Tuesday, November 21, 2006


A Tribute

Life has sometimes felt a bit sunless since Rob died, but then along come acts of kindness, like the one that happened on Sunday, which lift the shutters on your heart and throw a few sunbeams your way. A couple of Rob’s friends, who have a place way out in the country with enough land and generosity to have allowed him to bring his friends and race around like kids firing air rifles at inanimate objects, generously organised a tree planting tribute to him. It was a touching little ceremony – I got to cut the ribbon round the tree, Rob’s friends said warm words about him and explained that they’d chosen a Russet apple as the most appropriate tree to commemorate Rob’s life because of its crisp and nutty flavour, with blossom in May (Rob’s birthday) and fruit in September (the month he died). Rob had often spoken admiringly of their house, which dates back to Oliver Cromwell’s time and it was easy to understand his fascination with it – great fireplaces, exposed wooden beams, tiny staircases on different levels and frequent smacks on the head for anyone who forgot to duck when entering a room. When his friends first rented it (at 50p a week), it was about to be demolished, but they liked it so much they restored it at their own expense and then applied to buy it. But the local authority turned out to be somewhat duplicitous, contending that because the house had been restored so authentically, it was now a listed building and so increased its valuation to include not only the improvements already done, but a newly thatched roof put on while buying negotiations were under way. But unlike Oliver Cromwell, who had plenty of people to point the way as he rode round the country gathering support for his army, we had only our mobile phones when we got lost and they showed ‘no network coverage’ when we tried to ring for directions. It’s obviously time Vodafone came out of their time warp, or maybe they think them country folk don’t talk to each other.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Who started it?

Chatting with some friends over a sunny Sunday lunch brought on a discussion about the most common triggers of domestic disputes and they seem to divide by gender. We know that women complain that men won't express their feelings (they do actually, they just haven’t got our stamina for it - bored after a mere half an hour)! But apparently men are driven mad by the equally maddening and almost exclusively female habit of refusing an offer of a chocolate bar say, when you've stopped at the garage for petrol, or an ice-cream when you're on a trip somewhere, but almost before they can take a bite, we want some – “just a bite, no, no, not that much, just a bite; well I didn’t ask for one because I didn’t want a whole one, just a measly couple of bites of yours”. When guests are expected, women are at a loss to understand why, when there are newspapers strewn over the floor and the loo needs cleaning, men decide that the top priority is painting the window sill. And who’s ever heard a man say “we’re obviously lost, let’s stop and ask the way”? It infuriates them that women give up so easily, when with a bit of patience it’s easy enough to‘re-orient’ themselves via the sun/stars/map/compass. But an argument that can be started by either sex, where there's an equal amount of spleen vented, is on the subject of how to spend your money - at Christmas time especially. I’m sure there must be couples out there who have no problem agreeing spending priorities and who love discussing what present to buy for whom, shopping for it, showing it off and covering it in a frothy film of artwork, but judging by the number of times you hear the well worn phrase “all I said …” during the run up to Christmas, suggest there can’t be too many of them.

I'm reading Vernon God Little and love the colourful way Vernon's feelings are described. I thought you could only crane your neck but what about this: 'when the rubbing of her thighs has faded, I crane my nostrils for any vague comfort, a whiff of toast, a spearmint breath. But all I whiff, over the sweat and the barbeque sauce, is school - the kind of pulse bullyboys give off when they spot a quiet one, a wordsmith, in a corner. The scent of lumber being cut for a f..... cross'. Aren't you just right there with him?

Friday, November 03, 2006


Literary Mating

You’d need a GSOH – a Scouse one as it happened – to launch a lonely hearts column with a first entry that reads: ‘67-year old disaffiliated flaneur picking my toothless way through the urban sprawl, self-destructive, sliding towards pathos, jacked up on Viagra and on the lookout for a contortionist who plays the trumpet’. But David Rose, the Liverpudlian advertising director for the London Review of Books (the biggest selling literary magazine in Europe) accepted the ad 8 years ago and his baby has developed into a unique column, attracting an increasing number of admirers. That they appear like so many nutters, competing like peacocks to attract a mate with elaborate displays of silliness and eccentricity can be seen as refreshingly different or a smidgeon scary depending on whether you want to read something more interesting than the clichéd GSOH who WLTM their alter egos, or the darker sort such as: ‘Don’t let distance come between us. Or metal bars. Or restricted access. Or the magic sweeties that make the night terrors go away. Write now to bubbly (others say “Maximum Security” but what do they know?) F, 34, before the clowns tell her to do things the clowns shouldn’t do.’ It’s not only funny, but clever too, because the contributors get to hide their fear of rejection behind the pretence that it’s just a game, although at 80p a word, it looks as though the man behind the idea has the most fun. Mr Rose says that he does get some complaints from people who tell him the magazine’s rubbish because they didn’t receive a single response, but you’d have to be the ultimate optimist to expect a reply to this one: ‘Must all the women in my life take the witness stand? Serial embezzler, gangster, fly-tipper and – crucially for the prosecution against an otherwise watertight defence – bigamist (M, 48) WLTM easy-going, dizzy fems to 50 who don’t ask too many questions (it’s a busy trip – I’ll be back on Tuesday)’, or the one that captures a stereotypical image with simply: ‘I am an accountant’. But the one that most intrigues me is: ‘Indifferent Woman – blah, blah, blah, go ahead and write – like I care’. Being married to a Scouser, I know what clever blokes they are, so I’m sure Mr Rose knows there’ll be a response even if it’s not to the advertiser. Will more people buy the magazine for the high-minded literary content or the adverts? - like he cares. And a bonus is a new book called They Call Me Naughty Lola containing the best of the adverts.

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