Thursday, February 26, 2015

O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour.


A revision class on Twelfth Night & I write these lines up on the board.

Then, as if returning to elementary school, spell out the sounds - the modulation of 'o' through "o'er" to "ear" to "sound" & "upon" to be touched again in "violets" & return in "odour" set against the long 'e's working in "ear", "sweet", "breathes" & stealing". Imagine, I suggest, alternatives for "odour" - "scent", "perfume", "fragrance" ...? & why it just has to be "odour" given the expectations set up within the previous lines.

Looking across the room I catch the look in one student's eyes as though - suddenly - she gets it. The absolute co-existence of sound & sense. Thought embodied. A whole world of language suddenly opens & the realisation that - at moments like these - Shakespeare is ... well, The Man.

On occasions such as this you realise why you teach.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Nearing the end of the R F Langley Journals which I admire greatly: the eye for detail, the commitment, the rigour. Yet, at the same time wondering ... how he wrote - on his rambles or at a desk afterwards? How to account for the meticulous observation? Or did the sheer regularity begin to attune the senses & allow for such recall? How, too, to juggle this with the teaching commitments & domestic obligations? No doubt an understanding & patient wife - not to mention the kids ("he's writing up his journal again ..." or "off on another of his walks"). Or perhaps not. What do these pages omit of compromises, disappointments, recriminations ... or those hours, days, weeks when he simply couldn't be bothered?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

7:30am getting into the car & it is light.

6:00pm standing in the kitchen & looking out of the window & it is ... still light.

Cheering to see.


Monday, February 23, 2015

& more JogBlog ...

... looking out of the window around 2 pm with the rain lashing down it seemed unlikely I'd be out in the woods today. & then - once again as if by the Jogging god's intervention - the skies cleared & the sun put in an appearance.

A slightly different route: down to the left, across the little bridge & along a rising path. Then round to the right before coming down the main avenue but from the opposite direction. Finally back to the traffic lights. All in all, 4.25 km & I'm not puffed. I have the impression my stamina has improved with the lay off. Now & again there's a faint twinge but nothing sufficient to bring me up short.

& so we continue ...


Sunday, February 22, 2015





JogBlog Update

If not fleet-footed then at least in the direction of Fleet ...

... yes, the Big News is that yesterday - Saturday - morning I chanced it & went out for a jog. First, a walk along the main road & then I cut back into a side road shifting into a tentative just above walking pace sort of shuffle. At every step I was expecting something to twinge but ... no ... & little by little confidence returned. I carried on up past the cemetery to the telegraph poles & took a right hoping to find the path down to Brandy Bottom. Instead I got the one which loops back to the cemetery & so retraced the road I'd taken. Using this sign as a finishing post I checked the time & distance: 4.5km & 38 minutes - the most I have been able to do in two weeks. (Fanfare!)

It's hard to describe the sense of achievement & relief. It proves that things do heal & the value of exercising in other ways (the cycling seems to be especially useful).

So, one small step for this flatfoot but one giant leap in learning how to adjust to what the legs are saying. Never will I again pass silent judgment on anyone shuffling along - for all I know it's someone just like me easing themselves back into shape.

A real lesson in humility.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


... just completed the second part of the first Series Three episode & what I'd noticed before - ie the explicit foregrounding of scripting & acting is now becoming integral to the narrative. Who can separate the competing versions of the suicide - & who would want to as to become so concerned risks being trapped within the plot (one of the sad types who blog about shows)? In other words, this is what happens when TV builds its own cult status & simultaneous reflection within social media into its ongoing development. As Sherlock laments - everyone is a critic (& would that be a knowing echo of Oscar Wilde - just as Mycroft's "the horror" displaces Mr Kurtz's last gasp to taking the parents out for the evening ...). Hall of mirrors stuff.

Clever.

