Friday, March 31, 2006


I have no idea what these are. I know where they are. The sea in the top right hand corner is the Atlantic Ocean, the coast of Spain somewhere south of Huelva. But what are the objects across which the two human shadows fall? I can only assume that they are two dimensional extraterrestrials, barely perceivable to our senses, travelling on semi-visible levitating vehicles (if indeed two dimensional forms need to levitate).
If that is my shadow on the left, then the paler being must have passed through my right leg on its way to the beach, and yet I remember no injury.
As more and more of one's life recedes, such bizarre phenomena stud what passes for memory with increasing frequency.
© Jago

What satire is for

In fencing there is a move called a stop hit. It’s like that Indiana Jones moment when a towering figure in black robes and hood challenges our hero with a complex and terrifying exhibition of swordplay. Indiana watches the flashing blade whistling past his nose with an expression somewhere between irritation and ennui, then he mutters, “Oh, sod it,” takes out his pistol, and shoots the guy in the guts.
That is basically a stop hit. Your sword-fighting opponent performs all sorts of feints, taps, changes of guard, the whole suite of moves ending in a graceful lunge which should put the tip of her épée against your heart. As she’s in mid lunge you stick out your own sword, gracelessly, and stab her in the tripes.
At some point I realised that in disagreements on important points of principle (racism, monarchy, nuclear disarmament were the kind of thing) there was no point at all in trying to put my case by serious argument (I’m talking about canteen-type situations here, not the bosom of the loving family) because you could lead the opposition logical step by logical step, with their complete agreement, to your conclusion, whereupon they’d stare at the ceiling with a vacant eye, then something beautiful and simple would dawn, they’d perk up and say, “Aye, but we need cruise missiles/a monarch/a sense of unquestioned racial superiority (the last not expressed quite in those terms), don’t we?” - the exact proposition they’d started with all those minutes or hours ago.
For a long time I couldn’t understand this. Then I stopped trying. I realised that there was no point in trying to change people’s deeply held beliefs by syllogism or any form of logic. All I could do, and it was much more effective, was try to ridicule, belittle, show an amused, amusing and utterly superior sneering derison for their most cherished convictions, with such sudden, brutal and often obscene rudeness that they were at a loss for words. This meant they didn’t express those views again in my presence - and hopefully felt slightly hesitant and uncomfortable about doing it at all.
This technique was not foolproof. It either didn’t work, or maybe my moral conviction diminished to vanishing point, with very big and violent rugby players. But as a way of advancing peace and respect for all people it sure beat the shit out of rational argument.
And that is the best and maybe only purpose of satire; to humiliate, grotesquify, belittle, make suicidal or mad or otherwise ineffectual, people who have become a curse to humankind.
Satire is not parody, it is not the kind of thing that the satirised could watch with chortling pleasure. They may watch it with complete incomprehension, so skewed are their ideas of themselves, their worth, their place in the world and their effect upon it. But the satirist’s hope should be that even if the victim gets only the slightest inkling of what is being done to them, they will flee screaming into the desert, to emerge months later as harmless saints, or preferably not at all (peace to their bones).
I mention this because I am in a day or two going to say something about the Member of Parliament who represents me, however fractionally, in the House of Commons. She is a Blair Babe, but more in the eponymous film sense, one of the short fat ugly lying ones who would be put at the back of any photo so only the top of her head showed.
Nice people may be shocked by even those perfectly objective, non-satirical observations on her person and character. But she is a politician. A New Labour Politician. She has invariably voted the Blair line.
New Labour has done some good things. I have some experience of the good things New Labour has done in regenerating one of the most disadvantaged parts of the country. But I reckon that those good things have been achieved by a very small fraction of the government. For the rest, which includes most Cabinet Ministers, they need...
...When a caterpillar pupates, it doesn’t just change shape and grow legs and wings, it melts into a primordial soup and from that soup the lineaments of a butterfly and then the butterfly itself emerge.
New Labour needs to be liquidised, reduced to the same primordial soup. The emergence of anything like a butterfly is neither likely nor desirable, we are talking about politicians here. But at least the toxic secretions; the totalitarian tendencies, the contempt for democracy, the stupidity, arrogance, mendacity, staggering incompetence, servility to America, the Hobbesian distrust of liberty, the gated estate of power, all these might be encapsulated, excreted and partially destroyed.
New Labour is long past any engagement in rational argument. They have tipped over a catastrophe fold and they are in their present form irredeemable. Discussion, debate, are no longer options.
Satire will not bring them down, but it will help to soften them up.
I say all this because kind-hearted people do not like to see others hurt. But remember, these are politicians. When they give up the status of politician they will, given time, regain the status of human being, as most politicians do (a few Tories have to be excepted, and Home Secretaries as a class seldom make it). But as politicians, we must question whether they merit the decencies of our species. Satire fodder now. No more.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


