Thursday, January 29, 2015

I found a newish mp3 file of Miles C chatting with Charles B on Close Listening. Reassuring, in many ways, to hear that the latest volume dates back a good ten years. (So I'm not the only one who works at glacial speeds.)

Amusing, too, to find that on Googling 'Miles Champion' how many running sites spring up. I told you jogging & poetry went hand in hand. (Or should that be feet?).


Odd peeks out of the window to see if it is snowing ... nothing yet.


another no show
by the snow

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

This arrives today - a volume I have been waiting for ... several years. It was rumoured & then postponed & then seemed to have disappeared. So finally ...

& what better timing! On a day when I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. Decisions made which leave you aghast & yet circumstances dictate. Take it or leave it. Compromise dressed up as choice.

I am a big fan of Miles' work - all the way back to the first book: Compositional Bonbons Placate. My own Morse Solids was a declared homage to his Sore Models (which, in turn, was a reply to Kit Robinson - if I remember correctly).

Only a quick flip through as yet but I notice that the Amazon image is not, in fact, the actual cover but a drawing within by Trevor Winkfield (a key Miles collaborator).

Anyway ... after a day of dreary pedagogic talk this is the perfect antidote.


Jog Update ... during the meetings I noticed out of the window the sky clearing & thought ... shoes on ...

4:30 ... Home ... changed ... a brisk walk up the road & into the woods. Having done my circuit (3 km) I check the clock - 20 mins. That's pretty good for me.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Crisis, what crisis?

Walking around the Brussels Art Fair yesterday this thought kept turning around in my mind. Looking at the well-heeled punters as they browsed the stalls it was hard to believe that money was in short supply.

We stopped by a gallery run by a friend of K's exhibiting this particular Tintin cover drawing. The owner asked what I'd estimate as a going price. I paused, weighed up the factors (drawing, not coloured, unsigned, but up for sale in Belgium ...) & hazarded 50,000 euros. The owner smiled indulgently - 2.5 million.

You see?

She admitted that at that this price you'd be unwise to put it on the wall at home. Rather, make a copy & keep the original in the bank vault.

Which is probably why Syriza reckon that they have at least the moral argument on their side.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pluck Henry Green's Blindness off the shelf which - I am ashamed to say - I have never actually read (despite finding an old letter from O. sent from Kuwait dated just after the Falklands War & a strip of The Times Newspaper acting as bookmarks in amongst the pages - the Picador 3-to-a-volume edition which I never liked).


Morning jog: the planned two laps of the Hippodrome are abandoned once I realise it's like a skating rink. Instead, I head off on the usual circuit of the woods & but for a few patches it is safe enough. 22 mins for 3km which, in the circumstances, seems OK.

Rumour has it the pool will open on the 1st April (not, I take it, a joke). So plenty of time to refine the running technique (apparently I have a rather deliberate stride - intellectual, even - that's according to Mme. Waffle who was walking behind me).


In this icy weather what else but Sibelius' Symphony no.4 (Karajan)? My father loved Sibelius - Morton Feldman & Glenn Gould, too. So I periodically make the effort. Maybe this time I begin to hear something ...


Saturday, January 24, 2015

And the sun condense
to starves of snow
in the air light
crust to the edge
of the born mind.

(At Winter, Solution Passage, Clark Coolidge)

8:25 ... we awake to a white world ... & it is still snowing.


& no particular need to go out.


Friday, January 23, 2015

I don't care what anyone says about Punch (the humorous magazine) & consigned it to the dentist's waiting room. I cut my laughing teeth on it - my father's copies kept from the 1950s (already early Quentin Blake & Larry) through the 70s and into the 80s (Hunter Davies, Alan Coren, George Melly ...). Christmas for many years was defined by the Punch Christmas Special - satisfyingly thicker and with a mock Christmas Gifts section. Admittedly Private Eye comes close but Punch had another - gentler - tone.

