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

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Higher matters and hackery

CULINARY DIALOGUE “I’m going to turn the rest of the ham hock into a sort of galantine,” said Mrs BB. The words dimly registered. Later I came across the dish in the fridge and asked Mrs BB, “You said ‘sort of’; could this be legitimately called a galantine?” Oh, yes, skin and bone give off a fluid that sets like a perfect jelly; so what you see is definitely a galantine. Why was I asking? Because I was not only prepared to eat the stuff itself, but also to consume the word as a word. A lovely word. The g’s saltiness was ameliorated by a potato salad.

THE LOVE PROBLEM I’m torturing myself. Present wordage is 39,882 and I’m listing it as that rather than adding another 118 to take it past 40,000 words. In a novel each 10,000 words is a milepost to be celebrated; ten mileposts and I’m done. But I can afford the mild pain. The next 118 words, plus quite a lot more, are clear in my mind and only need transcribing. A luxury moment.

GORGON TIMES Still no word from the agent, no reassurances. Best to plan for the worst - a DIY publishing project tied in with sales and publicity via Amazon. As a result I’ve had a front cover designed. Sharp-eyed readers will notice the author isn’t Barrett Bonden. Most commenters will know the name shown. It belongs to another person entirely, unblogged, a bitter anchorite who envies BB’s wider social existence.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Put not your faith in chic plumbing

FASHIONABLE SINK, part 2. Installed in the en suite at a high level so I may spit toothpaste accurately without bending. So high that Grandson Zach cannot reach the taps and has complained. What the heck, there are other sinks in the house. A plug and chain would be atavistic bling so the plug is a pusher: down for closed, down again for open. Now the plug action jams. Fashion failing to follow function.

FOUR STARS Social Network is a movie about the evolution of Facebook, an Internet facility I have never used. It got rave reviews but it’s about youth’s arrogance and I didn’t expect to like it. The first ten minutes, where two Harvard undergrads destroy themselves socially in a noisy restaurant needed sub-titles. The movie is ugly, monomaniacal and esoteric; it is also a brilliant take on one aspect of life in the twenty-first century. The script, where heard and decoded, was utterly inevitable and written by Aaron Sorkin, who famously wrote The West Wing.

THE LOVE PROBLEM 38, 348 words. Chapter Seven: No flying; Jana involved in Sunday lunch at the Bayonne house where she lodges with a French family. Terrible wine. Flowers for grandmother’s grave.

Imaginary birthday present for me: Magician directs Jana to a diner in New Jersey where we meet in the flesh for breakfast. Juice and the cornucopia-coffee-cup to begin with. She reserved and slightly suspicious, no less so when I reach out, take her hands and kiss her stubby finger-ends, saying: “Speak, angel!” (Angel is her loving mother’s preferred term of affection).

Germ of the next novel: A handsome, skilful woman is struck down professionally and rehabilitated.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A small detour round present times

Can one – should one? – look for entertainment amidst imminent family grief? In the end we did. It was after all Mrs BB’s birthday and surgery deflected last year’s celebrations. Among the cards is a model of The Armillary Sphere, a gift from me.

The road north to Shrewsbury, while pretty, can irritate me with its curves and heavy traffic. This time I was more philosophical; less so on the A5 with its twelve roundabouts over twenty miles. Fantastically spelt Froncysyllte made us laugh. Then we entered the drive of Tyddyn Llan, a country house in the valley village of Llandrillo. Only the Welsh do daffodils like this, close-packed platforms, substantial enough to support a pedestrian.

The meal was self-indulgent, the burgundy even more so. We deliberately limited our conversation and let it meander as usual round the London of our youth, a backdrop more intense, more evocative the older we get. Another restaurant memory encouraged me to offer a taste of the burgundy to our waiter, a cheerful yet skilful Pole who was leaving Tyddyn Llan the following day, after six years, for Paris.

Refreshed to excess I couldn’t sleep in our gigantic bed and plotted a forthcoming novel scene told in flashback. I needed a bastard who started out likeable. Why not a vet? But do Americans call vets vets?

Humdrum events re-acclimatised us on the way back. Mrs BB needed a plain cushion on which to mount some of her tapestry work. I picked up a repaired hi-fi loudspeaker. Waiting for us were emails on medical matters, phone calls which brought back the agonised emotions we’d temporarily left behind. That evening we watched University Challenge and shouted out the answers where we could.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Meet you in the garage, Dr Freud

Even by my deplorable standards this is a terrible photo with its uncontained and out-of-focus subject. I should say this small parts bin-rack is attached to the garage wall and the garage is full of car so photography was fraught. But the result is not offered for its aesthetics. It’s evidence in an act of psycho-self-analysis.

The plastic bins contain screws of differing size, panel pins, washers, tin tacks, etc, an attempt to systematise DIY Chez Bonden. But note the Elastoplast labels attached any-old-how, note the dust, note the unnecessary packaging stuffed into the bins, note the air of desuetude.

