Author: Ian Kay

Ian Kay is a blogger who writes about anything...I’ll put the kettle on...

Sky blues

I have to remonstrate with myself in the middle of weeding the fruit patch. I need to take breaks more often than I want to. I’m far from my twenties now, and since then have clocked up forty odd years doing desk work.

Now that I’m master of my own time, more of that time is spent doing physical things: as well as tending the gardens, there’s the diy – building jobs, woodworking, decorating, and ordinary maintenance chores such as cleaning the windows, cleaning the gutters and drains, and generally cleaning! To say little of running 5 kilometres or more, every third day.

So, I strike the fork into the dug soil, and taking up my mug of tea I sit down on the wooden sleeper border edging the vegetable plot to contemplate the day.

It is sunny. Between the high hedge and power lines which run across the back of our garden, the sky is a beautiful uninterrupted blue. I think of Yuri Gagarin. Someone must. He was the first human to leave the Earth without having to die.

27 years old and seen the world

Briefly, from his point of view, he saw how thin the blue film enveloping our planet was from outer space; how fragile it looked before petering out into the overwhelming and utterly vast vacuum of black space. Like clingfilm covering a cantaloupe melon.

Through religion first, and then in more modern times science fiction, we have learnt to delude ourselves and avoid thinking of our world-home as being anything short of firm and secure. Even the true sciences deal with a robust mechanism, holding it all together: the climate may change but it will still exist in some form. Will it be blue; bluer, or paler? Will anyone be around to tell?

People all over often wonder whether there is life on other planets; it’s a wonder to me how there’s life on this one.

It begins with a movie…

I was in the mood last night to watch a movie. Mary Magdalene is currently on All4 on-demand so I chose this; but it is one of these films were the director thought it was okay for the actors to mumble their lines during softly spoken moments. I find this irritating so I gave up on it after thirty minutes and switched to an old movie – Fear No More – which I found on Youtube. Even though this was a bit of a B-movie, and one of the principal actors had a distinct accent which suggested English wasn’t his first language, there was no lack of clarity in the dialogues.

Scientific Jesus – 5’ 5” in stockinged feet

This morning, my curiosity of Mary Magdalene had the better of me and I googled it to see how it had been received by critics. Across the board, it averaged 45-50% which is about right, though most criticism was concerned with its dullness, or “toothless” portrayals of the gospel narratives.

Reading further accounts of Mary herself, I hadn’t realised how important a figure she was in the Jesus story – the apostles’ apostle. Her name is written more times in scripture than those of most of his disciples. Later patriarchal christianity turned against her, conflating her character with that of another Mary, a fallen woman, a possible prostitute. This myth still carries weight in some quarters.

Contrary to her portrayal in the movie – as a simple working fisherwoman, seen on the beach, mending holes in nets – some accounts say she was likely a wealthy woman and had supported Jesus in his mission.

Jesus in the film is played by Joaquin Phoenix, so its Jesus looks a lot like Johnny Cash; in his hippy period, no doubt. He looked a lot older than his early thirties too, I thought. (Released in 2018, Phoenix would have been 43.) But it was the unkempt long hair and beard which was the problem. Had wardrobe not kept abreast of the news?

Not much is written about his appearance in the gospels but the prophecy of Isaiah has him as a disfigured man people would turn their face against. Of course, Christianity – a simple faith for simple minds to understand – wouldn’t understand that and so over the centuries, Jesus has been depicted not as an especially unhandsome dude, but looking a bit like you, or me.

Joaquin’s sun-blocked, ageing hippy Jesus

It’s quite a surprise – though not shocking – to see how science portrays the man based on all available evidence and assessments: a shortish, thick set man, dark olive skinned, and with short hair and a trimmed beard. Far from turning away from the sight of him, you’d probably not notice him at all in a crowd. If he was a wanted man, the authorities would need for someone who knew him to point him out amongst the rest. Hmm.

Here is a post in Medium about the visual depiction of Jesus which provided some material for this post.

I like the comments Medium readers leave; this one, I thought, was particularly funny,


“Respectfully, it should be pointed out that Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God. If we accept this premise, wouldn’t he have looked something like his father?”


