Friday, December 31, 2010


The pianist Alan Clare was at a party when a guest approached him and asked if he'd play a request.

"Why yes," said Clare, "which song is it?"

"That's What You Are."

"That's What You Are? I don't know that one."

"Oh, you must do. It's been on the radio and everything."

"Well, can you sing a bit of it and I'll see if I can pick it up?"

This is the song...

Have a good New Year, all.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Taking stock

A friend recently told me that she reckons that I engage with real life as little as I think I can get away with. Which is a devastatingly accurate assessment. Particularly as at the time I had just been caught doing something I shouldn't have and was temporising wildly with a view to bullshitting my way out of the corner I'd painted myself into*. I'm not awfully good at engaging with real life.

I think that I have been kidnapped and replaced by alien beings intent on spying on humankind. Having scared my workmates silly by being mellow and festive and stuff all Christmas Eve, I spent the day itself being avuncular at my family, topping it all by crying buckets at the ending to "How The Grinch Stole Christmas."

Which both lead me to the matter in hand.

Why am I writing any of this?

Some people blog because they're creative people wanting to work creatively and a blog is a good way of building a portfolio or practising their crafts or sharing and testing ideas. Some of the people in my blogroll are proper writers and poets, artists and authors and pretty damned good they are, too. Other people are instinctively chatty and sociable and use their blogs as just another social network, like the equivalent of having a chat with people while you're at the laundrette. And others are just exploring, wanting to know what this blogging business is and how it works.

I started blogging a few years back primarily to get a pile of lousy work-related stuff off my chest rather than continue to internalise it and do myself any further damage. Counsellors often suggest keeping a diary or journal of things that have hurt/annoyed or delighted because it helps to provide context and perspective and can also be a record of progress. I'm crap at keeping a diary but keeping a blog turned out to be within my powers, which is how the other blog came about. And that's mostly done the trick for me. This blog was always intended, in so far as I had any intentions at all, just to be a commonplace book where I put odds and ends, possibly for future use. That has changed over time - apologies to those of you who have been occasionally dismayed by the fruits of a combination of insomnia and a natural inclination to melancholia.

Which brings us, eventually, and about time too, to the matter in hand: "the blogging malaise."

I'm one of the people who's been complaining that blogging's been a bit of a struggle lately. And I've worked out why I'm struggling:
  • Time is a factor. As I've said elsewhere, there's only so often you can complain about a repetitive failure before the complaint becomes a repetitive failure in itself. Our train services are lamentable; icy pavements are slippery; some library managers couldn't run a bath - how often do these things need saying? Once, if at all. So the bar needs to be constantly reset.
  • I've lost my anonymity - I now have an audience. That's sounds a bit ungrateful; I don't mean it to be, I'm pathetically grateful that anyone bothers to pass by and have a read. It's just that there's a lot more freedom in scribbling on the wall of a virtual bus shelter for your own amusement. I'm more than happy to concede that freedom in return for the interplay and commentary.
  • And this is the one I've been hedging round: I really have lost my anonymity. Over the past year, both as Kevin and the bloke he masquerades as in real life, I've been taking down walls. I'll be honest: for me that's very scary indeed. I live with the constant fear of the Wizard of Oz moment where somebody pulls back the curtain and says: "oh look, it was only him all along." Hence all the flannel and walls and barriers and stuff. Well, some of you I'm friends with in real life; some of you are cyberbuddies with both of us; and some of you even know what address to use should a world-wide glut of dancing ladies need to be distributed to the poor. You'll have to forgive me for being nervous about that, it's in my nature. But I absolutely wouldn't change it, thanks for being friendly.
All of which change the dynamics of posting to my blogs. There are a series of self-limiting factors to be negotiated: topics I can't write about because however heavily-disguised the confidences, they're still identifiable if you have the context; comments or stories that could compromise desirable outcomes, that sort of thing. And I have to be a bit more careful about not frightening the horses unnecessarily because if I've learned nothing else over the years I've found that people in the blogging community worry about each other. None of which are insurmountable challenges.

So I'll be carrying on blogging in 2011 (online community starts gnashing teeth). I've no idea what I'll be withering on about, all I know is that it's going to be a year full of big changes and surprises whether I like them or not.

There are a few people I've lost contact with lately or who have left the blogosphere. In some cases it's because they've found new and exciting things (and people!) to do. For other people the causes are changes in circumstances and/or health. In any case, if you happen to be reading this make sure that you pick up one of those virtual sacks of best wishes in the corner over there.

