Saturday, March 31, 2007

Follow the money!

Another visit to Beirut or Cardiff City Centre.

The destruction continues with machines crawling and digging and evacuating. A mass of action all seemingly disconnected. For an outsider to the building trade there is little sense of order. All the different machines seem to be doing their own thing, but doing it with some degree of intensity. The holes in the ground seem random; no connection between them. Some round, some square, some with metal sides, others just looking like trenches.

In a similar way the trenches in World War One took on a life of their own as they stretched from Belgium to Switzerland. Maps of the time show an amazingly intricate system of interlocking, parallel trenches. The soldiers at the time made up their own domestic names for their surroundings; they even produced newspapers for the trenches. They made what was, to any rational mind, organizational lunacy into something ordinary and (apart from the rats and casual death) cosy.

Of all the bloody conflicts in the twentieth century – and God knows there were enough of them, the First World War has become a symbol of bloody futility. Penguin published a black covered disturbing paperback called “The Twentieth Century Book of the Dead.” This uncomfortable read pointed out that at the point that it was published (and there were some twenty odd years left of that bloody century) over 100 million people had been violently killed in conflict.

World War Two made World War One look like a picnic in terms of human death, but it is the first ‘great’ war which remains the most powerful symbol of man’s stupid inhumanity to man. The men who fought in the battles of World War One often displayed the most amazingly phlegmatic heroism in spite of the battle plans devised by their superior officers which defy belief. In one of Brecht’s plays one of the characters says that he doesn’t like generals who want their men to be heroes because that means that the General’s plans are going to be risky; whereas generals who expect their men to be cowardly are going to devise plans which by their very nature are going to have to be able to be followed by anyone, including the fearful. These plans are more likely to result in fewer fatalities for the PBI.

And what of Cardiff? All the frantic activity centred on the most expensive real estate in the city. Our only ice skating rink demolished; the Central Library demolished; a multi storey car park demolished; a parade of shops demolished; an open air market demolished; a toy superstore demolished; another parade of shops demolished – all so more shops can be built.

To any reasonable observer the destruction and rebuilding seems to bear all the hallmarks of the worse excesses of rampant capitalism and to have none of the conservation intelligence of normal development.

The Futurist architect Antonio Sant’Elia, whose drawings of futuristic cities now seem amazingly prescient, opined that all buildings should be pulled down on a regular basis so that each new generation could present their ideas through architecture and not be held back by the dead hand of tradition! Although I don’t agree with the idea I can see where he is coming from and there is an ideology behind it.

The rebuilding of the centre of Cardiff has no ideology to underpin its actions except for the making of money. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the advent of John Lewis Partnership is a Good Thing, but it’s not an artistic philosophy. And, while a new quality store in Cardiff is attractive, the fact that a six storey replacement for the Central Library is to be built on a Hotel car park by the redevelopers makes one pause and consider the amounts of money that must be sloshing around this project.

It’s at this point that one begins to think about the description of the Generals and the soldiers in World War One: lions led by donkeys. Certain battles, like the various battles of the Somme, seemed to indicate (to observers with ordinary eyesight and reasonable intelligence) that the heroic actions of the soldiers were futile. But, of course the ordinary soldier did not have the perspective to see the Wider Picture. The real tragedy of the First World War was that there was no wider picture. The strategy of the Generals was as brainless and vicious as it seemed to be to the people who died, senselessly on a daily basis. I share, with my Aunt Bet, a hopeless prejudice against Earl (sic.) Douglas Haig – mainly because his battle plans tried to kill her father and my grandfather – and for us he remains the outstanding example of a General who saw his men as ammunition rather than as sentient human beings.

I feel that the redevelopment of Cardiff is being produced with expensive money. I mean that we, as citizens, will benefit from a revivified city centre; extensive new shopping areas; a new state-of-the-art library and lots of other civil goodies.

But, I continue to ask myself, “At what cost?”

I don’t for a moment, compare the planning of the First World War with the planning of the New Cardiff, but I do wonder about the ethos behind the reconstruction of my city.

Who, as is always the question, is paying?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Another dream gone!

Government is ineffective. It’s official. Today gave me proof.

It is a chastening thing to find out that the people who constantly remind us that they are entirely dependent on our good behaviour and who only live to serve have failed us, or rather have given us too many opportunities to fail.

Perhaps it’s our fault. It must be. Our Government strives to bring us perfection from their standpoint of omniscience; and we fail them. We wilfully ignore their thoughtful rules and live our sordid little lives in defiance of their precepts.

On the trip to and from work (luckily not my work, but that’s not important) I counted seventeen people using their mobile phones. Of those eight of them were driving Little White Vans or larger, in one case very much larger. The count of seventeen people does not include two lorry drivers who, in suspiciously quick succession passed me, both of them with heads back drinking the last drops from hefty mugs.

Quite apart from the danger of their activities, I think it is the brazen couldn’t-care-less attitude which they demonstrate that is so infuriating.

Let’s be honest here: who, owning a mobile phone has not used it in a car while driving. I certainly cannot plead total innocence, but in mitigation I would point out that the first time I did it was when I was taking books to Oxfam in St Mary Street and as parking is limited with militant traffic wardens lurking thickly I phoned ahead when I was at the traffic lights by the Castle to let them know I was imminent so they could whisk out and take the books.

The second time was in the notorious traffic jam on my return from Gloucester when just outside Newport all movement stopped. In my defence here I have to say that although I was on a motorway I was stationary with the engine switched off and at my last gasp of patience and just needed to talk to someone to talk to or my boredom would have relieve my boredom!

You see, an admitted transgressor, but more saint like than sinner! And I don’t use my mobile phone in the car. I am therefore pure and have a total right to castigate those people who wilfully defy the law and live lives of total depravity!

All drivers break the law. The driver who maintains that he has never broken the speed limit is a liar – or someone who, by his tedious driving, has forced someone else to break the law by overtaking to get him out of the way!

It’s easy to be hard on those people who do things that don’t attract you. Smoking.

The days are running out for the smokers as they face exclusion from their favourite watering holes and eating places when the new laws come into force. For someone like myself who has never smoked (with any conviction) and hates the smell of cigarette smoke and also hates the health risks that come with passive smoking, it is like a dream come true.

