Strike, strike, strike! Why do we bother, Fawlty?

That was the Major’s comment in ‘Fawlty Towers.’  Basil’s reply, ‘Didn’t know you did, Major.’  Yes, it’s the public sector workers’ strike today as I’m sure you know – you may well be on it – and broadly speaking I support it, though it has led me to ask myself why I don’t feel as strongly about it as I did, say, about the miners’ strikes of the ’80’s.  My sympathies are generally with the underdog in any system – insofar as you can call what we’ve got a system – but why is it that I feel less strongly now than I did then?  Is it that Cameron – restrained by Clegg only insofar as a charging bull is restrained by a tap on the shoulder – is it that Cameron’s Etonian blandness cannot arouse the passions that Thatcher did?  Or is it that I am older and less inclined to be aroused (fnarr, fnarr!) by these situations?  Society has moved on, and in our post-modern, post-Blair blandness, it’s hard to get worked up about anything beyond a traffic jam.  And there’s the rub: from the collective there has been a retreat into the individual.  Thatcher’s nightmare has come true, and now there really is no such thing as society.

If the sun and moon should doubt

they’d immediately go out

but would debate on TV talk-ins

if they’d heard of Richard Dawkins.

Well, what do you expect at this hour in the morning?  How many rhymes can YOU find for ‘Dawkins’?  AND we’ve been to Advent early-morning prayer already.  In fact I had a terrible night, tossing and turning from about 2 am; and if I don’t get a nap in later I’ll fall asleep on Andy and Peter, which would be an insult to the clan of MacBiggin.  They’re terribly fierce, the MacBigginses, not at all like the Sackville-Bigginses, who are awfully posh and don’t talk to us at all…

Kirk out

The Deep Blue Snooze

Went to the Phoenix last night (thanks Steve) to see ‘The Deep Blue Sea’, a film adaptation of Terrence Rattigan’s play.  Now in its time it may have been as gripping as ‘Brief Encounter’, but nowadays the story is just banal: passionate woman marries dull, tied-to-mother’s-apron-strings High Court judge; is obviously stifled and falls for ‘devil’ in the shape of mercurial war-hero who neglects her and doesn’t really love her.  Judge loves her but is incapable of passion and unwilling to tell his mother where to get off as he so desperately needs to do.  Passionate heroine does little but smoke cigarettes by a window and try to kill herself more quickly with gas.  Fails.  Would she had succeeded – it would have saved us an hour or so of excruciating slowness.  Done well this might have been as gripping as ‘Anna Karenina’ or ‘Madame Bovary’ but it only manages to be banal, in spite of the quality of acting (Rachel Weisz, Simon Russell Beale) and the perfection of the sets.

Still, enjoyed the ‘before and after’ in the shape of good chat with Steve, Claire and George (happy birthday George and thanks Steve for taking me), also a glimpse of Margaret Fleming, though I’m not sure she entirely knew how I was.

Came back to find that Mark has given up on conversation and is communicating entirely in random quotes from ‘Black Books’.  It’s hot in the worm!  – a modest range of breakfast wines – you can’t just live on the mushrooms in your hair.

There’s no answer to that, as Eric Morecambe used to say.

RIP Ken Russell.  The film director known as ‘maverick’ died yesterday aged 83.  In my view he was a genius who never got the recognition he deserved: if he had been Spanish he would have been feted like Almodovar.  Here’s one of his most famous scenes:

Today I shall be mostly… going into town and taking some samosas to the ‘occupy’ people.

Kirk out

No title yet

This is an experimental post – I’m starting it with not a single idea in my head and just seeing what comes.  Meanwhile here is some light music:

I remember Iain Macaskill (on whom may the sun shine eternally) once said, in a dreadful summer round about 1986, ‘I’m trying to think of something good to say about the weather.  Meanwhile here is some light music.’  That man was a gem.