OJW eating an icecream on the beach
© Jago

Gone out, back soon

Off to London for a week, grandchildren, the Bauhaus exhibition at the Tate, eat and drink. Have a good weekend

Wood Whale moving over open ground, Farnley Tyas
© Jago

Soul

Further to the guardian, it may be the best newspaper in the world, but the best to read and admire are not necessarily the best to work for.
A time ago I was going though a folder wondering what to do with various odds and sods; one piece that I liked I sent off to the guardian’s Face the Faith column. It is as I wrote it here.
The Face the Faith editor, who told me when he accepted the piece that he was a Catholic, cut the end off the article, ending it on “I go on, somewhere else”; thus altering my meaning to its opposite - a bit cheap, even from one of the devout, and I e-mailed him with a tirade about intellectual dishonesty.
He didn’t reply.

Read the guardian, work for The Times, that's my limited experience.

btw, when I wrote the piece I believed that research had shown religious people, of whatever “Faith”, were happier, richer, better balanced, more content than atheists. This proved to be a myth, without evidence. It now appears that in the hub of civilisation itself, the USA (Blair, Civilisation, 2006), strong and simple religious faith and a belief in the literal and superordinate truth of the Bible correlates with - oh, the kind of things you’d expect I suppose; incest, abortion, homicide.


There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms (Aral and Holmes; Beeghley, Doyle, 2002).

So when I said soul, “fills me with a constrained energy, moral, commercial, artistic, social, that soulless I never had”, that was bollocks. We don’t only feel better off for not being religious. We are.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Dollar Ogo country, winter
© Jago

Gringo Assholes Step Down

Placards for the successful rejection of the North American candidate and the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia.
A message for our own dear Tony too, perhaps.

Monday, March 20, 2006

This is an early 1960s picture, linocut and oils, by Nick Herbert. He lived then with his partner and baby son on the edge of Predannick, above Soapy Cove and Ogo Pons, in a half ruined pair of cottages called Jollytown. It was a tawny, wild, lovely landscape. They seemed to survive on bread and rabbit stew. I think the painting, 16 by 14cms, is the work of, potentially, an artist of note. Last time I saw Nick he was selling violins from a warehouse in London.
Years later, back from Africa, we walked past Jollytown from time to time when we were in Cornwall, but never went to pass the time of day with whoever lived there. I regret that we didn’t. There was an obituary in The Guardian, which I now can’t find, of the tenant, a well known sculptor and an aficionado of bike racing and the Tour de France - we’d have had at least three things to talk about.
Last time we were there the place was being used by environmentalist volunteers. It looked worthy, and unexciting.

The uncertain embers of punditry

The Guardian has gracefully received some top bloggers onto its Comment is Free site. Nosemonkey says:

This, of course, means we must now officially start the chants of "Chicken Yoghurt is a sell out!" and, in a few months' time, start moaning about how "yeah, man, he was, like the shit before he got famous - but now, man, nah... he's lost it", and raving about the next big thing instead... Ho hum, such is life...

