David Green

David Green (Books) is the imprint under which I publish booklets of my own poems, when there are sufficient of them. Apart from that, the website has become what it is. I hope you find at least some of it worthwhile.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Top 6 - Buxtehude

Along with the Ton Koopman Opera Omnia, I did also acquire a pristine copy of the revised edition of Kerala J. Snyder's Dieterich Buxtehude, Organist in Lubeck for less than the £45 marked on its Heffers label when most available copies were considerably more than that. I'm not sure how many other households in my street have a copy of that.
I had once thought that the chapter in the Grove volume on North German Baroque was as much as I was ever going to know about but this definitive work contains much more than even I will ever need to know or be able to inwardly digest.
It is a big thrill to be able to have and hold one's own such book and read the fuller story behind the few one-line details usually to be found. For instance, it is not quite the case that the postholder of organist in Lubeck was expected to marry a daughter of the previous incumbent. Buxtehude's predecessor, Franz Tunder, hadn't for a start. While Dieterich had several daughters, and three remained unmarried into their mid twenties, the fact that Mathieson and Handel had visited, probably as prospective applicants for the job but declined it is no evidence of that. And it is no reflection on the perceived comeliness of the Frauleins Buxtehude that Handel was not interested in marriage because there is conspicuously no trace of romantic involvement anywhere in his biography.
Bach's visit was surely entirely educational and it is quite possible that his extended stay involved playing in the concert series of Autumn 1703 in Lubeck.Again, with some hindsight, it would have come as some relief to the young ladies that they didn't become Johann Sebastian's wife given the exhausting programme of reproduction that the eventual Frau Bach went through.
But without struggling through the detaikled chapters of musicology, well beyond my minimal appreciation, Prof. Snyder's monumental survey is a wonderful thing to have and the ideal companion to the discs.
Still returning to them regularly, I must sooner or later for my own sake at least nominate the top 6 and it makes for a fitting Bank Holiday special feature.
Any anthology of the music of the period would have to include the sublime Klag Lied from Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dehin, BuxWV 76, a mourning song written on the death of his father that is oustanding among the choral work, more likely written for occasions or concert performance rather than church use.
The long time favourite piece, hidden away in the less often played repertoire of the trio sonatas, is the Sonata in B Flat, op.1, BuxWV 255, a bright, free-spirited chat between violin and viola da gamba redolent of all the Italian origins of the baroque in Corelli from which the later generations of household name composers took their style. Buxtehude is not all Lutheran pietism and devotional, he looks like of lot of fun on his days off from that.
Whereas Membra Jesu Nostri is the set of cantatas most often appearing in the catalogue and thus is picked ahead of the hours of sacred music as representative of it and a greatest hit. Not to select those would be like not including Maggie May in Rod Stewart's 6 and the comparison is not so incongruous once we remember that Handel, author of Messiah, lived next door to Jimi Hendrix, whose Voodoo Chile quite clearly shows the benefit of his influence.
La Capricciosa is a set of keyboard pieces I heard played in Handel's house there in a concert to mark the 300th anniversary of Dieterich's death and, as an exploration of the keyboard it probably could come ahead of the organ work in a purely personal choice. With only four out of 29 discs being taken up by organ music, it seems possible that more Buxtehude organ music was lost than is extant. To admire Buxtehude but not for his organ music is a bit like admiring Geoffrey Boycott but not for his batting but perhaps Buxtehude was an organ player rather than an organ composer and it is the choral music that dominates the complete works and leaves the overwheliming impression on the memory.
But to represent him, an organ piece needs to be included and a choice needs to be made between the muted, reflective moods of the quieter pieces and the stops-out, bravura pieces. Organ music is much better heard played resounding in a church than limited by the reproductive capability of any CD player. The Toccata in F, BuxWV 156, is strictly of the latter type. I may or may not have heard it in Portsmouth cathedral but it explains itself coherently here and would no doubt benefit greatly from being heard there rather than on this Sony contraption I have here.
Which leaves space for only one more selection which inevitably means finding the needle in a haystack from all the choral work that doesn't uinfairly leave out all the other deserving pieces. The soprano part punctuated by plaintive violin embellishment on Herr, wenn ich nur dich hab, BuxWV 38, is a short burst of allelieuas that would again make the case for Buxtehude as more celebratory and less sombre than the overall tenor of his output probably is but there are two such major pieces at the head of the list and my point is that he can be as playful as he can be melancholy and it is always good to finish on an upbeat note.
As an investment to occupy those endless weeks in between big race meetings in retirement, the discs and book are a more attractive prospect than making something of the garden.  

