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WRITER'S BLOG

Clubbed To Death?

If you find yourself in the city of Bath with a yearning for a Classic Club Sandwich do not try to find one at the Kingsmead Kitchen in Kingsmead Square. If you do, you will be as disappointed as I was this Sunday lunchtime.

The menu said Classic Club Sandwich – expensive but perfect: just what I wanted. And what arrived was a fine sandwich: two slices of toasted bread filled, as advertised, with bacon, chicken and salad. But it was not the Classic Club Sandwich I'd ordered. Three pieces of bread (or toast), two fillings, right? Right.

The cafe was crowded, the wait staff were busy, so I ate my sandwich and was absolutely going to pay for it. But, in the interest of accurate advertising, I decided to point out the mistake.

Which was my mistake, because when I did – very politely – the waiter replied brusquely that I had been served exactly what I ordered. 'You gave me a sandwich,' I said, 'not a "club" sandwich.' He pointed to the menu and repeated that I had been served what was described on the menu. I said again that the menu was offering a Club Sandwich and not an ordinary sandwich.

English was not his first language, so just to be absolutely sure I knew what I was talking about I Googled the sandwich in question and nowhere could I find a picture or a description of a 'club' sandwich that did not have two fillings separated by a third slice of bread. I gently explained this to the waiter.

I should have left it there, of course. But the guy was looking at me as if I was stupid and trying to get out of paying. Which was insulting. Also I do not react well to frustration. So I had one more shot at explaining myself, this time to a young woman who described herself as a trainee manager. I can't remember exactly what she said, partly because English was not her first language either. But the upshot was that the original waiter came back an offered me a slice of bread.

That was too silly even for a connoisseur of silliness like me. So I got up and left with my remaining dignity, (not much, by then) and paid the full price. I wish I hadn't because I still find myself fuming rather than laughing – as this blog clearly demonstrates.

 

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In A Fog.

This silent foggy morning reminded me of Foggy, Foggy Dew, and I wondered for an instant about a blog entitled 'Whatever happened to the "fair young maid"?' Another mysterious absence in a bloke's song. But then I couldn't be arsed. Fog seems to sit too heavy on all my motivation. Be thankful.

 

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Talking Leaves.

"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles.

But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.

Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic."

Carl Sagan

 

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Gothic Horror and Science Fiction.

Recently I decided to reread both Dracula and Frankenstein. I first tackled them in my early twenties – a long time ago. Now they both seemed unfamiliar.

I think that's because when I was twenty I was both depressed and impatient. I did not recognize large chunks of both books. In the case of Dracula that must be because the seductions were too slow and the activity too long coming. With Frankenstein the reason must have been because Mary Shelley was even more depressed when she wrote the book than I was when I read it.

It's time to confess that I skipped a lot.

This time I didn't skip a single sentence. This time I really appreciated the slow pace of Dracula. We seem to have lost the art of the long, teasing seduction in literature. But what startled me was Bram Stoker's description of the Count as ugly and grotesque. These days I'm so accustomed to vampires being sexy high school kids with pain and love in their hearts. It's so much more interesting to read about how mesmerising the ugly old Count is than to witness the banal sight of beautiful people falling in and out of lust.

Mary Shelley, however, is still a source of great heartache – not surprising when you consider her life. Then too, she was doing something a lot more complicated than Bram Stoker. She was inventing a whole new genre: science fiction. She was looking at the consequences of man playing God, and she saw it in terms of a child being utterly rejected by a father. How could she not? But consider how many synonyms she brought to bear on words like 'grief' and 'pain'. The woman was a Thesaurus.

Both books are hard going for a modern reader, but worth the effort.

 

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Machines.

Let me explain machines to you, my dears. They're all fascists. If you can't think like they do you're doomed to burn in hell. That's all you need to know.

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Dance to the Music of Time.

