DID and blood results

The eagerly awaited results of the DID challenge. Paul wins with 25/80 points. Here are the correct answers. You miserable lot hardly any of you even tried. It was mighty hard though

  1. Humperdinck: from Hansel and Gretel the opera
  2. Berg: Hier is Friede – a song (i would guess early)
  3. Dvorak : Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém – Song to the Moon from Rusalka the opera
  4. Korngold: Die Tote Stadt (an opera by the famous film composer set in Bruges – thats why i want to go there)
  5. Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (last movement)
  6. Tchaikovsky: Romance – actually a violin piece but someone stuck some words to it.
  7. R Strauss: Wiegenlied a song
  8. R Strauss: Morgen another song

I did find the uniformity of my choices a wee bit troubling. Am I obsessed or just unambitious. Most of these choices would have been the same 40 years ago. I discovered Korngold when I worked at HMV in Oxford St just before I joined the army for love – her name was Carolyn and she wasn’t worth it and she had a boyfriend – i nearly tempted her away though – he was a plonker but signifcantly better educated than me. I bought records of all the symphonies of Mahler at the same time (staff discount). The guy who was in charge of selling them to me – tried a not particularly threatening pass on me in a flat in Angel Islington by sharing his collection of gay porn – if i remember rightly it was all black and white and the playmates were exceptionally generously adorned – the second time I have actually run for it – not out of fear – but i simply could not think of a suitable excuse – so while he was in the toilet – i dread to think why – i legged it  (both run-for-its in my early romantic life were in North London within 2 or 3 miles of each other). Actually he was a nice guy – bit embarrassed the next day (he was) – I wasn’t bothered (Swanley Comprehensive made you resistant to all forms of potentially abusive encounters and getting away with out being beaten up, just being made to share some grainy pictures of big willies made the whole incident a laugh that I shared with all my colleagues) He and I got on fine after that – ugly geezer he might of had a chance if he was a bit more of a looker – I think he finally finally believed I really was straight. The Tchaikovsky is a Maria discovery on a Sylvia Sass record – we have searched high and low for the music so she could sing at my funeral to no avail. Berg has been a long-time favourite particularly the stuff which is on the cusp of atonality – I find the agonising struggle between harmony and dissonance really really romantic.  Berg never stopped doing that hence even his most challenging stuff still hankers after tunes. Aha Maria can sing that at my funeral – who’s up for the piano part – yikes – there is an arrangement for piano, harmonium and cello – I can feel an extended family band coming on. Talking of dying – I hitchhiked to Vienna to find Bergs grave. Ended up sleeping in a very rough bit of town next to the street of amorous encounters. I was on the ground floor – it was hot and the windows were open – my german vocabulary remains to this day highly specialised. To digress for a second- I actually slept in a real brothel when stranded by a rail strike for three days in Venice – as you can imagine there was nowhere respectable available. It was a very odd arrangement insofar as I was just put in a spare room all the other rooms being ‘occupied.’ I can’t remember exactly how i came about getting it but I had just finished three months of intensive Italian tuition in Perugia and I was really proud of myself so I was just talking to anyone on the street showing off my coffee ordering skills and enquiries after the location of the zoo or ‘their’ red pencil case. I assume I must have told my story to one of the nice girls I bumped into (The Perugia experience made me very confident – it wore off once back in England) and the next thing I had a not very nice room (i cannot remember a window) for next to no money for three days in Venice, other people were sleeping on the streets. My only regret was that I left my socks and a shirt drying there. The two Strauss songs are on the b side of Jesse Normans 4 Last Songs recording (My mother adored them and listened to them while lying literally speechless (motor neurone derivative) – in her chair in our annex crying with emotion. The Humperdinck always makes me cry despite being kitschy. I think a choir of angelic children descend from heaven to look over the sleeping children in the next scene.  The Mahler is simply the sublimest farewell and slip into eternity ever written (saw his grave in Vienna too) and Freud’s surgery (best museum ever – you get shown around individually by the housekeeper – its just a flat with his stuff in. Incredible vibe.) It’s all the female voice which is the instrument of the wife I adore, all bar two in German and they all probably fit into a period of 1870 – 1930 ish which is my preferred period of all things arty, design, painting, architecture, film the lot. When I say preferred I don’t mean I spend my time studying or even absorbing the art of this period I just mean that this stuff always catches my ear or eye in a way that the early 19th century or anything from the eighteenth doesn’t.

