Thursday, October 26, 2017

Where do you draw the line...

Slugs are gaining access to your kitchen and dying in remote corners behind the refrigerator. Please complete form A6 for further details. If you work for a government agency don't bother to apply.

A new shelf is required above the existing shelf. Further information is available online. Please enter the six digit security code. Remember to have your passport number ready.

How many people are residing in your property AND are also eligible to vote? If you have slugs resident in your property, please check the online documentation and have the appropriate identification guide ready. Remember, if your slugs are over 16 years of age, they may be able to vote.

You have two google accounts with the same contact telephone number. Do you want to keep your virtual life or your real life? Remember to have your passport number ready.

In your virtual life, someone lands in your front yard in the form of a spider. It doesn't bother you more than a slug entering your real life kitchen. However, it crosses your mind that this spider may have the right to vote.

What do you mean you don't have a virtual life?

You have a long discussion with the post-office assistant about your difficulties with e-bay. It's strange to have a conversation with a stranger that seems so real.

You toggle between tax, virtual life and e-bay, mixing in DVLA and e-mails for variety. It seems like a recipe. Maybe it's a recipe for disaster.

Please spare a few minutes of your time to fill in the following questionnaire. If online voting was provided in the next general election, would you be more likely to vote if: (a) the government told you it was more secure; (b) a cyber-security expert told you it was more secure, or (c) a slug told you it was more secure. Answers on a postcard please.

Are you registered to vote in your virtual world? If not, please refer to the online wiki.

Googling for slug avatars will help you to become one. Googling to become anything else will most likely not work. Why do you want to become a slug anyway?

One last word about the refrigerator. It's working. The news is not all bad.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Yesterday I went to Asda...

Yesterday I went to Asda and threw a cloak of darkness around myself. I walked the aisles, checking prices and feeling the weight of various products. I lifted them to my cowled face and sniffed them, thinking simultaneously about their cost, the plastic wrappers, the labels, the processing, the transport. All things considered, this supermarket is more miraculous than my cloak of darkness. But I did not tell that to the check out girl. In any case she couldn't have seen me and was too busy to be concerned.

I could have walked out of there with a dozen products tucked under my arms, but that's not an allowed thing. Not even for cloak wearers, and even especially not for cloak wearers. To walk in your own darkness is an honour and a trial. To cease existing for a few minutes and sense the world all about you come into a focus so sharp that it burns your mind like a flame of magnesium.

The check out girl seemed as if she might be of Vietnamese origin. She greeted clients with an authoritative air and at the same time gave instructions to the young woman behind her. This woman might have been a manager in training. She wore a special uniform and she was gingerly peeking inside a large and well stocked cigarette cabinet which she had just slid open. It was the size of a bedroom wardrobe and stocked floor to ceiling.

I took my opportunity and crossed to the cabinet to pick up some of the packets and read their labels: "Smoking Kills"; "Smoking clogs the arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes"; "Smoking seriously harms you and others around you"; "Smoking when pregnant harms your baby"; "Smokers die younger". I lifted a packet into the air and watched it crumble into ash in my fingers. It burned so quickly and stealthily that I had to drop it and stamp it out. The shop assistants were somewhat startled to see the sudden flurry of raining ashes. I wondered why the warnings on the packets were now hidden away like guilty secrets. I pondered their invisibility and what it meant.

When I walked outside, I felt a surge of warm air greet me, though it was late in October. Brown and orange leaves danced gaily in their new found freedom and a plastic bag picked itself up and marched across the parking lot. It was warmer outside the supermarket than inside. The only hint of explanation was the sky to the west which was turbulent and had a tint of red as if it were a pail of milk soured by a few drops of blood.

Friday, October 13, 2017

I'm back...

After a period of several years without any blogging activity, I've decided to begin writing again. The last few years have seen me very immersed in work, and I have lost the taste for blogging and writing in general. I've become quite unhappy about this situation and, finally, it has led to me giving up working. So I'm now, and for the time being, a full time writer: I expect writing to take up a large part of my life in the coming years, but for the moment I'm just starting out again, making a couple of tentative scratches...