It reminds me of a story my Mum tells us of a nativity play at some junior school in the 60s. The kids all had parts to play, the more confident and reliable ones play the parts with the most lines to memorise.

A boy – playing the principal shepherd, I think – was much more confident than his memory was reliable. Looking into the manger, he forgot his given line and no amount of off-stage whispered prompting from teacher could bring them to mind. So he improvised and said, in the clearest voice, what he must have heard adults say to new parents many a time,

“Ooh! Doesn’t he look like his father!”

He brought the house down.

Chick Lit

To be honest, I don’t know what Chick Lit is; but that’s a poultry excuse!

As “Amazon Prime” subscribers – my wife’s idea – I get a monthly invite to download one of eight new ebooks – their “editor’s choices” – for free (well, included in the subscription cost, to be fair).

Almost without fail, these titles will be authored by women. Although disproportionately represented, I don’t have a problem with that. What does bother me is the subjects of these chosen novels – they all seem depressingly similar.

Even though a download of one would cost me no more other than a bit of storage space on my device or in the cloud, it’s pointless. I’m just not interested enough in the dreary synopses to want to try one out.

I’ve looked to see if there’s a setting I can change, or some means of feedback, but I can find none.

wives, mothers, girlfriends, widows, and aunt tamsin cobley and all.

Wall #8

I find myself in the mood to compile another of these wall thingies from my Youtube viewings. Unfortunately, the barrel is almost drained of the better content and I could be rightly accused of scraping its bottom noisily, and for that I apologise. Nevertheless, my mood hadn’t diminished enough after some consolidation so here’s a wall,


Following hot and spicy on the heels of my last post on the dangers of Alabama Yoga turning schoolchildren onto Hinduism, this olde worlde cinema advert showed up. For the love of a good curry… washed down with the traditional pint of Indian draught brown ale (say, what?)

It will be nostalgically familiar to any Brit who remembers the flicks before the multiplexes took over. The ad seemed to be a stock film shown regardless in which town’s cinema it featured; only the address card at the end was bespoke and matched the location – “less than 100 yards from this cinema!


A young Bob Mortimer stars in this old telly ad for the new thing that was telephone banking. I remember the long queues in banks: I was paid weekly by cheque as a freelancer and had to traipse to the bank to deposit it, every Thursday lunchtime, along with the rest of hoi polloi.

Since opting for online banking, I’ve rarely set foot in a bank. The last time I did, I had to step aside for the tumbleweed. How times change…


But the thing which caught my attention in the ad was the tune playing in the background. It took me a while but I eventually recognised it as The Theme from Gurney Slade.

So I discovered this ditty was by Max Harris & His Group (I wonder if this was ironic or that they simply couldn’t come up with a name for the combo and thought The Max Harris Band was too cliché).


I wholeheartedly recommend The Strange World of Gurney Slade and would have liked to include a link to the series here. I caught the whole show on Youtube some years back but, disappointingly, it seems to have been taken down. Bad luck!

It was a 60s comedy show made for Anthony Newley and, arguably, as comedy was ahead of its time. Being ahead of its time probably did for it: it comprised only six episodes and in the latter ones, it turns in on itself debating its own existence. Philosophical surrealist comedy. Who else was doing this in the early 60s?


I watched the 60 minute documentary on the history of Slade, the black country glam-rock band. They tried to gain popularity in the States but the Americans found them too exuberant; the country was suffering from an epidemic of pessimism and problems of pathological introspection. Apparently. Unfortunately, it was too early in pop history to send them Radiohead.

You can see the doc on Youtube if you hurry, but here I’ve just included a clip from BBC’s Top of the Pops, 1973, were the guys entertain us with one of their no. 1 six hit singles, Cum On Feel The Noize.

It’s surprisingly well covered this song; even Oasis had a go, but no one sings it like Noddy did.


I’ve noticed a lot of these telly parodies coming up on the recommendation page at Youtube. It seems to be the work of one channel and the target audience is the one who’ll appreciate the Taste of India cinema ad. Millennials will be bemused. Gen Z..well, er, no… Still, anyone can appreciate the made-up names in the phoney chart rundown.

