£4 is a small price to pay for a wide range of things…a pint of beer, a really good sandwich, a bicycle inner tube, a one day bus pass, a Sunday paper or some socks. I chose to lavish my pounds on boosting a facebook post.

This was not some weird, egotistical adjunct to my blogging activities, but another crack at marketing my website

Tailoring my promotion to reach the inhabitants of English speaking nations over 18 years old, I hope to attract some interest from the type of people who are not short of £37.50 for some top notch proofreading. 24 hours should do it, and not break the bank.


Civic Duty

I have been summoned to the local court for jury service next month. It’s strange being called to consider evidence against people you have never met. There is so much that I will never know about the person in the dock, and perhaps that will make the task easier.

Imagine if I had all the background details of someone’s journey into criminality. For a start, their criminal past would taint the presumption of innocence. But what if a social worker’s report was required and the jury discovered the hardships and circumstances that led to an alleged act of criminality?

I like that sketch that Not the  Nine O’Clock News did back in the 80’s. Pamela Stephenson played an outraged authoritarian type being interviewed about youth crime. Mel Smith was being interviewed with her as a liberal who exhibited all the understanding of social conditioning and economic inequality. After some debate about the issues, the interviewer asked the authoritarian what she would do. “I would cut their balls off!” she answered and when the liberal was asked the same question, he replied, “I would cut their balls off, no question about it.”

Distance and objectivity should make arbitration easier than the full knowledge of an individual’s past. But it is human nature to fill in the blanks and make assumptions about people based on very little. Recognising that failing should focus the mind on reliable facts and evidence rather than conjecture and prejudice.

Proceed without caution

Emerging from a drought of words, I gave a moment’s thought to today’s blog and came up with very little, as usual. But this has not deterred me from rambling on in the hope that something coherent will emerge.

Tough times for the family as my wife watches her mother wrestle with old age and infections that have landed her in hospital for the last month, For my mother-in-law, hospital must add to the disorientation that Alzheimer’s brings. Before the infections Judith was alert and able to manage a flight of stairs. Since her admission to hospital she has barely been out of bed and sleeps or dozes most of the time. Feeding her has become necessary, where she would have managed a plate of food herself a month ago.

We are hoping that a move to a care home will give her enough rehabilitation so that she can return to her own home in a few weeks. Judith will need the sort of fortitude that she has demonstrated over a remarkable life to see her through this tricky patch.

The people who have been caring for Judith to date,  have enabled her to live a life far removed from the sort of regime that a care home or hospital has to operate under.

Quality of life is always discussed in these situations, and it would be good to think that Judith can return to the sort of routine whereby she is able to accompany her carers on trips in the car, take gentle walks to the local bar, ice cream parlour or park.

Sitting down to watch the world go by with a loving companion is a pleasant diversion and miles better than being plonked in front of the goggle box with a bunch of strangers.



Beers and Big Business

The informality of a bar can be conducive to satisfactory business dealings. However, it may be necessary to keep a record of what has been agreed. When 4 or 5 pints have been consumed one party may be a bit hazy about precisely how many millions of pounds were to be paid to the other party.

This may sound like the scene of a a surreal play, but is in fact the testimony of one of the UK’s captains of industry. Is it any wonder that young people are voting for Corbyn when capitalists parade their drunken behaviour like a badge of honour?

Words as camouflage

Sometimes we get bamboozled by the speaker’s choice of words. Obfuscation does not make matters plain, for instance. Ineffability is hard to describe, and here is a poem that describes a situation that many of us have experienced with those revered members of the medical profession.

