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, 29 November 2011

Farewell and adieu...



This is the last Works Well, with good reason. Those that I get on with but who are also honest and clearsighted will know I am not a sympathetic sort. To compensate I’ve tried hard – too hard – to entertain and this has regularly led to lack of judgment. I’ve antagonised people before and I’ve done it again. Only by deleting posts have I avoided further unpleasantness. That and the fact that some of you have had the capacity to ride out my more extreme jokes.

Bloggers who don’t blog disappear. Deservedly since they don’t contribute. However, anyone who wants to get in touch (eg, about the novels) can do so by email. Most of you know the address but for those who don’t it’s rodrob@globalnet.co.uk. I’ll answer anyone who writes, and as often as they write – probably at excessive length – since this at least is not one of my failings.

It’s remarkably difficult to avoid being mawkish with this sort of thing. Dropping WW will be like an alkie giving up the bottle. And that probably is at the heart of the problem – addicts are notoriously unreliable. And self-centred.

I see I have words left so let’s end on an upbeat note. I have kept my present-day face off the blog since WW was always words or nothing. Now there’s an irony! Anyway, here’s a photo. One interesting point. Everyone I’ve exchanged words with has been better-educated. Perhaps this is how lack of education ends. My late headmaster uncle would no doubt confirm this.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

RoW gets a trailer - sort of

I never need more than one encouragement to publicise any of my novels, and that's what earlybird has suggested. (See Comment, "Works Well: desperate attempt to be popular"). In Risen on Wings, Christopher Day (who speaks first), an English odd-job-man, and Jana Nordmeyer, an American civilian pilot, are cleaning the interior of a Piper Seneca. Both live and work in south-west France.

"... (I) came to France, as I’d always wanted. My first girlfriend here was PCF, an activist with the railway workers and not terribly likeable. But that didn’t stop me. I made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: Tell me about women’s causes, I said. Convert me. The French love being asked to teach, to correct.”

“Was she never taught - beware the English!”

Day was almost upside down with his head in the footwell. His voice echoed in the aluminium cavity. “You’re an American: tough, self-reliant if the clichés are to be believed. I confess: I’m not an American sort of chap. But I was sincere, I promise. I read the stuff she gave me, went to her rallies. She took to me. Two months in she insisted I joined her forever in International Socialism and stopped working for the Anglo invaders. I was grist to her mill, whatever that means. But it didn’t last. Supporting women wasn’t enough. She wanted my political soul and I’m not sure I have one. We had a blazing argument over the authentique recipe for cassoulet. And don’t tell me there isn’t definitive evidence – I know better”

Jana said, “Even a spoonful’s too heavy for me. I take it you came out on top, or rather you shouted louder than she did?”

“French leftwingers eat very badly.” He rose up, his face flushed from being inverted. “Got some Windolene?"

Works Well: desperate attempt to be popular

DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has just reported: now almost wholly irrelevant, Works Well will fall off this Flat Earth if it fails to cover food. Or cooking. Or TV chef programmes. Look around, BB, go with the herd, says DEFRA’s permanent under-secretary.

Well I did cassoulet in the novel – a man/woman relationship broke up over cassoulet. And what did Plutarch say about that? Ah the shame of it!

How about the teisin lap scandal then?. Good thinking! For several years this spicy, not over-sweet cake was my reason for driving 48 miles round trip to Waitrose in Abergavenny. Then, zilch. No longer done, said the assistant manager. But it’s Welsh, man! And down here you sell more Welshness than food! Got the recipe off the Internet but despite Mrs BB’s efforts a dull fruit cake emerged. Teisin lap, like cassoulet, is never definitive. Meanwhile, ashamed by osmosis, Waitrose quietly put TL back on the shelves. That’s a dull story, boyo.

The Lough Pool Inn at Sellack is back in business with ox cheek, stuffed heart, and rabbit, to name but a few. That’s no good, boyo. There’s no French chic, no parboiled capers. The Home Counties continue to be surprised we aren’t eating each other, down here in Hereford.

