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, 28 December 2010

Change and decay - not all bad

The one form of headgear I can accept: Breton marine cap (or its sibling worn by Rhine barge captains). Gift from Mrs BB.Great source of quaint lapel pins once awarded to pliant proletariat, now keenly priced for tourists

AGEING Evidence may be sudden and poignant. As when I heard trebles singing a descant to Adeste Fideles, a skill I lost sixty-five years ago. But it is, in the end, a balancing act.

Indent left: Former German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt

CAN’T: Regularly swim a mile in the pool. Ski. Go rock-climbing. Drink to excess. Eat to excess. Interest myself in most UK TV sitcoms. Sleep more than five hours a night. Pick up conversation in noisy environments. Endure the middle-classes en masse. Remain calm during conversation about soccer, pop music. Behave civilly to suspected Tories. Restrain myself from asking questions. Show enthusiasm for the Iberian peninsula. Fly long distance. Tolerate evangelists. Willingly regard the faces of Huw Edwards, Kevin Geary, Alex Ferguson, Sue Barker, George Osborne, Arianna Huffington, John Pilger Empathise plausibly with youth.

CAN: Feel untouched by many of the above. Compensate for not drinking to excess by buying expensive wine. Revel in shabby clothing. Take pleasure in academic accounts of history. Luxuriate in near silence. Respond to the appearance and songs of birds. Spend more without caring. Consider death unselfconsciously. Find myself becoming more generous (with cash). Imagine I understand maths and physics - and the structure of music. Write better. Ignore changes in the weather. Benefit from advanced car technology. Exercise curiosity about the nature of womanhood without being thought a menace.

Friday, 24 December 2010

A matter of some delicacy

Yesterday, those with fast reaction times may have noticed a Works Well post with a blog life of ten minutes. I was reflecting on my personal guidelines for blogging and on the unexpected late-life benefits blogging has brought me. Sentimentality got the better of my prose, hence the deletion. Here’s its replacement.

On the Fünffingerplatz blog the subject of beer is omnipresent, recently extended to traditional English pint glasses. I commented there were two types (the jug with a handle and the straight-sider), each representing the two sides of the class divide. This was disputed - in the nicest possible way. I offer this historical adumbration.

Once, nearly all pint glasses were straight siders, widening very slightly towards the top. Their obvious benefit was the thinness of the glass. In the fifties keg beer was introduced in the UK and was welcomed; its flavour was anodyne but its quality was consistent, unlike conventional pump beer then sold, wretchedly maintained, by many careless landlords.

A few years later, in reaction to keg beer (symbolised by Watney’s Red Barrel), the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) began. Drinkers were offered a much wider choice of pump beers served by landlords who understood the need to care for their pipes, etc. CAMRA was a middle-class initiative and its supporters, many of them Hooray Henries, insisted on straight-sided glasses. Keg beer lingered in pubs where drinkers seemed not to care about these newer beers and, in my mind, is associated with much thicker handled jugs with a discouraging mould line round the rim.

It is no longer PC to pretend to be objective about the UK class system and so I will leave it at that.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Suffering - the tie that binds

The Salvation Army has set up (paid****SEE STARRED COMMENT BELOW) hot drinks and snacks to ease the agonies of those lost in the Heathrow Time Warp. At first glance this hardly seemed to fit in with social welfare provision, the SA’s raison d’etre. Do those hopping off to sunny beaches and expensively smoothed pistes deserve our charitable instincts? Then, fatally, my thoughts turned from the general to the particular.

Four or five years ago Mrs BB and I contrived a Christmas ski-ing holiday in Cervinia with the whole immediate family, a party of eight. A very rare event, unlikely to be repeated, and something we can look back on fondly. But suppose it had all ground to a halt in that modern-day Slough of Despond – the airport departure lounge? We were lucky. And the SA is probably right. The middle classes are not immune to despair.

ALL GOD's CHILLUN When I saw a rat insouciantly climbing the central support of the bird table we stopped putting out bird food. But today a blackbird, fluffed up like a ball of knitting wool, poked sadly round the snow on that empty shelf. The service has been resumed. If the rat returns, so be it.

