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, 25 May 2011

Marriage and its defective glue

Mrs BB has gone to Hereford and I’ve hung out the laundry. Like washing up and packing bags at the supermarket check-out this task defines our marriage.

I’m prepared to work the clothes-line but do not care to share the task. During my professional career I needed to understand the logistics of many industrial processes and the clothes-line has much in common with them. Efficiency depends on the hanging peg bag and how it is moved. Mrs BB and I have conflicting views and we’ll leave it at that.

Washing up is more important. Mrs BB cooks and I wash up. This is obviously not a fair division of labour and to compensate I have subjected washing up to extreme analysis and am confident I have mastered this dynamic process. My sequencing techniques, insistence on a brush, pre-rinsing, hot-water management, methods of racking and parallel handling of pans combine to give the ultimate in speed and hygiene. On the rare occasions when Mrs BB washes up it is clear her mind’s on other things. I have no complaints. When she cooks she concentrates and that’s what matters.

At the supermarket check-out I have learned to take a passive role. I believe some form of logic operates but it is beyond me. I am frequently upbraided for crimes I know not what. Like Boxer in Animal Farm I lift the bags into the car silently.

B-FLAT ECHOES Buy something on line and you’re spammed for the rest of your natural. The resultant emails are often odd and poignant reminders of how irregular our lives are. Take Dawson Music, for instance. Once I downloaded the sheet music for The Lady is a Tramp from them. Now they’re having a sale. Should I take a look?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Beating the system, parts 1 and 2

SOLAR PANELS cont. There are of course no guarantees that the surplus electricity generated will match the supplier’s (Three Energies) estimate. However, the database for this estimate relates to sunlight levels in Herefordshire over the last forty years. And the estimate is “worst case”.

The system takes two days to install and the panels (eight in my case) are guaranteed for 25 years. However the inverter, which converts the panels’ DC power into AC, is guaranteed only for five years. I can if I wish visit a satisfied panel user somewhere in the county but I have decided I don’t want to speak to a thinly disguised employee of Three Energies.

There are restrictions on the number of panels (and therefore the surplus energy potential) for domestic users. Business users were previously unrestricted but this apparently allowed a chicken farmer to turn a modest £50,000 turnover into £250,000 a year from electricity generation alone.

PARKING PERSIFLAGE Leaving my Skoda in a Ledbury car park recently I was accosted by another driver who handed over her parking ticket with lots of free time left on it. People do that here in the sticks. When I got back I had incurred a parking fine. I had been so grateful that I had carelessly left the ticket upside down on the dashboard. Elsewhere I used a system which specifically prevents this good-neighbour activity; one is required to type in part of the car’s registration number which is then printed on the ticket, making it unique to that car. Since the ticket machines are, as a result, now much more complex (and therefore expensive) one can’t help seeing this as slightly mean-minded.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cost versus old age

I now have a financial incentive to live until I am eighty-three and a half. That’s the time it will take for the cost of the solar panel system I am contemplating to be amortised through my injections of surplus power back into the National Grid. The scheme has the government’s blessing though there are no grants. There is no salesmanship since the price is fixed (£6750) and it takes two hours to explain even though, in the end, it is relatively simple to understand. One misconception needs to be cleared up: the panels convert sunlight not heat into power

Switzerland and Germany have used such systems for decades. Inevitably the UK is behindhand in meeting its target of 15% of energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 and is now looking for a take-up rate of 700,000 houses a year. Which seems mighty optimistic.

You ask the obvious question: suppose a rapidly ageing scribbler, on the verge of his seventy-sixth, snuffs it in the interim, goes into a home or is locked up for sedition? Well, the house is likely to sell for a price over the odds since the buyer inherits reduced electricity costs without the capital expenditure. More on this if there is a scintilla of interest.

OH JOY! In the last post I included a list of what Lucy elegantly described as my anathemata. To them I could have added caravans. My neighbour has one and he’s a techno-freak. Not for him the back-breaking task of manoeuvring the thing into his driveway. He uses a remotely controlled tug. This may be the only true pleasure to be derived from his box on wheels

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The agony (of being moved by Wagner)

I loathe fairy tales, myths, out-of-mind experiences, the supernatural, voodoo, animalisations, horror movies, most science fiction, miracles, received religions, undefined enthusiasm, and a sense of déja vu.

Yet I’ve dabbled in Wagner. Why? Because the music’s good.

Last night, watching a live HD presentation of Die Walküre by the New York Met I rose up a notch. I was moved.

I need to tell you part of the plot. This is a big turn-off even for people who love things in my black list above. I've kept it brief.