I have asked people on Facebook what I should write about.  Watching the tab at the top for notifications as we speak.  Nothing yet…

Holly and Daniel were watching ‘Misfits’ the other day – not one of my fave programmes as it involves people being nasty to themselves and to each other in an eternal loop – a bit like Dante’s Inferno but without the catharsis – and it did something which is normally a sign that the programme-makers are running out of ideas: it went back to a significant point in the past and assumed that everything had turned out differently.  In Europe this point is the end of the war; in America it’s the assassination of JFK; and it’s usually a sign that the programme is jumping the shark (this is an expression from ‘The Fonz’ – hang on, no – it was called ‘Happy Days’ – an episode where Fonzie ski-jumps over a shark which marked the beginning of the end for those particular happy days.)

However, this particular episode of ‘Misfits’ was excellent.  Assuming the Nazis won the war is usually an excuse for all kinds of sub-homeoerotic kitsch or sensationalist pseudo-history: however it fitted in extremely well with the part-militarised dystopia of ‘Misfits’.

And guess what?  4 OD are showing ‘Mr Pye’!  I loved Mr Pye – starring Derek Jacobi and adapted from a novel by Mervyn Peake (of Gormenghast fame) it was filmed entirely on Sark and featured the local populace.  It’s about a man who tries to be good and finds he’s sprouting wings; then he tries to be evil and sprouts horns.  Very funny.

Still no notifications on Facebook.


I guess I must be suffering from Blogger’s Block.

A very sociable week coming up – cinema tonight with Steve, meal on Weds with Andy and Peter to celebrate St Andrew’s Day, and I shall in all probability go to the local Ward meeting on Tues if I don’t go to Pinggk poetry.  Shall not be going to Word! as I’ve really had enough of  it at the moment.

I’m enjoying the Val Macdermid, ‘A Place of Execution’, enormously.  I shall hold off on a review until I’ve read more but at the moment I can hardly put it down: and it isn’t in the least ‘racy’ or sensationalised.  Good stuff.

OK that’s it.  No more ideas this morning, and no-one’s commented on Facebook, so I shall leave it at that for today.

Happy Mondays

Kirk out

I’ve never been great at sports.  I used to quite like rounders because it was fun and nobody took it seriously; I like tennis though I’ve never been able to play at all well (and I didn’t at all like the club next door to us where one would be told off for not wearing whiter-than-white socks – these are the post-colonial attitudes which have brought British tennis to its knees: compare and contrast with football) and I couldn’t see the point of netball (bloody stupid game – what’s the point of having to stand stock-still the moment you get the ball?  Basketball is much more sensible): however, I can’t help thinking that these days the Olympics has lost the plot.  Most sports are now so technical that to the lay person it’s impossible to tell one player – or practitioner – from the next; apart from obvious sports such as running, you can’t tell who’s won until the judges decide.  Come to think of it, even with running, things are so close that you can’t see and have to be informed by some kind of digital computerised beam-activated device which shows who was a whisker in front of whom.

What used to frighten me during team sports was that I never knew what was going on: people used to charge around and yell things at me which I couldn’t decipher, and by the time I’d replied ‘Sorry, what was that?’ the puck – or ball – or whatever – had whizzed past me and I’d let in another goal – or failed to pass another shot.  I am profoundly uneasy in situations where I can’t communicate verbally, I’ve decided.  I must have told you the story of my first race when I was lined up, aged four or five, in front of some white lines: I had no idea what the lines were for or why we were there and I just went into a dream, from which I awoke to discover that everyone had run off into the distance.  Belatedly, I got the idea and ran the race but by the time I got there everyone else had long finished and no-one noticed me.  They were all given prizes of blue or red balls and back in the classroom I went round asking all of them to share with me – but no-one would.  This memory has stayed with me ever since and I have used it in a number of stories as an emblem of feeling an outsider, being late, not ‘getting it’ and other related themes.

I have started on the Val MacDermid book, whose title I can’t recall.  It’s about a girl lost on the fells, presumably murdered: so far, though I can see why she’s popular, I don’t rate her as highly as Ian Rankin.  But I’ve only read a few chapters as yet.