INNER PULSE Lucy recently posted a list of 49 exhortations, observations, indulgences, what- have-you, that I suppose help define her passage through time. The first was: Don’t forget music. I was reminded of my mother who abhorred the idea of playing music while she read, but embraced it while working – notably as she ironed. Today Radio 3 droned out a Kodaly cello sonata as we belatedly decorated our living room, hardly Christmassy but a little warp to add to the woof. (Note: MSWord’s style guide hated that last bit).

Monday, 20 December 2010

Sing along with Old Bach

In the West Riding of Yorkshire where if tha does owt for nowt, do it for thisen (If you ever do anything without cash reward, only do it for yourself) Messiah was big around Christmas. Yet Handel devotes only six airs, choruses and recitatives out of 50-plus to this festival. There is nothing Christmassy about “All they that see him, laugh him to scorn.” and “Why do the nations so furiously rage together?”

For wall-to-wall Christmas we need ace professional, master recycler J. S. Bach and his Christmas Oratorio, cobbled together from six cantatas intended for separate days – New Year’s Day and the Sunday after, among others. It’s amazing it works and yet, in another sense, it isn’t. Bach fed the public demand for new music and though capable of standalone masterpieces (the Goldberg, the Brandenburgs) he didn’t bust his ass every weekend.

To spare his inventive powers he craftily eased his second-hand secular music into sacred works. Christmas Oratorio contains bits from Hercules at the Crossroads, and Strike the Drums, Sound the Trumpets, both non-religious cantatas.

My Bach has a dream cast (Elly Ameling, Janet Baker, Robert Tear, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, King’s College Choir) and they make a fine racket. But it’s the Colin Davies Messiah that is the greater musical event. For one thing the soloists (Heather Harper, Helen Watts, John Wakefield and John Shirley-Quirk) are required to improvise curlicues; for another the choir is far smaller and better throated than was usual at the time of the recording (1966).

BIG QUESTION So, why does an atheist (presently considering a switch to rationalism or humanism, given a declining capacity for intellectual rigour) listen to this God stuff? Well, it’s simply not true the Devil has all the best tunes.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The mower as a time machine

The sixth age shifts into a lean and slippered pantaloon…
… a world too wide for his shrunk shank.

Ageing isn’t just a withering of the body but a contraction of hope. Mundane detail also tells the story.

The first pusher is second-hand: the blades are blunt and one wheel jams randomly, tearing the grass.
The cheap, new pusher sheds its grass-box.
The hoverer runs over its own cable.
Engines are harder and harder to start. Recite: Lord protect me from small capacity IC power units.
And thus the ride-on.
You pay next-door’s kid to do the riding.

Does anyone know anyone who has chosen and paid for their own burial plot? Surely the act of a Virgoan (I am a Virgoan) keen to tie off all the loose ends.

MORE, ALAS, ON CHARITY I can be tickled into spreading my bread on the waters. Years ago I handed over my credit card to my younger daughter as she watched the first Band Aid do, a gesture that cost me twice over as the pro-gay Terence Higgins Trust sought to get in touch with me later and rang off every time Mrs BB picked up the phone.

Today The Guardian had a much subtler temptation. Donate to their chosen appeal (to help disadvantaged youth) and the call would be answered by a member of their editorial staff. I got Katherine Viner, the deputy editor, and we had a brief but nostalgic chat (for me) as she helped pare down my Visa. These days I live more in the past than the present even though my pantaloons are merely corduroy.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Cakewalk to freedom

Freed in 1959 from weekly newspapers (and destined ecstatically for a magazine in London) I swore I would never again attend entertainment put on by amateurs. Call me elitist, an intellectual snob and I say phooie. But recently the threat loomed. I was asked to publicise a Christmas Concert on the website I run (Fine.) To ask “my lady wife” if she would bake a cake for the event (That quote brought powdered teeth to my mouth corners.) To attend in person (I sought the seppuku sword.)

Mrs BB dislikes the quote too and was minded to refuse. But the proceeds were for the local hospice and both us can be guided by self-interest. So the cake equipment was mobilised reluctantly (see pic) and suddenly I saw clear skies. I delivered the cake an hour ago and when asked about my evening plans I was no longer shackled, the price had been paid. I said, simply, no, without any awkwardness. As I drove away I reflected on an unexpected benefit of being married. To a cake-maker, for one thing.

