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

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Don't draw it, shout in my ear

Entering the loo of an unfamiliar restaurant or filling station I am often beset with uncertainty: which door for fellas and which for the other lot? I’m a wordsman, proud to know the meaning of riparian - prehistoric man responded to pictures but for me their message is non-immediate. Especially when heavily stylised (see inset).

At 70 mph my doubts become riskier (see above). Because journalists are told to eschew exclamation marks (screamers) I ponder their justification at the roadside when I should be stamping on the brake. The tee-boned car graphic raises the question of verb tense: “Has happened.” or “Will happen” The hare seems fast enough to look after itself. While the car sign is as useful as a warning about oxygen in the air.

But God forbid I should ever have to wrestle with the philosophical implications of the unavailable T-junction. My first interpretation was “Do a U-turn” but does the red diagonal forbid the reverse direction as well? I mention these things on behalf of a dying minority – aged literates.

SUPERIOR SPAM? My new AV software, Kaspersky, has just blocked an attempt by Cambridge University Press to sell me the works of Ruskin. I need to think hard about this.

EBOOK TRIUMPH Plutarch is re-reading GORGON TIMES to check how I’ve responded to his suggestions. He points out, quite gently, that digesting 100,000 words via a computer monitor is not easy. So I’ve loaded the MS on to my Sony ebook reader and posted it to him. He reports it’s now “easier to make notes” suggesting the publishing world may have to wait a little longer for this masterpiece.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Deck the halls... sorry, wrong date

It’s 07.07 am,raining heavily and I’m 75. Given the toping, the motorbiking, the rock-climbing and racketiness of journalism I’m lucky to see that figure. But I don’t warm to what is, in effect, decimal three-quarters. At fifty you are still aspirant Sapient Man, at a hundred you're forgiven toothlessness and witlessness. In between you're a wart on the arse of progress, neither wholly functional nor nobly grizzled.

Dinner is booked at the Hardwick Inn where chips take 24 hours according to the Heston Blumenthal method. But alas, atheists propose and God disposes. Elder daughter and partner trekked heroically by bus across the country and are here. Younger daughter, a powerhouse of organisation and encouragement on such occasions, entered hospital last weekend and saw the knife. Afterwards she agreed her hospital bed would be worth a technological post but the long and short of it is (allowing a cliché is in keeping with the mood) the feasting must be split in two.

I was five when WW2 broke out and my parents sensibly held back on the fatted calf. The tenth-year celebrations - when Gordon Terrace, Idle, Bradford, was freed for democracy - were communal and I saw my first bonfire. Aged twenty I nursed athlete’s foot in a military hospital in the Cameron Highlands in what is now Malaysia. Thirty? Who knows?

I like numbers but they should be allowed to roam freely, not have non-numerical qualities forced upon them. I once reviewed a book that contained a million dots. Certain dots were picked out for significance, but these I ignored. There was more fun in flicking the pages and watching a million accumulate. A hideous song of my youth celebrated A Very Merry Unbirthday to Me. That’s about it.

16.11, same day. Things got better. First via songs. Nina Simone's "I wish I knew", Edith Piaf's "La Marseillaise", and then Ewan McColl's "Wull ye nae come back again?" with the simplest. most direct expression of affection ever set to music: "Better luved ye cannae be."
Plus more antique emotion. From elder daughter: the DVD of "Babette's Feast" and a packet of rum truffles. Seventeen years ago, brought to my knees by defective lungs and almost alone in the house, I watched that movie (again) and visibly cried (again). Granddaughter Bella, then two or three, disturbed by the weeping ancient, brought me a rum truffle. Ten minutes later, another. Et seq.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Learn to love the alphabet again

Know anything about monitors? Here’s the Lamborghini Murciélago of monitors – the Ilyama ProLite E2208HDS, a prematurely opened birthday prezzie from Mrs BB. What’s so special? Its size (22 in.), resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) and price (£190). It should be standard for camera whiz-kids like Marja-Leena and Lucy since I merely point and shoot. But dullard wordsmiths gain too. Two text pages side by side and much cleaner rendering of typefaces.

HIGH-LEVEL CHAT I enjoy conversation but only with someone who matches my formidable forensic skills. Dr Paul Harris, my GP, meets the spec. I was in there this morning to discuss a skin complaint which he quickly diagnosed and then gave me a run down on its origins. These centre on my DNA’s “very clever” ability to counter the effects of UV light. Old Paul knows what turns me on.

We passed on to another of my failings – hyper-broncho-activity – which has been around for yonks and for which my previous GP admitted he could offer no help. Dr Paul says things have progressed and prescribed an inhaler. However I am to use it properly: the particles (tiny – a mere 2 microns) emerge at high velocity (200 kph) and I must co-ordinate my breathing when inhaling. Talk took in the structure of eye as proof that the Intelligent Design crackpots have got it wrong. I emerged intellectually refreshed.

