That’s me batting. 77 n.o. (4 sixes, 6 fours). That’s Forbes Abercrombie bowling. Right arm over the wicket fast-medium. Teaches. History,  I think. The fielder coming in from cover point is Charlie Sneezum from Zimbabwe, put his lump sum into pigs, lost the lot, married well (financially at least) and now helps his wife run the family chain of florists, roses from Kenya his speciality. The umpire is Chris Lord, lawyer and ladies man, rugby blue from St Andrews. The time is 1530 hrs. Sunday 14 May.
What happened next?
I’ll tell you what happened next.
No sooner (or so it seemed to me) had the ball left Abercrombie’s hand than everything went dark, CLICK, just like that, switched off, The End of the World no longer nigh but now, not just murky dark either but pitch black, jet black, eyeless-in-Gaza,  ace-of-spades, down-a-coal-mine black, black as the paper this  is written on
and silence, sudden absolute silence, as if a hermetically sealed door had firmly shut me out forever from the bright noisy world outside
no light, no sound

then CLICK, back to normal, well not quite normal, sunlight, voices as before, almost back to what it had been before except that my stumps were all awry, Abercrombie and Sneezum were doing high fives, the wicket keeper was picking up the scattered bails, Lord was sharing a joke with my batting partner and I was walking past them, walking back to the pavillion,  irritably playing the shot I probably would have played if
“Well played,” Tom said as he passed me, bat tucked under his arm, fiddling with his gloves.
They applauded me all the way up the steps; I raised my bat to acknowledge their appreciation.
Mrs. Lord was bringing in plates of her neat little triangular sandwiches from the back seat of their quattroporte Maserati, their black labrador padding hopefully at her side.
“Hard luck, ” she said.

Today is August the first.
I am no nearer a solution as to what it was that  happened to me that Sunday afternoon in May when I wasn’t expecting it  but it has never happened again though now I am expecting it all the time.


day 15

This chomping noise woke us up.
I pulled back the tent flap and saw first of all the wild horses then behind them, blue and massive, rising dramatically from the other side of the lake, the blue, jagged peaks of  Els Encantats, the Enchanted Ones.
I breathed in the early morning air,  so  cool and clean and pure.

day 16

On the way down we had to pass through the strangely silent and lifeless  Vall dels  Ocells, the Valley of Birds. The air was humid and brackish. Most of the trees were either dying or dead.  Trapped between the valley’s steep walls was the whiff of something  vaguely unpleasant,  perhaps wood that was old and  wet and decomposing. 
In spite of the valley’s name, the only bird we saw was a sinister and solitary crow.

day 20

We reached the arid plateau above the river just before noon. It was stiflingly hot. We tried to buy some provisions  from the trading folk but I was unable to make myself understood in any of their three languages. They showed not the slightest inclination to trade or communicate with us.
It was a relief to move on. Those flies!


At last – the green trees, the river and the long plain that goes on to the sea. This view sent my childhood rushing back; it at least hasn’t changed, thank the good lord.
We are to be heard of at the Eel Pie House, Twickenham, where we shall dine at half past five or thereabouts and where we will take care of you if you come. E-mail us if you can’t. 



Women doing ordinary things take up gracefully balanced positions…
What are they thinking about?



Woman with teacup, cafe, Dundee, 2012

Vermeer’s woman with milk jug, Amsterdam, 1658

girl with ball, Pontedeume, Galicia, 2006


Brandt’s woman cleaning the doorstep,  Bethnal Green, 1937

What’s silently said

by that tilt of the head?

What’s the point?


but what’s the point of this photograph?
For me there is the point that I went there for a picnic some years ago but without that personal factor the photograph has limited impact.
I fiddle around with it and produce the oil painting effect below which I quite like but which, like its parent photograph, has limited impact.
Similarly with lots of photographs/paintings I fail to see the point – like an unfunny joke.
What then is the factor that makes buyers bid millions against each other to possess a Monet or a Corot?


 if you want my advice
(for what it’s worth)

take your girlfriend down to the sea
and watch her swim
the breast stroke the crawl  the butterfly
how she swims should tell you
all you need to know about her
in the destructive element immerse
and later much later
when to your surprise
she swims out of your life
step once more  into the sea
stare into the water
stare and wonder
what  went wrong
where did you do the wrong thing
not do the required thing
but don’t torment yourself
with what you may have missed
just go through it all again
fail again
fail better


                                  the relentless incoming morning tide

the sea is wild tonight
splintering against rocks
tossing arcs of white spray
high into the air
high into the pale light of the troubled moon

if you have problems
now is the time
throw them overboard
flotsam them
jetsam them
watch the merciless waves carry them away
shaking their fierce fists

then watch them  return
on the relentless  incoming  morning tide
steepled hands pressed flat together
on pallid lips



‘Bad Timing’ is one of Nicholas Roeg’s less successful films (‘Walkabout’ and ‘Don’t Look Now’ being two that made a bigger impact). Below is a drawing of the box office at The Cameo, Edinburgh, where  ‘Bad Timing’  was being shown.

It was one of two films I’d chased around to see, either being too early or too late to catch either of the aforesaid films ( the other was ‘Last Year at Marienbad’ (1961) by I  forget who but a weird and very avant-garde Italian*).

When I did catch up with them, they were disappointing, partly because of the build up of expectations over such a long period and partly because by the time I caught up with them, their moment had passed, or I had moved on, or whatever.