It’s not a few months’ time, but anyway.
A context - libraries are good, huh? But there’s the possibility that libraries are not sincere institutions for the free and democratic sharing of all written knowledge. Not at all. Libraries were, from their ancient “mother” in Alexandria onwards, developed to corral and control the anarchic potential of the written word.
The same bipolarity goes for even the best newspapers, because a newspaper is a large public social undertaking, and has to be coherent and in certain dimensions predictable. It will have stockholders, an editorial policy, a hierarchy, reporters, feature writers and columnists, a style guide, a design, advertising, a sales team. It is arguable that in Britain and possibly the world this conglomerate of inputs, intentions and qualities has reached its highest form in The Guardian. Nonetheless, this only makes The Guardian the best newspaper in the world. It does not mean that it is the best source of news and commentary on any given subject ( Marcel Berlins on law, and Matt Seaton on cycling excepted).
Now a blog is, by orders of magnitude, a smaller, simpler kettle of fish. And I’m a typical timewaster in the blog proletariat. I write what I feel like, whether trite or obscure, banal or arcane, and I post pretty photos because the few visitors who drift myblogwards don’t read, they have an attention span of 11 seconds max. (you honourable exceptions, oh ye with the taste and intellect of gods, you know who you are because you are here with me now). Furthermore the design of my blog is crap because, though I’ve changed it a bit from the Blogger template, I haven’t been sufficiently arsed to learn the html to do beautiful things, like for instance the top bit of Chloe’s blog.
But, for all its failings and weaknesses, what it says is mine. I can mix sexual fantasies of the utmost obscenity with pointillist vilification of the Stalinist monster in Guardian colour supplement Welbeing clothing, Anthony Arsehole Blair; I can lie and cheat and swear and satirise, shamelessly mix fact and fiction until all hope of objectivity is lost, and from all this the truth will emerge - not just from me, I mean, from all bloggers - as much or more - more I would say - than from the media, print and broadcast, yes even from the good Guardian itself, with its money and its editorial policy and its style guide and its necessary and overweening self-importance.
And our Premium Division bloggers need to be aware of this. Chicken Yoghurt the blog is brilliant. I go there every day. Compare that with Justin McKeating’s (for Chicken Yoghurt is he) A death in the family .
It seems to me to be the difference between the flair of thought on its first burn, and the uncertain embers of punditry. The reasons for this contrast are clear and structural.
A career structure is emerging in blogging, and that is inevitable. We all recognise the élite, know who the A list are and, if we are honest, we might like to be among them. And a stern warning de bas en haut is never very credible.
I’ll give it nonetheless. Sam Wollaston (yes, The Guardian again) says that those “hundred best” whatever TV programmes, soaps, sitcoms, are known in the trade as “clips’n’cunts shows”. “Clips” are the snippets of “the best actors of all time” or whatever, and “cunts” are the pundits, “the people who yabber on between the clips.”
Blogging is not punditry. We prole bloggers talk largely to ourselves, but in a virtually infinite public arena which shapes our utterances to the way we want to be heard. What we produce is not, on the whole, solipsism. It is a new, mostly hyper-trivial, form of public discourse. It does of course lie along several continua with punditry. One of them is to do with the control exercised by expectations of others. With blogging, the expectation is in the writer’s take on the mind of the chance reader. With punditry, it also has to do with the expectations of the institution, however virtuous, which has graciously received the blogger into its presence. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes: not that I’d refuse them myself, but, unoffered, I recognise them for what they are.

Sunday, March 19, 2006



©The Falstrorm (Avoidance Version) by Phillip Allen, The Approach Gallery.
This is not the Phillip Allen painting I'm talking about, but it gives an idea of the structural elelments.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What art is meant to do

I was in Manchester to see the British Art show 6 but I was distracted by a big oil of a lonesome Pennine landscape with an elephant. It tells this story.

In 1872 a new elephant was needed for Bellevue Zoo. The owner bought Maharajah from a menagerie and the elephant was to travel by train from Edinburgh, but he broke his railway carriage, so he and his keeper Lorenzo had to walk the 200 miles to Manchester. Outside Bolton they came to a gate across the road at a toll booth. Lorenzo got into an argument with the gate keeper about the correct toll for an elephant. Meanwhile Maharajah curled his trunk round the top rail of the gate, lifted it off its hinges, and walked on.
Elephant 1 - Bureaucracy 0.
The true story may be slightly more complex