The photo is truthfully symbolic. It captures both the commendable impulse towards efficiency and the slipshod methods that undermine the impulse. The rack is the work of someone long on theory and short on practice. One who subscribes heavily to the principle: if a job’s worth doing, let’s half do it. My father who, to my knowledge, never knocked in a single nail would approve. I’d invoke Lord Finchley if I didn’t think he’s over-invoked on the Internet. Presently I am up in my loft reading Barry Bucknell's autobiography.

THE LOVE PROBLEM 29,106 words. In Chapter 6 (unfinished) Jana provides a flying lesson for a wealthy, somewhat unlikeable young man who’s slow at learning. It’s common knowledge that Barrett Bonden is of the male gender yet future readers, if any, may wonder. From time to time BB is Jana, port wine stain and all. I had relished spotlighting her advantages during this flying lesson but my fingers were guided elsewhere. Through Jana’s sympathetic teaching the man improves, making the larger point: Jana is professional and I’ve no business practising vengeance on the sort of men I can’t stand

Friday, 11 March 2011

Do you have the moxie to sit here?

Novels can improve on nature. My hero, Jana, is more civilised, more sympathetic and speaks better French than me. Since I am spending a year in her company I wouldn’t have it any other way. But she’s superior elsewhere: she flies planes.

Piloting requires technical skills. On the Cessna 172 dashboard about twenty sources of information must be checked and – more demandingly - interpreted. Some are more important and may be ignored only for a minute. As I construct take-offs, flights and landings I imagine I could manage this.

It’s the other side I worry about. Unlike cars and boats planes operate in three dimensions but it would be fatal to imagine this as simply a sequence of two-dimensional equivalents of roads and waterways. To gain height you climb; climb inadvisedly and you stall (ie, lose normal control of the plane); fail to correct a stall and you spin; spin… well, you can guess.

Ironically, in the perfect landing you flirt with the stall. You approach the runway slowly and it’s dangerous to fly slowly. The exterior of the plane is “dirty” with flaps and undercarriage down; the controls are less responsive. At the right moment you cut the power and the plane stalls into touchdown.

I might even manage this. But have I the capacity to be observant – all the time? This is what distinguishes flying from driving a car. Remember those lapses on the motorway? They mustn’t happen in the air. There are routines that help but do I have the temperament? Happily my age makes the question irrelevant.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Tagines, etc, are crushing us to death

Plutarch was recently in his local Lakeland shop (predominantly kitchen equipment) while I’m flipping through the catalogue. A fanciful thought arises. Lakeland is not supplying the kitchen it’s in competition with it.

For the first time ever the BBs have a sufficiency of work surfaces in the kitchen (the above isn't ours, I fear) but Lakeland seeks to make us uncomfortable again. Much of the equipment represents options (different sets of pans, mixers, knives, etc) but suppose in a moment of madness we decided to acquire one item from every category: a pasta maker (with a lasagne attachment), a wooden gripper board, a garlic press, a granite pestle and mortar, a cast-iron trivet, and so on.

Very quickly all that delicious open space would run out but that wouldn’t be an end to the matter. Problems of memory and location would emerge, I’m about to handle toast so hand me my magnetic toast tongs; I’ve done that and now I need my StemGem to hull some strawberries. Tiny tasks each with a specific tool,

How many items of equipment does a competent kitchen need? How many bought, now moulder? Answers by email.

THE LOVE PROBLEM Just finished Ch. 4 (5688 words) taking the total up to 22,549 words. Again a child has entered the story as in Gorgon Times, yet I confess children are not an instinctive subject for me. There may be a subconscious reason. Half of GT was a woman’s story and all TLP is. A story about a woman, whether she is a mother or not, seems incomplete without this reference. Or am I now anticipating a feminist thunderbolt? GT went to the agent in early January and is still there.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The blind leading the deaf

Sonnet - Bonden Agonistes
My verse is incomplete, quite binary,
Mere white and black. The white a partial draft,
The black a cave of rude uncertainty.
Wherein I’ll fumble with a half-learned craft.
And while patrolling this white/black frontier
I’ll push against this gate that might allow
A spill of words and notes that might cohere
Into a theme I might perhaps avow.
Such doubts! But then, why not? Ahead I hope
For accidents. A shift within the store
Of last year’s pale ideas, a novel trope,
A signal born of rhythmic semaphore.

It’s over. Black’s now white. An impulse dies,
Dead too the only worthwhile prize - surprise!

THE LOVE PROBLEM Chs 1 -3 16,975 words. Ch 4 (unfinished) 3146 words. Gorgon Times contains no overt bonking, the source of much bad writing by many who should know better. With TLP it’s inescapable so what’s the answer? Concentrate on facts and the unexpected – after all the latter enhances the real thing. Writing GT I fell in love with Clare (I mean that) and now I’m falling in love with Jana. And yes I frequently admit to being a cad.

REVELATION I had three goes at The Brothers Karamazov (once reaching page 150) and failed each time. This time I’ve reached page 103 and I’m wondering why I previously struggled. It’s great! But there’s a good reason. Earlier the translator was Constance Garnett; this time I’m reading the 1993 David McDuff version. One dull and obscure, one suffused with light.