SOME THOUGHTS

11TH NOVEMBER 2022

Hello

I read Donna Day’s blog this morning (https://donnamday.substack.com/) and it inspired me to have a go at something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time – write a blog. So, here goes …

10TH BIRTHDAY OF THE HOP INN

I have a copy of the 1977 Good Beer Guide. Good beer has been a part of my life since I was 15 years old. I successfully bought my first pint at The Olde White Bear in Norwood Green. My mate also Andy, pushed me to order because I looked older. I remember standing at the bar and, although I’d remembered to say 1952 if asked my birthday, I hadn’t thought about what to order. So my first pint was Double Diamond. The only wonder it worked was to convince me beer must taste better than that.
Anyway, a lifetime of seeking out good beer and good pubs has led me to go every Thursday with a group of friends I’ve been drinking with for over 30 years. The Hop is my kind of pub: 10 minutes walk from home, 7 well-kept beers, several ‘craft’ beers, cider and interesting bottles and cans. There are friendly staff, a monthly quiz, occasional live music, comedy nights. A camera club meets there and there’s also a book group, of which I am a member.
Beer of the week this week? Lister’s IPA.

CARTOONS

On the way to school this morning, I chatted with Nancy (9) and Fraser (7) about The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. How does the RR manage to run into a tunnel that Will E has painted on a rock? Isn’t it incredibly funny that Wile E always falls hundred of feet to the bottom of a canyon? We mentioned many other cartoons we enjoyed but I was surprised that they’d never seen The Flintstones.
All this led me to a reverie on how much of what I see or hear of what entertains people relies on CGI. Grandchildren watch or play video games, some adults in my family play computer games or watch Marvel films and I hear about dragons in Game of Thrones or various films. I don’t think I’m entirely anti such things but I tend to prefer proper drama. What am I on about? CGI for its own sake isn’t for me.
However, it leads me to remember a recent visit to Forest Green Rovers. FGR won the game 1-0 and I enjoyed watching highlights of the game when I got home. I was even able to say I was in the background as Conor Wickham nodded in the winner. During the game, however, there was an incident where a Bolton player seemed to leap into the FGR goalkeeper rather than attempt to head the ball. There were disagreements among the crowd as to whether the ref should have flourished a yellow or red card. Oh how we would have valued an instant replay of the incident. That moment made me realise how much I/we have become accustomed to such technology in our lives. And of course the positive and negative aspects of the internet, computing technology and so on.
More of this another time, when I’ve thought it through a little more.

RUGBY LEAGUE

I’ve been enjoying the Rugby League World Cup. Actually I’ve enjoyed watching rugby league this latest season. My enjoyment of the game has returned. The physicality, power and skill involved in the game amazes me. Men and women, able bodied or in wheelchairs, who “put their bodies own the line” so regularly thrills me. The speed and grace of Tommy Makinson, to name but one. The skill and intelligence of James Robey, to name another. The sweet side-stepping ability of Tara-Jayne Stanley. The lunacy, skill and daring of Joe Coyd of the wheelchair game. Of course there are other players but these are a few who have caught my eye over the last 12 months.
But it’s the honesty of the game generally that I like. Players don’t back chat or insult referees or touch judges. They accept decisions, although they may question in a reasonable manner. They take knocks, they are fit, quick and strong. I suppose they know that what they take or give in a collision is what their opponents also aim to do and this seems to breed a mutual respect. Crowds seem to be partisan although, again, show respect for the game and the players. It seemed to me that rugby league adapted to the problems of covid-19 positively and the game as a whole developed approaches to racism and LGBTQ+ which are positive and accepted by players and fans alike. In short, the game’s the thing. Before I forget, punditry in both codes of rugby is far better than it is in football. It is more articulate, better informed, informative, thoughtful and observant. So it seems to me anyway.
Will I watch any of the football world cup in Qatar? I’d like to say no.

READING

Earlier this week I finished reading “Lessons” by Ian McEwan. Like many of his novels there are some gripping set pieces but I found this novel dull to the point of boring. Most of us are boring I know with moments of excitement in our lives but literature isn’t meant to be that kind o f slice of life. Is it? I want to read things that show me characters acting in interesting ways, demonstrating what it means to be human in more dramatic ways. The detail of Roland’s life wasn’t necessary for me. However, his relationship with his piano teacher was gripping in its perversion; his relationship with his estranged wife was also interesting in how her philosophy of life got lived out; Roland’s tussle with Daphne’s ex-husband was a good, dramatic moment in the novel too.
Since then, I’ve got ⅔ of the way through Helen Dunmore’s “A Spell Of Winter.” It’s a novel about the love, physical and spiritual, of siblings Cathy and Rob. It’s quite a shocking book. More when I’ve finished it.