For it is all very clever - perhaps too clever. First, if you play too many false catastrophes (Sherlock & Watson stuck in the tube compartment explosive) the viewer becomes numb to excitement - the Cry Wolf effect. Second, if you exploit the 'chemistry' between your central characters too much (certain exchanges sound like off screen jibes between Benedict & Martin) what happens when the affection & buzz begins to pall? Right now you sense they're both enjoying the unexpected stardom. (Wasn't this the Moonlighting syndrome - the Bruce Willis & Cybil Shepherd antipathy behind the scenes fuelled the writing but only so far). And how far can Ben & Martin carry it - or rather, their agents, the heads of programming, the ratings wars? (For let's turn TV back on its real underpinnings).

This is TV talking about itself & actors commenting upon their own professional (& personal) lives. Script as origami - fold back upon fold. Ironies aplenty - intentional & unintentional. Thus - just days after Benedict ties the knot, he says (as Sherlock) he doesn't do marriage. The inflatable mattress & extras of one of the suicide scenarios are just how TV film sets work. Donning the Holmes hat as you walk out into the street is just how The Celebrity braves the cameras & fans. Molly's new man is a Sherlock - or is that Benedict - wannabe ... & of course, Sherlock has many overcoats (said with such a knowing smile to the costumes department & the tailors reissuing the model to cater for a sudden demand via the fan sites ...).

Orson Welles would love this series. The Harry Lime eyebrow raised to another degree of knowing. (That's the next challenge for Cumberbatch - start ad libbing & outdo your script).

JogBlog Update ...

The feet are beginning to itch ... but I'm remaining steadfast: no running until after the weekend. I want to make sure everything is back in shape.

This morning I was sorely tempted to give it a go but opted for the bike instead. I'd been meaning to try out the overpass that runs to the Tram Museum & beyond. So, why not today? There's quite a frost judging by the car windscreens but who cares? It only makes the ride all the more invigorating.

First, a weave along the roads down to & past Place Keym. Then the 'Z' path up to the overpass. & once you're on you could go on for miles. Perfectly flat - & I'm thinking this would be an ideal place to jog, too - views to the left down onto the houses below, to the right, back gardens & their assorted junk. At 17 minutes I'm pedalling past L & E's school ... by 22 minutes I'm on the bridge overlooking the road by the Tram Museum & the Parc Woluwe. (Checking Google map later it seems to be more or less 6 km).










Once again I am astonished at how close at hand things are by bike. The park is perfect for cycling, running, or simply walking ... & just over 20 minutes to get there. Thinking of Spring & the lighter mornings, it's not inconceivable to ride to the park & back before 7am & still get in to work for a first period.

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Reading ... the R F Langley Journals (still) but which have sent me back to Hopkins (prose, especially) & on to Phlippe Jaccottet (Cahier de Verdure, specifically).

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Tomorrow I will head for the UK with E. - a few days in which to scour the shops for Sherlock merchandise no doubt ...

Watched the first part of Series Three last night - & while it is hard to separate out fan fantasy from the 'actual' faked suicide scenario ... the bungee plunge & swapped corpse trick is ... well ... stretching it, no?

Anyway, with any luck this means no more Graham Norton - if there is a criticism of Sherlock it is this over-reliance on the Moriarty figure. Read the original stories & he is far less prominent (he haunts cases - & is thereby all the more formidable). Whereas ... full marks for pushing Mycroft to the fore. The Gatiss-Cucumber Patch sparring is great stuff - why not opt for a spin-off series filling in the fascinating glimpses into their dysfunctional childhood & adolescence? At Home with The Holmeses - a suitably ghastly BBC focus group-derived title? Or, rather than The Glums, The Smart Arses?

Oh, & we like Molly, too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

Postscript to the previous post ...

Yes! Nailed it!

"And so slowness is
interesting and the dust, in cracks between
boards. ...

... Fluff, grit, various
discarded bits & pieces: these are the
genetic patrons of our so-called condition."

