Monthly Archives: September 2013

Jonah on a Bike

angel dogCycling home, shadow
Looms, as road whale swallows me
Up – from behind – whole









This is not a whale, or a cyclist, but current street art in Hackney, E9 (and that child looks ready for plankton).

The Yin & Yang of Parking

There’s a poem that goes with this image, but having looked at it again, I’m going to tinker under the bonnet a bit and submit it for publication.

I’m getting the hang of the poetry submission business now.  Just write and edit furiously before firing off the buggers.  In the end, some will stick to the wall.

parkingparking 2

Take Two

It’s an astounding act of hubris isn’t it?  To write a post about a film you watched.  As if anyone even cares.

But some films have such integrity that they demand you bear witness.  Not  just by watching them, but by saying you did and perhaps by considering some of the wider issues highlighted.  Such a film was The Turin Horse from yesterday’s post; such a film was The Moo Man.  You may of course say that such a notion is nonsense, a film, is a film, is a film, but I believe a good film contains essential truths that it is good to reflect on in the aftermath of the watching.  This means my idea of a good film may not be widely shared – for instance I would not have Jaws in my top ten, but I would have Harold and Maude.

Anyway, that’s another story, back to The Moo Man.  I am not sure about the title myself, but the hero, farmer Stephen Hook is an appealing character and the film was a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival – what I like to think of as Cannes with soul.   Hook is an understated, thinking stockman who chooses to have a smaller organic herd and build real relationships with his herd.  His unlikely heroine is a cow called Ida.  There are moments of humour and moments of gravity, often involving Ida, and on one occasion, Eastbourne.  The Moo Man is not as slow as yesterday’s offering, with its 30 takes only approach, but the pace is as sedate and the scenes mooch through as if channelling Hook Farm’s Friesian herd of heifers ambling towards the milking parlour.  That’s not to say nothing goes on – a lot does – the whole cycle of life as it happens, which is, I suppose, what it has in common with the visually grimmer The Turin Horse.

There is a baddie too.  It’s the supermarkets, who buy the milk from dairy farmers for less than it costs the farmers to produce.  If you don’t think that’s got anything to do with you, watch the film and consider the nation’s balance sheet.  Stephen Hook is taking some of his milk straight to market in its raw form to try and keep the farm in the family.  Organic milk has got to be better for you than the chemical cocktail variety, and untreated raw milk claims even more health benefits.  Having watched The Moo Man,  it’s also definitely far better for the cows.

If you are interested in what the farm does, visit the website of Hook & Son here.

Two Films

I rarely watch films, which is shameful really.  Partly it’s because no-one else shares my taste – except for Fantastic Mr Fox by Wes Anderson which we all agree is everything a film should be.   I have a penchant for French films, not to be pretentious, but because they are pretty slow and have subtitles which means I can follow and hear what’s being said (by reading).  Major motion pictures just have too much going on for me.  The last one I went to see in an actual cinema was Spielberg’s Lincoln, which I really enjoyed.  Perhaps a little too much as the friend I was with had to nudge me sharply when the scene involved the Congressional vote on the Thirteenth Amendment to remind me I was not actually in the House of Congress in January 1865.  Lincoln was slow and and revolved around one central issue.  Slow is good.

I took this to a whole new level recently by watching The Turin Horse.  It’s the last film by Béla Tarr, a Hungarian director.  He says it’s the last, not me.  Anyway, having watched the last film I can see why he might say that – it may be because there’s nothing left to say.  I don’t know much at all about film-making but even I can tell when there’s hardly any dialogue (thankfully subtitled) and the takes linger on and on and on.  This is a marvellous and good thing as far as I am concerned.  When the shot is long, I get time to think.  Think about the film, what it all means.  See the different textures and expressions and wonder what it all means a bit more.  And I get to feel the film in real time.  Not in the buzz of a Hollywood-ending glow, but moment by moment as the art of cinema is pared back to it’s very bones.

I loved The Turin Horse.  I loved the opening premise – that when the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suffered his catastrophic mental breakdown it was provoked after throwing his arms around a horse that was being whipped in Turin.  This leads the film’s narrator to point out at the beginning that, ‘no-one knows what happened to the horse…’  As the ‘action’ unfolds over six days I loved the repetition, the long camera and the different angles on the same thing, watching them eat their single boiled potato every day;  I even loved the music which is essentially six notes in three bars of three.  The story is not uplifting certainly, but the experience, curiously, is.  I don’t understand how exactly, but that’s part of the magnetism.  Here’s the trailer.  If you can’t cope with that, then the full version is probably not for you.

As for the second film, I’ll fill you in on that next.

‘I swoosh, therefore I am…

the World’s Expert on Listerine.’

This is what I said on Sunday.  In public.

