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

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Why my father is honoured in Folkestone

WEDDING, second tranche. The photographer was terrible; Mrs BB rose over this but I resemble a beached dugong, even here. Sparing use of the eraser reveals my awful haircut.

Recognising, no doubt, we were unbelievers the cleric concentrated on the mystical aspects of marriage and neglected procedure. Thus we knelt when we should have risen, triggering his angrily impatient hand-wagging. I failed to look Mrs BB in the face until told – too late – this was desirable. The cleric started to bind our wrists with his stole: this so alarmed me I lurched backwards.

In the vestry I signed the wrong box on the marriage certificate, then signed the wrong form of my name, then crossed out a correct signature. The cleric (Canon Hough – his name suggesting his favourite conveyance) became testy. My father, observing this, placed a large denomination note in the donations box.

I had prepared no speech for the reception despite speaking in public for the first time. My father, an accomplished public speaker, appalled by my increasingly desperate babble, decided to redress the balance. To wit: “At dinner (a month previously) I could tell she was the right woman for BB because she chose an excellent Bordeaux from the list.” Horror among the in-laws.

The Bondens’ many failings did not include snobbism. Nevertheless my mother-in-law banned all but the closest of her family from the post-wedding booze-up. This gave my father full rein with the conversation and the whisky bottle. During one peroration he fell asleep. As he woke, his hand descended unerringly to the spot on the floor where he’d left his glass. In-law horror turned to awe.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Oh, and by the way, it rained

Britain is presently in a wedding frenzy as Folkestone was fifty-one years ago - but for different reasons. After disasters, arguments and supreme errors of aesthetic judgement there was only one way the BB marriage could go and that was up. Which, I'm happy to say, it has.

Mrs BB, then Miss T, had wanted a registry office wedding with, say, a dozen closest. "Don't be silly," her mother (an atheist in everything other than formal CofE observances) said, "people will think you're pregnant." Miss T said she would look forward to proving such doubters wrong. But, as you can see, a church it was.

LtoR: BB's youngest brother (dreaming of becoming a magnate, which he did), BB's mother (Pleased to be separated spatially from ex-husband; rode from Bradford to Folkestone on scooter; writing a short story in her head), BB's younger brother and best man (Born to pit himself against the wild - a cliché he'll enjoy), BB (In £21 Burton's suit, garnished with worst haircut ever), Mrs BB's father (who inserted himself into all the photos in this manner), Mrs BB (smiling despite having her dress stood on during the ceremony), BB's grannie (92 and much happier than she looks), dear, dear Diane (married a year before, five months' pregnant and a wonderful advertisement for pregnancy), BB's dad (who insisted BB couldn't wear a red tie and, when BB returned with a green tie, said grumpily "From Communism to Fenianism.")

The groom went on to learn a valuable lesson in public speaking that day (I cringe at the memory) and the groom’s father became a Folkestone myth in the matter of toping. A sequel will depend on how many comments this attracts.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Number crunching

The Love Problem reaches 64,500 words (ie, roughly two-thirds distance) and I announce the figure as an encouraging mantra. Here comes another clunker. TLP is being written in MSW 2010, full to the gunwales with new if unlikely features, including the fact that Total Editing Time spent on the MS amounts to 23,149 minutes or 385.82 hours or 16 solid days. So now you know.

Chapter 10 exceeds 10,000 words and covers a single love affair set in Tucson, Arizona. I am now back in SW France and re-adjusting is quite difficult. One interesting discovery is that a real-life affair of the heart is not recyclable; for reasons unfathomable it all has to be made up. Perhaps just as well. Jana fascinates me but I don’t adore her as I did Clare in Gorgon Times. However, the emotional volcano which justifies the title has yet to erupt and will occupy the remaining pages. Perhaps I shall erupt then too.

POTTERY The huge new en suite wash basin whose taps Zach cannot reach was publicised two or three months ago. When I use it I am not at my most observant so it came as a surprise to find it has a model name: Utopia. This discovery brings the whole rickety process of shaving to a halt, as I reflect on the how and the why. Underwhelming ambition, surely. Nowhere near my strangest name for a porcelain artefact: an ancient WC in the Lake District called The Pike.