Last night my partner and I went to hear a blues band called The Blueswater at a small local venue. The evening kicked off with the singer performing a Skip James number (before the rest of the band joined him) with just a guitar on his knees and a bottle neck. He did it really well. The band followed up with a load of my favourites – numbers made famous by Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and the like, numbers written by the God, Willy Dixon.

We'd been to this venue before, and at the bar prices are astronomical. We smuggled in our own beer.  Read More 

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Trying to Think Clearly.

Anti-Semitism has been described as 'The Longest Hatred.' It has so often been used by those with power and influence to distract ordinary people's attention for other, real and pressing problems. You only have to think about Germany in the '30s.

Is this what's happening now in the UK's Labour Party? Is the right wing press using accusations of anti-Semitism to tear the left apart? It looks like it.

But is there anti-Semitism in the Left leadership? Yes, it looks like it.

Is there anti-Semitism on the Right too? There always has been and I'd be very surprised if there weren't now.  Read More 

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Not Such Good Intentions.

If I were wise I'd be ballyhooing my new hot-off-the-presses sequel to Lady Bag: Crocodiles and Good Intentions. But it's hot and I'm unaccountably irritated, and I'm no good at self-promotion, so I'll go with the irritation instead.

Okay, here's my beef: I'm not all that interested in clothes – I like them old, soft, loose and comfortable. But sometimes my nearest and dearest persuade me to go for something other than what I kid myself is charity shop chic. So sometimes I go out and spend money. And here's the bugbear: no matter how much I spend, no matter how soft the fabric is, the labels the designers and manufacturers sew into the garments always scratch, itch and at worst bring me out in a rash. Why is this? Can't they be bothered? Are they cutting costs? Are they punishing me for not buying something even more expensive? I need to know. After only one outing I have to cut the labels out which means that I lose the washing instructions.

This is what I felt was a more important and pressing subject to rant about on this hot and humid day than self-promotion.

Someone care to go out and promote it for me? I'm not too scratchy to carry a cheque to the bank.

 

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How Philip Roth Nearly Killed Me.


Well, I'm sorry Philip Roth has died. But thinking about him and his idiosyncratic take on the world he lived in reminded me of an incident from long, long ago in my must-spent youth when he was very nearly responsible for my early death.

It was summertime and I'd driven down to beautiful Lyme Regis. I was, I hoped at the time, a rebel, a risk-taker and experimental in my attitude to experience. In other words, I was an art student who'd read Jack Keroac, de Quincey and many others. And I'd probably understood very little. But on this day I had a little mescaline in one pocket, Keat's Endymion in another, and a copy of Portnoy's Complaint in my bag.

I settled on a cliff top overlooking a truly spectacular view and took the mescaline. I sat crossed legged with a notebook in front of me ready to draw my visions, or the seascape in front of me , or to write poetry.

Nothing happened. There were no imaginings of transcendental beauty, no incredible creativity, and no words of wit or wisdom occurred to me.

I began to get bored so I took Portnoy's Complaint out of my bag, propped myself on my elbows and began to read. Previously I hadn't been particularly entranced by a story about a young guy's wanking history but after about twenty minutes I began to laugh. Every word Philip Roth wrote struck me as so hysterically funny that I was rolling on the ground convulsed with unstoppable laughter.

A couple of ramblers very fortuitously interrupted me just me as I was about to roll off the edge of the cliff. I'd like to take this late opportunity to thank them for saving my life, and for the bottled water they made me drink; less for the lecture, but hey, life-savers don't have to be perfect.

And writers don't have to be killers. But. Philip Roth nearly was.

 

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Normal Service?

There have been several excuses in the past couple of weeks to gnaw my fingernails down to the second knuckle.

First there was the Post Office telling me there is no connection between itself and Royal Mail: that false information put on a label by someone at the Post Office which resulted in a lost parcel had nothing to do with the PO because the information on the PO's computer was from a Royal Mail site. Not our problem, mate.

Then there's Bose who refuse to repair a very expensive piece of kit even if I pay them  Read More 

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