Not dialogue from Sherlock ("dust is eloquent" said with characteristic scorn to an over zealous Mrs Hudson) but lines from 'A Gold Ring Called Reluctance'.

It's been nagging me what Sherlock keeps reminding me of & the penny finally dropped - that oh so terribly English intellectual archness & superiority that is so at home in places such as Cambridge (Oxford, too). It's High Table talk, Cumberbatch like that disturbingly young & charismatic tutor who makes you (the little what's up fresher Watson) feel so terribly callow & uncouth. & there's more than a little frisson of buggery & gentleman's club privilege about it all (with espionage in the wings). For God's sake ... shut up & pass the port.

J.H. Prynne as Mycroft, then? That shadowy brother, Guardian of the Logos, the Keys To? Or has Iain Sinclair got there first?




Taking the time for a number of things that were important yesterday ...

& still are today.

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The Sherlock obsession resumes & we finally reach the end of Series Two. So ... was it a fake corpse that fell (that Molly - in true Blue Peter fashion - managed to prepare earlier?) ... or the body of Moriarty (dressed as Holmes?) ... or ... ?

Against the general trend, I find Moriarty annoying (rather than deeply disturbing) & always on the verge of overacting. That Irish camp ingratiating twang is just too close to Graham Norton to be taken seriously. Once OK ... but the return appearances start to really grate.

Again, I get the sense that the more the scripts develop the more they become self-referential about the very business of the artifice of script writing. Hence the obsession with simulations & ever more contrived plotting & coincidence. As if foregrounding disbelief & playing off that desire latent within every viewer for some deus ex machina/ Oz behind the scenes. (The twist being that it is Sherlock himself who is always fiddling with the mechanism while seemingly being locked inside). One wonders what Zizek would make of that.

& again the fetishisation of mobile phones. The cellular self? "Alone is what I have. Alone protects me". Sherlock as critique of the post-Thatcher selfie culture of narcissism & unbridled greed? Or locked within this very matrix?

It'll be interesting to see how Series Three develops (no spoilers, please).

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Eighty nail-biting minutes to see Wales - eventually - win against Scotland. Replays will show plenty of dodgy referee decisions that could have swung the game to the Scots (see - no bias!). Once again, Wales seem heavy-footed & unimaginative. Why play the rolling maul & repeatedly get penalised for not doing anything with possession? Beats me. Certainly at this rate they'll be bloody lucky to beat Italy let alone France & Ireland. Somehow nothing seems to be clicking.

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JogBlog update ... went out this morning thinking the left leg was pretty much back to normal only to find I could barely manage one circuit of the Hippodrome before pulling up. It's the knee that's the issue.

Undeterred, I got on the bike this afternoon (another stunning February day) & pedalled up to Place Stephanie & back. I wouldn't risk it on a working day but Sunday is quiet enough. 45 minutes traffic lights included. & this, I think, is how the week will have to go. Walking & cycling until the pains go away.

Given the fabulous weather it seems almost cruel - but what choice have I got?


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Oh dear ... Italy have been given a hammering by England at Twickenham. I like the Italian team - they've got flair & unpredictability (precisely what England lack & thus why I loathe them). I think it was Iain Sinclair who made that connection between the England rugby team & management executives*. Of course, it's a sweeping generalisation but the slur has stuck in my mind. I don't know what it is about the team or the manner of playing but it seems to have all the hallmarks of corporate thinking. Why, no doubt, they are so efficient (dread word) yet oh so boring to watch.

& wait for the crowing write ups in to tomorrow's papers. *y-a-w-n* ....

______

* I think, at the time, he was thinking of the tie & blazer types such as Will Carling et al who would be as at home in the hospitality tent as on the pitch. One thinks nostalgically of the days when one of the French forwards was on trial for murder ...
During my twenties & thirties it never occurred to me not to walk, or cycle, or take a bus for the very good reason - I couldn't drive.

