Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Just finished the currently quite-talked-about article by Hilary Mantel in which she (supposedly) slags off Kate Middleton (or the Duchess of Cambridge if you prefer). Unsurprisingly, she does nothing of the kind. Her remarks about la Cambridge are carefully angled in terms of the media's appropriation of - and immediate industrial manufacture of - 'Kateness'. That the media and their close allies the politicians (auto spell correct throws up 'pit icons', how apt) protest so strongly is only evidence of the extent to which it is in their interest to use Kate for their various nefarious purposes (column inches, circulation figures, deodorising whiffs of feel-good patriotism and new baby).

And, of course, a phrase such as "a royal lady is a royal vagina" is bound to get the Daily Telegraph faithful reaching for their fountain pens down there in the Home Counties (careful how I type that). But Hilary's right and although she doesn't quite say it, by logical extension, a royal bloke is a royal prick (plenty of evidence of that in the newspapers, no?).

However, did David Cameron et al bother to read to the end of Mantel's article and the last ten lines in particular? It seems doubtful. For here she argues for some basic decency and self-control exercised by the Great British Public - that we "back off and not be brutes". And without the need of some nanny state censorship. Just think for yourself (the very thing the media and politicians fear most). That much abused phrase "in the public interest" has to be reclaimed. I don't think I need - or want - to know about Prince Philip's reason for entering hospital no more than I would want people beyond my immediate family to know about a close relative's medical condition. I don't need - or want - to see Kate topless just as I would not want photos of my wife or daughters spread across the Internet. I'm not interested and it is not in my interest - or anyone else's - except, ah ha!, for those who are intent on making a profit either financial or political from sustaining the illusion. Whereas I do need - and want - to know what actually is being said behind closed doors or in the corridors or over the phone lines by media barons and their political cronies which lead to the ghastly decisions and errors of judgment that pervert public and private life. And that, of course, rarely sees the light of day. As Marie Antoinette might have said: "Let them eat Kate".

Mantel's final flourish suggesting we are all Barbara Cartlands now is perhaps unfortunate and that we all have the pen in our hands to write history. Just think what godawful prose that invites ... However, the moral thrust of her final sentences is clear: just leave the woman alone. I can't think that anyone with any decency could take issue with that.

Oh no, Kevin Ayers has died.

Another key voice & member of my unofficial 'insouciance' club.

The world is diminished a little more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

... more obits for Richard Briers & the girls & I watch an episode of The Good Life on iPlayer by way of paying tribute (the one where Tom does his back in & Margo picks beans one at a time).

It's interesting to see the rush of 70s nostalgia occasioned by Briers' death, no doubt something to do with the average age of the journalists writing. Interesting, too, the way many pundits argue that the programme represented a golden age of television sit comedy - the quality of the writing, the acting, and a pervasiveness gentleness.

The first two I don't dispute and are surely due to 1) more generous ways of dealing with scriptwriters; 2) the proven track record of each actor in theatre before they went on screen. However, the third ... really? Just because no one swore and there weren't any up front challenging story lines, I'm not convinced The Good Life was so 'innocent'. As with the (admittedly) harder hitting Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin there is an implicit critique of suburban life and the moronic routines and games of the corporate workplace (why, indeed, Tom abandons advertising and derides Jerry's subservience to 'Sir'). More disconcerting is the sexual dimension of the series. As is generally accepted, Felicity Kendall made baggy sweaters and dungarees suddenly sexy (and remember the Young Ones' launderette scene) much as Diane Keaton transformed a man's waistcoat and tie in Annie Hall. The Tom-Barbara relationship was compelling as it miraculously legitimised the tomboy girl-friend - a playmate in a different sense - someone who (for a bloke) could wield a spade, rub her nose fetchingly and promise much upstairs. A sort of feminism-lite for middle-class England. But who could watch without sensing that darker forces were at work? That given half the chance Jerry would steal away with Barbara and Tom would pounce on Margo. And, sure enough, there is that episode where they all get drunk and fidelity begins to teeter. Watch the episodes again and you can sense this pervasive sexual tension. For all its respectable pre-watershed pastoral innocence, The Good Life has its Dionysian energies threatening to spurt out.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tributes pouring in for Richard Briers - as Tom in The Good Life and the Shakespeare roles of course. No one, so far, has mentioned his voices for Roobarb and Custard which - for me - are as significant and certainly were heard in playgrounds up & down the land in the early 70s.

"I'll get you next time!" said in that over-eager manner he'd made his own. And Custard's smarmy laugh. And great cartoon making, too, with the jumpy frames and felt pen colouring. What an antidote to today's slick CGI pap. Bob Godfrey, wasn't it?

Friday, February 15, 2013

... & the Dorn just gets better & better. I've just read Gunslinger I & II straight through (the first time in fifteen years) hearing so many splinters that went unnoticed before that it really feels a first time. Then, I stumble upon the notebook excavations that compose Yellow Lola - a real joy. Take this, for example:

Advice revised

never use a return address*

* The snow doesn't

Still we awaken in the morning
and Yesterday which should be one-half
our whole possibility is lost
in a common nostril so decayed, so cynical
it cannot smell the blood it lifts
and drinks, to all of us

(lines from 'The Biggest Killing', Ed Dorn)


feeling approximately a hundred years old today, a weird ache spreading through my shoulders & back, maybe the result of yesterday's tense 5-hour drive through solid rain & camion swish ...

