Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Bright Side

So there I was thinking the day had been distinctly ropey overall and quite disastrous in patches when I thought of those motivational chappies and how you should always seek to unravel the old silver lining from the louring clouds of discontent. Or something like that.

Which led me to consider what might be reasonably regarded as the highlight of the day. And I immediately had the answer! How could I fail on a day when the Missus had cooked up a stash of her cranberry muffins - the mini ones that fit so conveniently into their nifty cups, and the mouth?

So there you have it: living proof of the power of positive thinking. Or cranberry muffins. Whichever.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Something Cheerful

Feeling ever so slightly at a bit of a loss this afternoon, around the 5.30 pm mark, I shoved the first disk from Jeeves and Wooster, The Complete Collection into the DVD player and wallowed. A wonderfully utterly pointless way to lose an hour doing nothing of value to anyone, except oneself. I'm tempted to say I'd forgotten how good the series is, but I hadn't, in truth. That's why it makes such a good refuge in those times when you feel you're slightly losing it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why So Angry?

Everywhere we go these days the birds seem to be angry. Even on my niece's birthday cake. But, happy to say, they didn't spoil the festive mood.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Words

We went down to Books Actually again the other day. I bought a number of books and magazines featuring local writers on the rather spurious grounds that: a) I would put them on the shelves round my desk at work rather than finding space at home, where there is no space to find; and b) that it's important to support any kind of local arts scene, no matter where you are. I'm not quite sure why I believe the last statement, but I do - working on intuition rather than strict rationality.

Must say, I'm impressed with the architecture in the area around the shop, and the abundance of trees. Which makes me worry that someone, somewhere is likely to be planning to knock it all down to improve the area. I feel a bit the same way about liking the bookshop. That's usually a sign a business won't last too long.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Since we moved into our current quarters (just over a year ago!) I've been storing my cassette tapes at Maison KL. There aren't that many of them, I generally wasn't a great user of tapes, and the ones that survive are for the most part in a woebegone condition, but there are a few spoken word tapes that I still have a high regard for. These include Seamus Heaney reading his collection Electric Light, and that's now gone into temporary residence in the car for those occasions when I get a chance to listen - like on the way to the mosque today.

I don't really think of Heaney as being so demonstrably a magical reader of his work in the same obvious way that applies to Ted Hughes. (Funnily enough, the Electric Light collection replaced Hughes's reading of Tales From Ovid in the car stereo.) But I've been struck this time round by just how much the poems spring to giddy life through that wonderful Irish brogue. The elegy for Brodsky - Audenesque I think it's called, I haven't got the book with me to check - sounded particularly strong today with its strangely rollicking yet restrained rhythms and gorgeous half rhymes. (Surely no living writer does them better than our Irish wizard.)

In fact, I'm now at the point at which I keenly feel I'm not getting the real poem somehow if I'm not listening to Heaney, at least as far as this collection is concerned.

And this, for some reason, puts me in mind of how keenly I find myself these days listening to the prayers at the mosque in terms of the quality of the vocal delivery. Read beautifully, as they so often are, they seem to gain a kind of weight and majesty from that alone, though there's also a strong sense that this is inherent in the fibres of the language itself, of course.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In Print

Pleased to read in today's paper that Alfian Sa'at is publishing a new collection of fiction soon. Slightly disappointed it's not a new collection of poems though. Despite all he's done as a dramatist and short story writer, I feel that's where his gift is most telling, and I mean 'gift'. I don't pretend to be any great judge of these things, but I know what I like and there's no poet here I've liked more than this young man. On his day, and he's had quite a few of them, more than capable of making the sparks fly.


Also pleased to notice, when I'd read a bit more of the Life section, that Shooshie's Photo Gambar installation at Art Stage, the piece that Noi's sister Rozana was involved in, got a more than honourable mention in a retrospective column on the fair. Finally proof that a reviewer for Life has got good taste.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


We'll be heading home in an hour or so as I must face the Toad work on the morrow.

Which raises the question, in our case, as to where home actually is. Like Willy Loman we are always sort of temporary, but unlike Willy I don't think either of us quite feel that way.