Supermarkets are funny things, they bring out the worst in me.  I only EVER pick up a wire basket because I will not be in there long enough to fill a trolley.  I have written about such things before.  This habit was all very well when it was me and two dogs.  Now there are children.  They grow and wish to grow more.  This requirement demands an unceasing quantity of food and much frequenting of aisles of the supermarket variety.  I try to go to smaller shops when possible, I like the Co-op wine section, but the food is a bit of a worry.  They don’t have wire baskets there either, instead they have giant black crate things for customers to lug round.  I constantly pick up two stuck together, without noticing, and then nearly die of shock by the bread when the bottom one in the stack falls to the ground with a great clattering thud.  So, although I prefer the Co-op on principle, I don’t actually shop there much.

Sainsburys is the nearest (well not as near as the M&S BP) so I do end up there more than I want.   It’s very expensive and, lately, the merchandising has been shoddy.  It was the case of the Listerine at the weekend that tipped me over the edge.  Basically, because when I come to think of a form of words to explain myself it all sounds very boring, I picked up Listerine marked on the shelf as 50% off – so £2 something instead of £5 something.  This was a proper discount, not one of those fake ones supermarkets go in for. Reader, it went in the basket.  At the till?  5 quid and more.

I was going to let it go.  It’s not the first time I’ve been caught out by the store putting items in the wrong place, over a bogus offer.  You need a law degree and a good pair of glasses to read the small print sometimes.  However, it was pouring with rain and I was on foot.  I thought I’d kill some time by pointing out the mistake to customer services, but prior to that I’d check the offer again.  It’s at this point that you realise you have a problem, isn’t it?  But, I reasoned, it was not about the money, it was the principle and I thought, at least I could save the next Listerine-swilling shopper a shock at the till.

I retraced my steps to the shelves.  It’s at this point I now realise you need a photo of the product placement.  I don’t have one.  Supermarkets don’t like you taking photos in their stores.  You may not know this, but Listerine mouth wash comes in many colours and sizes all with multifarious magical properties that will guarantee glossy gnashers and gums until your ticker throws in the towel, or whatever.  They’ve got absinthe green and pale green, blue, yellow, purple, silvery, red, orange.  I swear, Listerine comes in every colour of the rainbow and more besides.  So the shelf merchandisers just lob it all on, shuffle the price tags around into a vague approximation of the actual price on the system and bugger off home.  A bit like this.

This is by no means the full product range


My problem was that the Total Cavity Guard Listerine in Sainsburys was not only over the wrong price label, there was no right  label at all.   And it was this that I pointed out on Sunday.  The customer service assistant didn’t seem to think that this was a very big deal, or that customers were terribly interesting or intelligent or that service really was her thang.  The combination of her ill-chosen words, and nonchalant non-verbal communication drove me to make the outrageous World’s Expert on Listerine claim.  I also told her I would be back the following day to check that this was sorted out.  (Of course I forgot to because, actually, I am not really a crazy middle-aged old cow with nothing better to do than hector supermarket workers about fucking dental hygiene products on a Monday. )   The assistant eventually offered to refund my money to the ‘advertised price’ but I seized what I liked to think of as the moral high ground and refused.  It’s not the money… it’s the principle, I opined.  What a twat  I can be.  Anyway, it had stopped raining by then, so I walked home.  But I was not so secretly a little bit pissed off, with the attitude and the sloppy merchandising and the general trickery perpetrated on unwitting customers  that they go in for in that bloody shop.

The post script to this is that I was back in there yesterday and  I couldn’t resist checking the Listerine shelves.  This time, all  the products were priced, up but the offending item of Sunday was still placed over the wrong price tag – you’d still be picking it up expecting to pay two quid summat and be hit for over a fiver at the till.  Still, it was an improvement, at least the correct price tag was there, just in the wrong place.  I could have just swapped all the merchandise around, but I didn’t.  I trekked back to the customer service desk and then, assuming my World’s Expert role once more, took them to the shelves and pointed it out, again.  The original customer service bod from the weekend recognised me and dived for deep cover.  Another lady accompanied me to the display and very solemnly swapped the Listerine bottles into their correct places on the shelves.  I told her I would be keeping an eye on this…

It’s official: I have gone mad.

A tiny meditation on Poetry and Prose

They do different jobs entirely don’t they?

I can only ever remember two lines of prose – from two different books.  One was from Tess of the D’Urbervilles when Hardy wrote about her ‘mobile peony mouth.’  The other could never be guessed at.

Lines from poetry I find easier to recall – at least in fragments.  It’s probably because good poems are so utterly alive and vivid – to forget a great line is like forgetting the face of a good friend or a loved song.  At the moment, I am totally stuck on the last lines from Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘The Underground’

I meant to post it here when he died, but I don’t think I did because I just wanted to read it.  And then read it again and revel in the perfect tautness of the imagery.  Perfect is not really a word I use much, but this poem, by the time you get to the last three lines is perfect.

Read or listen to the whole thing read by Heaney himself here ‘… and damned if I look back.’

I once knew somebody (who didn’t like The Blues)

As long as I live, I’ll never understand that.

I love them.

Mongolia and Cape Verde

I haven’t been to either of these countries, but I’d like to.  It’s a terrible thing to feel like a wanderer at heart with a fear of flying (even though the hypnotherapy has helped enormously on that front, it’s not gone entirely.

