Sunday, 5 April 2020

The Sunday Ishmael - 5/4/2020

(no, nothing to do with coronavirus - mrs ishmael)

  From its construction in August 1961 until its demolition on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall  separated West Germany from the East.

I met some  former East Germans a few years back and whilst they were pleased that they could now easily travel they weren't too impressed by consumerism;  there were now sixty beers available in the stores where once there were a handful, but there was also widespread, visible prostitution and a big upturn in the non-medical use of drugs business; they could buy all sorts of jeans but they were unsure about jobs - they were both university lecturers and worried about tenure and salary and pension in the new market-led world.  Too much choice, they said, too much choice.

Back when I was a retailer I had a customer, sort-of. He was a nice, pleasant man, Phil; single, thirties,  maybe a teacher, lived in one of those Victorian terraces in Harborne; modest and  polite, he had previously bought something from me, so I guess he was a proper  customer, I can't remember what he'd bought, probably a bookcase; he said  he was looking for a  desk, would I ring him if  one came in?

This was in the 'nineties, when everyone, all of a sudden, wanted a desk.  Not sure how that happened, maybe it was the invention of the Executive-style Barrat home, some flimsy, poorly-built breezeblock and plywood shithole with what they grandly called a study area, usually a space under  the oak-effect staircase and somebody who spent his days selling biscuits or windows at a junior management level would discover that he couldn't manage without a home desk to sit at and lecture his wife'n'kids;  this affectation - I think it was before the explosion in desktop PC ownership -  soon spread to - I dunno what you'd call them - people like me, I suppose, slightly educated, pretentious, delusions not of grandeur but of scholarship; the new middle class, people like Phil.  

Desks, anyway, or bureaux, library tables - anything that hinted at studiousness, put one in the shop window and  there'd be a screech of brakes and somebody'd come charging in, saying: That's perfect for my study area, or my library area; one customer, now a professor  of headbanging studies at the University begged me to sell her my proprietor's desk, a huge, old, sloping mahogany railway station clerk's desk, with space for three clerks, on which I wrote invoices; such things I could write, mr ishmael, she simpered, on a desk like that.  It's no good to you, doctor, I said, look, it slopes, your typewriter'd just fall off it.  Oh, yes, where would we be without tradesmen, like you, you're all so practical, she sighed dizzily, like the Edwardian Country Lady she imagined herself to be, even though she lived in fucking Moseley. 

 Desks, anyway, writing tables, that type of furniture didn't hang-around, gathering dust.And so I phoned Phil quite regularly and he'd come in on the Saturday morning.  Over a few months I showed him every type of desk, some simple, utilitarian, some grand and opulent, many in-between, handsome and  practical, pieces that would grace any space, even that one under the stairs. The thing with furniture is that you just need to put something on it -  a vase, a lamp, a book - and it comes to life and people can more easily imagine it in their own staged lifestyle, their own displayed set of informed consumer choices.

I showed him, once, a Victorian mahogany partners desk, it was too expensive;  I showed him a 1940s teachers' desk, the Abess, they were called, they were brilliant, solid oak, kneehole,  all sorts of drawer configurations, tricksy shelves which pulled out from above the top drawer, mine were all restored, as new, maybe better, everything worked, everything shouted Oak!  Teacherly! I sold dozens of them, scores. Phil didn't like the handles.  I showed him oak rolltops, like the sheriff always has, in the Westerns, single-curve D-tops and double-curve S-Tops, some dark,  some blonde and golden,  all with a forest of internal and external drawers, some with a leathered top; sometimes I even had a matching oak swivel chair.  They were great.  I wish I'd kept one for myself. Phil liked them too, it was just that there was an ink stain, which he couldn't live with.  One time he said, It is great but I worry about the rolling mechanism. 'Sokay, Phil, I always have them renewed, look, brand new.  Yeah but that detracts from it, in a way, doesn't it?  Gosh, I showed him, bureaux, bureau-bookcases, secretaires, none of them were quite right.

The desks all sold, anyway, and I didn't begrudge the time spent with Phil the Desk, as he became known. Having an antique furniture shop is like being an adjunct to social services, or Relate, couples'd grow murderous over the choice of a pair of bedside cabinets or an oak Welsh dresser and there were often spouse-war encounters which went nowhere, or took a bit of time.  But I started to think I was conspiring with Phil, agauinst his best interests.  He didn't have a partner and he seemed to be  obsessing  about the perfect desk. One Saturday I had showed him a simple, red walnut, burgundy leather-topped, two-drawer   Victorian writing table, this one here, actually, which I have used for over twenty years and on which I have written everything here.

 Yes, it is nice, simple, a good size, two good long drawers;  said Phil, it's just that, Oh, if only the leather was green.  I had previously shown him several similar, green-leathered writing tables but I let that pass and said to him, instead, not at all unkindly, without any irritation but just in a spirit of curiosity, man-to-man: Sometimes, Phil, it's the quest, the search, which is really important, rather than some eventual know, the Holy Grail, the Lost Chord, sometimes it's just the searching.......?

I never saw him again.  I have never forgotten him, and in our lives Phil the Desk has become shorthand for a malconstruction, a misdirected effort,  a confusion about purpose, window-shopping as reality.

If Phil had wanted a desk he would have bought one of those I had shown him, he just liked looking for a desk. I had shown no irritation or impatience towards him;  I wasn't crass,  but I sometimes wonder if I was indelicate.  That I still struggle with it, twenty years on, makes me uncomfortable.

