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Rated: 13+ · Book · Experience · #2223922
A tentative blog to test the temperature.
Ten years ago I was writing several blogs on various subjects - F1 motor racing, Music, Classic Cars, Great Romances and, most crushingly, a personal journal that included my thoughts on America, memories of England and Africa, opinion, humour, writing and anything else that occurred. It all became too much (I was attempting to update the journal every day) and I collapsed, exhausted and thoroughly disillusioned in the end.

So this blog is indeed a Toe in the Water, a place to document my thoughts in and on WdC but with a determination not to get sucked into the blog whirlpool ever again. Here's hoping.

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February 4, 2024 at 4:02pm
February 4, 2024 at 4:02pm

Music seems to be much in the Newsfeed of late - it’s one half of the prompt for Journey through Genres this month and Jeff has started up The Soundtrack of Your Life, sparking a flurry of blog posts from Dave Ryan. And I admit to having done a few myself in the last few weeks.

But what about the visual arts? Where are all the posts on the great artists and pictures in our lives? Maths and Music are supposed to go together (and often do), but painting is much like poetry and other forms of writing. Only today I was reminded of the wonderful work of Edward Hopper and spent an enjoyable hour with a video about him on YouTube. So I have no hesitancy of reminding you of who he is by referring to this picture:

Hopper's most famous painting.

It’s called Nighthawks Diner and you must have seen it before. It’s typical of his work in its stark contrasts between light and dark, and its isolated atmosphere. Powerful stuff.

Word count: 169
February 3, 2024 at 4:58pm
February 3, 2024 at 4:58pm

Had a terrible realisation today. It may be writing that's keeping me alive. Long story that I won't bore you with but I looked over the precipice.
February 2, 2024 at 12:56pm
February 2, 2024 at 12:56pm

According to the Google, a flibbertigibbet is "a Middle English word referring to a flighty or whimsical person, usually a young woman. In modern use, it is used as a slang term...”

I object. If a word stems from Middle English, it is anything but slang. It has done its time, served honourably through the ages, and continues in service in modern times, though admittedly rather rarely. It has more claim to respectable Englishness than many a later arrival. And, to describe it as slang, is no more than an insult. Slang is a much more recently arrived creature, usually being an existing word that has been twisted to mean something else. Its life expectancy too is likely to be extremely short, in contrast to flibbertigibbet’s longevity.

So I must proclaim with utmost sincerity that flibbertigibbet has every right to its presence in the English dictionary. Slang it is not!

Word count: 150
January 31, 2024 at 7:32am
January 31, 2024 at 7:32am

I was thinking today about the things we writers get up to while waiting to become real writers. Steven (currently known as s) was a wrestler for a time, I’m told. It would be a fair bet that not many other members of WDC have been wrestlers. And I dare say that some of my former occupations would not be shared by others in the group (is that a fair description of what WDC is?). Some would, of course.

In the interests of full disclosure, here’s a list, in chronological order, of the roles I have assumed in the past:

A legal clerk in the civil service
A legal clerk in a bank
A machinist in a car factory
A supermarket manager (which means that I’ve done all the other jobs in a supermarket - it’s the way Kwiksave managers are trained)
A courier
A painter and decorator
A church administrator
A teacher of teenagers expelled from school

Those were the paid positions. The unpaid ones are just as numerous:

A hippy (for about a week in 1967)
A freak (that’s what my generation called themselves around the time of Woodstock)
A wannabe great artist
A wannabe great writer (poet or novelist, I didn’t care)
A model maker (slot cars)
A virtuoso on the Jew’s harp
An aficianado of F1 motor racing
A crabby old man

I maintain that they amount to a fair qualification for the title of writer. At least it means I have something to write about. Whether it’s interesting or not is entirely another matter.

Word count: 258

January 30, 2024 at 6:35am
January 30, 2024 at 6:35am
Miss Polly

I had cause this morning to look up the words to the nursery rhyme, Miss Polly Had a Dolly. To my surprise, I found that the British version has one small but significant difference from the American. Here’s the version Google knows:

Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick
And she called for the doctor to come quick, quick
The doctor came with his bag and his hat
And he knocked at the door with a rat-a-tat-tat

He looked at the dolly and he shook his head
And he said, "Miss Polly, put her straight to bed"
He wrote on a paper for a pill, pill, pill
I'll be back in the morning if the baby's still ill

The only difference in the Brit poem is in the last line, which goes:

I'll be back in the morning with my bill bill bill

Apart from the facts that the words hark back to an earlier time when doctors still travelled to the patient, and that the poem’s origins are shrouded in mystery, reality insists that I prefer the British version.

Word count: 184
January 28, 2024 at 10:20am
January 28, 2024 at 10:20am
A Few Thoughts on Weather

There is a ridge that runs between Coventry and Birmingham. You would not notice this unless you travelled the main road between the cities. Although gradual, the road rises steadily for several miles and then, as you approach Birmingham Airport, it starts descending until it arrives in the outskirts of Birmingham. It may seem an insignificant feature but this echo of the more dramatic Edge Hills to the southeast has a surprising influence on the weather in both cities.

