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, 28 July 2010

Brooding at the crematorium

Went to a funeral today. My solitary suit, a light grey, mini-tweed bought for my daughter’s wedding (see inset - photo credit Sir Hugh) was out of place, as were my thoughts. Despite being urged I was unable to offer thanks to a god who, I was told, not only bestowed life but created the brain tumour which capriciously subtracted life from a gentle, sixty-year-old woman both of us rather liked. However I held my peace and did my bit. From memory I bellowed “All things bright and beautiful” and would have done the same for “Love divine, all loves excelling.” had I known the tune.

Such ego-centricity! But for a moment emotion exceeded a sense of duty. I suddenly realised that the frail, hunched figure on the front row was Mavis’s bereaved mother! Natural law should ensure parents never have to attend the funerals of their offspring.

MY NEW computer – swank, swank – was assembled to ease my advancing years. USB is great but I hate feeling through the cat’s-cradle at the back to plug in something new. Instead I have a twin-berth dock at the front into which goes: (a) a four-socket USB hub, (b) a hub for camera and mobile phone cards, (c) a remote hard drive holding all the contents – nearly 9 GB – of my previous computer.

JOHNNY-Come-Lately I am almost through Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall”, winner of last year’s Man Booker Prize. Would it have been as popular if it had been straplined “How the Tudors did politics.”? Not everyone raves about politics and re-creating historical events as fiction requires a talent for animating the familiar. Mantel has this talent but Gore Vidal (whom I otherwise admire enormously) doesn’t with his accurate but dull series which includes “Burr,” “Lincoln”, etc. Mantel has one failing – anachronisms such as “cutting a deal”.

FUNERARY ADDENDUM Honesty compels this footnote. Both my sisters-in-law died young and horribly, one of cancer of the spine, the other of motor neurone disease. The former took a year to die and spent it - as a Christian believer - in robust dialogue with the local vicar. Her funeral was High Anglican and the vicar was able to refer to the discussions he had had in some detail. Not that my opinion matters, but I found this acceptable. It was exactly what she wanted and I found myself absorbed by the ritual. My other sister-in-law also had time to consider her funeral and chose a Humanist service with music by Brahms and Simply Red. The eulogy wasn't a eulogy as such, simply a number of observations gathered from her nearest family and presented by a man whose only qualificaion was that he was a Humanist. The event made a direct intellectual appeal to me and I was astonished to find myself discussing the service with an elderly aunt whom I had always regarded as a freethinker (she did chemistry at Oxford when this was a distinctly unfashionable career choice for women) and finding her leaning towards country churches with yews and wisteria. I have to say that both funerals fitted the nature and character of my darling sisters-in-law and that this, in the end, is what matters.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Windows dumbs down

Changing from Windows 98 to XP was like sliding back a couple of years at primary school. Words reverted to pictures. The trend continues with Windows 7.

Start (bottom left), which misleadingly hid Stop, has been scrubbed and literalists may now click on a globe icon and delight in an unequivocal Switch Off.

Right-clicking Create Shortcut is not always available. Instead it’s Send To > Desktop, More logical, of course, once you know.

The former Control Panel option of Add/Remove Software, which I always thought required an initial act of faith, is to be found under the blandly titled Programs and Features. Right-clicking on the listed program gives Uninstall.

Sentimentalists will mourn the passing of the egg-timer as they wait for things to happen; a rotating silver ring doesn’t have the same charm.

But perhaps the best change is the execution of the obscurely titled Outlook Express (which I always renamed Email) and its re-emergence as Windows Live Mail. What took them so long?

There’s a brutalist intervention in Solitaire. When no further moves are possible Windows tells you so.