Why mention Punch? Well, because Martin Honeysett has died. His cartoons were fabulous - the scratchy, crinkly quality of his denture bereft pensioners. Nothing better than a two-page spread of his work. One in particular sticks in the memory: a limbless dog lying on the rug in the front of the fire. One old bag says to another: "He was getting too big for the flat so we had his legs amputated". Devastating & daring - so easy to misattribute the cruelty to the cartoonist rather than those he depicted. And what joy on finding he had illustrated that volume of Ivor Cutler stories - the fictional autobiographical sketches. Wonderful.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Yep ... more or less correct: a drug contained within the smoke triggered by foot pads which acted on subconscious fears. Neat. As was the H.O.U.N.D. acronym and Maggie password. The political allegiances are evident.

Increasingly you get a sense of how the scriptwriter(s) are thinking while writing via Sherlock's scroll through of possibilities. And there's a kind of connoisseur's pleasure in second guessing how the original is going to be played off or reimagined.

Maybe not quite as atmospheric being outside London and we're starting to get dangerously self-reflexive/self-regarding dialogue (Watson criticising Holmes for turning up his collar or is it Martin criticising Benedict etc.). Too much of that and it will disappear up its own fan club.

Never mind. On to the next.

And a new catch phrase to deploy:

Holmes: Not good?
Watson: Not good.

Plenty of occasions to use that spring to mind.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Hound of the Baskervilles tonight & - as I said to two of my students (self-confessed Cumberbitches) - I begin each new episode with trepidation: will it be as good? When will there be that sickening feeling of realisation that the magic has gone ... the writing thins ... ?

Pleased to report: not yet!

(Utterly absurd, of course, that Mycroft's card could get them into the base so easily ... or maybe it is all part of a grander scheme? My money is on some kind of mind control - rather than an actual genetic monstrosity - & this would explain why Sherlock is so disturbed. Don't mess with the mind palace ... ).

Paused at 45 mins. The rest tomorrow ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hearing the woman on the farming programme this morning exclaim "yay!" on entering a barn it set me thinking about some of the things I don't do ...

I don't exclaim "yay!"

I don't say "you guys" either for men or - worse - collectively for men & women

I don't use emoticons

I don't high five

I don't whoop

I don't say "cute"

I don't say "thank you" with that weird inflection, slight pause & extended last syllable (than 'kyew)

I don't say "mate"

I don't say "sarnies" (for sandwiches)

I don't say "ma & pa" for parents

I don't say "telly"

I don't use abbreviations when texting

I don't add 'xxx' to messages

I don't say "that's so random" when meaning "strange"

I don't carry a bottle of water

I don't wear headphones walking down the street

I don't have a tattoo

I don't have a piercing

I don't have a Facebook account

I don't work out

I don't hug

I don't double park

I don't "chillax"

I don't have a Kindle

I don't "tan"

I don't take selfies

(... meaning, I am sure, that for many people I am a dinosaur or grumpy old git. Or both. Strange how the majority of these have occurred within the past ten years.)
E. comes home yesterday & informs me that she's being called "weird" by classmates for her Sherlock infatuation. They've seen the handmade book mark & customised journal cover. Perhaps the "weird" is as much down to it being a BBC series (not some box office hyped release) as that anyone bothers to make their own items (not simply order authorised product).

Inevitably it reminds me of my own efforts ... a carefully simulated cassette insert for The Wall broadcast I bootlegged off the radio ... endless attempts to decorate school text books with Roger Dean-style logos ... even the yellow cards I printed stating The Madcap Laughs But Shall Return in a homage to Syd Barrett to leave on buses and telephone boxes ...

I'm firmly of the belief that Charles Olson's maxim (pun intended) "go deep" is one to live by. I'm sure this Sherlock obsession is opening up plenty without her even being aware ... corridors to wander down in the coming years ...

In any case, in this day & age, who wants "normal"?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

... watching episode 1 again (so E. can catch up) & suddenly the penny drops as Sherlock admits to needing Watson to talk to - Mrs Hudson having taken his skull. The Hamlet analogy is there if you look & thoroughly justified. Nice touch.

Also strange lettrist possibilities in the names - Mycroft/ craft & Moriarty/ mortality (in the true sense Holmes' arch enemy).


A rumour of snow ...


Saturday, January 17, 2015




A new little routine, updating the music files on the various iDevices & so a perfect opportunity to scribble a post. 

