Sunday, 31 July 2011

My purchases this morning - and I'm as pleased as Punch!

Every year around this time there's an open market here on the sea-front in which local charities set up their stalls to flog off items they've been donated. I go every year for an annual book-buying binge. Today I got a bumper crop - no less than 35 books (all second-hand, of course) at an incredibly low total outlay of just £28 (about $50 American). I needed 4 bags in which to carry them all back home, but could have bought even more were it not for the weight.
    Particularly pleased about getting the first and third novels in the Stieg Larsson trilogy ('Girl/Dragon Tattoo' + 'Hornets' Nest'), a Peter Ackroyd 1400-pager on Dickens and a couple of Stephen Kings I didn't have.
  I tend to give a wide berth to the stalls run by religious charities but gravitate towards those concerning sickness, disease, ageing, homelessness etc but most of all to the animal charity stalls.
    Now with these purchases, together with the dozen or so books I already had but haven't yet got round to, they should keep me busy for a while - maybe even until Easter.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

(WARNING: Grisly pic.!) Such a carry on - and I only want a toenail clipped!

For many years I've been troubled with a toe-nail fungal infection under my left big toe. I think it originated back in my squash- and badminton- playing days when, after the session, one used or even shared a communal shower. (No sniggering, please!). Or, possibly, when I frequented saunas in a multitude of European cities (Now you may snigger!) Anyway, no matter how and where I picked up the infection it's been a minor cause of concern, but never having caused pain, not one to be visible on my health radar. The only nuisance is that this particular toe-nail has become so thick underneath that it's impossible for me to cut it with conventional toe clippers. I reduce its length periodically by filing it down. As you can see, the toe itself is unaffected but the angle of the growing nail, when pressed against the toe of whatever shoe is being worn, may eventually cause a deformity in the toe itself - particularly vulnerable during my (rather infrequent, sadly) morning jogs.
      I only heard recently that my younger brother had the same problem but after 3 months oral remedy prescribed by his doctor, the fungus cleared completely.
    So it was that yesterday I had my periodic routine visit to my own doctor and mentioned this matter, thinking that it was just as well to make sure that any prescription does not clash with any of the medications (5 tablets!) I'm taking to control my high blood pressure. I told him of my brother's situation, who is, incidentally, also on medication for high B.P. though, strangely, with different tablets. The doctor's reaction was not what I was expecting. He said that he couldn't prescribe any remedies unless I was diabetic (plus one other condition which I didn't catch.) I repeated my brother's case but he said his hands were tied - I suppose he meant financially. The only option, he said, was that unless I wanted to go to a private chiropodist (which I can't afford) was for him to refer me to a podiatry clinic within the National Health Service (that wicked, Marxist system which guarantees that every British citizen is entitled to free medical care whatever his/her financial circumstances) and get my nail clipped for free. So I went - and was 'greeted' by one of those cold receptionists whom we've all known, who seem to treat all enquirers as a nuisance. (They're not all like that!) After interrupting her work, she deigned to look up at me, the imposter, but not for long. Handing me a long questionnaire enquiring about my body statistics, medical history, smoking habits or not, next of kin etc etc, I took it home and filled it out and went straight back to get the darned thing over and done with. After, to her intense irritation, I interrupted her work yet again, I presented her with the completed questionnaire. She perused it and then, with weary sense of resignation in her voice, she said to me, standing there ready with diary poised, "We'll let you know in a few weeks." Weeks? I only want the darned thing cut - twenty seconds' work at most! I was stunned speechless. Then, muttering "Oh, okay." I left, feeling I'd committed a serious indiscretion.    "A few weeks" will mean I've got to file the toenail down again, perhaps twice. And what happens after it's done and it grows again? Do I have to repeat all this palaver just to get my toe-nail clipped? How absurd! So, can but wait and see how things transpire..

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Look what I've found - dredged up from the past.