I could do another considered eight that would be a bit more of a mixed bag. It would definitely have Puccini with Pavarotti, Monteverdi, Muse, Radiohead, Alison Krauss, Britten, Glass, but it has been interesting to release a gut reaction and see what comes out. I kind of recommend it but you may be surprised at what comes out.

I have more hospital results and I am at 33 thingies. They are now saying they may push for complete remission but we are not sure how the NAC defines that. I was told anything below 30 was more or less normal but the NAC are always keen to push it down further, don’t ask me why. Anyway that means potentially another three cycles after this one – argggghhhh! I will have been on the drugs for a whole year. Trouble is they are cumulative and each cycle does makes me feel a little bit weirder. My memory is getting quite bad (don’t worry it is a side effect) and  I get muddled up easily, find it hard to concentrate and am rather bad tempered. These first few days are good cos the steroids counteract the thalidomide so I am able to be quite productive if very gobby, (hence this post) but once they stop and the melphalan really kicks in I do feel quite peculiar. Have not driven other than one trip of 4 miles for months now. I have heart tests on the 19th and 21st this month, if they can fix that it will make a massive difference.

Anyway I am managing to do some university office work, thank goodness for Skype and e-mail. The university has been exceptionally tolerant and supportive so I try to do all the tasks I am assigned without ranting about the meaningless form filling bollocks we are all subject to – so i want to get better quickly so I can resume the rants with a clean conscience.

You will be gutted to know that I have shut down public access to all my poems and short stories as I am planning a few submissions and most competitions stipulate that your work must not be on blogs or published online in any form. The one to have a go at is the Mogford Prize because the prize is 10 grand. I have tried the last two years and failed utterly. You need to write about food as its run by an Oxford based restaurant.



Hate the term. It’s so disgustingly liquid on the lips. It’s an acronym for learning and teaching. At some stage in educationalist history the term teaching was dropped and teaching and learning or learning and teaching  replaced it. It’s meant to celebrate the idea of mutuality. A sort of right on reaction to slam desks and copying from blackboards. Learners teach and teachers learn. The snake biting its own tale. Trouble is when you come to experience it as a learner of teaching that you realise  there is no learning, just teaching, in fact worse than that it’s drilling. ‘Though shalt exercise your educationalist instinct in this way and this way only as failure to do will prevent the award of a qualification that teaches you to teach others how not to learn.’ The argument is that learning to teach is a discursive process with many different perspectives, however any discussion on the need for a system at all is off the table.

Desert Island Disks and Quiz – reprise

A colleague at work sent me his DID selection (yep its the sort of thing we academics do) and it reminded me that a few years ago now I started a thread in which several of us put up our DIDs and we had to identify the song singer etc. That was before Maria and I rushed to Waitrose for organic braised coconut leaves for tonights drinks with Teminimah and Henry. I don’t think I ever put mine up. So here is my selection. I have not really taken the true DID approach of relating them to key points in my life – these are just spine tinglers and have been tingling me more or less since I got into classical music. The other noticeable feature is how incredibly similar they are. I mean more or less the same! I didn’t think too hard so I assume they are soulful rather than clever clogs responses. However some of them are bloody clever.

5 points composer

5 points work

prize – acclaim

good luck



A sober post

I am feeling rather sober so nothing entertaining below. Maybe wait until the next one.

