Stuff I’d Like to Say

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how human relations might be improved if people adopted the Quaker approach to speaking, which is to ask yourself before engaging gob (or keyboard) the following four questions:

is it true?

is it helpful?

is it kind?

is it necessary?

For example, was it necessary for a driver, when I was trying to get across a road on my bike in a limited time, to hoot angrily and repeatedly at me?

Was it kind?

Was it helpful?

It was not.  I was quite proud of my reaction though: instead of growling or howling I smiled sweetly and made a gracious ‘you go ahead’ gesture.  And then I was reminded of the words of the Buddha about anger: that to show anger towards someone is like holding a flaming spear by the lighted end.  I can’t find the quote but I’m sure he said it – or something like it.  Oh, apparently it wasn’t him although it is within the Buddhist tradition and entirely consistent with Buddha teaching:

There’s also the old saying that when you point a finger at someone there are three pointing back at you.  So although I was slightly shaken by this driver’s excessive and unnecessary anger, I reflected on these things and also on the fact that he has probably shortened his life by several seconds due to increased blood-pressure, heart-rate and tension.

I’ve had a great day so far: first Tomatoes, then the Real Junk Food Cafe where, having had breakfast already I restricted myself to a mince pie and an apple.  This is the first time I have been there since it opened and I have to say it’s a great initiative; collecting ‘rejected’ food from supermarkets and turning it into delicious meals which are free or ‘pay as you feel’.  There, serendipitously, I ran into Christine who is going to help me with my ESOL interview as she teaches something similar; we had a really useful chat.

And so home, where I began writing to you, dear reader.

Kirk out

Oggi! Oggi! Oggi! Oy! Oy! Oy!

Oggi scribo in Italiano per che ho una lettora Italiana che ha commentato sopra mi blog.

OK that’s enough of that.  My Italian is rudimentary at the best of times and traslochi vibo valentia will have to tell me if any of the above makes sense.  To be honest the only bit I’m sure of is oggi, which I know means ‘today’.

And how do I know this?  Well, from an evening class which I took several years back.  Which reminds me, there’s a restaurant on London Rd called Oggi, and last summer I thought it’d be fun to go there for our wedding anniversary meal.  As Mark was heading off into town I asked him to take a look at the menu.  He came back looking puzzled.

‘Well?’ I demanded.

‘It’s not there any more.  I walked all down London Rd and there was no sign of it.’

That’s weird, I thought.  It was there last week.  I’d described exactly where it was so he could hardly have failed to spot it.  So anyway, a few days later I was heading that way myself – and guess what?  Yep, there it was, bold as brass.  Oggi.

Sadly that was after our wedding anniversary so we still haven’t been there.  But whenever I hear the word Oggi I think about that.

So, what was I going to blog about today?  I had a whole post planned but now it’s gone out of my mind.  This is what happens when you get diverted.  Well, I must confess that for the last few days I’ve been doing very little except going out for walks and then sitting on my backside watching ‘Friends’ and eating chocolate.  Today we went into town trying to get a birthday present for Daniel and failing.  We have until Saturday to find what we’re looking for.  But I did spent all the tokens I got for Christmas.  I bought a pile of books and – something I’ve wanted for AAAAAAAAAAAAAAges – a box-set of the Rebus series; the one with Ken Stott, not the ones with John Hannah.

So since everything I wanted to say has gone out of my mind (as have I) all I can think of is to ask whether, when drunk, you have walked down the street with one of you chanting ‘Oggy oggy oggy!’ and the others replying ‘Oi, oi, oi!’

Have you?

Chris and Peter, you need not reply.  I know you have – I was there.

Kirk out



Appy New Year

Wow.  Already five days have passed since I last posted.  I hope you had a good Christmas, as I did: the day passed very pleasantly in a haze of Cava (bought straight from the Cavery, ha ha) a blizzard of nut-roast, a fog of veggie sausages and a perfect storm of roast potatoes, parsnips and sprouts, all topped off with delicious cranberry sauce.  Then after a quick game of cribbage came the pudding, the mince pies and the custard.

Wow.  I was full.

I got some great presents but highlight of the day was seeing Daniel open his cunningly-disguised ukulele* and start to play.  Brill.  I mainly got a selection of tokens which I shall shortly convert into a supply of books and DVD’s.  I also got the latest Ian Rankin from OH, which is every bit as good as the others.