Today I shall be mostly… God-bothering.

Kirk out

Upper-class twist

I’ve never really understood the appeal of the National Theatre of Brent – their comedy seems to consist of dropping the ‘g’s at the end of words, talking in a funny voice and being incompetent – all of which would normally make them Upper-class Twits, except that they’re socialists.  So it’s an upper-class twist.  LOL.

I am expecting a fairly crap day today.  Why?  Because I woke up at 4 am and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Insomnia sucks, and I have the greatest sympathy for those who suffer from it long-term.  It’s horrid.  There’s a ceildh tonight which I may go to if I’m still awake – I’m sorry but Irish spelling is mad!!!  They have words like ‘mgreagh’ which are pronounced ‘Dave’.  It makes no sense at all.

I have finished the Michael Frayn – the second of the highly estimable books I purchased for 10 p each from the librar (sic): it struck me as largely a farce on paper.  It was a very entertaining story of someone who tries to pull an art scam and ends up in a sequence of farcical and disastrous events.  I skipped a lot of the art-history stuff, though much of it was horrendous: if he’s correct then Phillip II of Spain ordered the mass slaughter of the entire population of the Netherlands for ‘heresy’.  Could this be true?  It’s in character.  It’s also the kind of thing that sends Richard Dawkins into orbit, executing a double-circuit of the earth with half-somersault and pike before splashing down in the Pacific *.  Frayn is reassuringly not post-modern: there’s a kind of order underlying the chaos of the farcical situations the character gets himself into, and while the Lord of Misrule will have his day, things get back to normal (‘normalise’ as he keeps saying) at the end of the book.  The main character is just about bearable for the self-knowledge and humility he gains and for the terrible and hilarious consequences of his self-seeking actions.  In fact I had the sense here that Frayn was trying to write a post-post-modern book and failing.  For which failure I salute him – he’s far too good to succeed in such a paltry venture.

Anyone want to borrow this one?  It’s called ‘Headlong.’  Not the best title, but still…

I have emailed the Today programme about Simon Jenkins’ disgraceful views on the Levinson enquiry (the interview is near the end of the prog.)


Kirk out

*the Specific Ocean, as Holly used to call it.

Support your local librar

Went down to our local library yesterday and was startled to find that a number of books were on sale – not obscure, old, uninteresting books which no-one would have borrowed since 1898 but – wait for it – two recent Booker nominees, ‘The Stone Diaries’ and Michael Frayn’s thing which I can’t remember the title of; plus a very recent Lynne Truss, of which more later.  I asked the staff why they were getting rid of all these wonderful books.  ‘Is it that you need the space?’ I asked.  ‘Don’t know,’ said the librarian, with a half-shrug.  I am constantly amazed by the attitude of some of the librarians.  Don’t they make a connection between the amount of stock and the security of their jobs?  More than that, don’t they care?  Don’t they realise how important libraries are to the community?  To be fair, they’re not all like that – in fact the staff at this library are split down the middle – half of them are friendly, chatty, caring, remember our names and ask how we are, the other half – who’ve been there just as long – are officious and unfriendly and basically, couldn’t care less.

Perhaps the clue to the latter might be found in one of the books I borrowed – the Lynne Truss, ‘Talk to the Hand’ (2005) does for politeness what ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ did for the apostrophe: highly amusing and incisive, it examines the problem of rudeness in everyday society, from people not thanking you when you hold the door open to loud mobile conversations and non-personal stereos.  I’ve also started the Michael Frayn – but, good though it is to have all these books in my personal collection, I would much rather have them in the library available to everyone.

So support your local library – or see it vanish, book by book.

Kirk out

PS  Anyone want to borrow the Lynne Truss?  I’ve finished it and it’s a bloody good read

All Rev.ved up

I have read a few reviews of ‘Sense of an Ending’ and I have concluded that no-one else understands it either – that is to say, that people get it in general but the specifics are unclear, probably deliberately so as this is part of the whole ‘we can’t really know anything’ sub-text that plagues modern society.  Yes, I said ‘plagues’ because I really don’t like it.  I’m not a fan of thumping certainties either; Richard Dawkins and religious fundamentalists annoy me equally – but the relentless post-post-modern shrug is very wearing to this particular reader.

