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 June 2011

Colours and smells from my hinterland

Washing-up liquid has to be green. Not blue nor – worst of all – orange. I confess I’m clay in the hands of the advertisers: green is whispering pine trees and not industrial chemicals. But there’s another, virtually primordial, influence. At age six, when these things mattered, green became my favourite colour. A lightly taken decision I have never escaped.

Twenty years ago we bought cocoanut-scented soap in Haut. Lompnes, a French mountain town, a cité sanitaire peopled entirely by invalids. The delicate and subtle scent proved an aid to washing my face which I’m otherwise not disposed to do. The subtlety has never been duplicated. Today I used cocoanut soap from The Body Shop. Not the same.

Maclean toothpaste once had a tingly taste hinting at the stuff women use to remove nail varnish. Probably toxic. My preferred poison. Then Maclean entered the Bland Corral and teeth-cleaning became a burden. Sensodyne is the dentist’s recommendation. Blah!

Swarfega is flurorescent green, seductively slimy, has the sharp manly smell of a refinery’s backside and cleans engine oil from your hands. Unaffected by fashion but I don’t get my hands oily these days.

Pungent and earthy Vim was a grey powder which came in a cardboard tube. Add water and you could grind lacquered stains off aluminium pans. Perfect for my Gran who loved elbow-grease jobs. Mrs BB thinks Vim gave way to Ajax. This evokes a couplet from She’s Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage modified by Elder Daughter:

It’s sad when you think of her wasted life,
For youth doesn’t mix with Ajax.

Cue for giggles.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Last post from Languedoc

Mrs BB, as serious as you like, studies menu.

Toad was found swimming in pool, unable to get out. Heroically rescued by BB.

Zach buried on the beach at Valras Plage.

Zach, wearing his TdF King of the Mountains shirt, strolls through Bédarieux.

St Jean's boulangerie - referred to as The Windmill Shop by Zach.

Darren, Zach's dad, runs on water to shock the populace

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Galsworthy could also have stood cutting

The occasional table, just visible, was made by my great grandfather. The baby chaffinch (extreme right) was touring significant British literary artefacts and paying homage to the Barrett Bonden portable typewriter, source of millions of words for publications as diverse as Keighley News and Cycling & Mopeds before being retired in favour of word processing.

Had the chaffinch flown upstairs at Ch. Bonden it might well have inspected my latest literary tool. On holiday I used my Kindle to switch between two works. The first was Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga (Why was that man found worthy of a Nobel Prize?) the second was the MS of my own novel, Gorgon Times.

This was more than self-massage. Kindle allows potential changes to be underlined while reading the MS in a format resembling a published book. At home I used the 477 underlinings to modify the master MS on the PC. And rewrote five longer passages including a half chapter. Some 1500 words bit the dust. Tedious, non-creative work will ensue.

MATTER OF ETIQUETTE For months, perhaps years, Mrs BB has complained I often rise from the dining table, face besmeared with gravy, custard, strawberry juice or, sometimes, all three. It has to do with getting old and caring less and less about how I look. Since this impromptu maquillage is invisible to me I am undisturbed but I do resent hopping out to the kitchen to clean greasy hands after nibbling a chop bone. Recently I suggested we invest in a table-napkin container to sit adjacent to the S&P. Mrs BB instantly agreed. I am left reflecting on the length of time this decision has taken. And the fact that such containers may be middle-class naff.

Friday, 24 June 2011

At 30 deg C the mind starts to soften

SJdlB 3. Where it’s not just the grasshopper that becomes a burden but the strimmer. Next door started up yesterday after a prolonged bout of horseplay in our pool (we’ve been joined by granddaughter Bella and her boyfriend). This morning, as I hang out the washing, the other neighbour contributes a succession of roaring arias.

I can’t complain. These are not lawns that would be recognised as such in Epsom or Wilmslow. The grass is scrappy and parched, the ground pebbly and the contours random. No place for the stately Qualcast or even the mediaeval scythe.

As I proceed from pegging out the rewarding biggies (a pair of trousers, a bath towel) to the fiddly small stuff (socks, knickers, a bra) yesterday’s droner shouts his thanks for retrieving his wheelie bin and pushing it up the steep track to our two villas. An accidental gesture since I thought it was ours. He shrugs and a butterfly negotiates my washing line. Not a day for architecture – it rarely is here in oven-hot Languedoc. Culture is contained in the wafer confines of the Kindle: 29 titles including Ovid’s Metamorphosis and (more June-like) The Forsyte Saga. Plus much Arnold Bennett.

I return to the balcony to write this: down below the soccer ball is kicked desultorily as Younger Daughter floats backwards and forwards in an inflatable dinghy. We’re off to lunch soon, after which we’ll buy l’Equipe and read about Sunday’s thrilling Canadian GP.

