Thursday, 14 September 2023

World-renowned 'classic' writers whom I've never 'got'.

 Although there are more than three, there is a certain highly prominent trio of widely famed authors of the past, each of whom disconcertingly enjoys a most significant reputation and a large and ultra-serious band of defenders, admirers and disciples. I've tried repeatedly to understand why it is that I've never been able to get into them, yet the reason still evades me. While attempting to read and become engrossed by their novels my mind wanders away so far that I'm very soon merely reading pages upon pages of words which fail to penetrate my consciousness at all, until I'm suddenly aware of the futility of the exercise.  

1. Rudyard Kipling

I cannot comprehend why this man is so revered - above all for his children's stories, which I find dense and obscure - and boy oh boy, how I've tried! Even his most famous of all, 'The Jungle Book' (both 'Jungle Books' actually), I find indigestible, completely lacking the welcome lightness of touch which Disney brought to his cartoon (helped, of course by some awfully good songs). 

I've identical feelings towards all the 'Just So' stories. Right now I'm currently ploughing through 'Stalky & Co' and what a joyless slog it is! It's my very first attempt at this one, though I have read the aforementioned novels at least twice each. Apparently 'Stalky' is about a misbehaving group of (public)schoolboys getting up to various japes often involving their teachers or other members of the public as victims. It seems one is supposed to be entertained, even amused, by their antics but I'm finding it so hard to follow that it's leaving me cold and unmoved. But got to persevere, even though when I'm through I simply know now that I'll hardly recall any of it.

I've also read the entirety of the man's poetry, all 800+ pages of it. I have to say that most of it is rather more accessible than his stories, but that's probably because they are largely in more digestible, mostly shortish lumps.  (Btw: Some years ago a BBC national poll revealed that his poem 'If' was voted here as being the best regarded poem of all in the English language - and I wouldn't disagree that it at least is pretty good). 

2. Joseph Conrad

Have to confess that it's quite a few years since I last tried to assail this, for me, highly problematic writer - among whose works are 'Nostromo' ,'Lord Jim' and, his most celebrated of all, 'Heart of Darkness'. I'm not even sure that I managed to get right through any of them, his style of writing being maddeningly circuitous. A lot of admiration towards him is engendered by the fact that English was only his second language (after Polish) so it's undoubtedly some sort of achievement, though for me therein lies the problem. I could never get onto his 'wavelength'. If his thoughts were lucid, and I can't argue that they weren't, then to my mind they didn't translate successfully into the written word. He's definitely another author who gets my mind wandering off to unrelated, more captivating, subjects - though I would like to have another bash at 'Hearts of Darkness' before it's too late.

3. Sir Walter Scott

I get the impression, perhaps mistakenly, that this writer is particularly well regarded by non-English readers, presumably translated into whatever language is appropriate - though how translations cope with his terribly tiresome phonetic attempts at mimicking the Scottish accents through odd, unfamiliar spellings I just don't know, a technique which, whoever the writer or the accent replicated, slows one's reading down disastrously till, I at least, want to say "Oh, stuff it! I can do without this tortuous effort to work out what they mean!" 'Ivanhoe', 'Rob Roy' and 'Kidnapped' are some of his works I've tried to rise to, but I think it's only the last of these I managed to get to the end of - and that with one huge sigh of relief - and then craving for something requiring less effort to read. Mind you, like for Kipling, some of Scott's poems aren't at all bad - so long as it's not those in which he's trying to ape the Scottish accent in writing.

I could mention more writers - P.G.Wodehouse is just another who goes right over my head despite his being so adulated by many of far greater intelligence than I can boast, although he's considered by many to be the ultimate 'light-hearted' and 'gentlemanly' writer in English - but I've got to stop somewhere.

Oh, and I'm aware that I've not mentioned any female writers, though shamefully, it did take me some time to acclimatise myself to Jane Austen. Now she's no longer a 'problem' writer, thank goodness.

But never say never! If I'd written this post, say, 50 years ago, my top three 'unreadables' would quite likely have been Henry James, Thomas Hardy and............yes, even Dickens himself. However, through persistence, I gradually came to love each if them in turn. In fact all three would now doubtlessly feature in my Top 10 favourite writers of all. So one can change if one really wills it.  I merely want to experience those same admirations which other people feel, otherwise I sense missing out on something of significant worth.

Do you have any particularly 'difficult' writers? I'd love to hear some names.

Friday, 28 July 2023

A horrible, pathetic 'discovery'.