Watched ‘Rev’ again as Mark hadn’t seen it; what struck me was the spot-on depiction of the character of Colin.  He’s the down-and-out alkie who introduces the Rev to ecstasy; I particularly like the way he calls him ‘Vicarage’.  What I like about Rev. is that, whilst the vicar has weaknesses, he’s much more realistic than, say, the Vicar of Dibley.  I adore the V of D but you have to admit it’s utterly improbable, whereas Rev. is much more believable.  I love the Machiavellian Arch-deacon and Ralph Fiennes’ wonderful benign-with-an-edge Bishop.  In fact, I love Ralph Fiennes in anything – he’s one of those actors who makes it look so effortless that you think ‘I could do that.  Giz a job…’

All of which makes me think of writers who make it look effortless.  Now, whilst I’m slagging off Julian Barnes’ schema (if that is the word I want) I would never slag off his skills as a writer.  About a third of the way through the book he says, ‘if this were a novel’.  This is a very risky strategy because you risk breaking the illusion that ‘all this is real’ – and yes, I know he partly does it because the thesis is that ‘this is history, not fiction’ but still – he pulls it off.  If someone can write ‘if this were a novel’ in a novel, without giving the reader a jolt, they’ve made it, I think.

Quite a good day yesterday.  Lots of useful work done.

Kirk out

May the doorways of forgetfulness lead to the shopping-list of fulfillment

So: apparently recent research shows that going through a doorway can make you forget things.  I’m tempted to say, ‘from the school of the bleeding obvious’ – but that’s not fair, because, as Dawkins and many others have pointed out, what’s ‘obvious’ is not necessarily what’s true.  The earth isn’t flat, Orion’s belt doesn’t consist of stars in a straight line in close proximity to each other, stars don’t twinkle (and often don’t exist any more though we can still see them) and the bin doesn’t ALWAYS need emptying just when you’re about to go out.  These things just seem true.  But sometimes things that seem true actually are true: and the ‘doorways’ thing is one.  Easy to see how it happens – I mean, it’s just a curse that Janus put on the human race, innit?  So all we have to do is go once a year to the temple of Janus in Rome and make a sacrifice – and we’ll remember everything for the next year.  I tried it and it worked – well, apart from the shopping-list.  And the dry-cleaning…

Actually, although  ‘pick up dry cleaning’ is a staple of sitcom forgetfulness, I don’t think it exists any more, does it?  I used to work in a dry-cleaner’s once: the fumes really get to you.

Further thoughts on ‘Sense of an Ending’ – it is hanging together better this time, partly because I know which bits to pay attention to (which in itself accords with the book’s narrative): it reminds me of something else I’ve read, though I can’t put my finger on it.  The thought that occurred to me this morning is that, although Adrian, the character who commits suicide, has wasted his life – in another sense the narrator (who is still alive) has wasted his more, through simply not living.  He has no relationships and little left in his life but his memories, which are utterly false.

So I’m inclining towards the view that it may be a work of genius.  An annoying one, but still…

Must get on, since I have no intention of wasting any part of my life.

Kirk out

PS they were talking on the radio about the phrase ‘the squeezed middle’ and saying that most people think they’re the squeezed middle.  I don’t – I think I’m the squashed bottom.


How are you spelling that today?

I was once asked by someone on the phone as I gave my name, ‘And how are you spelling that?’  I found the use of the present continuous amusing; as though I might have a current preference and change the spelling of my name on a daily basis.  And this got me to thinking about spelling changes and how different spellings go in and out of fashion: for example, ‘hullo’ looks very old-fashioned now; and I’m not sure if there is a slight difference between ‘hallo’ and ‘hello.’  I think the latter might be more polite, and the former more ebullient.  What do you think?

