Zen and the Art of Paperback Marketing

For my birthday I received an adult colouring book. I am fully seized of the benefits of adult colouring and feel no need to explain or justify it; however the author of the book may have felt such a need as a long list of qualifications succeeds her name, prompting OH to comment: ‘How many qualifications do you need to make a colouring book?’ before adding, ‘she probably felt she wouldn’t be taken seriously otherwise.’ That’s almost certainly true, but what struck me was the tag at the bottom saying ‘a zen colouring book.’

How is it zen? I’m not even sure I know what zen means – I suspect it’s one of those words which, if you think you understand, it you don’t – but I’m wondering in what way this is a zen colouring book as opposed to a non-zen colouring book? What particular qualities does it have that make it so? At first glance I can’t discern any, nor did the introduction give any clue. This does not, of course, make it any the less fun or beneficial, nor am I disputing that colouring can be a deeply meditative process, but zen? Hm.

One of the most disappointing books I’ve read is ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.’ Being at the time both passionately interested in motorbikes and also wanting to find out more about meditation, I seized a copy as soon as I could lay my hands on one, but was sorry to find little in it of either topic. It seems that zen is just a handy marketing term for something a little off-beat, hippyish or related to spirituality in a vague sort of way (and Robert Persig sure was vague*.)

Anyway whether it’s zen or non-zen, unzen or dezen, it’s a good colouring book, and that is enough. More of this anon and how it contributes to the writing process. In the meantime have a very happy Monday, stay cool if it’s hot where you are and don’t forget Wimbledon starts today! And Andy is playing again, as is Johanna Konta, so be prepared for a lot of match reports.

Yay!

*to be fair, he does say so himself, but I still think it’s a highly self-indulgent book

Kirk out.

Oh, for Fxxx’s Sake!

Am I becoming a grumpy old git?  No, tell me honestly because I just don’t know.  I decided to watch some of the Davis cup coverage since Andy Murray had been playing so well, and I had to turn it off again.  Why?  Because of the bloody crowds.  I couldn’t stand the noise.  They were like a football crowd, for god’s sake, bellowing and chanting and blowing horns and yelling and jumping up and down – between every effing point!  I could not stand it.  I tried turning the volume down but then I couldn’t hear the commentary or the ball and you need to hear the ball to follow the game properly.  I put the subtitles on but they were too bloody small!  In my day you didn’t have to put your glasses on to read things.  In my day they made everything big enough. In my day nobody jumped up and down and yelled – or at least they had the decency to wait until the end of a game – but these lot were baying and chanting the whole effing time, even between a first and second serve.  It must have been very trying for the players to wait for quiet all the time.  Yes, I get the excitement – I feel it too – but there’s no sense of climax if you’re at top volume all the time.  It’s just ridiculous.  I’m not snobbish about football – I mean, I don’t like it and I don’t understand it, but I can see it’s appropriate to chant and shout because it doesn’t distract the players.  But this is tennis, for god’s sake!  Show some restraint!

It reminds me a little of the audience of ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.’  Perhaps they were the same people: they bay and shout and cheer at the slightest opportunity.  They are totally hyper when the show starts and if Mornington Crescent is announced they practically explode.  They even like the hackneyed conversations between Hamish and Dougal who, in my opinion, ought to have had their tea and been put out to grass years ago.  They’re just NOT FUNNY any more!

I must go now as my Sainsbury’s order is here.  I shall practically explode with excitement if this carries on…

Kirk out

TV Days

Did anyone see Casualty the other night?  It was hilarious!  We always have a laugh watching the series; what with people getting blown up and burnt and overturning in huge lorries and crashing vehicles in bizarre and interesting ways which not even Jeremy Clarkson would have thought of; and presenting with weird and obscure diseases – and what with the staff all going out with each other and marrying each other and not seeming to have a life outside the hospital (except when they leave their shift to go and sort out the personal lives of the patients, which they do on a regular basis) – altogether ‘Casualty’ is a laugh a minute.  And the latest episode didn’t disappoint.

I never really ‘bought’ Max and Zoe as a couple.  He’s a lightweight, she’s a professional (except that – and I’m sorry to have to say this because it sounds really judgemental) she has the morals of an alley-cat.  OK let’s put that in a slightly more PC way.  She is blown hither and thither by the winds of circumstance and whim (hey, the winds of whim – that’s a good phrase) and the night before her wedding she goes and sleeps with someone.  She feels terrible, nearly calls the wedding off but then it happens and then hey presto! along comes Dylan to wreck it all by blurting out ‘Oh, so you told him then?’ after they’ve got spliced.  Everything goes awry after that and it ends with two terrifically explosive fires in which probably the entire cast dies.