I was thinking about Phil quite a lot, these past few months, as I have been strugg-a-ling, as we now say, to buy a decent acoustic guitar.  I already have several but they are mediocre, mostly.  Richard Thompson, and he oughta know, once said that one in every  fifty Yamaha F 310's is absolutely brilliant and the rest are just OK.  He's right. I have a brilliant one  bought used and an OK brand-new  one which needs to be corrected in a couple of places and then may play a bit easier but probably sound the same;  the brilliant one plays and sounds beautifully but is just a bit small and a bit toneless.  I also have a Yamaha electric, a Fender-inspired Telecaster which is very highly-praised and well  reviewed but I don't actually play electric guitar.  I wanted a good, six-string  acoustic and I spent months and months searching and researching.  I have never had enough spare money to buy the instrument I would really like - either  the Gibson Dove, the one that Emmylou Heartbreak plays and the Martin D45 are at least  three grand - more for an old one - and you can buy a stonking BMW for three grand.  This time I wanted to spend no more than a thousand pounds.

I started-off cheaply. Gibson Guitars own Epiphone Guitars and license to them the right to copy Gibsons as well as making their own designs. Epihone is a good brand, John and George Beatle played them and Elvis Presley played a big Epiphone acoustic, the woods aren't as expensive as in the Gibson, nor are the tuners, but they are fine and cost  much, much less than the Gibson or its rival, the Martin.

I sent for an Epiphone FT 350 SCE, fitted with  the Gibson-developed Min E Tune system, an on-board tuner which tunes the guitar automatically to any of 18 possible tunings.  I love open tunings - where six strings are tuned to a chord or a chord variation.
It is relatively simple in an open tuning  to play unusual progressions and modalities, creating a drone sound unachievable in conventional tuning and making possible full barre chords with just one finger.  I have developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my left hand and twisting and tweaking guitar tuners hurts like Hell; this Epiphone robo-tune sounded ideal; it was about four hundred quid, the Gibson J45 equivalent costs aover two thousand pounds.

The Epiphone, though, didn't work. It was a nice enough instrument, easy to play and very bright - actually too bright, too poppy - in tone.  I don't have perfect pitch or anything like but I can hear flats and sharps well as anyone and on this Epiphone, bought through Amazon,  whatever chord I chose from the automatic tuner's bank the b and e strings were just a fraction flat and it was impossible to correct them manually.  Drove me fucking mental.  Big Bill Broonzy may have been able to jes' push them strings back into tune as y'play 'em  but I'm not. I sent it back and tried a replacement but that was just as bad. It was disappointing.  I could have improved the tone if only the fucking thing was in tune, but it wasn't and would never be.

I looked at every make of guitar.  Fender make acoustics as well as the ubiquitous Strat- and Telecaster and, God bless them,  they are very good at making solid wood electric guitars but their acoustics are run of the mill, at a coupla hundred pounds.  I looked at Gretsch but I tried one of their twelve strings a while ago and it was a monster to play.  I thought about Takemine but don't like the way they look. I wanted something that looked nice, something, that, even if you'd never seen a guitar, said Quality to you.

I then looked at Martin acoustics but their cheapest model, in solid mahogany at around £800 I had tried a few years ago and it wasn't a patch on my Yamaha F310. I thought it was fucking rubbish. A decent Martin would be around three thousand pounds.

So I looked  at Gibson proper;  they do a a J35 at around £1,300. A reproduction of their 1935 Jumbo acoustic, it looked lovely, absolutely lovely. I'm gonna have a Gibson, I said to myself.

And then I thought, well, these cheapish Yamahas are quite good, I have a Yamaha keyboard which, altough I never touch it, is really very good and Yamaha do make some very highly praised expensive guitars.

At this point, a few weeks into my search, I thought I was coming down with the Phil the Desk syndrome. It's just a fucking guitar,  I briefly thought, any decent brand name'll do. But it wouldn't. The more you learn the more choosy you need to be. Scale length, neck profile, fretboard width, body shape and construction, tuners and most importantly the tonewoods; what is the fucking thing made of and how will it sound, not just how will it play but how will it sound? Different woods have differing tonal properties, generally the acoustic guitar top is made of a softwood, its back and sides  and fretboard of different  hardwoods such as mahogany and rosewood; individually and jointly the timbers produce a characteristic sound; the  woods are dried, cut, steamed into shapes, and glued together with internal braces holding them together - and apart -  against the quite  significant strain of six or twelve tightly wound steel strings trying to pull the whole thing apart. Guitar construction, it really is a jungle out there.


I am a two-time vegetarian, once in my early twenties and now for this past couple of years.  I have always been what others would describe as squeamish,  sentimental about animal welfare, even the phrase sounds pompous, not as pompous as carbon footprint but getting on that way.  Animal welfare, almost a contradiction, seeing as how God, Himself, gave us dominion over them.

As a child I always fled from scenes of animal or insect torture,  the rough boys did it, setting light to little creatures, jeering, pulling their legs off, I hated them then and I hate them now; sadism as bravado, fox-hunting as rural housekeeping.  

One time, in Herefordshire, I was doing a delivery in my van; it was a smart, shiny van and I was relatively smart behind the wheel but as I drove through a small group of horse-borne, dressed-up, braying countryperson arseholes,  they abused me something rotten, imagining that anyone near them in a van must be a hunt saboteur,  they looked fucking evil and I still see their cousins and boyfriends, most days, on the Tory benches,  they all look like animal-torturing rapists, to me, Tory MPs. 