ANYONE HOME? Once you brayed (a good Yorkshire word) on the door with your fist. Later there were knockers. Then bells which you wound up like clockwork toys. Followed by electric bells which depended on cumbersome batteries. And now the above. What you see is a radio-frequency push-button transmitter with its exposed circuitry and a tiny battery sufficient to release an equally tiny signal, insufficient in itself to activate the ding-dong. Power for the ding-dong is derived from the wall sockets into which receivers are plugged and which respond to that infinitesimally small pulse of electro-magnetism. You might well ask whether this is progress.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Painless delivery for corned beef

I’ll brook no argument (a silly verb I grant you). The best tin-opener in the world is the Brabantia Profile. No longer available in this form the model name is still retained and I can’t believe Brabantia has lowered its high – and frequently expensive – standards. It costs £9.32 and passes the ultimate test.

What test? The traditional corned-beef tin is a symmetrical trapezium in frontal elevation, thus one end is smaller in area than the other. OK if you have tag and twisty key; if not you need the Profile. To ensure the contents can be pushed out neatly in one piece, you need to remove both ends and it’s the short-radius corners on the smaller end that test cheapo openers. Easy with the Profile and no jagged edges. One caveat: even the Profile suffers wear, notably the cutting disc and the sprocket that “drives” the tin. Be prepared to replace the Profile in a dozen years or so. But then perhaps you don’t eat corned beef.

BEST WURST Mrs BB is back from her continental Christmas market visit: last year Prague, this year Munich. My prezzie is a Steirische Burgsalami in a dinky hessian sack resembling a bucolic Xmas cracker. Huge flavour, even a huge bouquet. But so, so hard. Denture wearers needn’t apply.

FANCY THAT I write a lot and take a physically active break now and then. Hence the piano keyboard. No big deal, often just hymns. Did you know the seventh and eighth lines and one note of the ninth of Ye Holy Angels Bright:

Or else the theme,
Too high doth seem

are a C-major octave plus one? Makes things easy.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Moral: don't flag your good deeds

In an uncharacteristic gesture I recently invited suggestions on which charities might best benefit from my winter fuel allowance. For those unaware of socialistic Britain, the WFA is a government handout to ensure pensioners like me don’t freeze to death between November and April and thereby cease casting our votes.

Re-reading my post I’m appalled by how self-serving it seems and will think first before playing Lady Bountiful again. However, the charities need not share my self-flagellation and third shares of WFA have now gone to two of them.

The Crow’s Quaker International Educational Trust (QuIET) supports education and peace initiatives through education; she adds “My Meeting sends contributions to the Friends school in Ramallah”. The eccentric capitals appealed to me as did their willingness to work in such a hellhole. A British address meant no cash would be dissipated in exchange rate costs.

Sir Hugh mentioned a personal debt to the National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children. I favour child-support charities and this one in particular. Foreigners have pointed out that this outfit is merely national; the one against animal cruelty (ie, RSPCA) has royal support. But that doesn’t mean I’m against furry, feathered or even scaly beasts. Anyway forty quid for them.

The only reason Julia’s suggestion, Water Missions International, (laudable aim: to stop people dying of thirst) hasn’t got their dough yet is because they’re American and I’m dickering about a form of payment which doesn’t simultaneously enrich bankers. Note: After some to-ing and fro-ing with WMI's online system this was eventually achieved, December 15 2010

Ho hum.

Do poetry translations help?

This is an expansion of a subject I posted a few weeks ago. It's here because I need to put it in an addressable storage location on the Web. Something on motorbikes and/or frying pans is just over the horizon.

Shakespeare into French – some problems
Plus a DIY experiment

In a French translation of Romeo and Juliet I came upon this line from the Queen Mab speech

Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep

rendered as:

Se poser sur le nez des hommes quand ils dorment

Even those with minimal French will recognise there has been no attempt to tackle the tricky but worthwhile athwart. Nor is lying asleep distinguished from the bare French: they sleep, they are sleeping. This is a crib to get the reader through the play. The poetry, it seems, may wait.

The same book includes Le Marchand de Venise. Portia’s most famous speech turns out to be rather better:

La vertu du clémence est de n'etre forcée,
Elle descend comme la douce pluie du ciel
Sur ce bas monde; elle est double bénédiction
Elle bénit qui la donne et qui la recoit,
Elle est la plus forte chez les plus forts, et sied,
Mieux que la couronne au monarque sur son trone

A different translator? Perhaps. But then the original is more direct and less concerned with imagery than Queen Mab. Despite the awkwardness of est de n'etre forcée (vs. is not strained) and the unadorned la plus forte (a weak equivalent of mightiest), one might conclude one was reading poetry.