This puts me in mind of an old fellow at a job interview I endured more than 30 years ago - I think he was some kind of parent-governor - who challenged my desire to teach in a place far from where I was born (Rotherham!) telling me I needed roots. It's difficult to represent the astonishing avidity he managed to inject into the vowel sound of that little word, but let me tell you he almost bit it in two, such was his enthusiasm for it/them. I remember thinking that if such roots held me back as surely as they had done to him, I would choose to avoid them. Of course, in those days I didn't have the courage to say that aloud, more's the pity.

These ramblings have been prompted in part by my reading of Flannery O'Connor's essay The Regional Writer. It was clearly of some importance to her to be seen as a Georgia writer, which is particularly ironic considering her Catholic affiliations. But then, possibly not so. One of the odd benefits of a Catholic upbringing is a peculiar sense of internationalism which never seems to get in the way of where you actually are. We had a picture of Pope Paul VI on the wall when I was a little lad, and there was never any doubt he outranked Queen Elizabeth by quite a distance. Mind you, the royals were pretty low on any league table of those we regarded as our betters, so that's not saying much.

I suppose any writing worth its salt will have a sense of the local, otherwise it will feel like the unanchored observations of a tourist. Even when Shakespeare's in Illyria he's really pottering around on the south bank of the Thames, or gazing into the Avon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back Pages

Spent a lazy morning reading Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel) and Flannery O'Connor (Everything That Rises Must Converge), though not necessarily in that order. Found both rewarding, in their very different ways. Diamond gives one a wonderful sense of distance from it all; O'Connor shoves one's face in it. Both useful places to occupy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Joyous Noise

One of the jollier aspects of being in KL for Chinese New Year is getting to hear the fire crackers going off through the night. I should probably disapprove of them being let off, for various grim-visaged civic-minded reasons, but I'm afraid I just can't bring myself to do so.

Another equally joyous noise accompanied us as we drove down to Alor Gajah this afternoon. I'd dug out an old Deutsche Grammophon tape of Christmas Music (bits of Bach's Christmas Oratorio for one) from the baroque earlier in the day and duly gave it an airing, unseasonal as that may have been. It put Noi to sleep but kept me happily alert. Now if only they played this kind of thing in the malls in December I might just enjoy Christmas shopping.


Got to enjoy more noise - and colourful visuals - from fireworks going off in the distance as we enjoyed a late night cuppa at Aziz's place at Rembia. Highly satisfactory as an end to the day.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fine Listening

Now luxuriating in Procol Harum Live At The Union Chapel, a DVD I just don't play often enough. Mind you this is true of all the concert DVDs I own - Mr Brooker and the boys are not being singled out for any specifically targeted neglect on my part. The truth is I am fortunate enough to own a mighty surplus of music-related media and must strive to do it justice. Not that I need a lot of encouragement to do so.

By the way, this 2003 concert features one of the best, if not the best performing versions of the band. I've been focusing this listening on Geoff Whitehorn's guitar and he is unselfishly impeccable. Oh, and Gary Brooker's voice sounds in better nick than ever. I'm tempted to proclaim him the best English blues voice of his generation, but the term 'blues' seems so limited in this context.

And earlier today I was giving a spin to Elvis Costello's Momofuku and realised I'd forgotten how many great songs are on it. He did My Three Sons when we saw him in his solo concert over here to powerful effect yet if you'd named the song for me yesterday I'd have forgotten I owned a version of it. This put me in mind of what a massive body of work Elvis has now built up (and is still assiduously adding to) and how much of it I still haven't actually purchased - about a quarter as an off-hand estimate.

Which all adds up to the simple truth that I am an extremely lucky chap. And now Procol are playing the lovely Weisselklenzenacht and deserve my full attention.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

An End To Life

Just watched the last episode of the Life series that Noi bought for me a birthday or so ago. More than well worth waiting for.

The focus was on Primates and the antics of our closest relatives made for rewarding viewing. Clever old Attenborough built the series to a wonderful ending - a simple act of generosity from one chimp to another in the lending of a tool for cracking open a nut. Everything was kept beautifully low-key, with the overwhelming implications of what we might understand by the idea of the higher nature of some animals being left to itself. A nice contrast was created with the first sequence of the episode, in which we saw the sometimes ruthless discipline employed within groups of hamadryads, and conflict between their 'tribes'. (Fabulous visuals there, by the way - but then you can apply that comment to any sequence at all in the series.)