One of the New Year Resolutions was to make a concerted effort to dig out CDs that had been standing on the shelves either bought & unplayed or not really given the due time & attention. 


The Sound of the Sand & Variations on a Theme (David Thomas, out of the Monster box set)
Dry & To Bring You My Love (P.J. Harvey)


the Gould Orlando Gibbons 


the Boulez Berg CD I've had for ages (there was a great Radio 3 programme this morning on Wozzeck - weighing up the merits of the different versions.)



The Ben Cucumber Patch fan club (Belgian branch) is now located upstairs in E's bedroom. She wants a Sherlock mug for her breakfast tea & is affecting various mannerisms & lines - "Clearly" ... "& do shut up Mrs Hudson ..." etc. I tried to explain that he looks, speaks & dresses like most of the chaps I went to school with (a hand-me-down overcoat, scarf, arrogance & asperity were pretty much standard equipment to survive the 6th Form at Westminster) but she won't be swayed. I think this must be LOVE *sigh*. 

I have secretly ordered some badges so she can pin them on her bag & waltz around school. (How I remember my own obsessions for Star Trek communicators, Tom Baker's scarf ... - so why not indulge her?). 

It also occurred to me to track down a DVD of his famous Frankenstein performance but it seems the NT won't give the rights. Which is a shame as I could use in class. (If anyone knows to the contrary please let me know). 

Friday, January 16, 2015

"... birds were her soundscape ... and she would interpret soft calls or harsh caws or cries from crows and seagulls in particular as comforting messages or warnings from the Lord, and would base decisions on what to do, whom to trust, whether to go out, how to deal with a problem, on how these bird sounds made her feel... ." (Neil Astley, Introduction to Bedouin of the London Evening, Collected Poems of Rosemary Tonks).

A true occasion the publication of this Collected & its arrival on my desk this morning. I sat, several years ago, in the Poetry Library in London religiously copying out poems from The Iliad of Broken Sentences to come back to Brussels & cobble together a little volume of my own making.

Strange, though, for Bloodaxe to run with the cover photograph. Tonks seemed to be so obviously averse to any attention being drawn to herself. Would it not have been more appropriate - tactful, even - to work it another way?

& to think she was living in Bournemouth during the 80s ...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Guardian is running an invitation to nominate books that have the 'cheer you up' factor. Rather than boost their Comments page, here are some that spring to mind:

- any of the Wooster & Jeeves stories by P.G. Wodehouse (often what I read when I'll in bed with flu etc.)
- a number of children's books where the rush of nostalgia acts as a physick - eg. Paddington, Professor Branestawm, Danny Fox, Winnie the Pooh (literary equivalent of nursery food)
- Frank O'Hara - let's say Lunch Poems for the sake of argument. That sheer optimism & joie de vivre. & Ted Berrigan - key poems but also his lectures on poetry (On The Level Everyday for certain)
- James Schuyler - those poems where he is looking ... especially ones featuring snow. Lisa Jarnot when I want that joy of the urban ordinary made new.
- Samuel Beckett - Murphy, Watt, Mercier & Camier. About as funny as it gets. It exasperates me how Beckett is taught with the humour drained away.
- Nature writing - perhaps Richard Mabey or Roger Deakin (especially on cold, rainy nights)
- cookery books (Nigel Slater ... Rick Stein ... Elizabeth David ... food porn, basically)
- gardening books (Monty Don ... Carol Klein ...) precisely because I am incapable.
- Joseph Cornell's diaries edited by Mary Ann Caws - inexhaustible.
- the Iain Pattison (spelling?) volume collecting together the lead-ins for Humph on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. A gem.
- Nietzsche & Gilles Deleuze. Hope this doesn't sound pretentious - I really mean it. A paragraph or two is enough - like mainlining some potent drug. Obstacles suddenly become trivial.
- Rilke - not so much the poems as the prose (certain letters for sure)
- Thoreau & Emerson - for a Transcendentalist rush
- Sherlock Holmes - to wallow in the fin-de-siècle glow & cleverness (& the pleasure in knowing them all but having forgotten them once again.)

No doubt there are others ...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Two eggs are having a conversation.

One egg says to the other: "My, you're hairy!"

