Sunday, June 25, 2017

Looking For The Light

 
 
Hari Raya Puasa, Eid ul-Fitr; 1 Syawal 1438

10.55
Woke for the dawn prayer with a worryingly painful back. At that time I despaired of attending Raya Prayers since any kind of movement was potentially painful and I felt vulnerable in the extreme. However, I'm pleased to say that, with Fuad's help, I managed to get across to the small masjid opposite where we've been putting up for this visit at Rachid's place at Cheng Heights. I needed to use a chair for assistance, but I got through somehow and felt the better for it. Now wondering what the day will bring but reconciled to getting on with things and hoping some kind of recovery kicks in.

In dark times you've got to keep an eye out for the lights; and so for all who struggle to keep them in view: Selamat Hari Raya! Eid Mubarak!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Fast Approaching

29 Ramadhan, 1438

17.57
I'm sitting on the floor in the living room at Mak's house in Melaka typing this, having finally succeeded in getting on line and connecting with the world beyond. Lots of activity going on around me, though happily passing me by so I can type in relative peace, as preparations are afoot for the final breaking of fast for Ramadhan this year. It will be nice to drink tea whenever I wish to tomorrow, but it's equally good to enjoy the control and simplicity of the fast as I've been doing today.

Had a long chat with Hamzah earlier on the current state of affairs regarding the economy and running of the government here in Malaysia. There is much to pray for, a reminder of how petty one's own concerns are set against the needs of a nation.

Happy to report reasonably clear roads going south from the capital yesterday evening when we made our way down. Just what we needed.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Bad Dream

28 Ramadhan, 1438

I'd been wondering whether I've ever had 'eating dreams' in fasting month. I'm talking about the kind of dreams in which you suddenly realise you've been scoffing away at something when you shouldn't have been and feel appropriately guilty. Well, now I know the answer as I had precisely such a dream in the early hours of today and still feel the strange guilt of it.

I had the dream after going back to sleep after the sahur meal before dawn. In the dream I was rummaging in a box below the sink in the kitchen here, looking for something that Noi said she needed, when I realised I'd been munching at a chocolate wafer that had been left inside the box. I woke with the actual taste of the wafer in my mouth, and deep regrets that I'd failed in the fast so close to the end, having some awareness in the dream that we are into the final days of the month.

The relief I felt on realising that the wafer wasn't real was considerable, but, as noted above, wasn't quite considerable enough to completely wash away the feeling of guilt. I suppose this is all useful in some way, but I just don't know quite how.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Going Wrong

27 Ramadhan, 1438

As ever Noi has put and kept the house here in tip-top order since our arrival, but modern life presents so many opportunities for things to go wrong that it was unlikely we'd get away without having to deal with at least one or two problems. And it just so happens that two irritations in the smooth running of the household have made themselves felt the day before we depart for Melaka and our forthcoming Raya festivities. 

We've already had a few days without the air-conditioning functioning in our bedroom and we thought we'd got this fixed. However, the cold air it was blowing has managed to turn warm again and we'll need to get the workmen back again (after just two days.) Not sure they'll be able to come tomorrow though, so this is one problem that looks set to run for some time. At almost exactly the same time as becoming aware of our non-functioning air-conditioning we found ourselves unable to get any tv service though our less-than-trusty Astro box, so poor Noi will miss one of her favourite dramas tonight. Somehow we got through to customer service earlier and they say they'll send a technician tomorrow morning, so we live in hope of effecting a cure before moving on.

And to put a tin hat on it (as Mum would say) in the middle of all this I managed to tweak my back, whilst standing shaving (of all harmless activities!) Sitting here typing, I'm feeling the ache big-time. As you may imagine, I am not a happy soldier. All the more reason for reminding myself that things could be worse and that from certain perspectives this has been just another day in a paradise of sorts.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Within Reason

26 Ramadhan, 1438

Continuing to make headway in Nikolaus Wachsmann's devastating history of the Third Reich's Konzentrationslager. In some ways it's an easy read, being written with great clarity and never losing sight of the human stories amidst the formidable analysis of the development of the camps. But it's so overwhelming in its evocation of the unbearable suffering endured by so many that I can only manage a few pages at one time before feeling a deep need to get away from the twisted world within its pages. The problem is, though, that this is very much our world and there's so much that's easy to recognise despite the historical distance involved: the ease with which a culture can surrender to the irrational for one.

The sick twisted logic of the camps is simultaneously enraging and frightening. The guards find confirmation that the prisoners are less than human in the the physical degradation they suffer as a result of life in the appalling environment of the typical camp created by the guards. There seems no way out of the madness, and, of course, for the majority of the victims that was tragically the case.

But I suppose a way forward can be seen in the very publication of a book like this, in which reason and humanity shed some light, dark as it is, on what took place. Wachsmann's work, and the painstaking research on which it draws, does some honour to the despairing epigraph of the book, drawn from a letter written by one of the victims found buried in the Auschwitz crematorium: may the world at least behold a drop, a fraction of this tragic world in which we lived. We're frequently reminded in these pages of the choices which were never real choices given to the victims of the camps. Fortunately we have real choices and can pursue truth, can choose to reason in an honest fashion, can follow the light insofar as our limitations allow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not The Final Countdown

25 Ramadhan, 1438

There was a time when I'd mark off the final days of fasting in any given Ramadhan by thinking: This is the last Monday I'll need to fast on; this is the last time I'll have to fast on Tuesday - and so on. Childish, I suppose, but comforting. I don't do this anymore, not because I've miraculously grown-up, but because I've come to understand that, with good fortune, these will not be the final days of fasting for me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

In Detail

24 Ramadhan, 1438

Main reading of the day has been Nikolaus Wachsmann's KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps. The KL in the title is from the German Konzentrationslager, a term that before I read some of the reviews of this monumental study was entirely unfamiliar to me, in something of the same way that I'd never heard the term Gulag prior to reading Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. I  wonder, in the light of the publication of Wachsmann's work whether KL will become as definingly familiar a term.

I'm roughly a third of the way into the book and already overwhelmed by its astonishing detail, astonishing both in the sense of just how much detail exists regarding every aspect of the camps (this is a text that Holocaust-deniers would do well to avoid if they wish to cling on to their pathetic illusions) and in the darker sense of its relentless revelation of the human capacity for extreme cruelty. Wachsmann skilfully blends accounts of individual behaviour involving both the perpetrators and the victims of the evil of the camps with a broader sense of the general development of the KL against the unfolding events of the 30s and 40s so that you're never allowed to lose sight of the horror in human terms. But the horror is never played up - I suppose because it simply doesn't need to be. The bare details are quite enough.