I suspect the final episode was all a touch more teleological in its implications than the makers may have bargained for, but I also suspect that's something written into the nature of things that we can't get away from.

Friday, January 20, 2012

OnThe Road


Now roughly mid-way through a journey north to Maison KL. Sitting outside Rachid's ARAB cafe at the Ayer Keroh rest-stop enjoying a jolly nice cup of teh tarik and his famous toasted bread.


I was feeling quite pleased with myself back at Ayer Keroh, thinking we'd made smooth progress, but that was before hitting the capital itself. Up to the toll at Sungai Besi it remained an unexceptional journey, and then we hit a swamp of tail lights as KL turned into its own traffic jam. The last 40 km across the city took more than two hours involving a number of exciting situations - and we're not quite home yet. We're now in the cafe at Wangsa Maju and I'm imbibing a restoring cuppa.

The most darkly ironic moment of our little quest occurred just fifteen minutes ago when having finally got to the road running round the back of our Bukit we were very surprised to find yet another jam. In general we'd been puzzled as to what exactly had brought out all the cars late on a Friday when it's not yet Chinese New Year's eve, though I suppose we're seeing part of the exodus from city to kampong that's a feature of life here. But this road is usually clear and doesn't lead anywhere obviously significant enough to deserve a jam. The answer became apparent when we reached the completely pointless police roadblock cleverly installed to add to the mayhem on the roads. And this after not seeing a single copper doing anything about the chaos at any number of junctions along our way.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Was cheered up by an e-mail I received today inviting me to consider attending a wokshop on 'brain-based learning.' Spent some happy moments considering which other organs or body parts might be fundamental to an education.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Looking Ahead

Today we registered places for the Haj with MUIS. But our pilgrimage won't take place any time soon, assuming it takes place at all. The waiting list from Singapore stretches, we believe, to 2016. It seems strange to be thinking so far ahead but, given the quota system which is the only sensible way to arrange the Haj in these times, necessary.

A Muslim will automatically utter, or at least think, Insh'allah (God willing) regarding any event posited for the ever uncertain future. Our Insh'allah for this one comes with a very definite sense of yearning.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Flaming Away

Sometimes I find myself looking at the comments columns on various websites and blogs with a kind of fascinated horror at just how extraordinarily rude/unpleasant/nasty/gratuitously obtuse people can be - especially clever people. Youtube provides numerous striking examples. Ever since I discovered just how easy it is to access material by musicians I admire, I also discovered what astonishing drivel gets posted under the clips. The other day I was luxuriating in the sounds of the masterful Bill Frisell, but also enduring the sometimes pointlessly random clueless criticism that somehow accompanies the wonderful material that the fans post.

Today I sort of trapped myself in viewing an extraordinarily bitter set of exchanges within some of the blog pages managed by folk who see themselves as part of the skeptic/atheist community. (Before, gentle reader, you assume that as a theist I'm just having a go here, let me say that I'm certain I could unearth the same sort of stuff within various 'theist communities' if I looked hard enough. This kind of stupidity is hard-wired into our species at every level.) It was like witnessing a pile-up on the highway - horrible, but fascinatingly horrible. I admit, by the way, that it doesn't say much for my character that I stuck around to read the stuff.

And so much of it! I'm talking about single blog entries followed by 300+ comments. That's almost the full extent of this Far Place for a year. Whilst it's true there are sane, conciliatory voices in there, they just get overwhelmed by the mounds of vituperation. (Awful mixed metaphor there, but it sort of conveys my distress, so I'll let it stand.)

And the nastiest ones often seem to think they are so much in the right that the vituperation is not merely justified but somehow represents a positive and necessary moral good. (A bit like signs of The Elect.) I really don't want to have too much to do with a world in which straightforward decency, kindness, politeness, tolerance, compassion have become moral failings.

Maybe I'm just unenlightened. Thankfully.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Slowing Down

I have these moments sometimes when my brain seems to be telling me something on the lines of Scotty's immortal lines in Star Trek: It's the engines. They just canna take it captain. In my case recognition that I can no longer ask of this old frame the kind of things that were once fairly routine. Case in point: at the end of the first couple of days of work this year I found the muscles on the insides of my thighs aching just from the effort of getting around - especially climbing steps. By this time I thought I had got over the initial shock, only to find the same thing today after a weekend away from the heavy action - and this despite remaining fairly active on Saturday and Sunday.