Which led me to think about Bad Timing in real time. Hemingway’s ideal of ‘Grace under Pressure’ as a prime characteristic of bravery came to mind and then the idea of ‘Grace without Pressure’ seemed just as courageous. Acting before you have to. Speaking out when no-one expects you to. In other words, ‘Good Timing’:
Good Timing in saying ‘I love you’ when there is a risk of rejection and not out of a sense of desperation; in giving your son or daughter money before they ask for it;  in general, saying and doing things before you have to and not out of a premature fear of losing someone or something.
Yes, I like the ideal of ‘Good Timing’ as a sort of preemptive (proactive?)   instinct.   Pity about the film though.

*Written by Alain Robbe-Grillet; directed by Alain Resnais, and  French, not Italian



“Please don’t show me ALL of your holiday snaps!” she pleaded when I came back from Turkey.
So I showed her FOUR:


Along the esplanade are exercise machines which are of great use to non-swimming tourists who want to counteract the effect of regular hotel meals and because they are dual-controlled it’s good fun as well as good exercise.

2) TWO BEASTS OF BURDEN.             

I gave the girl some money for taking her picture. She exhibited neither surprise nor gratitude. Why should she? The camel shared her lack of spare vitality.
Stone of Sisyphus sort of existence.
Pretty countryside with a minaret in the background.


This cat sat outside our hotel window as a reminder of oh so many things. People fed it. Most passed it by, gaze averted. Difficult to look at. 


It is easy to escape from the towns into idyllic and nearby places like this oasis but perhaps not for  the girl with the camel.

” Okay..That’s enough, ” she said.” I get the picture……Poor cat!”


In ‘Lord Jim‘  by Joseph Conrad, Jim, a romantic who had always dreamed of fame and recognition, is an officer on board the PATNA, a ship taking Muslims to Mecca.
One night the ship shuddered – as if  it had hit some submerged object – and panic and chaos ensued. Jim found himself at the rails looking down to see the captain and some of the other officers getting into a lifeboat. They made signs for him to join them and before he knew what was happening he found himself in the water beside the boat. He had jumped.

The rest of his life was an attempt to erase, atone for, put behind him this instinctive act of panic/cowardice, this jump from duty, this loss of honour.

It’s a book I’ve read and re-read and found it becoming all too real in the recent  news account of what happened to the cruise liner Costa Concordia off the tiny island of Giglio with characters who might have stepped straight out of Conrad’s pages: – Francesco Schettino, the showboating captain who sailed too close to the island, ran onto rocks then in the confusion that followed abandoned the stricken ship, breaking the moral code that naval officers live by; Gregorio De Falco, the Livorno coastguard, the voice of outraged decency. When Schettino made a belated distress call from the safety of the lifeboat, De Falco told him, “Get back on board for fuck sake! There are already bodies, Schettino. Go!”
And when Schettino said he couldn’t do anything because it was dark and “all the officers are on the rescue boat with me” De Falco asked
Why did you allow them to get off?”

” We abandoned ship, ” Schettino said.
With 100 people still on board you abandoned ship?”  De Falco yelled. “  Vada a bordo, cozzo!”

A year later, 15 April, 2014, close to Jeju island, the SEWOL, a ferry boat carrying 476 passengers, mostly school children on a 4 day field-trip, capsized and sank with the 69 year old captain in his cabin leaving an inexperienced 25 year old 3rd mate at the helm.
The ferryboat  inexplicably made a sudden sharp turn, the cargo shifted and the ship began to tilt.
It took 2 hours to sink and for that period the passengers were urged to stay in their cabins.
Only 2 0f the 40 lifeboats were deployed.
The captain and his crew escaped safely from the sinking ship as did the teachers in charge of the children. Most of the children were not so fortunate.
Later, the captain, under arrest and hidden inside a hooded anorak,  mumbled that he accepted responsibility, that he told passengers to stay put in their cabins because there were no signs of rescue boats and the water was too cold and too full of strong currents for them to survive.
The conduct of the captain was wholly unfathomable…. it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated,” said Ms Park, South Korea’s first woman president
The teacher who organised the trip and who escaped from the sinking ship commited suicide, hanging himself near the school and leaving a note that said  ‘Surviving alone is too painful….I will once again become a teacher in the afterlife for my students whose bodies have not been found.’

Pink Jacket and Orange Cap

                                                             THE PINK JACKET

‘Untitled’ is a title. What does it mean? That the artist couldn’t think of a good enough title? Probably Yes.
So what’s a title for?
It states what the artist regards as the main focus of the picture or places the picture in some significant context: Cadell’s ‘The Orange Blind’ or Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ draws your attention to a focal point in the painting; Picasso’s title ‘Guernica’, on the other hand,  guides the viewer to see the painting in the context of an exact place at an exact time.
The title ‘Sunset’ adds nothing to the painting of a sunset . ‘Sunset Over New York’ at least provides information which may give the painting more meaning to the viewer.

                                        Man with Orange Cap

This title does not mean there is nothing else of importance in the picture but invites the viewer to start viewing at the unusual cap held by the otherwise very soberly dressed man.
On the wall behind him is Cadell’s ‘The Orange Blind’  so perhaps ‘The Orange Cap’ would be a better title for the photograph, providing a verbal as well as a visual link.
On a purely practical level, a title is obviously a handy way of referring to any painting or photograph – eg Picasso’s ‘Guernica”.(What would we make of ‘Guernica’ if it had been untitled? That it was Picasso’s protest against bull-fighting? Or something even darker and deeper? Perhaps the title limits rather than focuses the viewer’s response.)
And signatures.
Should you sign a photograph?
You certainly wouldn’t clutter a painting or a photograph (as above) with a title. So why put a signature on?
To establish copyright ownership?
In general photgraphs aren’t signed. Why sign paintings and not photographs? And if you do, how and where do you sign?
More questions than answers! 

Titles of short stories, novels? Perhaps that needs a separate post.