Those of you who know about my feelings towards all animals may appreciate my horror and distress at yesterday finding a dead fox-cub in our small front garden beside a wheelie bin. How it died I don't know. It was only about eight inches long in body with its brush-tail a further four inches. It was under some foliage and I only found it because two of my cats were outside, both acting rather oddly and restlessly. I doubt if my own or any other cats would have been responsible for its sad demise. I couldn't bear to look at its face mainly because it may have had its eyes open. It was clearly not breathing, and as I swept it up with a hand-brush into a dust pan, grimacing all the while, there was no movement in its stiff little body. Although I couldn't look at it closely, from what I did see there were no obvious injuries. Perhaps it had starved. Nearly tipping over into tears, I double-wrapped its little body and gently placed it in the bin. What else could one do?

There's a skulk of urban foxes (I've only just found out the correct word via google) living in the park on the other side of this road. I sometimes see adult ones foraging for food from the roadside bins when I get up in the early hours to let my pussies out front. Any other cats also out at the time are, unsurprisingly, very wary of them, though the foxes themselves appear to take no interest in feline presences.

As for the poor dead one, I didn't know they would wander far out at such a young age, but somehow this poor chap did - and was fatally unlucky. Poor parents - especially for its mummy. Oh, so blisteringly sad!

Saturday, 17 June 2023

Never too old to learn squash is NOT a sweet dessert fruit!


Having never in my life tasted squash until yesterday, and in my constant quest edging towards 100% veganism, I took the plunge. In fact I'd bought this curious-looking foodstuff a week ago, having heard so much about its benefits, but then didn't know what to do with it. Now all my life I'd assumed it was a fruit which, in fact, it technically truly is, but I'd assumed it would be something sweet to be incorporated into an after-dinner dessert  - no doubt because of associating it with what we used to call 'orange squash' or 'pop' ( which some still do). So yesterday, splitting it open and being surprised at how tough it was, I cut out some of the flesh which I diced and then put in a bowl, adding raspberries, blueberries and greek yoghurt. Need more be said? Yuk!!! Live and learn! Now so much wiser and, having googled said commodity, I shall cut up the rest, add olive oil, and roast it, to have as today's dinner with boiled cauli, kale and onion gravy. Now that should be better! 


Thursday, 15 June 2023

Glenda Jackson passed away, at 87.


One of the most prominent, ever-present, living glittering jewels of my cultural life died today at her London home. Although it wasn't too much of a surprise considering her age, now that it's happened it feels like a punch in the gut to have now lost the conspicuous feature that she was.  . 

I was fortunate enough to have seen her live three times on stage, first in Webster's 'The White Devil' in 1976, next in Andrew Davies'  'Rose' (1980) and then in Brecht's 'Mother Courage' (1990) - not 'The House of Bernarda Alba' as I'd posted earlier. 

Her acting both on stage and on film was so consistently flawless it never failed to take my breath away. Two Oscars - for 'Women on Love' (1969) and 'A Touch of Class (1973) - and how can one possibly overlook her gloriously entertaining portrait of Mrs Tchaikovsky (that sex-crazed slut!) in 'The Music Lovers '(1971) with Richard Chamberlain also impressive as the mentally-tormented, genius composer - plus her numerous TV appearances, most famously appearing as Queen Elizabeth I in the 6 -part BBC serial of 1971. 

A lifelong socialist, she turned to politics for about 20 years, entering Parliament on the coat-tails of Tony Blair, very soon becoming a scathing critic of him, though she was made a junior minister in the early 00s. However, her political life then became, unfortunately rather low-key and she became largely invisible, though when she did appear in discussion programmes on both radio and TV she was energetically vociferous with her opinions.  Always strongly pro-gay, she was a beacon to many of us throughout the final decades of the last century when we were fighting for our equal rights.

I'd love to have seen her final stage performances - as King Lear himself, which she took to New York four years ago, but by then it had become clear that, even though she'd have wished it, she couldn't keep it up forever.  

Now she's gone, probably my own personal favourite actress of my lifetime. Thanks very much indeed, Glenda. R.I.P muchly!

Thursday, 25 May 2023

My three toms all now neutered and microchipped + Tina R.I.P.

 The last 24 hours have been heavy anxiety, but it's over now  - at least until the next drama. 