For irresistible political and domestic reasons Wotan, king of the gods, agrees – very, very reluctantly – to arrange that his bastard son dies in a forthcoming battle. His well-beloved daughter Brȕnnhilde is despatched to ensure this. For humanitarian reasons she tries to save the son, Wotan is forced to intervene and his son dies. For disobeying a god’s wishes Brȕnnhilde is punished, horribly.

During the last act Brȕnnhilde pleads against her punishment and has a lot going for her. She has always loved and obeyed her father to the point where she gained “favoured” status. She disobeyed him on this occasion because she knows he loves the bastard son. She is telling the truth and Wotan knows it. He is in agony. But the punishment stands.

The singers – Bryn Terfel and Deborah Voigt – are world-class and the music works relentlessly backwards and forwards to re-create the emotions and regrets both are experiencing. This is believable stuff aimed at proving that power is never infinite, that even gods – never mind humans – are never free. I was moved last night and I am moved again, writing this. I can say no more.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

... and start all over again

THE BLOGGER’S RETREAT “I really like this pub,” said Plutarch and it was that kind of day. Elegiac, talk of families at the end. The pub has a name which Plutarch uses; for me it’s The Pub in Roupell Street. These days we repair there after the BR curry but decades ago we used to drop in on our way back to Waterloo station and thus it became a source of minor marital strife. It’s real-ale, plain, clean, has no music and the all-male clientele resembles us in the seventies: noisy, released from work.

We also talked of writing. Plutarch flattered me by recording an utterance so it was salutary to return home and find a letter from my agent turning down Gorgon Times (“original theme… has something to say… current climate for fiction is so dire… sorry for such a cheerless response.”) Mrs BB was sympathetic but, to tell the truth, my mind was and is on The Love Problem (77,232 words).

EVERYDAY MAGIC It’s obligatory to slag people using mobile phones. But consider this. To attend Diane’s funeral in Folkestone we picked up Younger Daughter who lives en route. Elder Daughter took a bus from Luton to Heathrow and walked to Terminal One. I mis-steered at Heathrow and ended in the cab rank. To which Elder Daughter was guided via mobiles. Impossible any other way.

THANKS Reading about Diane’s death HHB recommended Diana Athill’s Somewhere Towards the End, a brisk look at life (ie, gardening, sex, family relationships, appreciating painting) from old age. Excellent. On her late talent for writing: “I never knew (and this is literally true) what the next paragraph I was going to write would be.” Me too. It’s the act of faith that something will occur that keeps you alive.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The private place

Diane: in hospital and later
I would not have you prone, my dear, but up
And wiping plates, sharp-tongued, close at my side,
A kitchen critic, keen to laugh and slap
My washing-up techniques with woe betide.

Up from that narrow bed, to join lobelias
And ericas that may, we’re told, replace
Expensive box; then facing irises -
An auburn glow in cultivated space.

Dear, prone in bed is really not your bit,
For when you said “Well X is just a prat.”
Your head and shoulders helped augment the wit.
Down there they’re mute and now the wit is flat.

That was then. I wash dishes on my own
Untouched by auburn glow, the light quite flown.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The view from my chaise longue

Today’s an anniversary: my first post, three years ago. That initial headline was remarkably po-faced (Car door needs protecting from physics) and the single comment, from Plutarch, is so enigmatic I cannot decode it. The next twenty-four posts drew a total of seven comments: three from Plutarch, one from Lucy, one from a guy who wanted to sell something and two from me.

Works Well was hard core then, no faffing with weddings. My eighth post (Marvellous mathematical moment) was my most ambitious, demanded exhausting powers of explanation and is the best I have ever written. Only Plutarch responded. In arriving at the present total of 480 posts I moved away from stern prescription and was eventually lucky to find a select group prepared to indulge me. To them I am eternally grateful and virtually all are to be found on the links list.

Latterly my blog has competed with novel writing and there were times when I considered pulling the plug on Works Well – then drew back in horror. Doing so would be like walking out into the desert alone. I enjoy writing and I enjoy other voices. Novels usually don’t get published and their achievement runs perilously close to self-abuse. And blogging can be a rehearsal for what goes into the novel.

It’s insufficient to say blogging is dialogue – it’s civilised dialogue. It encourages a desire to respond and even re-respond. But it’s not without risks. Recently, through not concentrating enough, I’ve buggered up several posts and even more comments. In effect I’ve betrayed that word “civilised” and the penalties can be severe. People just stop reading. My namesake, a practical man, would say it’s my own fault. And he’s right. Blogging is also meritocracy.