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 clich├ęs 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.