NOVEL Another counsellor, Dr Plutarch, recommended adding various passages to GORGON TIMES, including an extra chapter. So the MS which I had revised down to 91,900 words now stands at 104,415 words. There’s a frisson on reaching six figures.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Coreopsis has set in, says Dr P

My 387 th post and I note the ebbing away of the blog’s felicity, inventiveness and entertainment value. Proof there is only so much stuff to go around and since September 21 2009 it’s gone to my other mistress. Special pleading? The inbred West Riding whinge? Guilty, m’lud.

Here’s Dr Plutarch reminding me why I need to work harder. “You seem worried, sometimes unnecessarily, about saying the obvious in this book.” It’s true. Would I rather be accused of being obvious or obscure? The latter it seems. Actually it’s “sometimes unnecessarily” that spurs me on.

Dr P again. “I have to admit going to the dictionary (to check ‘obloquy’). Is there a simpler word?” There is, of course. And I should also verify “smarty-boots”.

And again. “X and Y have no children. Is this worth explaining or reflecting upon?” First reaction: I said I’d explained this. Second reaction; On re-reading what I’d written I saw the opening for a useful addition. Third reaction: As a result of writing this useful addition I saw a further opportunity for a 1500-word passage in a new penultimate chapter I have yet to write.

Finally. The need for that new penultimate chapter was suggested by… Dr P!

But don’t get the wrong impression - these are not complaints. I am lucky Dr P is willing to work so hard on my behalf. But that’s as nothing compared with the fact that his suggestions immediately ring a sonorous bell of recognition in me. He’s right. Why then isn’t Dr P writing the book himself? Perhaps his blog commenters should launch a campaign.

So, as I’ve said before the blog suffers. Ars Gratia Artis as the MGM lion still roars.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Seventeen ages of man

A significant age looms within days, but it’s only significant numerically. These are the ones that really matter:
0 Born. A middle-class welcome.
5 Meningitis contracted. Neither dead nor deranged
9 Take easy GS entrance exam. Preserved from life of manual labour.
15 (and 358 days) Join Bradford newspaper. Capable of no other job.
17 Outward Bound Mountain School. Attracted to risk, can’t handle it.
19 RAF; am taught electronics. There’s more to life than reading.
24 Move to London. Out of primordial soup and into light.
25 Married. Start learning to be unselfish (Still learning.)
26 First daughter. Unprepared for fatherhood.
30 Six years in Pennsylvania. Stirrings of communal life.
32 Second daughter. Fatherhood still a mystery.
36 Mother dies. Can’t be; I’m not yet grown-up.
40 First editorship. The train set I’ve always wanted.
52 Buy house in France. It’s the language, stupid.
60 Retired. It crept up on me.
73 Blogging. Social circle widens (Is created?)
74 Resume fifth novel. Race against extinction.

WHERE THE WORK’S DONE This time it’s a seed-cake. My favourite.

NOVEL Plutarch recommends filling in omissions. The revised draft which he read has risen from 91,900 words to 96,840 words and I’m still only halfway through Chapter 9 (out of 22). Also, another chapter will be necessary between 21 and 22.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Unpublished short story (Comes with CD)

Persephone (wealthy, capricious celebrity of unearthly beauty – think Naomi Campbell) taunts Théophile (impoverished intellectual, familiar throughout Western literature – UK casting Richard E. Grant, US casting Stephen Buscemi) to collect extracts that will give her "some idea of classical music”. Keen to immerse her in Quartet for the end of time and Berg’s violin concerto T realises, sadly, the pieces must be accessible, part of a masterpiece, and widely different. One composer per choice.

1. Song, An die Musik. Schubert.
2. Overture, Academic Festival. Brahms.
3. Ballet music, opening theme, Petruschka. Stravinsky.
4. Cello concerto, first movement. Dvorak.
5. Oratorio aria, “He was despised”, Messiah. Handel.
6. Double violin concerto, first movement. Bach
7. Choral song, “Summer is icumen in”, Spring symphony. Britten.
8. Piano concerto no. 4, third movement. Beethoven.
9. Symphony no. 8, Leningrad, second (?) movement. Shostakovich.
10. Operatic trio, first act, Cosi fan tutte. Mozart.

Persephone arrives ninety minutes late for the recital accompanied by Peascod, bass guitarist of Metallica. As Dvorak sounds, the gorgeousness's mobile rings and, Hey!, she’s off to testify about blood diamonds. Peascod nods at Théophile, says “Great tunes, dude. At least you reached track four.” and walks off whistling an accomplished rock version of An die Musik..

Théophile presses the Stop button after track nine and replaces track ten with the Countess’s aria “Porgi, armor,” second act, Figaro.

“Grant, love, that relief to my sorrow, to my sighing
Give me back my treasure or at least let me die.”