And, of course, things are not likely to get better.

Yet the odd thing is I can't honestly say I find myself terribly upset about this state of affairs. Almost the reverse. I'm coming to regard each day as a kind of raid into some kind of semi-forbidden territory, where surviving successfully is a massive unlikely plus.

Not dark yet but (sort of cheerfully) getting there. (According to Alex Ross's essay on Dylan in Listen To This you could actually pick up a bumper sticker with the Bobster's immortal line on it at Dylan gigs in the late 1990's. Wish I'd been there to do so.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

And Still Going


We're off to the musical Wicked at Marina Bay Sands in a few minutes, and then it's on to Art Stage Singapore at the same place. Fifi and Fafa accompanying - but they're not out of bed yet. The day is young.


The day has aged, and so, inevitably, have I.

Wicked was highly enjoyable: excellent staging, excellent performances - especially the two leads. I didn't know too much about it as a show before today, and it sort of met my expectations, being tuneful, clever and well thought through as a piece. Felt the ending didn't quite work though, and my companions were in agreement on this. It wasn't that we felt there was anything terribly wrong, and I quite liked the notion of a somewhat downbeat conclusion, but the reasons for the wicked witch character and scarecrow not being able to remain in Oz with Glinda the Good were not all that obvious, though you could figure something logical out, and I felt they needed to feel obvious, nay inevitable, for it really to work.

Noi also felt it was all a bit for teenagers, though not in a harsh way. I knew what she meant. The songs were ripe for the Glee treatment. Not that's there's anything awfully wrong about that. But Sondheim it wasn't.

The art fair also felt very young. And I liked that enormously. Buzzing with energy. Brash. Inventive. Often in-your-face. Asked lots of questions about art without giving any answers. And that suits me.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

All Go

We found ourselves in the wilds of Bishan earlier today, tending to the needs of our motor vehicle and arranging matters financial with enormous help from a nice lady from the DBS Bank. And soon we'll be off to Fuad's mother's to celebrate various birthdays and distribute largesse in the shape of 3 books for teenagers concerning how to study. I'm sure as a teenager I'd have been thrilled to be given such a tome. Not, as they say.

In the middle of all this I found myself in Bishan Library where I happened to pick up Alex Ross's Listen To This, a book I was sorely tempted to buy when last in Kuala Lumpur but didn't - for complex reasons involving lack of shelf space and a puritan bout of conscience. I couldn't actually borrow the book as I no longer hold a library card for the National Library. But I did read the chapter on Dylan which was full of insights making me even more tempted to break my own sanctions.

In the essay, written around when Time Out Of Mind came out, Ross notes that Dylan was irritating lots of folk by simply not going away and providing closure and a neatly packaged obituary. Imagine how annoyed they'll feel now with his last decade or so to process.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Yet Again Misunderstood

Thinking yesterday of Yusuf's take on Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood inevitably brought to mind my favourite version of the song, the one by Elvis Costello. I believe this was released as a single, which promptly got nowhere. Fortunately it appears on King of America and I had a good old wallow in the album this afternoon. One of the wonderful things about following the work of top-rate musicians with extensive back catalogues is that you forget just how utterly great those albums are until you give them a spin and realise what you've been missing simply by not playing them.

Elvis's take on Misunderstood is blistering. He sounds like a guy who really is on some kind of personal edge in this pressingly intimate, one-to-one, claustrophobic version of the song. When I first heard the version, as a single, I actually had the impression the band were not quite in tune, or that something was off somewhere. In fact it's the voice - so hurt it sounds discordant when it's not. When Elvis sings with this much passion you know it's no fun to fail to make your intentions clear.