It was several years before I noticed that Coventry has much better weather than Brum and points west. It was almost inevitable that, while the western midlands was receiving snowfalls that paralyzed traffic and rain that caused the Severn to flood, Coventry was lucky to get a frosting of snow or a pleasant drop of rain that threatened nothing.

Being of a geographical mind, it did not take me long to connect the weather with the fact of the ridge that I had noticed on only my second or third journey between the two cities. It was obvious to me that the prevailing winds arriving from the west were forced upwards as they left Birmingham and released the worst of their moisture before they reached the crest of the ridge. Being able to descend to warmer levels after that, their fury lessened and Coventry experienced a milder precipitation in consequence. It's called a rain shadow, I believe.

This is all very well until summer arrives. If England decides in her wisdom to have a warmer summer than usual, then Coventry will bear the brunt. That ridge milks any rain clouds long before they reach the city and the inhabitants will suffer in the unrelenting heat and humidity of a desperate few weeks. Inevitably, thoughts turn to the coast and a release from the stifling heat that Coventry can suffer at such times. And so was born Coventry Fortnight, two weeks in July when the factories shut down and every man and his family, friends and dogs made their way to the sea.

Coventry is situate bang in the middle of England; indeed, a little village named Meriden is no more than a couple of miles from the city and claims to be the very centre. There is a stone cross on the village green that is reputed to be the exact spot. This means that the Coventrian is spoiled for choice when it comes to coastlines; whichever direction he chooses, it will be a hundred miles before he can see the ocean.

Closest by a mile or two are the open sands of Norfolk or Lincolnshire on either side of the Wash. Norfolk especially is beautiful in spite of its reputation for dreary flatness and it has that wonderful sandy beach running all the way around the bulge from the Wash to Wells-next-the sea. To the soul who finds peace and rest in emptiness and huge skies, it should be Norfolk. There remains the unfortunate fact that it is the North Sea we're looking at here (for who would dare bathe in it?). Psychological it may be but I swear it is colder than the waters on Britain's west coast. The name hardly helps either.

So we must turn our thoughts westward and that means Wales, if we don't want to drive too far. Going for the shortest distance means North Wales, spectacular mountains, deep valleys and narrow winding roads that will leave us exhausted by the time we reach the coast. It is worth it and was one of our favoured destinations. A little more distance brings Pembrokeshire within reach and this, too, is a good choice. With better roads than in the north, even more interesting coast and more English than anywhere else in Wales, this became a favourite destination too.

But the champion has to be Cornwall. Not the dreadfully over-popular North Cornwall but the extreme southwest, the Lizard Peninsula indeed. Almost unknown to other vacationers, the Lizard is the secret gem of the British coastline with beaches the equal of any tropical isle, secluded coves, tiny fishing villages and climate so mild that it's best not to tell anyone for fear of it becoming generally known.

In truth, however, any of these would be acceptable as an escape from the humidity of Coventry in a hot summer. Whichever you choose and no matter how bright and cloudless the day, a British coast will provide a stiff breeze that blows away the memory of sweaty summer nights and endless blazing days. And the Atlantic is bitterly cold if you're used to the Indian Ocean but it is just about bearable if you immerse yourself carefully.

Which brings me to the point of this exercise. How could I talk of New England weather without first considering Olde England? They are so similar that the American version deserves its name but also so different in ways that awaken one from the dream of English winters and summers. New England is like our beloved island but more so. In America weather is extreme; choose any part of the country and the weather will have a way to kill you. In New England it would usually be a blizzard on loan from Canada but there are other tricks up its sleeve. A few years ago western Massachusetts experienced a storm big enough to have a tornado or two at its edges. And when it gets hot here, it is as humid as Coventry but hotter.

Word count: 954
January 27, 2024 at 6:51am
January 27, 2024 at 6:51am
A Music Post

Listen to this guy. I’d be laughing too if I could sing like that. Filipino, by the name of Cakra Khan.

January 26, 2024 at 3:16pm
January 26, 2024 at 3:16pm
Crab of the Day

Yesterday I realised that, apart from my music posts, I only post about old age these days. Obviously, this is a result of my having reached an age that even I consider old but I suppose I ought to strive to extend my outlook beyond the narrow confines of my own experience, if only to keep the young and middle aged entertained.

The problem then becomes that I have pontificated often enough in the past on those more youthful ages of man and I really don't want to repeat myself. Even that is presuming that you were listening at the time, which is surely an almost life-threatening presumption, if you ask me.

So I am left with the proposition that I should write about what interests me now, rather than set myself up as some sort of archaeologist of ancient pre-history. And what interests me at present is this phenomenon of ageing. It seems I might as well get on with it.

All of which turns out to be a long-winded way of saying that I post about old age and, if you don't like it, why are you reading it?

Word count: 191
January 23, 2024 at 6:50pm
January 23, 2024 at 6:50pm
Old Age

Old age is your reward for having survived thus far.
January 22, 2024 at 3:28pm
January 22, 2024 at 3:28pm
Ghostly Laughter

A wonderful quote from season 2 of Slings and Arrows, spoken by the ghost, Oliver Welles: "Oh, come on, Geoffrey, you're speaking to a ghost. Wake up and smell the coffin."

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