I don’t know why but I am rather proud of this. It is part of my drug schedule for the next month. I start today. One of the nurses agreed that I was winning the ‘consuming most drugs in one month’ award but I think she was humouring me. Nonna next door requires a small shopping trolley for her monthly quota, but I am definitely catching up. Surprisingly my drug banquet is indicative of good news. The amyloidosis is under control and my heart condition is now getting some attention, so with luck after three months of probable poorliness I might have a period free of so many pills. Won’t that be lovely. Meanwhile juggling the various doses and times necessitates Maria at my shoulder while I sit at a clear desk with all the bottles and blisters packs in a row ticking off my list. As I have overdosed two of three times in the past this precautionary measure is not over the top.

The uni are in the process of finding a temporary replacement for me for the next three months. I am not sure how this is going to work out but the principle issue is my depleted immune system and thus my tendency to pick up bugs. The next few months are bad for this because all our freshers go into totally irresponsible social overdrive and catch everything going which they pass on to us staff. So it’s best I stay away. I managed to catch two colds and two stomach viruses over summer so the indications are that I am a viral sponge at the moment. If I am assigned to desk duties that will be fine because I can work from home. On the other hand its a bugger because our course is recruiting really well and we have a new member of staff with some fresh ideas. It feels a bit like I am regressing to the start of my illness when I had to have tons of time off and wrote loads of poems but hopefully this will be a contained absence and you will be spared my delusions of bardeur. Aren’t I lucky to work in the public sector!

Other than this medical update I don’t have a great deal to report. The boys and girls are all good and busy. Maria will require counselling in order to deal with the fact that they may not all be a home with us on Christmas Day – as a seasonal jape I said let’s go to a Little Chef in Doncaster for Christmas lunch but she’s not quite at the stage of finding it funny  – my proposal to move Christmas to May and have a pole instead of a tree just made things worse. Frankly I could not give a toss about Christmas other than I want my family to be happy and to put the 40 x  full on 100 watt lights I bought at the car boot up on the balcony. So it looks like Me, Maria and Nonna in minus 10 and 1,0000000 lumens on a snowy balcony with a 24lb turkey and three cats. I will send you a photograph.

Talking of photographs I bought a 1960’s enlarger to go with my black and white film development kit. I am quite excited by chemical photography mainly because in the hands of the incompetent, it effortlessly introduces error into every stage of the process.

This is my phone box shot and developed by me.

The theme of error had fascinated ever since my ‘pretending to understand John Cage days’ as a teenager. My PhD research more or less equated to ‘err0r = liveness’ but this, sort of, turned out to be wrong but its the theme of this years Ars Electronica festival. 


On another topic all together

Having thought for years that I was such an original in suggesting that patriotism, nationalism and the whole notion of borders protecting individual nation states is stupid, I discover that, ‘internationalism’ is a core tenet of Marxism. I found an article on the new internationale  and a contribution by Jacques Derrida on Wikipedia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specters_of_Marx

It struck a chord with me and seems quite timely if a little depressing – 

‘For it must be cried out, at a time when some have the audacity to neo-evangelise in the name of the ideal of a liberal democracy that has finally realised itself as the ideal of human history: never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and thus economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of the earth and of humanity. Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ and the end of the great emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth’

Derrida lists 10 plagues of the capital or global system

  1. Employment has undergone a change of kind, i.e. underemployment, and requires ‘another concept’.
  2. Deportation of immigrants. Reinforcement of territories in a world of supposed freedom of movement. As in, Fortress Europe and in the number of new walls and barriers being erected around the world, in effect multiplying the “fallen” Berlin Wall manifold.
  3. Economic war. Both between countries and between international trade blocs: United States – Japan – Europe.
  4. Contradictions of the free market. The undecidable conflicts between protectionism and free trade. The unstoppable flow of illegal drugs, arms, etc..
  5. Foreign debt. In effect the basis for mass starvation and demoralisation for developing countries. Often the loans benefiting only a small elite, for luxury items, e.g., cars, air conditioning etc. but being paid back by poorer workers.
  6. The arms trade. The inability to control to any meaningful extent trade within the biggest ‘black market’
  7. Spread of nuclear weapons. The restriction of nuclear capacity can no longer be maintained by leading states since it is only knowledge and cannot be contained.
  8. Inter-ethnic wars. The phantom of mythic national identities fueling tension in semi-developed countries.
  9. Phantom-states within organised crime. In particular the non-democratic power gained by drug cartels.
  10. International law and its institutions. The hypocrisy of such statutes in the face of unilateral aggression on the part of the economically dominant states. International law is mainly exercised against the weaker nations.

Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (French: Spectres de Marx: l’état de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale) is a 1993 book by French philosopher Jacques Derrida. It was first presented as a series of lectures during “Whither Marxism?”, a conference on the future of Marxism held at the University of California, Riverside in 1993.


Bogus birthday

This is going to be a tough post to bring off because all I have to report are lovely, positive and life affirming things and let’s face it who wants to read that.

But …My bogus birthday was just great.

I have to say that 28 guests was a wonderful confirmation of just how popular and loved I am. Beat that I say all you not so popular and loved people. ha!

Yes I really believed it. For two days I was a sparkling raconteur and delightful host. My words hung like the ripening Yorkshire figs we have in our loggia – rare, sweet and definitely worth waiting for. You see that is one of the side effects of steroids – in the first couple of days, they make you think you are just sooooo great.

So apologies to all of those whose who were hosed by my over exercised gob. I do hope you have dried off by now.

The band revival was brill and I honestly played better than usual. No rehearsal seems to be strangely beneficial to the Gravityisahat groove.

A lovely lovely four days thank you, thank you, thank you everyone.

But enough of that.

I was surprised to be lumbered with another cycle of chemo on Friday. Somewhat dismayed actually because my sociability and mood is proportional to my intake of nice food as you will see below. The chemo is going well but the consultant is pushing for the tape before my trip to the Royal Free. So in part as an explanation to my guests for my deteriorating enthusiasm for eating over the weekend and in part as an opportunity to provide some dietary tips that have revealed themselves over the last umpteen cycles I posit the Newell Manage your Weight by Getting Cancer diet. Do remember though these suggestions are person and medication specific so you may need to adjust to taste.

Day 1: first dose – eat a lot as your enjoying eating days are numbered. However beware in the next day or two you will feel a compulsion for either McDonalds or Fish and Chips. I have succumbed many times with no ill effect, however transitioning to day three after McDonalds or F&S is dangerous. So if you must today, is the day. You will feel great. Much too great to allow any person with any sensitivity within a mile of you. Jokes will spin off your tongue like A Super Sized Big Mac on the griddle with similarly disastrous effect on anyone’s stomach. You really aren’t king of the world! You are loud, opinionated and arrogant. Zip it!

Day 2: sweets are about to become uneatable, so this is a good day for Rowntrees Randoms or Cadbury’s chocolate with Dime Bar. Toward the evening you will stop being able to taste either salt or sweet so now is also the time for Bovril Toast or Werthers Originals. See note above re McDonalds or F&S and the risk factors. Due to the steroids and the sweets you are now hyper. You believe you have entered space-time and taken possession of it. Hours slip by in incoherent rambling as you revive anecdotes pertaining to anyone that anyone might have heard of that you have also heard of. Lie, exaggerate and embellish your stories till your towering deeds overshadow John Snow that paltry nobody of Winterfell.

Day 3: Bread and water are both fairly disgusting so even bland is out. Sausages taste like Hoover bags. Ginger beer cuts through and some spicy stuff tickles the buds a wee bit. This is a bad day for almost all foods so just bunker down with the ginger beer and, strangely, coffee. Tea is about to cease being your friend. You stop feeling good but there is a delay before you feel bad. Enjoy the delay. Your family and friends will.

Day 4: last day of actual drugs. Tea no longer tastes of tea but of some other milky white substance used in paint production. Appetite is shot altogether. Just about everything is pretty disgusting although porridge with sugar is bearable. Retain miserable martyr face most of the day. Alienate friends with very bad temper. Just like a kid deprived of sweets. Yes just like. No known dietary relief for day four, needs more research. You are in decline.