My father, a life long smoker, always told me that, if laws were introduced to ban smoking in public places he would abide by them, but, as there were no laws forbidding him to smoke, he would continue to smoke in public places. I never really understood this attitude. Any more than I understood my mother’s ability to give up smoking for Lent and then start again on Easter Sunday. It took me years to get my mother to give up smoking and I never succeeded with my father. I have no love of cigarettes.

My sense of fulfilled triumph at the banning of cigarettes in public places is tempered by a sympathy for all those addicts who are going to find themselves more and more marginalised in normal society. The government has spent more on information about what is going to happen on the second of April rather than spending a vast sum of money on subsidised help to rid the addicts of their habit. There is nothing worse than walking around town and seeing what looks like groups of spivs smoking at the entrances to their various places of work. Banning smoking in firms and offices and shops is only the start of the long struggle to get rid of smoking for good.

I do look forward to smoke free pubs and public places. I just wonder about the action of the resentful minority and the enthusiasm of enforcement.

I wonder if you can make a citizen’s arrest!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

So far and yet so near

There is, they say, no place like home; or near home. I once drove to Amsterdam (the boat helped), drove around Holland and drove back to Cardiff. During the course of the hundreds of miles that I drove I was only held up once in all the hours that I was on the road – and that was near Newport. The ugly sister ‘city’ that lurks close to Cardiff but always gets blotted out on weather maps by the little square that contains the temperature reading for the premier city in Wales.

I was reminded of this delay when returning from Exmouth today. A clear (if foggy) run down and a clear (if busy) run back right up until, you’ve guessed it: Newport! When it also started to rain! Talk about the pathetic fallacy!

God knows I am not that interested in football. I have had, for personal reasons, to show an interest in a certain Catalan football team beginning with ‘B’; an interest which has grown with time into something approaching mild appreciation. But I have been surprised by the absolute unreasoning fury which has consumed me watching an apparently professional team of full time footballers fail to score against a semi professional part timer team in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona in the first half.

I really do think that it is time for fully developed envy and righteous indignation to take over and fuel the baying for blood which seems to accompany any game by England now. If the coach had a scrap of decency in him he would now, at half time, with the score Andorra O – England O, resign. One is tempted to remind him of Antony after the fiasco of his last battle, and offer him a sword. And as for the players! That over paid bunch of talentless poseurs! I think that each player should be taken to a scrap yard and watch as his favourite car (with wallet, watch, ipod and mobile in the dash) is reduced to a tightly packed cube of metal. The player should then be told to go on a pilgrimage of penitence to the stadium in Israel and in Barcelona dragging his car block behind him while being whipped by WAGs with wet copies of the Sunday Observer.

Who would ever have thought that I could get worked up about a game of kick ball? Anything is possible! At this rate I should try one of the viciously unreadable novels of William Faulkner; perhaps I’ve been wrong all along. And what about Rap music; should I give it another chance? Margaret Thatch . . . no, that’s one reassessment too far. Hell would have to freeze over and I’d have to be passionately involved in the intricacies of mind numbingly tedious American Football for That Woman ever to rank above a retarded amoebae in my pantheon of the interestingly human. If hell, as Sartre wrote, is other people, I wonder who would be on the other two sofas if Thatcher was established on one. My own suggestion to His Infernal Majesty would be Arthur Sargill and the Reverend (?) Doctor (?) Ian Paisley. What a charming trio!

On the positive side today has been marked by a more than acceptable meal with Ingrid in the Devoncourt Hotel in Exmouth. A table by the window with a view of the well tended grounds of the hotel and a clear view of the sparkling sea as well as a tasty meal made for a very pleasant time. I returned to Cardiff with, of course, my soupçon of Geman cooking courtesy if Ingrid. She once made me a poppy seed cake which I ate with wonder and a certain amount of rapidity, and it rapidly become a tradition of my devouring at least two a year supplied by her fair hand. As Ingrid is not particularly well, I have, ever the considerate gentleman, given her due warning that I expect one for my birthday in some months time. She therefore can plan my treat in a more leisurely way. I pointed out to her the possibility of her not making one for me, was not to be entertained. Some traditions must be sustained whatever the struggle there might be.

My green credentials have taken a knock, as the panacea for the multiplicity of electronic gadgets that I acquire – the solar recharger – does not work! I have had to take it back and start all over again in testing its capabilities. God knows what that does to my carbon footprint: futile charging and waste of power; driving to shop to exchange; having to wait for replacement; driving back to collect; old charger sent back to be scrapped; much printing of vouchers, till receipts etc., etc. My attempts to be green have probably destroyed a whole copse of unsustained trees.

My only response is to remember Queen Victoria and say with her, “I will be good!”
The future is a wonderful place, and always out of reach!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A little light is needed!

How satisfying it is to use words as weapons! With the obscenity of a director in banking receiving an annual bonus of £22m it is easy to feel short changed when a misbehaving bank offers you compensation of a tenner.

I wonder what a bank would offer a customer for the sum of £10. I suspect that no ‘service’ from a modern, thrusting, relentless bank would actually have so low a charge. But this sum is deemed sufficient to throw to a mewling customer who has the temerity to request information to explain the seemingly inept actions of its employees.

You can tell that the paragraph above is based on personal experience, can’t you? It’s the barely suppressed rage, expressing itself in vituperative verbosity. With my usual style that is a nice judgement to make! So, I have sent off my missives of . . . – add your own word which alliterates with ‘missives’ and is nasty. The clock is ticking. Having sent off three letters to a Chief Clerk, a Manager and an Area Director, I will be interested to see who, if anyone, responds. And how quickly. And how much. Especially how much!

I would have thought that a brief five lines by a bank as a response to four questions asked by customer shows contempt. If that customer has shown a certain tenacity in demanding a well reasoned and full explanation for apparent mistakes, it would be foolish to dismiss the concerns with meaningless weasel words. But Banks are not bound by the normal concerns of your average Joe. We don’t have bonuses of £22m – which just goes to show how little our concerns should be regarded. One could see a wonderfully circular argument develop here which would delight Joseph Heller!

Enough. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. I will await the replies of my correspondents before dipping my pen in the vitriol of justified outrage.

If your house has an open plan living room which is ‘L’ shaped and lighted by three modern style chandeliers which each have five candle-like light bulbs in them; what is the likelihood, if they are all inserted at the same time and they are all new, of them all stopping at the same time?

Don’t hold your breath. That was not one of those questions like, “How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer? “Bicycle.”