As for Britart 6, I discovered an exciting painter, Phillip Allen. I can’t find on the web the painting that really grabbed me, Contact and Belief. In the middle ground is a sort of oblique, zig-zagging and three-D scaffold with brightly coloured rectangles, doors or flat blocks (the contacts, I guess), and along the top and bottom big fat swirls of paint, the beliefs, splurging into each other; the orthogonal, hard, bright and saturated; and the spherical, mixed tints and shades, interflowing. Viewed from a greater distance it becomes more three dimensional, the swirls and blobs at the bottom resolving into, bottom left, a space with sitting people maybe, or earth, and the shallower zone of blobs at the top, sky, but with the indication these zones go up and down to infinity and return, a circle of the universe.
Why did I look at this picture for fifteen minutes, and nearly everything else for about five seconds? (I ask myself, to save you the trouble). The five seconds engagement is easier to explain. Susan Sontag on photography: snapping people is a kind of theft. An example from Britart 6, a video of a giant mechanical irrigation sprinkler that looks a bit like a Bionicle, clacking and squirting. It runs for about a minute, then goes back to the beginning, and you think, that really does look like some primitive alien life form. But what the artist has done is to steal that experience, which we all have all the time, it’s part of our brains, of seeing something, a stain on a wall, a shadow, a massive irrigation sprinkler, and turning it for ourselves into something strange. We don’t need an artist for that. So all the artist is doing is academicising the object, appropriating it from the common stock to become his or her “work”. Bollocks to that. It’s whimsical, capricious and cheap.
What the paintings Contact and Belief and Densequalia did to me was, first, engage me in an aesthetic experience, but then communicate something from the painter’s intellect to mine, something recognised and anticipated, otherwise I couldn’t have seen it, but also quite new. What art is meant to do.
Let the spinklers squirt in the fields, and surprise us there.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The death of monsters

Is it Beowulf in reverse? Geoffrey Howe slew Grendel's mother. Have we just seen Jack Dromey tear off Grendel's right arm and hang it above Traitor's Gate?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Good tree in fairy tale (but a little twee)
© Jago