I read one reviewer somewhere once, saying the vocal was overly dramatic. Idiot.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

More Misunderstanding

I've always found Yusuf Islam's performance of Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, on his fine 'comeback' album Another Cup, a bit of an anomaly. For starters, it's the only track that features an all out orchestral accompaniment, rather than the usual guitar, keyboards, bass, drums - sort of as expected - on the other material. And the strings themselves sound oddly synthetic, making me wonder if, in fact, it's all synthesised. Much as I like the song and Yusuf's voice on it I can't say I like the sound. The live version featured on the Yusuf's Cafe DVD, with a proper band, is a lot better in that regard.

And then there's the fact that this is not one of the singer-songwriter's own songs. Now I know he's done covers before, in his Cat Stevens incarnation, but these were few and far between, and it seems odd to give space to this admitted classic when he obviously had a lot of new material up his sleeve. (At least, I assume so. The Roadsinger CD followed Another Cup pretty closely.)

Obviously the song meant something pretty important to him for him to record it and perform it - though there's a serenity, almost a blandness in his vocals that suggests a measure of restraint involved. His is not an anguished version. But I suspect there's deep anguish behind it, given the public beatings he has had to endure on occasion related to the faith he found in his second life. This is clearly a man who finds being misunderstood extremely painful and my heart, for one, goes out to him in that regard. And to others who feel the same way.

But my advice is to find a way not to care.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On Being Misunderstood

When I was younger - so much younger than today - I hated being misunderstood. Teaching has cured me of that. One of my life's happy discoveries has been how deeply rooted into the fabric of things is the likelihood of people not simply not quite understanding my words or actions but taking them to mean the complete opposite of what I intended.

My favourite example comes from around ten years ago when I told a class, several classes in fact, that the only really good question is one that can't be answered. I'm not quite sure what I meant, but it sounded good. Quite by accident I discovered that one very bright student incorporated this apercu into a speech, telling the world that Mr Connor had told everyone that the only really good question is one that has an answer. I wasn't really all that miffed as I quite liked the sound of that - and began to offer it occasionally in lessons, immediately following a lesson in which my original comment had been let loose for contemplation.

Marking essays, of course, provides a wonderful window onto the capacity of the mind to distort any in-coming data in weird and woeful ways. Except once you come to accept this the woe sort of evaporates to be replaced by a wary respect for the wrongheadedness central to our species. If nothing else it's highly entertaining once you get beyond the anguish of failing to connect. And there's something endearing about people only hearing what they want to hear.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Old Faces

Whenever channel-hopping I pop in on the Granada channel available on cable, not so much because it broadcasts engaging programmes - though there are a few goodies now and again - but because the frequent filler items can cast up some real gems. Last night, for example, I suddenly found myself watching Roy Harper playing and singing Highway Blues with more than a little passion to an audience who looked well passed their sell-by date. Rather like myself, of course. Mr Harper looked like the kind of grandfather you don't want your grandchildren to get too close to. Long, though carefully groomed, white hair and beard: a ringer for Bad Santa. The voice a shade lower in register, but essentially still there. Great acoustic guitar. A bit of unexpected banshee wailing. Wonderful.

The corner of the screen informed us the clip was from Musical Legends - and, for once, that's no lie. In fact I caught a full version of the programme, again without meaning to, back in November (I think) featuring the latest three-man version of Van Der Graff Generator. Peter Hammill looked even more disreputable than the mighty Roy, if that's possible, and also was in excellent incisive voice - teaching all those goths a thing or two. And I've also seen a bit of Caravan on a clip from the same source. (In truth, the one time I saw them live in Manchester I was bored to tears - but I was only fifteen then, a bit too young for the Canterbury sound methinks.)

I'm not really sure that what I'm talking about here is actually nostalgia, you know. As far as I can tell the music is more alive and invigorating than a fair amount of what younger and more 'current' musos are doing. Life in the old dog yet, indeed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hot Stuff

We had Fuad and family round this afternoon as Fuad needed to heat his cycling shoes in our oven.

That's the kind of sentence I never thought I'd get to type. The wonders of modern technology, eh?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Staying Alive, Still

Didn't get all that many opportunities to view my Life DVDs in Kuala Lumpur back in December as the girls pretty much took possession of the telly. However, I have managed to reach the eighth episode, Creatures of the Deep, which I have watched twice in the course of the weekend so far, and which may well get another airing tomorrow. (Noi hasn't seen any of it so that in itself is an excuse for a re-run.)

