Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Happy Intercalary or Bissextile Year Day !

My Dear Friends . . .

Welcome to the study at Myrtle House, a few minutes after midnight and an equal number into a day that only exists in the imagination and memory except for every fourth year.  I refer of course to February 29th, Leap Year Day, a day which has some rather amusing and bizarre memories for me with which I shan't bother your sleepy heads, but as a period of in-betweenness, I feel it a suitable time to ponder the mysteries and vagaries of Life.  So, if you aren't too sleepy, perhaps you could settle down and listen to the minutes tick away as I ramble on through the hours that separate us all from those blue remembered hills . . .*

Yesterday which, as I write, is a very recent memory, was filled with both celebrations and sad news; It was, of course, my two year anniversary of saying goodbye to the demon drink and, despite all the moaning I subject you to within these walls and pages, I have to say I do feel very much better for it. It was during the course of a very amusing and celebratory textual banter with a lovely friend concerning such matters that she asked if I had heard the very sad news about a mutual friend and old school chum of mine Robert Lockhart.

Appallingly, I hadn't and I have to say the news left me feeling quite bereft, not merely because of its obvious tragicness but for the fact that he was one of the most talented musicians I ever had the pleasure to know. Should you wish to discover more about this wickedly brilliant creature you may do so by reading the obituary in the Guardian penned by Will Self. 
As I look at the rather rakish and dashing photograph that accompanied his obituary, I can still see the fresh-faced boy of fourteen summers, sitting upstairs on the Abbey Lakes bus on the way home from Grammar School, being  - as I considered at the time  - very daring and sophisticated by smoking the exceptionally pungent French Gitanes cigarettes instead of the usual school boy choice of Player's No 6 and declaring "I am, of course, a Francophile" to which I nodded sagely and later, after returning home, tried to discover exactly what one of those was! He was merely one year and two days older than me . . .

There has been a brief passage of time and now the sun - or at least the grey murk - is peeping or seeping into the windows of the study which indicates it is, in fact, morning and a little after seven of the clock.   Yours truly is off to the kitchen to rustle up, if not a hearty breakfast, at least some nibbles and green tea for us while we consider the rest of this post . . . amuse yourself won't you, shan't be a tick . . .

And back we are once again inside this book-lined room; it's amazing to think that the tomes here represent something like maybe only one-fifth of the all the ones I've owned; some sit still, I'm sure, in squirrel-nibbled attics or grace the bookshelves of purloiners, pining I suspect, for a  return to their position in my beloved stacks . . . and everyday more come to join the ranks here assembled - as the great Groucho Marx said "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Sums it up rather nicely, don't you think? 

My particular example of the species, the Famous Sally Dog, is, as I write, sitting patiently on the rug beside the desk waiting not for the spark from heaven to fall, but rather crumbs from a breakfast biscuit to make their way to her ever grateful maw; I can honestly say I have never experienced anything quite as voracious as the appetite of a small dog - simply ast-hounding . . . sorry, I couldn't resist that. Sal is fast approaching her seventh birthday and is nearly winning the battle to still be longer than wider despite a constant hunger that would put a vampire to shame! She will not be impressed by today's weather however; although I have often remarked upon her ever willingness to walk, even the tiniest amount of rain stops her dead in her tracks and a "Why do you have such stupid ideas?" expression crosses her anthropomorphic muzzle - she is very good at blaming me for most things that impact negatively on her world, especially when I insist she ignore the remains of someone's late night supper which is simply sitting on the pavement waiting to be consumed by a grateful and highly deserving canine individual . . . 

Talking of leaky weather, tomorrow is -  besides our monthly chance to wish each other triple albino Leporidae -  St David's Day and so I wish you all Dydd gŵyl dewi hapus for then and hope daffs, leeks, sheep and other probably unintentionally offensive Welsh stereotypes abound . . . as for today I hope you enjoy your leapishness!  A rather fine and short video explanation of the phenomenon appears here courtesy of those lovely @Numberphile people - if you are a Twitter user I suggest you check them out immediately.

This extra day calls me into action and so needs must I with heavy heart, into the world and wave of men depart;  I hope you have a stunningly brilliant day, laden with love and remember with gratitude the pulse that beats within you  - for you are indeed a long time dead, unless you are a Buddhist of course !