Huntsmen, butchers, slaughtermen, trawlermen, fuck 'em, I don't like them, I don't like what they do, and I especially don't like their relish for it.  Hunting a fox down, dismembering it and daubing its blood on the forehead of a child, fuck that shit; I'd hang the bastards from an ash tree, do the world a favour; it is said in criminal justice circles that in the past of a sadistic serial killer is very often a history of cruelty to animals;  I don't know but I wouldn't be surprised.

I knew a butcher, one time, he was also a small-scale beef farmer, killed his own.  He cooked  the most amazingly tasty roast beef in the back of his shop and sold it by the quarter-pound, sliced on one of those Hobart push-pull slicing machines, thin slices dropping onto a piece of featherlite paper held in the palm of the slicer's hand;  it really was wonderful to eat.  

It's the way you kill 'em, he said, that's wot do it,  them don't need t'be stressed, if them stressed, them all tensed-up, like, as them die, and them don't eat good; what yum gorra do, like, is almost sneak up on 'em, tek 'em by surprise almost, 'n'that way them die peaceful and them eats so much better. That may or may not indicate his less savage disposition but I prefer the thought of my old Worcestershire  butcher to those fucking horrible halal bastard degenerates; the Jews, too, they do it, don't they, and call it kosher.  I guess it stems from old Abraham, getting the knife out around his son's throat. To be fair, though - and who wouldn't want to be fair to Jews and Muslims, it's not as though they are two balls in the same Scrotum of Superstition, are they, now -  all the so-called great civilisations have practiced blood sacrifice, the Celts, the Greeks and the Romans did it on an altar or a cruciform, Uncle Sam does it from the sky and calls it Shock and Awe, Democracy's alias.

Those deep-sea trawlermen, mad bastards, cursing God if one of their nets or cages dare come up less than full-to-bursting with gasping creatures, every time I see one of those shots, with hundreds of fish floundering about gasping, often gutted whilst still alive, every time I see some smug, stupid fishmonger intoning, Look, you can tell they're fresh if their eyes are nice and shiny, I want to fillet the bastard and I care less and less when I hear of some stupid crooked  bastard boat owner's vessel going down with all hands; if they want to work in a  cruelty industry they should stay ashore and work in McDonalds, shouldn't they; probably not intelligent enough, most of them, not the ones I see on the trawler soap opera shows.  No use mournfully telling me about the true cost of fish'n'chips being drownded fishermen, down, down in the deep, I don't eat fish'n'chips.

I used to eat fish'n'chips and even after I stopped eating meat I would still eat a bit of haddock now and again, just for the protein, I told myself, but eventually that flakey fleshiness of a fish corpse made me gag and I can't do it at all, now;  same with eggs, everytime I think about what an egg is - it's a fucking egg - I want to throw up; milk, too;  eating the eggs and milk of other animals, that's proper barrel-scraping.

I don't mean to spoil anyone's dinner; I know how nice can be a leg of lamb or a bacon sandwich, a sirloin steak, pork and apple sauce; it's just not nice to me any more and stopping eating animals is one of the few things  which has made me feel  a tiny bit better about what an arsehole I am otherwise.  It was someone here, mr inmate, maybe, mr the noblest prospect, sorry, I can't quite remember, who said that since he'd stopped eating them he could now look all the animals in the eye.  I live in the country and in the bright months animals are very close to me and I, too,  feel a bit better about that eyeball proximity, not much, but a little bit.

Eating animals  is one thing, wearing them is another. There was a time, Before Textiles, before the bright lights and the big city went to our heads, when we simply had not developed fabric technology - no spinning, no weaving, no knitting and for warmth and eventually for status, we wore animal skins; early sailing vessels utilised  - as windcatchers - animal skins, reeds and tree bark; tents and teepees were also fashioned from skins and tree products.  Before wool, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere, everyone wore a leather jacket and fur boots.

I still have a battered old brown leather bomber jacket, not one actually worn by a bomber crewperson, I could never afford one of those;  the old jacket is just there, I may wear it one day, if the MadMax days ever come. I have tried braces but mostly I wear a black leather police-issue belt around my waist,  the same type for over thirty years. I'm only on my second and the first one is still fine, just that a couple of the holes are stretched, I could probably fix it but  I thought,  fuck it, I can have a new belt after twenty-eight years, can't I?  And these days I can only wear a leather watch strap, the metal ones are too heavy and the silicon ones irritate my skin;  leather, mrs ishmael tells me, breathes. Even with these few animal accoutrements I have  some way to go towards Veganism and PETA membership, which, I suppose, is my logical destination, except  that I can't stand those showbiz fuckers in PETA, or in anything else, really. I do stumble, however, towards a belief that we will never be better towards each other until we start being better towards animals;  torturing dumb bulls to death as entertainment makes it all the easier to deny the black children a drink of water;  fuck the Spaniards, Franco can come back tomorrow, as far as I'm concerned, and  kick their oily arses up and down the plaza


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mrs Ishmael, that's an excellent choice. But what are headbanging studies? Is there an actual department devoted to the midlands birth of heavy rock?


mrs ishmael said...