Thursday, 27 April 2017

If we could see ourselves

Obviously, as per the General Election we had the other day, I am contractually not supposed to comment on politics during the campaign for fear that my millions of readers might return Tim Farron as Prime Minister.
But it's less clear whether I can still make a literary point, like considering if the renowned Classical scholar, Boris Johnson, might be familiar with the work of the SNP poet, Robert Burns, who wrote,
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

The reportedly sidelined disaster area has an idiosyncratic style that attained new heights in his assessment of Jeremy Corbyn as a 'mutton-headed old mugwump'. And I'd be the first to acknowledge that if I were to review another poet's work as 'pedestrian, composite, unalarming and yet vaguely competent within its own unambitious parameters' then I might reflect that the same could equally be said about mine.
So I will be brazen enough to suggest that some people are prone to find faults in others that are equally, if not more, manifest in themselves. And that's probably what Burns meant and what Boris, enormous intellect though he undoubtedly possesses, failed to grasp.

And that is that from me as far as the election is concerned, a purely literary point that should not affect the outcome. I'd pile vast amounts of cash on the result of this election except for the fact that I bet on two political certainties last year and all that happened was that it took me longer than it should have to gather enough to buy the Complete Works of Buxtehude.

Michael Rosen - The Disappearance of Emile Zola

Michael Rosen, The Disappearance of Emile Zola (Faber)

One day I might end my three decades and more of sabbatical from Proust and then I'll need a deeper knowledge of the Dreyfus Case. I remember hearing about it at school but the finer details, and its pertinence in A la recherche, were more than that provided. Thus this book looked like a good idea, offering a biography of Zola into the bargain.
As a result of his involvement, publishing the polemic J'Accuse, Zola was sentenced to imprisonment and a fine but preferred to abscond to England and spent some difficult years in London suburbs.
The first half of Michael Rosen's account lacks a bit of tension as Zola moves addresses, is in danger of being recognized and newspapers carry made up stories concerning his whereabouts. His wife is childless but his mistress has his two children which probably seemed very French of him but he continues to write while opinion of him is divided between admirers of his realism and those who think he is a purveyor of sordid, decadent stories.
The books gathers momentum and power as it progresses, though. In his novel, Truth, Zola writes,
There were really no Jew questions - at all; there was only a Capitalist question - a question of money heaped up in the hands of a certain number of gluttons and thereby poisoning and rotting the world.
It is to be regretted that such an ostensibly accessible proposition was, and remains, beyond the grasp of such a significant section of the population who prefer the less demanding answers available in a common scapegoat.
The National Vigilance Association should by now sound like a cartoon creation, 'keeping an eye on immoral writing', but perhaps they don't. If only their weird vigilance could have prevailed, we might have been spared the work of Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and any number of others that were among the first loves of subsequent generations of readers of literature.
The France that Zola envisaged was slow coming into being, as something like it eventually did, and it is hard to credit how instutionalized and official the anti-semitism of which Dreyfus was the iconic victim actually was. The values and principles that he stood for didn't gain widespread acceptance until it was too late for him but Rosen places him at the forefront of the gains that came after his death, suffocating in a bedroom filling with carbon monoxide that, according to a report that came to light much later, was deliberately engineered by anti-Dreyfusard workmen.
It's not just the politics of the case, the fact that the issues involved never went away or that there's a whole other book on Zola's major novels that isn't attempted here that convince us of his heroism and that literature is essential beyond its usual intellectual constituency. I'm not always keen on the idea of overt politics in literature as a good thing but, everything being ultimately political, Zola is a paragon example of the literary figure that is equally significant as polemicist, however untidy and inconvenient that might seem to the aesthete.
And Michael Rosen, allowing his own family history into the sweep of his survey, becomes heroic, too, in the process. It seemed like we were only being offered a slightly pedestrian story about a novelist in genteel exile, estranged but still domestic, vilified and in hiding, more or less like Salman Rushdie was to find himself later, but it became much more than that. It is a fine book, essential for anyone with an interest in Zola, Dreyfus or the issues involved, and presumably still useful to those scholars who know it all already.
I have checked where my bookmark is in my Proust. It was left in page 306 of volume 2 of the three Penguin paperbacks of Terence Kilmartin's translation, each of which are over 1000 pages, in about 1984. Maybe I'll go back to it one day but I might need a recap.
But perhaps not just yet. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Blue and other consolations

