Tuesday, 26 June 2007

My Hat

My hat is a masterpiece. Made from three pieces of leather cut from the thickest cow hide imaginable, it was made in Cornwall by a man named John the Fish.

I happened on John's web site the other day. He's a colourful character with a beard like an explosion - soldier, fisherman, sailor, musician, leather worker, clog dancer, humanist....A long, long time ago, sometime in the last century, John ran a leather stall in Truro's Pannier Market - a happy mixture of hippie, wet fish and household goods (the market, not John or his stall). He was a key figure in the vibrant Cornish folk scene that included the Famous Jug Band, Ian Todd, Alex Atterson, Wizz Jones, Ralph McTell and many more. For a time he was teamed up with Cornish folk legend Brenda Wootton ('Pasties and Cream', Sentinel Records), and he made a solo album, 'Coelacanth'. I didn't know all this when I bought the hat; he was just a guy with a strange name and a scary beard.

My hat has had the best of times. No one's ever been sick in it, unlike my other hat (thanks, Nick). It's walked in some cool places, attended some cool gigs...I know for a fact it's seen Dylan and the Stones, to name but five. Most of all, it's partied. And partied. And partied. It's been to parties I don't remember. It's even been to parties I haven't been to. In fact, it was out on its own with a girl last Friday, not for the first time masquerading as a cowboy, but I'm told it behaved. Hats today just never seem to grow up.....

Monday, 25 June 2007

Christmas Tips

I know what you're thinking. Why's he going on about Christmas in June? But it's a worry. I'm losing sleep over it.

It used to be quite simple. You put tips out for the milkman, the postman and the dustmen. Inside a card ('With many thanks from all at 21 Clinton Drive'), to disguise what is really protection money ('Please don't scatter my rubbish down the drive. Deliver my mail to that vindictive pillock up the hill, who keeps it. Nick that envelope which is so obviously a premium bond prize that it might as well have 'Premium Bond Prize, Steal Me' on the envelope). I just tipped them. Even though all of them unquestionably have bigger incomes than me. Even though they never considered tipping me when I was wasting my life in public service for them.

Okay, no problem with the milkman. I'm not going to tip Tesco's, am I? The postman's all right for now too, although open competition is going to make things more difficult. But what about the dustmen? Is there a new protocol?

At present we have separate paper and glass collections on alternate weeks. Do I tip those? Both of them? That would mean tripling what I spend on tipping the dustmen. No way. Or do I tip them pro rata? (Paper: Don't get a newspaper, so very little to recycle. Tiny tip. Glass: Do drink. Have friends who do drink. Have family who do drink. Have family so do drink. Big tip). And do I then reduce what I give the dustmen, pro rata? I should do - they're not carrying all those bottles away. Will that mean they sprinkle just a little rubbish down the drive, pro rata?

What about in a few months time, when we switch to refuse collections every other week. Do I tip them every other year? Sounds fair to me. ('Is this a tipping year or a non-tipping year, Darling?' 'Well, let's see. We didn't have much fallout down the drive, so last year must have been a tipping year...').

See? Bet I've got you worrying now, too. Any tips on a postcard (recyclable) please....

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Dirty Washing

Extraordinary what you can buy on eBay. The recent BBC programme Castaway was 'won' by a bearded person named Jonathan, who (according to the BBC press office, regards himself as 'very intelligent'. Latterly cleaning toilets, his previous jobs have included fortune-telling, tarot card reading and digging sewers. He is quoted as saying that 'humans make me sad'.

Claiming that he is not 'some bland wannabe', but a cult TV hero who is going to become 'more famous, popular, loved, revered etc.', Jonathan has put the disgusting clothes he wore on the programme up for auction on eBay, under the appropriate heading 'Jonathan's Disgusting Clothes'. They include shorts, swimming trunks, trousers, t-shirts and other soiled items.

The starting price is £0.01, the 'buy-it-now' price, £999.99. Scarily, he offers to deliver the items in person, albeit at a cost of 35p per mile.

There have been no bids yet. Humans may make Jonathan sad, but apparently they are not all as sad as Jonathan.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Fathers' Day

Overheard at a Fathers' Day dinner last night:

"I don't want to sit next to Daddy. He's boring"

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Ruthless Rhymes

There is too much good 'motorcyle action' on TV today to concentrate on blogging. And we are dining away for Father-in-Law's Day. But in view of yesterday's focus on literati, here are some ruthless rhymes wot I rote.