For much the same reason I never saw myself as someone who needed to exercise. Just getting about - shopping, going to work, seeing people - was always involving some form of physical effort (how many miles clocked up along those roads in Oxford, London, Bristol ... ). Without thinking about it I was getting the limbs moving & the heart ticking over. Only as I moved to Belgium & started having to rely on cars (others & then my own) did exercise begin to be an issue.

What prompts these reflections is this morning realising that I didn't need to take the car to go into town. Why wasn't it an immediate reflex to think of the bike? Or rather, how long is it since I have started to see exercise as something 'apart' - fitting a jog into the afternoon or early morning, the swimming habit (the pool is rumoured to be reopening in a month), getting the bike out as a second best to other possibilities.

How stupid!

From the front door to La Septieme Tasse I timed it as 15 minutes. Which, if you factor in the hassle of finding a parking space, buying a ticket, etc.. is probably as quick, if not quicker than going by car. & just to spell it out: saving on the cost of petrol & parking fee & gaining on cardiovascular effort & lungfuls of (sort of) fresh air & fascinating glimpses of views of the city one misses chugging past in a car.

So quick, in fact, that I find I'm twiddling my thumbs waiting for the fashionably late-opening shops along Rue du Bailli to wake up. I browse, saunter & flaneur, have a coffee, then head into the Nijinsky secondhand bookshop, before stocking up on teas. On the way home I take in the Mediatheque & have parked the bike back in the garage before midday. Sorted.

There's not much that Norman Tebbit & I agree upon. However - in this particular instance - the moral is clear: on yer bike.


Friday, February 13, 2015


JogBlog Update ...

Too good an opportunity to miss - bright skies at 4:30 pm ... & so on with the magic shoes.

A cautious two laps of the Hippodrome circuit which I make to be 3 km. I'm deliberately taking it slowly & the heel soon eases. It's the left knee that seems dodgy. A sense that I am coming down hard on it.

I'll see how it feels tomorrow. A start, at least.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


"So long since I wrote. A year. Who cares? What then? Little. Not really any better. No change after the journeying. Four of my department ill and off. New syllabus not even published yet. And so on ... ". (August 1992)

I read such entries in R.F. Langley's Journals with mixed emotions - recognition that he, too, endured the languors of school teaching; astonishment & envy that despite this he produces poetry of extraordinary quality & (what seems to be) a daily journal of such attention. What an example!

Did he, I wonder, write 'in situ' - certain entries are so exact & detailed - or develop his writing practice to the extent that later in the evening he could recall so much & with such precision?

& - the inevitable further questions arise - did he sit through tedious Faculty Meetings, answer pointless emails, endlessly rehash Learning Outcomes & Schemes of Work, fill in vacuous online questionnaires & surveys? ... Probably not. (Mental image of a balding man, pipe in mouth, sitting to one side, jotting down lines blissfully oblivious to the debate in progress & yet alert to the sparrows pecking on the window sill ...).


Wednesday, February 11, 2015


JogBlog Update ...

This tendon business has been a salutary lesson - or should that be couple of lessons?

First, that you - I - can't take the body for granted (especially with 50+ years on the clock). Things will strain. They will need time to repair themselves. They will protest & ache. & that this is all part of the business of getting fit (ironic as that may be). Whereas do nothing & the muscles quietly atrophy & the arteries slowly silt up.

Second, just when you - I - flatter myself that I am getting fit I realise this is far from the truth. On the advice of Coach Caroline I take to the bike & deliberately find a longish stretch on a rise. I find I can only manage 5 runs uphill spaced with a freewheel down before feeling pretty puffed. Pathetic! Presumably different muscle groups are getting a work out & that's what's draining. I'll have another go on Friday & see if I can do more. Each day without jogging allows the tendon to get back in shape but I'll still be getting some fresh air.

