Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


I welcome your comments, so do please write. Please note however that all comments are moderated prior to publication. Whilst I fully appreciate that life can be frustrating, nevertheless, abuse, SMS language and illiteracy will not be tolerated!

Wednesday 16 April 2014

650: A Tract for the Times

It should be abundantly clear to any of you who have read my articles, that it is in my nature to deplore the present and so-called progress; I suppose that I am one of those people one hears or reads about that seek an England, or perhaps a world, that never existed.  To this suggestion – accusation – I say “guilty!”

My way of adapting to this shortcoming – if indeed it is (I am not convinced) – is to escape into the sort of literature that takes me into the past – at least, largely before 1950. 

Mark Twain famously described the Classics, i.e. in literature, as “something that everyone wants to have read and that nobody wants to read."  Having not had what I would call an education, this observation has a special relevance to this writer.  And in consequence, my reading is to say the least, indisciplined, my selections being somewhat haphazard.  Of two recent examples, one was a great disappointment, whilst the other – a success – has helped reinforce the opinion I expressed here in my first paragraph. 

The first one is quickly dealt with; for years I had intended to read Michael Arlen’s famous novel set in 1920s English high society: The Green Hat.  I do not know why I had not addressed this earlier, but there it is.  Well I received a few days ago, a copy of the book and immediately started on it; I managed to get halfway through and then, wearied by a lot of pseudo-psychological meanderings, I cast it aside: a washout.

Ah! But the other one!  This is a gem – a veritable treasure, happily discovered at the charity bookshop at which, for two pleasant afternoons a week, I work as a volunteer.  The book carries the title Our Village and was written by Miss Mary Russell Mitford.  It is a collection of articles published in the 1820s, which described life in Three Mile Cross, a Berkshire village three miles south of Reading.  The stories are delightful, taken as they are from the reality of the rural life of the period.  No-one could possibly deny that life was hard for most of the people, but I sincerely doubt that on the whole they were any less happy than their descendants today – and indeed I suspect that they may actually have been happier, or at least less discontented.  The clear message that I get from the stories is the “naturalness” of life as it was then lived – and Miss Mitford’s writings have led me to believe that this life really did exist! 

Now then, a message from today – a parallel perhaps? – reported by the BBC and incorporating the wonderful photographs of Asher Svidensky.

Look at the pictures below: a thirteen-year-old girl in Mongolia who hunts foxes with a golden eagle.  Does she go to a discotheque, drive a Ferrari? have a 96-inch TV set?  I doubt it.

And does she look unhappy?  Wonderful this girl, now a sort of heroine to me; she has everything to piss off the lefty namby-pambies in this country: she HUNTS foxes (shock) has a real fur hat (double shock) uses an eagle taken from its nest as a chick (outrage) - not to mention the 'elf 'n' safety aspects (treble shock horror).  Mr Chris Packham would be truly disgusted I am sure.

And does the eagle look unhappy?

Actually, no!

Now compare those images with this picture: English schoolchildren, all prepared to play conkers, with safety goggles. Dear God!  When I told someone about this, I had to work quite hard to convince him that this was actually true.

Where did we lose the plot, with our hygiene, health and safety and so on?  Have YOU had your "five-a-day" this week and not exceeded the recommended number of units of alcohol (whatever they might be)? I do hope you've kept to the speed limits, eschewed tobacco etc., etc. ad nauseam.

Please hand me the keys to the time machine.

Meanwhile today I visited the village of Three Mile Cross and had lunch in the pub next door to Miss Mitford's former home.  I'll write something about this trip very soon.

Until the next time.

Friday 11 April 2014

649: Fancy a Laugh?


The "personage" portrayed in the image above rejoices in the jaw-breaking name SHREE KASHTABHANJAN DEV HANUMANJI. Hilarious isn't he?  Les Dawson had nothing on him!

The Wikipedia piece on Exorcists includes another image of this bloke with a caption that reads: The image of Hanuman at the Hanuman temple in Sarangpur is said to be so powerful that a mere look at it by people affected by evil spirits, drives the evil spirits out of the people affected[4]

Oh really? Well I say "bollocks," although I would like an introduction to his dentist who, judging by the gnashers on display appears to be an altogether superior being.

For some reason, which escapes my memory I started today to investigate "demoniacal possession" which of course led me to exorcism, exorcists and some of the rest of the associated ridiculous mumbo-jumbo that has collected around the subject over the past few thousand years.

I have posted here before about the pathetic and indeed ludicrous beliefs of the so-called "creationists" who apparently imagine that earth is about 6000 years old.  And as for those who believe in demoniacal possession - well - I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  This tragic case - a relatively recent one that occurred in a civilised country - frankly beggars belief. 

I wonder that these fruitcakes don't summon the Witchfinder-General, and I remain amazed that people can be so incredibly stupid and gullible to believe in this rubbish.

I was unfortunately baptised and brought up a Roman Catholic - a fine source of superstitious nonsense - and in later life (i.e. now) a source of considerable distress to me - to think that these perverted bastards tried to corrupt my mind  - and may well in fact have done; how can I know?  An especial bugbear is the wonderfully- named the Index Librorum Prohibitorum - a list of books that the Catholic Church in its "wisdom" decided that the faithful should not read.  This nonsense lasted from 1529 - 1966. For a long time various scientific works (e.g. Descartes, imagine!) were banned and of course sex, unsurprisingly was off the menu (except of course for a number of VERY naughty Popes). Please click on the link and read for another belly-laugh.