But the implications of those details are devastating in terms of how we look at ourselves. On the page I'm reading at the moment, dealing with the development of the Nazi euthanasia programme, known as Operation T-4, in relation to the camps, Wachsmann's flat statement regarding the physicians involved, Mass murder seems to have come easy to them, is massively troubling, and it's backed up with ample evidence. The doctors who singled out prisoners for execution in the first, experimental gas chambers enjoyed their work and the prestige, and chances for career advancement, involved.

I'm not sure exactly why I'm reading this, I just know that at some level I have to.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

On Balance

23 Ramadhan, 1438

Can I really write about the rigours of fasting month now that I'm so adjusted to its demands that those rigours have generally dissipated? Perhaps talking about the minor inconveniences of Ramadhan would be more to the point? Yet it's wise to remember that the demands of the month extend well beyond the merely physical and living up to all of those demands, each and every day, is rigorous indeed.

But sitting here feeling extremely full and extremely satisfied after scoffing Noi's chicken in a bag dinner doesn't seem in the least bit rigorous. Rather it puts me in mind of the need to go easy on the edibles for the next couple of days and to keep in mind how incredibly lucky we are to live at a time when for so many folks in this part of the world a luxury diet can be taken for granted. There was an article in today's paper about some fairly major research indicating that one in ten of the world's population is obese, with a good third being classified as overweight. I didn't find that surprising at all.

Yet another reason for meditating upon the not-so-simple good sense of the fast and just some of its many purposes.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Paranoia

22 Ramadhan, 1438

Finished Patricia Cornwell's Chaos this morning. There was enough of a story to keep me going to the end, but not enough for me to feel the experience of reading the novel was worthwhile. Except, I suppose, there's some interest in seeing a writer getting it all wrong and somehow managing to get published. I suppose there are enough fans still around to make on-going publication of even the weakest Scarpetta novels financially worthwhile? I can't see how any reader new to Cornwell would even consider reading on. Everything in Chaos is predicated on familiarity and interest in the increasingly unlikely backstory of the forensic pathologist and the characters around her such that a good quarter of the text is spent clumsily rehashing that story. 

One thing that jumped out on me in this reading is the weirdly obsessional sense of hysteria generated by the central character in almost every sequence of the novel. Ms Cornwell's various personal problems are not exactly well kept secrets, but it wouldn't be difficult to guess their nature from a reading of this novel. I suppose the corrosive paranoia inherent in the Scarpetta world view worked to the advantage of the stories built around her in the early novels as a nobody caught up in events beyond her control. But she arrived as a heavyweight player a long time ago. The depiction of her as a victim of pretty much everyone and everyone thing around her is just very, very strange.

Friday, June 16, 2017

From The Ridiculous To The Sublime

21 Ramadhan, 1438

Bloomsday

This time last year I vowed never to read another Patricia Cornwell novel after thankfully putting aside, though not before courageously completing, the dreadful Isle of Dogs. My feeling then was that it qualified as the worst novel I've ever read and, in retrospect, I think that was an accurate judgement. So it's an odd and unlikely coincidence that exactly one year later another Bloomsday should see me reading yet another Cornwell, this time the latest in the Scarpetta series, featuring the hotshot forensic pathologist (or whatever she is) from Virginia. Why have I reneged on my vow? you may wonder. Basically because Karen, recalling our joint affection for the first four or so novels in the Scarpetta series, made me a birthday present earlier this year of a rather fine and distinctly hefty paperback edition of Chaos, the novel in question and I felt obliged to read it at some point, setting it aside for the June vacation.

The good news is that it's nothing like as bad as Isle of Dogs; the bad news is that it suffers from exactly those faults that made me, and I suspect many other readers, fall out of love with Dr Scarpetta. It would be tiresome and ungentlemanly to list the faults in question but I will say that Ms Cornwell seems to have no sense at all of how comic it is to constantly insist on how deeply wonderful her central characters are - especially the tiresome Benton (Scarpetta's perfect husband) and even more tiresome Lucy (Scarpetta's perfect niece) - whilst failing to give them the slightest sense of realism, beyond letting us know what wonderful cars they drive, what fabulous food they eat, what wonderful clothes they wear and how good they look in them. The fact that these brilliantly accomplished characters generally behave with a level of emotional intelligence that would embarrass the average ten-year-old seems to escape their creator. Or, perhaps, this is all intended as subtly satirical?

Anyway, I decided that I couldn't let this Bloomsday go by without treating myself to a little bit of the greatest novel of the twentieth century. I chose to accompany Stephen, walking into eternity along Sandymount strand, and was glad I did. Never quite realised before the degree to which Chapter 3 of Ulysses echoes, reflects and sheds light on Stephen's glorious epiphany in Chapter 4 of A Portrait. Really must read the whole novel again (and again!)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Making Tracks

20 Ramadhan, 1438

12.59
Now girding tired loins for the journey north. Hoping for clear roads and to be breaking our fast in Kuala Lumpur - but there are never guarantees.

Postscript: It turns out I was girding my loins somewhat earlier than necessary. In the event we didn't set off until after the prayer for Asr and we then encountered a tumultuous un-policed jam at Tuas. We broke our fast in the car, on the Singapore side. It was gone midnight before we touched down gratefully at Maison KL. So a bit of trial all in all, but only a bit.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Distinctly Unimpressive

19 Ramadhan, 1438

Got out to the gym after breaking the fast earlier this evening, most likely for the last time in fasting month since, all being well, we're off to Maison KL tomorrow. Thought I might put in a good performance having posted quite good numbers on Monday evening on my previous visit. However, this was not to be. Despite feeling reasonably chipper as proceedings began, I quickly realised there was precious little energy in whatever reserves I could muster up and elected to just keep going in a dignified manner, not worrying too much about lack of pace and pizzazz generally.

