Sunday 21 May 2023

The Sunday Ishmael: 21/05/2023

High North Command

The Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee has inquired into "Defence in Scotland: The North Atlantic and the High North".
It heard evidence from Dr. Marc DeVore, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of St Andrews, that Russia was installing military bases in strategic locations and arming their fleet of ice breakers. Climate change will open up sea routes in the Arctic, along Russia's northern shore and across the North Pole. He said: " For future NATO operations in the High North, posts and facilities in the north and the Orkneys would be absolutely key. Scapa Flow is the best natural harbour that any NATO member possesses for patrolling the GI-UK Gap", referring to the open sea between Greenland, Iceland and the UK, which forms the vital door between the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic. "Scapa is large enough to anchor a massed bunch of ships far enough apart to not constitute an easy target." DeVore reported how the increasing tensions with Russia had affected the planning of sub-sea infrastructure, notably the recently confirmed interconnector between Orkney and mainland Scotland. "Russia has been cutting cables and sabotaging pipelines...we did not think a state would engage with (this) during peacetime."

Looks like its time to get out of Dodge - or sharpen some sticks and dip them in poo. Interesting that DeVore seems to think that it is peacetime, whereas Putin is convinced that NATO is at war with Russia. Can no-one persuade the war-mongers that the wider humanitarian interest would be served by suggesting to Zelensky that it is time to start saving lives, both Ukrainian and Russian, by giving in? Before Putin is unseated by someone even more committed to all-out global thermonuclear war? And Biden is re-elected to totter on under the guiding hand of the military-industrial American complex?
My electricity company has emailed me to say that they are increasing my Direct Debit to £749 per month and Mr Tesco just charged me £1.40 for a 750g tiny little bag of spuds and £1.65 for a sliced white loaf. Not at War? The Ministry of Food will start putting out information leaflets soon on how to make a nutritious meal out of carrots (bargain at 48 pence for 800g), a tin of beans, brown rice (£2.50 for 1kg.) and an oxo cube.

 mr mike on Pilgrimage

Dear mrs ishmael,
Tomorrow (13th May) I’m just about at the halfway point.  As I’ve been walking the last few days I’ve been composing in my mind a halfway summary. Tomorrow is a long day but I’ll do my best to email when I finish in the afternoon. 

 Postcard 2 from the Camino del Norte
First a brief apology. This is an outstandingly beautiful unspoiled part of the world.  I have taken many photos but have so far failed to attach any to an email. It seems my Aussie mail server doesn’t like photos of Spain and won’t forward them,  instead rejecting the whole email.
In my first postcard I mentioned the first couple of days over mountains were hard. I’ve spoken with other pilgrims and they agree. But I don’t think I did myself any favours starting immediately after a 26 hour flight from Sydney. Since then I’ve found my sea legs and nearing the halfway point after 2 weeks and over 400km I’m going fine (tempting fate).
After passing through the interesting city of Bilbao, I left the Basque region behind and entered Cantabria which gives its name to a geological period because of its rock formations. 
Jagged fingers jut into the sea forming remote, largely deserted beaches. The terrain is seriously hilly rather than mountainous. The sea cliffs are spectacular. I still get cold sweats thinking of walking for hours on coastal paths a meter from 100 meter drops to certain death on the cliffs below.
The region gets its weather from the Atlantic so with high rainfall the region is very green and lush. Remote farms with a few cows, sheep and horses.
For Ishmaelites not familiar with the area a week split between San Sebastián and Bilbao driving in between would be worth it.
 Two gems stand out in the past week. Santillana del Mar and Comillas. The former is like stepping back into the Middle Ages.
 Stone houses, many elegant and cobbled streets, unchanged (apart from renovation) for centuries. Apparently it is often used as the setting for period films. 
Comillas has faded from its past glory but still has some formidable palacios and, importantly, a Gaudi house. 
I have previously only seen Gaudi in Barcelona. Apparently the house was abandoned in the 1970s but is now restored to its former glory and contains several pieces of Gaudi furniture.
I have met a few interesting pilgrims. For two days I walked with a German couple. They were intelligent but with heads firmly in the sand. For example when I asked why Germany was silent over the US blowing up the Nordstream gas pipelines they could only shrug. Incidentally I note this has hardly been mentioned in the UK propaganda a.k.a. press. When I mentioned that the recent closure of the last three nuclear power stations as part of the green agenda resulted in re-opening coal fired power stations they were shocked. And even more shocked to hear that this has resulted in record imports of Russian coal. Nobody told them, they said. I've seen this before with Germans. They always follow the plan, even when the plan is clearly failing. But they did take the point that last time Germany had such a weak government in the 1930s it led to disaster.
On a personal note I am now not staying in the pilgrim albergues but choosing hostels or pensions instead. A little more expensive than the 10 euros albergues but because this Camino is not travelled by many there are few albergues. It’s annoying having to wait till 4pm when they usually open whereas I can be in a hot bath and with my own room I can come and go at my own rhythm. Plus I’m getting older.
photos are generic internet images


Nasty Nepo Babe dies

Read your book and lose yourself
In another's thoughts
He might tell you 'bout what is
Or even 'bout what is not
And if he's kind and gentle too
And he loves the world a lot
His twilight words may melt the slush
Of what you have been taught.
Mike Heron, 1966.