What these two very different places have in common is that someone, somewhere in both of these countries has visited my blog.  (I know this because WordPress helpfully provide a map of where readers come from, with flags!)  Actually, the one Mongolian reader hasn’t visited much recently which makes me a bit sad.   In my mind it was just one person, somewhere in the Mongolian Steppes, wilfing around the net in a wifi enabled ger.   Of course, I don’t know this, but it’s the image I had anyway.

Who knows why, or how, some readers get here.  Who knows if they read at all, or just surf on.  Either way, it’s quite nice to be part of the whole thing, a little drop in the ocean of world wide white water.

Here are a few shots of a yurt I spent a night in recently.  If you are interested in eco camping, this is where we went.  Needless to say, the girls loved it, especially the jungle shower.  When darkness fell, the stars were quite spectacular and, perhaps because the farmers were out late harvesting, the air was thick with moths like I have never seen in my whole life – and I grew up country style.

All yurts and gers are not equal.  They are constructed with slightly different shapes and in Mongolia they cover theirs with felt, this one was canvas.  I took the time to study how it had been put together quite hard.  One day, I want one.




Slow speeds

Posting is proving problematic lately.  The broadband varies from anywhere between 54 Mbps (what ever that means – I assume something to do with megabytes per second) to 1 Mbps with anywhere (including 5, 11 and 18) in between.  Anything under 20 of the magical little Mbps seems useless for doing anything useful.

I am sure it will all get fixed up in due course and then I can dust the cobwebs off and get going again.  In the meantime, I must, reluctantly, chill my boots.

I’ll try uploading this with 18 *crosses fingers*



There was a novel by Meera Syal called Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee which I didn’t read.  I thought I’d seen the film, but when I just read up on the plot, it didn’t really ring any bells, so maybe I didn’t watch it either.  The title however has stuck because it contains a truth, even if, in my opinion, it would trip off the tongue better with two extra syllables (an extra Ha and a Hee).  Life isn’t all…  is it?

I thought of this this morning because it is that momentous day in the school calendar called Back To School.  The shops start reminding us of the hideous fact immediately the kids get out of school in July.  I was once a kid, and I never wanted to go Back To School.  Old feelings die hard it seems because I would prefer it if my children didn’t have to either.  They, on the other hand, are rather sanguine about the whole thing (and I keep my own feelings to myself – aside from publishing them on the internet of course).  For the first time ever, the Back To School mission is staggered because the eldest is off to Big School.  (I was forbidden from calling it that months ago, even before the David Walliams comedy of the same name aired.)  Anyway, the eldest went this morning, the youngest goes back the day after tomorrow.  There is no middle child.

There are two narratives I could relate about this morning and the events prior to it.  One is quite Ha Ha Ha, Hee Hee Hee; the other is not.  This is a brief attempt  to navigate a course straight down the middle of that particular dual carriageway of life and a displacement activity from wondering how the child gets on 46 minutes into her first day at Big School.

There has been a staged intake by the school of their new year sevens.  They arrive, mainly with parents, although we saw one girl we know with her elder brother, and congregate en famille around the front door of the school prior to the allotted arrival time of 9 a.m.  We park round the corner.  I cannot get out of the car because I am not fit for public consumption, even with my sunglasses on.  My daughter finds my morning mien an embarrassment (so do I frankly) so we slump in seats (more Walliams references if you’ve seen the offending show) and appraise the children in their new blazers trotting to join the throng.  Well my daughter does, I try to be the voice of reason.  She has taken against her blazer most violently because It Does Not Fit.  I remind her that she was there, in the school outfitters, and we tried them all on.  She is Between Sizes.  It cannot be helped, it is, surely, a temporary situation and anyway she will soon have other sartorial matters to worry about, like the standard issue tie due to be doled out this morning.

Whilst she fulminates that even, ‘Bob’s blazer fits,’  ‘Bob’ being an exceptionally short 11 year old, I mention that, ‘all the girls have gone for what look like sensible shoes…’  My daughter, who prefers to interpret the uniform list to her own satisfaction, has been issued with a last minute set of emergency plasters in case her shoes rub because to my horror she has refused to put on any socks or tights.  Fair enough it is hot today, but still.  I hope she does not bring the wrath of the school uniform gods onto her head on day one.  I tell myself that it is better that they learn some of their lessons straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, than a parent ruins their whole summer arguing about such matters…

I have done what I can.  She has been issued with the mini first aid kit in case of inevitable blisters; she has ten pounds for some fingerprint-based monetary system that is too new-fangled for me to understand and also a new eyebrow pencil (don’t ask).  She will survive.  As we watched a friend of hers disappear round the corner with her mum (who was wiping away a tear), the step-father, the younger brother and the dog, I knew that we have a certain kind of approach to these things (minimalist on the surface and a lot of angsting underneath) and other families their own.  There is no right way of doing it.  I  do hope she is alright, but she is on her own now, for another five hours and three minutes.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll buy her some pop socks.  It will fill some time.

viana street art