The makers of light bulbs can do what they want to, when you think about it. Who actually times how long their bulbs last? There are sad people in the world; but that sad? And another thing, when do you replace light bulbs? No, no, forget the “bicycle” thing. I mean in real life.

There are some people who replace at once, because they know that they have a supply of the correct wattage bulbs in a location that they are sure of. The rest of the population has a suspicion that they might have some bulbs somewhere, but God alone knows where they might be.

My musings are occasioned by the fact that one of the bulbs in one of the chandeliers has blown and it has not been replaced for two days. Even as I sit here underneath its lack of light, I prefer to write about it rather than replace it. Such a small action, so little inclination to do anything about it.

Perhaps something for tomorrow so that I can complete a task and get the work element of the day over and done with!

It’s a hard life.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Contemplate the smaller things

It is a sad statement of my present predicament that I can get genuinely excited the marketing of a new toilet cleanser by Harpic. I felt a real surge of enthusiasm as I plodded my weary way towards the fresh bread section of Tesco after I had dropped off Toni at work. This ended a spirited ‘conversation’ about the relative badness of our respective countries in their colonial days which had lasted from the bottom of Wentloog Road to the drop off point. I’m not sure what such ill defined discussions do to Toni, but I find myself in need of a mind numbing swim to rid my head of slavers, conquistadores, armies of occupation, defunct treaties, and mind numbing injustices!

You can see why the vision of a newly designed bottle of toilet fluid can have an ameliorating affect. I have always found shopping to be a wonderfully fulfilling experience. Obviously I’m not putting shopping on the same level as that memorable performance of Beethoven’s seventh symphony played in the Colston Hall in Bristol by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart, but it’s well in the frame of satisfying experiences.

I wonder how you would define a ‘satisfying experience’. How does it differ from a good experience or a fun experience or a profound experience?

Just consider, as I often do, the various types of shopping.

1. Shopping Direct: a very slovenly form of shopping where a person has already decided what is needed and goes out and gets just the item.
2. Shopping Educational: otherwise known as the ‘informed meander’ where the shopper visually grazes the commodities which are not part of the shopper’s usual repertoire.
3. Shopping Serendipitous where an unexpected purchase leaps unbidden into your hands
4. Shopping Arid: trapped in an environment where there are what MP’sFC described as ‘itemries’ none of which are of any possible interest to you e.g. car parts. There is a very distinct limit to how far I can look at gasket thingies and pretend that they are symmetrical op art found objects!

And, the making of lists is a lazy form of blog writing, though it does appeal to the dilettante in all of us.

I suppose that ‘satisfying’ would, really, have to be defined in terms of sex and family and friends – this would be the first level of ‘satisfying’ and a little too profound for my flippant take on life today.

I have eaten a square of 85% cocoa by Lindt and I feel very much more serious than I did a few seconds ago, but not serious enough to write more.

So many words; so little inclination to use them.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

How are the mighty fallen!

Seduction. An interesting word, concept and soundscape. It starts with the sibilance of the snake, meanders through long vowels and ends with a modified sibilance and the finality of a smoother consonant after the harshness of the middle ‘k’ sound: an eventful sonic journey.

I am watching a similar journey of seduction exhausting a frail human being sitting opposite me. He struggles to resist but the sensual pull of those insinuating syllables has him in thrall. Resistance, as the Darleks keep informing us, is useless.

So he sits there, his morale depleted, his reserves exhausted, an empty shell of lust, lost in his gargantuan appetite, ever unsatisfied until he be sated with his object of desire.

Which, I might add, isn’t me. No. He has lost his heart to the blandishments of the slim attractiveness of svelte, sleek sophisticated and versatile good looks. How can I complete with the juggernaut-like appeal of the Argos catalogue? Who can resist the Ministry of Sound version of a hi-fi system which has two tower speakers and a four CD player mounted vertically in a third tower? I am sure that the reality will disappoint, but the catalogue picture makes them seem like true objects of desire!

How fatuous to be seduced by mere objects! I spurn such things and stand tall (on a mound composed of digital cameras, ipods, PDA’s, laptops, memory sticks, mobile phones, computers, printers, DS lites, CD players, mp3 players, mini disc players, tape recorders, radios, televisions, DVD players, digital watches, mobile DVD players, remotes, portable telephones, blood pressure monitors, televisions, and other electrical impedimenta!)

It is actually a delight to watch the writings of others as they wrestle with the electronic serpent which is electrical desire. In my mind the statue group, Laocoön and His Sons, for me represents a family (unaccountably nude) struggling against the ensnaring coils of the sinuous lead of the latest must-have electronic device. It goes without saying that they did not escape and succumbed as all (right thinking weak people) do.

Now say that classical art does not have a didactic role in twenty-first century Britain!

Once again listening to the relentlessly depressing news makes one reach for the hemlock. One can tell that films like ‘Casino Royale’ have a definite and measurably dangerous influence on the population of the more, uh, how shall I say, unpredictable states in this rackety old world of ours. They seem to believe that the elegant scenes of psychological personal conflict in the Salle Privée of some exclusive gambling joint can be transferred to the everyday life of dictatorial folk!

And we do have a wonderful assortment of vile leaders who seem to relish gambling for high stakes with human lives.

There is the ever religious homophobic monomaniac Mugabe who seems to be fine with 2,000% inflation, but I suppose his foreign bank accounts make live a little easier for him.

Saddam Hussein had the major disadvantage in vile dictator terms in looking like the embarrassing uncle who did inappropriate things when invited to Christmas dinner and had an absurd moustache.

But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is the real McCoy. He looks like the deeply sinister solitary drinker who has lurked in his murky corner of the pub sipping a single half of stout and speaking to no one. He as such deep set eyes that half his face seems in perpetual shadow and his thin lipped smile is not one to promote confidence. This is the ‘obviously guilty’ character that is playing high stakes solitaire with the lives of British sailors and potentially with great chunks of the world.

I think that these petty dictators of the third world have been learning from the antics of the big boys of the West!

“The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Too little, too late and way too cheap!

After telephone calls too numerous to calculate; the expenditure of amounts of nervous energy too vast to quantify; and fury whose bounds cannot be set, I have finally received the letter from the Rumney branch of HSBC which purports to answer my questions about the inexplicable inability of that bank to open an envelope take out a cheque with a paying in slip and start the process of paying it into their banking system. Having lost my cheque; found it; processed it; not told me; not written; not contacted me; ignored requests for information – in fact, the usual way in which banks treat those lesser sub species known as customers!