Where did they find those clips of those totally uncool bands? Is “uncool” uncool now? What will we parody in another generation’s time? Does anyone care?

No Fooling

You have to be on your guard when reading the news on April 1st. So, I did a bit of back-checking and apparently this is a real thing!

Alabama has banned yoga by law – for the past 28 years. The reason seems to be a real fear that yoga turns ordinary American citizens into Hindus. I don’t think that would be such a bad thing, if it were plausible.

It makes the news because some enlightened folk have seen the benefit of practicing asanas and seemed to have avoided turning Hindu purely by chance. Like the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, the reported risk of side-affects have probably been over-emphasised. In reality, there is only a 1 in 2,500,000 chance of spontaneously turning Hindu whilst practicing Adho Mukha Shvanasana over any ten year period.

namaste.

The Un-American Dream (version #23 Alabama, 2021)

Is Abstract Art Dead?

…and other casual ponders this week.

Is Abstract Art Dead?

Garden Leaves, 1955 | Patrick Heron

I’ve been recommended a Youtube channel of art tutorial videos. It’s one of my interests. The first one I saw was on composition and I inferred from what the tutor said offhand that “representational” art is the thing now – in opposition to “abstract” art.

Abstract art has had a good innings though, hasn’t it? A bit like rock music.

I once worked with a guy who said he had an art exhibition coming up. I was more than intrigued as we were all professional engineers. Keen to see his paintings, he showed me a picture of a painting another colleague had bought from him. It was an abstract; swirls of rainbow colours melding into one another. The colleague who bought it had actually commissioned it specifically for his living room; he didn’t say it went with the colour scheme and soft furnishings but you couldn’t help reading between those lines.

Though there’s not a lot wrong in abstract painting, I thought engineers lent more towards draughtsmanship in their art appreciation.


Centre aligned verse

‘O, ragged ‘edges…’

What is that about? Before blogging poetry, the only centre aligned verse I saw, or expected to see, was the doggerel or sentimental rhyme inside a greetings card. Imagine, a person possessing some poetical bent is actually employed to compose such things. Can there be a less esteemed occupation? Are there school leavers who, when interviewed by a careers tutor, express a desire to follow a path in birthday card verse writing?

I’m reminded of the scene in Cemetery Junction, when Ricky Gervais’ character tells his MIL he’s is in work: as a window cleaner!

“That’s not work,” she says, “that’s begging!”

Sorry, I digress. What is centre alignment supposed to communicate to the reader, that the poet needs them to know?

Ragged Margins

On each side we see
the ragged margins
the hedge cutter has left
this way, this morning;
his mind on higher things.

Mobile Block Editor = Better Sanity

Many WP bloggers still don’t like the New Block Editor. I didn’t get this – other than the general conservative view that the “old, tried and trusted” is like a comfort pillow. Or an opiate.

Then I looked at it on the laptop and found out the problem: it’s way over-egged for a blogger’s use.

I was in ignorance of all this having used a tablet all this time. The mobile app is a pared down version and I suspect specifically designed for the blogger.

It still needs a few workarounds but I found even the “Classic” editor needed some of those too; nothing’s perfect and there is no one-size-fits-all. What you don’t see won’t worry you. Make it easy on yourself and do it on a mobile app.

Odd Ad Add

I’ve just noticed something I haven’t noticed before in the WP Reader: under each post – whether it’s from a free plan with “wordpress” in the URL; or a paid-for plan – there appears a couple of links to posts from other user’s blogs.

“More on WordPress.com” is the heading. It isn’t quite random but probably down to our old “friend”, the algorithm, as the tenuous connection seems to be whatever keyword is in the title or amongst the tags. For instance, as I’ve used the word “Odd”, the two selected other posts might also have “Odd” in them.

Like ads, algorithms don’t work at all well for me. It’s because an algorithm doesn’t know human nature.


Supplemental Sat. 27 March:

Having browsed a number of posts on the Reader since publishing my post above, I’m getting used to the idea of further reading suggestions excerpted below a post.