After another traumatic day battling with contemporary internal bureaucracy and pettifogging process, it can't surely be much longer before the early retirement clause is invoked but every month survived reduces future austerity.
It offers some ease to come home to Joni Mitchell's Blue and hear it on my CD player on which, after several years, I have discovered the 'surround' feature. It makes every record sound 25-50% better. I've not been adventurous in buying up second hand Joni discs, only playing safe and acquiring those I had in previous formats but she is well worth it.

Furthermore, these wise words, by Lindsay Garbutt talking about Doug Anderson on Harriet, the Blog,

What I’m looking for is poetry that makes me want to write poems. When a poet writes a fine poem, he uncovers the spring where all good poetry comes from. And in spite of the squabbling within the tribe, poets, at their best, are helping each other find their way back to that spring.

I'm not sure it should say 'he' there but otherwise, that's good and any underlying preciousness is easily forgiven.

And yesterday, once I arrived on something to say, I rapidly produced a poem for the poetry club competition, perhaps not a masterpiece but comptent versification. I can't share it here yet but if I've still written nothing else new by September, I'll let it see the light of day then whatever the outcome of the competition.
And such consolations, these loose abstractions from the nerve-jangling grind, are overwhelmingly welcome. I'm not sure what people who don't have them do without them.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Elizabeth Bishop's Prose

It says Collected Prose on the cover rather than Complete but it would be a desperate pity if these memoir pieces and stories were all there is, the prolific letters notwithstanding. But I'll always take the frugal writer who only produces great writing over those that can't stop churning it out but don't always do it quite so well.
A proper writer is a 'writer' rather than sdpecifically a poet, novelist or dramatist and one wonders if Elizabeth Bishop ought not have given over more time to prose and be as well known for it as she is as a model poet. But the brevity, concentration and lighter demands on one's time of poetry lend themselves to anyone liable to periods of hospitalization after drinking binges or rendered incapable. (The answer to 9 across in this week's TLS crossword, Places around old Republican state De Quincey was often in, is 'stupor').
The memoir here on Marianne Moore is touching and hilarious. The mentor she surpassed is a quaint figure, objecting to such phrases as 'water closet' in a poem by Elizabeth, and the stylish hats she is usually seen in have to be reinterpreted as genuinely old-fashioned rather than the retro chic of the period. Marianne's poems will have to be revisited in the light of Elizabeth's vivid portrait. Her fastidious personality is not apparently an affectation.
The Collected Prose is a paragon example of the sort of book one reads too readily, using up its all too few pages while wanting it to last longer. But what can you do. You use it up too soon because you want more but there is no more. Happily, you don't wear it out because I'm sure it will stand re-reading.
As striking as anything in it, and its hard to think of anything that isn't, is the story Memories of Uncle Neddy. It is hard to believe that this belongs among the fiction and not the first section, Memory, Persons & Places. We always know if we are reading memoir or fiction because we are told, however much fiction might be based on life, but the character is brought to life so convincingly that I couldn't accept it as fiction and thought it must be real. It's a great problem to have and not one that I'm aware of ever having had before in any of the most realistic, plausible literary story telling. It undermines the whole idea of the 'suspension of disbelief'. It was belief that needed suspending.

I feel as if I'm raving like a teenager suddenly in the grip of the latest pop music craze, as if my bedroom walls will be covered with pictures of Elizabeth Bishop. She's no new discovery. The poems have been there and been admired for quite some time but it's not every poet that one has the time or inclination to go this much further into, like almost every word they ever committed to paper. That probably won't be possible. The Selected Letters is a big enough book without yet wanting the whole of everything and that must wait. There are other writers. I wouldn't want to be anything like those I've heard from who say Larkin's the only poet they read because he's the best or the admirable high camp of one who wrote that they only listen to The Magnetic Fields and Handel.
How do they know, then.   
It is, however, great to know that places are still available at the top table for anyone who convinces quite so thoroughly that they are worthy.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Oh, Babe, Until the Twelfth of Never