Evil tree in fairy tale - sometimes photoshop is quite good
© Jago

Tree departing in gloomy rage - but it will be back
© Jago

The evil that trees do


Zero tolerance of arboreal presence

It couldn’t have been less like a war zone. It was last Sunday, I was planting five fruit trees on the Village Trust land above the mill pond. There’d been reasoned debate - our side - and shouting and waving of fists - the other side - and the Trust had democratically decided on a management plan for the bit of land to the North of the pond.
The “other side” - of the disagreement, not the pond - are broadly the natives. They do not wholly appreciate that England has become a country with laws and stuff related to the public good. They would like it to be more like the warlords of Afghanistan and the North West Frontier, owning everything, their word the law, their word death.
They want to get rid of what they call, with angry distaste, Nature.
Animus against nature has a reason round here. It’s the most built rural environment in the world. It’s a stony zone. There are dry stone walls everywhere, often along the sides of streams, and mill dams and leats and steps, as well as the mills themselves, all fine masonry.
The enemy of masonry is trees. Trees lift stones, topple walls, alder roots make dams leak, divert goits from mill wheels; and trees start by being saplings. So you have to exterminate trees. Zero tolerance of arboreal presence.
The natives, who still hold this as a chthonic and unquestionable duty, want to cut everything down. Have grass. Or bracken’s all right. They point to the unmanaged scrub down our end of the pond, ash, hawthorn, bramble, oak, alder, willow, twenty different sorts of birds; they gesture and grimace with genuine revulsion.
“Our side” are the offcomers. We like nature. True, some of us offcomers are offensive idiots. One neighbour is a Southerner who considers himself, on what grounds are never clear, to be posh and the natives to be lower than vermin. He has some sort of ADD problem and a moronic laugh. (He also stands around his garden in a tee-shirt in the kind of weather I need to put on a vest, two sweaters, a fleece and thermal hat before I open the back door. This is really annoying).
The offcomers mostly seem to live up this end of the pond, and the natives live down the other end. It was agreed that the other end could cut down all the beech trees and try to turn them back into the beech hedge they had once been. In the middle section where the bracken is we should plant fruit trees, gorse and broom. And our end we should cut down the Leylandii which had been put in about twenty years ago, add more native trees and shrubs, but otherwise leave it as it is.
So I had just put a few plum and apple trees over the wall above the middle section, the bracken, and walked down with my spade to dig the first hole, when one of the fishermen the other side of the pond starts shouting at me.
These are not fishermen in the sense of fishermen from the village I come from. These arrive at the weekend dressed in camouflage gear, they put up a couple of cowshit coloured tents, they rig up two £1500 rods apiece and leave them on stands with electronic bite detectors, they attach a TV aerial to a tree and then they all go inside the tents and do whatever it is men decked in combat gear do together at the weekend in very small tents.
(In summer you get very different sorts of fisherpeople, sitting in the sun, whole families sometimes, they catch fish and throw them back merrily - you are not allowed to keep them. But I’ve never seen these winter men catch a fish. When they are not in the tent they stand and drink beer. I think maybe they are the advance guard a Countryside Alliance coup.
“What the fuck are you fucking doing?” enquires this particular fisherman.
I explain I’m planting fruit trees. To further queries from him I explain that I know it’s not my fucking land, I explain about the Village Trust in my polite and reasoning voice, I piss him off. He enquires whether I could not plant the trees at a time when he and his colleagues were not fishing.
I explain that I couldn’t.
I start to dig my first hole.
A face pops over the wall above to ask me what I’m fucking doing. This is one of the natives.
I explain - the democratic process and all
But this guy is a victim. His house is at the boundary between natives and offcomers. He wants the middle bit, in front of him, which is to be fruit trees gorse and broom, to remain in its present monoculture of bracken. I explain again about democracy. He explains about warlords and seigniorial rights. I explain it’s only fruit trees and they aren’t really going to cut off the light of the sun from his house twenty metres above and make him die of rickets. He brightens. He says, “Oh fruit trees. That’s all right then, we can prune them, and have lots of fruit.”
It seemed a perfect solution. The other grouse of the natives was that this land had at some time in living memory - living memory goes back thee hundred years round here - been allotments, and they wanted to continue where the Enclosure Acts had failed and procure the land for themselves. So his answer meant, if only symbolically, “I can both cut these trees and own their produce”.
A good resolution. He retired.
Unfortunately at that moment another native, a hot-headed lad, drove up and went into the first native’s house with him. They obviously spoke together of their victimhood, because the first native came back more angry than ever - not so much about the fruit trees now, but about the process that had decided that they should be planted.
At this point my neighbour, the wally snob with ADD, turned up to “help” me and add fuel to the ancient seigniorial anger. And a group of camouflaged fisherman had gathered on the far bank and were eyeing us silently.
Luckily just then the tree planting expert turned up, a genuinely pleasant person, the first nice person on site that morning, in jeans and a rain jacket with a woolly hat pulled down to the eyebrows.
This expert had two advantages. The first and greatest was that she was a young woman. My wally ADD neighbour explained to her how the local scum (names? natives don’t have names) were kicking up a fuss, and how the hotheaded native lad would find himself with an asbo or inside if he wasn’t careful.
The expert then revealed her second great advantage. She too was a native, born and bred and resident not a mile away, and indeed had grown up with the hotheaded lad. And indeed rather liked him.
At last we could get on with the tree planting.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Dead of night
© Jago