LISTENING

Mojo magazine has a “How to Buy” article about ELO. I hadn’t listened to any of their music for a long time so I put “Eldorado” on the iPod and listened a couple of times at home and in the car. It’s on the grandiose side of rock and roll music but I quite enjoyed it in the 1970s and I quite enjoyed it this week. I’d forgotten “Rockaria” – in many ways a clichéd pop song but arranged and performed very well.
Also I saw that Neil Young is about to release a film – “Harvest Time” – which is a documentary about the making of “Harvest,” his 1972 album. So, guess what, I listened to some Neil Young. “Harvest” is one of my favourite albums, although I still think “A Man Needs A Maid” is execrable. I also listened to “On The Beach” – magnificent.

WRITING

I’ve been doing Nancy Stohlman’s Flash Nano (https://nancystohlman.com/flashnano/) Here’s one I wrote this week. It’s pretty much a first draft so be kind if you comment.

THE LOSS

WITNESS STATEMENT

It was a normal Sunday morning. Me and my son, Michael, were going to see my Mum and Dad. They live over Wyckham. It had rained all day Saturday but it was a nice morning. The steps up the slope were wet and I remember telling Mikey to take care. “It could be slippy,” I said. Well, we got about half way and he asked it we could have a go on the swing. He explained that some bigger boys had made a rope swing and put a kind of trapeze seat on it. Well, that’s when we found her, dangling. At first I thought a plastic bag had blown into the branches. It was a wild nigh last night. But as we got nearer I realised it was a person having from the tree and they’d used the rope from the swing. It was that blue, nylon rope. I told Mikey to stay away and I stepped forward. She was dripping wet and I thought she must have been there quite a while because it hadn’t rained all morning. In fact the sun was out. But I couldn’t see her face. Her hair had fallen like a curtain. I thought of getting her down but there was no point. There’s a tumble down wall nearby so I suppose she must have jumped off that. Well, what could I do? “Mikey,” I said. “Run to grandma’s and tell her to phone the police. Tell them I’m at the top of Wyckham Slopes and there’s been an accident.” Off he went. They live in School Lane. It’s about quarter of a mile from where we found her. I stayed to keep people away. Especially kids. Don’t want them twittering about something like that do you?

EFFECTS

They sit on our sofa and say there is no evidence of foul play.
“We have no doubt she took her own life,” the woman says.
Your mum’s hand covers her mouth, your Dad’s arm soothes her shoulders.
You stand dumb, stilled by helplessness.
They had found her, dangling. As he spoke you imagined the scene: the sycamore with the sturdy, creaking branch; the taut rope; a drop of rain on the palm of your hand. Her hair hanging down. Her weary arms by her sides. Her feet pointing at the ground. But she is no twirling propeller sycamore seed. She is an odd fruit hanging on a limb. Her hair curtains her eyes, her face shaded from Sunday morning. She’d been gone since Friday.
And she’s wearing your Penn State sweater and her pendant is stuck to her, the locket right above her heart.
And there’s the note, damp, crumpled in her fist.


WHEN I WAS HID— -OU KNEW WHERE TO FIND ME WH— I WAS AND YOU KN– — TOO. YOU —W ME B-TTER THAN I KNOW WHAT I –. I DON’T WAN- -O BE WHO I TH–K I M–HT BE. SOM–IMES I N-ED TO BE — – -ANTED YOU AND ME TO SWAP –ACES SOMETIMES I WISH THAT FOR JUST A MOMENT I COULD BE YOU AND SEE ME SO I COULD SEE MYSELF AS YOU SEE ME. — –w I NEED THAT AS YOU — ME THAT’S WHY I

Her handwriting smudged with pain and rain.
You bluster from the room and storm into the kitchen. Before you get outside you pick up a glass from the table. You hurl it at the wall.
You walk, run, walk. You pass the school your eyes blurring. Then you’re at the foot of Wyckham Slopes and climbing – run, walk, run – climbing to the tree you know. There is nothing. No sign. Only you making the story the true story with a possible lie at the end. And you kick the wall. And you kick it again. And you lift a stone and fling it and watch it bounce and roll down hill. Then you roar your rage away.
“Take me,” you shout to no one in particular. “Make me right.”

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