Why, yes, indeed, mr verge, with the expanshun of edu-cashun the former polytechnics and secondary moderns have been enabled to offer a plethora of courses at Uni to the young, eager to study nail technology and the like. Actually, Head-Banging Studies would probably be an excellent course.
Have Ishmaelites caught the abject humiliation of Scotland's Chief Medical Officer on BBC today? You will probably get only the highlights of the apology in England, but in Scotland we were treated to a blow-by-blow, slice-by-slice live broadcast from Holyrood, of the First Minister hanging the wretched Dr Calderwood out to dry. I wonder if it will catch on? Each evening, some wretch or other will have to publically confess their fault to appease/feed the baying mob.
She hasn't fallen on her sword yet, though but.

frankenvirus - the movie said...

the government has induced in the populace such an inordinate and hysterical terror of the deadly socializing-bug that - in order to limit the controversially mooted possibility of electro-magnetic-radiation-enabled corona-virus-transmission - technologically enlightened folks are now furiously torching 5g-masts - just to be on the safe-side.


...i nearly boshed out all me bog-roll.

this confirms my profound belief that god works in mysterious - yet darkly ironic - ways.

frankenvirus - the movie said...


who said out?

must be viral inflection...

hold the "out".

ultrapox said...

@frankenvirus - the movie

you were probably pondering the suitability of including the term "wiped out", frank - an expression which i consider would have been perfectly appropriate in the circumstances - however, upon reflection, i can see that "bosh" is definitely the word for the job.

i blame your creator, mate - even scientists can make mistakes, you know...

ultrapox said...

during the eighties and early nineties, my parents sometimes drove my nanna up to milton keynes to visit the new shopping-centre, where, by her own admission, and their account, she used to spend a wonderful day out, visiting every shop, trying on all the clothes, perusing the pots and pans, and other kitchenware, hardware, and the range of household items, and so on, and so forth, throwing in a department-store lunch or the like, until at end of the day, when my mother and father were absolutely spent, she would return to her bungalow in the village, totally empty-handed, but quite happy - and i suppose, as a youngster, in the twenties, she did much the same in london, taking a trip up oxford street from her home by the canal, in senior street, paddington, at a time when 'people of her class' cut their coat to suit their cloth; you can get used to a way of life, you know.

mrs ishmael said...

mr ultrapox, there's a lot of satisfaction to be had in a reduced-consumerist way of life, in self-reliance, crafting, making and creating. Your nanna sounds such fun. I love the idea of her roaring her way through a shopping mall and coming away having purchased nothing. There's one of those consumerist temples outside Birmingham, which mr ishmael and I would occasionally visit. Merry Hell, it was called. mr ishmael loved his shopping and bargains, but Merry Hell was an endurance feat. Firstly, there were the carparks. Many of them, all identical, all choked with cars, all involving a good long walk to get into the damned place. Secondly, there were the miles of corridors to be traversed, under artificial light, with terrible background music and no windows, so there was no way of orientating oneself. And finally, there was the coffee. Back when we used to go there, the profession of barista had not been invented. But Merry Hell boasted one of the first, new coffee emporia. mr ishmael would look at the list of flat whites, americanos, cappucinos, lattes, espressos, moccachinos and variants therof, with flavoured syrups, skinny, soya, spiced. After good study and asking me for translation where necessary - which was in most cases, he would ask the proto-barista, "could I have a cup of Nescafe, please? You know, like you drink?" Surprisingly often, he would get a spoonful out of the staff jar, with a "there, you go, my duck".
Now that is a tip worth remembering, Ishmaelites, should we ever return to a land in which making a cup of coffee is a profession,and choice has once again become a disease. Ask for a cup of instant. It's nicer and has far less calories.

mrs ishmael said...

And now she has. Fallen on her sword. Or pushed, more like. Chief Medical Officer no longer. Scotland, best part of England.

Mike said...

Mrs I: the news of her passing was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, above BoJo being hospitalised. We are used to self-serving political types down here, so no surprise. She looked sad, no Damehood for her.

mongoose said...

We had an Abbess desk in the hallway when I was a child, mrs i. The one with the rounded wooden bars for handles. It had little stickers or somehting that said "Abbess". I assumed, GCB that I was, that it had been liberated from a convent. It was where we kept the telephone, phonebooks, paper and envelopes for letter-writing, and my mum would "do" the bills sitting at it.

ultrapox said...

although - given the basically, and ironically, bogus nature of corona-virus-science - it doesn't strike one as exactly sporting to gratuitously grass up a clinically condescending nob for doing something, in effect, innately, and ostensibly, innocuous - but for which, as pesky precious-space-and-oxygen-wasting plebs, we would ourselves doubtless, without an incy-wincy incidental iota of mercy, and with the full force of her majesty's tazer-wielding social workers in blue, have the bloody great big leather-bound book of entirely extraneous ethical etiquette fanatically thrown at us - one is nonetheless - in the all too tragic case of top-establishment-drawer, and up-chuckingly conformistly cambridge-educated, witch-doctor cackling jane caught-'er-good - compelled ultimately to acknowledge that what unwarrantedly goes around inevitably comes back around bad-ass-boomerang-style to chomp heartily away on one's huge fat, and exquisitely cellulose-embroidered, bourgeois bottom, and that, for many of the currently constitutionally, and conscientiously, corona-virus-confined, it will indeed comprise an immense material metaphysical comfort to consider that - in common with us unconditionally unclean, hunkering hairy in our gloomy gardenless high-rise hovels - the serial pensioner-massacring psycho-consultant, lady macdeath, will now have a good deal more time to spend obsessively hoovering her exclusive, and oh so terribly tastefully appointed, second mansion - not-to-mention vainly scrubbing her horrid hypocritical honking little claws with all the sweetly perfumed hand-sanitizers of comfortably-off kommandant-class caledonia.

mrs ishmael said...

