Bumper and Grind

‘All that Jizz’ has now flown off in the direction of Mslexia Towers (that’s what they call it, though I suspect it’s an office in a little back-street somewhere) though it is no longer called by that offensive title but had a re-fit and a new front bumper added and is now called ‘What the Heron Saw’.  It has become a story about migrants, which makes it much better I think.

And so it’s back to the novel, which at the moment is feeling like a bit of a grind.

Whenever I use the word ‘grind’ I think it sounds like a posh way of saying ‘ground’.  I once had a book on how to ‘move upper-class’.  It was called ‘High Taw Tawk Propah-leah’ and it advised verbal exercises such as grimacing continually so as to sound (and presumably look) like Prince Phillip (Preenz Feelp).

I’ve just blogged the title and I’ve found my own post, reblogged by someone else.  Which was nice..


So here’s a link to the reblog so we can all go round in circles…

Last week was fun: we went to Foxton Locks for a day.  If you haven’t been there it’s a quite staggering feat of engineering getting canal-boats from the top of the hill to the bottom via a seriously steep lock-staircase.  There’s a cafe at the top (what was once the lock-keeper’s cottage) and no fewer than three pubs at the bottom.  We rejected two of these as being too posh and touristy, and entered the third, Bridge 61.  This was a proper pub, patronised by proper people and although the grub wasn’t brilliant the company was good.  I struck up a conversation with an old guy who looked the epitome of a narrow-boatman (which he was) but who surprised me by saying that before he retired he’d been a doctor!  He was into holistic therapies and we had a really interesting chat: he said as he finished his cider that he’d recently been thinking about going back into medicine but had decided he might be a tad old at 76!

I love canal-life.  I realise that in the heyday of canal-traffic it was a hard life, and for some who live all year round on unheated boats (like Chris, who comes to Drink and Think) it still is, but I’d really like to experience that.  It’s a way of life with its own traditions and its own people and according to our doctor friend, they all know each other.

So after lunch I went walking and picked some more elderberries, and now I have enough for my next batch of wine.  The blackberries are already simmering in the demijohn.

Anyway, here’s Foxton Locks:



Kirk out

Back to the Draining-Board…

I’ve left you for far too long. I was only going to take a week or two off, but then – you know how it is – you get into holiday mode and you say to yourself, ‘just a few more days’ and days turn into weeks and before you know it September is looming, and torrential rain is pouring down, determined to spoil what remains of the summer holidays – and I realise it’s been two entire months since I last posted.

To be fair I was utterly exhausted at the end of June. I’d been working hard and needed a holiday – and then Artbeat just about finished me off. I got a heavy cold on the last day and had to cry off going to a panel event on ‘writers talking about writing’. So I was only too happy to be going away the following Saturday. The car we hired was not quite so bristly with functions as the previous one, and I almost got the hang of the handbrake before the week was out. But I was never quite sure that when we parked, say, by the river to have our fish and chips * from the excellent Harbour Inn in Southwold, the car wouldn’t roll gently forward and upend itself in the water.

I had a terrific time. Southwold is lovely: it’s sort of like Clarendon Park on Sea, with all its independent shops; plus there’s a brewery (Adnams) which we visited, and some excellent pubs, which ditto. The town was destroyed by fire in 1660-something and was rebuilt around a series of greens, so that it seems to be all triangles with the sea at the end of every street. We had really hot weather (remember that hot week?) and I swam nearly every day. On the Friday I hired a bike and cycled over to Dunwich.

Dunwich is a creepy place. It’s a tiny village now but was once an important port; and since the 13th century it has been falling into the sea: Southwold was destroyed by fire, and Dunwich by water. In the pub, The Ship, there’s an enormous fig-tree which claims to be the oldest in the world. It could easily be true: it takes up half the garden.

We also went to see the so-called ‘Cathedral of the Marshes’, the church at Blythburgh. If you catch it at the right angle it’s very impressive: a massive building on a promontary looking out over the marshland. We tried to find out some more about it, but all we found was a sign saying ‘Please Shut the Door to Keep the Birds Out’.

They don’t seem to go in for information much in Suffolk.

On the way home we discovered a tiny village called Long something in Cambridgeshire, standing right next to the A1 on the old Great North Rd. The first pub we went to advertised food but didn’t actually do any; but the second, a frighteningly expensive hotel dating from the 16th century, did.

So after that I came home and spent at least a fortnight staring out of the window before we were all propelled into a frenzy of activity preparing for a house inspection which, when it came, was all sweetness and light and over in about five minutes.

Oh, and there was an arts festival on in Southwold – but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.  Meanwhile, here’s a photo of the beach which was just over the road from our flat.