Wet Sophie

Sophie's such a silly creature
She fell into the water feature.
She did it, ne'er a doubt,
Trying to pick some pebbles out.
Slipping down each waterfall
She didn't do much harm at all,
But when she plopped into the sump
She went and blocked the wretched pump.
It caused her mother great distress -
She'd only lately bought that dress.

Dustbin Man

When Spotty raced down Coldblow Lane
Astride his Harley, in the rain.
I bet, just briefly, he was sorry
To meet the ascending dustbin lorry.
The impact made a dreadful sound
But, praise be, Spotty's still around;
They wear him as a mascot still,
Embedded in the engine grille

Fragrant Pru

Auntie Pru, with her great, hooked schnoz
Is like a witch - or at least, she was;
She caught it in the oven door
And doesn't have a nose no more.
It fell inside (she should have looked)
And came out awfully overcooked.
Alas, poor Auntie Pru's not well;
The good news is, she doesn't smell.

The Last Bus

Greedy Stephen (the daft berk),
While waiting for his bus to work,
Spotted something on the ground.
It was a 10p piece he'd found!
Believing it his lucky day
He bent across the carriageway
And thus poor Stephen met his fate;
The bus was prompt, and made him late.


Trying to fix a faulty socket
Father burnt up like a rocket.
He did not do us any favours -
The TV would not work for 'Neighbours'.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Frank McEachran, WH Auden, Alan Bennett, Stephen Glover ... and me.

When I wrote 'so much grass' yesterday, I was referring to the kind you mow, not the kind you do, although the latter would equally have impeded my blog. Unlike Coleridge, I never wrote better under the influence of anything (except, possibly, unrequited love - creativity, as Freud intuited, sometimes being an expression of sublimated sex). The few surviving fragments of stuff written when stoned, in the days when I wrote when stoned, prove that for me grass was almost entirely consciousness razing.

I'm not sure that Coleridge's Kubla Khan would have benefited from being completed. Its fragmentary nature adds to its perfection, like a sherd from a stained-glass window, or an artist who dies young.

The lines from Kubla Khan, 'Weave a circle round him thrice, and close your eyes with holy dread, for he on honeydew hath fed, and drunk the milk of paradise', gave rise to the practice of a master at my school of encouraging boys to stand on a chair, around which three chalk lines had been drawn, and recite fragments of poetry. The master was Frank McEachran - 'Kek' - and he called the recitations, 'Spells'. Kek, who had taught and inspired the poet WH Auden and fought in the Spanish Civil War, was the model for Hector in Alan Bennett's recent play, 'The History Boys', although I gather Bennett never met him.

While I remember him well, I was only taught by Kek on a handful of occasions, being too talentless to be in the top english sets - sitting instead in the second division alongside the (now) newspaper columnist and former editor of the Independent on Sunday, Stephen Glover. As well as having more pocket money, Stevie was cleverer and more erudite than me, although, being more angst-ridden, I wrote better poetry.

I do at least still have a signed copy of one of Kek's books, 'Freedom the Only End'. On the flysheet he has written, 'Private faces in public places are wiser and nicer than public faces in private places', which I only now realise is a quote from his protégé Auden.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Biting the Lager Queue

So much grass, so little time. It's why I haven't been blogging much. I wonder if my reader noticed? And when it's not the garden, it's something else. A neighbour wants me to construct the missing mechanism from a metamorphic sofa she is restoring. I went to see it yesterday. It was in a barn full of hens, and smelt like hen-poo. She said she would jet spray it before I started, but that it was a good, antique piece underneath. Memo: remember to jet-spray the antiques when I get home.

I'm reading Barbara Trapido at the moment, enjoying her love of linguistic quirks. I like these too. Song titles and lyrics are particularly ripe for misinterpretation. I think it was Denis Norden who referred to Malashkin's 'Oh, Could I but Express in Song' as the 'Buttocks Pressing Song'. Barbara T has her characters sing a round which goes, 'Life is butter, melon, cauliflower'. Work it out.

The other evening at dinner someone asked Megan what she'd like, and she replied, 'Shloer please', which sounded so like a viral infection that, after a moment's pause, everyone cracked up. I have a connected, and no doubt tiresome, habit of spoonerising phrases - transposing the initial letters. Sometimes the results work better than others, as on Saturday, when muttering that I was going to bite the lager queue.

This sort of reminds me of a laconic conversation I once had walking to school with Robin Waterfield (now an author and academic living in Greece), which may qualify as amongst the shortest on record. It was doing that halfway house between mist and mizzle. I said, 'S'wet'. Robin replied, 'S'not'.