Last week getting Bobby chipped wasn't too bad. He'd already been spayed when he arrived here 4.5 years ago, leading me to fear that he might already have been micro-injected, thus having an official owner, but he wasn't. He was good being checked over and didn't react to the injection. However, Sloopy, being still 'intact' when he arrived around the same time must be around 6 years old now, and still had to be done. Rather late-in-the-day for that procedure but no getting round it. Last week when I took him for his first vet check there was a heart-stopping incident when he managed to escape en route from the carrier by widening the zip fastenings and squeezing through (my fault!) and he scarpered off down the road which, luckily, wasn't too far from home so he did find his way back, even if I did dread him not daring to do so. But yesterday was the 'big day', much feared by me - the operation, after the obligatory (so cruel) 12 hours of not allowing him any food or even water. With much loud wailing as I carried him the 3/4 mile to the vet, I had to leave him there for 6 hours before collecting him, a period for which I was continually on edge. When the time came I was so relieved to hear that all had been done and without any problem. Told that if he keeps attending to his 'wound' by licking it I'd have to bring him back and have a collar fitted for, possibly, around a fortnight during which he'd have to be kept inside, which would be logistically v. difficult with a permanently open window for he and the other two to go and come as they please. However, since I brought him home, now 18 hours ago, although he has been licking himself 'there', which is hardly surprising, he hasn't been over-obsessed with doing so, so I'm now dearly hoping that the threatened further remedial action may not be necessary. He seems to be back to his old routine of being out all night - though now without having sired any more kitties to add to the population he's likely already to have done - and sleeping all day through. So, early days yet, but looking good.

Glad that's over with no major mishaps.

I'd like to have posted here new photos of Bobby and Sloopy but, darn it, I'm still unable to load photos onto this laptop. Meantime, here are two early pics of the 'boss', Patchie, who's now reached 18 years - one showing him being wary, the other he contentedly settled in.

Btw:  On this morning of hearing the deeply sad news of Tina's passing (she being a highly major feature of my own 1980s life's soundtrack, both literally and figuratively) I hadn't realised that for more than a few years she'd not only lived in Switzerland, but actually in Kussnacht, just outside of Zurich, a place I'd just happened to visit by boat briefly whilst staying for a few days in Zurich city in around 1985 (though Tina herself only started living there in the mid-1990s). Just by chance I'd happened to get off the boat at Kussnacht, which was doing a tour of Lake Zurich. It could have been anywhere else. I also learnt later that world-famed soprano Gwyneth Jones also lived there - and had probably been there at the time of my couple-of-hours visit, I believe. I only wish I'd taken some photos of Kussnacht, a relatively smallish place, while I was in it, not having fully appreciated just how attractive it was. In walking around for an hour or two, I remember lots of roses and other blooms in gardens and window boxes, perfuming the air, and it all being exceptionally clean and tidy.

'bye Tina, uniquely wonderful - thank you ever so much.  


Sunday, 14 May 2023

Eurovision - U.K. second again, but now second from LAST....again!


Liverpool hosted this year's contest as the 2022 winner, Ukraine, was unable to do so because of the ongoing war - and last year the U.K. was runner-up. 

As happened last year, before the actual performances began, we viewers were told that we had up to 20 votes at our disposal? Eh? Why? When there are only 26 contenders? Absurd. Then, when it came to voting time, and also like last year, we were told to vote for our favourite act/song/performer - all in the singular, just as it should be. So goodness alone knows what was intended. I first voted for my favourite, Norway, then after a few mins decided to try to vote for my 2nd and 3rd, Poland and Finland, and see if they'd be blocked. They weren't. What everyone else thought and did, Lord knows! They've got to sort this out! Sheesh!

Yesterday's innovation was that this time not only would the 37 original participating countries be eligible to vote (no one voting for their own) but the whole world could! Presumably, just those broadcasting the programme live - countries in North and South America? Arab countries? Asia, Africa, New Zealand? How these votes would be monitored I dare not ask and don't want to know.

Winner was Sweden - a doleful, bellowed-out ballad sung by long-fingernailed damsel-in-distress, who appeared to be locked in some low-ceilinged prison, bewailing her sorry predicament.

The appeal of her song, giving her more than sufficient votes to take the title, escaped me, and still does - even though, on hearing some days ago that it was the bookies favourite to win, I played it several times, and now even after its victory I still do not rate it at all. Must be my age.  Her winning makes Sweden now an equal leader with Ireland for number of wins, seven times. Moreover, this chanteuse, Loreen, is only the second singer to win the contest twice, as well as being the first female to do so, Ireland's Johnny Logan being the first of all. 

Second, and winning just before the final vote announcement, was Finland's brave, sassy and daft - but engrossing - entertainment - 'Cha-cha-cha' by Kaarija (my own 3rd choice) - a true sing-along crowd pleaser, and for me too......

In 3rd place came a nondescript Israeli entry, and then in 4th was the evening's eye-candy, Italy's Marco Mangoni......