I'm inclined to say it's the most visually ravishing nature documentary I've ever seen, but since I tend to think that way about almost every Attenborough programme I see it's a bit of an exaggeration. But not much of one.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Human Kindness

In the past week I've come home everyday carrying some sort of present or other - a bar of chocolate, a box of teabags, a carton of dates, that sort of thing - from colleagues and students, the occasion being simply that it's the start of our year.

Yesterday I was carrying a little load of booklets across a couple of corridors, which were weighing me down a little, and was offered help by no fewer than five kids, in the space of three minutes, one of whom I'd never seen before.

Today I found myself avoiding crowds to escape the embarrassment of being thanked rather too fulsomely just for doing what I'm paid to do.

It's sometimes difficult to be cynical as one might like to be.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Changing Places

Ever since we've been able to get Sky News on Cable - about a year now - I've felt a lot more connected with what's going on in the UK. I generally watch it for ten or fifteen minutes of a morning on weekdays, whilst imbibing a cuppa, and quite often give it a glance in an evening.

So that's why I'm more aware than I normally would have been of a confluence of stories in the news there circling, one way or another, around issues connected with race: the Suarez mess, ditto for Terry, the Stephen Lawrence case, M.P. Diane Abbott getting into trouble with her comments on Twitter, and the like. The connecting feature of all these (without passing particular judgements on the various actors therein) is the extremely wonderful fact that it's now absolutely, entirely, unequivocally impossible to get away with any kind of public racism without a deluge of opprobrium descending upon your head. And this from even the most reactionary elements of the media.

Sadly this was not the case even twenty-five years ago. I know, because I was there. I remember vowing not to attend football matches in certain parts of the country because of the appalling open racism of crowds towards black players particularly. (Unless you've seen middle-aged fathers, their young sons at their sides, making monkey noises and doing 'funny' things with bananas because a black player has touched the ball, you won't really know what I mean.) Now, as far as I can tell, that's gone. Impossible to imagine - as it rightly should be.

Proof that with determination the moral climate of a society can change for the better. If there is such a thing as progress in human affairs - and I'm something of a nay-sayer on this one - this is it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Real Weepie

Was inveigled, by the Missus and four nieces, into watching the Malay blockbuster Ombak Rindu (means something like waves of longing, I think) at the cinema when we were in Kuala Lumpur last month. Spent the last forty minutes shedding tears - of frustration, provoked by the horrible feeling that the darn thing was never going to end. Hah!

And why am I thinking of this now? Dealing with the kind of ludicrous 'documentation' that has, somehow, become central to my work I realise there are far worse frustrations that should elicit even more bitter tears. Fortunately I'm manfully holding mine back.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Came home to listen to Brahms's 2nd Symphony. This proved a remarkably sensible thing to do. A reminder of a world elsewhere. Something outside myself. Bigger and better.

And I didn't even listen particularly well. Imagine if I were able to. Complete escape. Blimey.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Blow By Blow

Spent a fair amount of yesterday evening having various muscles subjected to a pummelling by Noi's massage lady & general guru Kak Sabariah. Spent a fair amount of today enjoying the ache in the pummelled muscles and feeling that, somehow or other, the mauling had done me good. Not too sure of the psychology involved, but the whole experience has been oddly, deeply relaxing.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Finally Resolved

It's with a decent measure of chagrin and a shot of despair that I find I was resolved, back in January 2008, to improve my Malay to the point where I am reasonably functional and not just an embarrassing Englishman. I failed. My proficiency in my wife's mother tongue has, in all essentials, stood still since that time.

Aware as I was of the commitment, and its failure, I didn't seek for remedy in 2009, 2010 or 2011, though not completely neglecting some study of the language, as I reached the conclusion that there was an element of futility behind the resolution. Put simply: I was too busy at work to allow the time necessary for improvement in the language. And writing this I recognise a truth in the excuse. But it is an excuse, rather like the one I hear from colleagues who can't find the time to read as they are too busy. The answer is, of course, to make the time, even when it's almost impossible to do so, through something akin to habit.

Which means, in some sense, re-thinking one's life. Difficult in the extreme, but not quite impossible, something I discovered a long time ago - and which I am resolved to rediscover in a small (though trust me, this won't feel small) but important manner.