Brilliant!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b068299n/casualty-series-29-46-forsaking-all-others-part-two

On holiday I mostly watched the tennis as it was great to see it live.  And last night there was an absolutely brilliant new episode of ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ based in India.  You must watch!  The ‘Brownadder’ episode is particularly mention-worthy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0687f6j/goodness-gracious-me-india-special-2015

Kirk out

Slightly Smaller Balls

Note to self: don’t eat lentils. Half an hour after eating a lentil and potato curry, I have blown up like a barrage balloon. Every time I make potato curry, Mark and I have the same conversation. ‘But what about protein?’ he wails. And I reply, just as I always do, ‘I’ll put some pulses in’. This week we had run out of kidney beans, so he suggested lentils.  Mistake!

Still, he has a sense of smell and I don’t, so there’s karma for you.

I watched the women’s tennis final today.  Can someone please explain to me why women can run marathons but still can’t play five sets in tennis?  Also, why they had two male commentators and only one woman?  Are they going to have women commentating on the men’s final?

Are they buggery.

I think we should be told.

Good news about the Tour de France departing from Yorkshire, though the attempts of Yorkshire folk to say ‘le grand depart’ gives me convulsions

A toute a l’heure!

Kirk out

S.W. What?

I have a confession to make.  It’s very odd, but for the first year ever, since I was about 11, I have no interest in Wimbledon.  I don’t know why this is: it could be the football which means the BBC have given it less than their usual dedicated coverage; or the fact that Murray is out much sooner than he ought to have been – whatever the reason I have seen a few matches but it has failed to excite me.  To understand just how weird this is, you have to realise that Wimbledon has been a feature of my calendar every single year since 1966.  I have only missed a couple: once when I was living Up North and didn’t have a TV, and once when I was living in Madrid and only had access to channels like TVE 1 and Telecinco.  Every channel in Spain has adverts on; and the news is so frenetic you can’t follow it at all, never mind the sport.  Which reminds me, have you ever tried listening to the tennis on the radio?  It’s something else.  By the time they’ve described a back-hand cross-court volley with top-spin which lands just short of the baseline, about three more shots have been played.  Weird.

Today I have been mostly… finishing off my memoir.  Yay!  I have now reached the requisite 50,000 words (that’s about 150 pages) and have reached it in about six weeks starting from a base of 6000.  Now begins the work of revising… Still I think I shall give it a rest for a week or two as I have to do my tax return and reapply for tax credits.  Joy.

Have a good weekend.  We shall be going to the cathedral to see the new garden and to Serenity, a Sci-fi event, on Sunday where I shall be poeting.

Kirk out

Not Much Life on the i-player

I haven’t watched much on i-player this week: I ended up watching the tennis live as seeing the highlights of the previous day just left me so far behind the base-line that I couldn’t see the ball until it had landed.  I went to a friend’s house to watch the final anyway; then thanks to the good weather and a couple of evenings out I’ve seen very little since last week.  However, an episode of ‘Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0077kf3/Whatever_Happened_to_the_Likely_Lads_Series_1_Countdown/

set me thinking, especially when coupled with this morning’s news that the numbers of children born out of wedlock (now there’s a phrase to conjure with!) are set to overtake those born to married couples: and I began to examine once again whether marriage is a Good Thing.

I’m wondering if the decline in marriage is due to people not bothering, or whether on the other hand it’s the recession and couples thinking they ‘can’t afford to get married.’  That, of course, is nonsense: it costs potentially very little to get married if that’s what you really want to do.  What people really mean, is that they can’t afford the ridiculously expensive wedding package that most couples seem to think necessary nowadays.  The statistics I hear about the cost of weddings make me blench: the fact is, people seem to give so much thought to the wedding that they forget to think about the marriage – and it’s the marriage that counts.  What’s the point of spending thousands on a wedding if you’re only going to stay together for two years?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/10072716/Average-wedding-now-costs-more-than-18000.html

I know I’m going to sound smug here but our wedding cost £200.  Yep, that’s right: £200.  No, I haven’t missed a zero off the end.  We were married by a Quaker friend in the Friends’ Meeting House; many people gave their services for free: we had friends playing at the reception and the pub room was free due to a promotion and all we did was provide food: people got their own drinks from downstairs.  My dress cost £40 as I had it made in India; I bought cheap sandals to go with it, and Mark’s clothes came from the Very Bazaar.  Oh, and Mary made the cake.

So there you are: £200.  And here’s the killer: we’re still together 20 years on.

It’s the marriage that counts, folks, not the wedding!