Prior to getting more deeply involved in writing activities, I have to put my life in order after moving back from France to the UK at the end of September. There's a lot to be sorted out after fourteen years outside the UK on ex-pat assignments. And we are back in the house which we left 20 years ago which is a strange feeling, especially since some of our old neighbours are still living across the road and next door. One daughter is grown up and training as an opera singer. The other has her sights set on the stage and is still at home with us while she finishes her schooling.

We are perched in a little house on a major rail route from London to Cambridge. Trains go past constantly with a rumble or a whoosh. We don't mind them. Those are comforting noises to us: the chatter of the rails and the hoot of fast trains. And apart from this, I can tell you that it is a very nice feeling to put books on bookcases that are your own bookcases in your own house. Bookcases that nobody else can tell you to take those books off. And even though there are too few bookcases and too many books... I'm really happy.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Berry - La Bonheur

Time for another beautiful song from Berry called La Bonheur (Happiness).
If you enjoy it, try listening as well to the song I posted some time ago here.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Map-Makers Colours

Mapped waters are more quiet than the land is,
lending the land their waves' own conformation:
and Norway's hare runs south in agitation,
profiles investigate the sea, where land is.
Are they assigned, or can the countries pick their colours?
- What suits the character or the native waters best.
Topography displays no favourites; North's as near as West.
More delicate than the historian's are the map-makers colours.

'The Map' by Elizabeth Bishop

Mapped waters... can water be mapped... yes, as voids surrounded by land.

Water more quiet than the land is... seas may be wild, much more wild than the land, but ironically, in a mapped sense they are featureless, without topography, and therefore quiet.

Conformation - the sea conforms with the land, its waves break evenly on the coast, and currents navigate the coastline as sailors do. That conformity describes the ying and yang fit of sea to land, the masculine land and feminine sea nestling together.

Norway's hare runs south in agitation - Topography equates to noise, and thus a country such as Norway, mountainous and embayed with fjords, is noisy. More mountainous in the north, it frightens its own hare-like profile into running south...

Profiles investigate the sea - a country with the profile of a hare, or of a dog, a man or a woman. Or perhaps the profile of a face seen in the jagged outline of a cliff.

Can the countries pick their colours - no indeed not. The map is a way of defining the world and the map-maker the person who defines where the boundaries lie. The colours lying within those boundaries have particular meanings defined by the map-maker. The map-maker emerges as a symbol of power.

What suits the character - it's not clear... is it a suggestion? Yes. A whimsical but profound one.

North's as near as West - wherever we go North and West are constant. All places are equivalent in this sense. They have equal currency. This seems an argument against the previous imagery of the map-maker as a powerful arbiter.

More delicate than the historian's are the map-makers colours. - What are the historian's colours? I  think that 'colours' here refers to the flags that indicates nationaility, with a military flavour... Compared to the colours of flags which are brash in their symbolism, the map-makers colours are indeed more delicate. They reflect the precarious and unstable nature of countries and borders as defined by the changing character of those states. In some ways these delicate colours contradict the bold and simple ones of flags, challenging those who stick their flags in a new region of the map, by that means trying to claim it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Half a sec...

We were gathered around the kitchen table as a family, playing a game called Articulate. The objective of the game is to describe as many words as possible to your team members before the 30 second timer runs out.

The words are printed on cards that you pull from a pack. It's a bit like Trivial Pursuits. The words fall into six categories: object, nature, action, world, person and random, so they are mainly proper nouns.

As my daughter was quite young, we were giving her a few hints to help things along. You will understand the need for this when I tell you that one of the words that came up was: "secretary bird".

At six years old, my daughter probably had little idea of what a secretarial job involved, let alone knowing about secretary birds.

I should have begun with defining this word as 'a flapping animal'. That might have made things simpler. Instead, I began by the secretary part...

"Every boss has one of these..." I said, optimistically.

She looked at me blankly. Seconds passed... She shook her head, time was running out.

I started to hint: "Okay, it's a sec... a sec..."

She looked up brightly. "A second wife?"