After much phoning of First Direct and their trying to contact the Rumney branch of HSBC (and signally failing) and enthusiastically agreeing with me that the level of service in the Rumney branch of HSBC was somewhat beneath contempt I awaited their response with some degree of excited anticipation.

But the Rumney branch of HSBC has responded with a masterpiece of content-less succinctness. I asked them to respond to four questions; they answered in five lines!

The one real piece of information or explanation is contained in the phrase “internal systems.” The mistakes, the delay, the impertinence, the lack of communication: presumably all of these are a direct result of “internal systems.” I wonder what that phrase means? Oh, of course, nothing, nothing at all. I shall treasure that phrase as one of the choicest euphemisms that I have come across for some time. I shall certainly try and use it at the first opportunity.

The Rumney branch of the HSBC had the temerity to inform me tht they had paid £10 into my account as “compensation” however, I think that I will inform them that my “internal systems” do not operate at maximum efficiency with a compensatory amount of anything less than £200! It’s worth a try!

The second stage of the Flowering of the Garden is in progress. An unfortunate side effect of planting, well, plants is that while they do undoubtedly flower they also die. And, instead of dying in colourful and interesting putrescence they die by withering untidily, necessitating deadheading and pruning.

But for the really dedicated Instant Gardener, dying flowers means “buy more live ones.” So we did just that. Venturing down to the Lambies and the garden centre which just happens to have a tank and an armoured vehicle casually situated in the car park. Toni has asked me why these military vehicles might be there, and I did once consider asking the man at the till for some sort of explanation, but then I thought that he might actually tell me some mundane story to justify them and a whole realm of fascinating speculation would be gone for ever. Better speculative ignorance than boring reality.

Every time!

“Children of Men” directed by Alfonso Cuaron has been described by one reviwer as “Un brillante relato cinematográfico ejecutado con maestría, pero sobre todo una sombría visión del futuro que es en realidad una inquietante metáfora del mundo de hoy.” And, frankly, who are you to disagree?

Based on a work by PD James which I haven’t read it was a chilling vision of a world in which fertility in women had ceased some nineteen years previously and the UK being the only state to survive some widespread plague and breakdown of law and order, though at the price of a totalitarian regime reminiscent of wartime Germany or Stalinist Russia.

The length of some of the takes in the film were extraordinary and the action sequences were choreographed with extraordinary precision. The sense of a depressingly anti utopian close future was oppressive and convincing, though close inspection of the plot was not possible, as some important aspects of the narrative thrust of the film were stated rather than explained.

The central concept of the film: that of a uniquely pregnant woman being taken to the ‘safety’ of the ship called appropriately ‘Tomorrow’ is powerful enough to work as a metaphor for the audience without the scaffolding of an exhaustive explanation for some aspects of the story line.

I do not for a moment believe that this film is presented as a realistic prophecy for the near future, but I do think that it raises some provocative questions about nascent attitudes towards immigration in Britain and also it questions the fragility of the systems that we think protect us.
As a minor aspect of the film I was particularly interested in the concept of the Ark for the arts that Britain had in what appeared to be Battersea Power Station. Here the salvaged remnants of Mankind’s artistic heritage were lodged. These included Michaelangelo's 'David' with part of his leg missing (thus giving us our second sculpture counting the RA rondo!) and Picasso's 'Guernica' which graced one wall as the characters had lunch. We were told by the 'curator' that he'd only been able to salvage a few Velasquez from Madrid! An elegant exercise in futility considering the whole of the population of the world was condemned to death, but the curator's modus vivendi was "not thinking about it" - as good a philosophy as any other in the last days.
This film had a positive ending, though the end of PD James' story did not; a similar circumstance to the filming of 'The Birds'. In Du Maurier's story the cataclysm was world wide and unresolved, whereas in the flim the attack of the birds was localised and parochial.

Mankind, as the poet said, cannot stand very much reality.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bond is born (again)

Sometimes one’s value system takes a considerable shock. One has to rally one’s reserves of moral experience to withstand the assault to one’s standing. It takes a certain sort of person to be able to withstand the buffets. It takes character to be able to take on board a new concept and still be able to carry on as if there was nothing wrong, as if the world was the same place as before.

A film that lives up to its hype! You see what I mean! Pretty difficult to comprehend, eh?

After signally failing to see the film in the spacious surround sound of the cinema, we have been waiting impatiently to be disappointed with an overrated piece of junk which certainly wouldn’t be worth the cost of hiring.

But it was! ‘Casino Royale’ directed by Martin Campbell, but rather more importantly screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis proved to be a film worth its hire. The action of the film was competently delivered with some excellent set pieces, especially the chase near the start of the film after the black and white prologue as James Bond earns his double O status. But like The Simpsons, the real pleasure is in the moments of the script which show that someone is actually thinking about an audience who might appreciate irony.

This is a darker film than most of the Bond genre while paying considerable lip service to expected hit-them-hard and blow-them-up scenarios. It makes its own rules (to a certain extent,) and certainly wouldn’t have a place for a gently comical duffer like Q who, in retrospect seems like an extraneous character from another series of films entirely. There is humour throughout this film, but also a concern to develop a reasonably convincing character for what has become little more than a two dimensional comic book character in the other films.

For me the intelligence (sic) of the film was summed up in two instances. The first was when James had won a baddy’s sports car at a card game and as he scooped up the keys with the chips he turned to the unfortunate loser and said something like, “And the valet ticket too!” A nice detail.

The second touch which raises a wry smile is right at the end of the film. What seemed like a failure is turned around by a victorious Bond who then identifies himself, with a cheeky half smile, using the famous line which includes his name, while the background music is the traditional Bond theme. By this point in the film Daniel Craig has more than justified his use of the name and is a worthy successor.

The film is self referential, frequently using using audience knowledge of previous films to make a point. Bond emerging from the sea is a clear reference to 'Dr No' - but with a more feminist, or at least less sexist or inverted sexist take! Bond doesn't order his signature drink but creates an impromtu cocktail. There are numerous in-jokes which stay just this side of irritation.

