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.

Three Youtubes and a Phone Call

Antisocial Buddhism

“Once you feel you are avoided by someone, never disturb them again.”

I’m not big for posting quotes but one evening, I was idly perusing Youtube‘s recommended offerings and found a slideshow of sayings attributed to Buddhism. I don’t know if any of these were Gautama Buddha‘s authentic words or not, but this one made me smile. It seems so modern; and maybe it is.

Blast from the Past

Youtube sometimes highlights gigs I ought not to have missed. For me, live recordings often don’t match up to the live event. There must be some trickery used in the recording studio which makes a studio recording superior to a recording of a gig (what am I saying! Of course there is; that’s why we buy the damn pop records).

I’ve watched this one before, some years ago, but it resurfaced amongst the recommendations this week. It’s Steve Marriott’s Packet of Three playing at the Camden Palace, a venue in easy reach of me during the mid 80s. I could’ve been there* and wished I had been. Still, unlike most live recordings, the energy still shines bright on this little gig, I reckon.

I’d watched a documentary about The Small Faces earlier in which Ronnie Lane said of their beginnings, none of them could play [their instruments]. They hit the floor – or the stage – running.

It’s a shame they didn’t make any money, or much as much esteem as is granted some of their contemporaries. Marriott, evidently still the cheeky cockney, artful dodger persona, both in the included interview and in exchanging bon-mots with individual members of the audience, still sings an ad-lib line about being a short, fat, balding has-been. God bless him.

Whatever happened to the man interviewing Marriott at the end of the video? Nicky Horne. If memory serves, he was one of the originals on the start-up of Capital Radio, London’s own officially independent and legal radio station. It was good and much needed in the day; don’t know much about it these days, probably obsolete.

(there’s an extended version of the show here but as with a lot of embeds, playing it outside of Youtube is prevented by its owner. Check your embeds, folks!)

(* actually, no, I couldn’t have been there. On reflection, I was living and working in Sydney.)

Sort of Interesting

Keeping hold of self-effacing for a moment longer, and dismissing Buddha entirely, Daniel Brown is now top of the charts for Youtube narrowboat vloggers. Oh, I wish I had the credentials to Vlog!

I understand he is the original: double you-oh-oh-oh! Original narrowboat vlogger, that is. They had him turn on the Christmas lights in his home town of Oswestry, in Shropshire – a town which appears brutally truncated in the crease between opposite pages in my copy of the AA Road Map of Britain 1993 (all new revised edition featuring three additional road signs).

In 2021, it’s predicted he’ll be a star celebrity on Strictly Come Dancing. This is where you heard it first.

O, Mrs. Raven!

Do you remember Mrs. Raven? She was the GP’s receptionist in the silly superhero sit-com, My Hero. The character was superbly played by Geraldine McNulty but credit too to the writers for sure as I can’t remember a comedy stereotype depicted so close to reality as her doctor’s receptionist.

I’m reminded of this after a brief and terse phone conversation with my surgery following a text message offering me a jab at their flu clinic. The woman couldn’t be less helpful or more inconsiderate if she was fully-trained to be so – and who’s to say they aren’t? They’re all alike! Stereotypically.

Share Your World

Melanie of Sparks From A Combustible Mind has set the questions this week, to share our world.

Follow here for more sharing of worlds!


What’s the tallest building you’ve been to the top of?

It might seem funny because with my job, I’ve worked on a fair number of tall buildings but have had few opportunities to climb to their tops once completed. Most of them were built in the Middle East so too far to travel and I wouldn’t go there just for that.

When I was a kid, they’d just opened what was then called the Post Office Tower which I think was the highest at the time. My best friend’s uncle took us to the public viewing gallery near the top. Of course, it’s a short construction compared to what’s gone up since.

Despite my old job, I’m not keen on skyscrapers to be honest.

What do you do to keep fit?

I’ve recently taken up distance running again, though not especially to get fit. I have bikes which I haven’t managed to get out on since we moved house last year. Up until lockdown I attended a yoga class for over fifteen years. I enjoy walking long distances but more for enjoyment than fitness.

I think it’s important for me to keep active and mobile as I get older: you never know how long you’ll be able bodied and able to enjoy it. Regular exercise helps to inform you how your body is doing/coping.

What’s your jack-o-lantern carved to look like?

I don’t know if it’s happening this year with lockdown. Last year’s was done for our grandson. It had a more comical expression than scary.

Do you have hope or have you lost it?

I am an eternal optimist with tinges of stoicism.