Hmmm - well, Nepo Babe Amis failed on Heron's three-point test: 
1: He wasn't kind. 
2. He wasn't gentle. 
3. He didn't love the world a lot - not even a little. 

Jerking around on the fly-line of his father's richly-deserved fame, Martin Teeth-Amis was a skinny short-arse, composed of Oedipal envy, grudge, grievance and nicotine.  The ishmaeling and I were discussing Teeth's oeuvre, on hearing of his demise. Back when we were younger then than we are now, we had both attempted a Teeth novel. In my case, Money. She can't remember which title it was she flung at the wall. I've just read the synopsis of Money and it sounds rather good. Unfortunately, Teeth's  attempt to engage the reader's interest in a deeply unlikeable boorish narrator didn't work for me. The ishmaeling remembers the deep misogyny, the shallow characterisation and the stereotyped women. "Probably gay", was her verdict. "But no!" I exclaimed "He was multiply-married, had children and was a renowned womaniser".
"Definitely gay".

Why Martin Teeth-Amis? A 1994 article in the London Evening Standard alleged that Amis had recently returned from the United States having spent $20,000 having all his molars replaced, suggesting that Amis was vain and willing to spend a lot of money on getting American teeth. Well, they were so bad that out of thousands of brooding, sultry author images in which he has his mouth firmly shut, this is the closest I could find to a tooth shot.
Punditry is agreed that, in younger days, he was possessed of a louche, Mick Jagger attractiveness. Really? Really?

Meriting only a passing inclusionas Martin Teeth, in the list of exponents of the low art of trash fiction,  in his magnificent Book of Common Pulp, mr ishmael had little time for the dedicated smoker. 'Twas the fags that killed Teeth. (For our American readers, fag is a slang British term for a cigarette, or for a little public-school boy who makes your toast, shines your shoes and bends over to be caned, for which education his parents pay vast sums in fees.) Well, Teeth really put his back into the smoking, a full-time occupation with him, resenting the time he spent asleep and couldn't smoke. Amazing he made it all the way to 73, really. And just think of all the novels he would have written had he not succumbed to oesophageal cancer. Just think.

Here's mr ishmael, in a very little, (the 6 words in bold at the end of the letter) self-explanatory post from 2010:

Letters: The Guardian, Saturday 20 February 2010

Dear Martin Amis, 

You complain about the "reckless distortions" and "chaotic perceptions" of you in the press
(Review, 13 February). You seem bemused, hurt and outraged. Perhaps a closer and more honest look at yourself in relation to others could be one explanation? Two stories from my own experience of you illuminate what I mean.

First, you visited Mark Boxer, my husband, when he was dying. You came with Chris Hitchens. Mark was exhausted because you stayed far too long. You smoked over his bed. I later learned the length of visit was not borne just of affection, but you were filling in time before you caught a plane at Heathrow. You wrote a piece about your feelings and tears as you left. I saw no evidence of these.

Second, Mark asked you to be god­father to our daughter Claire. She was six when he died and when later she was reading English at University said she was studying Martin Amis and did I know anything about him? Oddly enough, I told her, he's your godfather. We invited you to lunch. You paid scant attention to Claire (didn't even cough up the statutory five bob expected from godfathers!) and she hasn't heard from you since.

Can I suggest this level of ­narcissism and inability to empathise may be at the root of your anger with the press and your need to court attention? 
As ever,
Anna Ford

Luvvies, eh, what are they like?

The three volumes of  mr ishmael's Collected Works, selected, edited and anthologised by mr verge, the House Filthster, are now available.  

Honest Not Invent, Vent Stack  and Ishmael’s Blues are available from Lulu and Amazon. If you buy from Amazon, it would be nice if you could give a review on their website.

Ishmaelites wishing to buy a copy from lulu should follow these steps :
please register an account first, at This is advisable because otherwise paypal seems to think it's ok to charge in dollars, and they then apply their own conversion rate, which might put the price up slightly for a UK buyer. Once the new account is set up, follow one of the links below (to either paperback or hardback) or type "Ishmael’s Blues" into the Lulu Bookstore search box.  Click on the “show explicit content” tab, give the age verification box a date of birth such as 1 January 1960, and proceed.
Link for Hardcover :
Link for Paperback :
At checkout, try WELCOME15 in the coupon box, which (for the moment) takes 15% off the price before postage.  If this code has expired by the time you reach this point, try a google search for " voucher code" and see what comes up.  
With the 15% voucher, PB (including delivery to a UK address) should be £16.84; HB £27.04.


yardarm said...

