A Woman’s Work Is Never Done

Wednesday 20th June

That’s why a Man has to finish it

Hahaha….And in great danger of being crucified by the fairer sex I will expand my theory.   Having lived with four or five specimens of womanhood, which I admit is by no means a comprehensive sample, I have discovered certain traits of behaviour common to them.  Namely that identifying a task (more often one for their partner than themselves) they do rather bang on about it, stating their intention time and again to do it.  They usually start some days later – as if repeating the thing is akin to actually doing it.  Likewise, at work they are very fond of having a meeting to decide to do something, often detailing at tedious length the requirements – but come next week’s meeting (why are we having this, I enquire – oh yes, to report on fact that the agreed task remains uncompleted), and it is immediately added to next week’s agenda.

And when a task is begun it is rarely actually finished…”I’ll just leave that till tomorrow”  or, “Well, I have made a start” we hear all too often.  If gardening there is no more dangerous sight than a woman with secateurs in her hands, as a large pile of thorny cuttings is strewn on the path and lawn – but, who is left to clear them up and bag and dispose of them (which takes longer than the pruning ever did).  Yes, you guessed correctly…and to put away the secateurs left in the rain too.  Ironing, if ever attempted, is another rarely completed task – about the half the ironing pile will be neatly folded (for someone else to put away) while the ironing basket is rapidly shuffled (still half-full) out of sight. (one partner used to have the whole bed in the spare bedroom as her ironing pile, simply rummaging each morning to drag out a skirt and blouse to iron before work…)

Not that we men really mind finishing off jobs, though always being the one to empty the dishwasher when the last plate has been used does get a bit annoying.

But, for all their minor faults, we men do love you women – even if only because it gives us a chance to moan about you….hahaha

 

The Anticlimax of it All

Friday 15th June

Brexit has been, and still promises to be, a tortuous process.  And yet it still rumbles on, blundering blindly across the Political Landscape, apparently unstoppable and yet still deliberately uncertain of its path.  Sometimes it seems as if nothing will stop it rolling right off the cliff-edge, at others it appears to be slowing and approaching at least a manageable path.  And yet, still it rumbles on.

And of course, will continue to trundle for many years to come, long past the actual Brexit Date, way further than the transition period, and will be used as justification or recrimination for a generation to come.

Last week was supposed to have been one of those weeks when the course of Brexit might possibly be altered; when at last some sense might have been injected into the negotiations.  And my, what negotiations we are having.  Ostensibly the real negotiation is supposed to be happening in Brussels between David Davis and Michel Barnier, and teams of advisors too.  But there is little discussion going on at the moment, in fact there is a deafening silence roaring across the channel interspersed only by the constant ticking of the clock.  As far as anyone can tell they are still refining and re-defining (and wining and dining no doubt) the (sort of) agreement they reached back in December of last year.  Now that had taken nine months of tedious argument and obfuscation only for Theresa May to agree to almost everything the EU demanded.  But since then backsliding has been the modus operandi, and we are no further forward.  By far the most important part of the whole discussion is our future trading relationship with Europe.   And we still do not know what that will be, or even what our Government wants it to be.  Except the impossible quest of no barriers and yet no Customs Union either. Dream on.

But the real negotiation is within the Tory Party itself, and of course within the Cabinet.  Last week before the ‘crucial votes’ we had the unedifying spectacle of the Prime Minister begging three Brexiteer Cabinet Ministers not to resign, followed a day later by her promising rebel Remain Tories that she was listening and would accommodate their views into the negotiations as well.  These last ditch attempts to stave off her own demise have simply kicked the can further down a road we still have no idea where it is heading.