The film has its longueurs which are more as a result of its determination to fill in some of the character back story than because of poor filming. It is trying to do something which has a little more integrity than the lazier, more spectacular films in the history of Bond. Having said that, the psychological insight we get into this Bond’s character is little more than multiple references to his ego and a little game of i-spy analysis between 007 and the Treasury girl.

The poker game is an extended episode which eschews special effects for real character tension – though the genre does provide some nail biting tension as long distance, high tec. medical help gets James back to the table after he has been poisoned and had his heart stopped: an everyday story of poker folk!

As an exciting Bond film, this is one of the best.

Pity about the song!

Another day another agency and another indication of private enterprise making a fortune off the backs of public institutions. This teacher supply supplier seems to be thriving as I caught a glimpse of scores of people staffing phones and marshalling the army of dyke stoppers to vacant situations! I’m sure that every teacher who enters the portals of this thriving business must kick themselves mentally and wonder why they entered one of the ‘caring’ professions when easier money was to be made by sending in the poor bloody infantry while comfortably ensconced behind the redoubtable fortifications of a telephone!

As my CRB check is being processed and I await my certificate of health I have time to muse over what these agencies might provide for me. I don’t, of course, mean in educational terms, but rather in what extra gadgets I will need to become a modern stop gap. I envisage producing a card based on
‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ by Capote where the iconic character describes herself on her mailbox as “Miss Holiday Golightly, Travelling." She explains this by saying, "Home is where you feel at home, and I'm still looking."

On the same principle I suppose I will have to change the “travelling” to “educating.”

Oh, and the name too!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The wonder of waste!

“We nursery nurses have been put in the same band as the dustbin men.” Listening to the radio and a report about low pay and the equalization of women’s and men’s pay rates, one nursery nurse made this comparison to illustrate her appreciation of the effective demotion she felt she had endured.

The concept of equal pay for equal work is so obvious that it doesn’t merit discussion. The process by which equality is achieved and the perception of workers during the process is much more interesting and problematical.

The nursery nurse had a qualification which she felt was being totally ignored and I’m sure that there is a case to be answered, but I am much more interested in her use of bin men to show the extent of her sense of injustice. It was more revealing when she made the customary denial that she was denigrating bin men in her comparison and also admitted that in the wage band in which she had been put included other ‘professionals’ than bin men.

The nursery nurse seems to share a common view that no job is lower than a refuse collector: by a simple process of association, if you deal with rubbish then you must be rubbish yourself. Surely a false connection which would be angrily dismissed by the police, judges and the rest of the criminal justice system; school teachers; doctors and all the rest of the respected professionals who deal with things that are faulty or downright wrong!

‘Education’, we have been told from its etymological roots, is a ‘drawing out’; a process which seeks to find the knowledge inside a person and let them experience an ownership of the potentiality which already exists within an individual. Although I am not sure about that as a concept, I do like to think that this process is true in some areas. In my first year of teaching in Kettering Boys’ School I vividly remember in the good old days of CSE during one of the talks that had to be given on a pupil chosen subject, one of the boys deciding to give a talk on his father’s chosen field of professional interest: sewerage. He gave a fluent, informed and totally enthralling talk during which I heard more about nematode worms than I had previously heard in my life up to that point. He brought out the fascination of one area of human endeavour which is essential to life and yet ignored by the vast majority of people whose health and wellbeing is totally dependent on the efficient working of the system they choose to ignore.

That was a valuable lesson which has (sometimes) made me ponder on those areas of normal civilized existence that can easily pass you by.

Today, a Thursday is one of those days which encourage such thoughts. It’s a day which contains a little bit of magic for me. It’s bin day.

I have never really got over the simple pleasure of unpleasant, smelly rubbish being put out and, wonder of wonders, it simply disappearing!

Before you start to worry too much; I am perfectly well aware that the rubbish is not magically transformed into roses by the garbage goblins and that its removal is an ordinary human activity with men (usually but not exclusively) and trucks. Everyday, taking Toni to work I pass the entrance to the Lamby Way refuse and recycling depot, and sometimes get stuck behind those stunted electric, left hand drive sweeping machines that issue from the depot like shrunken, conceited milk floats on a preset robotic course ignoring with contempt all other road users.

But I still find it wonderful (in the true sense of the word) that rubbish is picked up and disposed of with the (variable) efficiency of our local collectors on a (at the moment) weekly basis.

Simple pleasures! Don’t ask about the cost!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Some people find hoovering comforting; some people delight in ironing; others are only happy when they are filing. All of these people are, of course, irremediably mad and should be treated with contempt whenever encountered.

Take filing for example; everyone has to do some at some time or other, bringing out the old shoe box or totally unsuitable container packed higgledy-piggledy with documents which would be difficult or impossible to replace. These documents will be packed in a way which, you will be informed, is according to a logical system known only to the box owner and looking completely random to everyone else.

For most people however, there is not such thing as filing; there are merely accumulations of relevant papers in various locations of spectacular inappropriateness. In most houses important documents are found rather like erratic stones left behind after a glacier has melted: surprising outcrops of papers in unlikely places.

I have known people to have their insurance documents, MOT certificate and passports in the kitchen drawer – you know, THAT kitchen drawer which always contains the things like the zest peelers which doesn’t fit anywhere else, so it lurks under the menus for the Chinese and Indian restaurants and is never found until after you wanted to use it, THAT kitchen drawer. Well, I suppose they always knew where to find them.

There are, of course, people who actually possess filing cabinets in their own homes! How can they justify such a confusion of Office and Home: unhealthy and unnatural! Unless, of course, like me, you can justify their use. Of course!

In my present denuded state with all the things that make for civilized living cwtched in Pickford’s I am reduced to one plastic expanding wallet; a rather tasteful ‘Snopake’ document carrier and a few coloured slip cases. More than enough, you might think, for a person who has most of his stuff in store and is no longer engaged in education.

I was amazed at how much paper I had acquired and how much sorting I had to do. It was at this point that a useful confusion of Office and Home came to the fore.

At one time having a stapler in the home was an innovation. Then the computer: I remember when I was teaching in Kettering the advent of the first computer in the school which was a BBC B and regarded with wonder and awe. Now computers have been domesticated and, with their link with home domestic media made them an essential part of the home scene. Computer printers often have the facility to double as photocopiers, so another aspect of Office life finds its way into the home.

But, the most startling item of almost exclusive office use a few years ago which has migrated into the everyday home is the shredder.