Always one to favour anxiety over relaxation, satisfaction or any other feeling of well-being, I'm keen to traumatize myself as much as possible for as long as the countdown to retirement takes. It might be two and a half years yet, or a few months, or, if I secured alternative gainful employment, it might be never but I'm determined to worry about it as much as I can.
It appears to be going to be one long dreadful gaze into eternity with only the equally terrifying inevitability that it won't be eternity as consolation. Such an outlook is what one can gain from the rewarding activity of reading books rather than involving oneself in a displacement activity like sport, gardening or holidays. But it's always been Camus, Larkin, two Eliots and their like for me rather than potting begonias, fervent allegiance to a corporate brand of athletic undertaking or cruising the fjords. Honestly, it is much more fun.
But if this week of contractual leisure is anything to go by, retirement would be exhausting. I rather imagined that it would be a matter of taking a full day's bed rest after completing a poem, and perhaps it will be. Not every week could possibly be as action-packed as this has been.

I visited family for Easter to introduce myself to our new arrival. I'm not a close relation and have been amusing myself by working out which of my elderly relatives stood in the same relationship to me as I do to the baby, who remains nameless here. However, since I have previously provided entertainments of various types for those children who are now old enough to be parents themselves, I set about it and added yet another genre to this year's widening realm of artistic creation (novel, 'country' music, poem for corporate refurbishment) by composing a song called Mr. MacGonagall Lost His Hat. Don't be afraid to request a rendition. The great Brian Cant wouldn't have been ashamed of it.
Meanwhile, my father, to who my novel would be dedicated in the unlikely event of it seeing print, was the first to read Time After Time. He was very polite about it and I was gratified that he appreciated it for what it was and that his comments were specific enough to show that he had read it. Having gone to such lengths to write such a thing, it is kind of anybody to read it. An unread novel, sir, is like an untasted recipe, even if it is not of gourmet standard. But I know now what is involved in writing even the most rudimentary of novels in case I ever have an idea worthy of a proper effort and my admiration for the likes of Julian Barnes, Sarah Waters, Ian MacEwan and Banana Yoshimoto is enhanced still further beyond that I have for those dilettante layabouts, poets.
But I was glad to receive an entirely different book about cycling,

Bicycles and Blancmange, The History of Gloucester City Cycling Club by Alastair Goldie and Roy Hook

I don't know how easy it is to get a copy unless you have some affiliation to the club because it's not for sale. I'm not sure that my few seasons of membership and winning the Schoolboy '10' medal in 1973 qualified me for a copy; my father's life membership of the club probably counted for more.
It uses a similar 'blurb' to what I had in mind for my own book, that within its pages is 'woven a love letter to cycling', and it provides an engaging account of the beginnings, stages, successes and continuing good work of the club.
From the Golden Age of early bikes, through the strange custom of 'smoking concerts', intrepid all night rides, through to star competitors, the age of sponsorship and campaigning on cycling issues, it is an impressive history full of humour, characters and 'how much more beautiful -almost utopian- the world seems when experienced on two wheels'.

I returned via Cheltenham, another piece of Gloucestershire's sporting heritage. Small fields in National Hunt racing can be a cause of complaint, not necessarily from me, but the late announcement of non-runners on the day can make it a waste of time doing one's homework the night before. The going was perhaps reported more on the firm side of good, and that might have prompted trainers to withdraw horses but no rain had been forecast so I'm not sure what they were expecting. Morale was low after passing up the opportunity to take odds on about Davy Russell's steering job in the first and then missing with two revised selections.
But nil desperandum and joy was unconfined when the best bet of the day, Doing Fine, from the reliable firm of Mulholland/Fehily, won like it. And the account turned out to be somewhat better off when I got home because I had doubled it up with a non-runner and so had more on it than I remembered.
So, hurray for non-runners.

Today's Lunchtime Live in the cathedral was
Tristan Button (trumpet) and David Price (organ and piano), Portsmouth Cathedral.