Funny things bodies. Disappointingly unpredictable. Especially this one of mine.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Looking Back

18 Ramadhan, 1438

Came across the following in my journal from this date in the Ramadhan of 1422. Gosh that's 16 years ago - when Ramadhan fell in December:

22.49

My back is aching pretty savagely despite my having taken two panadol tablets but we managed to have a good time at Geylang. Fithri bought a balloon, or rather we bought a balloon for Fithri, we got the twinkling lights (which I must put up tomorrow), Noi bought for me my Hari Raya outfit (in navy blue), and we ate well at the market - a delicious bowl of sup kambing in my case. A newly and cheaply purchased Khaled CD is pounding away at the moment and we also got Zubir Abdullah's CD which I am looking forward to playing. This sounds like an orgy of conspicuous consumption but I would have been quite happy just to wander round without buying anything. Fithri put some money given by Noi in the charity box "for poor people" so that helped balance things a little.

There's a wonderful sense of atmosphere at the bazaar. The crowds are dense, suggesting the stall-holders are doing rather well. It only takes a few moments for me to get completely disorientated once I'm amongst the stalls.

Things haven't changed too much. I'm still thinking much the same thoughts, insofar as I'm thinking at all, and still disoriented much of the time. Can't imagine Fifi buying a balloon anywhere these days though. But the girls did put their money in the charity box at Geylang the other night, so Mak Ndak's tutelage can be said to have borne the right kind of fruit.

Monday, June 12, 2017

In The Light

17 Ramadhan, 1438

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We had a fine old time last night amongst the glittering particularities of Geylang & environs. I think it's a fair argument to make that markets and the way they bring disparate peoples together in search of common comforts are one of the great signs of civilisation. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Fast And Loose

16 Ramadhan, 1438

18.40
Looking forward to breaking the fast soon, and then we're off to Geylang with Rozita, Fafa and Fifi, to trip the light fantastic. What larks!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Real Strength

15 Ramadhan, 1438

We're just over the halfway stage in our fasting. It's arrived very quickly, though paradoxically we seem to have been fasting for a long time, long enough to have settled into a reasonably comfortable routine. Is that a sign of strength of character? Not really. More a sign of the mercies that make themselves mysteriously available at this time. I'm quite sure that any disturbance in that routine would have me floundering - which is not such a bad thing. Reminders of one's fundamental vulnerability, one's dependency upon the efforts and goodwill of others, are an essential of this experience.

I've been thinking about issues of strength and weakness in particular relation to the notion of leadership today, in the light of yesterday's UK election result and the light it shone on the perceived strengths and/or weaknesses of the leaders of the various parties involved, especially the party that sort of won but managed to lose at one and the same time. They made an issue of what they saw as the obvious strength of their leader in a way that makes one wonder at just how wrong they managed to be. But reading some reports about the bullying and abusive behaviour of her top aides (who've now resigned) shed much light on this wrongness. These are people who have no understanding of real strength of leadership, operating within a culture that seems to promote all the wrong models of behaviour associated with the concept.

I say this simply because I can't imagine myself not calling such people out big-time if they behaved that way with me, and I don't count myself as particularly strong or brave. Why didn't these guys get the feedback from those they abused they needed to become better people? I can only suppose because of the cowardice of those around them who let them behave like playground bullies. No wonder these people are obsessed with the notion of strength in the rhetoric they peddle: they have none and at some very deep level they yearn for it.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Bit Of A Turn Up

14 Ramadhan, 1438

I hadn't been paying that much attention to the General Election campaign in the UK, but I knew enough to be aware that the triumphal progress predicted for the PM was likely to be a lot less triumphal in the final outcome than originally expected. So I quite enjoyed the obvious discomfiture of Mrs May and her supporters as the results came in. Suddenly the obviously strong and stable leader looked weak and wobbly, or rather, not so suddenly. I've seen little real evidence that the politico in question is strikingly impressive and the way in which the right wing press has talked her up always had an air of fragility about it.

In contrast Mr Corbyn has had so much mud thrown at him that there was something impressive simply in his determination to keep going, and his essential decency and honesty was always likely to win over a lot of folks when he was given reasonable air-time. There are many things on which I'm not in agreement with him, and I'd prefer a more centrist Labour Party (simply because it's the only way to actually win an election outright) but the man has real character. That's more than can be said for those of his detractors who unsuccessfully tried to turn him into a figure of comedy. I bet they're not laughing now, eh?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Lighting Up

13 Ramadhan, 1438






We've had this set of twinkling lights for some years now, so putting them up is something of a routine. A happy one.

It's a dark world. But there can be light, however temporary.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

No Surprises

12 Ramadhan, 1438

Didn't feel in the least like getting on with the necessary June cleaning of the books in Hall today, which was a sure sign that it was the right day to start. And so I did, and got most of the job done. By 6.00 pm I felt drained and so when Noi asked me to get something from the shop across the road every part of me said no, no, no except, fortunately, for my mouth that sensibly said yes and left me to get on with the job.

It's strange to make a simple trip when you have zero energy. The zero, as ever, turned out to be misleading even if close to a kind of truth.

Oddly enough once I'd broken the fast in our traditional way with a bowl of longans, four small dates, four pieces of jemput jemput, a glass of cold water and four mugs of hot sweet tea I was more than ready to get to the gym and sweat my forty-five minutes.

Every time fasting month comes round I find myself surprising myself in ways that are no longer quite so surprising.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Wider World

11 Ramadhan, 1438

Had an appointment with my back doc this afternoon. Pleasingly I continue without medication, though some stiffness in the spine was detected.

Funnily enough I proceeded to generate a noticeable case of backache as we went from the doc's (located in the East) to Geylang for our first saunter of this year's fasting month around the bazaar. As always I was amazed at the hardiness of those who serve at the food stalls, often with the heat from their cooking adding to the sultry sweatiness of the day. I was very happy indeed to get back to some air-conditioning to accompany afternoon prayers.

We came away with some kueh to accompany the breaking of our fast, but nothing like as much as we would once have burdened ourselves with. So things change even as they stay the same.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Getting Simpler

10 Ramadhan, 1438

We eat well when breaking the fast, but not elaborately. Considering how wonderfully different we are from each other in so many ways it's striking how Noi and I share the same high regard for the excellence of simplicity in practically all aspects of life.

Ramadhan is above all a simple time, or, at least, a time to seek simplicity. No wonder it's so difficult to commercialise the season.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Loosening Up

9 Ramadhan, 1438

Another shameless day of glorious wallowing in the remarkable fact that I didn't have anything urgent to do. I proceeded to do nothing with great efficiency, eating up great chunks of the day in deep, deep naps.