So must Works Well perish? Have to say it, boyo, your record’s poor. How about The Great Stuffing Schism riving the BB marriage apart. BB points to meaty-type-thingy in supermarket. Mrs BB says, always says, “I’m not paying for stuffing. It’s the easiest thing in the world to knock up.” Ah the dismissive esotericism of great cooks.

Two nights ago we had crumpets with scrambled eggs and crispy streaky bacon. You’re fiddling while Rome burns, BB. Blogger’s sure to pull the plug. And that picture’s cheating.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Too much for Henry James, I fear

My circadian rhythms are shot to pieces.

Several months ago I began rising at 6.30 am to start “messing about upstairs with your - ie, my - writing” (courtesy one of my daughters twenty years ago). I tell myself my mind is brighter then. Also I feel smug doing something as trivial as writing fiction in the dark. But there are problems.

Once the computer is on I inevitably check my blog and others. Often the two hours of added “brightness” are dissipated in comments and responses – all of which now seem to be longer. Nobody appears to have noticed that any of this stuff is the product of a brighter mind.

But that’s mere impulsiveness. The other problem is physiological. Technically early rising doesn’t affect me since, like other gerontocrats, I no longer need eight hours’ sleep. Try telling that to my brain. Once I’m done at the keyboard I go downstairs to eat dinner and/or read or watch telly. Both these latter activities are severely circumscribed by heavy eyelids. Please don’t recommend any more hard books. They’re probably beyond me.

But the photo says it all. How dedicated it makes me look.

A MUST! Charles Rosen, concert pianist and academic, is the best writer on music I know. I will kill anyone who disagrees. He mentions a double concerto for piano and harpsichord with two chamber orchestras by the modern composer Eliott Carter. Could be tough. Here’s part of Carter’s description: In addition to being isolated in space and timbre, the antiphonal groups are partially separated musically by the fact that each emphasizes its own repertory of melodic and harmonic intervals. Instruments include metallophones and lignophones. Doesn’t matter; Rosen says it’s OK so I’ll love it. Going to download it right now. More later.

NOVEL (Blest Redeemer) 21,540 words

Monday, 21 November 2011

As winter beckons...

Antipathies – with reasons

Music: Berlioz (Edgy, unsettling, unmelodious). Verdi operas (Cumbersome, self-regarding, self-referential, over-Italianate). Rossini (Virtuosic, heartlessly rhythmic, predictable).

Authors: Priestley (Professionally Yorkshire, egotistical, banal). Roth – later titles (Insubstantial, depressing, narrow scope). Byatt (Pedestrian, literary, long)

Sports: Soccer (Tribal, morally corrupt, unfunny). Ice hockey (Puck too small, confrontational, crowded). Speedway (Brief, unvarying, dirty).

Wine: Bordeaux - petits chateaux (Tannic, cheerless, pretentious). Beaujolais (Trivial, mouldy gamay grape, vegetable bouquet). Sauvignon blanc – barring expensive rarities (Indistinguishable, shallow, dental dangers).

Painters: Emin (Potentially fraudulent, fashionable, childish). Stubbs (Limited subjects, inaccurate, exaggerated). Gauguin (Implausible, inelegant, racist).

Politicians: Chirac (Self-serving, poor teeth, smokes too much). Osborne (Bee-sting mouth, unskilful liar, miniaturised). Johnson (Disguised extremist, self-loving, failed comic).

TV series: The Office (Ugly central character, parodies the unparodiable, sly). Morse (Phony accent, phony intellect, phony beers). Anything-watch (Dumbed, gushing, condescending).

Towns: Guildford (Excessive health, cornflake box cathedral, airs and graces). Dover (Xenophobic, filthy, unwelcoming). Niagara (Smelly industry, disappointing attraction, forgettable)

Actors: Alec Baldwin (Abrupt, uncongenial, slab-sided). Mayall (Monotonous, febrile, thin). Hawn (Repetitive, unskilled, irritating)

Blogs: Works Well (Opinionated, casual, sour).

