Why Can’t I Launch You?

You know the song: sung with unbearable slowness, it goes, ‘if a picture paints a thousand words then why can’t I paint you?’ Fair question: it then goes on to wonder, ‘if a face could launch a thousand ships,’ to which the obvious follow-up is ‘why can’t I launch you?’ It brings a bit of light relief to a very sloooow song. I don’t know why I mention this except that it was on my mind and I often start blog posts with something that’s on my mind and hope it will lead somewhere.

We’ve been having a bit of a Doc Martin fest lately, but all good things come to an end and after 9 series we were left missing our Port Wenn fix. But fear not! cried OH, for there are films available. Indeed there are, three of them in all, fairly short, made-for-tv films. So watch them we jolly well did. Two of them anyway. They’re very different from the series, with a much jollier doc being pleasant and polite to the patients he inherits from an incompetent sitting GP, having fled London to escape the pain of his wife’s multiple infidelities. All the Dibley-on-sea rural charm is there but none of the other characters are, and Port Wenn is cloudy unlike the eternal sunshine of the TV series. It’s like going home again and finding everything the same but different.

And on radio we have the delight of a new Douglas Adams that isn’t actually Douglas Adams, Starship Titanic. I’ll get to that later.

In the meantime I have to go and get my booster jab.

Happy Monday.

Kirk out

Pop Goes the Culture

It is becoming obvious to me as I watch quizzes like Mastermind and University Challenge which nowadays include questions on popular culture, as well as competitions on radio 2, that my knowledge of pop music after about 1990 is practically non-existent. This is partly because from 1990-93 I was largely abroad and listened more to flamenco and my tapes of Simply Red (Holding Back the Years got me through a snowy February in Madrid with a metro strike) after which I was too busy getting married and raising children to pay much attention.

I’m practically perfect on music of the 70s, reasonably good on the 80s and not too bad on the 60s but anything after 1989 is a bit of a blur (ho ho). Added to which, it doesn’t interest me. This is natural I suppose as it’s not my generation, but I can’t help thinking that most music nowadays is just pap. There are some good singers like Taylor Swift and Ava Maxx, but the music just doesn’t move me. And don’t get me started on the inexplicable popularity of Ed Sheeran.

So there you are, my boring old fart status confirmed forever.

Kirk out

Paying Tribute

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched this particular webcam. I don’t like watching webcams in general: the ones overlooking an anonymous mass of people are ok but more intimate ones give me an uncomfortable feeling of voyeurism. I also worry about the amount of surveillance we are subjected to in our everyday lives; if I so much as walk 500 yards to the shops I may be caught on as many as half a dozen cameras. I don’t like it. (Mind you, when I’m watching one of those true crime stories and they lose the suspect I bang the table and ask, why don’t they have CCTV in that remote field? But that’s another story.)

Be that as it may, I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the feed from the camera overlooking Abbey Road – yes, the zebra crossing on the front of the Beatles album. It’s quite shocking. You might expect the odd group of people to reenact the album cover but in fact people do so roughly every 2-3 minutes. Since this involves stopping on the crossing for someone to take a picture – for without a picture the whole thing is worthless – it must be infuriating for the locals.

We seem to live in an age of tributes and re-enactments, where people gain some extra value or kudos for performing a famous act or reproducing someone else’s songs and there’s barely a famous band that doesn’t have a slew of tribute acts. Why? What do people get out of reproducing a spontaneous photo of four men crossing the road half a century ago? Have we lost the power to be spontaneously creative?

I think we should be told.

Kirk out


A weird thing happened to yesterday’s post. I’d copied and pasted it, added a bit of an intro, hit publish and then viewed it for editing. As I’m writing on my phone at the moment I nake tols of nistakes, as the woman trying to use sign language said in Four Weddings and a Funeral. But the post wasn’t there. The title, There are No Words, sat above an expanse of white screen. I thought that was utterly appropriate, both for the anniversary of Cohens death and for Remembrance day. So I let it stand, except that when I looked later the post was there after all. So never mind. But I quite liked the silent dignity of a post without words.

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that earlier I missed the apostrophe off Cohens. This was not a nistake. No! For I have decided, along with an English tutor at my college, that we should abolish the apostrophe. That’s right! Get rid of it! We don’t need it!

Seriously, what purpose does the apostrophe serve? It shows possession and missing letters but both of these things are obvious without sticking a single inverted comma between letters. And they are so often used wrongly that we’d be better off without them.

So there.