Did you expect intellectuals straining at the leash?

The tenses may suggest otherwise but we're home now.

The above were tagged pêches plats at Clermont l’Hérault street market. Their flavour is unaffected by their flatness. Melons here hit your palate with the strength of chilis.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Whiling away les heures

SJdlB 2. Younger daughter (Occasional Speeder), gradually taking over as main car driver in France, asks us all for a destination. I say, "A place with fast-flowing water", hence Bédarieux, a small town, divided by just such a river. Street market offers special French onions for perfect tomato salad. Typical Languedoc day out.

Two days later we choose Montpellier, a big town, perhaps a city. The traffic, the ethnic variety, the choice of restaurants and the swanky shops add up to a non-holiday experience - a course of amphetamines. We all seem delighted by our adventurousness.

Montpellier students are demonstrating against the deportation of an engaging young chap called something like Erűgű. Posters abound, notably a cod list of the deportee's crimes which include "Knowing how to speak French" and "Having dots over letters in his name." This was a very French demo with well-rehearsed clapping during the protest songs and a picnic spread out on the square's flagstones with Tupperware salad, paté, sliced melon and baguettes.

Zach’s lustrous eyelashes and elfin face prove irresistible to the urban French. Immaculate ladies in their fifties and sixties turn to watch him walk past wearing his Arsenal baseball cap. A waitress supplies an extra lemonade spiked with grenadine free of charge. The sweet shop man says he is "very sexy". He rides the carousel in the Place de la Comédie and, perhaps in recognition of youth’s transience, opts for a horse on the darker upper deck, alone and remote.

Left to himself he plays soccer games on his dad's Iphone and announces the score audibly. I mention this to show normalcy is permitted and he is not stuffed all day long with intellectual protein.

Zach progresses in the pool too: diving towards his dad, doing backstroke between dad and mum

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Zach flourishes in the Languedoc

ST JEAN DE LA BLAQUIERE 1. Five-year-old grandson Zach (Or The Zachster as RW (zS) inventively calls him) tells me that Birmingham, West Ham and Blackpool were relegated from the soccer premier league this year and Swansea, QPR and Norwich were promoted. Impressive but depressing – soccer isn’t my thing.

As compensation he rattles aloud through Horrible Henry’s Underpants, a work of dubious literary merit and is seriously attentive listening to passages from Fungus The Bogeyman. This is really an adult’s book and includes quotes from Milton (“The Bogey, subtlest beast of all the field.”) and Herrick (“Putrefaction is the end/Of all that nature doth entend.”). Casually Zach refers to silent letters, citing “know” as an example.

He brought a schoolbook: OUP’s monumental Building A House (Sample quote: “The electricians put wires inside the walls. The wires will bring electricity into the house”) which he reads competently but boredly. I ask him if he’s the best reader in his class and he supposes he is. He ponders then offers, “Perhaps Lisa is.”

After strenuous rehearsal he addresses the village baker with Bonjour monsieur le boulanger adding Je suis en vacance. the next day. Goodish accent.

On the long drive down he marks his I-Spy book regretting, as we all did, that the French edition isn’t out until July. Played the French version of Snap at the overnight hotel.

Parents – especially grandparents – tend to overdo their offpring’s intellect so I limit myself to a phrase which never appeared on my report card: Satisfactory work and progress.

Here he is as referee (with a tendency to cheat) at a game of marine volley-ball – mother and sister on one side, dad and sister’s boyfriend on the other.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Hard stuff precedes indulgence

It’s that time of year. Last weekend the Hay Festival (sponsored now by The Telegraph instead of The Guardian – what an intellectual, moral and political crisis that wrought), this coming weekend the start of the St Jean de la Blaquière quinzaine.

Hay provided an agonising dilemma for those who espouse literature at the expense of science. In “Darwin and Milton – Two Views of Creation” by the British Nobel-Prize-winning biologist, Paul Nurse compared “the vision of two of the Greatest Britons of all time.” Could anyone who honours me by reading Works Well have turned away from that?

Our fifth consecutive holiday at SJDLB will focus, as usual, on grandson Zach (seen here unseasonably opening a Christmas present). His first year at primary school ends and his reading is now good enough to absorb The Guardian sports section and to dispute critical opinion on various soccer teams. In my own mind I am preparing him for our visit to the bakery (which he calls The Windmill Shop). There he will discard simple felicitation and utter: Bonjour M. le Boulanger. Je suis en vacances.

SJDLB comes at a price: I am separated from you all. Such sweet sorrow.

IDEAL FOR BURGLARS Last week the house was surveyed for the PV cell installation on the roof. Kevin the surveyor brought his own collapsible ladder – compact enough to go on the back seat of a car, extendable to reach the roof comfortably. Made of aluminium but reassuringly heavy. A compass app on his smart phone told him which way my roof faces.