Six Incomprehensible Things Before Breakfast?

Some mornings I get six incomprehensible things shoved at me before I’ve even finished my first cuppa, and this morning was one of those.  First, OH was talking about the Half-Bakery, a repository for weird or half-baked ideas (hence the name).  It’s quite a waste of time, though as OH heatedly informs me, some of the ideas have gone on to be produced in what we are pleased to call the real world.

So this morning, before my bleary eyes had even fully-opened, a load of stuff is coming my way:

OH: I’ve had an idea for the Half Bakery

Me: Oh? What’s that?

OH: It’s a Brexit Advent calendar.

Me:  Sounds like as much fun as Dismaland.  Monday, Gloom, Tuesday, Hard Border, Wednesday, Food Shortages, Thursday, Labour Shortages…

OH:  Yes, but it wouldn’t work because of Call for List

Me:  What?

OH:  You’re not allowed to make a list of things

Me:  Oh

There’s a pause and I go back to doing the crossword. But no, it’s not over; there’s more.

OH:  When’s Listopad?

Me:  What?

OH:  Listopad! When is it?

Me:  What the hell is Listopad? 

OH: Don’t you know?

Me: Sounds like a brand name for post-it notes

OH:  Ha ha. It’s a month.  In the Slavic calendar.

Me:  Oh my god.  You actually think I know this.

This is just some of what I have to deal with in the mornings. And I hadn’t even had a cup of tea yet. It’s not fair.

Kirk out

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Loss, Magma, Rejection…

I have just submitted three poems to Magma for their latest issue on the theme of loss.  At first I thought I didn’t have anything suitable but then I had a flip through and found poems on climate change, Brexit and stillbirth, all of which fit the theme.  I strongly suspect they won’t publish as Magma and I seem to inhabit different poetic universes, but hey – submitting is free, so what have I got to lose?  Only my confidence and sense of self-worth…

A propos of this, I’m in the midst of writing a poem on surviving rejection which considers now-famous works which were previously rejected.  I’ve blogged about this before so I won’t bore you with the details, but T S Eliot’s comment about Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘you just need better-behaved pigs and all will be well,’ is a classic.  I’m still in the midst of considering Leavis (and wondering why I bother) so I’ll update you on that as and when.  In the meantime the novel progresses by fits and starts, but I’ve managed 7000 words of the final chapter, leaving only 28,000 to go, which means I’m a fifth of the way through that chapter and about two-thirds of the way through the novel as a whole.  Not too shabby.

Kirk out

 

B**locks to Brexit

You have reached the headquarters of the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ campaign.  I’m sorry we can’t take your call right now; please leave your death threat after the tone.

Beep!

I’m pleased to report that yesterday’s ‘New European’ was much more sensible than last week’s extended vitriol from Will Self.  The letters page shows some readers agree with me and I have heard from at least one reader of this blog who considers it a ‘self-indulgent rant.’

But this week sees a return to form, with intelligent contributions including a page by Mitch Benn in which he channels Spooner by coining the word ‘fustercluck’ and other contributions on various aspects of our daily deepening hell-hole.  The cover shows a detumescent Big Ben and several searing cartoons express satisfactorily the anger and despair most of us are feeling right now.  I would of course order my Bollocks to Brexit mug, t-shirt, coaster and front-of-house banner, but for the fact that such things are deeply divisive and likely to provoke little except ire.  For the same reason I have not signed the petition for a second referendum (or to revoke article 50 or whatever it was) because, much as I would love a second referendum, it would prove horribly divisive and lead to millions of leave voters feeling utterly betrayed.

I can’t remember a time when we as a nation were so divided.  During the Thatcher years it was sometimes hard to talk to people on the other side; but that was a walk in the park compared to this.  And there’s no solution in sight…

*Sigh*

I don’t know how much this has to do with social media: certainly the ‘echo chambers’ everyone talks about seem real enough to me (at any rate I have very few friends on Facebook who are not politically on the left) and unquestionably what passes for debate on there consists of people lining up on one side and slagging the other side off.  I’ve been off Facebook for six months now: I honestly thought I’d never make it this far, imagining that when the original month was up I’d be champing at the bit and rushing to log on again.  But no.  The more time goes by the less I feel the pull of its blue pages and the more acutely I become aware of the effect it was having on me.