So, that’s enough about me. How have you been?

Kirk out

* I had deep-fried haloumi and chips

If Not Nearly Dead, Then Very Actually Dead

The above is a phrase from a sitcom, but I can’t remember which.  I’ll look it up in a sec, but I think it’s probably Blackadder.  One person who is definitely very actually dead is of course the King; and last night we watched highlights of the procession and the reception of the body by the cathedral.  Most of the fun came from trying to spot people we knew: apart from the Bish (who we don’t really know personally, except that he came to open Sound Cafe) we only spotted a couple, though I’m sure there were many more in the congregation.  Anyway, I watched the broadcast, which came from the giant pink Barbie-bubble in Cathedral Square, with a mixture of emotions.  I felt some sense of pride at belonging to a place which is hosting such a significant event; but the service was a mixture of the moving and the ridiculous; and the commentary was reminiscent of how the Beeb does Royal Weddings, Jon Snow sounding more like Nicholas Witchell than his usual dry and sceptical self.  What was odd about the service was that prayers were being said for Richard.  I suppose in such a ceremony you could hardly avoid it, but it seemed odd to be praying for someone who’d been dead for 500 years.  Then again, why should it?  If there is such a thing as eternal life, then 500 years is but the blinking of an eye.

During the day you can see the queue filing past the coffin on a Channel 4 webcam; I initially thought I wouldn’t bother but when they explained that the pall had been specially made with images of people involved in the excavation, I thought perhaps I might.  Though I don’t fancy lining up for several hours.  Worth seeing, but not worth queueing to see, perhaps?  I’m sure Dr Johnson would have agreed.


A Third Term?  No Thanks

Many of us feel that even one term of David Cameron is one too many; but today the media seems to have got itself into a frenzy over a chance remark of his (or was it?) that he won’t stand for a third term.  So what?  He has yet to win a second (and let’s hope he doesn’t, for all our sakes) but for God’s sake!  They’ve turned an idle comment into a major news story.  It is utterly ridiculous.  Ten minutes of yesterday’s PM were given over to this non-story, and it was the top of the news this morning.


Let us turn to other matters.  It has struck me that no-one plays card games any more.  In my youth we used to play snap, beggar my neighbour, whist, gin rummy and of course cribbage.  No pub was complete in my view unless it held a pack of cards and cribbage board behind the bar; and the air would resound with cries of ‘fifteen six and two’s eight’ and ‘one for his nob.’  Where the nob – or possibly knob – comes from I don’t know, and this article from the Independent doesn’t tell me either, though it does claim that the poet John Suckling invented the game:


Cribbage is full of arcane sayings, all of which were known to my Granddad who loved the game and made his own cribbage boards.  One thing the Independent article doesn’t mention is that a way of saying you have no points is to throw your cards down and say ‘nineteen.’  It’s impossible to score 19 in cribbage…

Anyone fancy a game?  I’m sure we’ve got a board knocking around somewhere.

And yes, it was Blackadder.  It’s in this episode somewhere


Kirk out

Revised History, Anyone?

History’s a tricky business.  I steeled myself to watch Max Hastings try to justify the First World War and I lasted about two minutes.  He started with a visit to his great-uncle’s grave, just to show he wasn’t unaware of the carnage involved (‘I’ve suffered too’) he acknowledged that the war was fought badly and involved mass slaughter – but then he totally misrepresented the views of his opponents.  By refuting what he called the ‘Blackadder view’ of the conflict he suggested that those who opposed the war thought it ‘wasn’t important who won’.  At that point I switched off; because if he thinks that, he has nothing further to say to me.  Of course opponents of the war don’t think it ‘wasn’t important who won’ – they think it should never have been fought in the first place.  It was a combination of stupidities; an accumulation of blunders, a chain-reaction of pathetic posturing coupled with a shameful propaganda campaign to get the nation’s youth onto the battlefield.  Read ‘Testament of Youth’ and then tell me it was a necessary war.  It was a catalogue of blunders and I think Max Hastings is the only person alive who doesn’t think so.

On a happier note – or series of them – I went yesterday to see Dawson Smith at the Donkey.  Dawson and his band play a selection of blues, this time supplemented by Stones and ZZ Top tributes.  They are always fun to watch but they seem to have taken it up a notch and become tighter and more energetic.  So that was good – and thanks to Peter for taking us.

Kirk out

And What Am I Doing?

Well, my dears – you may have spotted that whereas I used to blog every day like clockwork, since I moved I am not doing so.  This is not just because of Sorting Everything Out, it is because I have decided to blog only when I have something I really waant to say.  Hence the stuff about Mark last week.  This is still going on, of course, but since I have nothing really new to say about it I have not blogged any more.  I’m sure I will come back to it, but at the moment things are sluggishly moving on and slowly digesting so there’s nothing new to report.