In Portsmouth Cathedral, it's often about acoustics. In Murder in the Cathedral a while ago, the actors were miked up and it was still awful. In that part of the building, it is difficult to hear anybody who is trying to tell you anything from the stage whereas you put James Bowman, Tasmin Little or a choir in there and it re-echoes as they fill the place so the brash, proud alarums of a trumpet benefit very well and the music hasn't quite ended when you think it has.
Purcell is an opportunity not to be missed. The opening Sonata in D, with the organ from upstairs, was a glorious foretaste before David Price's performance of Bach's Fantasia BWV 572 was wave upon wave of thematic development that implied forever if sadly not lasting that long.
Purcell's When I am Laid now brings to mind Errolyn Wallen for me, which is a bit hard on Purcell, but the trumpet showed how it can do mournful and made one wonder how Miles Davis would do it using the mute. Button and Price, now piano, conversed amiably through the Haydn Concerto.
After such familiar, or at least known, repertoire, it was brave to finish with a Sonata by Thorvald Hansen (1847-1915) but composers that one's never heard of are always welcome. Tristan has links with Denmark, which presumably explains where he found this piece which was not unenjoyable and one day a Sunday evening television programme about an antique dealer or an eccentric detective could do worse than use the final movement as its theme tune.
There was no encore which meant we were out early. The select few that attend Lunchtime Live need to put more effort into extending their applause.

On the way home through Southsea, I investigated one of the bohemian shops in Albert Road's louche quarter that sells apparel and vinyl to choice cognoscenti. Among the t-shirts I found the relevant Jesus and Mary Chain item in a medium size that probably wouldn't do me any favours  before I asked if they had such a thing but the label encouraged one to ask for other sizes.
No, nothing for anybody of your current proportions, the lady didn't say.
I said I rarely dared go into shops quite as cool as that.
But now you're in, it's not too bad, is it.
No, it was fine. But, when I have time for other anxieties beyond retirement and eternity, I'll retain the right to feel out of my depth in places I don't know if I'm cool enough to be.  

Thursday, 13 April 2017

What Do They Teach Them in Skool These Days

You won't believe this.

Yesterday in work I was asked who sang Come on, Hear the Noise. On such matters, it is much easier for people to ask me rather than look it up because I'm quicker, better and likely to be able to compensate for the fact that the question is wrong in the first place.

The lady who asked is actually 45 years old and so is excused somewhat for not having Nod as an essential element in her formative years but, Good Grief.

There shouldn't be any such problem for future generations who want to clarify the artist responsible for hit records from 2017. Apparently all but one of the Top 20 were by the same singer the other week. So he's obviously far better than Lennon-McCartney and the Motown hit factory put together. 


Elizabeth Bishop

I realize that in reviewing Simon Armitage's excellent recent book, I listed the great consecutive figures of C20th British poetry as Eliot, Auden, Larkin and Heaney and have been tormented ever since by the worry that none of them are female.
A few years ago, more than one poetry magazine would publish justifications of their selection process by analysying the statistics of the male/female ratio as if there were now some quota system in place to ensure equal representation. They need not have. I'm not concerned if my poems appear anywhere that has only 33% of their poems by male poets. I'd be glad if, whatever the distribution was, it made for a satisfying collection and especially if Julia Copus, Judy Brown, Katy Evans-Bush, Kathleen Jamie, Caitriona O'Reilly, Sasha Dugdale, Helen Farish, Helen Mort, and the list goes on, were some of the others.
It certainly is difficult to think of any female author beyond Harper Lee that was a set text for literature courses at school in the 1970's but some parity has been achieved by now and, as remains the case with holders of high political office, positions in business, sport, successful University Challenge teams or -most outlandishly- golf clubs, I do wonder if women haven't got better things to do.
Poor old Eric Monkman didn't even win University Challenge but surely it wasn't only women who eventually began to roll their eyes at his obsessional competitive quiz technique and speculate on whether encyclopedic knowledge, instant recall and an instinct for anticipating the question were really desirable aspects of a well-balanced personality. And his peremptory buzzing in cost his team dearly in the final.
In literature, or poetry in particular, the gender of the author has never been a concern for me. I led an evening on the difference between poetry by men and by women at Portsmouth Poetry Society a few years ago and was glad that our findings were vague if not inconclusive. It's the words we are looking at and I can't see that it makes too much difference how the genitalia of the poet were arranged to a sentence like,
Snow fell, undated.  

