Archive for October, 2009

Supermarket car park

October 8, 2009
Pastel & Charcoal 08 OCT 2009

Pastel & Charcoal 08 OCT 2009

I pay for a handful of items at the supermarket, whizzing through the basket only check-out. I barely have enough to fill the single cloth bag that swings rhythmically at my side, as I stride towards my car. The key is in my right hand. I press a couple of times. Two dull flashes of the indicators, two barely audible clicks, a little pressure on the lock, and the hatchback glides upwards in its balletical gesture. A deft flick of the wrist deposits bag into carpet-lined hold. Two short steps and I have the door handle. Body is turning now, bottom in first, into the drivers seat. I retract the left leg, and then the right, twisting my trunk and leaning into the steering wheel, as right hand completes the drill with a satisfying ‘clunk’ of the closed door. It is warm. Finger on electric window button… szzzzzz. My head turns to the right (remember, we are in the UK) and I orient my nose to the breeze. I gaze upon a vista as commonplace to me as the haywain might have been to John Constable two hundred years ago. I used to bicycle to Flatford back in the 1950s.

I can give you no oil painting and my pastel sketch of the supermarket car park will never hang at the National Gallery in London. I did it for you, my dear blogophiles, so that you could share in this fragmentary moment of my quotidian life. I shall definitely speak to you later and, hopefully, shall draw for you too.


October 7, 2009

This is an autumnal experiment. I am sitting in my garden, looking at a fabulous expanse of clear blue sky, with only the haziest trace of a cotton wool attempting a slow scud from left to right. I am seated on a sun lounger, even though I have chosen a shady spot. The reason for this is that it is difficult to see computer screens in the sun. In fact my notepad screen is barely visible as it is. I think my touch typing skills do help in this regard. Maybe I could come out here and do a blog on Guy Fawkes night and tell you about the pretty fireworks. I might need some fingerless gloves for that. That would be an interesting experiment, too.

Anyway, I have checked my garden thermometer and it is 11 degrees Centigrade. I am wearing: thermal undershirt, cotton shirt, thin woollen cardigan, thick woollen sweater, an old padded gillet, a woolly hat, underpants, jeans, socks and trainers. I am just about warm enough. Five more degrees and I would consider a BBQ but to have one in these conditions might be thought a little eccentric.

Earlier this morning I went for my piano lesson. My teacher was very patient and managed to find something positive to say about my playing as I mangled my way through the exercises that I had been learning this past week. She made a few suggestions for me to try in terms of my vamping technique when I play my internet concerts and I shall think about them later today.

Veg patch full of hope & promise

Veg patch full of hope & promise

When I got home, I came straight out into the garden and planted three rows of onion bulbs in my vegetable patch. I also put down a couple of rows of spinach seeds, since it said on the packet that you could over-winter them. Once they left my hand, they take their Darwinian chances.

I do have a pair of trainers I keep especially for garden work but this morning, in my eagerness to get planting, I was too lazy to put them on. The result was that my general purpose household trainers became caked with mud from the vegetable patch. I then needed to sit down and scrape this off each boot with a knife and a stiff brush. It would have been much better to have changed shoes in the first place. However, the activity sparked a memory of sitting on the stone steps at my junior school, scraping mud off a pair of football boots.

Of all the many, many, many things I hate about my schooldays, playing bloody football comes pretty high on the list. Looking back, I bitterly resent having being forced to run around after an inflated leather ball for what must have amounted to hundreds, if not thousands of hours. It constituted a complete and utter waste of time and opportunity in terms of my childhood development, although I accept that hanging about at square leg or whatever on the cricket field was almost as bad, if not worse. These recollections have put me in a really foul mood. I think I’ll go indoors and play a bit of piano. Speak to you later.

Scampi & chips

October 6, 2009

I had fully intended to get out my sketchpad, yet here I am with my netbook open writing to you yet again, my dear blogophiles. Twice in one day is perhaps a bit excessive, I know. I am sat in the supermarket cafeteria, waiting for today’s special offer of scampi and chips. It is 2.30 p.m. which is, by convention, too late for lunch and way too early for dinner. Indeed, it is too early for afternoon tea, although scampi is hardly the thing for that delightful repast, in any case.

The weather has not improved: rain, rain, and more rain. I munch.  The scampi is rather tasty, and the chips are not too bad. I am eating American style, with fork in the right hand. This enables me to move between keyboard and food without too much hassle.  There is a rather severe looking old man at the next table, with white hair and wrinkles that add oodles of mysterious character. I contemplate getting out the sketch pad, but I rather think he might lurch over to me and give me a whack with his walking stick if start to measure the cut of his jib with my 2B pencil. A woman with the most amazing blonde hair stacked up in an ice-cream cone bouffant glides off in the direction of shopping with a grace that might only be matched by the Queen of Acheron.