But! in other news, I have had an acceptance!  This is the thing I wrote about twenty years ago which has been sent back, redacted, resubmitted, sent back again, buried in soft peat, reconfigured, cut, pasted, cut, cut and cut again – and submitted once more with the swearing of an oath that if they didn’t accept it THIS time it would be burnt.  (And burning a pen-drive is not pretty, let me tell you that.)

But they accepted it, thank god – although they’re going to do a little pruning of their own because apparently readers can’t cope with quotes of more than a line and a half from the original text (FFS) and so it will be appearing on the Thresholds blog at some point in the near future.  Thresholds is a group of writers who focus exclusively on the short story, and my piece was about a collection of stories entitled ‘Ideas above our Station’, of which, by the time I’d finished, I was heartily sick, as was the library of my continually renewing and re-requesting it.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print – except that I found out that some of the original limericks (ie pre-dating Edward Lear) were utterly disgusting.  No, I’m not going to reproduce them.  I couldn’t possibly…

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and all our furniture has now gone – to a lovely and very appreciative couple who might be interested in buying our old house.  How weird would that be?

Shopping in Tilling and Breathing in Meeting

As I write the low-hanging sun is shining in my right eye: I’ve just been out and found it a hell of a lot warmer than I thought so progressed down Queen’s Rd discarding hat, gloves etc as I shopped.  I feel like a resident of Tilling* doing my little ‘shoppings’ with my shopping-basket, popping here and popping there, saying hallo to this or that person as I pass from Green and Pleasant (toothpaste and yeast, if you’re interested) to Sainsbury’s (nothing – the shop doesn’t impress me and one of their onions was mouldy yesterday) and round the back popping out near the Co-op (wine and blast! forgot the biscuits so was forced to pop into the corner shop where due to a cash crisis I could only afford chocolate.

And so home.  Mark went to counselling this morning where he did so well that he is now ‘signed off’: apparently he is so totally sorted that no more therapy is needed.  That’s good then… wish I was… on the other hand, last night he had an argument with a kerb resulting in a badly bashed-up face (nothing broken, but lots of blood and swelling) so he has gone to have a cracked front tooth looked at.

Yesterday I went once more to the Quaker Meeting.  This was good, on the whole, though marred by a horrid and insensitive woman who came up to me at the end.  I was feeling suitably chilled and imagined that she, like many others, had come to chat and to welcome me.  Not a bit of it.  She had come to complain.

‘I felt I had to tell you,’ she said, ‘that I found your breathing very disturbing.’

My breathing??

‘I had to move,’ she went on, in a prim and rather self-righteous way.

I stammered out something to the effect that I was sorry to hear it.  Frankly, words failed me.

‘I just thought I had to tell you,’ she repeated.

But why did you have to tell me? I thought as she retreated, having ruined my morning.  I was really quite upset and had a chat about it afterwards with some people, all of whom thought she was out of order.  I mean, for God’s sake, my breathing???  Apart from the fact that I have asthma and so my breathing is what it is, it’s not particularly loud.  I try quite hard not to disturb people and I even went to the lengths of taking the battery out of my mobile in case it went off, so I was quite hurt by her comments.

So *** you, fussy woman!  You’re like the princess with the pea…

And onwards and upwards, and so to a very pleasant afternoon and evening with Peter, doing yoga and experiencing the sheer joy of our dining-room table.

Kirk out

*as in the ‘Mapp and Lucia’ novels of E F Benson

PS Oh, and just to show you how civilised everyone is round here, on the way to the shops I had to squeeze past some cars and a couple coming the other way not only waited for me but smiled and said ‘You’re quicker than we are,’ and then in the Co-op someone who was before me at the till allowed me to go first saying ‘you’ve got less stuff than I have.’

And a Very Happy Nineteen to the Dozen

Yes, that’s the date today: 19/12.  One day till the shortest day and one week exactly till Christmas!!

And am I ready?


This week on the iPlayer I have once again watched ‘Film 2013’ and concluded that it ain’t what they say, it’s the way that they say it.  Come back, Barry Norman! I hear myself crying (and why not?)  The whole programme has been sofa-ed: it’s been smartarsed; it’s been kohled and mascara-ed and chatted and packaged in a ‘don’t-let-the-viewer-switch-channels’ panic.  Claudia Winkelman comes across like a ’60’s diva; all mascara and kohl and very little self-confidence, while her guests rattle off smartarse comments at nineteen to the dozen (see how I worked that in there?)  Still, it does all make some kind of sense and if you can disentangle what they’re saying from the way they’re saying it, it is worth listening to.  Viz. this week’s review of the Hobbit, summed up in the words ‘this isn’t a Tolkein trilogy, it’s a Peter Jackson trilogy.’  That one has disappeared from the iplayer, alas, and I have yet to catch up with this week’s which reviews the latest (yawn) ‘Anchorman’ and more interestingly a remake of ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’.


