent in the Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes of Eric Satie

More stories for my other blog One Fine Day are brewing. One is nearly finished and will be posted soon. Writing them is not the problem. The challenge is working them out in the early hours of the morning or last thing before going to sleep,  both curiously creative times of day. And then remembering what I have, to much asleep to write then down, recited to myself.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

looking up cold petals

Roof top parade.

"Hi ya! Bloody cold! " says the centenarian dentist  as he whizzes past on his mobility scooter."

On the ground in a corner of The Grove the fallen fuchsia petals mingle with the probing early shoots (too early)  of daffodils and crocuses.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

drama chocolate news

More of the the deserted cinema site in the centre of Tunbridge Wells. Not pretty, but with dramatic potential.

A pop-up (temporary) chocolate shop has opened in Chapel Place. Demonstrating his wares is a pâtissier called Damian Allsop who has been associated with a number of Michelin starred restaurants in London and,  I think, Spain. I have always liked the idea of hot chocolate but hot chocolate without milk. His foaming chocolate is something I have hoped to find for a long time, and not far removed from what was served in the chocolaterias which you used to find in Madrid and other Spanish cities. Probably better though. The chocolate comes from a carefully nurtured source in Ecuador and its taste lingers long after you have finished drinking it or eating the solid chocolates on offer. None of his chocolates involve dairy products relying instead on what he calls a water ganache which dispenses with the use of cream or butter, but taste none the worse for it. In the words of the Michelin Guide, worth a diversion.

The wake of the row over the behaviour of the Press and the Leverson Report of which the Media is full and the country is divided now seems to reach to the horizon. Should a free Press be underpinned by a body independent, but established under the law? Or be left under the scrutiny of one free of any government involvement but equipped with a new and sharper set of teeth than the present ineffective complaints procedure? The debate has been fiery and for once, for a debate, intelligent and largely politics-free.
Meanwhile I confess to barely reading the papers at all. I get my news from the radio, TV, the BBC web site and a magazine called The Week which contains summaries of the weeks goings on, national and international. The Independent newspaper which we take, provides, after I have scanned the headline,  me with  a Sudoku to keep me alert in the morning after breakfast