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

*Into my heart an air that kills
From Yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content
I see it shining plain
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A E Housman A Shropshire Lad

Friday, 24 February 2012

A Sister is a Little Bit of Childhood that can Never Be Lost*

Good Morning Dear Friends!

and welcome to Friday the 24th of February which, as all good people know, is the very day on which -  a not inconsiderable number of years ago - the world first caught a tantalising glimpse of the delightful Sister Cate; she has been delighting us and filling it with her love and selflessness ever since and so, as an extra special treat and in order to celebrate this most marvelous of events, we're going to have a slice of Victoria sandwich with our tea in the study this morning . . . perhaps fresh cream and strawberries are a bit of an indulgence  but I think a deserved one, so please help yourself and sit down . . .

In reality, I actually met up with the above mentioned sibling yesterday for our fast-becoming ritual which happens most Thursdays. We spent quite a while with the lovely people in Costa who, as usual, looked after us royally, and were joined briefly by Dominic Littlewood - he of consumer watchdog fame from TV land - who popped in for a secret cuppa, pausing only to have his photo snapped with the ever-pleasant Vickie who then delighted us with her "dad-dancing" - ah, youth! 
And, speaking of such matters, I shall be there again today with my own example of the species as my son and I meet up for an all-too-rare get-together; he now towers over me and speaks with the manly reassurance that I somehow never seemed to master . . . it does seem to be a rather cake-based reality these days (which, in my book, is No Bad Thing!) as I believe I am to have a Sunday Morning Sojourn with Mr and Mrs Gecko aka Sam and Andrew, neither of whom I have clapped eyes upon for many a long month. This is due in part to a rather unfortunate operation Sam has had to endure which left her less than mobile, and my own inability to manage my diary properly! So with any luck - and given the fact that I will be visiting Deer Crossing in Cheshire once more on Saturday where the table always groans under the weight of comestibles - come March I shall be totally unable to see my own feet, ah me!

Even as I write these words the day is changing; I awoke to a greyishness which transformed almost immediately into a bit of blue sky and sunshine; now a scurrilous wind has arisen and promises a splash to accompany my dash into town later . . . I know it is a sign of impending (if not already achieved) Victor Meldrew-ness but I find myself loathe to carry an umbrella as I inevitably leave it somewhere and have to dash back breathless and bothered to recove it and also find it difficult to manage when carrying bags . . .  I can't believe I have just forced you to read such self-pitying piffle dear readers but, alas, 'tis true! I shall simply have to rely on my Craghopper coat (another loathsome item of apparel) and the fact that I do live practically on the doorstep of town . . . it could be Much Worse and, thankfully, I shan't be at sea to witness the worse things that do happen there!

Anyhow, the real reason I invited you here this morning was, of course, to pass on felicitations to my beloved sister and wish her the very happiest of birthdays; I hope she finds a way out from beneath the mountains of cards and gifts heaped upon her and manages not to slip under the taxi coming out of the pub tonight! She has, throughout her life, always looked after me as only a big sister can and I should like to regale you now with a glimpse into my childhood and an example of her beneficence . . .

When I was very young -  maybe four or five years, maybe less - I noticed for the first time a thumping noise coming from within my chest.  I asked my Biggest Sister what it was and was told it was my heart and that it would always make this noise and movement unless I went to sleep with my hand on it . . . . but what would happen then I enquired full of curiosity; she then announced with, it has to be said, a kind of glee rarely seen except perhaps on the face of Jack Nicholson as he smashes down the door in "The Shining", that - should such an unfortunate occurrence take place -  my heart would stop and I would die and be gone forever.  Childish nonsense of course, and one that, some nearly fifty years later, still prevents me from going to sleep with my hands anywhere near my chest! 

Still, scarred as I am from this albeit unintentional malevolence, I shall manage to put it all behind me, continue to love her unconditionally and shower her with Useful and Acceptable Gifts** - everyone really loves the Reader's Digest deep down, don't they?

So with birthday greeting ringing in our ears - or is it simply the batteries need changing again? - I shall wish you all a simply Fantastical Friday and a Wondrous Weekend!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

*   Marion C. Garretty
** A wonderful monologue by the inimitable Joyce Grenfell 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Room without Books is like a Body without a Soul *

Good Morning Dear Friends!