Share Your World

Melanie and Roger host another Share Your World question sets, with four themed ones from the tomes of Harry P. and three Muggles questions to follow.

In a break with form, I shall answer these all myself, once I’ve put a point on the end of my crayon…


Have you ever driven the wrong way on a one-way street? How did this come about?

It’s been known to happen though I haven’t yet driven very far into one. As a driver, I can be very frustrated with the rules.

There’s that scene in a Michael Caine film, Shiner, where his bodyguards – one played by Andy Serkis, unusually as a recognisable Andy Serkis – have taken a wrong turn down a one way street. They meet a car going the correct way. The meek driver protests that it’s a one way street, to which the bodyguard driving replies, “well, I’m only going one way”. That’s me, that is.

As a kid, did you ever decide to run away? Did you have a plan? Take a pet? Sandwiches?

Never as a kid – I had an uncomplicated childhood – but many times as a working adult. Too much responsibility and boredom. I wasn’t made for employment. My plan was to keep driving or not get off the train at the right stop; not too complicated a plan. Pets? Nooo. Sandwiches? No, I had a wallet and credit cards by then. But that would be hypothetical as I chickened out.

You suddenly found you have a hidden talent for playing a musical instrument. What musical instrument do you hope that accompanies your talent? Any particular song?

Drums or trumpet, either will do for me. For drums, something funky, or maybe a Joe Morello solo. For trumpet, something sublime, mellow and melancholic, maybe with a mute. How about “Almost Blue”?

Do you accessorize with jewelry? There was an opal necklace (cursed) and Slytherin’s locket (also cursed) in the Potter story. Have you had any heirloom jewelry passed down through the generations? Is it more ‘keepsake’ or do you wear it on occasion? (Hopefully, yours was not cursed?)

I can’t stand to wear jewellery. I don’t even wear a wristwatch now. Funnily enough, my Grandmother bought me a signet ring for my twenty-first birthday. It broke when the jeweller tried to enlarge the band to fit, so I asked for a watch instead. That broke too, in time.

I was given a St. Christopher by a girlfriend and lost it at a Sports Centre. I had one of those silver engraved ID bracelets too, and lost that. What’s the point? What is it trying to say about the wearer? That they don’t lose stuff – yet!

What ingredients go into YOUR favorite salad?

There is a chef on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube Youtube channel who says salads need flavours. He’s right, the make or break of a salad is flavours. For me, there has to be a good dressing – that’s dressing not soaking! A simple one would comprise oil, sourness, sweetness, and a characteristic flavour.

Anything can make a salad if the dressing is right. In a restaurant in France, I was served a simple plate of dressed lettuce and it was absolutely gorgeous!

I also like to bake croutons with left over bread, cubed and adding herbs, garlic and chilli oil. These go well in a salad, especially with tomatoes, and saves wasting stale bread.

If you care to, share something that really irritates you.

Smart Alecs who treat any conversation as if it was a contest. These people were the prototype trolls of social media, it’s nothing new.

What are your favorite ‘lounging around the house’ items of clothing? Now that a lot of people ‘lounge around the house’ waiting for the all clear in respect to Covid being shown the door, have those lounging items changed?

I don’t think of it as lounging but my go to trousers of late are a pair of workman’s trousers I picked up at Lidl in the middle for £11. They’ve got pockets everywhere and I’ll often find I’ve sat down on a screwdriver or a bunch of Allen keys in the back pockets.

But unless I’m heading out to a DIY store, I’ll always change into fresh jeans to be seen in public.


Fandango’s Provocative Question

Fandango asks about life changing alternative decisions in Provocative Question #85:

Have you ever had to make what turned out to be a life changing decision? If so, do you ever wish that you could go back in time and make a different decision? What decision was that and how do you think your life would have changed if you’d made a different one?

You know how it is, when you put on your new coat, or sweater, and you notice there’s a thread hanging from a sleeve, and you’re not sure whether to pull it out or whether you’ll find your new coat, or sweater, coming apart at the seams?

Well, that’s what you have to bear in mind whenever you think you ought to have taken a different road in life. The life you have now will come apart.

The upside of this is, you really wouldn’t know it. How do you know you haven’t been granted the wish to change a previous course you’d taken? Imagine that you’ve decided retrospectively not to take a course in computer sciences. Now you’re a historian, or maybe a history teacher in some backwater suburban school.

Maybe, if you’d persevered with learning the guitar, you could be a has-been rock star now, getting dressed for your ex-drummer’s funeral. Or, maybe busking for small change before heading over to Gracie’s house to listen to her mangle Morning Has Broken and making encouraging noises to please her mother. She may give you a Christmas bonus this year. She didn’t last year.

