Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

How many miles to Dublin town? Four score and ten, sir.

The novel. It’s not finished but I’ve just passed an artificial barrier erected to mark progress. On April 26 I finished the 99,407-word draft. This afternoon I completed the first intensive editing, reducing the wordage to 91,929. I mention this as a gauge of my seriousness. Like everyone else who parades their stuff before an audience I have ego problems. That I’ve cut out 7478 of my hard-sweated words means, I hope, my ego can be tamed.

I have also re-jigged the initial two paragraphs which The Crow suggested may have been otiose. Parenthetically I should add that the MS doesn’t contain any such five-dollar words and it’s a relief to allow myself this voluptuousness. As I said, an artificial barrier, now in the past. I’m celebrating with a picture of our garden, now someone else’s duty.

What’s next? The rather harder task of finding out whether the story’s any good. How will I do this? I’m uncertain. When I know I’ll post – probably at length. Under the shadow of my blog’s title which may turn out to be ironic.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Heart of the holiday

Sonnet – The pool, again
In Languedoc we ploughed this turquoise field
Then left our sillons, those seductive forms,
Transformed into a glaring sine-wave yield,
Transformed again as Hockney’s charm disarms.
Again we dive, drop, ease our bodies down
Churning the water into frantic dance
Destroying patterns from which rules have flown
Delighting in the molecules of chance.
It’s evening now, and symmetry’s in place,
The pool’s a solid, plane-smoothed block of blue
Swallows and martins, unaware of space,
Pluck tunes that spread as circles touched anew.
The circles widen as the maths decrees
The birds fly curves of consanguinities.

LANGUEDOC RELEASE The others, who’ve occupied the pool much of the afternoon, discreetly retire to the loungers and I’m in the water alone to swim my thirty, fifty, hundred lengths. An untrammeled kilometre without the fret of having to compete for a lane, of worrying what a stray hand may touch.

But my orange tee-shirt, worn as sun-protection, is starting to stretch and billows up at the turns. Hardly hydro-dynamic. I buy another at Hyper-U, size XXL, and make four small slots in the bottom hem. Sweat accumulating in my eyes I edge-stitch these slots and then pass two lengths of tape into the tubular hems. The tapes are long enough to encircle my barrel-like thighs and are secured by bows. The tee-shirt cannot now ride up my body and I am able to do one of the things I came to France for

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Novel writing - the electronic approach

I took tons of improving books to the villa and didn’t read any. Instead I occupied myself (French equivalent: s’amuser) with two well-thumbed Michael Connellys whose work I liken elsewhere to junk constructed in Meccano. However, I did examine my own novel on a Sony ebook reader, trying to see it as another person might.

The initial paragraphs describe a modern, architect-designed office building on a French industrial estate. The Crow suggested these be deleted and the novel start with the first mention of Hatch, the co-central character. Stubbornly I refined my start, and refined it again, unwilling to kill off my literary conceit. And yet it read undigestedly. The ebook reader showed it in a new light and hinted at a solution which might satisfy both The Crow and myself. We’ll see. In the meantime ”Mme le Corbeau, je te félicite. assuming you accept the familiar form of the pronoun.” (Grammatical booboo now changed in last sentence.)

Over the fortnight five Iphones were intermittently available at the villa but only one was used briefly to access the Internet. Money was the determinant. Linking up cost £5 but no one seemed sure whether this covered a 12 hr period or a single hit. We were hag-ridden by a report in which someone casually downloaded a couple of films while in France and faced a £6000 bill on returning home. However two Iphones carried Solitaire, the bargain of the century at 59 p for the app, and frequently I drifted off into Solitaire dreamland where the mind works but not a thought emerges.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Zach's entente cordiale

LANGUEDOC AND ZACH – Part one. Now four, he follows a morning routine at the Holiday Home (his label) that is immutable. While Big Grandad shaves he discards his PJs, puts on his new tee-shirt, pants, shorts, hat and flip-flops. Together they then set out for the Windmill (“It’s not a real windmill”) Shop, otherwise the boulangerie. There, in a clear voice, he orders Cinq croissants, s’il vous plait. plus a varying number of pain au chocolat. On the last day he’d been programmed to say, Au revoir, à l’année prochaine but stumbled over the words. As Big Grandad prompted him, a French woman customer in her fifties almost wept in sympathy at his struggles and applauded emotionally when they were over.

LANGUEDOC AND ZACH – Part two. Walking round St Jean de la Blaquière with Zach opens up unheard-of social possibilities. Smartly dressed women in their thirties, who would normally avert their eyes from such a ramshackle self-evidently English Englishman, greet the pair of us with roguish vivacity. One scorching morning an old man in a heavily knitted sweater, barely capable of locomotion, asked me if Zach was my grandson and we chatted aimiably. As we parted he groaned after me with profound feeling: “Look after him well, your grandson.”

LANGUEDOC ASLEEP. Don’t do dreams – they usually please the dreamer more than the audience. But this may amuse Plutarch given his knowledge of my interests. I’d been given a column in a gardening magazine but was at odds with the editor. I favoured literary allusion whereas he wanted more on aphids and systemic weed killers. I’d been struck in particular by the familiar but still beautiful:

Did you not see my lady,
Go down the garden singing…?

and it seemed my further employment was in jeopardy. And then, gentle reader, I awoke.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The sedan chair moves on

Technology was never far away en route to the Languedoc:

CHANNEL TUNNEL Once you bought a ticket via an agent, though never at the site itself. Time moved on and you paid online, received a number, printed it out and presented it at check-in. Time moved on again and the online reservation was confirmed by simply pushing your credit card into a slot. This year – lo! When we arrived at the check-in a read-out said “Welcome, Barrett Bonden” presumably after scanning the car’s number plate.
APING PONTIUS PILATE Washed my hand at the Eurotunnel terminal and faced a hand-dryer made by Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame. Some giddy new principle or other. Unbearable roaring but it did the job. Apparently they’re far from rare. This unit was seen at a café in Millau, beneath the beautiful bridge.

YAH SUCKS BOO Roadwork on the autoroute. But the French soften the blow with an animated sign showing how to switch lanes. Sarkozy 1, Cameron 0.
SATNAV NOT FOR DUMMIES Left Hereford, picked up other half of the entourage and set the satnav for Eurotunnel. Not out of necessity (I’ve done the journey many times) but to give Jane, my preferred satnav voice, some practice. Twenty-five miles from the tunnel Jane was announcing an ETA an hour ahead. Why so slow? In fact one of satnav’s little trickeries. The night before I’d entered some French destinations and forgotten to switch back to the UK mode. As a result the screen was predicting our arrival at the Calais rather than the Folkestone end. Without explaining the bit in between.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

An architectural valediction

Another couple of guests, another visit to the four-star church at Pershore. This is the one with the speaking lavatory already referred to and now photographed (above). However, perhaps it’s un-Christian of me to publicise it solely in this way, so here’s another photo (below) without the lavatory.

Works Well will be inarticulate for two weeks now. Blessings to everyone in my extended, good-humoured, surprising and supportive blogo-family.