Dr Who was good, I thought, and it was fun playing cribbage.  I hadn’t played for years and it was surprising how quickly it all came back.

The last two or three days I’ve been going for walks; today’s included a trot round Knighton Park feeling very smug in the mud in my walking boots, and a trek up Welford Rd and round to Fingerprints – a total of nearly five miles, according to the online app I used afterwards.


Hope you’re all enjoying what my friend Chris calls ‘Twixtmas.’  See you all soon…

Kirk out

*wrapped to resemble some kind of malformed Dalek

A Vicarage Christmas (#2)

As a teenager I thought we had Christmas dinner ridiculously early. No-one sat down to eat turkey at one o’clock; cool people had theirs at three or four. But by then the adults were asleep and only once they woke up could we have the main present-giving.

This was the order of events which hardly varied until I left home – and possibly after.

We were not allowed TV on Christmas Day, so when the presents had been unwrapped (this was a ritual in itself: we each took turns to pick a present from the pile and give it to the person on the label, who had to unwrap it before another present could be chosen) we had tea and Christmas cake (also made months before) and then the evening set in.

In the evening my mother, aunt and grandmother would change and put on long dresses. And then we would play games: either card games (my Granddad was very fond of cribbage) or board games like ludo, scrabble or monopoly – plus, my mother loved parlour games such as ‘Squeak, piggy squeak,’ where a blindfolded person would be spun around three times (to disorientate them) and then pointed to sit on someone’s lap. The person thus sat upon would give a squeak, and they would have to guess who it was.

I’m sure there were loads of other games we played, but I can’t remember them. I never heard of anyone else who celebrated Christmas Day the way we did.

A Vicarage Christmas

When I was a child, living in a Victorian vicarage, we did Christmas in our own way.  Over the next couple of days I shall describe to you some of our family traditions.

For our mother, Christmas was the most important time of year. Preparations began in the autumn, with the making of Christmas puddings and mincemeat; suet being scattered like long snowflakes into the bowl, unimaginable amounts of dried fruit and (sadly) mixed peel being added, and everyone having a stir to make the magic come alive. My mother had a set of stupendous cooking-bowls; a range positively Victorian designed to cope with a much larger family than ours, even though we had relatives coming.

For us children, Christmas began with Grandma and Grandpa. They came a week or two before, usually before we’d even finished school; and we’d rush back to see whether they’d arrived yet. Mysterious bags of presents would be unloaded and stowed in secret wardrobe compartments (a world that smelled of mothballs and was peopled by old-style coats and hats) and then the grandparents would creak downstairs for a cup of tea in the lounge. There would be some time with us and then some very dull conversation – our cue to go and play.

After that, Christmas continued when my aunt and uncle came.  My Aunt, my mother and Grandma would hold complex conferences in the kitchen, surveying the contents of the larder and embarking on further preparations. Our part was limited to laying tables and wiping up, a chore which I hated.

One year – it was the infamous winter of 1963 – Dad shovelled a mound of snow for me to make a snowman. But it froze, and stayed frozen for so long that I never did get to make that snowman. I remember going out and periodically trying a spade in the side of what felt like rock. But that was before May was old enough to make snowmen. Usually Dad would donate a hat and an old college scarf; and Mum would find a long, pointed carrot. We were not encouraged to have snowball fights, but instead to throw them at the wall. I can still see the powdery marks they made.

Christmas was a long time coming, and even when the day came, the presents were a long time coming, too. We children had stockings – actually pillowcases – hung up after we’d gone to sleep, with strict instructions not to wake the grown-ups in the morning. Then after breakfast we all went to church; after which our Dad had finished for the day (I remember at one stage he used to do a 4 pm service on Christmas Day but eventually decided it wasn’t worth it). Glasses of sherry were doled out (ginger beer for us) and the kitchen became a hellish region of steam and activity. We laid the table and made sure there were enough chairs, bringing into service the horrible stacking wood-and-metal chairs which belonged to the parish and which I hated, and placing acres of mats in the centre, for the casserole dishes containing potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, gravy, bread sauce and later, custard and cream. Then there was nothing to do but wait.