Cross training is the new flavour of the month!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Driving in this morning & I'm trying to work out what's playing on the radio ... some kind of ECM Scandi-jazz piano post-Bill Evans with Ravelesque inflections?

No. In fact it was Frank Bridge - one of his 'poems' for piano (Sunset). Gosh.

I knew the name, knew also that he'd been Britten's teacher. But this piece has really piqued my curiosity ...


Monday, February 09, 2015

Sunday, February 08, 2015


Jog Update ...

...for those of you kind enough to show an interest, I went out on the bike figuring that this was 'low impact' & might even be considered 'cross training' (you see, beginning to pick up the jargon). So a 45 minute leisurely pedal up to the lake & two circuits before heading home. Better than nothing.

Walking down to buy the pistolets first thing, there was still enough of a twinge to make me limp a bit. However, as the day has worn on things seem easier. Now it's an odd pain on the side of my left knee that's a bother (maybe caused by the jolting steps yesterday?).

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Other matters ...

taking sips at the R.F. Langley Journals. What an exemplary collection of writings & all the more instructive (for me) knowing how he was putting in the hours at the chalkface. It can be done. I've also remembered to look out the interview he gave in Don't Start Me Talking with some invaluable insights into his approach to composition & anchoring the poem in the 'actual'.

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Having vowed not to buy any more CDs for the immediate future, the Naxos box set of Tavener was too good to pass over. Five CDs for the price of a good bottle of wine. Holy minimalism it may be but I'm prepared to put prejudice to one side & listen. The disc of piano pieces should be interesting.

There was also a 5 inch square block of Messiaen - 32 CDs, I think - but it seemed just too much of a good thing. Have I really given Ex Expecto, The Turangilila Symphony and The Quartet for the End of Time the attention they deserve?
No. Thought not.

.

& what about this from a student's IB creative writing assignment - Jay Gatsby is described looking up "at the consolations of the stars".

When inspiration & malapropism go hand in hand.


Saturday, February 07, 2015

Still smarting after last night's disappointment - as so often Wales play one half & fold in the second. I should have known.

Then ... this morning ... I start out on the morning jog & have to give up. The twinge in the left leg is now an evident Achilles' tendon problem & it's also making me thump down awkwardly on my left knee. Pointless trying to brave it out - I might only make things worse. So an ignominious hobble back.

Cries of 'told you so' from all those who warned me about the dangers of jogging (& at such an advanced age). Is this the end? Or just a minor set back, one of those things you have to just accept, give it a rest &, in a week or so, be skipping along as before?

Sort of like your car breaking down - that mixed feeling of frustration & annoyance. What an old crock. Was it the 3 hour drive to France that triggered it (the clutch pedal foot) or the day of walking after the Saturday run? Or just the accumulation of jogs since November?

Any advice gratefully received.

Pissed off, to put it mildly.

Friday, February 06, 2015

The R.F. Langley Journals arrives this morning - I'd expected a thicker package.

If there's one reliable criterion for a book, surely it is whether it revitalises your appreciation for life. Such is the case with this volume.

& what about this phrase taken from a PN Review article/ interview with the poet:

"I try to know the spiders in particular."

Indeed.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Towards A Theory Of New York Poetry ...


Mornings

Ted Berrigan

.

Lunch

Frank O'Hara

.

Snow

James Schuyler

.

Trees

John Ashbery

.

...

Last night's birthday dinner (confit de canard, beans, oven potatoes ...) meant left overs of duck pieces. So tonight I made some little potato cakes with the meat & fried them. Delicious. & some left for tomorrow's lunch.

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Tiny flakes of snow as I walk around the block this morning at 8 am. Then, by 10 am, there's a real fall. Was this forecast? But by lunch time the sun is out ... excitement & panic over. (The worst of all possible scenarios: a snow day - but everyone already at school).

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The R. F. Langley Journals haven't arrived. I can never get the hang of Amazon delivery dates.