I tried to read a couple of his books years ago: London Fields, I think it was, that went into my wall at speed too after a few pages. Spewed out a word porridge because he couldn`t tell a story, so far up his own arse he resembled a Mobius Strip and very likely a total cunt too, Amis.

mrs ishmael said...

Ah, mr yardarm, his dad could tell a story, though, and raise a laugh. Kingsley Amis' One Fat Englishman is infinitely better than Money - and, strangely, Martin's protagonist is also fat, English and in America. Just a coincidence, I suppose. Or maybe an homage to his dad.
I do like the recurring eccentric who sends letters in green ink and appears from time to time in Kingsley's novels, giving one an Ah hah moment. Martin really should have chosen a different line of work. He'd have been happier as a hairdresser - and we'd have been spared the oeuvre. That he is being taught on English Literature University courses speaks volumes about the state of Higher Education these days. Cuntus totales.

mongoose said...

Ah, but, mrs i, Mr Teeth was not a story-teller. He was a "literary novelist". Not an ordinary novelist, not just a writer of novels but a "literary" one. Arse. I cannot now recall where I watched hime describe himself like that but it may have been on the Bragg Show. Too clever by half, and his dad rotating at warp speed in his grave. And then, and of course, like all such, he was not actually clever at all. Proper writers have editors who trawl through their work and when they find a particularly cleverly crafted and craftily nuanced sentence, they strike the fucker out with a big fat pencil. (See ishmaels passim: Will Self)

Well done, mr mike. Keep buggering on!

mrs ishmael said...

The "literary novelist" - a breed once admired and lionised in the heady days of the last century, especially amongst London literary circles, but now, praise God fasting, fallen out of favour and disappearing up its own fundament, or, in Salman Rushdie's case, under threat of death for offending 25% of the world's population with his writing. There's lugubrious Will Self, reduced to writing articles about Adrian Chile's cock: And we mustn't forget the utterly intolerable A.S.Byatt, lampooned by mr ishmael in MUSTN'T RUSH THE GORSE 27/4/10.
I'm finding reading fiction to be an increasingly unrewarding chore, which is a bit of a problem, as I'm a member of a book group and have to tackle some fresh hell every 6 weeks, read the thing and find something sensible to say about it at our ladies' literary lunches.
It's all product, now. Probably always was. Devote a lifetime to studying and watching Shakespeare, as I must confess, I have, and the "jolly" bits, innuendos, vulgarities and farcical interludes, not to mention the mocking of the rural peasantry, inserted to please the London grockles, are clearly unpleasant, embarrassing and were designed for the sole purpose of selling tickets. No wonder the RSC went mad trying to make it all relevant to the 21st century; re-gendering roles, rewriting dialogue, casting disabled and wheel-chair users in parts that were written for the able-bodied, and espousing colour-blind casting to the extent that the visitor from Mars could be forgiven his assumption that England in the sixteenth century was a black nation, and that it is entirely possible that two white parents can produce a black child, with no-one for a moment suspecting an intervention from Back Stairs Billy. Even Netflix is at it now - it's Queen Cleopatra has caused widespread outrage by casting the serpent of old Nile as a black woman - when every fule know she was a Macedonian Greek.

Bungalow Bill said...

Fine work, Mr Mike.

I quite liked Time's Arrow. He was a fanboy really, young dead Amis.

Anonymous said...

All the ad hominem (homunculum?) jibes aside, I think he wrote some good stuff - Money, London Fields, & Lionel Asbo are very funny and finely wrought, and if human beings are still reading (and still reading in English) down the road, these will last much better than the Will Self shitcanon. Even a mess like Yellow Dog had some terrific passages - the Todger Suicides, mentioned there in passing, was a spit-your-drink moment, one of many he can claim. And the first story in Heavy Water ("Career Move") where screenplay writers struggle to scrape by and poets swank it in Hollywood with agents and production execs having meetings about the next Big Sonnet's sestet is worth digging out. Experience, the memoir, sticks favourably in memory as well.

Meanwhile, if anyone's still interested, the final volume of posthumous anthology is smouldering on its launch pad, so ishmaelites hankering for the hardest of stanislav's hard-core rants and fuck-firings won't have long to wait. Flush Test, out soon.


mrs ishmael said...

Thank you, mr verge, for your dedicated work in producing the fourth volume of mr ishmael's writing. I'm busy proof-reading at the moment and I can assure Ishmaelites that it is another powerful, satirical and very funny compilation of the best, elegantly foot-noted and presented by mr verge. Worth waiting for.