Aside from that, I read about half of the first novel in the Rebus series by Ian Rankin and a fair slab of Christopher Ricks's Milton's Grand Style. The latter is part of a conscious effort to do reasonable justice to works of genuine merit in the world of lit crit, being my follow up to Moody's very fine Pound bio; the former is the contrasting roughage in my reading diet, a choice somewhat inspired by our Edinburgh jaunt of December. Rankin's stuff was understandably prominent in the bookshops there and since he's so highly rated in critical terms it struck me as positively churlish that I've never paid him any real attention.

I'm now mapping my reading ahead for the rest of June. There's plenty waiting on the shelves - a good reason not to keep falling asleep all the time.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Undriven

8 Ramadhan, 1438

An un-packed day, for which I am deeply thankful. Attended a wedding celebration in the morning and that basically that was it for the day. I happily filled the blank hours doing nothing, an activity for which I believe I have quite a talent. It comes easily, anyway. So much for all those deeply mistaken folk who regard me as something of a driven type. They've got the wrong man, I'm afraid.

We spent the evening, post breaking the fast, at a Turkish restaurant at Kampong Glam, where we did little but eat. And very jolly it was, I can tell you.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Good Taste

7 Ramadhan, 1438

A packed day, so I only found time to realise how completely exhausted I was in the 30 minutes before breaking the fast. I conked out on the sofa as Noi was pottering about in the kitchen and, I suspect, had she not woken me to break the fast I would have remained solidly conked until well beyond Isha'. Incidentally, I only discovered just how incredibly thirsty I was in the minute or so before being able to consume the glass of iced water so fortunately prepared for me on the table. Looking at the glass I rediscovered the almost infinite wonder of common or garden H₂0 and, believe me, it tasted good. I actually felt it going down my throat and doing various wonderful things around my stomach.

I suppose the thirst was the result of doing a fair bit of yapping during the day, what with a lecture in the morning and rehearsing in the afternoon. But there was a nice break for Friday Prayers in the middle of it all at which, to my delight, the Imam turned out to be the inestimable Ustad Haron. His voice sounded in much better nick than mine. I suppose it's all the ice-cream he consumes.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Time To Spare

6 Ramadhan, 1438

Having just completed my stint of marking for the IBO and with just one more day to go of rehearsals before a bit of a break from Lady M, I'm looking ahead to what might just be a reasonably relaxing time in the three weeks ahead. That's not to say I won't find plenty that needs to be done, but the hyper-busyness that has been characteristic of the past month or so will be distinctly, wonderfully, moderated - and suddenly so.

The funny thing is that I'm wondering if fasting might feel that little bit more onerous once I've got some time actually to spare to think about it.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Greatest Rewards

5 Ramadhan, 1438

Thinking back to this date in my personal history twenty years ago, it occurs to me that I seemed to know then with absolute certainty that the commitment I was making was so utterly and entirely right for me that it was hardly worth thinking about too deeply. It just had to be, and that was it. I have no real understanding of how exactly I knew that then, but I'm glad I did because I was absolutely correct - a rare state of affairs in my life.

So today has been a day of quiet celebration of that fact, as, I suppose, is every day in its own way.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Rewards

4 Ramadhan, 1438

Realised with particular force in the course of the day just how often I reward myself as a matter of routine for getting things done. I was marking essays for IB and decided to divide the day's load into batches of five at a time. Now a batch of five is not exactly easy. It requires effort to remain focused on each script and it's physically tough to keep the body positioned optimally for all five. But, having said that, it's not so terribly difficult once you accept the need to just get the necessary done - and it is very necessary with a deadline looming before the end of the week.

The problem I had turned out to be of the mental rather than the physical variety. After each batch my body demanded a cup of tea as a reward. And, of course, it didn't get that cup, not until after Maghrib, that is. But what struck me each time was the sense that it was a demand being sent out, not a request. And it had a distinctly infantile quality about it. When I didn't get the tea I felt distinctly, pointlessly sulky. And very sorry for myself.

It's a painful truth when you confront the infant within and realise just how often life is based around assuaging its demands. Fasting helps you grow up, just a little bit.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Getting Through

3 Ramadhan, 1438

What with needing to help ensure the smooth running of an early morning lecture, meeting a colleague to discuss the marking of some on-going work, getting on with marking for the IB in order to meet an approaching unreasonable deadline, and rehearsing for our forth-coming production, this wasn't a day I was looking forward to. The fact that I'm still adjusting to the fast adding a further layer of uncertainty to my general sense of discomfort.

In the event things went, mercifully, not just well but very well indeed and, to my surprise, I found myself enjoying almost every minute - the only exception being the hour or so in the early afternoon when I conked out. I'm sure I enjoyed the brief kip, but just can't remember.

To celebrate all this, having finished my marking I'm now listen to Maestro Morricone's score for The Mission and wondering why I only mildly enjoyed it upon its release. This listening has taken me to Paradise, well the lower circles I suppose. Utterly gorgeous.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Coming Second

2 Ramadhan, 1438

No major headache today, so it looks like adjustment is setting in, mercifully so. It usually does, but you can't simply take such relief for granted. A wonderfully relevant reminder of one's vulnerability, one of the great gifts of the season.

A long way to go. Good. I need the lessons ahead, even those I've learnt before.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

First Things First

1 Ramadhan, 1438

You need a bowl of chicken porridge like this one, on the first day of fasting, I sagely observed to the Missus, supplier of said bowl, just now as I got to grips with its formidable contents. What you don't need is what I acquired around about noon, in the middle of a rehearsal, a clanging headache. Actually it wasn't clanging in the rehearsal, but definitely there, if you know what I mean. And it wasn't caused by the rehearsal, which was of the non-headachy variety.


I don't know, in truth, what caused it, but by 3.00 pm it was clanging on a super-scale and continued to do so through all my marking of the afternoon and early evening. Noi conjectured it was brought on by the thoughts of all the work I needed to do, despite embarking on the fast, and she may well be right. By the way, I'd rather put work out of the way and focus on the demands of the season, but in my world that luxury doesn't exist. Fortunately I have the mild deprivations of Ramadhan to remind me of all the other luxuries so easily, readily, thoughtlessly accessed that I forget they are luxuries. Until a headache usefully reminds me.