Basically to scroll the news feed is to experience whirlpools of emotion; one image, one story after another all demanding React!  React!  React!  Here’s a variety of emoticons you can use if words fail you!  React!  What with angry political items and heartwarming photos of cats it’s like being alternately slapped around the face and offered chocolate.  There’s very little genuine interaction (less and less all the time in my experience) even with people I know in real life, so that the reason for ‘doing Facebook’ in the first place, ie to have some social intercourse in what is essentially the solitary life of a writer, has gone.  I guess I’ll have to resort to meeting real people in actual cafes now…

Kirk out

 

 

 

 

Me, MySelf and Will

I’m trying to think of something good to say about Brexit: meanwhile here is some light music.

The last couple of weeks or so, we’ve been buying a pro-Remain paper called the New European which this week thought it was a good idea to turn over an entire issue to Will Self’s Brexit diary for March.  Self does not suffer from low self-esteem: some people might struggle to fill 50 pages of a national newspaper with their own thoughts; some might wonder what right they had to do so.  Not Self: and in an issue entitled A Plague on all Your Houses we learn that Will is pissed off with everybody.  His scorn, like muck spread on a field, is scattered everywhere; it covers Brexiteers, Remainers, Kippers, the Far-Right, the far Left, Momentum, the undecided, the alienated, the aloof and anyone else I’ve forgotten to mention.  In fifty excoriating pages Will Self finds an unkind word for all of us which left me wondering, where’s the moral high ground Self inhabits and how do the rest of us get there?  Because although he admits he can ‘remoan for England’ his scorn attacks everyone but himself.  He is – or appears to be – above or at any rate beyond all this.

Yes, we’re in a mess and no, we can’t see any way out; but what possessed the New European to turn an entire edition over to a man who criticises everything while proposing nothing, I can’t fathom.  OK, full disclosure; I don’t like Will Self.  I never have: his monotone drawl (a bit like a flattened Clive James) irritates me and his show-off cleverness annoys me – but none of this would matter if he had something helpful to say.  He doesn’t.

In case you didn’t know, Will Self is clever.  His writing style makes this very clear; he never uses one word where several adjective-laden ones will do, and makes each phrase carry so much extra weight that it’s hard to get hold of the main point of the sentence.  You might think that, like Wilde (only less ironically) he has nothing to declare but his genius – except that he does have things to declare and my god, he declares them.  Here’s a couple of typical examples:

‘My collaborator [in the paper] Martin Rowson sent me satiric little cri de coeur along these lines first thing, along with his latest twisting of the human form in to Mobius strip of scato-suggestiveness.’

Here he is slagging off John Bercow for ‘subverting the constitution’ (commentators including Laura Kuenssberg disagree):

‘There he is, depriving the Prime Minister of her third baby vote, and leaping out under the quizzical eye of the lancet window behind the speaker’s chair, his geometrically-patterned skinny tie, hip in around 1996, flapping behind him along with his batman gown…’

Scorn is Self’s stock-in-trade and he really goes to town here.  The paper’s editorial talks of ‘uncomfortable, even painful truths’ and there are plenty of those (I fully accept responsibility as a Remainer for not realising how many people felt ignored, and for in that sense being elitist) but in the end who appointed him judge, jury and executioner and why?  In this daily diary of March (up to the 26th when the paper had to be put to bed) he attacks virtually everyone and everything.  He’s mean about Harry Potter (‘liberal solipsism’) he loathes Jeremy Corbyn (though he’s no Blairite) he’s thoroughly nasty about Comic Relief and his rudeness about Stephen Fry by way of quoting Julie Burchill is insulting on a number of levels (‘Stephen Fry is a stupid person’s idea of what an intelligent person looks like.’)