The other egg replies: "I'm a kiwi."

Exactly the kind of joke that appeals to me enormously.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Another unexpected clearing in an otherwise rainy day timed perfectly for my arrival back home. So on with the jogging togs & out to the woods.

A sedate 3 km but I'm finding it harder going. Not sure whether the limbs are beginning to settle into a rut or it's the side effects of one too many glasses of a rough Fitou the night before.

No matter. We will persevere.


Episode 2 of Sherlock was highly enjoyable - perhaps even better than the first. E. is absolutely smitten with the whole thing (& probably Cucumber Patch). Sherlockisms will pass into the conversation - his dismissive sigh & muttered "dull ... dull ... " are particular favourites. (Must remember for meetings.)

Crucial to the series is London itself - those great shiny crazy new edifices that have been erected since my habitual wanderings up Charing Cross Road & Tottenham Court Road & Charlotte Street. Great not to languish in Dickensian pastiche but to make the glass & concrete talk.

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Not that such a thing could exist, or if it didn't would certainly not be anything like an art, which can only exist by coming into existence, and then the rules may be drawn up, though it makes very little difference since no one will ever play that game again ...". John Ashbery, The New Spirit, pp 25-6

I've been reading Ashbery's Three Poems with a new attention & pleasure. It just so happens I also found a long video interview conducted with him by Al Filreis that seems to have popped up suddenly on YouTube.

Having Three Poems fresh in the mind makes me all the more intrigued by Ashbery's responses & what I detect as Al Filreis' polite frustration. Ashbery so very clearly won't play ball. Not, I think, out of cussedness or the inevitable side effects of old age. Rather because the questions are ... well ... beside the point. It's as if Filreis wants - expects, yearns - to bang his head against the wall, to strike some solid concrete resistance & in so doing prove a consoling depth & plenitude of meaning. Whereas, at each Ashbery response, he finds one after another of those Japanese shoji - each to a papery thinnesse beat. Ashbery doesn't recollect the particular line or poem; doesn't remember what he was thinking at the time; doesn't like this or that text now he looks at it again. Perhaps most telling of all is his admission that he probably writes his poems to forget them afterwards - which so easily sounds like a glib or pretentious remark but the more I read Three Poems the more it makes sense. Literally. Makes sense - & thus the quote I include above.

The writing is an opening up, a passage, a way of seeing thought take shape in language. Each instant offers a host of possibilities. To rewrite or 'improve' is by definition impossible. To ask what was intended at any stage is to misunderstand the nature of this form of composition - Ashbery becomes with every sentence his first reader already at a remove.

Right now, the two most insightful writers on Ashbery I've come across are Charles North (his essay in response to Harold Bloom's appropriation of the poems) & John Cage (his entire approach to composition rather than any direct statement about Ashbery's work).

North gets - celebrates even - the endless shifts of register & sincere insincerity, sensing the impossibility of ever being quite sure what to pin down. Or if you do, this is your decision, an (understandable) desire for some foothold or other.

Cage makes that great shift to the 'environment' & that radical questioning of what is or is not inherent to the work. What if interruption should become part of the very compositional process? ("You can feel the wind in the room, the curtains are moving in the draft and a door slowly closes" - pointless to ask: was this a memory, John? Or were you quoting? Or did it really happen? Or did you plan to put this sentence there? Or what do you mean by this?).

"So there is no need to wait to be transformed: you are already." (p 23)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

OK ... so I'm way behind (as usual) but the Cucumber Patch/ Hobbit Sherlock Holmes is as good as my sources have told me.

I've just watched the Study in Pink on iPlayer which I'm assuming is the first. Plenty of arch dialogue & Boy's Own chipper stiff upper lip understatement. Perhaps a little too much reliance on mobile telephony (but, hey, the BBC is hip to the word on the street & the new police beat) & the gay subtext is a bit tiresome.

However, it's a Baker's Dozen streets ahead of the Dr Who episode I switched off some months ago. & in any case, Dr Who always was a pretty transparent steal from Sherlock Holmes. Elementary particles my dear Watson.

Episode two tomorrow night, methinks.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

It rains ... & then it rains some more.

