A Gem Of A Marriage

A gem of a marriage

We married young and liked our fun
As do healthy boys and girls
We stayed quite flirty at year thirty
Romping on a bed of pearls.

We didn’t brag cos we were glad
To bounce around like newbies
We’d kept it naughty at year forty
So we deserved those rubies.

Time has passed, we can’t be arsed
And faking it’s not clever.
Still the wife’s still frisky at year sixty
So these diamonds are for Eva.

This was written for Chelsea Owens terrible poetry prompt

Posted in poems, poetry | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Rationalising A Way

I live in the London Borough of Lambeth. For some time all the roads in the borough have been the subject of a 20 mile per hour limit with very few exceptions. The neighbouring boroughs have a variety of rules, including some streets with a 20 limit, but none, as far as I can judge apply it universally.

It takes some getting used to. On narrow roads with parked cars on either side it feels fast enough but, especially at night on empty straight highways it feels almost like a penitence and it is easy to let your mph creep towards the former standard of 30.

Many don’t like it; some positively hate it. And this leads to far more confrontations than was customary before its introduction. Cars rush up behind, pressing close as if, by the simple expedient of air pressure being applied I will go faster. Lights are flashed, horns of differing levels of frustrations pressed and, occasionally madcap overtaking manoeuvres undertaken.

Sometimes I shrug, at others I growl, often a sense of my own superiority arises. What I struggle with is at these times is any sort of empathy and yet I too have felt that urge to go faster. It takes a degree of will power to avoid signing my thinking, offering a smug, knowing finger in response to their bubbling annoyance.

It’s all just so emotional. In the cold light of rational thinking, I grasp the essential truth that there are varied reasons why people react as they do. And me like likewise. I can empathise easily enough when taken out of the moment. When a calmer head can prevail.

You might think age would add a layer of objectively to some of these moments when I experience any number of these petty daily frictions. Maybe it does but remaining zen isn’t always so easy.

It’s all about stepping outside of the moment, lending distance to an otherwise emotional response; knowing that those others, who, hidden in the anonymity of their cars and other vehicles are really like me, no different.

How can we reach a position where we are less antagonistic, I wonder? More pacific. Give peace a chance, eh? It’s all about finding something – your something – that breaks you out of the middle of the frustration and enables you to see yourself as if from above, to see you and whoever else as if in a movie.

Down the years I’ve tried various expedients: deep breathing; imagining your antagonist in some absurd situation; listening rather than speaking.

Currently my mantra is stolen from a film. To be accurate it’s stolen from an interview on a film review show between Tom Hanks and Simon Mayo. In it, Mayo reports on a fellow reviewer’s mantra: ‘it’ll be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end’ and asked Hanks for his. In answering it he cites the character he is playing in his latest movie, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood’ about an American icon pretty much unknown to British audiences: Mr (Fred) Rogers. His mantra was ‘Be Kind’.

And yes, that suits me. In those moments when a spark risks escaping and starting some sort of interpersonal conflagration, I say to myself ‘Be Kind’: kind to the person causing the friction; kind to myself; and kind to those who I will interact with later may benefit from me avoiding confrontation. And be kind unconditionally; it’s not about wanting or expecting the other person to reciprocate; you have to take that first step regardless of the reaction or consequences

I recommend you finding something, a little mind-worm that acts as an emotional bomb disposal. That’s mine for the foreseeable. If we all use something we might begin to ease away some frictions. Wouldn’t that be good? What do you do?

PS Hanks own little saw was ‘This too shall pass’.

This is written the fifth anniversary of #1000speak 1000 voices for compassion

Posted in #1000speak, miscellany | Tagged | 30 Comments

Wandering Like A Daffodil #writephoto

Percy Bluffer-Baton, third in line to the Earldom of Twinkle-on-Haze sat on the small marsupial shaped crenellation that extruded from the grassy knoll and had a moment. Percy’s moments tended to be on the short side, almost dwarfish in their brevity and contain three parts randomised anxiety, a pinch of paranoia and the merest tintagal of a rosy hue. Mostly they followed the discovery of a sartorial discombobulation – a dangling button, an inelastic sock top or a worrisome loosening of some fundamental stitchery. Today’s however took on a more gluttonous texture: his spats were splattered in what could only be described as a formless muddy blob having cubist aspirations.

