Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday 30 June 2012

No time for blogging; I've got to iron the wolves

As regular readers may have gathered, my toils at the chalkface are interspersed with excursions into the thespian world. It's a business whose charm lies in its infinite variety - from teaching a bunch of hyperactive rats to dance the Charleston to discussing the finer points of Tom Stoppard with a cast of bright 18-year-olds.

With a production currently in full swing, time is in short supply and there are dozens of slightly surreal tasks to do, including knitting 20 yards of forest lichen and ironing half a dozen wolf costumes, which doesn't leave much time for musing on life's little ironies.

I often listen to Radio 4 while ironing, which was fortunate because this afternoon I heard what has instantly become my new favourite song. It's by Dory Previn, whose mordant lyrics are worth printing in full, and sung by Kate Dimbleby.

And it just says it all....

I was riding in my car,
Screaming at the night,
Screaming at the dark,
Screaming at fright.
I wasn't doing nothing;
Just driving about
Screaming at the dark,
Letting it out.

That's all I was doing:
Just letting it out.

Well along comes a motorcycle
Very much to my surprise;
I said, "Officer was I speeding?"
I couldn't see his eyes.
He said, "No, you weren't speeding,"
And he felt where his gun was hung,
He said, "Lady, you were screaming
At the top of your lung!

And you were doing it alone,
You were doing it alone;
You were screaming in your car
In a twenty-mile zone,
You were doing it alone,
You were doing it alone,
You were screaming."

I said,"I'll roll up all my windows,
Don't want to disturb the peace;
I'm just a creature who is looking
For a little release.
I said, "And what's so wrong with screaming?
Don't you do it at your games
When the quarterback takes an elbow,
When the boxer beats and maims?

"But you were doing it alone,
You were doing it alone;
You were screaming in your car
In a twenty-mile zone;
You were doing it alone,
You were doing it alone,
You were screaming."

I said, "Animals roar when they feel like;
Why can't we do that too
Instead of screaming 'Banzai, Baby!',
In the war in the human zoo?
He said, "I got to take you in now;
Follow me right behind,
And let's have no more screaming
Like you're out of your mind."
So he climbed aboard his cycle
And his red-eyed headlight beamed
And his motor started spinning
And his siren screamed.

He was doing it alone,
He was doing it alone,
He was screaming on his bike
In a twenty-mile zone.
He was doing it alone,
He was doing it alone,
He was screaming.

I was doing it alone,
I was doing it alone,
I was screaming in my car
In a twenty-mile zone.
I was doing it alone,
I was doing it alone,
I was screaming.

We were doing it together,
We were doing it together,
We were screaming at the dark
In a twenty-mile zone.
We were doing it together,
We were doing it together,
We were screaming.

We were doing it together,
We were doing it together,
In a twenty-mile zone.

Friday 29 June 2012

...everything but pestilence

Spare a thought for the passengers stranded on their rail journey to Glasgow yesterday when a landslide at Tebay closed the West Coast main line. As one of them told the Today programme:

"It's unbelievable! Fifteen and a quarter hours on the train to come up from London; fire... rain... landslides - everything but pestilence."

I hope he wasn't speaking too soon; the lavatory provision on Virgin trains is miserly to say the least - sometimes a princely total of three toilets per train for the long-haul South Coast to Highlands run means everything is overflowing by Crewe - and that's without the gastric hazard of the contents of the buffet car marinating gently at ambient temperature for hours.

There is something supremely ironic in this for Clan Macheath; one of our revered Elders has become known for her uncanny ability to bring Britain's rail network to a grinding halt. Although she has made no more than a handful of trips a year, she has somehow contrived to time each one to coincide with a major rail incident.

Thus she has, on various occasions, been party to electrical and mechanical faults, an armed siege near Warrington, police interception of a fugitive at Crewe, several landslides and floods and so many buffet car fires that she always insists on travelling with a thermos and a full packed lunch just in case.

Leaves on the line have not been a problem - they only seem to affect commuter routes - but the 'wrong kind of snow' has led to her spending several nights in hotels in Berwick or Carlisle, unable to travel further until it was cleared; every single snow-related main-line closure for the past 20 years has coincided with one of her journeys.

All in all, out of a total of about 30 trips, only 6 or 7 have been without serious incident - surely something of a statistical anomaly. TheUrchin has gone so far as to suggest that Network Rail should be prepared to pay her a handsome sum not to travel by train.

This venerable lady was, however, not involved at all yesterday; this week she left Scotland for good and moved South to join the rest of the family in England.

The met office may talk of 'Spanish plumes' and warm air masses, but for us, it's tempting to believe that, as she sped down the southbound motorway and out of their influence for ever, the mighty gods of rail disruption threw everything they had at the network in a final gesture of rage and frustration.

Alternatively - and here's the bizarre coincidence - our Wise Woman's grandson chose yesterday to return by train from his Northern university.

Perhaps the curse has simply been passed on...

Sunday 24 June 2012

Parish notice

Internet problems at the tavern and a very busy few weeks mean light posting for the time being. I've managed to get a few comments out there on other people's posts but composing my own is beyond me at the moment.

My thanks to all who continue to drop in; may I invite you to pour yourselves a drink and peruse the back catalogue? Among the 540-odd posts in there, you are, I hope, sure to fnd something to amuse, entertain or infuriate.

To start you off, considering the fuss over Michael Gove's plans for exam reform and the assertion by Labour and the teaching unions that 'poorer children will be less likely to sit the new exams', may I suggest a look at 'Three Unmentionable Pachyderms - or why children fail'?

Friday 1 June 2012

(Underwired) Support for the Jubilee

Oh dear! Typical, somehow, that the seventh decade of the New Elizabethan Age should be ushered in by showers and unseasonal cold.

Still, as you shiver beneath the soggy bunting and tip the rainwater off your patriotic paper plate, you can enjoy a warm sense of national unanimity and fraternity; the nation united in joyous festivity over damp sausage rolls and cake.

That is, at least, according to a certain store renowned as the bell-wether of Britain's high streets. The venerable retailer has gone into what the Spouse cynically calls 'Daily Mail overdrive', getting its usually sensible knickers in a decided twist over the whole affair.

And it's not just knickers; the store has taken to heart its role as underwear purveyor to the nation and produced a range of 1950s-inspired 'Jubilee Lingerie' (Jubilingerie?), lavishly publicised in an article (with pictures - lots of pictures) in - you've guessed it! - the Mail.

Items from the range bear the slightly baffling legend 'Unite the Nation in Celebration' - a sort of updated antithesis to the old advertising slogan 'lifts and separates'. I'm sure it sounded good at the product development meeting, but, given the state of Britain today, it does seem to be asking rather a lot of one's underwear.

Actually, although I'm not usually one for mass jollification (like, I suspect, the ever-cynical Ross at Unenlightened Commentary), I'm rather pleased that Britain is going to town over the Jubilee rather than the upcoming synthetic propaganda spectacle that was once the Olympic games (see this post from Subrosa and its comments).

I happen to be heading back to my native village this weekend - a community so bloody-minded that it held its 1977 Silver Jubilee party on the wrong day because a 400-year-old feud meant that residents refused to celebrate at the same time as the neighbouring town.

What the village has planned this year is anybody's guess - but it's a fair bet no-one there will be wearing Jubilee underwear.

At this rate, we're all more likely to be breaking out the thermals.