NOTE. Anyone thinking of responding: conciseness (which I haven't managed everywhere) will tickle your fancy.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The CV I never submitted

Old age encourages me to hand out advice but I’m really not entitled. Take my employment record in journalism. I started work in 1951 and except for two years’ National Service I didn’t change jobs until 1959. Thereafter, until I retired in 1995, I had thirteen jobs, one of them three times.

Until 1972 I didn’t take what I did seriously. Until 1975 when I became an editor I accepted no responsibility. If I fancied a change of job I took it. After six years in newspapers I worked on magazines dealing with: cycling, hi-fi, civil engineering, motorcycling, logistics (first time), instrumentation, production engineering, data processing, general technology, logistics (second time), institutional catering, metal fabrication, logistics (third time).

Moving to the USA didn’t hamper my wanderlust. In six years there I had four jobs. Only in my final job (Logistics, third time), which lasted eleven years, did the various things I’d learnt come together allowing me to say I’d become professional.

Despite this ebb and flow, and a couple of exceptions, I enjoyed myself enormously. And that in itself is shocking. I made no attempt to learn from my enjoyment; I continued to move via whim rather than planned advancement.

What conclusions? Mainly that I was extremely lucky. I chose a line of business where academic qualifications weren’t required and to some degree one lived by one’s wits. In the final decade I saw that “characters” were sellable and decided to turn myself into one. I suppose it worked but there are risks. The Ancient Mariner was a character and I’m not yet convinced I’ve out-distanced him. In the seventeenth century my ancestral prototypes are to be found in several Shakespeare plays, usually called Fool.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Something? Nothing? Now amended

Didn't get this right first time. Changes in red.

Yesterday, on the 9.10 am from Newport to London Paddington a woman had plugged in her laptop and was word-processing furiously. Fiftyish, streaky brass-brown hair tied back carelessly, sharp nose, haggard facial tones, dubious complexion. Garish slit-like glasses (imagine an Alice band that had slipped forward). Gold rings on third finger of both hands. The rest I never noticed or I’ve forgotten.

What caught my eye was her intensity. Her technique was speedy and her lips moved as she spelled out words on the keyboard. Occasionally she referred to a thick, official-looking typed document and then resumed. Too many people merely languish while travelling on trains. She wasn’t languishing and I admired that.

Every time I looked up from my Kindle she was still at it, her lips continuing to shape the words precisely, a gift to even the most modest of lip readers. Though I suspect what she was writing wasn’t as interesting as her sense of application.

As we neared Paddington I was distracted and when I next looked the laptop had been stowed away, glasses off, her hair had been de-secured so that it now bracketed her face, she may even have done a light pass of lipstick. Fine-drawn (one of my mother’s adjectival phrases) and relaxed, she was truly beautiful. Adult beautiful. We went our ways.

PS 1: When typing she was in profile; afterwards, full face. This may explain the transformation.

PS 2: Why was her purposeful state so much more memorable than the revelation she was beautiful?

PS 3: How did I manage to forget those glasses?

Talk is cheap; some talk's cheaper

Sneering at mobile phone users appears to be waning. Perhaps most of us now have mobiles and have discovered that the sentence “I’m on the train” is not inherently funny.

I only experience mass phoning on my rarish trips to see Plutarch at the Blogger’s Retreat in London (as yesterday). And then it’s the quality of what’s said that disturbs me. Clearly it’s time to update Thoreau (“Most men lead lives of unfortunately audible desperation.”) since one can’t help worrying about the homes such utterers return to. TV commercials must come as a great comfort. Is that a sneer? I suppose it is.