Too many adjectives, mr ultrapox, but I take your meaning. Dr Calderwood is of the "do as I say, not do as I do" persuasion, and it outraged the many who are confined in small homes, with rationed access to fresh air. But, still, it was uncomfortable viewing, seeing her so publically humiliated in a self-criticising session, reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.
Alas, poor Bo-Jo!

mrs ishmael said...

Abbess desks, mr mongoose, several of those passed through our hands. Well and honestly built, certainly not fine furniture, but sound and hard wearing. Polish up nice, them do.

ultrapox said...

the absurdly oppressive overflow of adjectives always means that a piece is written in a light-hearted vein, i hope you understand, mrs ishmael, and certainly "up-chuckingly conformistly cambridge-educated" is i admit a bit of a gruelling and laborious gobful, if not plain ugly, and i suppose that "conformingly" was probably the more flowing word for which i was searching in order to avoid the phrase sounding unnecessarily over-elaborate, chewily convoluted, and in itself, therefore, too stiffly cambridge-education-like - however, "cackling", i should point out, was not actually an adjective, but a forename.

moreover, "it will indeed comprise an immense material metaphysical comfort" should, of course, read: "it will indeed prove a material metaphysical comfort".

ultrapox said...

i do not possess a television-set, and so didn't witness the public shaming and dressing-down, for crimes against conformity, in which, i imagine, the hebridean witch-hunt culminated with typical self-righteous official schadenfreude - and which, when myself marked out as the target of such rebuke or punishment, i have always loathed and resisted; as recently observed à propos the sensationalized suicide of caroline flack, we again now see that the establishment environment is a sadistic jungle wherein the bloodthirsty beasts are trained to hunt in perfection policing packs, dishing out heartless bullyings to those deemed outwith the cruelty-culture-club, until, from time-to-time, one of their own misstepping members happens to fall short of public - but not private - propriety, at which watershed moment, in crisis-neutralizing co-ordination, they all turn on the hapless transgressor in a carnival of celebrity self-affirming cannibalism - for that is the nature of elitist power, and all those who star in its savage cock-fighting show are desperate wannabe celebrities of one shallow shade or another.

why, in the public sector, these serious career-sadists and professional persecution-purveyors persist in setting deadly fires whilst tinderly dwelling in live-matchstick-houses, i do not know, and i sense, reading reports of the statists' and commoners' present mutual revulsion, that, as you say, things are getting rare-nasty, with the upshot that - whether part of our wonderful amazing nhs, or not - if an officious government-worker quotes the emotionally blackmailing dictum designed to condemn the - pseudo-scientifically proven - granny-killing conduct of non-state-employed scum, then - surely as night follows day - frustrated and psychologically belittled common-bred folks, with a common sense of grievance, are inexorably starting to switch on their state-employed betters - such that the emotionally immunizing bubble of arrogant establishment-delusion will soon be viciously burst asunder, by the prickly hostility of seismic social disjuncture, which the soft-soap-cell of this absolutist authoritarian enclave has, itself, insensitively and unethically exacerbated.

as revenge for a bold brexit, boris has been infected by his own quacks, and then left to perish in socially and politically neglected isolation; the country is again split down pro-euro and anti-euro lines, with the neo-liberal elite wanting to have it out with, and get one over, the people - and so if brexit is postponed by the health-scare-scammers, there will be a sore and grave reckoning.

ultrapox said...

thanks for your kind words about my late nanna, who, by-the-by, reached 91 years, in 1996. i wouldn't say that she roared through the shops, nor that - in contrast to my grandad - she was particularly fun - because 'people of her class' were, in those days, like immigrants thesadays, more humble and cautious, not-to-mention buckled by the battering of life - but she was grounded, spoke in the vernacular with family, used to enjoy telling me what occurred before-before-like, gave me ribena to drink in the summer, and when i cut her grass, made steak 'n kidney pie, with well-browned rice-pudding for afters,

politically, nanna was actually right-minded, and ostensibly a decent law-abiding working-class conservative, but ended up literally wanting to bung a brick through the class-traitor margaret thatcher's ten downing street window - i think there was some welsh in her.

the new ways - the old 'uns just wouldn't wear it, would they?

in a nutshell, i reckon nanna would have considered this numpty lock-down-nonsense about as much use 'as pissing in the sea'.

ultravox said...

again, thanks for your kind words about my late nanna, who by-the-by, in 1996, reached the ripe old age of 91.

god knows what she would have thought of this war-without-bombs?

it's just not done is it?

mrs ishmael said...

dear mr ultra, up early again? Although you may not possess a telly, you can catch the Demeaning on you-tube or the like via your computer, if you would like to see the full, Presbyterian horror-show of it. It had a very Scottish feel to it - our Nicky, First Minister (first amongst equals, but not prime, which is English and therefore loathed,
denounced the erring Calderwood, trouncing her thoroughly, then handed over to Calderwood for as thorough an apology as I've ever heard amongst the political classes, before passing to journalists to cross examine her from their isolation-homes via laptop. Then there was a public half-forgiveness: no "resignation", as I need her by my side (and we saw how long that lasted) Couldna appease the Weegies. The Demeaning was chilling and puritan: "Come down into the body of the kirk, sinner, and feel the wrath of god."

mrs ishmael said...

Poor Bo-Jo
Ho-Ho no more

Fawts 'n' prares, sir, Fawts 'n' prares.