QUITE HUMANE Confirmation of a book ordered on HHB’s recommendation arrives by email: Your Amazon order has dispatched… Transitive instead intransitive or the other way round, I’ve given up punditry for Lent. Unless the meaning refers to what goes on in abbatoirs.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Out of doors, but not for enjoyment

No, wait, this is techno-horticultural. In Mrs BB’s left hand is a branch of unwanted Japanese maple, in the other a branch of acer for which we bought the pot. With a perversity which turned me into a nature-hater a trace, jot or tittle of Japanese maple took flight, descended on Chez Bonden and grafted itself (I’ll repeat that - grafted itself) on to the roots of the acer for which we paid good money.

I have watched enough horti-telly (usually in a glazed, crapulous condition) to know that grafting requires a ***shockingly sharp knife, a carefully selected position, an angled cut and some white stuff into which the cutting is dipped.*** Yet the above happened automatically, subterraneously, and the results must be extirpated. Speak not of Intelligent Design. As a gardener God’s an anarchist.

>DOO-DOO BLUES At midnight on Sundays I put out the garbage for collection on Monday morning, often before my glued eyelids have separated. The dustbin protects the bagged rubbish from seagulls, cats and, for all I know, nematode worms. Goodie-goodies who wake earlier than me to walk dogs, dropped their packaged doo-doo in my bin, missing the bag and leaving me to de-doo-doo. The painted notice (repeated three more times) stopped this. Now, one owner has encouraged his (I’m sure it’s a he) pooch to defecate by the side of the bin, technically complying with my exhortation. Land mines, that’s what.

MORE ANTI-GARDENING I recently re-housed a pot-bound camellia which is now moribund and will soon die. Its fate does not interest me. But cleaning my nails afterwards took fifteen minutes and still the job was incomplete. Nail-cleaning is wasted time, you can’t read and don’t feel like singing. Can this be defended?

*** xxx *** I am told, by one who knows, this description of grafting is entirely fallacious. Well, I did say "crapulous".

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The futile spectator

Diane, Mrs BB’s younger and only sister, bridesmaid at our wedding fifty-one years ago, died of cancer. I wrote a letter which her husband read aloud and I’m told she smiled. That should have pleased me, but didn’t. I’ve written all my adult life. Such a small matter.

More usefully, I drove Mrs BB the 230 miles from Hereford to Ashford so she could sit on a hospital bed, hold Diane’s hand and talk for an hour about tiny familiar things. I sat further down the bed and spoke only briefly. I mentioned the name, Jana, I’d chosen six months ago for my novel. Told her I’d recently checked its roots and discovered it was a corruption of Diana, hence, Diane. As I kissed her goodbye I said clumsily, “Remember Jana.” She said she’d bear it in mind.

Otherwise I observed. On intense occasions it’s often the detail that counts. I learned that hospices are usually full and that the dying must qualify for admission. Learned that someone in pain can administer their own morphine via a syringe which feeds into the drip. Noticed that bedpans are now disposable and are made from a sort of papier maché.

My French teacher, a Quaker, does voluntary work at a hospice. She told me, “The dying is all right, I can assure you.” Meaning that the transition, as viewed by those standing by, lacks horror. And as far as they can tell the person they are losing is not suffering.

This post is intentionally about me, not about Diane; about being near someone who is dying. Trying to strip away confused instincts and imagined obligations, touching here and there on the reality. Some time, not now, I’ll write Diane some verse.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Bondens in action

GRANDCHILD ONE Research for TLP involves trawling Arizona education, veterinarian practices, SW France geography and the way people fall in love. All the usual boring BB stuff. Plus, continuously, flying - from radio procedure, to cruising speeds, to ADF (automatic direction finding). Recently I bought Microsoft Flight Simulator X, serious software which teaches plane handling. Alas it’s hard to stop writing and allocate time to this demanding package.

Grandson Ian learns far more quickly, due to a 49-year age disparity and because he has eyes in the back of his head. I watch and take notes. Yesterday he landed a float plane and taxied to a pontoon where his passenger stood. Fine, but how do you bring something that floats to a halt? We never found out and the passenger was twice terrified out of his life.

GRANDCHILDREN TWO AND THREE This photo is positively dynastic. On the left is Ysabelle (aged 21), on the right Zach (5), sister and brother. She is reading to him a Richard Scarry Mrs BB read to her nearly two decades ago. But stay! She invites him to read the next chapter which he does, stumbling only over “barnacle” and mistaking “barge” for “bridge”. Ysabelle is presently finishing a dissertation on US foreign policy before leaving Leicester U, Zach is in the third term of his first year at primary school.

Zach calls Mrs BB Little Grannie and me Big Grandad. His paternal grandparents are Nanna and Grandad Who Looks After Nanna.