‘Mastermind’ continues to be compelling, even hosting a special ‘Dr Who’ edition where the chair was filled, predictably, by a succession of geeks; three men and one woman.  Endearingly they focussed on the old Dr Who’s; and although the woman didn’t do brilliantly in the first round, she won in the end as the others were terrible at general knowledge!


‘Last Tango in Halifax’ continues to fascinate, though I haven’t quite finished this episode:


And finally, thanks to both Jane and Peter for cheering me up yesterday.

Kirk out

PS  Seen anything you like on iplayer?  Let me know

Yesterday, All My Troubles Seemed So Close…

So what happened yesterday?  Well, after an uneventful morning, Mark and I headed to the Clock Tower for what turned out to be a rather muted protest at the effect of budget cuts on the disabled.  According to a recent Freedom of Information request, there have been thousands of deaths following claimants failing the incapacity benefit test; this sticks in the craw particularly since today’s announcement of an 11% pay rise for MPs.  Now, I note that the three party leaders have opposed this, but who the hell thought it was a good idea?  MPs already get a basic salary of 66,000 (that’s about six times our household income), not to mention expenses and allowances and the highly controversial second home scheme.  The whole thing stinks, and there to point this out was a gathering of disabled people, Left Unity people, other socialists and priests including the soon-to-be-licensed Poineer Priest amongst the homeless, Rev. Helen Hayes.  Oo!  Apparently she’s going to be licensed at the Martyrs!


The protest got off to a slow start as the PA took a while to arrive; however it featured a good balance of speeches, singing and poetry (from me, doing the poem I did at the LU conference, see Monday’s post)


And so to Peter’s, where we began the afternoon by toasting Nelson Mandela with a glass of South African shiraz, then descended into the rough with the Sicilian red which I brought and which Peter so much enjoys, and after that we broke out the other Merlot and then the South American bhajis descended into the rough with the cheese scones and Chris Conway came over with his three-headed girl and…

You get the picture.

Kirk out

Wot No Post?

Alas, no – for this morning I was sleeping off a rather drastically good night out in the centre of Leicester. We started at the Ale Wagon then moved to the Black Boy which sadly was shut, so we cut across a car-park to the Barley Mow where I had the first of the evening’s Pedigrees. Nice! After that we moved sideways to the Parcel Yard, which does exactly what it says on the tin, and then a stagger across to the Rainbow and Dove where Mark broke a 16-year alcohol-free streak by having a whisky! I am happy to report that the R+D now does Pedigree too, so after that we found the Manhattan, the last bar of the evening, which you I was under the mistaken impression was the Exchange bar.

And so to bed…

Kirk out

Says Who?

Well, duh!  It’s perfectly obvious when you know – but I didn’t realise that ‘Simon Says’ was the centenary celebration of De Montfort Hall and therefore ‘Simon’ refers to Simon de Montfort.  I always wondered why it was called ‘Simon Says’…  De Montfort was credited with being the architect of English democracy but he was also something of a Bad Egg because he killed lots of Jews.

But!  Zooming forward to recent history – yesterday, in fact – well, what can I say?  I had a terrific day, poeting in a Winnie-the-Pooh sort of demi-forest, and then drinking mild and eating curry before lapsing into the acoustic tent to listen to a three-piece.  The acoustic area was not as acoustic as I would have liked, and the queues for beer grew unfeasibly long so that I only managed a couple of pints during the whole afternoon (probably no bad thing) – then we went outside for more poetry and thence into the marquee to watch Andy’s partner’s son’s band Skam, a competent three-piece who play very loud thrash-rock: and then into the main auditorium where we saw ‘By the Rivers’.  Another ‘duh!’ moment occurred as I then realised that BTR – of course – play ska/reggae: it was great stuff and very boppy and I even managed to get Mark dancing.  This was no mean feat as he has consistently refused to dance with me ever since our wedding (not that anything untoward happened at our wedding – he’s just got a complex about it).  Then by about seven, having been there eight hours, I’d had enough and so we slogged it home through near-torrential rain (my clothes are still drying) discussing the poetry and the music and how great it was that so many people had been able to come and cute all the babies had looked in their ear-defenders.

Here’s the vid of me performing.  A lot of people seemed to like ‘The Ballad of the Bowstring Bridge’ and I have had requests for a video of the musical version, so watch this space…


Kirk out