I could use some tomato ketchup on these chips but I can’t be bothered to go and get it. Everything seems to come in sachets nowadays. I miss the bottles and dispensers with congealed gunge around the neck. One very good thing about this cafeteria is that there is no musak. However, it is a little cold if you sit by the windows. I therefore chose a seat quite near to the serving counter. The problem with this is that I have the drone of the refrigeration cabinet in my left ear. This is nowhere near as interesting as the sound of a Copenhagen bus that Torben Asp uses in one of his electronic music compositions. In fact it is getting on my nerves.

There is something a tad depressing about this place. It feels as though the aliens have landed and we are the bunch of folks who got fed up with all the government emergency instructions on TV and decided to go out for a quick snack instead of reinforcing our doors and windows with the laser-proof sheeting the council lorries dumped in our driveways last night when the news of the invasion first broke.

The last pea has been speared by my fork and is now en route to my tummy. I am swigging down the remains of the cup of coffee. It is a little cool. I am looking at my shopping list… Razors. You might find that odd for a man with a beard but I need to shave my neck else I start to look like a bit-part actor in a horror movie. Speaking of which, I need to get some garlic, always good for warding off the vampires. Ok. I must get trolleyed up (in England we call a shopping cart a trolly). Speak to you later.


October 6, 2009

Insomnia has me in its grips. I have woken several times through the course of the night. At this minute, I gain some relief from typing to you, my dear blogophiles. It is 05.45 GMT and I have been playing the piano for this last hour. Although the exercises that I have been practicing for my teacher are not too bad, my lesson is first thing tomorrow morning and they are not quite up to scratch. My week is paced by  these keyboard drills. Thursday is full of optimism. Ivories are tickled conscientiously on Friday and Saturday. Perhaps the garden or the supermarket side-tracks me at the weekend. Monday comes and imperfections flag up to me how rapidly Wednesday is approaching.

On a more positive note, and no pun is intended here, I played Lou Reed’s Perfect Day for the first time at my internet gig at the Cup n Spittle, yesterday. Chordage was basic and sparse, timing was terribly elastic, somehow it didn’t matter; it suited the song IMHO.

I can hear the sounds of a door closing, of a light switch being pulled, of pitta-patta  upon my skylight window. I deduce, Watson, two things: firstly that A.N. Other of my family is awake and, secondly, it must be raining. I was tempted to say that it must be raining outside, but given a watertight roof where else could it be raining?

I can feel a craving for a cup of tea coming on. Can you imagine it? Hot and steaming… fingers taking the rich tea biscuit from the saucer… slowly dunking… lifting (careful, now, don’t let it break and grungify your PJs)… open wide… (it’s ok, you are not at the dentist)… and drop it in, sucking off the soft bit cleanly… then back into the cup for a second dunk.

I gave in. I have the tea. It is great!

On Sunday, at Cascadia Harmonics, I played the Nancy Sinatra song Boots. This is not an obvious cover for a male singer. I thought about the lyric and decided that only one word needed to be changed. In the last verse there is a reference to ‘he’ which needs to become ‘she’ in order to secure the gender transformation. In the past I have suffered female infidelity on more than one occasion and no amount of political correctness would inhibit me from singing about it. There are some lovely turns of phrase within the lyric. “You keep lying when you ought to be truthing” is one, “You keep saming when you ought to be a-changing” is another. I’m sure there is a word in linguistics for when a noun is turned into a verb (truthing is an example from the song) but I cannot think what it is at present. Of course, verbing would be a reflexive solution to the problem. There is some discussion of this on the web. See, for example,

It is still raining. I had hoped to go out somewhere and do some sketching later this morning. I suppose I could sit in the car and draw. It feels a bit dismal to do that and you have to keep flicking the windscreen wiper in order to get a clear view of your subject. Although it is very difficult to draw rain convincingly, one advantage of sketching in bad weather is that shadows pose less of a problem to those of us with Cross-Hatch Anxiety (CHA).