There’s more, much more along these lines: in commenting on the mosque murders he scorns ‘the telegenic and impeccably liberal Ardern, who’ll order all evil to quit the world with a simple cry of ‘Expelliarmus!” and several times makes unpleasant reference to Radio 4, ‘superannuated funny-man Steve Coogan’, ‘presenter of a Radio-programme-for-the-four-people-in-Britain-who-still-read-books, Mariella Frostrup’ and ‘the oscillating deputy leader of the Labour Party and world-class fat-shamer Tom Watson.’  Blimey.

There was so much of this that, whether I agreed with any of it or not, it was hard to take.  Of course this type of ridicule is the cut-and-thrust of ordinary political satire but Self goes so far beyond satire and into spite that it begins to look like misanthropy.  In fact the only time he approaches human sympathy is when he chats to ordinary people in Stoke, one of the highest leave-voting areas in the country.

But none of this would matter so much if out of the morass he had some sort of proposition arising from it: if not a solution then some sort of way forward; some means of uniting the opposed and healing the rift.  But unless this is some sort of backhanded way of uniting everyone against him by attacking us all, he doesn’t.  Not one word does he say about the future; which is why as well as irritating the paper is singularly unhelpful.

Still, those who like Self’s particular brand of ornate vitriol will probably love it.  And he’s here all week…

Kirk out

 

 

 

 

 

Back on the Box

Sadly I’ve given up on the other laptop now.  We considered taking it for repair again but it seemed like throwing good money after bad, so out came the desktop which has been languishing in a corner since we moved here, for lack of a desk to put it on top of.  Well, I now have a desk of sorts and having run out of other options we decided to give it a try.  Sometimes – to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes – when you’ve run out of possibilities whatever remains, however impossible, must be the way to go.

It was like doing a Rubik’s cube.  A space just wide enough between the bed and the ottoman now houses the CPU while the monitor and peripherals perch on what I am pleased to call my desk.  Everything worked.  Joy.  A dongle was swiftly purchased and inserted into the proper orifice and here I am blogging on the desktop.  Actually it was a pleasure to use it: I felt bad about seeing it languish for so long.

I spent the rest of the day trying not to think about Brexit.  I don’t know whether to feel glad or not about the government’s defeat; on the one hand anything that might get rid of them is to be welcomed but on the other, the appalling mess that was unleashed in 2016 is no nearer being resolved.  May seems to soldier on regardless in a sort of deep denial, passing landmark after landmark which in normal circumstances would see Prime Ministers resign, determined just to plough on like someone driving at sixty miles an hour along a road which will shortly be plunging into a ravine.  There are service stations and rest rooms, there are escape roads and ambulance crews but she ignores them all.  I simply cannot understand what goes on in her mind.

Well, at least I can attempt to discover what goes on in my mind…

Kirk out

I Blame the Swedes

Well my dears I am happy to report that I am typing this on a newly-refurbished laptop.  It’s a great feeling when refurbishment comes together and you can continue using something rather than recycling it.  In any case the time had come when I could no longer juggle my old laptop plus a USB keyboard: having ingested a small amount of water, the laptop keyboard was incapable of producing words other than ‘t;hf5co.vfp- 1;f!g9gc;b.’  Not exactly what I had in mind.  But lo!  The son’s old laptop lay languishing under the sofa, needing only a new connection to make it as serviceable as ever.  So off went OH to the computer shop while I searched for the mains lead.  I found a bunch of phone chargers and a snake-pit of unnameable wires with bizarre plugs on the end, none of which remotely resembled the charger I wanted.  Ah well.  We bought a new one, the computer wizard worked his magic and so here I am fully-toggled and ready to go.

Not so fast, Lizardyoga!  For the new laptop does not have Word on it.  Instead it has Open Office.  Well that’s fine, it’s Word-compatible as most things are nowadays (I use Word not because I like it but because publishers usually insist on it.  That’s my excuse anyway.)  So I plugged in my shiny new pen drive (joy) and fired up the word-processor.  What?  What the actual – ?  Oh.  My.  God.  I’d forgotten that before buying a new and utterly righteous machine *, OH was using this.  And guess what?  The user interface was all in Swedish.

