I am feeling particularly cheerful today and decided it called for another list. It won’t run to 10 points, but I’ll try to keep it going as long as possible.
One, I have a wife. She’s still with me after 30 years. I don’t know how, or why, she puts up with me.
Two, I have a sister who worries about my health and sends me face masks by post.
Three, the kids have grown up and become reasonable human beings. I actually quite like them, which wasn’t always the case when they were teenagers. You have to love them, because it’s what parents do. And you have to feed them because that’s the law. But liking them is a bonus.
Four, Number Two Son, currently still in Canada, rang Julia today to say he’d seen a Cardinal and it was the best bird he’d ever seen. Nice to know he has grown up with a proper set of values.
Five, we have enough food. This wasn’t the case a few months ago, when panic-buying was in full swing. I thought of this because I used the last of the pre-cooked rice I’d bought in case things got worse.
Six, after the Mexican style fried rice I made (which was better than it sounds) we had apple crumble using apples from the Mencap garden.
Seven, we had ice cream with the crumble, which was delicious after a hot, stuffy day.
I could get to eight, but seven seem OK, and scans better in the title, so I’m going to call it a day.
The photos are from an old camera card I rediscovered recently.
This post started life as an attempt at a longer haibun. If you read modern haibun they are very often just a few lines of prose followed by a haiku. It’s not how they used to be, when they were often used for travelogues. Indeed, only about fifteen years ago, haibun, as a form, was originally explained to me as an essay with two or three haiku.
I wrote one. Fourteen years later I wrote another one. It doesn’t do to rush these things.
Recently I felt like having a go at something a bit longer, and thought I might try an autobiography. It earned two rejections, one in its original form and one in a cut down version. To be honest I wasn’t keen on cutting it down, but if an editor suggests trimming the prose I’m going to trim.
The altered version didn’t meet with approval, so I added “loss of integrity” to the sting of double rejection.
I decided that I would use it as a blog post. I have removed the haiku as I can use them later if they are unpublished (and because I struggle to write acceptable haiku). Apart from that, I have just about left it alone – I say “just about” because who can resist the temptation to tinker?
When I posted it, I added the news about my father, which was new since I “finished” the original. Later, I realised I had put in nothing about my mother, so I’m back again (on 6th July) to add more. A poem is never actually finished, you just get to a point where you give up and let it go. I don’t often go back to them, but this one, being an autobiography, just keeps on going. I’m hoping there will be a lot more to add before I consider it finished.
Sisters Don’t Chase Sticks
I am sitting in the garden with a cup of tea, contemplating the neglected door of our coal shed, which now serves as a utility room. A thought enters my freewheeling mind. Could I write my autobiography in haibun form?
Year One – I remember nothing.
Year Two – same again.
This is not, I feel, a promising start.
Year Three – I acquire a dog and a baby sister. I prefer the dog as it is better at fetching sticks. In this golden age there are butterflies the size of my hand and only two sorts of weather – sunshine or snowball time. It is only with hindsight that I recognise it as a golden age.
Year Four – we move into town, the dog is hit by a car and my parents tell me they have arranged for him to live somewhere safe in the country. I start school – they teach me to read and insist I have a nap every afternoon.
Show me the boy, as they say, and I will show you the man – the reading habit is still with me and I still like a nap in the afternoon, despite complaints from my employer.
Year Five – I go fishing for sticklebacks in the canal. Nobody would let a five-year-old fish in a canal on his own these days. We have destroyed childhood as it used to be. It is, however, possible that we have prevented a few drownings and relieved the pressure on the stickleback population.
Some dogs, according to Disney, make their way back home from hundreds of miles away. Mine doesn’t. In fact, when we visit my uncle, where the dog is now living, he pretends not to know me. I like to think this was because of the head injury, but it might just be that he doesn’t like me.
Eventually I give up trying to teach my sister to fetch sticks and lose my interest in sticklebacks.
