Monthly Archives: April 2012

Those band things: formerly known as waistbands

Once upon a time we all knew where the tops of our trousers lived, they lived in the waistband, and these waistbands belonged in their proper place pretty much round our middles, where our waists were, or are still, if you are lucky.

These days the tops of trousers have bands, but they are not for the waist. They float around from anywhere vaguely proximate to your elegantly jutting pelvis bone up to your washboard stomach, or, if you are my age – or just me, they settle in a middling but indeterminate anatomical place that does not a) cause too much muffin-top overspill or b) general stomach overhang. Have I missed anything?

It is therefore necessary to attempt to purchase trousers that are a little more generous than you need, to avoid an unsightliness of unruly and uncontained flesh (previously the waistband would have had all that covered). In these trousers you will then need to employ the services of a belt, but what you will find, is that these days many ladies’ trousers manufacturers have dispensed with the belt loop at the back of the trousers. You are then faced with a choice. Let your trousers fall down all day long, or endure the belt riding high above the trouser band up towards your shoulder blades. I suppose some crafty types might be able to add a further choice and add a belt loop, but this is as likely as flying to the moon for me. I am not proud of this needlework deficit in my life, it just is an undeniable fact.

Imagine my joy today, then, when for the first time in weeks, in a work wear pair of trews, I was able to enjoy not pulling my trousers up, all day long. There is even a belt loop at the back on them. If I think about it too hard, I am aware I may be being slightly garotted around the top of my pelvis, but, as Meat Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.

Belts, waistbands, and elasticated trouser hems: it's got the lot!

A break in the clouds

My dog-walking career hit rock-bottom last week. I am now down to walking one dog, my own, so I only call it my career as a joke, since the last canine I walked for money was probably about eight years ago. A lot’s gone on in the intervening period, but in terms of dogs, I have recently lost all confidence in my ability to remain calm and centred, as per canine guru Cesar Millan.

All is fine in the house (apart from occasional growling when surprised – he’s a street rescue – what can you expect?), but when we get outdoors, I find I am a nervous wreck. I have started to avoid other dogs and last week, when we were in the park and approached by a pointer with a glint in its eye, I slipped the lead and sort of… ran off.

This is very bad form. What was worse, was that my escape on foot sans chien was severely hampered because, from fright, my legs went all jelly on me. Utterly ridiculous really, but it was an almost reflexive fear response from me. Now, this is odd because I never used to be this way and, you know what, I blame the dog! After 5 years together and many difficult moments in an attempt to form the owner-dog bond, I am now too empatico with him. I have caught his flight response as if it were a common cold.

Let me explain. When I first got this dog (my third dog as it happened) he was highly nervous and if anything frightened him he would flight off, as far as he could go, in the opposite direction. Many things could frighten him, both inside and out: the lead, a car, a noise, a dog, a person, a stick, anything at all really, so walking was something that he had to be coaxed into over a long period of time. Eventually, we got ‘there’ and he turned into a friendly, if still quite nervy sort of dog. Life is ,however, a journey and no sooner have you got ‘there’ than you end up somewhere else. In our case it turned out to be the dog’s getting in touch with his inner hunter. Now games with other dogs became confused. Firstly, he would invite them to be the hunter and him the prey, which worked out ok, to begin with. If they didn’t go for that offer, he would suggest he chase them. If they declined that he would then attempt to goad them into it, whereupon he would have to be removed from the field of play in disgrace. Him taking on the prey role didn’t always end well either. My dog is very fast, but he lacks stamina, so although another dog couldn’t ‘catch’ him, they could keep going when he wanted to stop, which merely made him feel threatened and as he was too tired to run, he would snap.

He has never hurt another dog, but, like me running away from my own dog, it’s not the done thing in dog-walking circles to say, ‘Oh I know he looks like an utter monster with those snarling teeth and jaw agape, but he’s never hurt anyone…’ I started avoiding other dogs completely, so much so that if, when I spied another walker with dog on the far-off horizon, I would curse them for daring to come within a mile of our vicinity. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I have reflected on this, why I have become this way. Me, who has walked all kinds of dogs in the most interesting parts of East London. Me, who walked Bill Sykes very own English Terrier along Bethnal Green Road. Me, who has saved goats’ legs from the locked jaws of another English Bull Terrier – did I say I am not mad about English Bull Terriers? I have therefore come to the rather ragged conclusion that as this not how I have reacted in the past, and apart from being prone to sudden and unexpected neuroses lately, I am currently experiencing the very real effects of the increasing population in the UK. In short, we have no space. I will have to learn to share the green spaces and beaches of the vicinity with many, many other people, and their dogs. Or I will have to stay in. And probably develop agoraphobia…

I read this week that the government plans to legislate to force all puppies to be microchipped. This is not a bad plan, unfortunately it will do nothing to help those of us with fearful dogs and our own anxieties, who are trying to avoid trouble.

Back to the brief break in the clouds today. This morning I made the most of the 2 days that are left to us in Southend, before the dogs are banned from the beach for 6 months. My dog managed to have a pleasant interaction with two dogs and a game with one of them and my legs didn’t sink into the sand underneath me from fright.