And on a happier note, I've been reading the Stanislav anthology, compiled by Editor Verge. I laughed myself into an asthma attack, searched the house for my salbutomol, convinced myself that Stan had given me Covid19, then took the Harris-dog for walkies in the garden. Pleased to note that the wild garlic, fennel, mint, parsley, rhubarb, dandelions and chives are all ready for picking and combining into a good mud and manure mix, to cover a TV chef with a tasty and nutritious crust before inserting into a screamingly-hot oven and roasting for several hours or days. Chronic followers of this blog will immediately pick up the reference, newbies have such a treat in store.
Editor Verge deserves massive respect for this labour of love, which is still a work in progress, so not yet available to Ishmaelites - I'm delighted to say that I have special privileges.

Anonymous said...

I think all the respect must go the other way, Mrs Ishmael, for obvious reasons. As for current affairs, Ishmaelites will enjoy a post from 8 years ago if they type BROWN OVER KOREA. SNOTTY GOES TO WAR into the blog's own search box, top left. Brown (retired, but not in his own mind) is shown ranting away with impotent megalomania, insisting he was Still In Charge - this is now a clear case of Nostradamus Smith, as Bruin was on the radio this morning sermonising about the need to gather "one hundred" former presidents and prime ministers (like him, see) to Save The World. Honest, not invent. Grave new world, what has such fuckers, innit?


mrs ishmael said...

Thank you, mr verge, I hadn't realised that the blog has a search facility. mr blackhole said: "it seems like years, aeons, even, since the mad, raving lunatic was pried from his imaginary levers of control. He recedes, now, at such velocity as to be visibly red-shifted. Just another iron hard, soot-ice clinker, lost in the void of interstellar space - Fife, apparently." 26 November 2010
Seems mr blackhole spoke too soon. Brown is on the case, Saving the World. Oh, do buck up, Bo-Jo, get beck to the levers of control sharpish.

mongoose said...

If memory serves, mrs i, the drawers from that desk ended up under a planked workbench in my dad's man-cave two houses later.

It's a rum old do when one is older than the PM, especially when he is in such a pickle. Blair was the first of the bastards to be younger than me. After my entire adult life being at the mercy of the Tory Bastards it seemed as if it was indeed a bright new morning. And a lad in charge too. How little we knew. Yes, beggar the nation for a decade - that's what Labour are for, to have a turn and to reset the controls, rebalance the tooth-and-claw three goes that the Bastards get. But bugger me what a clown. The second best politician of my lifetime, he could have done anything.

I think that, eejit that he is, we rather need young Boris at the moment.

ultrapox said...

the demeaning was chilling and puritan: "come down into the body of the kirk, sinner, and feel ye the wrath of god."

very nicely put, the demeaning - i feel a film coming on: stanley kubrick, or a hammer-horror with peter cushing and christopher lee, perhaps? maybe the good doctor could double as the helpless virgin lain prone upon the sacrificial altar?

i'm sure that the ordeal-by-gnasher was as nothing in comparison to the preceding visit from plod, whose officers - to give them their due - are, as a consequence of routinely dealing with genuine tragedy, some of the most accomplished melodramatists in the business. can you just imagine the kind of admonishing performance they relished giving at the calderwood family-home, all delivered with a stiffly stern and straight face?

the erring lady, as you say, certainly faced the fiery and fulminating blast of the first bag-pipe with admiral bravery, and duly repented her mortal sin of going to the seaside with a degree of sincerity as absolute as we have known from a public figure, in these recent ethically cheapened and cosmeticized times. however, dr scoldedgood was clearly highly emotional and finding the calculated and choreographed televized apology a deeply chastening and gruelling experience - an ordeal evidently made all the more traumatic by having, in her rear, a bespectacled, and radically shorn, feminist version of rowan atkinson busily executing the signing as judgmental performance-art.

thankfully, bouncing boris is still breathing, and allegedly doing so unaided - proving him to be the greatest prime minister since winny the war-criminal. hopefully, for joker johnson, we are simply being played, and this hospitalization-drama just a handy exit-strategy, or a device to facilitate détente - he having realized the lock-down to be a neurotic nation-wasting over-reaction, and the imminent emergency-execution of the inevitable u-turn-escape-manœuvre to require the political space and slack generated by a wave of national sympathy.

on the other hand, of course, this gripping 'house of common corona' episode of holby city could well be seized upon, by the nation's dominant medical flagellators - who in fact, maybe intentionally, infected the poor bugger in the first place - as a serendipitous opportunity for emotional blackmail, and thus a suitably proselytizing pretext for enforcing the lockdown with ever more rigour.

i don't envy boris-the-bumble the life-and-death limbo of the intensive care unit tho' - however much expert care-and-attention you may get there...

ultrapox said...

pardon, the above was addressed to mrs ishmael.

ultrapox said...

@7 April 2020 at 16:02

correction: "we are simply being played, and this hospitalization-drama is just a handy exit-strategy".

mrs ishmael said...

Oh, mr mongoose, I was the biggest fool going when Tony Blair stormed to victory with his New Labour Party. You see, I confused New Labour with Labour - see what an idiot I was! I chaired a branch meeting of my trade union the following day, and we were happy and triumphant. How embarassing. But, as you say, he was a lad, winsome and charismatic, with that strange, staccato way of speaking and, we thought, a new world dawning in his eyes. That'll teach us for being naive. Clause 4 and global murderers - pragmatism and power beats idealism any time.
How nice that the Abbess drawers had a reincarnation in your dad's workshop. Sturdy things, these Abbesses.
Get well soon, Boris, your country needs you.

mrs ishmael said...

