Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Diary excerpts 7

February 26, 2017

4 January
Looking at old home videos I realise I peaked physically at New Year 1998. But I’m better now than I was at ten, which is a consolation.

13 January
Glimpsed through a window on Hertford Street: a middle-aged couple watching Up Pompeii in stony-faced silence.

30 January
M’s idea, several years ago, of an 11-year-old maths prodigy coming up to Cambridge and leaving with a third because he spends all his time with Footlights seems to me as brilliant now as it did then.

8 February
Wandering past the gift shop on the corner of Rose Crescent, I spot the same Mr Bean coaster set that’s been there for several years. Thinking of Mr Bean coasters as status symbol. Who would own such a thing? Someone who loves Mr Bean, perhaps. Thinking of the universal appeal of Mr Bean, given the absence of any language barrier, and the jarring notion of a family in Ethiopia, say, using their set of Mr Bean coasters (which isn’t after all so unlikely, given the work of Comic Relief). In a gift shop on King’s Parade, a Queen figurine and a Mr Bean figurine side by side. Perhaps Mr Bean would be one of the, say, ten most globally recognised British people. I can certainly think of several less desirable candidates.

8 March
We’re all so full of unacknowledged prejudices, aren’t we. I just walked past a pigeon in Webb’s and called it a fat fucker for no reason.

pigeon

21 March
Message just received on my voicemail: ‘I’m really sorry, I called your number by mistake and I think I might have sworn, which wasn’t intentional, so please accept my apologies.’

24 March
I like to think of Lemsip as the proprietary name of a generic drink called lemon sip.

13 April
Awoke today to hear myself singing ‘Was ist Silvia?’ What a lovely voice I’ve got, I thought. Turned out to be Fischer-Dieskau.

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Diary excerpts 6 — walking to work edition

November 30, 2016

7 January
Chalked on the back of a lorry in Trinity Street: HAPPY XMAS MUMMY

17 March
Seen on the way to work today: a builder singing ‘Cowabunga’ to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus, and a cyclist wearing a baseball cap with horns attached.

12 April
Woman dragging her heels in front of me this morning. When I got to where she’d been dawdling, I saw why – a female blackbird hopping about on a wheelie bin. Just the most beautiful of birds. I didn’t care for blackbirds as a boy, I liked the showy ones, kingfishers and peacocks, even pigeons with their shiny feathers.

pigeon-at-st-pauls

13 May
On the way to work this morning: a father bending down to kiss his 10-year-old son as they walked to St Luke’s. A swan with a titanic wingspan flapping under Magdalene Bridge. Boulez on a bike. Daniel Zeichner. A male blackbird alighting on the King’s Parade wall, flapping his wings and stomping his tail and tweeting vociferously. I wanted to put him in a little box.

18 September
Senses simultaneously heightened and blurred by slight drunkenness last night. Waking up with my voice a fifth lower because of the beer, singing along with songs down the octave as I got dressed, humming pedal D’s on ‘Mir ist so wunderbar’ as I walked to work.

22 September
A few days ago I walked past a dead pigeon on the pavement at the bottom of the road. I didn’t stop to inspect it, but it appeared to have died peacefully, albeit surrounded by its own droppings. Now the body is gone, but the droppings remain. Can a bird shit itself to death, I find myself wondering.

29 September
Listened to the first movement of Brahms 2 (Harnoncourt) as I walked to work through the teeming rain. A realisation later that Brahms is my great hero, maybe my greatest hero, for that piece as much as for anything else. It’s remarkable.

3 November
It’s not every day you get leered at on the way to work by a ponytailed man carrying a banana in a threatening manner. Just some days.

I remember 2

August 8, 2015

I remember going to a children’s concert at Jackdaws in Great Elm and the programme giving the name of one piece as ‘Vaginia Reel’.

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I remember the happiness of going to National Trust properties and, against the odds, not being bored, perhaps because of the shop or the tea room.

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I remember playing the word COON in a Scrabble game because I’d got it mixed up with ‘coot’, and sensing from the grown-ups’ reactions that I’d done something wrong, though no one said anything.

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I remember feeling inhibited about waving my arms when we sang hateful evangelical songs in school like ‘We are climbing Jesus’ ladder’.

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I remember feeling embarrassed by my unbroken singing voice.

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I remember the sickly smell of breakfast in Barry: pineapple juice and Weetabix.

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I remember D saying confidentially to me that there was someone in the changing room with awful BO and my suspecting that it was me. Perhaps he was trying to be diplomatic. He wasn’t an academic boy, but he was kind, like Piggy in Lord of the Flies.

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I remember seeing a comma butterfly in Welshmill Park on an inset day.

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I remember stroking my tortoiseshell butterfly until its wings fell off and all that remained was the abdomen.

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I remember the summer when I went down the road to the petrol station to buy a 500ml bottle of Sprite and the lid was a special one that meant I won a free bottle of Sprite and it happened several times in a row so the people on the checkout began to get suspicious.

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I remember Tiger Tokens.

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I remember reading The Great Gatsby and picturing the gas station as the one at the bottom of Weymouth Road.

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I remember a boy shouting ‘Queer’ at me from a window, and realising he’d only shouted it because I happened to be there, but also half thinking, How does he know?

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I remember Miss Davies showing us Blackadder the Third in class to explain about rotten boroughs.

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I remember getting shyer as I got older.

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I remember feeling absolutely indifferent to cars.

Tortoiseshell, July 2015

Poetry / poultry

April 10, 2015

Bad poets can make good playwrights … So what is a bad-to-indifferent poet to do? Enroll immediately in playwriting school. Put the bad poetry in the mouths of outlandish characters. It might make the bad poetry funny instead of sad.

That comes from a book I’m reading at the moment, 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by the US playwright Sarah Ruhl. It struck me as timely because a few days ago I found myself sitting behind a middle-aged woman on a train, peeked over her shoulder to see what she was writing in her notebook, and read the following:

The farmer is sure to be angry
I’ve layed an ugly small egg
He’ll never be able to sell it
His pardon I’ll have to beg

What if it happens again tomorrow
And the day after that?
The farmer might send me away from the farm
I’m really worried about that

I hesitate to publish this online for fear of seeming malicious. A few years ago on a message board I help to run, someone reported a comical exchange between two ladies in a doctor’s waiting room. Ha ha, commented another, defensively, people are so stupid. No, I said, not stupid, just funny. I don’t think it’s necessarily an act of unpleasantness to be amused by this poetic fragment. The amusement comes partly from pondering its purpose.

Perhaps the woman was writing for a child audience, hence the simplicity of expression, or in the persona of an amateur poet in a play, as Ruhl suggests; or perhaps she herself was a master of scansion but the hen she had created wasn’t. We all know chickens are stupid fuckers. It’s possible she was just writing poetry for her own amusement, and who are we to deny anyone such a blameless pleasure? Half an hour spent writing a poem about intensive farming methods is half an hour spent not abusing strangers on the internet.

I think I’d have given the farmer a name.