Welcome once again to the early yawny morning study at Myrtle House where Yours Truly sits and taps -  this being at present my only form of possible communication beyond the occasional squeak due to the unbounded kindness of Sister Cate who came to Sally-sit at the weekend and left behind sufficient air-borne molecules of My Lady Malady to strike me down with a most terrific lack of performance in the vocal chord department; however I have my revenge planned and ready to implement and I intend to re-infect her over tea and cake later this morning - they do say revenge is a sweet best eaten cold and I take it that the Coffee and Walnut cake courtesy of the delightful creatures at Costa, slips seamlessly into this category!

In the meantime I am glugging a most marvelous concoction which I am sure I must have mentioned before ... I was introduced to it by the wonderfully talented and fantastically voiced Frank Halliwell of Dennis Delight fame many years ago; although a brilliant vocalist, he was often beset by hoarseness and relied heavily on this mixture's amazing efficacy and recuperative powers to get him through a gig when the old chords were twanging less than usual and so, dear reader, I pass the secret on to you . . . it is available at most old fashioned chemists and goes by the name of Sanderson's Specific.  I warn you it tastes fairly noxious but is an amazing restorative . . . there is the usual nonsense on the label about sipping a teaspoon but, following Frank's wisdom, I simply glug it and, lo and behold, the squeak becomes a squawk almost instantly . . . try it, you'll be amazed!

Whilst I seem to be in the business of product - placement this morning, I'd like to draw to your attention the eatery (awful word!) of another chum; I refer, of course,  to The Coven Deli, which is based just around the corner from Myrtle House in Wigan's Victorian Quarter and is receiving the most amazing and richly-deserved reviews for its astounding range of specialist foods . . . if like me you are part of the Twitterverse you can follow @TheCovenWigan and keep up to date with all the events and delicious goodies available . . . yum!

Whilst glancing at the short blurb which accompanies these ravings I notice that I refer to Myrtle House as my "new home" which is something of a misnomer; it's now fast approaching a year since I moved my chattels across town to this oasis of peace amid the hustle and bustle of the hurly burly and what a strange year it has been . . . not the best in many respects but I have to say that the peace and serenity I have found here has helped immensely and given me strength to continue when it all seemed rather tiresome and pointless . . . of course,  being here would not have been even thinkable without the constant help, love and support I have received (most gratefully) from all those who shall remain nameless - you know who you are! Anyhow, come the 17th of March, which is St Patrick's Day, I shall be celebrating - albeit soberly due to my 2 year anniversary on the 28th of this month - my first full year 'neath these sequestered slates and so invite you all to say "Sláinte" on my behalf.

Concerning the environs of Myrtle House, plans are afoot - or 30.48 cm for you youngsters out there - to remove the teetering obelisk that is rumoured to be a garden shed but is fast approaching a return to its constituent gluons and leptons, and put in its place a wee little chicken house for three wee little chickens; names being bandied about for said birds include Korma, Tikka and Samber . . . which I think suggests a subtle encouragement to them to produce sufficient eggs to ensure their continued good health - what do you think? It is, of course, part of my long-held desire to be self-sufficient and live the good life . . . I wonder where I could put the goat?

The morning progresses and my tea has become a tad chillsome and, like my good self, needs hotting up somewhat! However, before I go I thought I'd mention some of the books I'm reading or have reviewed recently; last time I posted I said I was away to buy "The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey which I subsequently did and which is more than living up to its promise . . . a most marvelous story and so beautifully crafted . . . incidentally,  I also received a lovely tweet of thanks from Eowyn for mentioning her book which I thought was a really nice gesture;  I also got the chance to meet the very sweet Jane Rogers - she of Mr Wroe's Virgins fame - at Wigan Library a few days ago and got a copy of her new one "The Testament of Jessie Lamb" which I haven't begun yet but has quite an intriguing premise, I should check it out if I were you! I can't remember if I told you about "Putting Alice Back Together" by Carol Marinelli which is due to be published in around a fortnights time - it's a really good story but has the most appalling cover I've ever seen on a book! Don't let yourself be put off though, the read within is well worth it.  
All the links I've included will whizz you through the ether to the Waterstones ( no ') site but I do recommend that, if you don't mind paying a few coppers more, you visit the actual shop - the one in Wigan is staffed by the nicest bunch of folk this side of the asylum wall, though which side they should be on is debatable!  You can also follow them on Twitter by searching for @WaterstonesWN1 or simply Waterstones Wigan

Ah well, all things must come to an end and so I must show my face to the world - thus ending what had been quite a nice experience for the world until that point.  I hope your day is good and that you've enjoyed reading my scribblings; why not leave a comment, just to let me know that there is someone out there and it's not all in my imagination!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

* by Cicero but recently brought to my attention by my mate Chris - Cheers :)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Tempus Fugit . . .