Lucky then to be out by 8:15 & heading for the woods. Tree tops tossing in the high winds. Twigs & branches strewn on the floor.

Today it's a grind - the joints & limbs complain, the feet are heavy. A stark contrast to earlier in the week when each stride seemed to come with ease. That's the way it goes.

As I jog along thoughts come & go about the events of the past week. & of the limits of Christian tolerance concerning free expression in our modern society: the outcry at John Lennon's claim about the Beatles' popularity, the pickets outside Life of Brian and The Last Testament ...

At times like these I am reminded of quite why Frank Zappa mattered & we so desperately need that voice & sneer in these very dark & confused days. What was that remark he made? If you were God would you choose X * to do your work on earth? At least words to that effect.

This sentiment can be extended along several religious & political lines.


* if anyone can remember exactly which TV evangelist let me know. Various searches have proved fruitless.

Friday, January 09, 2015

New York, New York ...

Comes to something when some actress with a red handbag (Lily who? Never heard of her ...) photo bombs myself & the lady wife out shopping in the Big Apple.

My agent will, of course, be in touch.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

I hadn't registered that Orlando Gibbons was Glenn Gould's favourite composer. For other reasons I've been exploring OG & so this was a must have (arrived today). My first "cadeau, Monsieur!" from Francois the cheery concierge as he dropped the little brown package on my desk.

I've only had time to listen to track 1 - a William Byrd Pavan & Galliard - but it is clearly a special recording (although I accept that there will be many who 1) loathe Gould's mannerisms & 2) find a piano for such pieces anathema). Actually I have problems with harpsichords - who said it was like skeletons in a piano making love? - & Gould's piano version clarifies the lines for my ears.


We woke up to rain & it continued unabated throughout the day. Bang goes my every other day run, I thought, getting into the car for the drive home. When, suddenly, arriving in Brussels, the skies cleared. Perhaps Joga (deity of running) was smiling benignly upon me. So, home, quick change, on with the magic shoes & off to the woods. A quick 3 km in 20 mins - which doesn't seem bad. Great feeling of having snatched an outing from under the nose of the Rain Demon.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Jog blog warning (skip this post if you're utterly bored of the subject).

Today was something of a milestone (kilometre stone ... whatever): I found things were ticking along nicely as I came to the end of my usual circuit of the woods & so decided to carry on for another ten minutes around the old Hippodrome race track. Comfortably flat compared to the ups & downs of the wood paths.

On finishing I realised that I had managed the magical 5km distance in the - admittedly - weedy time of 40 minutes. No matter. Thinking back to early November I would have laughed at the suggestion I could sustain the distance let alone hazard a guess at a time.

Amazing what the body is capable of.

Monday, January 05, 2015

He managed the shower, coped with the small spattering drops,
Then rubbed himself dry with a towel, wiped the living organism.
Day extended its long promise, light swept through his refuge.
But it was time for business, back to the old routine.

('Finnish Rhapsody', John Ashbery - from April Galleons)

Sunday, January 04, 2015


A couple of minutes into the jog ... 8:30am ... misty ... 



... & one more Hugh F-W lunch recipe ... very simple (again). 

Grill your peppers, peel & marinade for 10 minutes in a dressing of olive oil, garlic & rosemary.

Take your croutons & mix with the peppers in a large bowl. Crumble in goat's cheese & swill around in the rest of the dressing. 

Pepper & salt.

& Bob's your uncle. 


Back to the chalkface tomorrow & so posts might become more sporadic. You have been warned. 

Saturday, January 03, 2015

There is no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate vocabulary.

The day sogged. Tempted out nonetheless. One more among the strays.


Today would have been my grandmother's one hundred and thirteenth birthday. (I may be out by a year or two). 



Here's another tasty little gem we road tested this lunchtime from the Hugh F-W book. Nothing that extraordinary - essentially an upgrade on good old cheese on toast. Good though. 

Take a leek, slice it finely, sweat in butter/ olive oil. Meanwhile toast one side of the bread & grate cheese (the remains of our M&S truckle were ideal). 

Place the leeks then the cheese on the toast & bung under the grill. 

Mighty fine. 