In the past, I haven’t found the search box in Reader at all helpful in finding other interesting writers so maybe this add-on might bear fruit.

God, where art thou?

Giles Fraser, writing in Unherd (2019) about a poll on the most religious constituencies in Britain (Northern Ireland wasn’t included in the poll) found that belief in Gods for our source of morality is higher in cities than in the countryside. He imagines that the higher numbers of immigrants in cities accounts for this, and he may be right.

However, he doesn’t agree that morality stems from religion; it’s just that the religious think it does. This is very plausible; the cart before the horse, kind of thing.

I was wondering whether religiosity across the kingdom was more to do with environment. If you live in the heart of a concrete jungle, you will seek god; if you live amongst nature, you’ve found it.

In Tandem

a flash-fiction prompt

“Oh, Gerald! Can’t we slow down? I think I’ve swallowed a fly.”

“But Gertie, dearest, the thrill of the enterprise is in the speed! We’ll soon be out of town and into the countryside; then you’ll appreciate it, you’ll see!”

“I fear there will be awful mud, and bottomless potholes, and other horrid things.”

“You just hold on to the bars, dear, and you’ll avoid heading the road – if I have cause to stop rather suddenly!”

In Gertrude’s dreams, she relived the moment when Edward had hinted at wedlock. He’s something in the City now; a financier, a close friend had suggested. He not only owned a new motor car but had a fellow in uniform to drive it. Edward had called one day to speak with her father; but Father had persuaded him against it.

“He’s simply not for the likes of us, my girl,” he’d said when she’d asked afterwards.

“Hold on tight now, Gertie!” Catching sight of a scattering of steaming horse excrement in the road ahead did nothing to kindle her enthusiasm.

(176 words)


A found picture prompt. I read an interesting history on the bicycle (and tricycle) social revolution in Britain around 1900s. Cycling became a very fashionable recreation amongst the upper middle class and the gentry.

The photo came up on my Pinterest suggestions yesterday. I think it shows a man who’s a member of a cycling club – judging by his cap and cap badge – and his lady wife, out on a leisurely day’s outing on what would have been a costly contraption in the day – a tandem tricycle.

“Heading (the road)”, in early cyclist parlance, was the process of going clear over the handlebars when coming to an abrupt halt, according to the book.

Damn quotes!

It’s not that I don’t like quotes; it’s that I don’t like vague sentiments unshackled from their full context. (There are many things I don’t like in the course of viewing blogs; I might write a post on it one day.)

Here are some which just about pass muster;

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,

It’s taken from Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship. This was Goethe’s second novel of which I’m unfamiliar. To be honest, I’m not familiar with Goethe at all and it’s only the apparent completeness in the quote above which makes it acceptable for me to use.

Goethe – like Gertcha, a song by Chas & Dave?

I’m a great believer in personal discipline of this kind; the kind which improves mind – and that kind which improves body too, though not this – simply as I have no discipline. It must be nice, but “every day at least”? It’s a tall order.

Maybe it’s not so complete as I’ve also found this by Goethe, almost the same though slightly more expansive;

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

That’ll do for me, and, in a casual way, it is what I do and why I think to do it. On Youtube (though the place has become sullied with alternative politics and “destroyer” culture). It might be nice to have a dedicated blog…maybe?

Here’s a different thought by Goethe,

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”

See, there’s no proper context to this and we may interpret its deeper meaning as we will, or not at all; maybe superimpose the words in calibri font over the black and white image of a small urban boy with a dirty face; or a sunrise…

Elsewhere, at another time, I discovered this,

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, “Is it true?”

Rumi anticipates the Theremin centuries before its invention

At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”

At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”

It’s attributed to Rumi, the poet, and I kid you not, someone had a mind to print those words across a photo of a garden gate; as if we didn’t know gates, and that it wasn’t known that Rumi’s gates were just metaphorical.

(I actually imagined them as “OR” gates in a process flow diagram, which shows you were my mind’s at.)

I would, if I could, print them over the “Publish” button, but it might not be absolutely necessary as evident from the increasing size of my “Drafts” folder.

Be kind, be true, and always be necessary.