‘I fear so, Sir,’ agreed Percy’s lugubrious man, Joves when Percy pointed out the similarity between the earthy patterning on his upper footguards and the inscrutable Woman in a Chocolate Maelstrom by the Swedish daubsmith Hint Strobelstrom. ‘Would sir care for a moist eradicator?’

‘Sir would prefer something that will bally well let him wander the banks of yon lovelorn lough without feeling as if sir is a dashed wandering daffodil in search of a bed.’

‘Very poetical, sir. Perhaps galoshes are the answer.’

‘Joves, it is a truth universally wotsitted that you are a fine fellow but I think I have enough oaths thank you.’

‘I was referring to waterproof overshoes, sir, not an alternative expletive. I think sir’s use of gosh and jolly jingles to be something of a sine qua non in the well-informed lexicographical circles.’

‘Really? I say. That’s rather topping, isn’t it?’

‘Indeed, so, sir. The icing on the gateau if one may make so bold.’

‘Oh one may, indeed. I didn’t realise they were thing.’

‘Very much a thing, sir. Two in fact, one for each foot.’

‘And where may one procure a set of this galloping goshes?’

‘When I appraised myself of sir’s need for some medicinal solitude after the termination of sir’s emotional if necessarily forlorn pursuit of The Lady Honore and the inevitability that a body of smooth water might be a draw I took the liberty of bringing a pair.’

‘Well may my dander never dither, Joves. These are mighty fine as our American cousins might say.’

‘I believe that is the correct vernacular in use in certain post colonial groups. If sir would hold the knot of that tree we may be able to…. very good sir.’

As Percy, newly shod splashed happily in the murky shallows, his mood moving from the peaky to the perky and he cast an approving eye on his man. ‘What would I do without you, Joves?’ the gormless inbred pondered as he stood in the shifting silt.

‘I think that sir would very likely sink.’

‘And that wouldn’t do, eh?’

‘Not before tiffin, sir. Shall we?’

This week’s response to the latest #writephoto prompt…

Posted in #writephoto, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

If Parasite Was Half As Nice (with apologises to Amen Corner) #filmreview #parasite

There’s been a lot of chittery-chatter around this Oscar hoover of a film. It knocked the much liked 1917 out of the running so did it justify the eulogising vaunted on it?

Well, yes it’s an enjoyable movie. The story moves along at a satisfactory pace. The characters are soon coming to life. Simply put a down at heel family of four inveigle themselves into the employ of a wealthy if rather naive family and, as per the title appear to be parasites, twisting their distracted employers’ needs to their own ends making themselves indispensable.

There are clever little twists, neat vignettes like when the two children of the hard up family go hunting for a free Wi-Fi signal, much like possessed Pokemon Go players looking for some cockroach character.

There are neat running gags: Mr Kim’s particular odour is often discussed as others try to describe it ‘a sort of radish, do you think’ – there is to be a sting in the tail here which I won’t spoil.

It’s grim in parts, gross in others, clunky in some and some of the jokes are rather telegraphed even if still funny, like the cringe worthy sex scene. The ending romps away with the madness of a Michael Winner tour de force. I enjoyed it.

But for me the fatal flaw, and one that’s inherent in something where the pacing and humour depends on dialogue and character like this film, comes in that old tired problem of the two foot barrier at the bottom of the screen. Subtitles.

Characters lose their depth, the prose becomes homogenised , the acting is stilted and uniform. I expect the critical acclaim comes because the judges are better at seeing past that filter to the quality beyond. Sadly, I’m not and so the film flattens to two dimensions when it might have soared into a parallel, multi-dimensional and surreal world.

Do give it a go: I’m sure it’s worthy of you time. But for this viewer, and sorry for being a bit of a Little English Speaker here, 1917 is a film I will happily settle down to watch again. I feel I’ve happily ticked this particular box, thanks.