I find shredder use invigorating and wonderfully liberating. That sounds somewhat overstated, but it’s true! There is a finality about the shredding of documents that eliminates them from your consciousness. That uneasy feeling that to throw away some bits of paper might turn out to be counter productive and therefore they need to be kept, can be shredded together with the document in a couple of seconds: doubt gone, document gone, mind cleared! Shredders should be available on the National Health!

It is surely only in what used to be East Germany that the cross shredded remains of documents are painstakingly pieced back together again in a doomed attempt to reconstruct the full extent of insane psychotic suspicion which fuelled the bureaucratic backed spying which characterised the old Communist regime. For the rest of humanity, a cross shredded document is, to all intents and purposes, gone.

The advent of the green composting bin in Cardiff encourages the use of a shredder as shredded paper is an acceptable product to add to the garden waste that is the basis for selective refuse collection. So, not only is shredding those stubborn pieces of paper that refuse to be thrown away therapeutic, but it is also an essential part of conservation and a way of reducing ones carbon footprint.

I’ve just been watching the Budget broadcast by Gordon Brown: a terrifying experience!

His ‘jolly face’ complete with ‘friendly smile’ is one of the most chilling things I’ve seen since the last rerun of ‘The Fog’ by Stephen King. Brown smiles as though there is someone off camera frantically grinning to him to indicate what he ought to be doing. And his breathing! He’s a mouth breather; to take a breath he seems to push his lower jaw downwards and slightly outwards and the sides of his mouth from the ends of his mouth convert his lower jaw into a an exact replica of a ventriloquist’s dummy! I feel there is significance in that observation, but I am still searching for it.

The saga of the bank continues and now First Direct has caught the contagion of incompetence which had hitherto been the exclusive property of HSBC Rumney.

The story continues.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Appearances can be deceptive

“Braggadocious!” was the word emblazoned across the crotch of P Diddy as, sunglasses reflecting the flash of a camera and clutching what looked depressingly like a glass of orange juice, he made his way towards the photographer. As the lead article in the Indie ‘Extra’ and sub titled “On the road with Diddy and Snoop” I looked forward to fuelling my detestation of his life style, morals, ideas and, above all, his so-called music. Here was another example of a topic which in actuality I loathed but about which I took a ghoulish delight in reading. Into this category you could include The Princess of Wales, The Dirty Digger, That Woman and Jade Goody. I well remember a Pluto Press (oh, the memory of a left wing publisher!) production about Dianna Princess of Self Publicity which showed her picture on a Heinz 57 varieties can, and which provided a few hours of cheerfully directed detestation towards a fitting target.

Imagine my disappointment at finding nothing in the article which could not have been applied to David Beckham or Elton John or the nasty one from Oasis: money fuelled excess without the absolute, unforgivable vulgarity which would allow a self indulgent wallow in assumed moral rectitude on the part of the patient reader! Snoop smoking hash, being arrested, and then (gosh!) smoking it again the next night doesn’t really cut it for me in the detestation stakes. This is all small beer while Robert Mugabe thrives and is able to demean himself by opening his mouth and articulating his obnoxious Jesuitical (I used the word advisedly) doublethink in the soft gleam from the rich sheen of his exclusive hand made suits.

It is always good to get learning and knowledge out of the way as soon as possible in a well ordered day. This approach characterised my mode of teaching when I adopted the indiscriminate scattering of unconsidered trifles of knowledge in lessons so that pupils could then rest easy in the confidence that they had been touched by a piece of arcane information which they would never use in the normal course of their lives. Given, however, the ubiquitous presence of the quiz show on television, radio and in pub, club, church hall and private gathering, there is always now an odds-on chance that some snippet of unconsciously stored knowledge will crackle its way from the synapses and actually prove itself to be the answer that differentiates.

This occurred for me when I diffidently and conversationally mentioned when someone was trying to describe an exotic island which “looked like a maimed hand” that they were probably referring to Celebes which was now known as Sulawesi.

The trick when saying things like this is to be as casual as possible and give the impression that this is the sort of general knowledge that really is general and known, therefore, by everyone. The way not to do it is to confess that you are an ardent reader of ‘The Nerdy Boy’s Big Bumper Book of Really Interesting Facts‘ and that you can tell them plenty more super things like that as long as they don’t instantly leave the room.

It’s also got something to do with the way that your mind works. Some people remember things like names, important dates, where they parked the car and significant others’ birthdays while others know the colours of the Basque flag; the name of the Muse of Dancing and the names to go with the numbers of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies. These two types are not mutually exclusive, but in reality they do not go together.

There is also the difference in the delight with which information is garnered. For some it is the discovery of a little known Building Society with an interesting ISA for others, like me, it comes with listening to Radio Three in the morning.

I listen to Radio 3 because sometimes the relentlessness of the misery which can come with over indulgence on the ‘Today’ programme is just too much. How much more intellectually bracing is it to be condescended to by superior beings who decide your musical sustenance in the mornings and who introduce Mongolian yurt rattlers throat warbling a version of an early Hadyn quartet as if it were as prosaic as ‘Abide with me’ sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. So obscure is some of the music broadcast by Radio 3 that, when they actually play something that you recognise and can hum, you instantly feel a pang of guilt, as though they are only playing it to make you feel wanted and guilt too because this piece of populist tunefulness has take the place of an exquisite rarity which will now not be played because of your vulgarity!

What Radio 3 played was not, on the face of it, obscure: music from ‘William Tell.’ Everyone knows the overture, or at least The Tune, if not the very long introduction. The length of ‘William Tell’ makes some of Wagner’s operas look like quick frivolities, and you don’t often get the opportunity to hear it in its entirety. The selection on Radio 3 was for the ballet music from the opera. The first few chords did not seem familiar, but the music had a sort of ‘rumpipumpiness’ to it which would ensure that a single listening would brand it onto the memory. I therefore settled back (as much as you can while driving) and prepared to be entertained. A theme emerged and I jolted into a deep memory. A television programme on some remote part of Russia showed a group of workers sitting around drinking vodka and singing words to the tune of “Those were the days, my friend” by Mary Hopkins. It turned out that the song was actually based on an old Russian tune! With the ballet music from ‘William Tell’ it was someone even further back in time that was brought to mind.