Swedish!  I ask you, what good is that?  Instead of friendly helpful headings it had inexplicable words like nyark and verdstrom.  What the hell?  I went downstairs to berate OH and insist on an English-language version.

‘Why don’t you just learn Swedish?’ was the reply.  I was not amused.  An hour of fruitless fumbling ensued during which OH frequently expressed the view that it would be easier for me just to learn Swedish (love that ‘just’) whereupon I retorted that I wanted to actually do some work not try to figure out what some digital Swedish chef was trying to tell me.  Finally we got it working in English and the Swedes have gone home.

Phew.

Swedes going home might be a by-product of Brexit – a propos of which, did you see the excellent Channel 4 drama ‘Brexit: The Uncivil War‘?  I wasn’t sure about it at first as there was a lot of shouting and power-struggling between men which was reminiscent of The Thick of It (I don’t like TTOI because it’s too shouty and sweary and lacking in subtlety) but it got much better.  Rory Kinnear (that man seems to be everywhere) played Craig Oliver, the hapless leader of the Remain camp and Benedict Cumberbatch played Dominic Cummings, a man so eccentric as to seem at times completely unhinged.

It is recommended.  A word-processor in Swedish is not.

*OH never stops boasting about this machine, whose battery lasts for weeks without being recharged and which is so light you can balance it on your thumb.

Kirk out

Good Morning? If You Say So

I’m feeling rather gloomy and Eeyoreish this morning.  When I feel like this I’m unwilling to foist my Eeyoreishness onto others, because I know what that feels like and it ain’t pretty, so instead I thought, what better time to compose a cheerful blog post?  Because I know that being cheerful outwardly can lead to feeling cheerful inside.  However, before I begin smiling, this requires a caveat.  I think there’s something deeply wrong with enforced cheerfulness: as I said before in the post about Dismaland:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/exit-pursued-by-a-gift/

enforced ‘happiness’ can be terrible for your mental health because it’s not real.  Before you can begin to be happy you first have to acknowledge your sadness or depression or pain or gloom: otherwise that’s called denial.

But once you’ve done that; once you’ve acknowledged the pain and sadness, there is much to be said for a cheerfulness which is a considered choice: one which looks at the awfulness of a world where Brexit threatens to smash up just about everything; a world where Trump is still President and where Brazilians have just elected (albeit by a narrow margin) a possibly even more repellent leader than DT and where just about the nicest, most generous football club owner ever has just been killed in a helicopter crash:

https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/aaib-investigators-give-update-leicester-2158815

Image result for mourning Leicester city logo

image removed on request

What sort of a world is this?  It’s a bloody awful one.  So give me my parachute because I want to bail out right now.  I don’t want to be here in this place where everywhere you turn there are more and more reasons for despair.  I want to leave, thank you very much.

So, having said all that (and taken cognisance of the fact that there’s nowhere else to go*) you can do one of two things: despair or hope.  And I choose hope.  ‘Strong men know not despair, Arjuna,’ says Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (let’s be generous and take ‘men’ as including women) and so I choose hope, even in the midst of despair.  Even in the depths of Dante’s hell there is, as Dorothy L Sayers points out, a tra-la of happiness:

Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente.

(Canto III)

Literature is full of such examples: in the land of the dead where there is no hope at all, Lyra refuses to accept the reality she is presented with, insisting instead on finding a way out:

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-amber-spyglass/philip-pullman/chris-wormell/9781407186122

and, terrible though the Inferno is, Dante eventually finds a way through to Purgatory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purgatorio

As for me, when I feel despair I think of a river.  No matter what obstacles a river faces, whether rock or stone or earth or deep chasms, it will find a way through.  It may take time and persistence but the steady drip-drip, the insistent push of water will in the end break down the hardest rock.  Even dams need an outlet – and constant maintenance.

So be the river.  Find a way through, not a way out.

Kirk out

* without either committing suicide or trying to live on Mars, neither of which appeal