Maybe you’d suddenly find yourself dead already. Wouldn’t that be a mistake. No going back on that life altering wish, receipt or no receipt.

When all’s said and done, this life hasn’t turned out so bad. Sure, it could be worse.

Five Things: Stress busting

Five things I might do to reduce stress or anxiety? A prompt from Dr. Tanya at Salted Caramel.

1. Drawing (or painting)

Or doodling. I’ve always drawn. If I see a pencil, I pick it up; it feels good in my fingers. I find there is nothing quite like drawing to take my mind off and away into a different sphere of consciousness for a couple of hours.

2. Walking

I first started to walk as a teen, having to wait for buses which never came. This is London’s suburbia. You’d take a chance walking on to the next stop, the fare would be cheaper. Then, if still no sign of a bus, on to the next stop. Occasionally, you’d arrive at your destination before the bus. Then you’d work out there were shortcuts the bus couldn’t take. It was enjoyable. You’d start to walk everywhere and at anytime: homewards from parties, well after midnight, the streets were safer back then.

Though it’s better here in the countryside. Nature, fresh air. A two hour walk can get a lot of weight off your mind.

3. Getting it down on paper

Working it out; order; making a list; sketching it out; any graphical representation of a problem. Seeing it more clearly. Owning it. Mastering it.

4. Yoga

Most rigorous exercise will help, I find, but there’s something intensely focussing about yoga practice which makes you forget about what’s happening elsewhere.

5. Tasking

Often, if I just say, “I’ll at least do these three things today”, no matter how simple they seem, the satisfaction of having crossed them off the to-do list is tremendous. It might be tackling the unruly garden hedges, it might be tidying a neglected room, or a workbench or a desk, it might be making that important call, it might be remembering to do one of those things above.

image: “The Desperate Man” (self-portrait) by Gustave Courbet

Share My World

Four or five questions presented by Melanie B Cee of Sparks of a Combustible Mind.

death of the internet

What will finally break the Internet? Do you believe it can be broken at all?

I’ve been reading some disturbing stories about the Earth’s magnetic field. Apparently, scientists believe that the north and south magnetic poles may be about to switch over. What will happened in that fraction of a second in between? Will we have a neutralised magnetic field? The internet may go pop!

What are some ‘red flags’ to watch out for in daily life? (take it as you want)

That dystopian sci-fi trope where everyone develops a compulsion to inflict indiscriminate violence on their brothers, sisters and neighbours. It’s begun to happen for real.

What’s the silliest thing someone has argued with you about?

I had to stop arguing once because it was silly and the other person then said, “oh, it might be silly to you, but not to me”, and I said, “just because you think so doesn’t make it so”, and so it went on.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve found lying on the ground / side of the road?

In my teens, I found a fencer’s epee in a hedge by the side of a road once. I got £2 for it by taking it to the “junk” shop (a cross between a pawnbroker and a secondhand store – what we had in England before antique shops and charity shops). Does a hedge count?

In our first year moving here, I was asked to go on a litter picking patrol to tidy up the village and surrounding roads. The biggest and oddest thing someone had dumped by the side of the road was the back seat of some old car, together with a soggy pair of jeans lying across it and empty cans of Coke and beer. Now there must have been a story.

Please feel free to share your photos, stories, poetry, or memes that promote gratitude!

The more I think about things, the more grateful I am to have been born and lived when and where I was, within a few years here and there: a bubble of relative calm bookended by periods of global crises.

Three Words

Halfway between Frisco and Honolulu

On an ocean which will not pacify me.

Marine desert with its roving mountainous blue dunes,

Under a white sun scorched haze and hardly a day’s water left.

My lips numb have cracked; I think of Sausalito

And Otis Redding whistling a lamentation on the dock of the bay,

after they’d lifted his lifeless form from Lake Monona;

after twenty-six Summers. Rain, sleet, ice and snow;

the shape-shifting water of our life, generating, sustaining, then reaping;

giving and taking away, and never asking why?

(89 words)

written for Pensitivity101’s Three Word Challenge prompt#311 – “affair, bustle, generation”.

bottom image: screenshot taken from What3Words location app – affair.bustle.generation

Midway between San Francisco and Hawaii, North Pacific Ocean.

The Luddite and The Intellectual Hermit

A Luddite and an intellectual hermit walk into a pub.

“What will you have, gents?” asks the barman.