Good Morning Dear Friends!
and a very joyful White Rabbity x 3 Day to you* . . . welcome to February and a fond farewell to two-faced Janus at last - I could be mistaken but I had the feeling that last month consisted of at least 62 days . . . anyhow, a whole new month stretches before us with the promise of unseasonably early Spring flowers alongside lower temperatures to chill our bones though, as I look out of the study window at Myrtle House, sky is is sapphire blue and a lot of light seems to be bouncing around heaven this morning . . . which can only be good!

So what do the forthcoming days hold in store? Ah, if I but knew . . . though I'm fairly sure that I will shortly be, as the dear Mr Ian Anderson sings** " ...on trains, on trains, I seem to spend my life on trains . . ." ; today merely for a miniscule hop to the next halt along the line to look at some buildings that could serve a useful purpose in the coming months - of which more later !  Before that, and following my beautification process which increases in length and decreases in success with each passing day, my self and somewhat less than fragrant flower of dogdom with whom I share my life will be toddling once more around the Victorian Quarter for matutinal micturitions ( her, not me I hasten to add!) and have a quick peep at friends and neighbours . . . whoops! Tempus fugit and all that, I will be late . . . make yourself at home and see you shortly!

Hello again! Well, following a brief canter along the Corridor of Chronos  - or a pavane along the Passage of Time if you prefer - I find myself in the thrub of Thursday. Yet another crisp and cold morning beyond the study windows calls me to task as soon I'm off for a most welcome large green tea and, I suspect, a positively colossal slab of cake with Sister Cate in Costa - it's a hard life!
Whilst tootling around the Wigwam I also want to pop in and see the lovely creatures in Waterstones (who can be found in Tweetland under the guise of WaterstonesWN1) as I have a fever upon me to purchase a book; I have read a sample chapter of what appears to be an enchanting publication entitled "The Snow Child" by an unknown-to-me author named Eowyn Ivey who appears to hail from the frozen wastes (or waists, if your shirt's too short!) of North America . . . want to know where? Alaska***

I found the chapter beautifully written and moving; I  also experienced albeit vicariously Eowyn's undoubted joy and jubilation at the birth of her book - being somewhat of a scribbler myself I know first hand the frustrations and seemingly interminable delays that occur before publication - my own meagre prize winning epic "The Maelstrom" is still awaiting the light of published day nearly a year later! -and the magnitude of sheer hard work involved in the conception and birth is staggering. If any of you doubters out there are pshawing my words I can only suggest that you try writing the smallest poem or item of prose and see how it feels! Equally, as I tweeted earlier today, I feel I must thank all the writers who, over the many years I've been a reader, have populated my world with their words and images; I feel I must give a special thank you to Charles Dodgeson who surreptitiously sneaked into my consciousness when I was fast approaching five years of age and has refused to leave ever since.

I have almost given up trying to predict when The Maelstrom will appear; along with a host of my other titles, it is also due to be self-published under the auspices of Myrtle House but life seems to have developed a habit of getting in the way . . . maybe an idea would be simply to hand out e-copies to those willing to read them and hope that someone out there likes them? Hmmm . . . I shall ponder, cogitate and inwardly digest!  

In the meantime, it is that time again when an insistent wet nose presses against my shapely calf - not sure why there appears to be livestock in the study or why Sal is sniffing it - to inform that I must ablute and walk my hound as time presses once more . . .

So, in the words of the Incredible String Band, who, strangely enough I found myself listening to again this week: "May the long time sunshine calm you, all love surround you and the pure light within you guide your way out!"

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

*    I began this epic on Wednesday 1st!
** "Trains" by Ian Anderson from 1983 cd "Walk Into Light"
***To which - according to the rules of humour - you must reply "And what did she answer?