And Amen Corner? Which was near where I once lived in Tooting after which this 1960s London band took its name?

Here you go..

Posted in Film, miscellany, review | Tagged , | 14 Comments

What The Dickens #film #review #davidcopperfield

Confession no. 1 I like Armando Iannucci’s work, especially the Death of Stalin which shouldn’t be funny but was. The Thick of It grew on me too, once Malcolm Tucker’s gratuitous yet oddly twee swearing became just part of the scenery.

Confession no. 2 I like a lot of Dickens work, at least on my second coming to it. At school it was the pits, in my thirties Dickens had evidentially worked hard at his prose and he was writing splendid if essentially overlong stories.

If you combine these two confessions you reach the sad conclusion that for all its fine points The Personal History of David Copperfield is neither baked nor unbaked yet not half baked. What I’m struggling to say is bits are beautifully cooked and parts as stodgy and soggy as a cube of school blancmange.

Take the start. Having the actor who plays the older Copperfield narrating his birth, because that’s the device Dickens uses in his book really doesn’t work on screen. It’s Pythonesque. Also the young actor who plays young Copperfield isn’t that good so a third of the film drags a little when he’s on screen being berated or cheeky, like watching a 1970s add for fruit pastels where the children aren’t so much wooden as fossilised.

I’m being harsh, I know. This film has rightly been praised for its ensemble casting and, yes, it’s tremendous. Tilda Swinton is the best as she swings from determined to demented and back. Peter Capaldi’s Micawber makes him more sly than I think Dickens intended (that maybe because he leers rather a lot) but it’s a polished portrayal. Hugh Laurie’s turn as Mr Dick, someone gripped by delusional madness is extraordinary and very poignant in a film that is chasing laughs amongst the grimmery that coats everything Dickens in the popular consciousness and often holds sway here, too. Ben Whishaw is probably the best for me as the Unctuous usurper Uriah Heap. He is evil, truly while the other villains are comic book rather than rounded characters.

And what of Dev Patel as Copperfield the man? He has exactly the right combination of beguiling innocence, self awareness and ingrained hope to make him a fine choice. He is watchable and there’s depth there too when he realises his school friend Staniforth has stolen the betrothed of Ham by dazzling her with his class. He is distraught. He is fine yet…

Before I saw the film I read a lot about its colour blind casting, almost eulogising Iannucci for what he’s done here. Patel’s colour matters not – we never know his father so how do we know what this Copperfield would look like? Staniforth though, whose mother is black and he is white is almost studied and feels like a test of the films credentials. There are other examples. Do they intrude? Yes and no, but do they ‘work’? If by that one might mean, does it feel like a real portrayal of real people? No it fails dismally. If you’re having a black Hamlet and feel free, just don’t have a white Gertrude. It just leaves questions when you should be focused on the play or film or whatever.

That pretty much sums up for me why this doesn’t work, not completely. It’s not coherent. Semi baked. If Sisyphus cooked, it would represent his soufflé… so near…

Posted in Film, miscellany, review | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

The Visit #theatrereview

I can’t remember the last play I saw with two intervals. Some Shakespeare thingy I expect. Not that I can justify two ice creams so we took a box of sliced mangoes that makes me wonder if I’ll ever nail my green credentials.

This play – The Visit – is a translation and is set post war in small town America that is on its uppers, everyone just about fending off, if not starvation then bankruptcy. The opening set – as is often the case at the National the set is a fabulous moving feast – is Slurry, NY railroad station as four old boys await the arrival of the richest woman in the world who happens to have been born and brought up in Slurry and left many years before. These four, like the whole town have hopes – hopes that some of the wealth of this woman will be sprinkled in their direction.