The translations appear in a Les Livres du Poche paperback. Surprising for a French publication the preface writer, Jean-Louis Curtis, has no academic links. The contents appeared first in a bilingual edition of the complete works by the Club Francais du Livre, an established purveyor of popular classics in various languages.

Who might buy this book? A schoolboy needing to know the plotlines or a monoglot intellectual French person who understands poetry and who is bound to be disappointed? It’s worth including a little of Curtis’s preface to establish its French view of things. He sees the play as a tragedy of adolescent tenderness at odds with the stupidity of the adult world. It has no moral or religious core, is purely external and driven by chance. Unlike Phèdre, Tristan and Isolde (sinners against divine order or against Mammon) the star-crossed lovers are complete innocents. Which, he says, is rather marvellous.

He adds: Romeo is a work of superb craftsmanship with the exception of several hors d’oeuvres, which I take to mean bits and pieces. One such bit is in fact Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech which he condemns as “too long.” Here are two of the speech’s other lines.

O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you
Alors je vois que la reine Mab vous a visité

Drawn with a team of little atomies
Trainé par un attelage de petits atomes

The former sounds more like Jane Austen, as if she had left a card. The English - been with you - hints at a gracious attendance. In the second, atomies is an obsolete word and thus the qualifier is forgivable. However the translator opts for the modern word, atoms, which surely makes petits tautological.

Confirmation that these are literal translations with poetry taking a back seat, often a distant back seat.

But might a greater play spur the translator towards something more sublime? Gallimard’s Folio Theatre series Hamlet is translated by the Maitre de Conférences at the University of Paris and a 25-page annotated preface is supplied by by an Emeritus Professor at Sorbonne Nouvelle. One of the preface’s sub-sections, entitled Des Mots, Des Mots et Des Mots, reveals a more knotty, academic - essentially French academic - approach. Shakespeare, we are told, is not writing a metaphysical treatise but has chosen the theatre “the genre par excellence for the inaccessible subjectivity of the author”. Followed by much polysyllablism which I would find obscure in English.

Fortunately I can look at the translation. I apologise for ignoring the obvious passage; its celebrated first line is too easy and translates literally, adopting virtually the same sequence of words. Instead:

Oh! Si cette trop, trop solide chair pouvait fondre,
Se liquéfier and se résoudre en rosée,
Ou si l’Eternel n’avait pas édicté
Sa loi contre le suicide! O Dieu, Dieu!
Comme me semblent fastidieux, défraichis, plat, et stériles
Tous les usages de ce monde.

Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! Oh God, God,
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world

This is much more satisfying. As Portia’s speech, despite its defects, was superior to Queen Mab. Of course it is narrative rather than imagery but there are some hurdles to cross. Here the translator is far more confident. Faced with adjacent melt, thaw, he employs the exact fondre for the former and then, tactically, ignores the latter with its icy implications. Instead he substitutes se liquéfier which conveys the idea of dissolving flesh far better.

And - dare I say it? – his simpler, more obvious, le suicide improves on Shakespeare’s somewhat overwrought self-slaughter, included to eke out the line.

I think the above passage proves that it is possible, in French, to move closer to Shakespeare’s meaning even though the outer reaches of poetic invention may prove intractable. But here’s something different: Gertrude identifying the place where Ophelia died:

Un saule pousse en travers du ruisseau
Qui montre ses feuilles blanches dans le miroir de l’eau.
C’est là qu’elle tressa d’ingénieuses guirlandes
De boutons d’or, d’orties, de paquerettes, et de longues fleurs pourpres
Que les bergers hardis nomment d’un nom grossier
Mais que nos froides vierges appellent doigts-d’hommes morts

There is a willow grows aslant the brook
That shows his hoary leaves in the glassy stream
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them.

Nature proves tougher than solid flesh. WS’s aslant willow doesn’t just cross the brook it does it at an angle and that’s a detail too far. Conflating pousser with en travers would give traverser providing more elbow-room for solving the angle problem but this would be at the expense of losing grows. Flirting dangerously with the Little Learning Sword that hangs over all translators I found myself considering combler which can mean bridging a gap. But not really. Rather filling in as with a gap in one’s knowledge.