Dremel

“What you need is a Dremel,” he told me. so I bought a Dremel. It turned out not to be suitable for the purpose (a technical matter involving the toilet cistern suddenly shifting forward two centimetres in the middle of the night - subsidence? ghosts? Nothing else had moved). So I had this Dremel.
A Dremel is a mini power tool that spins at 33,000 rpm - that’s what it says on the side.
When I was about sixteen I took a girl to a dance. This was in Cornwall, and long ago, when lying in bed in the still of the night I could hear the seas round Dollar Ogo and the Devil’s Frying Pan through the wisteria that grew into my open bedroom window.
Dances were held in the Village Institute, and we danced - the girls danced - quicksteps and foxtrots and waltzes. We tended to trudge, which was manly at the time.
I was in love with, and still remember the feel of, the middle of three beautiful farmer’s daughters who lived in the next valley, Poltesco, but that evening I’d met another girl, older than me, in the pub when I’d come back from fishing. She usually went out with navy guys from Culdrose air station, but she was at a loose end and she said we should go to the dance. I went home and I hope bathed or at least washed the fish scales off and dressed up a bit but I only had my black school shoes, so I borrowed a pair of sharp suedes from my stepfather. My feet were two sizes bigger than his. The effects of this were more lasting than I anticipated.
The evening was a steep learning curve. I did not shine, and the girl got engaged to a lieutenant the next week and never looked in my direction again. But I also suffered physically. Life then involved a lot of walking, from my house to her house at Prazegooth then down through the Cove and up the steep hill to Ruan, and all the way back again when the dance was over. By the time I had sorted out my emotions and limped home with bleeding feet (and scratches down my back which were more fascinatingly disturbing but more transient), my right little toe was basically finished, twisted over, mis-aligned, a prisoner beneath the next toe in, and abraded into a corn of amazing durability. The wages of inadequate sin have been with me ever since.
So I suddenly thought, the Dremel. Instead of those industrial emery boards you get in Boots, or a scalpel, I’ll try this miracle of delicate engineering. It worked perfectly. But afterwards my toe really hurt. I hadn’t anticipated that sandpaper applied to dead skin, even lightly, at 33,000 rpm, is going to generate friction and heat; enough to traumatise - on a miniature and delicate scale - the living tissue beneath. It seems that night will be with me for ever.

Saying Goodbye

Loïc wrote this when he was seven. He’s not usually melancholy, though he does sometimes like to stand very still on top of a pedestal or tall tree stump for twenty minutes, like a statue, face distant and immobile even when you try to make him laugh because you’re a bit worried about where he actually is.
He didn’t write the poem for homework or anything, nobody suggested it, he just wrote it.



Saying Goodbye

If I don’t say goodbye, I will
Never see my family again.
I would love to stay, but
I know I can’t because of the war. If I don’t say goodbye
The war would never end because
I didn’t say goodbye. I don’t
Want to say goodbye because I
Know I would have to leave my
Family, good, good, goodbye.

November 2003

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The colour lobsters come with

One of the things they needed, desperately by now, were three cooked lobsters, and the guys on The Apprentice were aerosolising a fishmonger with testosterone charm. “They need to be red,” said Syed, “not green, or the original colour they come with.”
If the onrush of humanity is powered by a symbiosis of the human brain and a lifelike evolutionary form called, rather vaguely, culture, which lives out there in the world and in here in our heads, but can only replicate and mutate deep in the human cranium; then celebrity is the boiling, seething wave front of human culture. Hollywood, Footballers’ Wives (I know there’s a theory that Footballers’ Wives is fiction, but it can’t be, it’s too good for fiction), even The Apprentice, are places where the new stuff is reproducing and mutating (and often dying) at a massive rate. That’s why, so powerful is the cultural current running through these celebrities, so familiar and yet verging on the alien and incomprehensible, that the actual human beings that are the attraction points on the celebrity grid hardly seem to exist as individuals. They seem like beautiful zombies possessed by a trillion electron volt gabble of neo-stuff.
The colour that lobsters come with. A new world, where properties; hue, health, labial hysteresis; can be cut and pasted, rotated, solarised, textured, pixellated, diffused. Not the old one, where lobsters were blue.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sunday afternoon at about four o’clock a man called to ask me questions about my radio-listening habits. I was about to wash the car at the time. It’s a shameful thing to wash a car, especially with proprietary emulsified waxes in a bucket of warm water. The kind of people who wash cars, especially on a Sunday afternoon at around four o’clock, those are the kind of people who walk importantly round supermarkets, one pushing the trolley and the other guiding it with a hand on the side, muttering to each other about brands of instant coffee.
When I was young I would have jumped off a high cliff rather than become the kind of person who might ever wash a car. But we are born, we die, and in between, mostly, we deteriorate. And so we find ourselves measuring a capful of emulsified wax into a bucket and filling it with warm water.
At which point the man turned up with questions about my radio listening habits.
I let him in and gave him a cup of tea because I’m an antisocial bastard who - an admission I’ve never made before because, shit, there’s nothing more interesting than people - finds quite a lot of these people teethgrindingly tedious. And so I overcompensate and try to act as I imagine a friendly and decent person might act.

