Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Window-shopping whilst broke

One other thing to add to the long list of things which irritate people like me: When someone attaches a notice or whatever to a lamp post or wherever with a plastic cable-tie, and does not trim off the excess left after tightening it. Maybe this is a mild form of OCD.

I am really interested to know if everyone is the same as me in this respect: I can look at absolutely anything and know exactly how it feels without having to touch it. I don't mean that I have some idea what it must feel like, I mean that I know exactly what it feels like. Occasionally, I will test myself with this, and I am never wrong.

This may be why I cannot understand why some people feel the need to touch sculpture, or why anyone other than blind people are offered tactile experiences in museums and galleries.

In the British Museum, almost every 3D artefact has a notice to one side of it either forbidding it to be touched, or inviting people to touch it. I guess that these notices are primarily directed towards children - who go there in large numbers - and it could be that none of us can accurately predict how something solid is going to feel without quite a lot of experience.

If I touch or handle something which is not intrinsically useful, it is to try to extract some sort of invisible essence from it, or just simply so that I can say that I have touched that thing to someone else in the future. A bit like shaking hands with Elvis.

I think that the biggest tactile shock I ever had was as a child, playing around in some loose leaf-mould in our garden one Summer day.

I unearthed a large chrysalis which was a deep, shiny, rust-brown, and it appeared to be bullet-hard. As I picked it up, it squirmed, throbbed and writhed in my hand in self-defence, and I actually screamed in shock as I threw it back down into the earth. That was the only thing I can think of which caught me out.

I need no reminding of what a young woman's backside beneath a thin layer of silk crepe feels like, and it is not worth the criminal conviction by pretending that I do. The courts take a dim view of this sort of thing these days, no matter how old you are.

"I would like my advanced age to be taken into consideration".

"We did".

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Flo Worthington

It was weather like today's when I set out for my last visit to Flo Worthington, but I never made it.

I cannot remember how I first met Flo, but I think I might have been passing her little council house in Woking as she came out to try and find someone to take the lid off a jam pot or something for her.

Florence Worthington was about four foot ten inches high and around 80 years old, and I was six foot three and 17 years old. I must have conducted our short friendship in the Summer between ending my revolting period at Guildford School of Art and beginning the sculpture course at Farnham.

Once the top was off inside her kitchen, I was introduced to her only friend and companion, a blue budgerigar. She made me tea and offered me cake, and told me her life story as I drank and ate it. I think I heard the life story about four or five times, which were the amount of visits I paid to her over that Summer. I am absolutely sure that she often confused washing-powder with flour when making her cakes. Nothing else could explain the foul, soapy flavour. "Go on, have another!" she would say, holding an old tin out toward me.

Every day, she said, she would pay a visit to a nearby convent, and was very proud that all the nuns referred to her by her name - "Flo this, and Flo that." It sounded to me as though the nuns treated her like a naughty girl, and she loved it. These nuns were her family. She insisted that I call her Flo and not Miss Worthington, despite the age gap and despite the mores of the time. She had never been married and had no living relatives.

She also insisted that I call on her every Sunday from then on at the same time, and I found it very hard to refuse. This was not a Harold and Maude type of relationship, she was just very lonely - but also very cheerful. I began to wonder how I would break it to her that I would be going back to college soon, and would not be able to keep up the weekly visits.

We had just finished Sunday lunch, and my mother reminded me that I was due to visit Flo in about a half hour, so I put on my jacket and got on my 1938 Triumph motorcycle.

About two miles from our house, I entered a wide left-hand turn, not realising that all the tarmac had been worn away by cars on that stretch of bend - this was common in those days, when road building techniques were not so thorough as they are now.

The rain had turned the bare tar into a three-foot wide slick which was fifteen feet long on its curve, and I found myself in a front wheel slide which I could do nothing about except make a split-second decision about which piece of street furniture I was going to collide with on the raised island in the middle of the road.

The choice was between two bollards either side of a steel lamp post, so I chose the nearest bollard.

First I had to mount the concrete kerb of the island, then immediately hit the metal and glass bollard, uprooting it at the same time that I flew over the handlebars of the bike from the force of hitting the kerb.

I was aware of a large party of Sunday School children on the other side of the road, and they all froze in horror as I flew through the air towards them. I remember hoping that the bike would come to a stop before it hit them, and thankfully it did.

I landed flat on my chest on the hard road which knocked the wind right out of me, and I would have liked to have stayed there long enough to get my senses back and decide whether or not I had broken any bones, but the teacher - in an obvious state of shock - ran over and insisted that I stand up whilst roughly trying to drag me to my feet. I was too weak to resist.