... finish off Dyer's first novel Paris Trance (admire the way he decides to invert the ending sequence leaving things to peter out) then the remaining chapters of the Levinas introduction (increasingly doubtful as his Zionist politics come to the fore) & then cast around for another flavour. The Dorn slab invites ...

... I dutifully begin at the beginning & immediately get the bug. A great eye opener and ear opener - Prynne's phrase is bang on the money.
Brought back from the UK ...

The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard de Chardin

... as good a place as any to begin ...

Emmanuel Levinas, Routledge Critical Thinkers, Sean Hand
Entre Nous, Levinas

... Blackwell's didn't have the Levinas Reader so I'll make do with these for the time being ...

Collected Poems, Ed Dorn

... big & fat & hard to resist ... I have some separate volumes but this is the business ...

This Isn't The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You, John McGregor

... flipping through there seems to be some interesting stuff going on with the pages ...

Bid Me to Live, H.D.

... I buy H.D. on sight ... even more so when it's two quid in the Reading Oxfam ...

The Pisan Cantos, Ezra Pound

... a nice copy & seems more approachable in a slim volume ...

Cock & Bull, Will Self

... I'm prepared to give Self another go ... maybe this is the one ...

By Himself, John Clare

... irresistible autobiographical fragments & journals entries ...

Saturday, February 09, 2013

So ... Wales beat France which - on balance - was the fair result. But only just. Lousy scrums, clumsy hands & pointless kicking nearly tipped things the other way.

Tomorrow, an early start as we head for the UK - that's me & the girls. With any luck we'll be just ahead ahead of the snow on either side of the Channel.

Friday, February 08, 2013


(a John Ashbery birthday cento for the Walrus)

The years whirled quickly by, an upward spiral
in all the spheres leading up to where the master
of meaning comes from? Obviously,

Unclench a long-sought definition:
unwitting orang utans gambled for socks
The theme was articulated, the brightness filled in
While life grows increasingly mysterious and dangerous
One might like to rest or read,
But if one were to invent being a child again
And all the belly buttons danced around
to whose destiny we are being summoned

moment. Time under the tree passes
The annual race is on -
of decades ago peeling off from the mass

Thursday, February 07, 2013

This morning I put on my socks with the snowman & snowball motif and by 2pm it is ... snowing ...

We should never underestimate the power of footwear.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Not an especially remarkable occasion but then again, at such an age, birthdays are more an opportunity for sober philosophic reflection than jelly and ice cream.

A copy of John Cage's Every Day Is A Good Day is due to arrive on Thursday - a present from Mme Waffle. The title says it all for - really - each day is a birth of sorts, an occasion for becomings. If only one has the presence of mind & the energy.

Here's to 365 such days.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Today's recipe

Knowing people tune in for a variety of reasons, here's the recipe for a belgianwaffle weekend lunchtime standby - a sort of pizza-flammekuche.

1. Unroll bought pizza dough on a metal oven tray (keeping the paper underneath).

2. Crumble a mixture of mozzarella and goat's cheese.

3. Scatter very thinly cut slices of red onion and mushrooms.

4. Lay thin strips of either bacon or Parma ham.

5. Sprinkle with thyme and drizzle over some olive oil.

6. Place in the oven at 200 degrees for about 15 to 20 mins depending.

Serve with a salad - it's good hot from the oven or cold later. Dead easy.

Congratulations to all our Italian friends out there - a terrific win this afternoon. It always does the soul good to see France lose at rugby (especially as some key points were due to a second half drop kick - the French tactic par excellence). Irrespective of the Welsh result, this has been a good weekend for Rugby with a capital 'r'.

Thanks to those loyal readers who've pointed out that in a parallel universe Wales also managed to lose to Scotland yesterday - the error in the previous post has been silently corrected.

Let's hope blogging is not prophetic.

... still around & enjoying the post-being-ill lightness of Being ... to resume ...

The annual self-inflicted punishment begins - aka the Rugby Six Nations. I foolishly dedicate valuable hours in front of the television to come away feeling dispirited. As anticipated, Wales lost to Ireland yesterday despite a valiant (albeit too late) fight back in the second half. If someone could explain the tactical logic of kicking the ball straight down the pitch to receive it back by return of post seconds later ... well, it escapes me.

The England game I watched with divided loyalties - I've never cared for Scotland's type of rugby but I also loathe England as a team. The only consolation is to find a new cap for England called Billy Twelvetrees. That's something straight out of Boy's Own comics (or The Hobbit, come to think of it).


Awake bright & early despite what is - for us - a late night out (no doubt due to the New Year Resolution of More Discriminating Drinking). I make a cup of green tea and listen to Something Understood, BBC radio 4's weekly dose of worthiness and platitudes presented by the plummy toned Mark Tully. Actually, for all the dross there's always a nugget or two as today they pull in some extracts from Teilhard de Chardin. A name - like Billy Twelvetrees - that exerts a certain fascination. I've never read any & now am thinking I should.


Which leads me on to Emmanuel Levinas. His name has been cropping up in various places and - again - he's someone I feel I ought to know more about. A quick trawl on Amazon throws up some forbidding looking titles. As always, O where to begin?

So, if anyone out there has any suggestions for a good first volume by de Chardin and Levinas respectively, I'd be very grateful. And who knows, maybe Billy Twelvetrees has published something of interest, too.

... tomorrow I sail into my forty-ninth year ... how old that sounds & yet ...

. Driving into work the other morning with 'Village of the Sun' playing & humming & drumming along  & think...