The fact is that when it’s blowing a Force 9 and sheeting down with rain you are only going to meet dogs and their owners of two varieties:

1) genuinely dedicated dog owners, prepared to walk their dogs in all kinds of weather
2) people like me trying to avoid the kind of dog and their owner who doesn’t fall into the group above

In which case, let it wind and rain, because my nerves are all the better for it.

Garboesque: him or me?

The Permanence of Possibilities

It struck me this morning that part of ageing is not the total removal of possibilities for ourselves, but the change in the nature of them: death and decay suddenly appearing on the horizon like travellers looking for a place to rest for the night.

In youth, one’s possibilities are, if not boundless, at least positive in nature – there is always the possibility that something good will happen, specifically, to me. A job, love, children, a shiny new car. It seems to me that middle age is partially about recognising that often bad things will happen, if not to me, then to others. In middle age, possibilities from youth transmogrify into uncertainties and then high unlikelihoods. I think this can affect us in different ways: the resignation of the stoic, the frenetic activity of denial and perhaps a sudden laser-like focus on the one or two possibilities that remain, if not for us, then for our children or family.

It’s heartbreaking then to meet young people who seem, on account of a severe and enduring lack of possibilities in childhood, to have the countenance and disposition of those of in the next generation, or even the next. Perhaps, as we go about our own business, coming to terms with the impermanence of our possibilities, we can pass one on, with hope, to a younger person.

And then there is the dog. As I sat this morning contemplating all this, I asked him what permanent possibility he might dwell upon in his own dear, but tiny, mind. The answer came as a reflex: cats.

My second sleep

I read a while ago that there is a lot of documentary evidence that our ancestors used to take their night’s sleep in two chunks: the first a few hours after dusk and the second after an hour or two of waking activity.

Tonight, I’m giving their system a go.

I went to bed about 8 p.m. and I’ve had a productive few hours between 12.30 and 2.30 a.m., so productive in fact that I don’t have time to write any more because I need to go back to sleep.

I won’t be able to review the effects of this until tomorrow. Let’s see. It never really worked out too well when the children were babies, waking in the night…

Voysey Owl Wallpaper

Outerer Klang

I figured, if we experience Kandinsky’s innerer klang (see yesterday’s post), we must definitely experience its opposite. And then I reflected, why should these concepts be confined to the art world, after all is not life, art. Or as the American writer and politician John Gardner put it, “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”

It seems, to me, that we are now suffering from life with a surfeit of, what I will call, outerer klang and not enough of the innerer variety. A world where appearances matter, more than much else as far as I can tell. Where the magic of a child’s world is redacted to a list of functional levels at school and where spin and smoke and mirrors make us so dizzy and sick we just don’t have the energy to care about the things we might anymore.

I could go on, but I won’t, otherwise I would be klanging too much as well!

Outerer Klanger

You decide

Van Gogh drawing

Innerer Klang

I need to find some. It’s nothing to do with the those funny little Clangers that lived on a planet far away, rather it is how Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky described the inner sound of art. That is to say how contemplation of the outer reveals something of the inner.

On reflection, that’s what I think might have been missing from some of Damien Hirst’s work. It’s like trying to find the Innerer Klang in the repeat pattern of a roll of wallpaper.

Or, maybe, if you listen too hard for something you won’t hear it anyway; too easily drowned out by the white noise in your own head…

A Clanger and, my favourite, the Soup Dragon

Damien Hirst Wallpaper - too much Klang, or not enough?

Kandinsky, Sketch 2 for Composition VII

Old Polaroid

I ordered a second-hand book that came from America recently. This old polaroid was inside. It seems to be of a road and a bunker-type edifice. I assume it’s in America, but it’s so long since I was there, I can’t tell if that road sign is of the USA variety.

Kodak as a company has not been doing too well recently, having to file for bankruptcy protection last year. Despite being ahead of the game in terms of developing digital photography, the company were well behind the curve in terms of taking retail products to market and that has cost them big time. They are now withdrawing from the consumer retail market and focused on digital imaging products for corporations. It reminds me of IBM when they got of consumer PCs. Funny how such big companies can get it all wrong at certain points in time. Watch out Tesco…

I would like to run a Kodak polaroid week – they are so evocative. Unfortunately, I’ve never owned a polaroid camera so this one snapshot, of god knows what, in god knows where, might be the full extent of the homage.

Enjoy, if you can.

Don’t chew with gusto


Keeping it Real: Cruising with Saga Louts

A dear member of the family is off on a Mediterranean cruise at the moment, although it has been noted that the numbers of days at sea, sailing from Southampton, have been rather more than I would like for myself, were I to take to the waves.

I asked where they were in their schedule, the answer, ‘Casablanca.’ I asked what it was like? I was told, ‘I don’t know, but she (the dear member) has bought a Real Madrid strip…’

Good girl.

I thought I’d look up Casablanca for myself, being curious. I got rather distracted by this rather marvellous street art rendition of a cat.

Cruising makes me want to sing this, although I appreciate the sentiment is all wrong.

Something for my sister

as per DIDIT request ~ the inheritance track. More to come.

I have no idea if Grandpa listened to Monk, but he did listen to jazz and I like this playful, yet moody piano composition without the interference of a brass section – and I am pretty sure I can hear Thelonious using his elbow to play!

This makes me smile.