But, grieving as I am about any possible macho-centric bias in my pantheon of Eliot, Auden, Larkin and Heaney - who surely aren't overbearingly masculine compared to an alternative list of Pound, Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes- I have looked to America in their time of need and found compensation in their equivalent list which, beyond Richard Wilbur, is dominated by Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop, the first of which we know plenty about and who I've long been convined was outdoing her husband by 1963.
But the more one looks at Elizabeth Bishop, the more her example gathers momentum as a model of what represented the most admirable of poetry in the language. As such, over a busy Easter and well beyond, I have the Collected Prose and One Art, the Selected Letters, which was too big to get through most post box, in which to immerse myself luxuriously. Not because I feel the need to perform some kind of penance in the face of a male-run world but because she is a candidate to be considered among the best of the lot irrespective of culturally imposed sections.
Art, if not business or politics, is one place where we should naturally fly by those nets and none of what I take from those books is going to be modified by the knowledge that she was a woman, any more than Beryl Burton's record for 12 Hours of riding a bike was for a while ahead of the men's record. She was simply tougher and better than the men so why wouldn't it be.
All of which leads to the small amount of shelf space still left for a few books in the 'pride of place' position in the front room among the classical CD's, Shakespeare biographical books and DVD's, rarely referred to but close to the DVD player, soon being given over to Elizabeth Bishop. After a couple of years there, it is George Eliot's novels that give way and will have to be found a position, probably upstairs.   

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Moshi Moshi

Taking photographs of oneself might seem like a new idea but I took one with my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, with my first roll of black and white film circa 1969. It's only in recent years that such narcissism has become mainstream and apparently acceptable.
The point of the exercise this time was to send a picture to Japan. I've been a keen reader of Banana Yoshimoto since finding Kitchen in a feature on cult fiction in which it was the only title, among the likes of The Naked Lunch, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the like to be awarded every available icon that denoted horror, drugs, sex to each book as they qualified for those categories.
I was soon to be disappointed to discover that her real name was Mahoko rather than Banana but the short stories in Lizard were immensely satisfying until I started to wonder if subsequent books weren't just serving up this brand of intense, confessional fiction with deceptive facility.
Eventually I found myself at a conference in Oxford at dinner, sitting next to an academic whose specialism was Japanese literature so I disingenuously asked whether Banana Yoshimoto was really 'chick-lit'. I'm afraid I demur at any such neologism that has been invented since I learnt the language, which is why I didn't say 'selfie' earlier, but sometimes there's no alternative.
The lady's reply was, 'one minute you're talking to him about the football results and now you want to know if Banana Yoshimoto is 'chick-lit'.
But I didn't get an answer, not even as much as that it was a stupid question, which was the impression I was left with.
So I still don't know.
MoshiMoshi is an American edition, published in 2016 by Counterpoint, Berkeley, and translated into that language by Asa Yoneda but first appeared in Japanese in 2010. Although I haven't seen new Banana books in English for some time, there appears to have been no shortage of Japanese titles so perhaps not everything is being translated which is more reason to wonder if she isn't more than a purveyor of a Mills & Boon-type genre fiction but in ultra-cool contemporary Japanese terms.
Food is always a sensual experience. Characters are at once private but capable of profound attachments and take themselves seriously in a touchingly unironic way,
the awareness of someone's presence in a space - that was what family meant.
The narrator's father, who somehow inevitably was a musician, in a band called Sprout (and Paddy McAloon is mentioned), has died in a suicide pact with a mysterious woman who has apparently unsuccessfully tried to lure previous men into the same demise. Her mother is incorrigibly fashionable despite her years and the neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa is suitably bohemian, like the low-key, conversational idiom of the language.
It is immensely readable and even more likeable than most of the Banana books I've read, with deep if precious thoughts like,
that day is etched into the time within my body, but also into the town itself. That memory will last forever, because the town was a witness.
But I can't see Virginia Woolf or James Joyce writing anything quite so New Age.
Having embarked on a tentative relationship with a regular in the cafe where she works, the inecitable consequence is quite laudibly that, firstly,
I'd never experienced anything like it
but immediately that,
Even so, somewhere inside, I knew we didn't have much of a future together.