The singer was Andy Stewart, and the song was ‘The Scottish Soldier – The Green Hills of Tyrol’ – you can see how Rossini and ‘William Tell’ got into it! To be fair, when I looked up the words the melody was described as Midi Sequenced by Barry Taylor. I don’t know what that means, but at least the music is not being appropriated unscrupulously.

It was a shock, not only to have Andy Steward brought to mind after a quite comfortable number of years, but also to hear something recognisable in what was unknown. A little learning indeed!

My previous comparable shock was when I was downing a pint in The Carpenter’s Arms; that statement in itself shows how long ago that was, as that pub is now the sort of place that I would not enter for a nmber of free pints. There I was (in those days of yore) just about to put the glass to my lips when I stopped in mid potential gulp as the juke box played a top ten song which used the last movement of Sibelius’s fifth symphony as its melody!

It almost sounds like one of those games on “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue” where one contestant has to say something then the next contestant has to say something completely unconnected to it.

Like “bank” and “consideration.”


Monday, March 19, 2007

Lack of generosity?

I want to be fair. I will marshal arguments on both sides. I will be calm.But before this reasonableness, just one little question: Can you name a nation in the civilized world which has its National Library in a place other than its capital city?

Unthinkable isn’t it?

Who would denigrate the importance of the National collection of literature, manuscripts, film, photographs, civil documentation and books and condemn it to an area which is hardly a centre of population? A place which is deliberately, perversely sited so that the majority of the population of the country find it easier to go the National Library of another country rather than its own?

Who would do this?

To answer this I would refer you to a cartoon by that master of the art, J M Staniforth. As I am sure you know Staniforth was the resident cartoonist for The Western Mail in the early years of the twentieth century. He catalogued the various inanities that beset Cardiff and gave his own individualistic take on the subjects.

It was during his time on the paper that the location of the National Library was discussed. His cartoon on the subject showed Dame Cardiff looking askance at a remote region of the country and making a slighting comment about the insanity of locating a national institution in a location in which the vast majority of the population would never see or visit it.

This may be seen as an ungenerous approach when the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth is 100 years old; but it’s a constant source of irritation that the Library is in so remote a position. OK, I know that the placing of a major academic institution as a major adjunct to a fairly remote university gives the whole area a cachet which can only encourage future development, not only of the institution but also of the area in which it is sited.

I also know that the unique holdings of the National Library will make it an essential port of call for some academics wherever it is. But the ‘casual’ non-specific academics of Swansea, Newport and Cardiff are never going to traipse up to Aber rather going to the British Library – the vast majority of the people of Wales are denied the use of their own library because of a political decision of social engineering.

Prejudice can be so refreshing sometimes! (Oh, yes, by the way, Happy Birthday!)

An excellent curry in Dinas Powis with a very interesting selection of cheeses: a rock solid chevre; a subdued blue cheese which was pleasant, but left you wanting a real Stilton; an exotic boursin with nuts and figs and, finally, a cider flavoured, crust covered brie – an exotic selection. Talk about one upmanship!

It was also good to find other members of the select fraternity of Worried House Sellers. Sue and Richard seem to be in the same situation as I find myself: waiting for a “sufficient” buyer. We’re all waiting for that next stage when our worry can go to the next level.

I can’t wait!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Not sure about that!

There is a book with the title of something like, “The World’s Most Boring Postcards” which contain a mind bendingly amazing series of inconsequential scenes which had been dignified with a postcard of their very own.

I have now joined this distinguished company by virtue of a photograph which has been commissioned and sent to Catalonia. It depicts, as you can see, the Clarks shoe outlet in MacArthur Glen. I could just as easily have sent a photograph of Matalan on the Newport Road in Cardiff.

Neither store is marked by its inventive marketing or by its innovative architecture: they are boring, run of the mill stores which sell things.

Their distinction, however, becomes clear when you place a few (or a couple) of shopaholic Catalans in their proximity. Then you see the transformation; suddenly the drab becomes exciting, the ordinary becomes enticing and the available becomes a craving!

Other people’s enthusiasms are fascinating at best and are surely contemptible in the ordinary run of things!

Mark Twain can make the minutiae of a Mississippi paddle steamer interesting; Melville – whaling; Zola - coal mining; Orwell – dish washing: but there are limits.

No one can ever make American Football anything other than what it is: tedious, bombastic, pretentious, overblown, unexciting and corrupt. It’s strange; part of that diatribe was provoked because of America’s inability to appreciate the superiority of real Association Football. I speak as one who is not an enthusiast for Football (though I can recite virtually all of the Barca team) but the superiority of Football above the game the over-padded hulks play is so obvious that it seems almost like arrogant, xenophobic blindness on the part of the Americans not to be able to realise it. Seems? I know not seems my lord!

Teachers spend their time with people who don’t really want to be listening to them and don’t really want to progress in their subjects. I know that there are those students who make the job worthwhile who do share an enthusiasm for the subject in hand, but the majority are ‘pressed’ rather than ‘volunteers’ and that should make us more liberal about the interests of the vast majority of the population who are just not like us. I sometimes think that if I can appreciate that there are people in the world who do not enjoy reading, and then any type of emotional identification is possible!

I have to say that this has not helped me to appreciate rap music any more convincingly. And I feel that it never will.

At last a film which I can truly say that I enjoyed: “Pan’s Labyrinth” a film by Guillermo Del Toro. It was set in Franco’s Spain in 1944 and concerned a young girl and her pregnant mother who were travelling to be with the girl’s new stepfather, a vicious captain in Franco’s fascist forces trying to eradicate a group of guerrilla fighters hiding in the forest. This story of personal and political struggle was intermixed with a magical realist story of the girl being a lost princess of a magical kingdom.

Any account of a Civil War usually points up the extraordinary cruelty which usually characterises such conflicts. This is no exception and some of the almost casual physical viciousness makes for very uneasy watching. The fairy tale elements seem to counterpoint the historical story: the cruel step-parent; the search for a child; loyalty in difficult circumstances; the making of choices; various forms of test; the loss of friends and the conflict of good and evil – all these have their place in both strands of the narrative.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” uses the high emotion which is a natural association with the Spanish Civil War and skilfully weaves a gripping story of moral struggle, perhaps best exemplified by the action of the doctor in giving a fatal injection to the captured revolutionary and then calmly answering the captain expressing his own concept of individual freedom at the cost of his own life.