Selamat berpuasa! to all who are able to learn those same first vital lessons.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Centre Cannot Hold

The last few days have been a struggle, and the struggle is set to continue into the few ahead. It isn't that there's one single thing I need to do that's causing that familiar sense of being ever-so-slightly overwhelmed, a sense of needing to come up sometimes for a mouthful of air before becoming immersed once more in whatever it is that urgently needs to be done. In fact, each single thing is no big deal. But dealing with the confluence that comprises the urgent necessities of my working life is wearing, to say the least.

The irony is that I'm officially on holiday.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

An Interesting Time

Was chatting with Peter this evening and we got talking about fasting month. I was trying to explain something of what the experience was like and, as always, failed to do justice to its fascinating richness. Why is it that a taste of what is, after all, deprivation should prove so rewarding? The older I get, the more paradoxical life becomes, which is, in itself, more than a little interesting.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Wrong Side

Moody's bio of Ezra Pound, well, the first volume that is, is the real deal. Helps you into an appreciation of the poetry, even the stuff that isn't so appealing at first glance, and is engrossing on the life without being intrusive. Avoids reading back the later political tragedy into the young Pound, who comes over as a fairly decent bloke, especially with money, even if a bit odd. I haven't got the second volume yet, not even sure it's in paperback, but it's on auto-buy when I find out how to get hold of it. What happened after 1920 to so momentously screw the guy up? Or were the seeds of dumb fascism there all along? Darned if I can see them anywhere in the pre-Great War Ezra.

Frightening to think that we might just turn out to have been on the wrong side of history after the dust has settled, when we were so sure of our righteousness.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Close To Home

Woke up to the breaking news of the attack at the Arena, and came home to hear just how awful it was in terms of the fatalities and casualties - and how it was basically kids affected. Watching the pictures from areas I know so well and learning of the grim horror enacted there was painful. But just the tiniest fraction of the pain being felt by so many back in Manchester & environs. A couple of reporters used the term 'heart-breaking' - and it was.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Still Walking

On my little walk yesterday to Holland Village I got to thinking about some of the hill-walking I'd done back in the UK before the years of exile. The last serious jaunt had been with Tony, some time in the late 80s, but I can't for the life of me remember the route and location. All the serious planning was in the hands of the expert. But I recall being in reasonable condition at the time - still playing for Whiston FC and running fairly regular half marathons. I managed the walk with some ease and huge enjoyment.

And it occurred to me yesterday that had I not upped and left the UK, about a couple of years after that particular walk, I think, I would have become something of a regular, probably walking solo. It strikes me as something I was bound to end up doing, essentially because of the sense of freedom I found in any walk over any reasonable distance. But that was a future not taken.

Do I regret the loss of that alternative self - the solitary, rugged, walker of the fells? No, not at all. Partly because that self wasn't really lost but channelled in other directions. I think I know where he is now. But one thing's for sure. If we do relocate to the UK for any length of time in the near future, he'll be out walking wherever he gets the chance to roam.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Just Walking

It's been raining here this evening, which has made a pleasant change from the stifling heat & attendant humidity of the earlier part of the day. I actually went out walking in this to Holland Village and back. I needed a break from marking and Noi has gone off to Melaka for the weekend, so a brisk walk seemed like a good idea. And it was, except for the fact that by the time I got back I needed to put my sweaty garments in the wash and sit in an air-conditioned room for half an hour to feel normal again.

Actually I thought my walk was fulfilling a resolution to 'keep moving, keep thinking' made in January, only to discover, just now in fact, that my resolution for this year was, indeed is, somewhat different. Perhaps I should have stayed where I was after all?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A World Elsewhere

Have been marking IB stuff from the examination early in May. These days all the marking is on-line and utterly anonymous, so you have no idea what part of the world a script comes from. In fact, it's rare to find oneself even trying to make a guess. Most of it reads very much the same - which is to say not terribly well, to be honest. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

On The Beat

Funny things, bodies. This one of mine, for instance, generally feels wearily heavy when I get it onto the elliptical training thingy in the gym, but it actually felt quite energised this evening, despite a wearisome week at work. However, despite my sense of feeling full of the proverbial beans, and going at it hammer and tongs, as it were, I still posted numbers which, though good, were not my best.

I also managed to get my heart rate up to 171 or thereabouts, which, according to the machine in question, is regarded as the top rate for those in their twenties. Gosh. Not exactly sure I should be going into that range, but I appear to have survived. Sort of.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Getting Dragged In

One of the several interesting things about teaching, or attempting to teach, works of Literature is the sheer unpredictability of what will happen to the teacher in the process of teaching the text. It's rare for me not to enjoy, in some sense, teaching a text, though I remember once being given the sage advice not to introduce poems which were special favourites into the classroom on the grounds that if a class turned out not to respond to them the teacher was likely to be profoundly disappointed. That's never really happened to me in a devastating way, though I do recall teaching Hughes's lovely Happy Calf from the Moortown sequence to a class and finding a certain frustration in the fact that the majority wanted the calf to be unhappy, all evidence, including the title, to the contrary.
 
But the unpredictability of teaching texts has tended with me to go in the opposite direction, in that I've set out to teach texts with which I'm barely familiar and of which I've not been exactly a great fan only to find an immense pay-off in the classroom. I fall completely in love the text and, when the process is at its most intense, find my own way of looking at the world being reconfigured.

I think I've mentioned in this Far Place some time back being overcome by Long Day's Journey Into Night in a way I don't think I've ever entirely recovered from. And just lately another play has been having a similar effect on me. I've previously only ever looked at snippets from Pinter in the classroom, bits of The Birthday Party, and I didn't count myself a fan by any means of the erstwhile Nobel Laureate (far less deserving than Dylan, I'd have said.) So I wasn't exactly looking forward to teaching The Homecoming, which I'd only ever read once before and not quite taken in, except for vaguely recognising it as typical Pinter - very Pinteresque indeed, if you know what I mean.