I am Me and You are He and We are She and We are All Together…

The weirdest thing happens on the computer when Thing and I try to comment on other people’s blogs.  For some reason it’s always signed in to his account when I comment, and to my account when he comments.  This is even after I’ve gone to wordpress and signed in on my own account and then hunted up the blog on which I wish to comment.  It always does that highly irritating little jiggle which only wordpress things do.  Other accounts are content with a wiggly red line or an empty space or a little error message – but no! that’s not good enough for wordpress.  It has to do a little jiggle from side to side so that you can’t ignore it.  I’ve come to hate that little jiggle – and unless I’m on the tablet, I’ve given up commenting on other people’s blogs.  So, to my latest follower, sheislove11, I send this message:

I liked your post although when you said you made water in the coffee pot I thought for a moment you’d peed in it!

And here’s the post I commented on – or rather, failed to comment on thanks to wordpress being so BLOODY STUPID!!!

Deep calming breaths.  Deep calming breaths…

If you follow my blog I always take a look at yours and sometimes follow you as well.  My daughter has started her own blog lately, and it features a banner created by my son.  He has agreed to do one for me, although he seems to be a while getting around to it.  Here’s Holly’s blog anyway.  In this post she has put a very short story and asked for comments, so get over there and get commenting:

The REALLY annoying thing about commenting on blogs is that it tells me I’m commenting as Sarada Gray and when I post the comment it says I’m posting as zerothly.  Which I’m NOT!!!

Aaanyway, Holly, since I can’t post a comment there I’ll post it here.  I basically agree with the other comment, in that the third paragraph is the best.  In the first two you should show more and tell less and maybe connect the grease in the cafe with the grease in her hair.  I love the use of the word ‘shrapnel’ though – it suggests that her life is a battle.

Went to ‘You and Me’ friendship group at the Martyrs today and gave a talk on Quakerism.  It was very well-received and I enjoyed giving it.  I talked about my journey from a red-brick vicarage in Edmonton, round the terrible North Circular to Hounslow, about going to church three times a day on a Sunday, about to-ing and fro-ing when the church went all evangelical and finally finding my way into Quakerism.  Ruth from the Quaker meeting came along to support and add information and the audience seemed greatly interested.

Which was nice.

Happy Monday, like the woman says.

Kirk out



Doctors and Patient

Well!  I have rarely seen an episode of Dr Who which bored me, but I have to say last night’s was 45 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.  Hm – how DO you get time back?  If I was a time lord (or lady) I guess I could go back in time and live it all again, like Hermione in the third Harry Potter.  You can buy those time-turner things on the internet and I strongly suspect they don’t actually do what it says on the tin, though if they did, we’d all get very tired.

Which was the precise subject of the episode before last, in which an app called ‘Morpheus’ could be implanted in the brain and override the need to sleep.  That was an excellent episode, as was last week’s in which Clara died.  But this week’s!  I couldn’t follow it and eventually I lost the will to understand and even to live.  The major problem was that the Doctor had no companion and therefore had to spend the entire 3/4 hr monologuing.  That was bad enough, but on top of that he spent 7000 years in hell (I know how he felt) having to repeat actions over and over until – well, I’d lost track by then so I don’t know exactly what he had to do but he had to do it and then he could get back to the Tardis which was encased in some kind of material harder than diamonds and ……….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  I sincerely hope next week’s story is better.

It’s been quite variable, I think, this season.  I’ve liked some episodes and hated others.  I wasn’t at all grabbed by the Zygons, though I did like Mark’s joke ‘let Zygons be Zygons.’

Apart from that I’ve been watching just about everything available on the iplayer.  For yes!  I have been quite poorly.  Two weeks ago I was prescribed both antibiotics AND steroids and after that I had to get another lot of antibio’s which I am just now finishing.  Then this week I’ll have to go for a chest x-ray just to check there isn’t anything else wrong.

Hey, ho.  That’s life I guess.  Incidentally, where does the idea come from about eternity being like a mountain of sand from which a bird removes a grain every thousand years?  I remember it from James Joyce but I think it’s a reference to something else.