The whole concept of a civil war invokes images of the family, so the story of the mother/girl/captain irresistibly presents the viewer with an image of the country torn by the divided loyalties and the redefinitions which a civil war inevitably forces on the people affected by the conflict.

At one point the doctor points out that the revolutionaries are involved in a struggle that they cannot win, and we are reminded by this that, historically, he was absolutely right: Franco won, and stayed in power for forty years; evil won.

The film however, is not pessimistic: even though mother and child die – the newborn is saved and will grow up as a denial of everything that his father hoped for him. The magical element of the story also allows the girl to be re united with her mother and to find he long lost father: the family is complete, just as, if you push the analogy; Spain was to find a new identity with the re-establishment of the monarchy and the espousal of democracy.

This is a film which invites interpretation and a solving of the puzzle of what historical or contemporary significance it might possess.

Something to watch again!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Thou living Aton, the beginning of life!

“Never speak ill of gadgets, Algernon: only the lesser breeds without the law who read the instructions do that!” How true Lady Bracknell’s words ring in today’s society. One can only sympathize with her denuded state as she struggled for so many years without a capacious handbag in which to keep her various pieces of electronic hardware. How is civilized life possible without the vast spaciousness of various storage areas about one’s person to accommodate the essential sinuous impedimenta of normal electronic living?

Consider the normal holiday maker or traveller; what would, say a retired teacher think of taking on holiday for a week? The following is a list of only the most essential, basic electronic products that any self respecting modern traveller would take.

1. A laptop
2. A hand held computer
3. A digital camera
4. A video ipod
5. A set of mini speakers for the ipod
6. A Nintendo Lite
7. A mobile phone
8. A portable DAB radio
[Note: the DAB radio is aspirational rather than an actual possession – but time will tell!]

There was a time, of course, when all that electronic equipment would have needed its own articulated lorry to transport it about the place but now, thanks to the miracles of micro technology the individual elements in the list above are all reasonably portable; apart from the laptop, the rest of the products would barely fill a side pocket on a back pack.

Size of product is no problem for the traveller. But we have a question that in its complexity mirrors the query that perplexed so many medieval theologians. They may have asked, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” The modern question which taxes so many technophiles is, of course, “How do you power all your gadgets?”

The last time I went on holiday half my case was taken up with a writhing mass of power leads and various inert black masses of solid transformers. Then, whenever a gadget ran down I had to search through the knotted skeins of leads and try and solve the Gordian problem and extricate the appropriate lead before finding out that I didn’t have the correct plug.

Electronic companies, as everyone knows, meet in secret conclave to agree a unified approach to ensure that all companies have mutually exclusive adaptors to maximise the inconvenience that miniaturizing gadgets seeks to eliminate.

I have however, confused “their knavish tricks” and managed to decrease my carbon footprint (see earlier blog entry) at the same time. I have purchased another gadget. This might seem to be a paradoxical position to be taking up, but what I have purchased is a portable solar energy charger with, amazingly enough adaptors to power up all my little gadgets: I feel very virtuous! Time, of course, will tell whether the little device (not much bigger than a fat calculator) will be able to charge fully all the devices mentioned above.

Wales has beaten England! Hoorah hooray O frabjous day! We turned over to see Barca play before it became clear whether or not Wales had been awarded the wooden spoon. I suppose that the newspapers tomorrow are going to be full of the “if they had played like this earlier in the season, etc” way of reporting. It was a truly exciting match with an explosive opening when all Welsh expectations must have received a boost with the early score. There was also a horrible sense of déjà vu as the seemingly healthy lead was whittled away! But we confounded sceptics, pundits and expectations and won!

I was particularly impressed by the tribute to Shirley Bassey which characterised the shirts of the Welsh team. The chest area of the Welsh shirts seemed to be gleaming with a tasteful arrangement of what looked like well spaced sequins. How encouraging to note that our national team can draw inspiration for the archetypal old trooper from Monte Carlo and they, of course, “did it their way, and they were what they were!”

Should that have been in quotation marks?

Probably not.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Presume not God to scan!

Just as we are getting used to mild weather and looking forward to an early outbreak of unaccustomed sunshine in the rain drenched land of Wales, God strikes back.

We have been told by the utterly reliable weather forecasters that Winter (note the capitalization) will return with a Vengeance and smite all the flowers that have had the temerity to poke their heads through the loamy mantle of the warm covering of earth which has erstwhile protected them.

Well, obviously not in the case of my garden which, as I have had occasion to mention before, is of the instant colour variety. It follows that the tender blooms which have seen their pampered birth and adolescence in the unutterable luxury of a greenhouse will now have to come to terms with adverse weather directly on their “yet unbruised” petals. Reality is about to hit!

As a sort of pre-memorial to their ‘o so short’ lives I have taken a series of photographs so that they can live on in electronic pixels. Because of the hectoring of Paul Squared, I have taken a picture of some sort of flowering climbing plant in his garden which is now in full bloom and ripe for perishing in the forthcoming frosts. If nothing else their nutrient rich carcases will provide nourishment for the soon to be planted border plants! Nothing goes to waste in my ecological (sic) garden.

Another milestone has been passed in the underlining of the reality of the title of this blog. An offer (a woefully inadequate offer) has been made for the house. Irony or irony, it was the couple (with Mum) who Toni took round the establishment. If they should buy the place I will never (repeat never) be allowed to forget who sold it! Given the necessity of sun, I am prepared to live with burden of constant reminders.

If the potential buyers can come up with the right mortgage then it will be interesting to see how quickly a house can be sold. I have been told that I should allow something like 12 weeks or three months for the necessary paper work to be completed. As I have nothing to buy, I fail to see why it should take so long. Let’s face it the legal profession have been about their business for some time and it would argue a monumental indolence if they had not ensured that in house buying Nothing Is Simple. I am preparing to have my patience tested to the limit.

Next Tuesday is the day appointed for the potential buyers to have their mortgage potential assessed and that is the day, presumably, when I will find out if their financial capabilities are sufficient to match my asking price.

If they are, then all hell breaks loose and Stage II of the winnowing of my possessions will start to loom large in the ‘tareas’ of future weeks!

I look forward to frustrating the necessity of having to take on distasteful work to supplement my dwindling savings; apart of course from anything that the BBC would like to throw my way.

“All right, Mr. De Mille, I'm ready for my close-up.”