After many years regretting that I didn't have a single decent photo of myself from my 'Afro era' to show around, just this very morning, quite  by accident, I find this one.
    Amsterdam 1980 - my very first of what was to turn out to be no less than 35 visits over the following 11 years. (Don't ask. You'd be right.) And looking as though I'd just wandered off the set of the original 'Starsky & Hutch' TV series. Oh, get those trendy shoes!
   Can't recall who took the photo for me. That first time I went alone so it was probably a guy staying at the same hotel whom I must have wandered around with. Pity I didn't take one of him, which must have been rather rude. But maybe he'd refused, I just can't remember.
   On all my 'gay-discovery' hols around this period I was often plagued by approaches and even passes from guys whom I didn't really fancy myself - so many of then being blonde and clean-shaven. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but my own attraction was, and still is, towards darker, hairy types. With the distance and wisdom (I hope) of passing years, seeing myself then as almost a different person from what I am now, I can just about  comprehend now that they were probably looking for someone in marked contrast to their own physical selves ( a kind of night and day scenario?), whereas I was going for a near-mirror image. The truth is probably that my attitude betrayed an arrogance and vanity about my own looks - or was it a case of looking for a 'comfort-zone' in what I was familiar with? Anyway, too late to worry about all that now. Self psycho-analysis is such a fruitless exercise.
     So 1991 was the last time I was in Amsterdam. Love to go back but no doubt it has changed a lot. I know for a fact that my regular gay hotel has long since been handed over to new owners who cater for the male clients of 'ladies-of-the-night', so not much fun there then! Besides I don't have the energy any more to go traipsing around, making a tour of those magnificently sleazy leather bars with their dark rooms and glory holes, until 5 in the morning - or, if not that, then disco-dancing till the same early hours. Of course this was all just before the 'Big A' took hold and scared the bejeesus out of us. Every single new European friend I made in that decade bar one, who still lives in Munich, was taken, as were most of my small circle of English pals. But I don't have to make out that I was worse affected than others. Some of you reading this blog will have lost many more in total than I did.
However, just for old times' sake, I would dearly love to go back - and I shall -  just to poignantly re-live those memories on where it all happened - and, boy oh boy, there was so much of it!

Monday, 18 July 2011

'Great' novelists whom I just don't 'get'.

For over 40 years I've been something of a bookworm, avidly reading both 'classic' literature and contemporary authors. (Some months ago I passed the milestone of having read 1,500 different books.)
But, though everybody's tastes shift this way and that over a lifetime, there has been a handful of renowned writers, generally considered in the pantheon of the 'great', which I've never been able to 'tune in' to, though, as in a piece of music I can't understand, I feel the loss is mine, and am really envious of those who are able get onto their particular wavelength. 

So here are three authors off the top of my head which I've tussled with all my life, having read several books of each, but every time feel my mind wandering - reading the words but the meaning isn't penetrating. I always get to the end off their books but, immediately on being finished, I'd be hard pressed to describe what I've just read:-

Joseph Conrad
Rudyard Kipling

There would be more, but these stand out as writers, reading whose books I feel is like water being poured into a sieve - the sieve, being my mind. Nothing, or very little, is retained.

I say that tastes change, and that certainly has been the case with me. I never really saw the light with Dickens, Jane Austen and Henry James until into my forties - and Iris Murdoch has been one of my more recent 'epiphanies', this latter only occurring about 10 years ago. Now all four of these would be included in my Top 20 writers of all time without a doubt. (Strange that I've never had a problem with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, generally regarded as being among the 'heavyweights', liking both of them a great deal since my first encounter with them before I was even 20.)

I'd be interested to hear of anyone else's 'blind spots' in authors. If one can't appreciate them I don't think it's anyone's 'fault' in reality, and certainly not the writer him/herself. It all depends on one's own pysche on whether there's a connection or not. I'm not sure that liking an author can be actually 'taught', though having said that I'm very aware that in my school-days it was a particular priest-teacher who revealed to my class the awe-inducing wonder of Shakespeare, when up to then I'd thought him dry as dust. That young priest is whom I am indebted to more than any other in my entire life for helping me discover an appreciation of, not just literature, but culture generally. But that's all veering off the subject. Maybe another time.

As I finish this blog I'm thinking of yet more writers whose works are somehow closed off to my mind, but the list would just go on and on. Anyway, it makes a change from listing one's favourites!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

More pics from my "It was NOT a holiday!" last week.

Near coast of north-east England. In distance is small town of New Marske (pop c. 10.000) where I lived for a few years (having lived before that in the former steel town of Middlesbrough) before coming south and embarking on sequence of moves - Oxford, Germany (Cologne), London, Brighton, and now Worthing, from whence I can't wait to escape.

My sister, Leone (my elder by 9 years) and her hubby, Ted. I stay at their house on my visits to the area and use it as base for my visits elsewhere.

You-know-who and Ted, who's falling asleep after all his booze!

My brother Carl (older than me by 7 years) and his wifey, Sylvia, who clearly wasn't ready. I should have re-taken the shot.

Looks like my bro is having a visit from Santa!

My former school-friend, Paul, whom I've known for over 50 years. He's actually Canadian (from Simcoe) and has retained his accent all these years. He's also the cleverest person I've ever known personally - his specialties being philosophy, mathematics and cosmology, and in his youth was a remarkable athlete. We both share an unparalleled appreciation and worship of the musical accomplishments of the mighty J.S.Bach.

Paul and I spent several hours together chatting and supping wine in a bistro. Pity the photos of the two of us taken there didn't have any visual context.

