Saturday 30 January 2021

Good news, sad poetry

In good news yesterday scientists have discovered why wombats have cubed poo, activists who protested deportations in 2017 and were convicted under anti-terrorism laws have had their convictions quashed, and in France the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon was left a large bequest by a man who's family had been sheltered there fleeing the Nazis. The article points out this is nothing new for the local community;  "Over the centuries the village has taken in a wide range of people fleeing religious or political persecution, from priests driven into hiding during the French Revolution to Spanish republicans during the civil war of the 1930s, and more recently migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa." What a proud history for a village to have; it makes me feel better about the human race.

In poetry news there was this little piece about poets writing lockdown poems and linking to this one from Brian Bilston which is somewhat more of a political commentary on the current situation:

Stay safe. Be kind. See you tomorrow.

p.s. Just browsing Brian Bilston's website and found this wonderful take on Lovesong (that I shared the other day)


Thursday 28 January 2021

Monday 25 January 2021

Turn around at a safe location


They are phasing out the collection of covid test kits (for a priority postbox near you to post your test kit put your postcode here)so I will get my Sunday mornings back, and no longer have to battle with the Route Optimisation and Nagivation ap. It's not all bad, in fact I couldn't have done without it, but the tendency to try and take you somewhere when you input an address that is not on the system was most frustrating. It was no good either when there were roadworks and diversions, demanding that you turn around randomly. 

In other news the British Gas engineers are on strike. That explains a lot. Had a call the other day rescheduling our appointment to next week. Currently the heating is working for maybe a couple of hours a day, so mostly we are a little chilly. But now I know I don't mind so much. They voted to strike when management threatened to sack anyone not accepting new contracts with reduced pay and worse terms. With Brexit removing employment protections that the EU guaranteed we will no doubt see more of this kind of behaviour by companies and it must be resisted. 

Stay safe. Be kind. See you tomorrow.

Thursday 21 January 2021

12 year blogiversary


Twelve years ago I started a blog (give or take a day or two), and posted on the second day about Obama's inauguration. I didn't manage to watch much yesterday, what with being at work, but apparently Bernie's mittens were the star of the show. Monkey has a new year resolution not to mention the previous incumbent again, and I will be joining her. 
In other good news we will be getting a pay rise some time soon, and what with the union reaching an agreement the share price is on the up. The gas man is coming back next week to fix the heating. Monkey got 68% for her Japanese crime essay and 78% in her Russian grammar exam so, although she has to get through another exam today we have stuff to be glad about. 
Stay safe. Be kind. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

slightly smarter phone


I am finally joining the 21st century. My old Nokia lasted me over a decade before it finally gave out. It was routinely mocked at work if anyone saw me using it. I replaced it with another, but it was just a cheap knock-off of the original and the numbers rubbed off within a week and the case cracked shortly afterwards. Next I bought a Sony Ericsson cheap thing which I have had for a couple of years. The little toggle to move the cursor had become completely unreliable and the sound quality was so poor that I could not use it to actually talk to people.  I went to Back Market and looked for a reconditioned smarter phone (just randomly, but the person on the chat was helpful and they have a no quibble money back thing if you don't like it and 12 months warranty). Although it is technically a 'smart' phone I don't have it connected to the interweb (except at home it can connect to the wifi) so it's just for calls and texts ... and taking photos, I am excited to take photos of random stuff. 

Stay safe. Be kind. See you tomorrow (for the Biden/Harris inauguration).

Saturday 16 January 2021


Reading the Grauniad on my lunch break the other day I was taken with a review of 'A Swim in a Pond in the Rain' by George Saunders, a literary analysis come writing advice book focussing on Russian short stories. The library has a couple of copies on order, so I am in the queue. Then coincidentally the literary diet comes up with this commencement speech by him from 2013:

It was preceded by Seamus Heaney's poem 'Mossbawn Sunlight', which is very much worth far more than the minute or so it will take you to read. 
Stay safe. Be kind. See you tomorrow.

Thursday 14 January 2021


So, I very nearly beat myself up for completely forgetting to follow my literary diet, then Monkey told me off. We scanned down the list for today's offering but paused at the 10th: the wonderful Tom Lehrer:

and just because there's always another suggestion on Youtube:
Gallows humour about nuclear war was quite common for a while, I wonder whether he's written anything about climate change.
Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday 13 January 2021


I haven't posted in a week and look at all the shit that has happened. I kept intending to respond but was not sure I had much to add beyond WTF. America had an attempted insurrection, and apparently nearly half of Republicans think this is ok. WTF. And republican politicians love to suggest we should all forgive and forget, like it was nothing really to try and overthrow democracy. WTF. I mainly want to just tell them to suck it up, it's only four years, it'll be over before you know it and then you can try again. (How Biden Stole the Election) When Trump won it was terrible, and I don't even live in America, he's done lots of shit things but hopefully nothing irreversible (expect those separated children who have been lost), we survived and now it's over. (Time until Trump is out of Office.)

On the home front Royal Mail's senior management have just discovered that the pandemic is affecting the delivery of mail, releasing a list of a mere 28 areas affected by delays. I guess the chain of command is so long it's taken this long for them to hear. Strangely Manchester is not on the list. 