A man came running out of a nearby house to inform me that he had called the police - not an ambulance - to take my name and address for destroying public property. Any young man on a motorcycle was always a delinquent by definition in those days.

The police arrived and told me that I would have to pay for the street furniture to be replaced by the council, and I responded by saying I would put in a counter-claim for damage caused to my bike due to a badly maintained road. In the end, neither was needed because a Jaguar car lost it on the same bend the very next day, taking out the steel lamp post which I had gone to such care to avoid.

I limped for a couple of weeks afterwards, but nothing was broken and there was only minor damage to the bike.

I could not call Flo to explain why I had not arrived that Sunday because she did not have a phone, but when I next called round a couple of weeks later, I found out that she had died.

That was almost fifty years ago, but I still think of Flo occasionally on a wet Sunday afternoon. Unfinished business, I suppose.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

An innocuous post.

I got a bit drunk last (Friday, I'll have you know) night, and invited everyone over here from Facebook to carry on partying into the small hours.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I opened up this morning, expecting to find a few strangers lying face down on the carpet, but I needn't have worried. My followers remain at a steady 145. Oh, wait a minute - I have blocked anonymous comments. Maybe they're all hiding in the cupboard. I'll have to go to stats and see if there is a peak in the graph around 1.00 am.

The trouble with being a gobshite is that Facebook doesn't have enough space to really let rip, and even if it did, you would be breaching some sort of unwritten protocol. As far as I can see, Twitter is for Trappist monks, or Haiku writers.

Anyway, I have taken Shawn's advice - if that's what it was - and deleted the invitation, limiting it to a handful of people who may have stumbled on it last night or this morning. I'll try and keep this blog exclusively for all you old people who have nothing better to do than read it.

So here's a belated review of Father Ted, 20 years too late.

The first episode has far too much canned laughter at far too high a volume, but they corrected this in time for the rest of them. My favourite one was when the priests of the area all dressed up and did a turn on stage, compered by an alcoholic minor TV celebrity. Parts of that had me laughing out loud.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Falling in love with strangers

In the pub a few hours ago, I left the building to go outside for a cigarette and was joined by a pretty young woman who told me she was from New Zealand. I already knew that from the way she pronounced, 'fish and chips'.

I asked her if she had Maori blood in her (knowing from her colouring, face shape and dark green eyes that she did) and she said that I was the first person to have spotted that she was on this continent. I think - although I didn't say - that I was the first to actually ask.

She suggested we gave each other the traditional Maori greeting, so I asked for instructions, hoping it didn't involve slapping of thighs, shouting and sticking our tongues out.

"We hold hands and we look into each other's eyes", she said, taking my hands in hers, "And we press our noses together like this, transmitting the spirit, love and respect between each other for a moment."

So we did. I fell in love with another stranger.

Season of Goodwill

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Black Friday

This shop in Osaka, Japan, has a sale on, in case you didn't notice...

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

And did those feet?

The normally highly political bit of news program on R4's lunchtime slot, yesterday ran quite a long live bit from Glastonbury discussing whether or not King Arthur was buried there since when it used to be called Avalon.

I thought that everyone knew that this story was made up by 13th century monks in order to attract tourists, but it seems that Reuters forgot to tell the BBC. It's not as if they are short of news right now.

I always get a thrill whenever I stand in the same spot as some bygone celebrity - a bit like putting your hands in the imprints outside the Chinese Theatre in L.A. (Is that what it is called? Is that where they are?).

Every time I take the train to London, I find myself imagining all the celebs and royalty which the very same rails which are taking my weight (not much, but every little adds up) have taken their weight too in the past. Well, I'm going to have to start all over again, because they have just replaced all the rails between Bath and Paddington in preparation for electrification.

When I was paid a great lump of cash by Gary Lineker, I brought out some of the £20 notes in the pub, and a keen football supporter asked to handle them. At first, I was a bit worried he would not give them back, but he assured me he only wanted to touch them.

Right up until our own beloved Queen, the poor and ignorant believed that the royal touch would cure all manner of disease, and one day a year was set aside for the monarch to pass amongst them to give them a fumble. Elizabeth (2nd) has always worn gloves in public - even at State banquets.

I once shook Prince Charles's hand, and I wondered if he wondered what I had been doing with it a few hours before the meeting, in the same way I wondered what he had been doing with his. Best not to think about it if you have to meet a lot of people.

I used to make and handle a lot of cast objects, and what struck me very profoundly was the simple fact that every single cast object has - at some time - been in direct or indirect contact with the original object - like Napoleon's death-mask, for instance.

Now 3D laser printing has arrived, and faithful copies of famous items can actually be sent down a phone line. Has the magic been taken out, put in, or just updated?