The saddest call I ever overheard was of a salesman failing to make a sale. Since I depended on space salesmen to finance the magazines I worked for, I had some sympathy with this troubled fellow. But I would have wished him better selling technique. Too many responses started with “Perhaps if we… “

That’s why it was unexpected, yesterday, to hear the following from a bearded guy across the aisle who laughed delightedly throughout:

“That’s a philosophical question.”
“I’ll put you on the loudspeaker if you aren’t careful.”
“I hope some people ended up with bloody noses.”
“It’s good to hear from you; how are you in yourself?”
“That goes for my wife as well.”
“And didn’t your immediate boss inform him?”

Fill in the Xs and there’s a short story. Alas I have longer fish to fry.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Friendship and good written stuff

What constitutes a friend? Shared humour, conversation, trust, self-evident generosity. Plus duration: five years minimum, say. I've worked out I may have two and a half friends, the half having recently swum back after thirty years. Another I have not included is distant with status uncertain.

None a woman but not by choice; better writers than me have struggled with that one. I look at my links list and realise its potential given my tiny “real” world. WW is three years old, so two years to go. But then comes the key issue of reciprocity.

HATED The Graduate. Was it serious or was it purely comic? Except for the music which came with worthwhile lyrics. From the same source here’s the middle eight (actually the middle six) from Night Game:

Then the night turned cold
Colder than the moon
The stars were white as bones
The stadium was old
Older than the screams
Older than the teams

But you’ve got to love baseball.

MORE good lyrics:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

Alas the penultimate line is terrible and I’ve missed it out. The photo is in and around Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain (3210 feet).

Friday, 11 November 2011

A Bonden brothers conversazione

Nick, the non-blogging Bonden brother, said I looked happier. A rare sort of remark which surprised me. I’d been chattering about the novel and I shut up for a moment to reflect. True, I am happier. Good or bad I love writing. It suits my type of selfishness.

The three of us (including the blogging Sir Hugh) had just sat down to dine at “a restaurant with rooms” in North Wales. That afternoon we’d spent time drinking beer (Old Snowdonia, to be precise) in a remote pub, way up a valley that started out lovely and got lovelier the further we penetrated. We laughed a lot, rather hysterically, discussing the various financial crises.

Nick’s giving up sailing after forty years. A five-year lapse has left his marine experiences and knowledge lagging behind and he worries about his competence. Rather than moan he told us about two paintings he’d bought “without asking the price” and which he gazes at deliberately every day.

Sir Hugh is planning another giant walk, starting at Lowestoft (“A horrible place”, said Nick). I suggested Sir Hugh write it up as a dialogue between himself and his defective knees. I think he thought the idea fanciful.

The meal was superb, partridge and a “plum soup” dessert in my case. An Oregon pinot grigio and a 2005 Santenay to wash things down.

Nick mentioned the fallibilities of a company executive, now dead, we all knew. Nick’s now retired but I marvelled at his professional ability to move confidently in the murk of the business world. Occasionally we dwelt on the ambiguous relationships all three of us had with our father.

PIC. Here we all are in 1982 – father, Nick, BB, Sir Hugh. My brothers look especially handsome, I think

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A tentative take-off

Neither Plutarch nor I could easily remember or pronounce A Stall Recovered the title of my second novel (now finished) so I junked it. Before I embark on the drudgery of sending the MS to agents I’ve been playing with a new title – modified biblical – and here it is on a draft dust jacket.

QUICK DESCENT No hymn starts with such splendour as:

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born king;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled: etc, etc

and then deteriorates into:

Late in time behold him come
(Backward ran the sentences…)
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb;
(A Jack-in-the-box?)
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
(Backward into the butcher’s shop)
Hail the incarnate deity
(More flesh than we need)
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
(Tempted to say “Pleased as Punch…”)

Plus this shocker in the third and final verse:

Risen with healing in his wings.
(Is it bread, or a chicken pie?)

Alas for C. Wesley, author of the above. In my hymn-book the next hymn is Christina Rossetti’s In The Bleak Mid-winter. Nuff said.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Profit from my mistakes

The perfect comment? Does it exist? Here are some of my imperfect comments deconstructed.