An hour has passed. The cup of tea stands empty. It is time to try for more sleep. Should I say ‘Goodnight’? Perhaps ‘Goodmorning’ would be more appropriate. This is a tricky problem. Typically, goodmorning is a salutation, while goodnight is more likely to be said as farewell. Goodnight terminates things. Normally, it is said in the evening at the end of the day. My deviant sleep pattern appears to be messing up my ability to use the English language clearly and effectively. Were I to be a shift worker, the use of goodnight, as the dawn breaks, might be forgiven. But I am not. I feel linguistically disruptive. If grammar and syntax are the chains that bind reader to writer, context provides the weakest link. Speak to you later.

Check-out girl

October 4, 2009

I turn onto the A1 motorway northbound, setting my mental compass for the airport. I find myself slowing to a crawl and trace the snaking queue of cars and lorries into the far distance. The vehicles get progressively smaller as the line winds its way like a calligraphic brush stroke, this way and that, up to the  top of the dark frame that my car windscreen makes (and, through which, I view the world). Time passes… I am now stationary. I left early but the thoughts of coffee and raspberry muffin now begin to fade to the back of my mind; I am trapped in the aftermath of somebody else’s accident. I punch the car radio to the local station and soon hear a description of the massive tailback in which I am embedded. A lorry has toppled in these ferocious winds and spilt its load. Inch by inch I advance. I start to wonder whether I shall reach the airport in time but once I pass the police and the incident vehicle the pace picks up a little.

I park my car and hurry to the arrivals area. I glance at the overhead screen and discover that the plane I am meeting landed 10 minutes ago. I take a pee and then decide that there is no time for a snack at the coffee shop. Disgruntled, I settle for a chocolate bar from the vending machine. She-who-must-not-be-named emerges through the swing doors and I drive home. Her bag did not manage to get itself on the same plane and will be forwarded later.

CheckoutGirl… It is now Sunday morning. I am pushing my cart around the supermarket, throwing in a couple of pizzas and a loaf of bread. This is a light shop, today. I breeze through the tills and sit on a handy chair while I wait for she-who-must-not-be-named. To pass the time, I take my A6 sketch pad out of my pocket and crack open my .05 drawing pen. I look at the girl working at the check-out and quickly get the shape of her head, suggesting the flowing pony tail as I drape a few lines across her shoulder. Less is more. I should have left it very sparse, but it will have to do. It is a 30 second sketch. I feel myself being careful not to stare too hard at the woman, even though that would be better from an artistic standpoint. I have no wish to get into far-fetched explanations of what I am doing with the security guards. I flip my pad shut and move out in convoy with she-who-must-not-be-named to stow the goods into the boot (= trunk in North America) of my car.

Happy with small things, I make a simple sandwich for my lunch and munch on it contendedly. I wash it down with a glass of milk. Still, I must stop writing with my mouth full. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Going to the airport

October 3, 2009

The wind is howling outside; it makes short work of my flimsy plastic garden chairs. I have to go drive to the airport to meet someone on a plane from New York. I hope the turbulence is not too excessive and that there are no delays. Airports are best experienced through the escapism of page-turners and bodice-rippers. I would like to drink some coffee at this moment but I have to make up my mind in terms of delayed gratification. I know that I can get a half-decent cup at the airport and that is an attractive option. It would make waiting more pleasurable than it might otherwise be. However, were I to endulge now the law of diminishing returns might take the edge off the airport coffee experience. The first cup of coffee of the day is always the best, other things being equal.

… I gave in. I made the coffee. It is great. I shall have another one at the airport but I have thought of a way to reduce its significance. I shall treat myself to a raspberry muffin and allow that, not the coffee, to take centre stage. I have imperceptibly slipped into dereliction mode. I should be tidying up the house at this point but I can’t be bothered. I still haven’t planted the onion bulbs that I bought a week ago.

1984 Penguin Edition cover on a coffee mug

1984 Penguin Edition cover on a coffee mug

The image on my coffee mug is that of the cover for the Penguin Books edition of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Society had not quite got there back then but with the acquisition of so many huge flat-screen TV monitors, I think it will not be long. The technology could so easily be adapted for societally malicious purposes. Had the book been entitled 2084 I should be getting worried in about 30 years time, as the reality starts to outstrip the fiction.

I really must do some more drawing and painting. I shall pop a mini sketch pad into my pocket to take out with me now. I must go or I shall miss that plane! Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

I am very tired – have to go to bed now

October 1, 2009

It is 06.00 a.m.

My mother used to stay up all night reading her novels. Now I stay up all night listening to music on Second Life. I like to sample the musicians that play after my midnight and through my night to dawn. Obviously I cannot do that too often. It is strange sometimes when I go to a gig and bump into someone who more usually inhabits the Euro gigtimes. This is not going to be a long blog. I am falling to sleep as I type. Speak to you later