Then succumbs to consumption.

NOVEL Trying a new title “A pin’s fee”. Plutarch yet to respond.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

I am middle-class, honest

On the left, our Kingston-upon-Thames 1930s semi, sold in 1998. The estate agent noted the property had been modernised “but would benefit from some cosmetic redecoration.” - in other words the vendor’s a slob. ‘Twas a mercy the buyer was desperate and didn’t give a damn.

Twelve years on, scarred by that unkind judgment, I search our present house (new when we moved in) for tasks to prove I’m a caring owner. More and more obscure tasks, it seems. I paid right royally to have the brick driveway installed but now I’m faced with sealing it. Why? I had hoped sealing would inhibit weed growth. It doesn’t. In Tudor England, lacking a driveway, Sir Thomas More flogged himself with a leather whip. Times have changed but I don’t rule out a visit to the tack shop.

LOOK ON MY WORKS… I love France, inordinately, irrationally, irredeemably. I used to think of the USA as the Can-Do country but France is up there. The Millau bridge (already posted) provides grand proof, but here’s humdrum evidence. This low-loader carrying a gigantic yacht has been forced into the centre of a country road and is virtually brushing the plane trees on either side. The latter suggest that this could only be l’Hexagone, but there’s more. The lorry bears the rubric Convoi Exceptionnel. Many more syllables than Long Load, much more style.

POP-UP PERSECUTION It may be a penance for Windows 7 users but is anyone else suffering from the insistent Windows Live Messenger pop-up? It demands I sign up for the service which, as far as I can see, makes me subservient to Microsoft for the rest of my natural. Recommendations?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Wit or meaning?

Words can creep up on you, carry you off. Lucy recently had visitors and admitted her batteries needed recharging. But ended her post with: “Lovely to see them, withal.” No prizes for guessing the abductive word. The dictionary stigmatises it as archaic and offers two meanings: besides and nevertheless - quite a close two-horse race. My untutored view is it works because the sentence is short and the effect comes at the end, like a mini whip-crack. I’d like to use it myself but I’ll have to wait. Currently I’m overshadowed.

Just recently I’ve been road-testing forsooth. This is doubly stigmatised as archaic and/or humorous. It means indeed but like that word it can be used sarcastically. Parvenu: We’ve just exchanged our Peugeot for a Bentley. Clever-Clogs (or if you like, Journalist): A Bentley, forsooth! Normally I’m proscriptive but the screamer is, I think, justified. I file posts like this under Anti-over-the-moon Substitutes.

WELCOME TO THE CHRISTENING I’ve been discussing the novel’s title with Plutarch. It started out as Con-Rod but that was dropped because it excluded the joint main character. Changing Gear brought in that character via a jeu de mots link but was a little too obvious for my allusive taste. Plutarch frowned on my third attempt, Working Stiffs, and talked about corpses. It’s American and means working class. It’s been scratched subsequently but the text will carry an allusion to the phrase at the very beginning and right at the end.

The subject is relevant given the popularity of Wolf Hall, a title which is almost meaningless to the subject matter. But does that matter? Wolf Hall is short and fairly memorable and that may be enough. Plutarch thinks Working Stiffs might put people off. But it is memorable. Well Employed would work but has it got pizzaz?

Monday, 2 August 2010


Watched Mrs BB prepare Sticky Ginger Cake with Ginger Fudge Icing and was disturbed. I'm Virgo, needing control and tidiness, and recipes don't allow for me. This one required 87½ gm of black treacle (halved from the original) which Mrs BB table-spooned from the tin. Tolerances must have been ±50%. More precision with the butter since the paper packet had lines indicating popular fractions. Worrying work.

NOVEL Dr Plutarch has auscultated and biopsied the MS, done an MMR scan, cardiogram, endoscopy, X-rays and Rohrschach, measured blood pressure and sugar. Vital signs detected. Two months remedial.

FINE DESIGN I stuff the washing machine when I arise. The blue stuff is conditioner, function unknown. However, I approve of the bottle cap. Note the "moat" round the measure. It acts as a catchment and it's almost impossible to spill the liquid.

GOOD READ Finished Wolf Hall. An excellent primer on how to govern a country. Newspaper jokes suggest the book is an intellectual challenge. Not so, it's a good easy read. But the initial pages ominously list the characters. Stuck with the names of real people Hilary Mantel risks confusion since there are several Annes, Jos and Marys. Other than that, dive in (Most commenters to Works Well already have) and thank goodness that a free press, capable of scrutinising rulers, developed two or three hundred years later.

LINGUISTIC STIGMA (Finally it works) Recording my voice to forewarn those hearing it au nature brought unexpected reactions. I felt my accent had virtually disappeared (and good riddance). Others talked about cosy northern tones. I've recorded someone else's sonnet, rehabilitating the accent. Click here for UNCOSINESS