PS for Frimley Dave: the bread shown in yesterday's post is a dark bread sourced from a bakery near to K's dentist (emergency trip to have her back tooth built up). Today's is from our local bakery - quick plug: The Charlotte Royale - their new multi grain. I think you need a brown bread - K would have preferred a rustic white. 


Coming soon ... thoughts on Mr Turner which we saw yesterday afternoon. What Colin Firth did for speech impediments, Timothy Spall does for grunts. Men of a certain age take heart. 

Friday, January 02, 2015


One of the best Christmas presents (for me at least) is a cookery book. You can spend the closing days of the old year planning meals for the coming one. Thus ...

... from Hugh F-W's recent volume based around three ingredients (although from the off he cheats a bit - but who cares?) this very easy & toothsome lunchtime dish.

We adapted it a little but the basic premise is the same. So:

- prepare your lentils (we simmered them with some pureed garlic & a bay leaf)
- fry some diced chorizo (this is our twist)
- prepare the dressing - a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, mustard & sugar according to taste
- drizzle some of the dressing on the lentils as they cool
- wash & slice the cabbage leaves, plunge into boiling water (1 minute) & then refresh
- chop half an avocado

Then, putting it all together ...

Take a bowl, mix together the lentils, avocado, cabbage & chorizo. Add the dressing.

That's it - & it is really tasty.

It just so happened we had some cold salmon left over in the fridge (à la Murakami) & I had had a second serving using it up. Perhaps even better. For next time: why not add in some tangy goat's cheese? 

Give it a try Gastronauts - as Floyd would say (Keith not Pink). 


& now for some ear food. Here's a CD I happened upon in the Mediatheque on the last day of 2014. What a great way to tune into 2015 ... 

Exactly the kind of album ECM does best. The interplay of guitar & piano against the sax with bass underpinnings ... faultless. Reminds me of Jarrett's My Song - praise indeed. 

Thursday, January 01, 2015


Out bright & early (earlyish) for a brisk walk à deux while the girls remain snoring in bed. Chilly around the ears & frost underfoot. Each step works off a measly calorie or two of last night's feast. The head still cloudy with the dregs of perhaps one glass too many.


The pond is frozen over. Not a duck in sight. Or maybe they prefer to keep a low profile during the festive season. (Confit anyone?) 


Today is technically a 'rest' day - throughout December (in case you were wondering) I've been maintaining the jogging routine. One day on, one day off - weather & work duties allowing. The mid-to lower back pain has eased due - or so I'm told - to my 'core' strengthening. I'm now slightly less of embarrassment to L & E in my (new) lightweight jacket, merino wool 'tube', and colour-coordinated bobble hat - all Christmas  presents (along with the ironic January edition of Runner's World. Ha ha.). 


& while on the subject of jogging ... I did find time over Christmas to get through the 180 pages of Murakami's essay after a tip-off from a colleague. I'm not a great fan of his work - I ground to a halt in Norwegian Wood a year or so ago & haven't felt the temptation to give it a second chance. Having read What I Talk About ... I'm still far from clear what the fuss is all about (a bit of the Bolano effect?). Still, Murakami's feats of stamina and self-discipline are bloody impressive - making my gradual build to 30 minutes without gasping seem positively insignificant. He lists the days, months and years and staggering accumulation of miles. It's clear that he's a driven man & racked with self doubt. Running like writing seem to be ways of constantly testing himself and proving his existence. However, there's a humility to it all which I find appealing. 

Try this from page 86 ...

"My muscles can be as stubborn as - or more stubborn than - I am. ... This is my body, with all its limits and quirks. Just as with my face, even if I don't like it it's the only one I get, so I've got to make do. As I've grown older, I've naturally come to terms with this. You open the fridge and can make a nice - actually even a pretty smart - meal with the leftovers. All that's left is an apple, an onion, cheese, and eggs, but you don't complain. You make do with what you have. As you age you learn even to be happy with what you have. That's one of the few good points of growing older." 

Which is no bad way to begin a brand new year ... while renewing efforts to transfer the energies from j-o-g-g-i-n-g to j-o-t-t-i-n-g ... & learning to make do with what's in the fridge. 

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