Dear mr ultra, I love "dr scoldedgood". If we ever have cause to refer to her again, that shall be her name. Unlikely to need to refer to her, though, as she has sunk beneath our wisdom like a stone. I see The Demeaning as a Robin Hardy film, with the avenging plod played by Edward Woodward. You are right - the bespectacled radically shorn signer is a female (we don't know if she's a feminist)version of rowan atkinson. They've also got a male signer who makes the most extra-ordinary faces. Subtitles is the way to go - they've just got to get a bit faster at them. And more accurate.
And you really must stop all this fake news/conspiracy theorising, before they take measures against us, as they are proposing doing with What's App (what is that?) and Youtube.

Bungalow Bill said...

I can't give credit to anyone or anything at the moment. We seem to be lost among fictions woven into fictions. It has probably always been so but we have been able, at least, to pretend that most of it was true or trueish, while keeping straight faces.

Now, Professor Icke sounds no more absurd than other commentators; he's just a bit exotic. Ruin indeed, I don't think we've ever been so bankrupt.

mrs ishmael said...

Don't despair, mr bill, sharpen some sticks and plant some potatoes.

ultrapox said...

sorry about the hare-brained hypotheses, mrs ishmael, but i must confess that, like many, i'm rather partial to a juicy conspiracy-theory - primarily, i suppose, in order to complement the constant bland diet of professionally faked news which we're force-fed by the mainstream-media-outlets. however, this penchant for the altogether extraordinary explanation really isn't my fault, you know, because i readily pick up such virulent ideas all around cyberspace - and i have to admit that i sure do read some pretty dodgy blogs.

don't worry about dr scoldedgood - she'll become a legend in her own lifetime, much like 'eddie the eagle', or 'eric the eel', but, rather than the living embodiment of mad british, or guinean, have-go-heroism, become a by-word for rank establishment-hypocrisy. she's already made a damn fine job of undermining the authority of the power-addicted political élite - so fear not, she will be back...

even if only doing the good work of delivering babies and what-not.

at the end of the day, people will have to acknowledge that doctor fail-do-good didn't actually murder anybody - and is far less dangerous than walking civil disaster-zones such as lin homer, david gauke, and professor neil foggisum.

professor foggisum said...

dear mrs ishmael,

i write to inform you that far from being 'fake-news', the notion that we, in the government's team of medical advisors, deliberately infected the prime minister with the corona-virus is, in actuality, an entirely accurate representation of events - and may i explain that, although this clinical intervention may, to the layman, appear to have comprised a somewhat drastic course of action, it in fact formed an integral part of our innovative nietzschean nerd-immunization plan...

so chill man, and remember: vorsprung durch technik.

Bunglow Bill said...

That is what we may have to do, Mrs I. Heinous Seamus once said that calling a wooden spoon a wooden spoon is the beginning of wisdom and he was probably right. Go back to things properly made, as Mr I always insisted, Otherwise, I'm with the first half of Mr Ultrapox's first paragraph.

I'm also with the Little Czech Insurance Fella whose visionary genius is once again moving back from cliche to Big Truth. Those who may not have read The Trial and, particularly, The Castle really should. They're the purest documentaries, being shot now.

mrs ishmael said...

God alone knows what is happening, chaps, but let's focus on survival. mr. bill, can you point us to the texts you recommend?

Bungalow Bill said...

Yes, they're by Franz Kafka, Mrs I. Not everyone's cuppa but I think he was/is astonishing and of our moment - and most moments.

I've had too much Glen Moray (£20 Tesco and fabulous value) but I'd like to say that there is a serenity now about the hosting of this blog which is a serious tonic and which is, I'm sure, hard won. Anyway, it's a refuge.

ultrapox said...

the prime minister currently being under-the-weather - and therefore only in the market for literature of extremely restricted length - here is my reading-suggestion for him - franz kafka's shortest story - courtesy of wikipedia:

a little fable

"alas", said the mouse, "the whole world is growing smaller every day. at the beginning it was so big that i was afraid, i kept running and running, and i was glad when i saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that i am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that i am running into."

"you only need to change your direction," said the cat, and ate it up.

mongoose said...

Whisper it, mrs i, but I'm liberal, to a degree, I mean, I want everybody to be free. Though I have voted for them all in my time. I voted for "Nick Raynsford" once, man of the people, about to save us from Von Thatcher and he turned to be Wyvill Richard Nicolls Raynsford of Milton Manor, in Milton Malsor. The bastard.

The hoodwinking of us all by Mr Tory Blather still brings me up stone stopped dead. WTF?, as the children ask. And now McDoom wants to get all the villains of the last two decades together, to save us, to work together, for the many... Fife must be boring in spring. Let's sing another song, boys, please. This one has grown old and bitter.

ultrapox said...

although a parable about a man seeking permission to gain entrance, i reckon that - interpreted in reverse - this franz kafka story - translated courtesy of ian johnston, vancouver island university - has relevance for those wishing to be allowed out - including, when in improved health, the prime minister:

before the law

before the law sits a gatekeeper. to this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. but the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. the man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in sometime later on. “it is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.” the gate to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gate into the inside. when the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “if it tempts you so much, try going inside in spite of my prohibition. but take note. i am powerful. and i am only the lowliest gatekeeper. but from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the last. i cannot endure even one glimpse of the third.” the man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside. the gatekeeper gives him a stool and allows him to sit down at the side in front of the gate. there he sits for days and years. he makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests. the gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things, but they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet. the man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper. the latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, “i am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” during the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously. he forgets the other gatekeepers, and this first one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the law. he curses the unlucky circumstance, in the first years thoughtlessly and out loud; later, as he grows old, he only mumbles to himself. he becomes childish and, since in the long years studying the gatekeeper he has also come to know the fleas in his fur collar, he even asks the fleas to help him persuade the gatekeeper. finally his eyesight grows weak, and he does not know whether things are really darker around him or whether his eyes are merely deceiving him. but he recognizes now in the darkness an illumination which breaks inextinguishably out of the gateway to the law. now he no longer has much time to live. before his death he gathers up in his head all his experiences of the entire time into one question which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper. he waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body. the gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the difference between them has changed considerably to the disadvantage of the man. “what do you want to know now?” asks the gatekeeper. “you are insatiable.” “everyone strives after the law,” says the man, “so how is it that in these many years no one except me has requested entry?” the gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and, in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, “here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. i’m going now to close it.”