TTFN.  I still haven’t been on Facebook…

Kirk out

The Joy of Proust

Whenever I think of Proust I am reminded of the Monty Python All-England Summarise Proust Contest:

I also think of the time he met James Joyce.  It was in a railway carriage and it did not go well.  Proust sits in a corner, muffled up to the eyeballs, his lungs so delicate that the lightest breeze would carry him off.  In comes Joyce, ebullient and heedless, throws up the window, flings himself into the seat opposite and lights a cigar.  Proust, horrified, retreats into this clothing and not a word is spoken.

Mind you, these encounters rarely come off the way you think they will.  Ego gets in the way, and whenever I remember this story I want to give Joyce a good hard slap.  One imagines that had they talked these great writers would have had incredible things to say to each other – but perhaps they wouldn’t.  Perhaps they would have found nothing to say at all.

We make heroes out of great men and imagine they stride like colossi around the world.  But no man is a hero to his wife – or to put it another way, behind every great man stands a woman rolling her eyes.


But here’s the difference: Proust understood that he must write in time: Joyce did not.  That is why – given time – Proust is readable (and even summarisable) but to read Joyce you must step outside time and understand everything at once.

It’s a good job time exists otherwise we’d have to do everything at once.

Kirk out

Dead Can Dance

I hadn’t really come across this duo before but I recognised a track this morning from when OH played a trailer for Ran, the Japanese version of Lear.  It’s a song that lifts the top of your head off and once I’d heard it again I had to find out where it was from.  And here it is on youtube:

I was dancing to it this morning.  Sometimes I do a form of yoga dance (Shiva Rea) which is a combination of yoga and tai chi and some moves of my own.  It’s very free-form and it’s started me off thinking about bringing some movement and dance into my poetry performances.  There’s a lot of scope for creativity there I think.

Sooooooooooooo the clocks went back last night, which means that I am speaking to you at four minutes past ten (though you may be reading me later or earlier depending on which time-zone you are inhabiting.  I am currently inhabiting the Extremely Crabby time zone because not only did I not sleep well but having remembered all day about the clocks I didn’t actually do anything about it at night.  Memory subs for actually doing.  So I woke up early and waited for it to be seven, then wondered why OH hadn’t got up and made tea.


As Stewie would say.  I love that baby.

Still, at least the cooker is now correct.

Off to Quake now for a bit.

Kirk out

Long Live the Weather! Long Live the Weather Forecaster!

I love weather forecasters.  Today on radio 4 the guy said, ‘there will be a bit and piece of rain,’ and then, referring to some bad weather, ‘we hope all this sort of nonsense will soon stop.’

I love the way they keep making up new ways to describe the weather, because unlike the ‘scorchio!’ forecasts for southern Europe, there is always something new to say about the British weather.

I think the radio ones are best.  On TV they tend to be dominated by the satellite pictures, with the hapless forecaster, unable to see the pictures, struggling to keep up with what’s happening behind them and aware that their words are not the main focus of your attention.  And in the press they tend to be highly dramatic: hardly a summer passes without a ‘heatwave’ forecast; barely a winter survives without the threat of a freeze that’s ‘set to last for weeks’.  But usually both heatwave and cold conditions (why don’t we ever have a coldwave?) fail to materialise – although last winter we did have some sort of polar event (an ice-stream, did they call it?) which lasted a hell of a long time.  But this summer’s predicted heatwave turned out to be more of a wavelet, stretching to not much more than a week.

But on the radio the words are all you’ve got, and so they go the extra mile to be inventive.  I love the idea of referring to bad weather as ‘nonsense.’  It’s like ticking the weather off; as if it were a naughty child and the forecaster a strict nanny.

We British, as is frequently observed, have an interesting relationship with the weather.  Half-god, half-disobedient child, it’s a source of wonder, annoyance, bafflement and amusement.  It generates bus-stop conversations, shrieks of surprise and frequent changes of clothing.  Out come the memories, too: the winter of ’63; the summer of ’76 – and, if you’re on the East coast, the floods of ’53.  The weather is like the sea; ever-changing, ever-varied, always interesting and – despite the best efforts of the valiant weather-forecaster, unpredictable.

Sadly I can’t find a link to that particular forecast, which was on today at just before 1 pm.

But it does occur to me that my title today sounds a little like de Gaulle in Canada:

Vive le Quebec!  Vive le Quebec libre!

Kirk out