But just a quarter of the way into the play with one group of students, I'm finding myself so entirely consumed by Pinter's vision of things - if that's what it is - that I'm seeing the world as I thought it was through his spectacles and recognising what I've always known but never quite wanted to articulate, until he did it for me. Gosh, I'd love to direct this for the stage. But fat chance, which, in truth, is not such a bad thing in this case.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Lies Ahead

I tend to think of food as an unalloyed good. It's easy to do that on the receiving end of Noi's cooking. But, of course, it's nothing of the sort. In the developed world over-consumption of the stuff seems to have become a major problem in medical terms, whilst the moral difficulties inherent in the wasting of food in a world where so many folks just don't get enough are sufficient to make any thinking individual ponder - and I'm talking about pondering of the guilty variety.

So it's with a curious sense of relief, a strange gratitude, that I spy fasting month looming ahead. Apart from its other benefits it's become a time for me to ponder positively my relationship with food and its deep, abiding, but troublesome goodness.

And to try and do that bit more for those who don't get enough.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Not Keeping Up

I've been finding a gory fascination in watching events of a political nature transpire in the formerly mighty US of A. Something new, something bewildering, something stunning every day. I remain a believer in the virtues of democracy. But only just.

It's sort of exciting in all the wrong ways.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Getting Academic

Whilst reading The Fireman I've also been making some progress into A. David Moody's biography of everyone's least favourite Modernist poet Ezra Pound. It's garnered some excellent reviews and I can see why, it being vastly superior to Noel Stock's earlier amazingly dull account of Pound's life and poetic career. I've reached 1912 and things are finally hotting up - he's publishing poems that are genuinely worth reading.

I've decided in my dotage to try and take lit crit a bit more seriously and read some reasonably serious stuff. This is a good start. It might just convince me that Pound is more than a particularly clever huckster.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Strong Stuff

Finished The Fireman today. Sustained quality from start to finish. Great ending.

Joe Hill has got all the writerly virtues of his rather more famous father. And one of his vices, if vice it be. He creates characters you really care for, but he ladles on the bonding a bit thick in places. It's pleasant in its way, but a bit gooey and self-indulgent. Some tough editing would work wonders, methinks.

But I feel bad saying anything negative about an excellent, gripping read. Will be looking for more of his stuff before the year is out.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Some Days

Some days are better than others. This particular one wasn't. Some nice moments. Several lows, and business dealings means it's not yet over, despite the late hour. As it stumbles to its close I find myself expecting a call from US regulators about something of which I have zero understanding. Don't ask.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Nothing Much Changes

Was looking back at my diary from 15 years ago. Part of the entry for 11 May 2002 read:

I've just been listening to the Projekct 1 album Live at the Jazz Café. This kind of material requires active listening for engagement. I've been thinking about the links between music and emotion, but my thinking has not got very far. As usual.

Was struck by how little changes. Just yesterday I was thinking about giving the Projekcts a spin soon, reminding myself to choose a time when I would have the freedom to listen hard. And just yesterday I was mulling over just how little original or deep thinking I seem to be capable of.

By the way, my thoughts on music and emotion over fifteen years have not exactly developed in fruitful ways - as far as I can remember them, that is. There's a connection between the two, and it's all pretty mysterious. That's about all I can manage, folks.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Making Something New

Some early blocking rehearsals today for Lady Macbeth. Part of the fascination of initial rehearsals is the way that things I've being hearing in my head for months take on a completely new life and identity when voiced in ways I didn't quite expect. The temptation is to impose my own voices of imagination onto those who don't and can't hear them. This is a temptation to resist, I've discovered over the years.

Making it new is partly about letting it go.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Question Of Value

If prayer had no other value, and I believe it has, its offer of quietude amid the usual vain strife & uproar would make it a commodity beyond price. Fortunately it's not for sale and defies commodification, as do all things of deep worth.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Completely Krazy

Going back a few years, to when I was rediscovering the joys of the comic book, I came to realise the high esteem in which the comic strip Krazy Kat was held, especially in America. I borrowed a collection of Herriman's comic strips from the library at Marine Parade, I think some time in the early years of this century, and certainly found it fascinating even though I wasn't quite on the wavelength required for complete fandom. I suppose a general lack of familiarity had something to do with that.

Today I came across a fascinating article by the extremely gifted cartoonist (if that's what he's regarded as) Chris Ware at the on-line NYRB that might well put me on the wavelength required. I had no idea when I was introduced to his work of the curious racial background of George Herriman, but now I do know I'm very keen to get back to the adventures of his extraordinary Kat. I did get a sense of the strange poetry of the work back then, but I suppose found it as off-putting as it was beguiling. Now I realise I was quite blind (possibly deaf) to the implications of it all.

It's an extraordinarily sad story. Entirely crazy in its way, reflecting on our collective craziness.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Precious Indeed

I'm in one of those strange periods when there's so little time to be really able to listen to music that whatever I listen to sounds very special indeed, even if I've heard it a thousand times before. This morning, for example, I was mixing marking some of my students' work for assessment with VDGG's Pawn Hearts and the old prog warhorse sounded impossibly beguiling and entirely fresh. In the contest between the two, I don't need to tell you which won.

There's a bonus track on the recording I've got of Pawn Hearts, not on the original, which sounds nothing like anything else Pete Hammill and his merry men got up at that stage in their careers. It's a sort of minimalist drone-like piece that I've often thought would sound good as the soundtrack to a dark play. Fittingly entitled Diminution, this morning it sounded utterly revelatory, an absolutely perfect, logical, necessary composition.

Strange what marking can do for your ears.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Good Companions

Enjoyed a very jolly evening with a number of our erstwhile companions on last year's Hajj. Replayed a number of extremely powerful memories. Strange and wonderful how close we came to feel then, and how that feeling has never gone away.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Taking Nothing For Granted

The full results from my health screening are in and I'm quietly celebrating the fact that nothing sinister emerged. In fact, the numbers on my cholesterol levels are an improvement on those of previous years. A steady improvement over five years is worth cheering - as well as being slightly miraculous in view of just how much spectacular baking the Missus has done over that period. Never knew sugar was so healthy.

I can just about remember a time when getting the results of medicals was a sort of routine in which I took it for granted there'd be no problems. Oh for such innocence again.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

On Fire

Mighty glad I decided to get to grips with Joe Hill's The Fireman. I can give it, or any other novel, no higher praise than to say that somehow I've kept reading it at a time when I'm so busy that getting to read anything in a sustained way should be impossible. Am now well into the second half and desperate to know how events will play out. Blisteringly good. Hah!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Not A Political Animal

Some of my students were asking me today which way I would vote, if I did vote at all, in the UK's forthcoming General Election. It struck me that, though deeply concerned with the political future of my nation, I wasn't at all sure there was any party I would cast a vote for at this point in time with any degree of enthusiasm.