Kirk out

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!

What else can I say?  In fact, that is so good a word that I’m gonna say it again.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!

That’s 77 (or 26) years worth of WOW, thank you very much – and we are entitled to every letter of it.  Wow, wow!  And thrice wow.  And wow again.

Yes, I don’t need to tell you why – it’s obvious.  Since 1977 we have not known such deep and penetrating volleys of joy: such backhand cross-court drop-shots of happiness; such over-the-net-and-in-the-corner-of-the-court returns of euphoria.  And there hasn’t been a British male winner of Wimbledon since 1936.

That’s right: before the war, when women wore long (or longer) skirts to play in; when men wore long trousers and everyone said ‘Oh, jolly good shot!’ in tones like Dan Maskell (in fact Dan Maskell may have been no more than a locker-room strategy in his mother’s womb); when commentators were rather sneering about Americans and foreign Johnnies – that’s the way tennis looked when Fred Perry won the best tournament in the world.  Here’s some Pathe News highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMcV9EoHeqU

I have to say it doesn’t look anything like as energetic as today’s play – when they were playing I thought they were still warming up!

Anyway, since those days in the male half we’ve had Buster Mottram (reached 1/4 finals but was a fascist), John Lloyd (also 1/4 finals) and Tim Henman (semis but lacking killer instinct).  But now we have Murray, the dourest of Scotsmen, who only just about cracked a smile when he won.

But oh, my god!  What a moment!

He began well, taking the first set 6-4, but most people must have thought we were in for a five-setter.  I hardly dared let myself believe he could win – and even when he took the second 7-5, coming from 1-4 down with 2 breaks of serve against him, I was sure Djokovic would fight back: but whether it was the Serb’s gruelling 5-set semi-final or whether he just didn’t find his form, in the end he couldn’t follow through and the third set saw Murray serving for the match.  He had 3 points on his serve and lost them: it went to deuces – and finally he came through in straight sets!  I could NOT believe it!  The cheers were deafening, Murray cracked what could have been construed as a grin and Djokovic was commendably gracious in defeat.

Oh, joy!  Deep joy!

So it was on a cloud of this joy that I floated over to Yesim’s.  On being asked whether I had any poetry I responded: ‘The only thing I have in me right now is the sheer poetry of watching Murray win Wimbledon!’

Sadly no-one really shared my joy; and a second later someone said (and I quote) ‘I know a negative story about that.’

‘No!’  I said.  ‘No negative stories!’  And I rushed to the loo.

Why is it that when you’re on a high some people’s first thought is to bring you down?

There’s a lot of philosophical stuff here, such as ‘What effect does having a national winner have on the national psyche?’ – not to mention why some people try to bring you down when you’re happy – but I shall save that for a separate post.  For now, I’m just going to leave you with this moment, which I will be savouring for a long time to come:

http://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/interactive/multimedia.html?promo=mediawall

Game, Set, Match and Championship!

Wow

wow

wow

wow

wow!

Kirk out

Holy Flying Circus, Batman! You MUST Watch This!!!!

Yes, today’s theme is religion and philosophy and instead of just sitting here and giving you the benefit of my thought (LOL) I’m going to recommend a programme.  Nay, ‘recommend’ is too weak a word: I absolutely INSIST that you watch this on iplayer the very second that you finish reading this post.  For here, most unexpectedly, is the most eerily and brilliantly accurate comedy biopic I have ever seen.  Directed by Owen Harris (‘Misfits’, ‘Black Mirror’, ‘Skins’) and written by Tony (‘The Thick of it’) Roche, it is in the same mould as the Kenny Everett biopic I blogged about earlier, but even better.

‘Holy Flying Circus’ tells the story of the furore following the release of ‘Life of Brian’.  Starring Darren Boyd as Cleese (he’s Dirk Gently’s sidekick in the recent series) and Charles Edwards as Palin (and Palin’s mother) and including Steve Punt as Eric Idle, this film features a style of acting which is uncannily like the real thing: something half-way between interpreting a role and doing an impression.  The two stars in particular are so good you’d swear you were watching Palin and Cleese, while Graham Chapman sits and puffs his pipe in the background and makes us all feel nostalgic for when he was alive.

The climax of the film is the famous chat-show, Friday Night and Saturday Morning where Cleese and Palin debate with Malcolm Muggeridge and a Bishop on the morality of the film, chaired by a terminally gentle Tim Rice (Tim Rice?).  Here’s a bit of the original:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ku3GcPrW9xg

There is a brilliant, multi-layered script featuring God at the end played with consummate brilliance by Stephen Fry; and lots of subtitles pointing out ‘satire’ and other such Python-nesses.