                                          So that's it, folks, probably for another full year. My blogs back to the mundane now.

Monday, 11 July 2011


Actually there's no connection between the two. The opportunity to use a cracking good title was just too irresistible!

First, BORIS. Isn't he a beauty? 'Enthrallingly magnificent' is maybe nearer the mark. (Photos taken last week during my NON-holiday trip away.)                                          

                                        He's owned by one of my nephews who bought him for £800 (about $1,300 American) a few years ago. Totally hairless (and whisker-less) this sphinx cat is a real sweetie. Very affectionate, it's such a shame that he's left by himself in a large house for the greater part of every day, as his owner, who lives alone, is out at work. And even when my nephew's not working he's out gallivanting around the world several times a year. He's been to Las Vegas half-a-dozen times already and is returning there in November. Can't begin to think of why that place has such an attraction for him! ;-)
    Anyway, when he is away, my own elder brother (my nephew's father) and his wife have to make a 10 mile round trip every day to the house in order to feed him. He won't settle in another place and is not allowed outside as those other cats who are not terrified of him and scamper away, square up for a fight. (The same old story, which is equally true for humans as well as for animals -  If anybody is 'different' then s/he is perceived as a threat.)

Boris loves being stroked, starting to purr immediately. But his skin actually feels very like rubber - and you can easily feel the bumps along his spine. My sister, who is also a cat-lover (though not as avid as I am) cannot bear to even think of touching him. But I just love the feel of him. On my visit he couldn't stop sniffing the lower end of my jeans. I suppose he can only have been picking up the scents of my own two pussies when they rub against me in anticipation of getting their food. It was a shame to leave him sitting on the window-ledge watching my departure. My brief visit was surely a rare moment of excitement for him.

Then the seagull:-
I wrote in a recent blog of how, back in my own flat, a gull has been getting through the window by the same route that the cats come and go - eating the cat food and then, finding it can't get out again, flapping around in the kitchen, flying against the window and pooping all over in its panic. Well, for a full week before I went away I thought the problem had been solved. It couldn't traverse the obstacles I put in the window gap which the cats could (just) squeeze through - at least until the day before I left when it got in yet again.
   Now that I'm back I'm keeping the window closed all the time, watching for when the cats want to go out and come in - and when I'm out myself at the cinema or wherever, I have to lock the cats outside until I return.
    So that's the present temporary situation. What I might do is to buy a cat-flap to fix in its frame against one side of the window opening and block the rest of the gap with cardboard or a piece of wood. Only problem is that it's got to be easily removable so I can take it away when the window needs to be closed. I'm only hoping that if I do this the pesky gull doesn't learn how to use the flap, but I don't really think it will.

  Well, that's how things stand as at now.  Some more pics of my non-holiday to follow in my next blog.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sorry, folks - it's yet another pussy-blog.

The carry-cages are open and ready. I'm off for my annual away-trip tomorrow, to visit my sister (and family), brother (and family) and one or two others. Although back on Friday, this business of putting the cats into a cattery even for that short duration, causes me untold anguish which I always have for more than a week prior to the event, while the cats themselves remain in blissful ignorance. I do so dislike having to shut them inside the flat for 3 or 4 hours before putting their struggling furry selves in the cages just before the ordered taxi arrives. Noodles will be crying pitifully continuously and biting hard at the metal bars on the door, probably not sure what's happening even though it'll be his 3rd time. Blackso is a bit more resigned to it, this being his 5th or 6th time. Oh well, it's got to be done!
If I was going to be away a really long time my concern would be unimaginable. As it is, all the time I'm away, my heart will be heavy with the thought of them in the cattery. It's just impossible to put them out of mind.
Incidentally, because of lack of financial means it's now over 20 years since my last true holiday. All the times I've been away from where I resided have been to visit my mother while she lived, and since 2005, to visit my sister. (Well, all times apart from half-a-dozen compulsory week-long residential intensive courses for the languages I was studying for. They hardly count as a holiday!)

I should mention that the gull intruder business mentioned in my last blog is still not resolved. Having rigged up a bar to put across the gap of the open window I have now succeeded in preventing it getting in for over a week now - though it does still come several times a day to the window sill, perkily looking in and eyeing the cat food on the floor. Only trouble is that the cats themselves really have to squeeze uncomfortably tight to get in and out - and it's also deterring my other four pussy guests. Not a happy situation at all. Hoping that when I get back the gull will have given up trying. But that would really be a minor miracle. I think 'giving up' isn't in this bird's vocabulary.

P.S. Will be so pleased when Wills & Kate have finished their North American touring spree. Our news is just so full of it, I have to keep switching channels. And they've still to go to California yet. Oh, saints preserve us!