This sense of being out of things reminded me of something I realised about myself at university. I knew then that, though some aspects of my personality were sort of suited to dabbling in politics of some variety, I had absolutely no inclination to be involved in any kind of political activity. In recent times I've come to mildly regret not even contributing to what might broadly be termed Civil Society, but it is just a mild regret. Some part of me knows that I did the right thing, even if it was wrong.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

On The Mend

I tried to phone John a few times yesterday to wish him a happy birthday but couldn't get through. So it was something of a relief to chat to him earlier this evening. He's reached the grand and unlikely old age of eighty and you always wonder if there's something wrong when you phone people of that vintage and get no reply.

In fact, all the news at that end sounds good. Maureen had been having a lot of trouble with her eyes, on top of her other problems, but it seems there's good progress on that front. Back in December it looked as if everything was going depressingly downhill in a hurry on Lord Derby Road. A change of direction for the better is deeply unexpected and deeply satisfying.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Sky At Night

Popped out just now with Noi to take delivery of a couple of suitcases being returned to find myself, indeed ourselves, exposed to a particularly lovely crescent moon and a clear night sky studded with stars of the faintly twinkling variety. I don't think I'd have really noticed it all, having several work-related matters in my head, but Noi pointed out how splendid it all was and, as ever, she was not wrong. In matters of beauty she never is.

I had the good sense to soak it all in for a minute or so, wishing for a little less light pollution, but savouring the minute or so nonetheless. (Note to self: must get up again to the west coast of Malaysia, around Mersing, where the night skies are spectacularly natural.) The immensity of it all helped engender that remarkably emancipating sense of un-immensity that's so useful in lending one a sense of proportion. Isn't it great to be so little, so entirely unimportant in the great scheme of things?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Doing Nothing

Yesterday I was picking up some keys at work and found myself listening to what I assumed to be some kind of motivational talk on the radio, or on tape, whatever, playing away in the office. I only caught a few seconds of it, fortunately, a strident voice booming out that it really wasn't necessary to sleep, that you needed to keep working all the time to stay in front - that kind of nonsense. I found myself half laughing at it, and half quite irritated that someone was getting away with peddling this dangerous nonsense.

It came into my mind again this morning when I decided to do precisely nothing before noon, despite having a fair few things I could have been getting on with. It was obvious to me that I'd been overloaded for the last few days, not with physical work but with the kind of data overload that fries the brain. I knew that even the slightest effort made to keep going with this kind of stuff was going to be deeply self-defeating. I spent a gloriously indolent three hours or so doing nothing more than lying on the floor, listening to music I knew well enough to hardly have to listen at all. (Yet, strangely, I seemed to listen hard, almost as if I was hearing it for the first time.)

By afternoon I was functioning again and feeling if not exactly fresh then by no means particularly jaded.

We've lost the wisdom to understand that when we think we're doing nothing we aren't. Something is being done to us, and it's something we need, something we can't do without.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Matter Of Detail

It isn't wise to neglect detail, but neither is it sensible to create so many that the sheer abundance becomes unmanageable. I've spent the last couple of days drowning in them and, trust me, I know what I'm talking about.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Just A Number

 
 
 
 
 
 
According to one of the results of my medical on Tuesday my metabolic age, whatever that might mean, is 35. That's a very cheerful number indeed, especially in relation to my real age, which is, shall we say, somewhat in advance of that. And, indeed, advanced even further today.

Fortunately in this household we know how to celebrate even those numbers one might rather forget.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Bit Much

I reckon I've got, at a conservative estimate, about 16 hours' worth of material for my talk on His Bobness due next week. It'll be a bit of a problem fitting it into the 60 minutes I think they've given me. Time for a bit of austerity, a quality the Greatest Living American generally has a problem with. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Not So Much

Attended a health screening today, and am hoping for good results in the fullness of time. But one result is in already. Somewhere along the way over the last couple of years I've lost one centimetre in height. Hope this isn't the beginning of a major trend.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Just A Little

No man only needs a little salary - thus Charley in the Requiem segment at the end of Miller's Death of a Salesman. He's replying to Linda's mournful observation on her dead husband: He only needed a little salary. He was even finished with the dentist.

I'd completely forgotten Charley's line until today when I was glancing through the play having just marked a few essays referring to it. Not sure I ever really noticed the brilliance of his supremely sardonic observation before. Isn't it astonishing just how deeply Miller saw into and through the bleak illusions of capitalism?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Book As Object

I've abandoned all thoughts of getting one of those e-reader devices, like a Kindle, despite the in many ways attractive logic of having one. This leaves me with a big headache with regard to storage space for real books, but I think that problem can be solved. Basically I'm thinking of giving some books away, freeing them to the world, and also we rent storage space anyway since moving into Hall and I might just start making greater use of that space. Not that my accumulated stock of books is growing at any speed given the fact that I read so little. That's part of the reason why I don't think I need to consider moving into the e-reader field.

But the real reason is a brutally simple one: I like the feel of books. The whole sensory thing I've come to realise is part of the pleasure of reading for me (that pleasure being the reason I read, by the way, in case you thought I might have nobler motives.) The more I think about it, this is a disturbing thing to admit to, and entirely irrational. But, what the heck, it's true so let's just accept it and get on with doing the reading.

Funnily enough this truth came home to me quite forcibly in my recent purchase of Joe Hill's excellent The Fireman. (Now about a third of the way in and as complete a fan of the son as I am of the father.) There were two editions available in the bookshop and I went for the cheaper looking, more American-looking paperback, a bit like one of those old cheapo cheapo Signet editions of the classics, though I think the editions were the same price. Somehow this kind of paperback is just right for unpretentious genre fiction - and when you realise the level of writing is as 'literary' as that of the stuff you're supposed to find more respectable that just adds to the pleasure in some weird way.

Anyway, I'm off to cuddle up with that particularly good book, so it's goodnight for now.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Universality

When I arrived at the wake for Aloy's dad last night there was a group saying prayers for the dead. I sat with some of my colleagues from work, also there to pay their respects, as the prayers went on for quite some time. It was a Catholic chapel we were in and for some reason the repetition of the Hail Marys somehow stood out for me. I realised that it had been years since I'd heard the prayer, or at least found myself paying such attention to it. (I suppose it must have said at Mum's funeral, but I really don't remember it, or any of the prayers said then, even though I was struck by the symbolic beauty of the service.)