“Possibly an aversion to the deceptions of progress,” the Luddite replies.

“Sorry, sir,” says the barman, “we don’t do those fancy cocktails.”

The Luddite

Sorry, that’s a bad twist on an old joke. Two things recently had me thinking about the way of the world today. First was an announcement that the team I work for is invited to experience the developments of another team involved in producing virtual reality solutions. In case we are in any doubt as to what this involves, the email included a couple of images, one showing a scene which could be a screen capture from a very dull video game, and the other some bloke, looking blindly towards the ceiling, wearing a set of Oculus type goggles.

Unusual for me, I can’t raise much curiosity or enthusiasm for the prospect. In my imagination I can predict the illusion of experiencing being on the inside a very bad video game, the trick being the screen’s eye view adjusts according to feedback from the relative position of the goggles. As with a magician’s trick, when you work out how it can be done, it loses all potency to be awesome.

Or, to put it another way, reality does the trick way better: the scene around us is brilliantly rendered, and it all moves about precisely as we move our senses relatively to it. The only thing is we take it all for granted and there’s no smack about the chops moment, no “awesome!”

Though really I feel my slight aversion to this stems from a building annoyance that “expert” people in my field are surrendering their imagination to the machines, and we are obliged to follow suit. I’ve met those now who can’t visualise from concepts and basic drawings – they need to see the 3D model. Visualisation was once an essential skill in the job. In a generation, it will be obsolete.

The Intellectual Hermit

I saw another inspiring article in the news yesterday. It was about hermits. Real life, modern day hermits. Haven’t you ever once in your life contemplated a life as a hermit?

The story focuses on two quite different hermits. The first is Christopher Knight who, in 1986, aged 20, took himself off to a wood in Maine, USA, never to be seen again for 27 years (actually, he did meet a lost hiker once and exchanged a simple “hi”). He lived in a tent, stole what little he needed to survive and thus he was caught in a trap by the police investigating these thefts. He said his decision to hide away was a desire to be alone, free of the world. There was no incident, traumatic, shameful or otherwise, in his previous life which caused this; it was just in his nature.

The second hermit is the Christian, Sara Maitland, who lives alone in a self-built house on a moor in Scotland. The reason she gives for her chosen lifestyle is ecstasy. Solitude is “total joy”, she explains. You know, I can relate to that.

Even so, I don’t think I could handle it for a prolonged length of time, never mind a whole lifetime. It’s not the risk that solitude can easily tip over into loneliness; you could just pack it in and move back. It’s the physical hardship which appears to come with it – working for survival. Unless, like Knight, you steal.

An idea then came to me about intellectual hermits. In his poem, To Althea, from Prison, Richard Lovelace, incarcerated in Gatehouse prison for political dissent in 1642, around the time of our English Civil Wars, writes the final verse,

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage:
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

I can’t think of anymore to add to this notion of freedom, in love, soul and mind, except let us contemplate that thought for a while.

On Hermits – why this man became a hermit at 20 (BBC News stories)

To Althea, From Prison (Richard Lovelace, 1642) – (wiki)

images: “Occulus” wearing guy (top) and Sara Maitland, in Scotland (below)

The Unfathomable Workings of Memory

The name just popped effortlessly into my consciousness like a long forgotten disc might drop randomly onto the platter of a mechanical jukebox. It made me feel like dancing…

He used to be this guy I worked alongside decades ago and, up until now, I could only remember him as Tom. His face, however, remains as a composite of several similar faces I have met over the years and will stay so, unless I happen to see him again. It’s unlikely and as the passing years have grown long, soon I’m wondering if he is still alive. I believe there’s a good chance but probably I’ll never know.

I did try to Google his name and scrolled down, as much as I could bear, looking for a recognisable face amongst the endless mugshots of strangers. Unless you’re searching for the bleeding obvious, search engines are an utter disappointment now, a complete waste of effort. Too superficial, populist and trivial. Like the arm-banded kid too afraid of the deep end.

The point about Tom, why I remember him, albeit vaguely, is that he was a rare deep guy. Even in the twiggy branch of the knowledge industry in which we were employed, he impressed me with his erudition and free-thinking. He was an interesting guy to talk with.

But how and why does the memory do that; why does it play such games. I hadn’t forgotten his name, as I thought for years, it was just misplaced somewhere in the grey matter. Buried. And, yes, jammed: I could almost sense a physical blockage and the frozen cogwheels up there if ever I try to recall a name or a word. Memory is a mysterious function but I bet Tom Warner would understand something about it.