Next was my own top choice, Norway's Alessandra with a bouncy, rhythmic number, even if the (English) lyrics were rather banal. But it captured me for appeal.

Sixth place came Ukraine, which I'd feared might win again through a substantial sympathy vote, though it did get a higher placing than I think was deserved.

And it would be criminal to omit mentioning seventh-placed Belgium, with singer, Gustaph, a handsomely-attired top half including fetching white stetson but negated by lower-reaches pink bloomer-pants, rather like jodhpurs, suggestively split between his thighs to shorts/underpants? Oh dear! He was interviewed at least twice and both times he mentioned his husband, which surely must have freaked out certain LGBTQ non-sympathetic countries. Good for him, too bad for them!

And so right at the bottom of the results table, and coming just above last-placed Germany, who had already taken the wooden spoon last year, was the U.K.'s Mae Muller. This was a true surprise as I had liked the song from the very first time I heard it, and I still do, honestly believing that it was a potential winner. Catchy melody, superior lyrics. However, it did have the 'misfortune' to be performed as the very final entry behind all the other contestants, when much of the telly audience would already have made up their minds. Pity. She deserved much better.

The presenters this time were a headache (as usual)......

Alesha Dixon who, I understand, is a pop-singer, and whose name only vaguely rang a bell with me - Ukrainian Julia Sanina - and big, butch-like, six-footer (almost), Hannah Waddingham, English actress, I believe. The latter was particularly annoying, shouting to the audience,,,,,,,,"Are you ready? What's that? I said Are you ready???" - Oh, of course they are. Shut up, woman! For the announcements of the voting results the three ladies were joined by an untypically subdued and reticent Graham Norton who'd deserted his place till then in the commentary box.

The pre-voting 'interval act included last year's runner-up Sam Ryder singing his new release. I still can't comprehend why his last year's song 'Spaceman', came second, though I'm not complaining. After multiple hearings I still cannot discern any melody in it. His performance last night was accompanied on drums by the Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, heavily bearded but whom I recognised before the announcement had been made, though I dare say that much of the audience may not have been sure of who 'Queen' were.

And finally, the most outrageously accoutred (prominent Y-fronts et al!) Croatia's 'Let 3' performing an anti-war song and finishing 12th.......Mad, mad, mad! 😄

So there it was. As simultaneously entertaining and infuriating as the contest always is - and once more every bit as camp as Catterick. We'd been hoping that for the U.K. last year's nearly-first placing had marked the end of our more than two decades of being in the Eurovision doldrums. It now looks like that just may have been a flash in the pan and we're now once again back as a non-entity in Queer Street. But who's to know? What can't be denied is that this year Liverpool, with all the technical wizardry and fireworks we've come to expect, did us and our country proud.  

Till 2024 in Stockholm, then (or maybe Malmo, Gothenburg, Kiruna........?)

Friday, 5 May 2023

Cat micro-chipping becoming compulsory


I knew it was on the cards but had pushed it to the back of my mind. It now becomes mandatory in just over a month's time and so becomes priority to deal with. Failure to comply makes owner liable for up to £500 ($615 U.S.) per cat. Oh, shooooooot! Could have done right now without the costs of having it fulfilled, together with all necessary incidentals like health checks when, with everyday household expenses now being as they are, I'm getting close to checking under settee cushions for lost pennies. 

My present bevy of felines includes one, Patchie (now 17+), who already has all the essentials, including health insurance which alone is now getting on for £200 p.a. The other two, Bobby and Sloopy, moved in here (without my active encouragement) 4.5 years ago and have never been to a vet in their time here, both never having shown any signs of illness or physical pain or discomfort. I've no idea where their former homes are. Sloopy has very conspicuously not been 'doctored' so it's unlikely that he was well looked after and is therefore most likely not microchipped. As for Bobby, I'm not sure if he's also male, though I think he is, and if so must have been 'seen to'. So I'm concerned that if he does have a chip in him, his former owner will have to be contacted and told that he's got a new home - and if that's the case I'll tell the vet to explain that I'd dearly love to keep him, with all the costs that it entails. 

As for now, I've made appointments booked at the vet for both Bobby and Sloopy on successive days next week. I'll be glad when it's been done so I can then start weeping about how much it's costing me. But we all know that their friendship is priceless, don't we? (Don't we?........gulp!)  

I'm unable to post up-to-date pics of both my subjects as I can no longer load from my old-fashioned camera to this laptop, as it seems one now needs a smartphone, which I've never owned. However here's two earlier pics of them (Bobby is the mostly black one) from a couple of years ago, any changes due to ageing being minor:-