Thinking about the prayer afterwards it struck me that in its own way it was probably my favourite prayer as a kid, not that one really thought in such terms. We used to have to chant it in Latin, along with the Pater Noster and Agnus Dei (I think), before each lesson in Xaverian College - up to Sixth Form, that is. Can't remember if it remained the practice then. Even the mindless (and generally super-quick) repetition didn't diminish its oddly comforting magic.

I felt some of that yesterday, a recognition of both the beauty and oddness of the prayer. I suppose that's something true of all religious observance of all religions, to those who are sympathetic to this area of human experience. Must say, I feel a kind of quizzical sympathy thinking of those who find themselves unable to respond so.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Getting Around

Found myself having to use a fair amount of public transport in the late afternoon and evening today. I'd been involved in taking some students to the Aquatic Centre near the new Sports Hub in the afternoon and whilst we had a bus to take us there we had to find our own way back. Then I needed to attend the wake for Aloy's dad who passed away late yesterday. Since Noi needed to use the car to attend a class at the mosque - and for that reason wasn't able to make it to the wake - I needed to find a way there and back.

Fortunately public transport is extremely well-organised on this island, despite folks' grumbles about it, and it turned out to be quite easy to find my way around. There's something strangely intense about being the only person at a bus-stop in what feels like the middle of nowhere, but is always the middle of somewhere, waiting for the last bus to rouse itself to arrive. (It's never actually the last bus, of course; it just feels that way.)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Good Riddance

It says little for my character that I've taken some little pleasure today over the news that the egregious Bill O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News (for what seem to me excellent reasons.) I can't honestly say I've wasted too much of my life watching him on the box, but even for the short periods I've seen him perform it's not been that difficult to figure out he's a first rate example of a bully (amongst other unpleasant characteristics, but I don't intend to waste time going there.)

There's a lovely moment in an interview he did with The Dawk himself when our favourite gnu atheist gloriously deflates the bully simply by pointing out he doesn't like being shouted at - and that he's been warned ahead of the interview that this is the bully's predictable strategy. Would that other 'guests' who in any way disagreed with O'Reilly's worldview had been primed to respond in the same fashion. He would have gone down in flames every time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Like Father, Like Son

Just started Joe Hill's The Fireman. Excellent opening, promising a nice chunky read. Was reminded of early Stephen King, which is not surprising since Mr Hill is the son of the horrormeister. He seems to have inherited his dad's particular talents - a very cheerful thought indeed.

Made me think of Tony reading The Stand all those years ago and falling completely under the spell of the story. Wish he was around to make the acquaintance of The Fireman. He'd have loved it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Recovering

Put the weekend pain behind me & got back to the gym this evening. It felt good to be moving freely again, but my enjoyment was somewhat qualified by finding myself going through the motions on the elliptical thingy next to a young lady on the treadmill adjacent. The heavy breathing routine I endure these days is a bit embarrassing with someone listening. But it's even worse when that someone is actually reading a book whilst she's working out! Seriously! talk about multi-tasking eh?!

And there's me, struggling just to remember how to breathe.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Much Ado About Nothing

I have nothing to say; and I am saying it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Enduring

What with one thing and another it's been a lousy day. One to endure and somehow get to the end of. There's no sign of things getting better or putting themselves to rights.

After a sleepless night the sensible thing seemed to me to make sure I got on with the basics necessary to getting through the week at work. I think I've done that. Not much all told, but at least that's something achieved.

Now considering what will need getting on with on the morrow. Lots, which in the circumstances is not such a bad thing.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Minor Crisis

Sitting marking this morning, around 10.00, I suffered an excruciatingly painful spasm in my back. The strange thing was that I hadn't actually changed my position or moved in the slightest when the spasm struck. It felt like an electric shock, and for a couple of hours afterwards I could hardly move at all. I needed to walk bent over and lying flat on the floor did little to alleviate the pain.

I didn't have much choice, however, but to keep on marking, kneeling at the coffee table, since sitting in the chair at the dining table, where I'd experienced the spasm, felt impossible. The remarkable thing was though that after two hours and taking a couple of pain-killers the initial trauma of it all seemed to suddenly dissipate. Since that time I've felt uncomfortable certainly, but the sense of having done real damage, which was so acute in the immediate aftermath of the spasm, has gone almost entirely.

I've managed to get through quite a bit of work today, something I severely doubted would be the case this morning. I've also managed to almost finish Boswell's Life of Johnson. Reading about the real extended crisis of Johnson's painful final months certainly put my own difficulties into perspective.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Not Exactly Alert

Easily could have slept all day, but this was not an option, despite being a holiday. Nodded off a couple of times, but not for long, and coming round to consciousness was less than pleasant. Kept thinking I had stuff to do, basically because this was the case.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Men At Work

For quite a few weeks now we've had various workmen around dealing with repairs to the buildings at work and painting pretty every surface surrounding us. It must be really tough work. It's bad enough having all the painting etc to do, but having to get on with all this in a place that's buzzing with activity all hours of the day has got to involve its very own frustrating headaches. The guys doing the hard graft strike me as being amazingly patient & long-suffering.

Yesterday as I was on the way out of the main building there were three workers painting an exterior wall. They'd just finished stripping an old exterior layer of paint, a fair amount of which was lying around on the ground. As two of the guys were getting on with the painting their colleague was starting to deal with the mess. If you've ever tried to sweep up this kind of litter, as he was about to do, you'd know just how dishearteningly time-consuming his work was going to be. Glancing at the mess as I passed I tried to imagine how I would have felt faced with the prospect of having to get rid of it all. It wasn't a nice thought.

When I walked by the same area this morning it was so clean you'd have been hard-pressed to figure out anyone had been working there just a few hours before.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Back In Balance

The Missus is back with tales of her adventures in Korea and of her meeting with Karen this afternoon. Astonishingly we haven't been able to find the wherewithal to pass Karen her (December) birthday present until today - and even then I couldn't be around. There's such a thing as being too busy you know - but then I think we all do know that, especially those who inhabit this far place. 

Having had that little moan I'll just relax at the end of a ferocious day with a sense of some kind of equilibrium being restored.