Day 5: No dose today so momentarily feel the worst is over. You are wrong. The drugs are about to really kick in, hitherto they have just been idling. Wee about 8 times in the night. Feel faint every time you stand up but your taste buds are off the green mile and water tastes a bit like, well, water.

Day 6: Stay in bed – crap crap crap not literally

Day 7: revive better eat lots and lots of everything till you feel sick and sick and sick – joy.

Tomorrow is my Day 7.


Holiday highlights or other titles to inspire despair

In no particular order

  • Other peoples dreams
  • Other peoples children
  • Other peoples reading
  • Other peoples meals

Ours was in Gozo, an island of Malta

Personal highlight was not feeling ill

Maria’s personal highlight, me not moaning about feeling ill.

We travelled light as always – note the big bag – one of 6 bags we travelled with – a bag for each day of the holiday! Confession it contained my travel bass bound in bubble wrap as well as all our clothes.

Lowlight – Maltese food – they love American tomato sauce and chips. I expect my Bruscetta to be fresh tomato not a bit of bread covered in butter and KP tomato sauce – boy I am so Guardian reader sometimes

It was hot but not much hotter than here in the UK. We had a fabulous pool and very friendly people. I met a banker who worked for that RBS crook, Fred something-or-other –  Simon was a paraplegic swimmer with no legs. I on the other hand had legs but swam like I didn’t. Snowy, the cat recovering from skin cancer was a frequent if repulsive looking visitor – sort of a zombie cat – much loved and looked after by the guests many of whom come every year to the same holiday village.

It was a really fab break in which we spent most of our time prone in the shade watching others do energetic things.

Maria insisted I occasionally move and I must say I felt much fitter by the end. Landed in Leeds on Monday and am straight back on chemo for another 4 days so somewhat back to square one, hence 4:00 am missive.

I planned to introduce you to my other telephones (pics below). To my satisfaction they all work. Some of the wind up looking ones ring across the house and in the garden when you turn the handles. They are for those occasions when I collapse in a heap and need “pronto socorso” – despite Maria practising her Italian – Malta’s second language we were told – they all seemed to speak Maltese first then English – although Italian tourists abound due to proximity to Sicily I assume. Other wind ups communicate from one end of my office to the other, about 5 metres or so, so of limited utility. The dial phones offer connections to the phone box or an utterly useless but a satisfying connection to a beta test phone box system clone utilising an old French switchboard. I still find it magic to be able to link a 1917 candlestick phone by a 1964 French switchboard to a 2014 synthesised version of my voice utilising a 2018 iphone – well its magic to me – its all about slithering through time and I guess that has come about because at one point I did wonder if my time was about to slither away.

Next weekend we celebrate my Birthday with some dear family and dear friends. The family band will get yet another outing. I practised my bass by the pool so I hope to contribute more effectively this time. My wedding performance remains a source of significant embarrassment that can haunt me in early hours like these.

It was quite simply my worst playing ever to by far my largest audience on the most important occasion of my life so far – and as I have learnt only recently, to augment the pain, there was an American in the audience familiar with southern white rock blues (a fan of the Allman Bros I believe) my all-time favourite band and my preferred genre, and he actually knew what the songs should have sounded like. Those of you that attended the wedding. Did you know that those songs were originally not polymultimicrotonal experiments in alternative tunings and rhythms? Anyway with luck, next weekend will help bury my embarrassment at least in part.

Lost interest a bit in this post so will adjourn for now. Want to rant about something but I am not in the right groove.

Next section for telephone enthusiasts only. Really avoid if you aren’t. Really! 