Another apparent solecism occurs when those shepherds nomment a nom. Naming a name? Plus a potential red herring in that nom can also mean noun. I take it this ugly repetition is apparently justified by the need to use appeller (to call, ie, identify) on the following line. On the other hand the translator knows full well that WS’s maids were virgins. Also that shepherds who are liberal is likely to be an Elizabethan anachronism and hardi (bold, daring, barefaced) better fills the bill.

Finally, twenty-first century poets who feel unable to rearrange word order as a stress repair tool will sympathise with this translator who cannot match the admirably compact Therewith fantastic garlands did she make and resorts to a predictable subject, verb, object.

Despite these limitations, a mind sympathetic to poetry is at work. As when glassy stream becomes a water mirror. Languages differ and the French have fewer words to play with than Anglophones. Some limitations cannot be overcome except via inventive leaps which may well betray the poet. But suppose the person who wrote the stuff is doing the translation. What are the restraints on inventive leaps?

To avoid copyright concerns I have chosen one of my own (Shakespearean format) sonnets. The date relates to our fifty-year marriage.

St Mary and St Eanswythe, rain and wind.
October 1 1960.
A golden day but let’s forsake fool’s gold
And go in search of useful tolerance.
For there’s no credit, dear, in growing old
And worshipping a doubtful permanence.
Instead we’ll build a fire of cliché sticks,
Burn cards of happiness and humdrum verse,
Distrust old facile “love” since reason mocks
An easy word to hide a lie or curse.
Let’s dwell on anger - pardoned on the wing,
A hand outstretched to aid a swollen knee
A joke that shares more than a wedding ring
A glass of wine that seals complicity.
Spare symbols, mantras, ill-used sentiment
Just say, do, listen, to our hearts’ content

Un jour doré, mais à bas l’or mondaine,
Et allons chercher pour l’amour pratique.
En vieillissant, ca manque du bon ma chère,
Meme chose tes prières pour la certitude.
Et à la place, un feu de nos banalités:
Les cartes joyeuses et tous les poèmes crasse.
N’aimes pas “aimer” – ce masque expert,
Qui cache les mensonges, les paroles maudites.
Acceuilles le colère, pardonnè en clin d’oeil,
Un main tendu pour soigner tes blessures,
Une blague qui vaut mieux qu’une alliance,
Un verre de vin, le preuve d’un bon accord.
Partez symboles, mantras, et pensées fausses,
Dire, faire, écouter du fond du coeur

I have not tried to match French cadences since I do not truly understand them. One irony is that several French lines (the third and fourth, for instance) have willy-nilly appeared as iambic pentameter, however irrelevant this is, no doubt, in French prosody. And, since there wouldn’t be any point otherwise, I cheat. Fool’s gold requires wordplay and becomes worldly gold. Useful tolerance is now pragmatic love. Cliché sticks are possibly improved as banalities. The last line, which again depended on wordplay, is I fear rather feeble.

The rigorous answer is, I suppose, to ignore the English original and strike out on the same theme in French. A parallel piece of verse, if you like. Failing this counsel of perfection (which I am not for a moment suggesting I’ve adhered to) translation is obviously a vital activity since it crosses that initial frontier. I know some French and a tiny bit of German but a ten-year-old’s rendering of even a limerick in Finnish would be more than welcome.

And there is one further advantage, although it concerns the writer rather than the reader. There is no sterner test of relevance than turning something that seemed to have its values into another language.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Those slightly disabled Swedes

This view from my study window has been Photoshopped to remove the washing line across the garden and an ugly street lamp. Click pic for greater grandeur.

In yet another BBC4 programme devoted to popularising science, a frenetic Swede set out last night to make me love statistics.

Many believe statistics is simply columns of figures. That’s data*. Statistics is data put to use – averaged out, for instance. Statistics tells us on average Swedes have 1.99 legs – reconciling the fact that some unfortunates have only one leg, or perhaps no legs, whereas none have three legs. “Thus we can say,” said the Scandinavian prophet, “that most Swedes have slightly less than two legs.”

But this was mere skittishness. Statistics is serious. It’s generally admitted that whatever suffering Florence Nightingale alleviated at Scutari wasn’t ultimately as important as the data she gathered and interpreted, proving that the so-called hospitals there were far more dangerous than the battle-field. Infection killed more than shells.

