Junk From George Osborne


This morning I finished ‘Wordsworth, A Life’ by Juliet Barker.  That was essential because otherwise I would have had to weigh down my hand luggage with it on the plane to France tomorrow.  The book comprises 971 pages of very small print for this modern age.  Maybe the font size was chosen in order to restrict it to one volume.  Even skipping the notes, index, etc,, that take up the last section, I had to get through 810 pages.  This required the stubborn determination of a Cancerian marathon runner.  Full of dense detail about the man and his extended family the tome is a tribute to the research skills of the author, and the fact that I did want to complete the task of reading it is thanks to her powers of writing.  Being fairly familiar with the Lake District and having read much of the subject’s poetry also helped.  Maybe I should have been more fascinated by some of the more peripheral characters.

My readers will know I enjoy illustrated books.  I prefer my pictures to appear interspersed with the relevant text, so that every now and again I get a pleasant surprise.  What I don’t like are sections of photographic reproductions in two or three chunks, which usually means you are treated to portraits or views that you have not yet read about.  There were two of the latter clusters in this volume.  Of course this is also a matter of cost, so I shouldn’t be mealy-mouthed about it.  I enjoyed the book.

The rest of the morning was spent sorting out technology.  I have realised that for some weeks now I have not been receiving e-mails on my Blackberry.  Since I am off to Sigoules tomorrow where the Blackberry is my only e-mail source, this has become quite important.  The BT Yahoo icon has also appeared on the mobile device.  This made me think that the problem had arisen as a result of sorting out the password problem with BT which involved linking to a Yahoo account.

Given a choice between O2 and BT help lines I decided to try my luck with the former.  This was definitely the better option.  Dean, of O2, established that my Yahoo account had not been activated by Blackberry.  As I never use it I wanted to get rid of it.  This wasn’t possible without the password.  Now which one would that be?  I gave the young man the most likely key with a couple of alternatives.  None of them worked.  He tried the most likely one again.  No joy.  He said I would need to ring BT to check the password and he would call me back in fifteen minutes.

Well, after the last time I wasn’t going to go through the palaver with BT again, and anyway it would take much more than fifteen minutes.  So I had one last go with the most likely password.  This time it worked.  The most amazing part of all this was that Dean did actually ring me back on time.  He tried the password again.  It worked.

Now all I had to do was take the battery and SIM card out of the phone after we’d finished speaking and put them straight back in again, then wait twenty minutes to start to receive new messages.  The back of a Blackberry is like the inner sanctum of Fort Knox.  I couldn’t take it off without reference to the instruction manual.  Even then, it was tough.  The battery then slipped out easily enough.  But the SIM card was firmly locked in a strong box.  I managed to prise it out a bit but a metal band held it in place.  Imagining that I must have broken whatever was the crucial circuit, which would have been tantamount to taking the card out altogether, I reassembled the device.  76 messages came rushing in.  These were the old unread ones.  I had lunch, after which a new message came in.  It was junk from George Osborne, but it was a message.

I then accompanied Jackie to Sainsbury’s in Ringwood to replenish provisions devastated by the Easter family influx.  On the verges of the A road and roundabout approach to the car park are planted ‘a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils’.  I wasn’t exactly wandering ‘lonely as a cloud’.  In fact I had to dance between cars on their way to the West Country to approach them.  It has been a happy coincidence to finish the Victorian Poet Laureate’s biography in April, thus giving me the opportunity for a cheesy personal link with another, better known, rambler.

This evening Ali and Steve drove from their home in Clutton to the Aroma Bangladeshi restaurant in Shaftesbury.  Jackie and I drove to the same venue where we all met and spent a very enjoyable evening over an excellent meal, Cobra, and Bangla beer.


rue St Jacques from garden on corner 2.13

Last night I watched ‘La Dame En Noir’, the French version of ‘The Woman in Black’, a gothic treatment of Susan Hill’s ghost story.  Directed by James Watkins, this was beautifully and terrifyingly filmed in marvellously muted colour.  In order not to spoil it for future viewers I will simply say that Daniel Radcliffe is superb in the lead role, as is the supporting cast, especially Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer.  Hearing dubbed French supplemented by subtitles in that language I was able to follow it well enough.  Afterwards I watched it in English.  The actors’ voices were then much more part of the performances.

I’m a pretty tough cookie when it comes to the supernatural, but, even on second viewing, I lost count of the number of times a shiver ran up the back of my neck and tugged at my facial muscles.  The last film scene that had that effect on me was the revelation of Norman Bates’ mother in Psycho.  That was in my teens.

6 rue St Jacques through disused garden gate 2.13Except for the climb back into Sigoules, my walk today was comparatively flat.  On the D17 towards Monbos a woman from the boulangerie was delivering bread to homes on the outskirts.  I took a right turn to Le Bricoty, right again to the Cuneges road and finally right into my village.  The two tracks off the main roads are heavily pock-marked with various materials providing in-fill.

It was just as well that I returned as the church clock was striking noon, for Sandrine was waiting outside to take me to the airport.  ‘It’s Tuesday the twelfth’, said I.  Once again confusion had arisen when booking with her mother last Friday.  Tuesday is ‘mardi’; noon is ‘midi’ or ‘douze heures’; the twelfth is ‘douze’.  Sandrine was perfectly relaxed and most amused.  As she speaks perfect English I said: ‘Lost in translation again’.  We parted with ‘Mardi douze [at] midi [or] douze heures’ from me, and a good shared laugh.

Soup 2.13Pizza slice 2.13Frangipane tart 2.13Yesterday’s soup in Le Code Bar was even better the next day.  This was followed by a large slice of delicate pizza.  The sweet was a toothsome frangipane tart.  Unfortunately I managed to lose the photograph I took of the main course, so I will have to paint a pastoral picture.  This was a beautifully presented terrace of tender duck breast medallions lying at the foot a glistening rocky hillock of dressed pasta garnished with cheese.  The usual lettuce leaves provided a deciduous foliage, and what could be seen of the huge chromium oval platter was a surrounding lake.  Once again I was full to bursting.  Stuffed for the next twenty four hours.

After lunch the fierce wind and I chased last autumn’s maple leaves around the garden.  Since neither I nor my neighbours have such trees I’ve no idea where they are coming from.

I usually have two books, one in English and one in French, on the go at any one time.  On completing Marguerite Duras’ ‘Emily L’ this afternoon I was struck by several contrasts between, and one coincidence in, that and Juliet Barker’s life of Wordsworth.  The French novel is short and concise; a small format paperback with large print running to 152 pages.  The English biography is immense and dense.  It is a large format hardback comprising almost 900 pages of very small print.  Although I didn’t know it before my reading, the novel also features the life of a poet.  It will be some time before I finish the biography, so here I’ll just say a bit more about ‘Emily L.’.  The novel uses the fascinating device of what Jackie would call ‘people-watching’.  The four main characters occupy a bar overlooking the Seine.  The French narrator, falling out of love with her male companion, concentrates on an English couple clinging to love despite the woman’s destructive alcoholism.

The thoughts of the Frenchwoman and her conversation with her man, always using ‘vous’ rather than the more intimate ‘tu’, are interspersed with the words of the husband across the room.  His wife mostly looks at the floor whilst he soliloquises.  Emily is the successful poet who has lost her muse.  We learn why.  An excellent story of the sadness of dying romance, it is given pace by the brevity of the sentences.

People-watching in restaurants is clearly an universal phenomenon.  When in Le Code Bar I listen to all the voices around me, hoping to catch a few words of French.  The speakers’ confidentiality is quite safe with me.  I don’t understand enough.