So I insist that you watch this NOW, before it disappears from the iplayer:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0162zbx/Holy_Flying_Circus/

The Bishop looks thoroughly dated and extremely patronising, unlike the other Bishop I encountered unexpectedly yesterday going into the Turkish restaurant on Narborough Rd.  Yes, Rob Freeman (for it was he) and Chris were just going in as I was passing, so I nipped in and surprised them at their table.  They are dropping in on the Martyrs later so I will catch up with them then.  Rob is utterly sensible, very humorous and just about the most down-to-earth bloke you will ever meet.  And he’s Bishop of Penrith:

http://www.thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk/news/9334782.New_Bishop_of_Penrith_consecrated_at_York/

Happy Sunday – enjoy the sunshine.  And come on, Andy!

Kirk out

Go Murray!

Well, what else can I write about today but the tennis – and what can I say but ‘Wow!’  There were two utterly terrific semi-finals yesterday: I had intended to stop watching the first, between Djokovic and Del Potro, after an hour or so, but I just couldn’t tear myself away.  This nail-biting five-setter didn’t follow the script at all: Djokovic ought in theory to have dispatched ‘Del-boy’ in straight sets, but the Argentine player just hung in there and produced some spectacular shots.  He simply wouldn’t go away and punished each of Djokovic’s errors with a winner.  So Djokovic eventually got through the match, which was the longest men’s semi-final in Wimbledon history; though there have been longer matches at other levels.  You have to wonder whether, after that, he will have the reserves he needs for tomorrow’s final.

Aaaaaand yes!  He will be playing Murray.  After a fairly nail-biting four-setter against the eighteen-year-old Janowicz during which they had a break to put on the roof, Murray was through in fairly decisive fashion.  The match was almost an object-lesson in youth versus experience, Janowicz covering the court faster but Murray playing more wisely and getting far less worked up.  There was some controversy about the decision to put the roof on at that stage; there seemed to be enough light to play on but Janowicz had been whittling about the roof for a good half hour and the break favoured him as Murray was on a roll at that point.  Still, in the end Murray gritted his teeth and won the fourth set and the match.  You have to give him good odds against Djokovic, especially with a home crowd.

Sadly I shall be missing the women’s final as I’m meeting Chris and Peter for a drink: however I have my seat booked for tomorrow from 2 pm onwards.  Not on centre court, sadly, but in front of a decent TV for a change…

Happy Saturday

Kirk out

PS  I can’t remember if I mentioned that I was going to be on TV talking about urine therapy?  I think I did – well, I’m not doing it now as I have received reliable information that this is not the serious scientific study it purports to be but an exercise in ridicule: apparently it is to be called ‘Health Freaks on Trial’.  So no thanks, Channel 4 – if I’m going on there it should be me taking the piss….

All Won in the Best Possible Taste!

The BBC was under fire last night for Gary Richardson’s post-match interview in which he suggested Murray might get the ‘hair-dryer’ treatment from coach Ivan Lendl for losing the first two sets.  Meanwhile I was actually in need of a hair-dryer, being an emotional wet dish-cloth after the knuckle-biting five-set encounter between the Scottish No 1 and relatively unknown Spanish player Fernando Verdasco.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/tennis/23170595

I tuned in around five to see in disbelief a scoreline of 2 sets to 0.  Could this be true?  Did they not have it the wrong way round?  Nope, Murray was losing.  The Spanish guy played almost supernatural tennis at times, covering the court like Sonic the Hedgehog and creating angles you don’t normally see outside doubles matches.  Andy brought out all his shots, but they weren’t enough, and in the end it just came down to hanging in there and waiting for the other guy to make a mistake.  This he eventually did, putting enough shots out to let Murray equalise and finally win the last set 6-4.  Murray looked the more tired of the two throughout the match and what won it for him in the end was his own persistence and a couple of over-long shots from Verdasco.

Whew!

Elsewhere on the i-player the Beeb repeated the excellent Kenny Everett biopic, ‘Best Possible Taste’.  The guy playing ‘Ev’ is so good you’d swear it was the man himself you were watching; and his conflicted relationship with his wife and with his own sexuality is beautifully portrayed.  It’s hard to believe that only 30 years ago people were dying of Aids in this country because they didn’t know about condoms.  So watch it before it disappears from the i-player.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00xzvlw/Best_Possible_Taste_The_Kenny_Everett_Story/

Some things do get better.  Homophobia is one – and tennis is another.  Come on Andy!

Kirk out

PS  Wordpress informs me that this is my 1775th post on this blog!!!