'Trumpet' by Jackie Kay, found in a charity shop ages ago, was an unexpected read. Joss Moody, a famous jazz trumpeter, has just died, and for everyone but his wife there is a surprise in store when it emerges that he was actually a woman. All the way through the book I continued to think of him as a man, his wife continues to refer to him as her husband, and even their confused and angry (adopted) son continues to refer to him as his father. The story follows the reactions of people around Joss, and also a journalist trying to sensationalise the story. She goads the people she talks to, trying to make them express horror or shock, but they all loved this person, and admired his music. What I took away from the story was how utterly irrelevant one's gender should be to how one's life is viewed. Joss the musician is the person who was admired and loved, his band mates dismiss the importance of the discovery with a side of 'so what?' Their son Colman takes the whole book to come around and realise that his father's love is not undermined by the revelation. He hardly takes the time to grieve he is so consumed by confusion. His wife on the other hand sinks into the abyss, and Jackie Kay writes about it so beautifully:

"When I go into our bedroom, the bed is just lying there. As if to say, it's only me again. I keep expecting that some miracle could happen, that I could just come up the stairs and find Joss in bed waiting for me. Each time I come into this room the emptiness of it punches me in the stomach. There is something so repetitive about grief. First the stupid hope, then the violence of remembering. The hope, then the carpet from under your feet. If Joss had lived and I had dies. If Joss had seen a doctor. If I had made Joss see a doctor. The same things spinning every day and night. Each night I'm afraid to sleep. I know Joss will find me. I know I will wake up and forget and then remember." (p.95-6)

"I cradle the phone. I say to the spirit that I know is still there: I'm going to phone our son. I'm going to phone our son. I push the numbers. My fingers feel barely strong enough to push the numbers. I get Colman's answerphone. I have always hated them. How can he have it on at a time like this when he knows his father is dying? I hold on waiting for the beep that everyone tells you to wait for. When it comes it frightens me, it is so loud and thoughtless. I say, Colman? Colman, are you there? And the real Colman is on the line in a flash. Your father died an hour or so ago, Colman, I say. Can you please come round?" (p.204)

What the story does not do is tell you what Joss Moody thought. He is already presenting as a man and playing the trumpet when he meets his wife (who's name I can't find, the chapters are in first person from different people), she falls in love with the human being he is, and continues to love him after he reveals the truth about himself. But the reader has no idea what led to the choice he made. Was it because he wanted to fit in with the jazz music world, or is that irrelevant. And although I was left curious about how Joss experienced his life I was left more with the impression of a powerful personality who inspired such a strong response from the people in his life.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday 5 January 2021

"I grow old ... I grow old ...

 I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."

The Guardian today suggested T. S Eliot reading 'The Journey of the Magi', which is a wonderful poem, but once I was on the page I clicked on 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock', which we did for A level, and went on a lovely nostalgia trip. I particularly love the description of the fog at the beginning. It is funny how something from so long ago can feel so familiar. On searching his name I discovered that my teacher Mr Griffith-Jones died back in 2011. He was not your normal english teacher. We spent the first half of our A level course studying things that were not on the curriculum, because he genuinely loved literature and wanted us to care too, and to some extent I would say he influenced my ongoing reading life. He gave us a printed sheet of recommended reading, and in all likelihood I still have it somewhere.
Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Monday 4 January 2021

Part 3 - Lockdown with a Vengeance


Barely had the news finished than the internet was doing it's thing on the new lockdown situation. Tish's feed suggested Lockdown III The Virus Strikes Back, but we're Die Hard fans in our house. Monkey got her essay submitted so we opened my Christmas puzzle, and are cursing Tish (who chose it). 
It may look like this, at some point 
in the next few weeks, but not any time soon methinks:

Tish is back testing students, but Monkey is probably not back in the classroom for some time yet. There have been no in-person classes since March. Exams will be on zoom in the next few weeks. Having checked the opening times at work they have been cut somewhat so I will probably be back out on delivery.
My Guardian literary diet went somewhat downhill from Maya Angelou. I watched 'Clueless', and found it vacuous in the extreme, as you might expect, lacking any of the real character development you expect from Jane Austen. I watched the video of Kate Bush, but was never a fan. Today's suggestion of the Monologue Library was however quite interesting and enjoyable, though more about dramatic performance than literary content. Have finished reading 'Trumpet' by Jackie Kay, but it deserves a proper review, so will try and find time tomorrow.
Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Friday 1 January 2021



Today's offering from the Guardian's 31 days of literary nourishment is Maya Angelou reading her poem 'Still I Rise'. There are some poems that are so much more powerful when read aloud, and this is certainly one of them. I started the new year by buying some yarn for a baby blanket. And did you hear ... we left the EU, who knew?? Chatting to Claire this morning we agreed that although part of you wants it to be so crap just to prove how wrong the brexiteers were, we must mostly hope that the economic and social consequences will not be as bad as they appear. 
Monkey started tidying the front room so we could exercise, but got distracted by the after eight mints. We might make our gingerbread creation today, but only if we can find a moment in the hectic schedule. And we're not going to beat ourselves up about what we do or don't do. This year, if you manage nothing else, be kind to yourself. And read a little poetry (I will share more here too.)

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.