It’s not a great opening if I’m honest, not when you know there’s another 3 hours and lots of loose change still to go. It’s monotone, monochrome, mostly exposition and repetitive. Looking back I think they could have squeezed the twenty minutes into less than ten with clever writing and editing. Still on we went. More townspeople arrived and then did the woman in question – Carrie. Her butler, who turned out to be a Supreme Court judge she had bought with her fabulous wealth – a recurring theme -stopped the express – which we knew from the interminable explanations no longer stopped at Slurry – by pulling the emergency cord. And to show how easy the heiress was with the dosh she bought off an aggrieved driver with a bung of 20,000 greenbacks. The townsfolk were soooo excited.

The rest of the first act was all about how she’d had a teenage affair with the local stud muffin, now married with two kids and running the town store. There was some reminiscing, some more back story about how she’d lost several body parts in getting to be where she was today and then a town meeting where she offered to make the town and its denizens richer than they could imagine with one billion little green drinking tokens. On one condition….

That’s where the first act ended. It had been a bit of an effort to get here, in truth and it felt like we could have made it in half an hour less.

But after that, acts two and three moved on. The condition – too much of a plot spoiler to say – was all about revenge, about what happens if you bear a grudge and then find you have the wherewithal to do something about it, about desperation and the power of money, about the power of the collective, about who, when an appalling request is made is to blame for it, how group think can justify almost anything.

There was wit and twists, there were some absurdities and comically surreal moments that added nothing to the plot and may have something to do with the cultural norms on which the original version was based. But whilst I’ll admit to a few micro naps in that first act, I remained engrossed from there on. It still dragged at times, even latterly. Some of it felt a bit like a cod psychologist had inputted into some of the scenes, so unlikely were they.

But I came out thinking about it and not about whether I could justify some cheese when I got home, knowing that it would be about 11 pm and that is a bit late for cheese, even in my world. That makes the play okay in my book. Not the lack of cheese, the consequent thinking…

I doubt many of you will go along, but do if you can. Lesley Manville in the lead is good. Not excellent because the material and her need to hop and hobble with her many amputations means the opportunities for quality acting are curtailed by the requirement to mimic a mobile pretzel. But she and a huge cast did well. Well enough anyway.

Posted in review, theatre | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

How Trusting Algorithms Saved Humanity #writephoto

This was written in response to this week’s #writephoto prompt. And no, I’ve no idea how I ended up where I did.

No one knew the purpose of Rhymer’s Tomb. It stood on its knoll for as long as men had memories and speech to record its presence. It withstood the vagaries of nature and man and refused to give up the secrets of which all who saw it knew it contained. Perhaps it was that obduracy that drew men to its side or perhaps it was some mystic quality that men of old knew without learning. Whatever the magic, men gathered in its lee, taking shelter and protection from its constancy.

Time pocked it but its defences did not crack. Even as rationality overtook instinct, still it resisted men’s attempts to pierce its carapace. Theories abounded and while educated ears deafened many to its draw, there were still those whose ability to hear was not dulled by the lure of education. Those dwindling few stayed, unable to articulate what kept them there but harsh were they in their resistance to rules that dictated their removal.

Two millennium and more had passed since the codification of faith dulled men’s inner ear when the children of the Enlightenment pierced that resilient shell with their scans and rays. What was there within? What pull was it that this ancient structure contained?

Music. No one could understand how it was created but the purity of its chords, enhanced and tonally adapted for the human ear reached a wider audience. And an audience who was in need of mystery at a time of so much unsettling technologically based certainty.

Many tried to replicate these sounds whose wave-borne balm held more and more in sway. And for a time none succeeded. The throngs grew and the clamour for answers began to drown out this alien mystical power.

One man had a theory. He’d held high office, but not the highest; he’d sounded the trumpet of warning before it was common to do so. But he was dismissed. Ridiculed. Until he brought together a group who understood, who produced the music that eased every crisis and calmed every hate. People began at last to see, to understand. This man knew. He had the Answer and it was through this ancient music generated in ways beyond the understanding of ordinary mortals.

The world sighed. It would be alright. Yes they said. We just need to put our trust in Al Gore’s Rhythms rather than the vagaries of the random choices foisted upon us by the all consuming computers and we will be all right.

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, miscellany | Tagged , | 24 Comments