However it’s not history that’s astonishing, it’s the future. Google offers computerised translations of websites into seventy languages based on statistical analysis of language. Grammatical and syntactical rules aren’t good enough. Complex sentences in Swedish were uttered to Google’s research wonk who received them on his laptop which precisely and immediately translated them. The next step: mobile phones which allow users speaking in two different languages to hear the result in their native tongues.

Speaking as someone who has spent three decades wrestling with French I’m somewhat depressed.

* Yes, I know data is the plural of datum and I treated it accordingly while still working. But I now think it’s a lost cause.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

I'm not sure about The Donkey Shelter

The winter fuel allowance (£125) will shortly enter my bank account. I am lucky enough not to need this money and would prefer it ended up with someone who can make better use of it. Mrs BB and I support the sort of charities you might expect of Guardian readers – Amnesty International, Médécins sans Frontières, Book Aid as well as Cancer Research UK, St Michael’s Hospice, Hereford Air Ambulance (those last three clearly profiting from our physical decline).

If you have a pet charity other than those above, preferably something unglamorous that isn’t richly endowed (eg, The Rest Home for Retired Industrial Journalists – I jest! I jest!) sell it to me in 25 words and it will get a mention here and a slice of the pie. The more international the better.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The human equivalent of a farrier

ICY ENDURANCE EXPERIMENT (qv) This is now at an end. Mrs BB said she would refuse to speak to me if I continued.

SNIP, SCRAPE Chatting with dentists and doctors presents problems. But with chiropodists you’re paying, the prognosis is rarely fatal, and, hey, they’re down there and you’re up here. They’ve got to talk. And there’s that comical vocabulary: bunions, verruccas, corns - even seed corns.

My previous chiropodist did house calls but, slightly self-conscious, I entered the new one’s surgery (?) via the Beautonics façade. She used snips chunky enough to sever a power cable and didn’t care where the bits went. Chez Bonden that’s forbidden, Mrs BB insists each nail sliver must be accounted for. Putting down her snips the podiatrist (the words are interchangeable) picked up a scalpel; dimly I recalled the earlier foot-shaper using a modified potato peeler. I was told my memory was at fault.

Snips and scalpels are autoclaved after each session. Verruccas can be blasted cryogenically. I was told to anoint my feet with Vitamin E oil from Holland & Barrett. We talked about newspapers and I was asked to guess which she read. I got it wrong: not the Telegraph but the Saturday edition of The Times. I warned her about lining Murdoch’s pockets. Next time my questions will be more penetrating.

THE NEW NOVEL The central character, a woman, has a facial port-wine stain, naevus flammeus. Plot ideally emerges from factual detail. Perhaps while I lolled on the couch of chiropody a sub-plot-line occurred. Her boy-friend, a French aero-mechanic, is drawn to her by the disfigurement.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Whiling away the winter

Google-researching new novel. Progress so far:

TITLE (provisional) The Love Problem. TIME Now, especially re. Afghan war. HERO US-born woman with facial port-wine stain (PWS), commercial pilot in a small way, has left US (“No country for a woman with marred looks”) to live and work in SW France, near Biarritz. FIRST NAME She’s sexually straight but I need something slightly gender-ambiguous, hence (From Top Thousand US Women’s Names): Kristen, Karen, Robyn, Erin, Dana, Cass, Jodi, Jana, Reba. UPBRINGING Arizona, good flying state. Born/raised Flagstaff, town with decayed centre. Failed to make jet pilot with USAF; wonders about PWS. WILL MEET Divorced Brit, once making a living helping other Brits buy French homes, now on his beam ends. FIRST SCENE Driving US male pilot (who first suggested France to her) to airport as he flies back to work in US and leaves her alone.

AIMS: (1) Aspects of disfigurement, (2) … homesickness, (3) … US-France relations against Afghan war background - does French working-class favour what US is doing to Taliban.

MEANWHILE Break off to pick out Lady is a Tramp but can’t figure last eight notes of first eight bars. Email Julia who sends link to Sinatra plus note sequence:

That's -Why- the -La-dy - is - a tramp
D - D - Bflat-D-Bflat- D -Bflat

Doesn’t fit. But that’s because I’m in C-major and Old Blue-eyes is in Bflat. Start practising Bflat scale – hey, it’s nearly all black notes. Time to brave the snow; off to Birmingham for LVB pnop cto 4 and Mahler 4.