At the age of 11 I hit my academic peak, coming top of the class, and am given a book as a prize. I opt for a book on birds, an interest which is still with me.
The dog successfully avoids cars for another eighteen years and dies of old age.
Nothing much of note happens for the rest of my life. I find that sisters do have some redeeming features and are, in the end, better than dogs. I accumulate a wife, a family, and arthritis, which I have inherited from my mother. From my father I have inherited a tendency to offer unwanted advice to other road users.
My parents, after sixty years of marriage, get a telegram from the Queen and we have a party. Gradually, my mother fades away.
And so, fifty years after hitting my academic peak I am sitting in the garden thinking of writing an autobiography in haibun form.
I leave this haibun to mature. Six months later the world changes and I spend a my life in lockdown.
My father dies, and we are not allowed to sing at his funeral.
Sorry to mention female underwear, but it seems to have been a feature of this week.
First my sister raised the subject.
She also raised the subject of my comments on Mum’s soup. Just to clarify matters – she was a good cook, and cooked a wide variety of what were seen as adventurous food in the 1970s. Her soup also tasted good. It was just that it didn’t look good.
Anyway, back to brassieres. It seems that they can be quite important to women in Africa, because women with underwear are not only more comfortable but are seen as more likely to have male family members, which frees them from the threat of attack.
You’d think they had enough problems with war, famine and bad water.
There are several charities shipping underwear to Africa, which can include “gently worn” bras. This is one of them.
I have all this on the authority of my sister – please don’t think I sit here thinking about underwear.
It became more of a feature when Julia asked me if I could pick up some bras while I was shopping. Being a well-trained husband I said I would. After all, how difficult can it be?
When is was in my early 20s I once went into Marks & Spencers to buy an underslip as a present. I’m still scarred by the memory. I mean, first you feel like you’re being regarded as a pervert. Then you go snow blind at the amount of nylon. There is only so much underwear you can see before you start staring around in panic. I was helped out by one of the assistants. It was probably not the first time she’d had to help out.
However, I’m older and wiser now, and more a man of the world. I had the size written on a piece of paper, I have done lots of laundry, there was nothing that could go wrong.
Well, apart from some women staring at me like I shouldn’t be there. I confess I panicked.
Next week I will give Julia a lift to the shop and she will buy her own.
Yes, I know many of you will thinking of this clip.
I ordered this by accident just before Christmas – I’d meant to order a set of Jeeves and Wooster books to help me through the horror of the Festive Season but these arrived. It didn’t really matter because deep down I’ve always preferred Blandings to Wooster – the reason I’d ordered the Wooster books was because I thought I needed to to make more of an effort with them.
Anyway, here we are, Blandings Castle, where the sun always shines and the twentieth century seldom intrudes. This is the real deal, for despite my admiration of Timothy Spall, the TV adaptation was a grotesque parody.
You could say that the novel is also something of a parody, but in the hands of Wodehouse it avoids that pitfall and weaves a fresh story out of what is pretty standard Blandings fare. A formidable sister, an American millionaire and that renowned blister Alaric, Duke of Dunstable all conspire to make Lord Emsworth’s life a misery. At that point Gallahad Threepwood, younger brother of Emsworth, and one time member of the Pelican Club, enters the picture.
There are two plots to steal a (fake) painting, a couple of romances (one of which does not run smoothly), two imposters in the castle, an incident with the pig in the night, a certain amount of slapstick and a spot of blackmail. It takes a sure touch to navigate all that to a safe conclusion but yet again Wodehouse manages to dovetail the plot, tie up the loose ends and bring the book (the last of his Blandings novels) safely home.
I bought them to ease the pain of Christmas, but ended up reading several of them in hospital to ease the pain of various unfortunate incidents relating to cameras and tubing. It worked – they were a perfect antidote to my troubles. In fact I can’t see any circumstance that can’t be broghtened by a touch of Blanding therapy.