After what seemed like several centuries he left me with a log which I have to fill in saying where, when and for how long I listened to what on the radio. I can’t really do that because it requires memory, knowing what day it is, and being able to find both the log I’m supposed to be filling in and a ballpoint at the same time - the kind of organising power that if I had it along with my actual talents I’d probably be head of a major corporation or the Army by now. But hopefully before the week is out I’ll remember to sit down with the Guardian guide and fill in all the programmes I approve of and would have listened to had I noticed they were on, and leaving out all the programmes which I did actually listen to because they turned up uninvited while I was stuck in a traffic jam on the ringroad but know are only really listened to by the kind of people who think the Brass Eye on, ostensibly, paedophilia should have been banned and Chris Morris publicly vivisected .
So this guy came in and after the initial questionnaire he finished his tea and started on a seamless monologue of... I listened to the first cubic metre or so, he’d been a joiner, he left that to write a book, he didn’t write a book, the book would have been about rugby league... it was like a limitless grey wall of uniform words where you look for the slightest irregularity, hairline fissure, insertion point where you can get in “OK, but now fuck off.”
I thought, maybe it’s joiners.
Jimmy is a joiner, he did a lot of work for us, was round the house for weeks, and he talked. He’d have his snap at the table, reading our Guardian, and if I tried to tiptoe out of the house behind his back he’d turn just as I’d managed to silently open the back door and say, “What about that Tracy Emin, then? Should she be strung up or what?” before luring me into a debate about the morality, given his devout Irish Catholicism, of marriage between first cousins, especially as it affected the gene pool of his ancestral Castleisland.
So I thought about Jimmy for a bit, and then I thought about the nature of truth. Because Jimmy was swapping our kitchen with our bathroom and he subcontracted a guy who in his estimation looked like a meerkat but was a truly excellent plumber.
He was a crap plumber. He was the most shite plumber possible. Everything he touched leaked, water where nothing else was available, sewer gas if that didn’t take too much effort. “Aye, it’s funny, that,” Jimmy would say, “because he’s a right good plumber.”
“He’s not a good plumber. He’s the worst fucking plumber in the world. It’s not even that he’s a standard cowboy. Look, he was here at half five this morning, wasn’t he?”
“Aye, right enough.”
“And why was he here? Because the whole ground floor was flooded because he hadn’t done up a fucking joint before he left last night - so before he sets off for Penzance or wherever he’s on his daytime contract he had to come here and fix it. Even if he’s aiming at cowboy economics, it’s self-defeating because you know where he lives.”
“Aye, aye, it’s funny that. Because he’s an excellent plumber.”
The received Truth outfaces all things.
In the end I stopped looking for a decent entry point into the radio questionnaire man’s possibly endless concatenation of lifeless words. I just said at an arbitrary point, “Which reminds me, just as you arrived I put a capful of proprietary emulsifed waxes in a bucket which I then filled with warm water. I was about to wash the car. The temperature out there is about +0.5 degrees and the sun is already behind the leafless trees.”
Once I’d got him out the back door he only paused for five minutes to rehearse things he thought I might have missed the first seventeen times around before he was on his way, promising to return next Monday between six and eight in the evening to pick up the questionnaire.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Quince on ice
© Jago

Quince on ice - bomb aimer's view
© Jago

la conexión iberica

El bis bisabuelo del más abajo, ségun Javier Marías*, “fue el General Sir William Napier, autor de la monumental History of the War in the Peninsula, en la que por supuesto tuvo destacada parte y que en nuestro suelo conocemos como Guerra de Independencia... cuando llovió sal, y esparció calaveras.

*Negra espalda del tiempo, Alfaguara

my old man
© Jago

People you never met


My Dad was shot down three times in the first two years of World War 2. Twice he made forced landings, the first in Belgium. He and the crew walked to France, my Dad with a broken ankle. The second time was over the Channel, and they were picked up from their rubber dinghy. The third time was like in the photo. He was 22.