Sadness: a rejection email yesterday from a flash-fiction website: apparently my story had ‘not enough narrative’.  *Sigh!*  And there was me thinking I was being enigmatic and clever.

I’m re-reading ‘Sense of an Ending’ to see if I can end up making more sense of it (LOL).  I like – and dislike – the ‘novel-as-history’ trope (if ‘trope’ is the word I want): it’s interesting and clever but also alienating – and I’m a bit tired of alienation: I’ve been floating in that cold sea a long time and I’d quite like a rock to cling to for a bit.  But I daresay that’s because I’m weak and unreconstructed.  Or something.  Basically, it seems to me that there are two choices in life (and both of them tragic) – you can fit in or you can choose to follow your own voice.  Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to fit in just as you are.  So that’s what I’m wrestling with at the moment.  Then again, I think there’s a fear of success which afflicts a lot of people: I’ve noticed this while teaching yoga (not in my current students, I hasten to add) – that often people want palliatives: they don’t want the challenge of actually tackling their problems and solving them.  So that is what I shall mostly…

be doing today.  Wrestling, that is.

Kirk out


Ego all over his face

Hi folks.  Sorry I’m late this morning – I was detained by a flock of wild geese which needed chasing.  Did you know that these days you can chase them on the phone?  I expect you did: I had a security query about an on-line order so I phoned the bank.  They gave me two options only, neither of which I wanted, so I hoofed it down there and spoke to a lovely but utterly clueless lady who gave me the visa hot-line number to phone.  Fortunately I was able to use their phone: after listening to three Brandenburg concertoes (which was sadly, the same one repeated three times and interrupted by a lady thanking me for my patience and asking me to have my details ready – I could have listened to the Bach in total patience if it wasn’t for her interrupting it!!!) I then spoke to a very nice woman who said that unfortunately she couldn’t help me and I would have to talk to my branch.  I went back to the counter and was referred to a higher power, who ushered me into a cubicle.  He said that my problem was a common one and that I probably shouldn’t worry about it but should contact the on-line seller….


Deep joy.

I’m going to leave it there for now and do the rest of the post later as it’s time for tea and Mark needs to do his work.

Kirk (temporarily) out

OK, here I am again – all at sixes and sevens today.  Well – as to the title of today’s post, it refers to ‘Life’s too Short’, the latest Ricky Gervais offering starring Warwick Davis.  You may not know him unless you’re a Harry Potter fan, though if you are you will recognise him as Professor Flitwick and Griphook the goblin.  ‘Life’s too Short’ is fairly typical Gervais fare where the character’s downfall generally comes from the over-large size of their ego – hence the title of the post.  Watching these, you find yourself asking: ‘does the laughter outweigh the embarrassment?’ and ‘Are we on his side?’ to which the answer is, in both cases – ‘Yes, but only just.’  Last week’s episode featured Johnny Depp doing a great send-up of himself as a spoilt, pettish celeb.  I watched it at Peter’s and we followed it with an episode of ‘Jeeves and Wooster.’   Now, what I always think about the Wodehouse adaptations is that, whilst they do the plots very well and the characters likewise, one thing about the books which they don’t convey is Wodehouse’s sublime language.  Characters in Wodehouse don’t enter, they ‘trickle in’ to a room: instead of leaving, they ‘biff off’: Jeeves, though a manservant, is actually revered by Wooster, who nearly always defers to him – this process is known as ‘consulting a higher power.’  The language is a delight, which brings us to ‘Fry’s Planet Word’ – a series which also gave us the opportunity to compare the much younger Stephen Fry with his contemporary incarnation.  His nose is crooked in both, I have to say; something which marks him out as being remarkably free of vanity.

In addition to all this we watched an episode of Rev.  I continue to enjoy this prog.  Not sure what my dad would have made of it though – but I suspect he’d have preferred it to the Vicar of Dibley.

Today I have been working on short stories and started to think about poems for Pinggk! until I realised it wasn’t on till next week.

Happy remains of the day.

Kirk actually out