CHICKEN MECHANIC I wrote the above while waiting for a repair to my car at Winner Garages at the aptly named Forest of Dean town, Cinderford. An interesting fault. At precisely 81 mph a high-speed flapping, almost a chatter, announced itself. How did law-abiding BB become aware of this? In France, of course, where 81 mph is more or less the autoroute maximum of 130 kph. The receptionist told me quite sturdily that the mechanic was not prepared to road-test the noise. However, he did find a loose undertray at the rear and it remains for me to find a bit of motorway and check the repair.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

BB speaks through the techno-mist

Recently I confessed to an accent formed during my youth in the West Riding (ie, a part of Yorkshire, one of our grimmer northern counties). Why confessed? Because I for one cannot take anything seriously said in that whining drone suitable only for voicing complaint.

I have already met two bloggers who comment on Works Well and neither was prepared for the accent. Julia says it's time I took a more adult view and provided some kind of warning for other such unfortunates. As a result I have recorded one of my sonnets based on memories of a walk I took over fifty years ago with the woman who was to become Mrs BB.

you may click HERE and discover my angst.


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Empire of the senses

Speed tends to be regarded as anti-social. The knee-jerk image is of a nineteen-year-old son of a property developer driving a Porsche Carrera to the detriment of pushchairs, unattached dogs, zimmer-supported oldsters and wimpled nuns on zebra crossings. But speed comes in different forms.

My new computer has a 3.1 GHz processor and is blindingly fast. Yet “fast” in this context is relative. Booting up takes just over a minute compared with about three minutes for its predecessor which worked on a damaged version of Windows XP. Re-loading Photoshop Elements (more than half a gig of software) was done and dusted in less than fifteen minutes. So what? Why not instantaneously? What did I do with the saved minutes?

To tell the truth the minutes don’t matter. The improvement is rated in units of sensuality (mink-strokes – which I’ve just invented). And like most forms of pleasure it will die away with familiarity. But just for the moment… ahhhh!

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME This year Mrs BB’s birthday was marked by the viewing of three consecutive rugby games on TV and some compensation was in order. Hence the reservation of the De Pamier Suite at a swanky hotel in the Alkham Valley between Folkestone and Dover. But how much benefit can one extract from a hotel suite? Both bed-chamber and lounge were furnished with televisions but lack of any physical barrier between the two meant that simultaneous usage seemed unlikely. What did divide the rooms, however, was a small step on which I stubbed my gouty big toe. There were fewer complaints about the bottle of champagne which came the package.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Steffie needs a sonnet

Four-square quatrains and a sonnet: An imaginary meeting with Stephanie Flanders

Giovanni through an open door
Drew her inside. I noticed, sought
To halt the disc but not before
She shook her head, her interest caught

Zerlina wrestles with The Don
As I restrained an active eye
Sensing that head of chic aplomb,
Those legs’ supreme authority.

Detached she sat, her thoughts beyond
The fate of Mozart’s heroines
Beyond the power of any bond
That lacked her expert disciplines.

The Don in Hell, she smiled at me,
And asked if sonnets could contain
The dullness of technicity
The theory of the sheer arcane.

“Of course,” I cockily replied.
“Then write me one about my trade,
And add the elegance denied
Me, sporting on the news parade.”


Your brief surf-rides a global turbulence
Its chaos balanced by conflicting flow
Of interest, labour, monetary suspense,
The oscillations of the quid pro quo.
Uneasy in its equilibrium
This particle desires a steady state
A transfer from extreme to tedium
From procreate to quieter celibate.
But you and I and banks and presidents
And storms and droughts and maladies combine
To tilt the axis with our discontents
And crack the crystal’s talent to divine.
The figures rise and fall in your report
The past explained, the future chance’s sport

NOTE: 1. Plutarch lent me The Anthologist a novel by Nicholson Baker. A vestigial plot encircles a vivacious primer on how to write poetry. Baker disputes that iambic pentameter is the natural heart of poetic English and offers instead the four-feet line. I tried him out (see above) but found four feet restrictive and rumpty-tum. Hence the reversion.
2. Stephanie Flanders is the BBC’s economics editor. She knows her stuff, seems to be about seven feet tall and wears mini-skirts. She was also the source of a personal epiphany for me. After writing a passage in my novel about a woman having her hairstyle changed (with help from commenters) I discovered that Stephanie’s hair is coloured exactly the way I envisaged. This left me slightly breathless.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

How about wearing a burqa?