Great post! Great pix! Great philosophy! Meaning: I haven’t got the hang of blogging, I’m still into post-cards.

Loved your photo of the Grand Canyon. The white dot in the corner is in fact a 1997 Harley Davidson, the one with the power-operated kickstand. Meaning: I am unaware of natural beauty and am fixated on steel things that go broom-broom.

(0) Meaning: I am an inoffensive wading bird. I have left a footprint soon to washed away by the tide. Plus a neat pile of waste products. I shall now fade away.

My grandson Zach… Meaning: They’ll never love me but they may love him.

In 1947, when we ate stewed pebbles twice a week for lunch… Meaning: Deprivation and old age – an unbeatable plea for sympathy.

Your post about Barbara Cartland’s views on chivalry didn’t go far enough. You will remember in Ulysses when Bloom meets Dedalus… (Five hundred words later) … which goes to prove Joyce’s pre-eminence. Meaning: It’s been five weeks since I reminded people I’ve read Ulysses.

Ca va sans dire. Meaning: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

Rebutting this thesis, Heidegger said… Meaning: Even if you haven’t got it, flaunt it.

The bottle was a touch pricey at… Meaning: Flaunt it in another way.

The pouches under my eyes… Meaning: I’m so self-effacing.

I banged my head on the beams inside. Meaning: But I’m physically impressive.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Rossignols are nightingales


It wasn’t all delight. At Crans I caught
A tip, tearing my shoulder at the ball,
Cracking the socket, facing a distraught
One-armed descent to the Swiss wailing wall.
The joint was luxé, squawked the harridan,
Who urged me to relax and not to scream
As others yanked on this prone Englishman
And others totalled up his bill supreme.
Yes, I was paying for those future days
Of hissing skis maintained in parallel,
Of turns that contoured all of heaven’s ways,
Of moguls charged, of schusses flown pell-mell.
That written self I often left behind
Is now in muck and bitterness confined

NOTE: The last line of this sonnet previously contained a mildly naughty word. Now I am professionally and viscerally opposed to censorship but some filtering sofware on the computer my younger daughter uses meant she was unable to open the post. On the grounds that there might be other nannying systems out there I changed the word and (the better the day the better the deed) made two or three other small changes. Since all the people who patronise Works Well are of superior intellect it won't need much elbow-nudging from me to hint at which word was changed and what it was changed from. Thus everyone whose mission is Truth Upon Earth may make the substitution in their mind and conclude that it probably hardly matters at all.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Problems with my bags

Once I bought four casual shirts all the same dark green. Having four absolved me from further shirt buying for five, possibly ten, years. Mrs BB was outraged, talked about variety. Our sartorial views are incompatible.

Fifteen years ago I decided I would only buy chinos. Seemed a sensible decision, allowed me to forget about trousers for ever but didn’t carry the finality I required. Chinos (trousers made of cotton twill fabric, usu. khaki-coloured) vary widely. Some come in thin, slippery, synthetic material that seems to flow over my legs like well-diluted paint. Others in something more like sailcloth, capable of stopping a .22 bullet. Others like waterproof pyjamas.

And there’s the colour. Khaki is not standard. My ideal is pale beige but I’m especially put off by diarrhoea (in all its forms). M&S’s Blue Harbour range was perfect until some fidgety designer got out his colour charts. Hereford is not the chino centre of the world; online sources lie about the details and colours are not dependable. And if I found perfection how many pairs dare I buy? I might get fatter (Am getting fatter!) or thinner.

But believe me my legs need covering.

DON GIOVANNI From the Met in HD at Hereford’s Courtyard theatre. Stodgy, slow first act, too many close-ups (even in duets!). Dull, dark set: one side of three-storey building which NYT said resembled an advent calendar. Superb voices made it all the more irritating. Don Octavio (not admittedly Mozart’s most heroic role) played by “veteran” (courtesy NYT) Spanish tenor Ramón Vargas had softest, most melodic voice ever yet looked like a greengrocer in mufti. Next Monday: Siegfried.