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!

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

Thursday 13 March 2014

643: Rose Macaulay and "The World My Wilderness"

In 1950, Rose Macaulay’s penultimate novel, The World My Wilderness was published by Collins; I am fortunate in owning a first edition of this wonderful book, which I have just read for the third time.  Miss Macaulay was, in my opinion one of England’s greatest writers of the 20th Century; a highly-learned individual, it is fortunate for me that unlike some others, she did not “wear her learning” too prominently – at least in her writing!

I also own a copy of her 1920s novel Told by an Idiot which too, is excellent and a copy of Jane Emery’s first-class biography of the writer; from this I should like to quote the following (by Macaulay herself from her final novel The Towers of Trebizond):

“And now the joy was killed, and there seemed no reason why life too should not run down and stop now that its mainspring was broken.  When a companionship like ours suddenly ends, it is to lose a limb or the faculty of sight; one is quite simply cut off from life and scattered adrift, lacking the coherence and integration of love.  Life, I supposed, would proceed; I should see my friends, go abroad, go on with my work, such as it was, but the sentient, enjoying principle which kept it all ticking, was destroyed.”

In The Common Reader (first series) Virginia Woolf includes an essay titled Montaigne, in which she explains how difficult it is for the pen to express the nature of the soul.  I think that Miss Macaulay made a good fist of it, don’t you?

Meanwhile I am searching for a copy of Miss Macaulay's  The Secret River written in 1909; all I can find are first editions at around £60...

Until the next time

642: China and Flight MH370

The news released this evening by the BBC, showing satellite images of what is purportedly the wreckage of the aircraft that disappeared on Saturday, confirms that the Chinese have  excellent satellite technology.  One presumes sadly that there is no hope for the passengers and crew of the aircraft.

The involvement of the Chinese satellite service was confirmed by something called the ‘People’s Liberation Army.’

I was interested to read this; since China has an army carrying that illustrious name, one might just be forgiven (if one were an oik, chav or thicko) for thinking that by virtue of the fact, the Chinese people are ‘liberated.’

I doubt if any Chinese citizen (apart of course from the Liberation Army itself and the no doubt substantial secret police) is able or permitted to read decadent and cynical posts such as those that appear on this blog.  If however this is not the case, please would one reader be kind enough to tell me what it feels like to be liberated?  I can assure any reader that liberty these days is a relative, not an absolute state.

Until the next time (after the  cynical laughter has ceased)