Kirk out

On The Twiddliness of Things

I was just wondering what to write about when my eye lit on a notebook with an Escher drawing on the front. Twiddliness! I thought. So that’s where I’ll begin. OH has a book called ‘Godel, Escher, Bach‘ which is on this very subject. Godel was a mathematician and there are similarities between him, Escher and Bach, all of them being inclined to turn things upside down, inside out and round and round. Bach can take a simple piece of music, play it a few times, turn it upside down and sideways and then chop it up; Escher does the same thing with images, producing optical illusions where fish turn into birds and staircases, like share prices, go up as well as down. I’m not sure what Godel does because I skipped the section on him (shame!) but there you are. Maybe if it wasn’t so hot I’d be able to say something more coherent on the subject…


Yesterday turned out to be not such a bad day in the end; after a depressing morning I went for a walk (always a good plan) and sat in my easy chair for the afternoon. I use my easy chair – in reality a garden chair because an armchair won’t fit in my study – for periods of reflective writing, or perhaps no writing at all, just staring at clouds and daydreaming. I don’t actually do enough of this – I suspect most of us don’t – and it’s very valuable. Just to sit and allow thoughts to emerge as they will – or not – is one of the best ways a writer can spend her/his time, provided that the rest of the time you actually get some work done. And lo! while I was sitting in reflection I decided to check my phone for emails and there sat my weekly update on freelance writing jobs. I subscribe to this just on the offchance even though most of the jobs are not suitable for me, and there I found a novel-writing competition. I sort of have a novel – well, I have one in development, and since they only required the first 5000 words I sent them off. If they’re interested they want another 5000 in September – which I have – and after that I’ll have to work pretty damn fast if they want the whole thing. But that’s how I rock.

So you see, twiddling your thumbs can be highly productive. The joys of twiddliness!

Kirk out

Meanwhile Here is Some Light Music

I’m trying to think of something positive to say. Meanwhile here is some light music… nope, it’s not happening. I’ve been trying to avoid the election results but they are unavoidable, inevitable as a Wimbledon defeat or the fall of a horse you backed. The one bright spark on the horizon is Scotland; if the SNP and other pro-independence parties win convincingly enough it may well lead to a second Indyref and if that passes – it’s a big ‘if’ but still if it does, there may be a chance of Scotland rejoining the EU.

It makes you wonder what would turn people against the Tories. Cuts to public services? Nah. Privatising the NHS? Meh. Threatening to control the BBC? Who cares? Taking education back to the Victorian age? Buying £800 wallpaper? Lying to parliament? Lying again and again and again and again and again? None of it made any difference. Add in a vaccine bounce and a large wodge of Brexit triumphalism, conveniently compounded by gunboat diplomacy off the shores of Jersey and the absence of UKIP and the Brexit Party – and you have yesterday’s terrible showing. Of course Starmer didn’t help; he’s been lacklustre in his leadership, to say the least, and failed to make any impression at all on large swathes of voters. If the SNP lose in Scotland I’ll be so depressed I might think about going to Spain again. Not that Spain’s any better politically, but at least it’s not my country.

How does one maintain hope? How do we keep going in the face of such a government and a people that by and large seems to approve of it? How do we carry on? Sometimes I wish I was one of those people who don’t even think about politics at all and barely know who the Prime Minister is. Such ignorance must be bliss at times.

And there it is. That’s all I can think of today. I’m sure I’ll be back with more next week but meanwhile here is some light music:

Kirk out


David Bowie knew a thing or two about life. I was never a great fan; never painted my face with a lightning bolt or donned the outlandish gear (I was nowhere slim enough to carry it off anyway) but I do respect him as an artist. He knew that the only constant in life is change. Everywhere you look things are changing – growing, dying, being born, getting lost.

Leonard Cohen knew a thing or two about life as well, and loss is one of his major themes. Losing hope, losing love, losing your voice (when he went into the Zen monastery near Los Angeles he was known as the silent one; nobody knew who he was.) At Mount Baldy the monks meditated for up to eighteen hours a day and walked through the snow at 2 am to get to the meditation hall. I’m lucky if I manage eighteen minutes; I suppose walking through the snow at 2 am must have had its attractions for someone who’d spent the last thirty years in hotels, but it’s not for me.

Turn and face the strange is Bowie’s line. Greet it, welcome it, invite it in. Make it a really hot cup of tea – because there’s nothing certain in life but change. You think you’ve got it all set up, everything’s in place and you know where you’re headed – and in a heartbeat it can all go. ‘Gone, gone, utterly gone,’ as Richard Rohr puts it.

I used to be prone to nostalgia. Ah, those were the days… but nostalgia can be quite dangerous. It can keep you trapped in a past that probably never even was what it was. There are times when I yearn for the politics of the seventies, but then I remind myself that the seventies were also a time when sexism, racism and homophobia were normal, everyday occurrences. We can only live now and remember that now may be a time we look back on with nostalgia. What will I remember fondly about this time in my life? Impossible to say, but I’m sure there’ll be something. Meanwhile I fondly remember Bowie – and Leonard Cohen.

Kirk out

Is That a Zen Sky?