Until the next time

Monday 24 March 2014

648: A Sharp Reminder

 Le Comte d'Orsay

In an attempt at self-reassurance I have to say that I firmly believe that everyone, at some time or another has discovered to their regret that someone has "got there first." To be reminded of this problem at my time of life is singularly distressing; after all, one - in theory at least - would like to imagine that such discoveries are normally made at an early(ish) age!

By now you are wondering (or at least I hope you are wondering) what I am rambling about; well, this cri de coeur has been prompted by discovering a piece by one of my most favourite writers, Sir Max Beerbohm, entitled Dandies and Dandies.

A little over two years ago, inspired by the Love of my Life, I entertained literary ambitions - or perhaps more realistically, the ambitions of a scribbler.  I cannot speak for my more erudite, dare I say it, brethren, but for me the first task was to find a subject.

Having at that time just read a biography of Beau Brummell, and having always loved clothes and costume, I immediately settled on the subject of dandies.  Enthused I began some research, in attempt to identify various notables including Le Comte d'Orsay (pictured above) Balzac, Proust etc.  And Beerbohm was indeed a dandy too, exceptionally for the time always insisting on pressing his clothes himself.

Devastated by the end of my relationship, I became totally demotivated, and it was with powerful pangs that today I discovered that the Great Max - "The Master" - had already covered the ground in his superb and inimitable style.

This I discovered in the Works of Max Beerbohm which are to be found under the aegis of the Gutenberg Project (God bless 'em).  Please, please, please, do read Dandies and Dandies and feast your eyes, brain and intellect on some truly elegant English written in great style.  Now I'm off to read Beerbohm on King George IV; I'll bet it will be wonderful...

Until the next time

647: Opening Gambit

I recall from years ago a comedy sketch on the television.  The setting was that of one of the many hospital dramas that were shown at the time and indeed are still shown today.  We were in the operating theatre, and as usual, saw only the meaningful glances above the surgical masks; we heard the surgeon, roughly as follows:
"Scalpel...forceps...probe...saw..."etc., culminating with the surgeon removing his mask saying "Well that's got it - those milk cartons really are a bastard aren't they?"

Many of you are possibly too young to remember those milk cartons - that is the cartons that were not fitted with the little screw cap one finds these days on cartons of orange juice and so on.  Here's a picture:

Well thank God we no longer have to deal with those infuriating things, the suppliers having adopted plastics bottles.

Not the end of problems is it however; we have these days the infuriating ground coffee bag - like these:

They carry a friendly message advising the user that in the interest of preserving flavour, the bag should be resealed after opening using the tabs provided...

What a joke!  I would love to hear of anyone who has managed to open one of these bags without using main force, which usually results in the bag splitting and a substantial quantity of coffee being spilt all over the place.

My solution?  I cut the top off cleanly using a pair of scissors, thus losing the "helpful" sealing tabs in the process.  I then "reseal" the bag by folding and holding it shut with a clothes peg or rubber band.

Progress?  I hate it.

Until the next time

Sunday 23 March 2014

646: Poetry Time

Poetry: a medium for the realist, the escapist, the romantic, the broken-hearted or even the optimist.

Though frequently baffled by the likes of Shakespeare, Donne, Shelley, Eliot and many others, I am still drawn from time to time by poetry.  This time here's a piece from one of Russia's greatest writers, Alexander S. Pushkin; it has the title Outlived Desire:

Outlived desire now departs,
My dreams I cannot love again;
I reap the fruit of empty hearts,
The fruit of pain.

The tempests of a cruel fate
My fair and flowery garlands rend;
Unhappy and alone I wait;
When comes the end?

So, stricken by the early cold,
The whistling, bitter gales of grief,
Still the autumn branches hold
One shuddering leaf.

(Tr. Frances Cornford and E. Polianowsky Salaman)
If the above suggests to you a particular mood on my part, then I can assure you that you are entirely correct.

Until the next time

Sunday 16 March 2014

645: Ukraine VIII - Force Majeure

This BBC photograph says it all; the photographer is a true artist.

Force Majeure - "might is right;"  who is going to stop these bastards?

No-one I suppose.

Until the next time

Friday 14 March 2014

644: The Late Viscount Stansgate

The person named in the title of this piece also carried the name, Mr Anthony Wedgwood-Benn,  generally known to the populace at large as “Tony Benn.”

Mr Benn as he preferred to be known, has died at the very respectable age of 88 after a lifetime of left-wing campaigning.

Just like the late Bob Crowe, Benn, or more properly his memory, has been the recipient of numerous jolly nice plaudits along the lines of “I often disagreed with him but he was a doughty opponent etc., etc. drivel, drivel.”

I found the noble Viscount a profoundly irritating specimen; as far as I am concerned his one saving grace – he was after all a traitor to his class – was his happy tobacco habit.  Indeed I am surprised that his pipe and its attendant smoke have not been airbrushed from the numerous pictures shown today.

In closing I must concede that listening to his rather smug voice, however boring the content, was a far less unpleasant experience than listening to the aggressive and ugly tones of the late Mr Crowe who was a true trade-unionist in the grand Luddite tradition.  

Until the next time