Consent to Orchidectomy by P.W. Bridgman
Just as a razor blade can be concealed
in some poor kid’s Hallowe’en apple,
just as a darning needle can lurk
in a Hallowe’en pear,
so, too, something unpleasant hangs back today
in M.D., F.R.C.P.C., F.R.C.S.C.’s mealy mouth.
Something unpleasant hangs back
in the surgeon’s mouth today,
like a fatty morsel of yesterday’s braised lamb special at
that has become trapped between two molars
and is beginning to stink.
The masked medic’s word-pistol has,
through culpable inadvertence,
remained securely holstered until the last minute.
The patient is laid out on a gurney, parked and idling
outside the O.R. He is prone, gowned, shaved, shorn,
partially informed and scared.
And now, he feels the word-pistol (a word-pistil), cold
against his temple.
“Here, you need to sign this,” says the surgeon,
his face concealed by his surgical outlaw’s mask.
What is it?
“A consent form.”
I’ve already signed a consent form.
“That was for the exploratory.”
“This is in case we find something
during the exploratory.”
There are three pages here.
“it’s mostly boilerplate. You sign on the last page.”
What’s an orchidectomy?
“We need your permission to take one
or both of them if the growth is obviously malignant.”
You’re telling me this now?
“Come on. You’d prefer we leave them in?”
I just didn’t … I thought maybe there were other …
Why is it called an orchidectomy?
“For god’s … i haven’t got time for this.”
The annealed, reusable, slender
stainless handle of the scalpel,
sheathed and innocuous in the
shiny green plant casing of the
word stem.
The disposable, high-carbon scalpel blade
of the pretty word nestles, barely seen,
within the soft, purple cluster of its
benign petals.
Would you please give me just a couple of minutes
With the form? I just need to …
“Alright, alright.”
The surgeon retreats. A long minute passes.
Then another.
He keeps his distance. For now.
Huddles with the nurses.
They speak softly together.
The patient tries to think.
Finally the surgeon’s exasperation gets the better of him.
looking over at the gurney, still idling outside the O.R.,
he sees nothing happening,
nothing, and exclaims softly:
“Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle!”
The patient hears him.
He finds the signature line
on page three and signs
in a clear, confident and legible hand:
“Jesus H. Christ”
Then he calls out:
Okay, I’ve signed it.
M.D., F.R.C.P.C., F.R.C.S.C. returns to the
side of the gurney, whisks the form out of the
patient’s hand and tosses it onto a nearby counter.
“Alright. We’re good to go.”
Someone pushes a button and, with a quiet whine,
the stainless double doors to the O.R. slowly begin to
open outward.
“it’s show time,” says the surgeon.
All scrubbed now, he gives his patient a big, friendly wink,
just so it’s clear that he’s over it—that he has moved on.
The surgeon gives his patient a forgiving wink,
just so it’s clear that he bears no hard feelings toward him,
even though it took him so goddamned long to sign the form.
Just so it’s perfectly clear that he bears no hard feelings
toward him
for holding up the show.

James Hewitt – nice bar, good poet

The John Hewitt bar on North Street in Belfast serves some fine ales and decent food. Named after the poet and run as a workers’ co-operative, it is one of my favourite bars in Belfast. Check out their website for gigs and sessions.

Here’s one of Hewitt’s poems called The Scar

There’s not a chance now that I might recover
one syllable of what that sick man said,
tapping upon my great-grandmother’s shutter,
and begging, I was told, a piece of bread;
for on his tainted breath there hung infection
rank from the cabins of the stricken west,
the spores from black potato-stalks, the spittle
mottled with poison in his rattling chest;
but she who, by her nature, quickly answered,
accepted in return the famine-fever;
and that chance meeting, that brief confrontation,
conscribed me of the Irishry forever.
Though much I cherish lies outside their vision,
and much they prize I have no claim to share,
yet in that woman’s death I found my nation;
the old wound aches and shews its fellow scar.

Here’s the man himself reading it


Poetry – Paul Muldoon

A trawl through social media and my library account took me to the poetry of Paul Muldoon today. Before I nip round and take out a couple of his books, I came across this poem by George Russell, known as AE, that is worth sharing:


The gods have taken alien shapes upon them
Wild peasants driving swine
In a strange country. Through the swarthy faces
The starry faces shine.

Under grey tattered skies they strain and reel there:
Yet cannot all disguise
The majesty of fallen gods, the beauty,
The fire beneath their eyes.

They huddle at night within low clay-built cabins;
And, to themselves unknown,
They carry with them diadem and sceptre
And move from throne to throne.