And there is a sense of anti-climax; will this wretched process ever be resolved?  We are like the Grand Old Duke’s foot-soldiers, constantly being marched up the hill only to stumble bewildered down as the cannons continue to roar, nobody sure who is winning – only the death-knell boom of a ticking clock resounding ever louder…

 

My Record Collection 27

Monday 11th June

The Beatles – continued

Well, 1969 was a pretty crazy time for The Beatles.  Their hastily created company (to replace Brian) Apple was in chaos, as they were really.  Desperate to get the band (which had stopped touring two years earlier) active, Paul suggested a film of them rehearsing their next album, with the idea of a concert at the end.  But the film only served to expose their bickering and differences, with George even walking out at one point.  The film eventually came out but the songs recorded in a different studio and with, (John’s choice) Phil Spector, in the producer’s chair became the album Let It Be.  This was released in 1970 after the band had actually broken up, so I am reviewing it in this order.  It was in fact the first album of theirs I actually bought, begging and borrowing and taping some of their earlier records.  When I finally got a record deck of my own (after a few disasters, the birth of my son and my marriage breaking up) this was one of my first purchases.  Then I worked backwards. Anyway the record is quite good; the songs are good anyway.  Paul had the classic title songs and ‘The Long and Winding Road’, George wrote ‘For You Blue’ and John had ‘Across the Universe’.  But listening now it still feels unfinished somehow.  Paul apparently hated Spector’s production, and one cannot help but wonder what it would have sounded like if George Martin had produced it.  But anyway, it is what it is. My favourite bit is John saying ‘And I hope we passed the audition’ right at the end.’  12 songs and only 35 minutes long.  Many years later Paul arranged for the album to be re-produced (see Let It Be Naked later).

Abbey Road was recorded in 1969, the last record they would record together.  It came out before Let it be because nobody was really happy with either the film or that album.  It was a return to brilliance, not that they had ever strayed that far away.  It is many fans favourite.  I do like it, but am slightly embaressed by ‘Maxwell’ and ‘Octopus’.  It is side 2 that was the gem.  After the brilliant George composition ‘Here Come The Sun’. we have a few short songs, some mere snippets (maybe left over from the White album) but they are segued together as almost one continuous song cycle climaxing with the superb ‘Golden Slumbers’.  The two codas, (if you can have two) ‘The End’ and ‘Her Majesty’ made many think that they knew this would be their last record.  But they all later insisted that though the recording had been sporadic and fractious it was only a week before the album’s release that John finally confirmed that he was leaving.  The other three immediately decided to break up the band too.  Mind you at 45 minutes they had exceeded any of their earlier discs.  But in a way this worked to their advantage.  Sometimes you do feel you are wading through albums as they approach 80 minutes in length nowadays.

Abbey Road by The Beatles (2009-09-09)

My Record Collection 26

Thursday 7th June

The Beatles – continued

The film and EP – Magical Mystery Tour came out in late 1967.  But it was a few years later when it became available on an album .  The 1976 album had the film songs on side 1 and five other ‘hits’ on the B side; Hello Goodbye, Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields and All You Need is Love – and the best track on the whole album was originally a B side ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’.   A nice addition to the collection.

Brian, their manager had agreed (before he died) for a Beatles cartoon film to be made.  The Beatles were barely involved at all.  But a great film emerged.  The boys had to write a handful of new songs for the film, and they made a cameo appearance in it.  The album of the Soundtrack came out in 1968.  Yellow Submarine (39 minutes)– the album opened with the title song from Revolver.  The new songs are great – ‘Only a Northern Song’, ‘the snippet ‘All Together Now’, ‘Hey Bulldog’ and ‘It’s All Too Much’.  Although maybe hurriedly written, they provide a nice post Pepper coda to their completely psychedelic period.  But turning the album over is the real treasure; George Martin was asked to write some instrumental music for a few of the films sequences.  And he did a brilliant job.  I really love this stuff, but I suspect that many ‘fans’ simply played side 1.  This record actually came out in January 1969 but the songs were written in early ’68 before recording started for another Masterpiece.

In 1999 Yellow Submarine Songtrack was released.  This features ALL the songs in the film.  A nice collection, but most fans like me already had every song on it.  Not that that stopped me buying it of course….hahaha.