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A jog despite the sub zero temperatures. Again a twinge in the left leg - Achilles heel?

These days, the basic loop of the woods (3 km in 20 & a bit minutes) hardly leaves me out of breath but the legs are feeling it. I suppose this is when you deliberately up the distance &/or the speed. Being me, I'll probably settle for consolidating what I've already achieved. Choosing between the hare & the tortoise I'll opt for the tortoise every time.

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Tomorrow evening the Six Nations Rugby begins again & I rediscover my rather fragile Welsh roots. Wales v England in Cardiff & a kick off at about 9:30 pm our time. I'll stick it out until some major piece of idiocy by a Welsh player or crass refereeing decision sends me upstairs in despair.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015





My two best birthday presents ...

... the book & DVD set of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's notebooks/dance performances & a painting by Pippa Darbyshire (who happened to be exhibiting her work in the hotel this weekend).

A cold but brilliantly sunny day - not that I saw much of it being closeted in the school gym for a Parent Teacher conference. Managed, though, to go for a walk in the woods with A. before the light faded.

Bought a copy of Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain & the Housewife's Handy Book (date?) at the second hand book & CD sale. Of which more to follow ...

Tuesday, February 03, 2015


At 1 o'clock I looked out of the window & saw it was a spectacularly sunny February day - a pleasant surprise after the uninterrupted grey skies & rain. Why not go for a walk? (The usual pre-work stroll around the neighbourhood had to be cancelled after the traffic jam on the Ring - one car on its roof, another spun off into the woods ... nasty).

Almost furtively I put on my hat & coat. Ridiculous, given the number of times colleagues sign out on 'errands' real or imaginary. But that's the absurdity of school life - the regulated atmosphere rubs off on you, it's as though you're playing hookey. Meanwhile, in the 'real' grown up world, people are out buying sandwiches, going to the bank, all sorts of exotic & daring things.

Out in the fresh air, I start in on my usual route & then think to hell with it - why not carry on? I take a right on the path along the side of the fields & find myself heading out towards Lasne. One road leads into another. A slight sense of panic ... what if I were to get lost? What would happen to my class? I start formulating excuses ...

Then a main road ahead: I recognise the shops. Turn right again & I'm back on familiar ground. Looking at my watch I see it's only 1:30. Plenty of time. Past the dentist ... the chemist ... the string of shops ... swipe the card at the gate & ... back in my room. 1:45 on the clock.

There's the usual milling about in the corridors, slamming of doors, shrieks of laughter & passing conversations. Someone has dumped their bag on a desk to then go off for lunch. Not a soul has noticed my little act of liberation. I'm tempted to send an email & share the secret with a few trusties. But why? It wouldn't do to have everyone stomping around the neighbourhood. Better far, to keep it to myself. & you, of course.

Monday, February 02, 2015






The more or less annual lungful of ozone by the sea ... (Friday) we leave at 4 pm for Le Crotoy & are sitting with a most acceptable glass of Sauvignon Blanc by 8:30 pm.




I'd made a vow to go for a jog - weather permitting. Saturday morning (despite forecasts) the rain held off & so I donned the magic shoes & headed out. Running against a stiff wind was a new experience but the return back to the hotel all the easier. Calls of the oyster catcher ... crash of waves ... it's exhilarating. We've been coming here for 15 years on & off. Never would I have imagined I'd be one of those loping along the promenade before breakfast ...




The rest of the day is spent trying to second guess the rain. Here's some graffiti gouged into the church up on the hill in St Valery.




Saturday evening & a 'bouille' of fish & seafood - a local version of the famous bouillabaisse. Not bad but the langoustine was dried out & a disappointment.

Apologies for the hiatus in posting (I very nearly managed one a day through January) but wi-fi was unpredictable.

In any case you had better things to do, too. No?

. rrh'isOIV  ... a wasp just buzzed in through the Velux & went scrabbling across the desk & keyboard ... now up & ...