In fact, there's a sack each for everyone, so don't go away empty handed. I'll try and make a better fist of keeping in contact with what everyone's doing and engaging with realities, including this virtual one. And you can nag me if I don't.

Has someone been putting something in my tea...?

*Well, you're wrong. But I'm not going to tell you what it was either. Serves you right for going straight for the smutty stuff.

Friday, December 24, 2010

An old bloke's memories of Christmas

Christmas is that funny time of year when we choose for the usual "natural" order of the way of things to be seen through the distorting mirrors of sentiment and holly. When people who go out of their way to avoid each other all year get together in the spirit of goodwill to all men to compare scary jumpers. And others stress themselves to the nines to get a bit of turkey on the Christmas plate.

We are no different. Most of my family lives nearby so it's fairly convenient to get together and - importantly - to be able to drift off and do our own things for an hour or two rather than getting too santaclaustrophobic.

The day, inevitably, starts with the rituals of opening the presents. This is the bit I like. I'm seriously not fussed about getting any presents myself (which winds people up no end), I like the giving bit for the opportunity to feel a bit smug about myself. I drift over late enough to have missed my niece's opening most of her presents, which isn't a deliberate avoidance, just the difference in time clocks between a nocturnal old bloke and a tiny tot. My presents will have been deposited with my parents and they'll have spent Christmas Eve stacking everybody's presents neatly just where anybody can accidentally knock them over and get them mixed up again. It's a tradition, we don't spoil it. The next half hour is a confusion of pass the parcel, Danger UXB and the conveyor belt round of The Generation Game. My dad will have shaken all the parcels to see if they rattle: we don't do the piece of Lego in an Oxo tin any more and all bottles are wrapped up to be bottle shaped.

My brother will have taken temperance wine with the clergy of several parishes and will be spending the morning with his Beano Book.

Being children of The Empire, before they knocked it down and turned it into the brutalist seventies slums of Hulme, we wave our Union Jacks during the Royal Speech and say things like: "King George's stammer's got better" and "Does Queen Mary know he's wearing that?" while wondering what's on the other channel.

Christmas dinner coincides with the slice of monarchy. Despite my protestations that I'm happy enough with a chip butty and please, please don't stress yourself out so much, it's always a full turkey and trimmings. These days my dad's on cooking duties and he does a seriously good job of it, better than I'd manage. And he gets himself dead worried about the whole business. Mind you, if I tried juggling all that lot I'd be a sobbing wreck in the corner of the kitchen.

And then we relax.

Have a good Christmas, everybody. Look after you and yours.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Damn. I've broken me walking stick.

I'll *have* to buy that Malacca cane now!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Yuletide log

My parents have caught my mood aright. This is the verse to the Purple Ronnie Xmas card they've sent me:

"I hate Xmas Compliments
I hate Festive Cheer
My Yuletide Log has melted
Into Yuletide Diarrhoea"

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Visiting friends for a meal and a fillum I felt I had to excuse the walking stick.

"Knees a bit dodgy," I explained.

"Probably sensible in this weather," they replied.

When did we get this old?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Experiments in sound

I've been wondering why the volume on this laptop keeps slipping from my default setting of Very Quiet Indeed.

I turns out that there is an undocumented* volume control knob in a position to be moved by my loins. While one has to question the thinking behind the design, I have to be pathetically grateful to find that my loins are still capable of moving anything.

* I'm male and I work with computers and librarians. Of course I don't read the documentation!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Grey Sunday

Last night's rain has frozen on the pavements and odd patches of snow still litter the garden. It all looks a tad bleak. Even the blue tits and the robin are hunched up in their dufflecoats. Most of the goldfinches that usually adorn the garden have gone missing for the duration, though the duration of what quite escapes me. Winter has definitely come early: the Mahonia has all but finished flowering; most years it's at its peak at Christmas, providing a rich source of nectar and unseasonal insects for the tits and blackcaps. I'll have to put out sugared almonds.

The sensation within the family at the moment is my dad's pineapple. He decided he was going to do that thing where you grow new pineapple from the green bits at the top of a shop-bought one (mine's on the landing). The one he kept has grown apace, September's new spurt of leaves having pushed the plant off the back windowledge. He's now got it on the floor in the front bedroom, the better for us to marvel at the thing. For it is now flowering. A small pink pineapple on a stick, full of flower buds and wonder. We don't yet know what you need to fertilise the flowers and set fruit, it'll be interesting to see how it goes. I just hope it's not like a Bramley apple, needing two more plants of different varieties to set a crop.