Dined in Stratford-on-Avon with Mr and Mrs Relucent Reader, Mechanicsville, VA, passing through GB on a whirlwind tour. Such encounters present me with a dilemma. Those who know me only via the blog know me at my best. The fleshy presence is another thing. Apart from talking too loudly and hogging the limelight there is the shock of discovering my utterances on life, art and the material world are megaphoned in a regional accent that is difficult to take seriously.

Would it be kinder to issue my side of the conversation on yellow Post-Its? Or via mobile phone text? Fortunately the RRs were tolerant as well as witty and I had Mrs BB by my side to restrain my wilder impulses. Much of the talk concerned books since the RRs have experience on the other side of the counter, in libraries.

THE NOVEL Still revising but in new ways. Aware that I use “He smiled.” (covering several reactions to something said) and “He nodded.” (Agreement without saying “Yes.”) I wondered if I used them to excess. So I unlimbered MsW’s Find function and went trawling. Yes I do – but not now.

Worried that I had repeated details of Clare’s upbringing too often. This was more difficult so I trawled “parents” and “wealth”. The jury is out, perhaps because the search words are not sufficiently representative.

THE PICTURE Note the date! This wine was created while France was still occupied. I have blogged about this before. My job was to taste this in 1995 on someone else’s behalf. If it was duff he would be charged £450 for the bottle, if OK £550. It was OK

Monday, 5 July 2010

The misspent youth

Sonnet – Wednesday night practice
(Or perhaps Julia was right)
The darkened nave entailed a womb of light
Gilding our boyish group. Standing, we sang
The Nunc Dimittis, Angels ever bright,
Stainer – all proof our aims were Anglican.
The words were null, my job to recreate
The notes with an unthinking treble voice.
I soared the heights towards the perfect state
Where notes become a licence to rejoice.
Fatigued by descants, holding volume low,
I left betimes starved like a refugee,
Ate Marmite toast then turned my face from woe
Dispensing with the evening’s ecstasy.
Oh wasteful child who lost that gift along the way
And deeded me this false reed in decay.

NOTE: Thanks to Lucy for bringing the techno-word “enjambment” to my attention.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Still trying to keep the faith

Julia suggests a bloggish tug-of-war in my noggin: one side says “technology”, the other says “rhyme”. Very perceptive if not quite true. For even posts about camshafts and food processors require some imagination and my limited supply is being siphoned off into more effete or society-climbing projects. But I do still like things that do things.
SHOULD YOU GILD THE, ER, DANDELION? A moral question for Avus. Walking to the supermarket I was overtaken by that curious contradiction, a Volvo sports car. Uninventively called the P1800 it had mild exposure in a TV series called The Saint and was long ago dropped by the Swedish company which went on to concentrate on labrador carriers. This one had been, as they say, “lovingly restored”. Ah, but had it? It rode on wheels much wider than usual (to take modern tyres) and the tight smooth engine note suggested serious transplant surgery. Is this a pragmatic attitude towards boneshakers or a betrayal of Volvo’s admittedly etiolated design principles?

BETTER THAN SEX? A neighbour has decided to remove a hedge - Mrs BB thinks it’s laurel and I have to accept this - on a strip of land adjacent to the pavement. As I passed a man was manipulating a Manitou Telehandler (substitute a chain and a hook for the forks on the inset pic). Surely a steam-hammer to crack a walnut? The guy at the controls laughed. The Manitou happened to be available in his equipment yard. Most of the work consisted of chopping off branches. But then came that blissful moment when he wrenched out the roots with a device many times superior to the task it faced. Engineer’s porn.