But back in real time The Beatles had a problem – how to follow Sgt. Peppper.  It had been so lauded, so feted that it would be almost impossible to duplicate.  So, they didn’t.  Instead they simply gave themselves the space and recording time to produce what I think is one of their best records.  Simply titled The Beatles, it became known as The White Album, a double albumIt seemed that anything goes, and yet in a way they also managed to return to the band they originally were.   There are plenty of rockers; ‘Why Don’t We So It In The Road’, ‘Birthday’ and ‘Back in The USSR’.  There were ballads ‘Mother Nature’s Son’, ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Julia’.  There were weirder songs ‘Glass Onion’ and ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’.  And there were some silly songs which somehow worked too; ‘Ooh Bla Di, Ooh Bla Da’ and ‘Rocky Racoon’.  There was great songs from George – by now at least an equal to John and Paul; ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Piggies’.  And there was Revolution No. 9 of course.  I cannot really say which are my favourite songs, they all seem brilliant, even after all these years.  I think it is probably my very favourite Beatles Album.  But then again when I am listening to one of the others I find I usually like that one best, but if I had to choose…..but then why would you when you can have them all.  A double album and still only 78 minutes long, the length of many CDs these days.

Magical Mystery Tour album artwork

Teachers

Wednesday 6th June

Teachers…we all remember teachers, don’t we?  The Good, the Bad and the downright Useless.  When I had my sole interview (5 minutes max) with a careers advisor, she said “Go to University, get a degree – and if all else fails, you can always become a teacher.”  As if that was simply a fall-back, not an aspiration.  And guess what? Many of my classmates did just that and became teachers.

And teaching is still almost a despised career, it is not what most kids want to be when they grow up.  Maybe, simply because they disliked or fell out with their teachers.  And yet we need good teachers more than ever.  Our children are our future, and we need them to be taught well, not just stuffed full of facts (as we were) or sat in front of a computer screen.

Funnily enough though, despite 13 weeks holiday a year many teachers seem unhappy, they leave the profession in droves and complain of the long hours and the pressures of the job.  In fact, talking to an ex-teacher recently I related a conversation I had heard on LBC a few years ago.  It was a phone-in about teaching and teacher after teacher phoned in complaining how hard the job was.  Then a call came through “I agree with every caller so far.  I used to be a teacher and left for a job in Private Industry – and guess what?  It was just the same, same pressure, same long hours – but only 4 weeks holiday a year.”  To which the ex-teacher I was talking to said “Yes, but we needed 13 weeks off a year.”

To which the answer obviously is “Don’t we ALL.”

Yes, teachers are underappreciated, but rather than despise them for their long holidays we should be fighting foe longer holidays for all of us. Especially with the new revolution in AI and robotics we should all have far more time NOT working.  Three-day week anyone?

My Record Collection 25

Tuesday 5th June

The Beatles – continued

But the real revelation, the turning point proper was their sole 1966 release (unless you count their first Hits Compilation {a collection of Beatles Oldies} which came out in time for the Christmas market and featured a few singles and EP tracks).  REVOLVER.  A clever title and a brilliant cover drawing by Klaus Voorman (who played bass with them in Hamburg all those years ago).  In many ways this is a better record than Sgt. Pepper, which was hailed at the time as the greatest ever.  It starts with a rocker from George ‘Taxman’ – a cynical view of the then very high Supertax in Britain.  Then comes the brilliance of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ from Paul – a departure if ever there was one from the typical love-song.  Next we have John’s fabulous ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ with its heavily echoed vocal and world-weary deliver.  The boys had discovered tape loops, where they kept over taping producing weird sounds that replayed time and again.  And they were expanding not only their minds but their musical palette.  With George Martin’s help they were dabbling their way through the entire orchestra.  But you have to keep coming back to the brilliance of the songs themselves – ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ a remarkably wise ballad; ‘Good Day Sunshine’, which is just so joyful; ‘For No One’, the saddest of songs – and ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ to bring you back up again.  But what about John’s ‘She Said’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’?  They may be drug-influenced, but they are still brilliant forays into the surreal.  All in all, simply a Masterpiece.  And they were still remarkably using the 14 song, 34 minute formula as on their earlier purely ‘POP’ albums.