I knew they wouldn't because I've read enough of her books before but that's what I like about them.
Getting married, having two kids and living happily ever after wouldn't be much of a story to put in a book.
I still have 40 pages to go but doubt if the ending will matter much, although I may be wrong. There's been enough to enjoy already and I remain a big admirer, of some things Japanese even if I still don't know if Banana Yoshimoto is likely to beat Murakami to the Nobel Prize or if she's writing stories that belong in teenage girls' magazines. That is the glamour and fascination of the cultural divide. I once read Bonjour Tristesse in French and enjoyed it because it was French.
I'm going to lend this to a mate that has read Murakami and ask what he thinks and the point of sending the photo to Japan is to ask my friend there what she thinks. Perhaps then I'll get the sort of useful answer that a conference at Oxford University was unwilling to provide. 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

30 Year Memoir

A small celebration is in order this evening as I reach the milestone of thirty years with ostensibly the same employer. While it is fashionable to bemoan pay, conditions and all things down to the colour of the carpet, I have much to be grateful for. I don't know how else I would have survived since 1987. It is to them that I owe where I am now, which might not be anywhere very much but it could have been worse.
I will sound like the wistful John Lennon on In My Life if I set off on a ramble about people and places I've known but a large organisation provides a wide-ranging menu to select your friends from and some are gone but not forgotten while I'm glad to retain those that tolerate the increasingly curmudgeonly aesthete. If I'd have thought thirty years ago that this is where it would lead, I'd have gladly accepted it.
Enough might be enough by now and if there was a viable option to do something else, it would be the top option but I don't really want to write for money and neither do I know anyone who would pay me. I probably have as much chance of earning significant royalties from writing pop songs as the two longest odds horses in the Grand National finishing first and second but we'll see and returning to the best job I ever had, my paper round, would mean negotiating the daily challenge of getting up rather earlier than I can face it. So it looks as if one hangs on in there for as long as possible, turning a deaf ear to the corporate rhetoric and hoping that one's contribution is having a worthwhile effect somewhere.
Meanwhile, I'll raise a tin to the hilarity, the top people, the hilarity and weirdness, the cricket team (and, yes, some of these categories overlap), the unfailing and sufficient monthly wages and the organisation that, somehow well-meaning, brought me here. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Oh, Babe, What Would You Say

April Fool's Day was inevitably a bit of a let down. Anybody who was looking forward to a selection of hilarious hoax stories must realize that the very specific industry of making those up is one of the first casualties of last year's news. Having woken last year to find that Donald Trump was president of the USA, the UK had voted to leave Europe, that Leicester City were football champions or Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary, anybody would be more than happy to believe that spaghetti grew on trees.
Never mind hoax news, or fake news, fiction has never been as good as fact and real news is weirder than stuff you can make up. It is the fundamental problem with science fiction. I'm sorry but that is just more man-made stories set in space; space itself, not being man-made, is far more interesting.
But there is something fake or even hoax about all news. There are far more reports about the events of Jesus Christ's life but Matthew, Mark, Luke and John told it the way the early church wanted it told and so theirs are the versions given precedence and selected for the anthology of books put into The Bible.
But, there we are, All Fool's Day is all but over.
The Chichester Canal makes for a fine walk on a temperate afternoon like it was today. Start at Dell Quay and then the best plan is to have some mates who know the area, are experienced walkers and are happy to follow the instructions, and go with them. In exchange, one can regale them with tales of intrepid adventures from the front line of the poetry world or summarize one's late-burgeoning songwriting career to which they listen politely. Then come home to find your horse won so there's still some ammunition to aim at Aintree and the trip to Cheltenham.
I backed Just a Par at 40/1 after its last run, thinking that the other trial race on the same day had attracted all the attention and this was under the radar. But it still is. I don't quite know why you can still get 50/1 for looking. So, in a race that I used to do very well at until a decade's worth of under-the-radar types have made it a bookies' banquet again, it is well overdue that one of the favourites should win. I understand the case against most of them more than I can recommend any with confidence but the one I can side with more than any other is Cause of Causes. But it's not in bold because it's not a tip. There will be more sensible investment opportunities in other races on the day and if Finian's Oscar is over the setback that kept him away from Cheltenham, he'll be the one in the novice hurdle at 2.25.
 But there's not much more photogenic than an old church surrounded by the long forgotten dead and this industrious coot was putting in an admirable shift, fetching one suitable addition to the nest building project under the bush at a time and I'm sure he'll be satisfied with a good day's work and a job well done when it's finished.