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.

Biscuits by Mary Berry

Baking biscuits this morning proved harder than it should have been if I had used the precise ingredients specified by Mary Berry. Caster sugar might have been easier to work with. Instead, my lump of sugar and flour and nuts held together with a beaten egg was rolled in foil, put in the fridge and emerged 8 hours later much the same as it went in – a gooey mess.

Next time I will not be using soft brown sugar. The 10 minutes baking time had to be extended to half an hour, and the biscuits flipped to avoid soggy bottoms. Cutting the goo into thin slices was impossible, so I made a mixture of small and large blobs squashed into shape.

The smell from the kitchen is gorgeous. I might have to make more coffee to accompany Mary’s biscuits. ‘Fridge biscuits’…not much of a name is it? What about Sugar Nuts?

Verdant Abundance

The climate in Belfast is temperate, mostly warmish and often wetish. Plants thrive with little assistance required. Our garden is a pleasure palace for bees and birds and a hunting ground for cats. The other day I discovered the exposed remains of some small bird on the path down to our patch of grass. I strongly suspect that Torts was the killer, but he has taken it on the lam, so I cannot interrogate him.

There are green things that are reaching for the sky and look pretty enough, but may well be some sort of giant weed. I tramp down the more obvious weeds such as nettles and dock leaves, but am wary of destroying some precious plant that my son planted last year. His strawberries made a brief appearance and then the snails feasted on them.

The dividing wall between our garden and the neighbour’s is a mass of prickly fruit bushes. I identified gooseberries and blackberries and I think there is another type of berry as well. The apple tree continues to do well and the rosy fruit grows bigger every time I go out and look.

Our front patch of grass is too tall compared with all the manicured carpets surrounding our property. Luckily there is a house for sale opposite, and their patch is as scruffy as ours. Some people just turn their front gardens into parking spaces, but that’s cheating.

Napoleon Vanquished

Cartoons of Napoleon Bonaparte in Britain helped to sustain morale during the long war years. 1812 marked the turning point in Napoleon’s military campaigns with huge loss of life and a large depletion of the French armies. This paved the way for allied victories.


 The Journey of a Modern Hero to the Island of Elba  by J. Phillips, published in May 1814

Farewell my brave soldiers, my eagles adieu;
Stung with my ambition, o’er the world ye flew;
But deeds of disaster so sad to rehearse,
I have lived — fatal truth for to know the reverse.
From Moscow. from Lipsic; the case it is clear
I was sent back to France with a flea in my ear.
A lesson to mortals, regarding my fall;
He grasps at a shadow; by grasping at all.
My course it is finish’d my race it is run,
My career it is ended just where it begun.
The Empire of France no more it is mine,
Because I can’t keep it I freely resign.