translation by ian johnston of vancouver island university, nanaimo, british columbia, canada -

ultrapox said...

@8 april 2020 at 02:26

franz kafka's famous parable before the law was originally included in his novel the trial - and is often used, by teachers, as an introduction to kafka's work.

ultrapox said...

the present actions of the establishment may, in the technical parlance of certain professional circles, be broadly scientifically classified under the generic socio-anthropological heading of "taking the fucking piss", and moreover, this profoundly philosophical shaggy-dog-story - a satirical dissertation on the absurd disjuncture between empire and subjects - is, in fact, a celebrated example of franz kafka "taking the fucking piss" which - should our world-leadership choose to establish the absurd nature of its present political predicament - undoubtedly constitutes essential recommended reading for both the prime minister - when he achieves improved health - and, of course, the incumbent president of the united states of america:

the great wall of china

see translation by ian johnston of vancouver island university, nanaimo, british columbia, canada -

mrs ishmael said...

Hi, folks,
Never developed much of an interest in whisky, mr bungalow bill, although mr ishmael had some collection of the stuff. Nope, wine has been my downfall. It is kind of you to comment on the serenity of my hosting - that's because you haven't seen me howling along to Bonnie Tyler of an evening. And, of course, mr ishmael had a rare, inimitable gift for sustained, frothing indignation.
I seem to have been excused Kafka in my life-long reading programme. Now it looks like I shall have to plunge in. Thank you, mr ultra, for the extracts - that's a grim little parable you provided.
Well, here in the northern hemisphere, we appear, once again, to have crossed the dark seas of night and arrived on the bright shores of morning, so it is time for me to lay aside my pen and get on with digging over my tattie patch.

Doug Shoulders said...

I didn’t know Mr Ishmael was a guitar player. I suppose everyone is at one point in their life…blokes anyway.
There are numerous guitars situated around my house and bloke visitors always remark upon them one way or another.
It’s true about the tuning though. I have a couple of Epiphone Les Paul copies. The Gibson LP was the one I always longed for as a kid. Longingly gazing at it the shop window.
Even though I bought a Fender Strat because it was a cheaper guitar. I always wanted the LP.
I sold the strat plus Marshall valve amp and speakers to pay for my wedding…giving up the dream of rock stardom.
I saw that strat in a shop in Glasgow, in a glass case, with a price-tag of £10,000 (I paid £315 in 1980) The last of the Californian built.
Today I would not have sold it even for that money. Because I recently took possession of a Gibson Les Paul. And after all these years it just doesn’t seem as good as the strat.
I have browsed and contemplated, played and pondered over guitars for years, much like Phil the desk is with desks.
I have a fair few guitars and a fair few have come and gone. The best was the strat, but I tell myself it’s just nostalgia.
One saving grace is that I still have the first guitar I ever owned . An Kimbara acoustic, which in terms of tone and mechanics (Staying in tune and action height etc after some modifications) it is the best acoustic I ever had.
I could go on but thanks for listening.

mrs ishmael said...

mr shoulders, I wish that mr ishmael could have seen your comment - all those years together in cyber street and neither of you knew that you were both guitarists. Lord, if I started I could weep an ocean.
When we came to this place, 20 years ago, mr ishmael took a few guitar lessons from one of the leading musicians here - there was something particular that he wanted to learn, he had been playing since he was a boy, at one time he even did a bit of gigging, although he hated playing to an audience - you know, yet another drunk shouting: give us Streets of London. Anyway, in his search for the perfect, yet affordable guitar, he had amassed eight guitars by the time of his death, complete with stands, fur-lined cases, capo, picks, spare strings, and a ukelele, keyboard, 3 harmonicas, 2 amps - one a Marshall - and speakers. He hadn't been able to play for a year or so - hands didn't work, pain, fatigue. I don't play anything. So I asked mr ishmael's guitar teacher - a wonderful musician herself - to come to value the collection. She was very reverent in handling his guitars, told me how wonderful a musician he was, how beautifully he had kept his collection, and she placed real value on the instruments, some of which are fine. She has taken them away into her shop, where she is selling them on commission. The less valuable ones I've donated to her musical charity, by which kids who cannot afford to buy a guitar are given one.
That's a good thing, but the reflections on mortality are inevitable - how it all goes to dust, all the striving and accomplishment -
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair...

ultrapox said...

i have realized, rather belatedly, that, given the current lockdown-situation, mr bungalow bill must also probably have been making a deliberately subliminal, or maybe even - after too many tots - totally unconscious, allusion to franz kafka's tragi-comic story of filial incarceration, die verwandlung - or the metamorphosis - in which an authoritarian father, his wife, and their daughter pen the son in his room and treat him worse than an animal.