Piccies – info supplied largely unreliable

Top row from L 

Curl of wire ignore
British magneto probably 40’s
British bell box 30’s onwards
Danish 50’s my favourite handset of all
German 50’s
British  50’s 60’s used on London Underground
A magneto – great for electrocution games – stand in circle connect a light bulb held in your hands between you

Middle row from L

Varous spares ignore

Belgium 50’s very popular
French telephone bell and British insulator
British Engineers test set
80’s Italian onyx set sold by BT
French 60’s with very kitsch velour cover

Bottom row from L

Edge of Grundig radio and a few spare french phones I am selling – ignore
French wooden magneto phone 40’s
British candlestick about 1920 – restored from a conversion to a table lamp

Top row

Danish magneto probably 30’s – often improbably placed in movies cos they look cool

The most popular collectors item – a 1950’s British bakelite phone – this one is set up for a party line
British switchboard connected to phone box – 1940’s – on top it has a 60’s telephone amplifier


French switchboard from 60’s -connected to the dial phones above and the the beta test system for the K6 phone box. Took me an age to figure this one out.

Top row

British bell box 1930’s onwards
Connects to third row – classic and very popular pyramid phone 30’s onwards

Second row
US magneto phone probably 40’s – a bit boring but one of the first in my collection. Rings around the house

Forth row

A/B box used in phone boxes – very collectable sell for £hundreds on Ebay. I was very lucky – lots of lovely tones when you insert coins – brilliant item.

US payphone form 50’s 60’s – love the colour – connected to the beta test system – needed a lot of fixing

The phone in the phone box – you will have already seen this – this links to my synthetic voice via a very complicated and confusing network of bodges. BUT IT WORKS quite reliably.

Boring old phone in our loggia – 50’s I would guess. I am going to replace this with a mini outdoor French phone cabinet and phone and sell these. I have two and will sell them as an internal intercom. They were probably originally used in a police station or railway station – in great condition but boring don’t you agree.

The best bit of this set up is the extending support for the phone. In fact it was quite expensive but I love it’s eccentricity. Its a fusion between an American bell box with a British candlestick phone – note no dial. Another one that causes phones to ring around the house for pronto socorso purposes – its on the first floor of our house.

A chic French phone in the bedroom – one of my favourites – 60’s probably – will ring phones all around the house.

Its less chic partner in the bathroom. Can be extended toward the bath. Still working on this as the set up was deemed a bit ugly. I love exposed wires but not everyone does. It only uses a 3 volt battery btw. No risk of electrocution.   



trump, me, neutrinos and bargains

Donald Trump and I have a lot in common. I don’t really care about anyone but me. I have a thin skin, I can be a racist and a misogynist, I don’t read, I am not very intelligent, I am scared walking down slopes, I watch a lot of telly, I have a big mouth and I don’t know where Antartica is. Then again it doesn’t matter.

When the neutrino that just penetrated Antarctica escaped the super massive black hole a gazillion years ago it certainly didn’t matter that Donald Trump would one day emerge from a human birth canal and grow up to be a president. Presidents don’t matter, anymore than determined neutrinos. Nothing does. Except of course getting a Build A Bear at the price of your child’s age. Now that’s a bargain!


It always began with an object – Part 2

So I was wrong actually it sometimes starts with a place.

In this case it’s the place I was born and a slither through time from a nearby scenic hillside near the North Downs in Kent to the garden of a flat in Forest Hill.

I was born on a hill. It was posh enough to be called a ‘Rise.’ Across the road from us was a wood and until very recently I had no idea that during WWII the rise was a mooring point for barrage balloons. Despite never knowing this I repeatedly dreamt about them as a child and continued to  do so as an adult and yes they are the stimulus for several poems as well as a small collection of books and memorabilia – isn’t that wierd? Or rather – in a sincere but quizzical voice – is that wierd? Find out in an as yet to be broadcast episode of this blog.

Walk through the wood and up the hill like I did with my mum and our dog

turn L at this

and keep walking up as high as you can go – swivel NW and there is London. For me as a child this WAS weird. My home was the bucolic idyll in which roads were paths and pavements were verges. London was somewhere, someplace else, Dixon of Dock Green lived there and he got shot, it sure wasn’t ‘just over there.’

Travel 50 odd years by Tardis (more about that in a later episode). My youngest and his loveliest rent a flat in 2018. The flat has a small narrow garden and a sliver of a splendid view out toward Kent.

In the centre of the view is my hill


is that weird?