And then came Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; and nothing would ever be the same again.  I first heard this one Sunday afternoon in ’67, when Kenny Everett played the whole thing on Radio London (I think it was).  I was bowled over… we all were.  No-one had ever heard anything like it.  It was (at the time) revolutionary, a tour de force, a psychedelic dream, a cacophony of sound.  Now, looking back it is (although I know it back to front) a bit dated, a quaint little curiosity of a year when we all went a little bit mad.  The Beatles had stunned us with the single ‘All you Need Is Love’ (not on the album) which they sang live at the beginning of Eurovison.  Then again the sheer brilliance of ‘Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields’ (again not on the album. Where would they go next?  The sky was not even the limit.  But Sgt. Pepper will always remain as THE album of the Summer of Love.  Not a bad song on it – 13 songs and 39 minutes (they were really stretching themselves), and your immediate reaction was to turn the album over and play it again.  Favourite song – all of them really (it is all of  piece) but the stand-out track was ‘A Day In The Life’.  Nothing ever like it before or since.  Incidentally the track ‘She’s Leaving Home’ was a trigger for my leaving home the following year – not that I can blame The Beatles in any way at all.

Revolver album artwork

A Slight Fog

Saturday 2nd June

There was a slight fog up ahead.  The sun, still hidden below the horizon, was barely lightening up the sky as dawn approached.  This wasn’t the usual December fog which blankets the valleys and low-lying fields with dense clouds that lay in drifts almost like snow – but almost a suspicion of a fog, a hazy ghost of a fog, always hundreds of metres ahead but dissolving into clear air as the car approached.  Just as well, I thought, hating those thick rolling clouds which can be so treacherous on my early morning runs into Perigeuex.  As you leave Campsegret the trees surround you like a cloak and you are almost in a tunnel, then as you crest a hill and the windy road twists and turns, especially in this early morning half-light the road can be deceptive at the best of times.  No traffic at all for miles today; too early for the lorries trundling down to Spain, and only a smattering of cars occasionally passing by on their way into Bergerac.

After a couple of kilometres though the road straightens out and you can see it rising and falling up ahead.  The fog had practically disappeared now, the sun peeping over the Eastern horizon, but up ahead there was still a patch on an upward sloping section of the straight road ahead.  Strangely, as I got nearer it seemed just as dense, just as white.  I slipped into a dip and lost sight of it, then as I rounded the next hill, there it was still ahead and just as white, just as dense.  I wondered if it were some sort of optical illusion, a reflection of the bright morning sunshine perhaps.  The nearer I got I expected it to thin out and dissolve, but no; it was still there even at just a hundred metres away, and to my eyes just as dense, just as in-penetrable. I slowed down and stopped maybe twenty metres from the strange gently swirling white mass.  It certainly looked like fog, but almost the densest I had ever seen.  And there had hardly been a trace before; it wasn’t as if this were just a slightly heavier mist hanging in some valley, besides it was half-way up a slight incline.  I sat for a few moments wondering if I should just drive through it.  I had seen no cars coming the other way for some time but assumed the few I had seen earlier must have passed safely through this strange mysterious bank of fog.  I started the engine up again and drove slowly towards it.  Even on the edge it seemed just as thick and I was a bit nervous as the car and I both slipped silently into this shroud-like mystery.

Everything went dark as I became enveloped in this dense white cloud, and silent too; I couldn’t even hear the purr of my Citroen’s engine.  It was the strangest feeling, almost like flying, when you take off and are suddenly wrapped in thick clouds, a surreal feeling comes over you as your senses adjust to this nothingness, then suddenly you burst out and are looking down upon fields of snowy cloud rather than up at them.  In a couple of minutes I was out of the dense foggy cloud and back into sunshine; looking back in the mirror this strange cloud still sat on the road like a fat white toad, squatting, waiting, so surreal – yet only too real.