Yesterday was the solstice so I set the alarm for sunset, prepared a glass of wine and a song to listen to, and stopped work to sit and watch the sky darken. This was a slow and undramatic process as the sun was behind layers of dark cloud and nary a glimmer emerged; however it was a very contemplative practice to simply sit and observe and try to get my head round the fact that I’m on a tiny patch of a revolving globe and that it’s this globe that moves, not the sun.

Many truths are counter-intuitive and hard to get hold of. Sometimes the moon seems so close you feel you could reach out and touch it, or leap up and sit on the point of its crescent. Have you ever been in the country, miles from any street lights, on a clear night? The stars seem so close it’s almost threatening; yet we persist in acting as though we are separate from them rather than being in the middle. Anyway, last night at sunset I drank a glass of wine and listened to this track and read this poem which is one of my favourites.

My new CD came yesterday too. It’s a meditative one called Zen Sky and I can almost write as I listen to it, though normally I never listen to music while working because it’s too distracting. I also downloaded a really fun EP called Fake News; all of these recordings including the solstice song are by our friend, the multi-talented local musician Chris Conway. There’s no end to the instruments this man can play or the styles he can perform in, and Zen Sky features the low Irish whistle, an amazingly evocative instrument.

So that was yesterday; today I unaccountably woke up feeling crabby and resentful. Where do these emotions come from? I went to bed feeling fine and had a reasonably good night, but this morning all these unpleasant sensations had blown in like a squall from the coast. Normally I can keep a lid on the feeling that other people are far more successful than me, that they fit in more easily – or at all – that they somehow make money without making themselves miserable in the process, and have a path in life, a direction, a purpose. Well, I suppose I have a path and a direction but without (as yet) the money or success, so from time to time feelings of envy will arise, and the Christmas round robin is an excellent catalyst for them. One which arrived yesterday featured distant relatives we haven’t seen in a while who live on what appears to be a ranch in Surrey with a lake, a small wood and a massive house. What makes it worse is that they are very nice people!!!! (gnashes teeth.) Well, this is my problem and I’ll have to deal with it.


I wish they weren’t nice people and then I could hate them. I do hate the round robin though

Kirk out

On Mourning

I’m trying to think of something coherent to say about the death of two friends in the same week. Both were expected; both were a shock. Both will be missed; both leave a hole. It doesn’t matter how much I tell myself that death happens all the time, that some people lose their parents, their children, their entire families; that we are lucky to have lived so long and lost so few – none of that matters. Two people we loved have gone and they’re not coming back. I try to imagine how it would be if OH had died instead of them: I can’t. There’s really nothing coherent I can say. We’re not even among those most affected by their loss – and yet we are affected. We feel it.

I’ve been listening to this beautiful version of Barber’s Adagio this week, and reading this by John Donne, one of my all-time favourites:

As virtuous men pass mildly away

and whisper to their souls to go

while some of their sad friends do say

the breath goes now, and some say no..

Kirk out

Stranglers on the Shore

There are a number of bands I didn’t immediately sign up to when I first heard them: for example, Dire Straits and The Pet Shop Boys, both of which I now appreciate far more than when they first came on the scene (the fact that Neil Tennant sounds just like Al Stewart didn’t hurt either). I even disliked The Stranglers at the beginning, if you can believe it: I was at the time very wedded to prog-rock and disliked a lot of punk and ‘new wave’ on sight (iyswim.) But it didn’t take me long to come round, and by the time they released the divine Golden Brown where the intro skips a beat like a lovestruck heart, I was sold.

As a child my musical world consisted of church music and oddbits of classical which I learned on the piano. There were also tedious instrumentals played for church socials including the number I later knew as Stranger on the Shore, the very sound of which transports me back to a draughty church hall, the churchwarden and his wife doing a stately foxtrot. Finding Top of the Pops was an epiphany, and instantly I developed a taste for folk-rock (James Taylor, Carole King, Neil Young in his early incarnation) and prog-rock (Yes, Genesis, The Floyd). Like many people I’ve often tried to narrow down my eight choices for Desert Island Discs and found it impossible; I come up with different records every time. But today’s choices are:

Oh Jesus I Have Promised (the original music not the newfangled jolly tune which sadly I can’t find anywhere but I’m sure the BBC could) – this reminds me of the time the organist asked me my favourite hymn and played it on the organ.

Leonard Cohen: Suzanne. This reminds me of the first time I heard Cohen, in a classroom in 1972.

Argent: Hold Your Head Up

Gerry Rafferty: Baker St

Anderson and Vangelis: Somehow I’ll Find My Way Home (very apt, eh?)

Bob Marley: Jammin. I went to see Bob Marley in 1980; he was already ill and shortly to die of cancer, though we didn’t know it at the time.

Carole King: It’s Too Late

Leonard Cohen: If It Be Your Will

And the one I’d save from the waves? The last one, which I also would like played at my funeral. There’s also this version, which I love.

What would your Desert Island Discs be?

Kirk out