THE LOVE PROBLEM 58,408 words. Jana is on the brink; the affair will wreck her.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

How my hair finally caught up

A woman emerges from a hair salon having chosen her appearance from ten different variants; I go in unkempt and slink out as Magwitch. I could spend more money but being tended cosmetically resonates uncomfortably with my northern upbringing. Now I have no public life there are, I note, alternatives - states beyond unkempt: shaggy leading to wild leading to Dionysian.

Mrs BB you might have thought would resist visiting Tesco with a saluki. Interestingly, she’s ambivalent. Although hard on food-encrusted trousers and shirts worn longer than a week, I can’t recall her ever insisting I have my hair cut.

Once while I was still employed my lady hairdresser asked if I’d consider lending her my head as a model in a hair-stylist’s competition. The idea appalled me. I am self-regarding but not that way. Allowing nature to take its course is another matter.

For, resembling Cookie Monster, I must act the part. I stopped combing months ago since a cultivated head of hair misses the point. How then should I adjust my behaviour to match the burst cushion above. A louder voice? The Ancient Mariner’s eye? Active manipulation of a little learning?

Or none of these? Examining this rustic version in the shaving mirror I made a surprising discovery. My uncontrolled hair has merely caught up with the person I already am! It was those periods of short back and sides that were out-of-synch. What’s more my greatest roles – as Lear, as Blake’s Nebuchadnezzar, as Tolstoy (the sartorial exemplar) – are all tantalisingly imminent. I am hairier, therefore I am.

THE LOVE PROBLEM 56,434 words. It is shockingly difficult to capture the first fragile, virtually imperceptible, step towards loving someone. A thousand words at least will need to be rewritten.

Friday, 15 April 2011

A car, a knife and a vet

And why, you may ask, is Works Well sporting a photo of a BMW Isetta bubblecar? Because an Isetta played a mildly memorable role in our family history and younger daughter (Occasional Speeder) bought me the model as a souvenir.

I was working on MotorCycling in 1962 and our first daughter (Professional Bleeder) had just been born in Charing Cross Hospital in London. Despite its name the magazine also road-tested bubblecars and I was able to borrow an Isetta to pick up Mrs BB and the infant PB and take them home. The vehicle had a front opening door. Child-in-arms my wife sat on the bench seat – but on the wrong side! I closed the door to check she was comfortable and the steering wheel (attached to the inside of the door) began gently crushing the baby. But not fatally. As I say, a memorable moment and one regularly referred to on bibulous evenings.

GRANDSON Ian is staying with us. He does a lot of cooking for his mother PB (see above) and partner and has just broken his favourite kitchen knife. This 12.5 cm Taiku is the replacement which he chose and I paid for. He proved to be incredibly picky. Could have had a Sabatier but rejected it because the tip of the handle curls inward slightly and this he found unsuitable for his sensitive hand. Never mind. He cooks well.

THE LOVE PROBLEM 54,441 words. What is the most lovable male profession? As previously recounted I opted for veterinarian hoping this would take me halfway there since I find it difficult doing lovable men. Even so it’s hard work. Certainly I don’t love him yet.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A couple more lists

Seen at Borderline Film Festival
March 25 – April 10, Hereford.
Another Year
(dir: Mike Leigh) – Middle-class couple view social/emotional failure among friends; first half tedious/repetitive, second more dramatic.
My Afternoons With Margueritte – Illiterate handyman, Gerard Depardieux discusses La Peste with aged woman doctor; completely charming.
Black Swan – Hilariously OTT; supposed ballerina Nathalie Portman is seen dancing, but only from the waist up.
Genius Within – Amusing but overlong documentary about pianist Glenn Gould; few musical insights.
Rashomon – Four views of murder; 60-year-old Japanese classic; still shines.
The Secrets in Their Eyes – Brilliant Argentinian mystery thriller/love story; amusing and profane.
Of Gods and Men – Austere, truth-based account of Algerian monastery monks, facing life or (literally) death decision about terrorist threat.
Biutiful – Overlong, over-miserable account of petty criminal/father of two in Barcelona; Javier Bardem superb.
The Illusionist – Jacques Tati screenplay in cartoon of musical hall musician ceding his profession to rock-n-roll and TV; authentic and beautiful fifties Edinburgh backdrops.
Blue Valentine – American couple marry too young, squabble, separate; much bonking; do not be tempted.