Well, I thought – how strange.  As I rounded the next hill I looked back but couldn’t see the misty apparition at all; maybe the slope of the hill it was sitting on had obscured it.  When I got to Perigeuex I asked everyone I met for a couple of days if they too had witnessed the strange bank of dense white fog.  But no, nobody had seen it or even heard of it, same with the radio and the local Sud-Ouest, no mention of it at all.  After a couple of days I let it go, and wondered if I had been imagining it anyway – but it had been so dense, so white, and yet dark within, that it had to have been real.

 

Two weeks later and a sunny Sunday morning, I decided to wash the car.  Passing the sponge over the roof I noticed small flakes of red paint in the water.  I looked more closely and there was definitely blistering on the bonnet and the roof.  Very small blisters and the undercoat was bleeding through in a few patches.  Damn, I thought, the car wasn’t that old.  And didn’t they say that cars nowadays will never need a re-spray.  A bit peeved I took it my local garage.

“Acide”, old Antoine declared “You must have sprayed some acid on the car, quite strong too” he said. ”Look here, and here too, the bare steel is showing through”

“No Antoine”, I replied.  “I have not put acid on my car, why would I do that?”

“Maybe someone, some, how you say – Vandale? has sprayed something Corrosif on your car.  But it looks like everywhere.  I am sorry mon ami, but this needs a complete stripping down and re-painting.  Leave it with me and I will get it done in a week or two.”

He kicked the front tyre “This need replacing too, look the tread is almost gone” he walked around the car “Same with all of them.  Didn’t you have new tyres last year?  Must have been a bad batch, I will check.”

Frustrated and quite worried I drove home in the old Renault Antoine let me borrow while he fixed my Citroen.  I was feeling pretty wretched as it was; I’d been suffering a bad dose of diarrhoea, and the headaches I had suffered with as a teenager had returned now in my late fifties.  I went to bed but couldn’t sleep; my skin felt as if it were on fire, I was itching all night.  I rung in sick the next day and took myself off to see Doctor Leonarde.  He said I was rundown; and gave me some ointment for my sore skin.  Complete rest he prescribed.  And I was all too happy to agree.

I took to my bed, which I haven’t left since.  The car is actually a complete write off.  Antoine phoned and said he had resprayed it, but it was still blistering even through the new paint.

 

 

They are taking me in for tests for cancer later today, I have lost two stone in weight and my skin is peeling so badly I am bleeding in several places, I even have blisters bursting through blisters.  So painful.  And my vision is completely blurred; my headache is now a perputual hammering in my brain, I just want to sleep all the time.  I am really quite ill.  I can’t help feeling it must have been that strange bank of white fog.  Maybe it wasn’t fog at all – but what else could it have been?  There are no chemical factories anywhere around and no-one else seems to have even seen it.  Whatever it was, it is the only explanation I can come up with.   Why else would my car have corroded so badly?  Why else would I have been struck down with this sickness so quickly.  Maybe it was just co-incidence, but I don’t really believe in co-incidence.  It is possible I have been carrying this peculiar cancer for a few years and it has only just shown itself – but how do you explain the car; even after a respray the paint is still peeling.  So, what could it have possibly been, that patch of fog?  No-one else has seen it or been affected – a complete mystery.  But more urgent is my constant pain, I really hope they find a cure soon, I cannot take much more of this.

I am almost carried into the ambulance car by the paramedics, I am so weak I can barely walk.  Doctor Leonarde is extremely worried, he has never seen anything quite like it; he doesn’t think it is cancer but wants me to see the Specialists in Perigeuex.

I nod off in the back but wake as the car brakes slightly and I hear the driver mutter in French “What is that just ahead, it looks like a cloud of white fog, but it is such a clear day, how strange.”  The other paramedic says “Ah Emile, it is only a slight fog, nothing to worry about.  Drive on.”

I try to knock on the glass dividing panel to warn them, I raise my arm to the glass.  But I am too weak.  I slump back exhausted. The car drives on and suddenly everything goes dark.  I doze off once more.