TEARS, BUT OF WHAT QUALITY? BBC’s classical music channel, BBC3, invited listeners to say which pieces made them cry. The choices (a Chopin étude, for goodness sake) raised the suspicion that the tearful were parading their intellect. But I’m just as bad with Strauss’s Four Last Songs and Mozart’s Soave il vento.

Let’s be more vulgar: the Free French singing La Marseillaise in Casablanca, Jo Stafford’s Blue Moon, the Pogues’ And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, anyone singing My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose and/or Believe Me if all Those Endearin’ Young Charms, Elton John and Kiki Dee with Don’t Go Breaking my Heart (repeatedly on juke box during my first ski-ing holiday), Charlie Parker’s Embraceable You, the Z-cars theme. Salt water a’plenty.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Denied a mobile I deconstruct

Driving away from the toils of the garden centre I look for catharsis and find it in the deconstruction of hymn libretti. Here’s: Oh God Our Help in Ages Past, verse four.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night,
Before the rising sun.

The urge to embellish meaninglessly; the second simile evokes a shorter period of time than the first. So why bother with the first?

Eternal Father Strong to Save (ie, For Those in Peril on the Sea) contains a bit of the Town and Country Planning Act:

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep.

Amazing! The sea apparently defined its own boundaries. And, alas, the bidding didn’t work. Yet as I sing the hymn my throat contracts with emotion; this is a noble tune, I’ll reserve my banderilla for something else.

My final example requires no deconstruction or, for that matter, any further comment:

A message came to a maiden young;
The angel stood beside her,
In shining robes and with golden tongue,
He told her what would betide her.

By now the car is in my own driveway and catharsis is complete. I have passed into the state that follows: the exact word escapes me but it is characterised by a desire to post.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The year of the spoon

These secondhand serving spoons were a gift from my father about fifty years ago. They are silver and when struck ring out with a distinctive light “ping”. Two are plain, one carries a set of initials, the fourth a date – 1818. Despite their age and potential value we have used them for what they were intended and they travelled to the USA and back when we lived there. I Googled the dated spoon’s birth year:

Born: Karl Marx, William George Fargo (co-founder Wells Fargo), Amelia Jenks Bloomer (feminist reformer; must have been tough with that name), Emily Brontë (in Thornton, three miles away from, and 117 years before, I was born), Lucy Stone (suffragist and feminist), Richard J. Gatling (inventor of eponymous gun), James Prescott Joule (experimental physicist; gave name to unit of energy)
Published: Frankenstein, Endymion, Northanger Abbey (posth.).
Written: Hammerklavier sonata.
Events: Thomas Bowdler becomes infamous, George IV orders boots for left and right feet, Bernardo O'Higgins establishes Chile's independence from Spain, Australia Day celebrated.

MACHINE BETTER Everyone complains about dealing with machines, recorded voices, etc, rather than humans. But there are advantages. Throughout Hereford’s film festival we needed change for parking meters. Even counter operators at the Tesco filling station frowned when I repeatedly bought a paper with a £20 note. But the automated check-outs at the supermarket proper didn’t grumble.

THE LOVE PROBLEM 47,971 words (ie, almost half way). Jana’s student, Didi (a woman), goes solo. Her other student, Matthieu (a fella), struggles.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Dumbness: a lifestyle choice

Ignorance comes in different forms. As a child I was unaware of how the gyroscopic top (see inset) or the radio worked. Magic, I said. But fate in the form of RAF national service forced me to recognise that the radio is not magic. By arranging electronic components - resistors, capacitors, coils and (in those days) thermionic valves - in a certain manner you can create a superhetereodyne, a name more exotic than the circuit’s comparatively mundane function.

An aerial responds to electro-magnetic waves sent from afar. The aerial is linked to the superhet which is adjusted to pick out a selected frequency from these waves. This tiny signal is made more powerful and its variations are duplicated in the coil of a loudspeaker. The coil vibrates the speaker cone, duplicating sounds imposed on the EM wave. Thus Desert Island Discs.

Since no one forced me I never bothered to explain the top although I think I could. Left to myself I might have investigated the radio. One was a visible mystery, the other invisible. Watching and touching the spinning top taught you things. The radio remains inert and getting to know it involves maths which usually blunts casual curiosity.

Understanding electronics is chic and I’m vain enough to want this. The forces at work in the top are strange but not, it seems, strange enough. I’m at ease with my ignorance.
GORGON COVER The pro tem design for my novel Gorgon Times cost £100. I challenged commenters to better it for the same sum. FigMince responded and here is his idea. He says he doesn’t want the money, but we’ll see about that. Anyone else?