The New Finds The Old

November 24, 2021

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After twenty-five years of fine service our washing machine died last week. The new one arrived this morning.

As the old machine has been an unmovable fixture for a quarter century, we were sure we’d find a lot of grime and maybe a pile of missing socks down there. There was grime aplenty but no socks. There were, however, THIRTY-SIX white plastic hangers strewn behind, beside, and under the machine! Who knew they were even missing?


False Memory Syndrome

November 22, 2021

Fifty-eight years ago today, my mother and father visited their closest friends, Ron and Betty, who lived a few miles from us in West London. I was in the backseat of the small black car.  It smelled of leather and my parents’ cigarettes. I was sullen because I was just turned 14 years old and I had far better things to do than visit my parents’ old fogie friends to play cards.

I remember this all so clearly because, just as we pulled up outside Ron and Betty’s row house, the car radio broke off its normal programming and a solemn voice replaced the happy chatter.  The voice announced that President John F. Kennedy of the United States had been shot and probably killed.  I can still feel the goose-flesh that crawled over my skin. I remember the loud gasp as my father realized what had been said.  John Kennedy was one of my father’s heroes, and he was mine too. He was our hope for the future, and now he was dead. Nothing else about that evening do I remember. I’m sure my folks and their friends discussed the assassination, but that has passed from recall.

Within two years of that day, though, JFK had — in my eyes at least — fallen from the pedestal upon which his charisma, his beautiful family, and his martyrdom had placed him.  He was quickly revealed as just another centre-right US politician who was happy to send the boys to war, who was happy to squander the nation’s wealth on weapons and imperialism, who had no answer to segregation but brother Bobby’s federal agents.  We also learned (perhaps we always knew) he wasn’t quite such a great family man, either; that Camelot was an expensive sham.

Kennedy and his people lived in the tuxedoed world of High Society that was soon to be swept away by the real world of Soul on Ice and Revolver.  We might have hated that big Texas bully who followed Kennedy, but it was Kennedy not Johnson who pushed the US into South Vietnam, and it was Johnson not Kennedy who brought forward the Civil Rights Acts. Looking back, we can now see that both Kennedy and Johnson were equal participants in the cabaret that is America the Superpower. Unfortunately for the truth, Kennedy will always have the smile, the beautiful wife, the cute John-John and Caroline, while Johnson will always be pulling the ears off those damn beagles.


As The Crow Flies

November 18, 2021

I was standing on my patio looking north into the relentless rain and the opaque grayness of it all when thousands of crows passed overhead on their way home, unbothered by the weather.


Memoir: A Day of Infinite Possibilities

November 9, 2021

It was 9th November 1989 and I was watching TV, watching the news from Berlin.  And soon a dozen people are hacking at the Wall from both sides and the party has begun and CNN’s cameras bring this extraordinary and historic wish-fulfillment into the living rooms of the world, and my living room in particular that November night.

And within moments, it seemed, there were thousands singing and candles blazing. And even though I was in Vancouver at the time, my heart was with them because at heart I was and remain a Londoner. And Berlin is VERY close to home to Londoners, especially to those who had spent decades watching people die as they tried to go over and under and around the Wall. And I wept openly and for days when the Wall came down.

It was a day of ultimate possibilities because here was an impossibility happening in front of our tear-misty TV-mediated eyes.


On Being Seventy-Two

October 29, 2021

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Today is my birthday, which I share with Bob Ross, Joseph Goebbels, and the ballpoint pen.

I am seventy-two years old.   Just saying that feels unreal.  When I was born in 1949, average life expectancy for a man in the UK was about 65 years; I have somehow managed to beat that.

I am part of the generation that didn’t trust anyone over thirty, and who made terribly dangerous choices on a regular basis throughout their thirties and forties. By the 1990s, what with all the drugs and the booze and the carousing, I was certain I couldn’t possibly reach fifty, and I wasn’t all that sure I wanted to.

Now, I have kids in their late forties, grand-children in their mid-twenties, and I am sure that great-grand-children can’t be far away.

The fact that I am still here, walking and talking and pretending (to myself at least) to be young, is astonishing, a wonder, a miracle of modern medicine, and a tribute to the Everloving who takes such good care of me.

My future keeps catching up to my present and I hope it keeps doing so for a long time.  After all, I have promised myself my first ever Big Mac on my one hundredth birthday!


Twelve Years Of Freedom

October 22, 2021

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Twelve years ago today, I was called into my boss’s office and told that I was being laid off.

The locally-owned company where I had worked for a good many years had been taken over by a larger American group earlier that year, and they wanted to put their own people into senior management positions.  I wasn’t the first or even fourth senior manager to be sent packing, and I had expected this meeting all through the summer. I was almost sixty years old and bored with working for someone else. When the hammer fell, I was greatly relieved and happily accepted the generous severance pay they offered.

Luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the first part of my enforced retirement. I was keen to write a history of Commercial Drive and over the next fifteen months, that’s what I did.  Along with this I helped establish the Grandview Heritage Group which kept me busy and interested.  At the same time, I wanted to become a lot more involved in local politics, knowing that a Community Plan was about to be thrust upon us.  Any regular reader of this blog will know that I was and remain deeply involved in those matters to this day.

The Community Plan experience led to my third book Battleground: Grandview which was published last November,

So, I have been busy these last twelve years.  But the genuine sense of freedom has been the really exhilarating feeling. I wake up when I want, dress in whatever I want, spend time with the Everloving, cook, take long luxurious naps, read, write, and relax.  We certainly don’t have the money we had when I was working, but we get by OK, and I’ll swap the money for such freedom any day.

It has been a grand twelve years, and I quietly thank my old firm for laying me off when they did.


Night Music and R.I.P. Paddy Moloney

October 12, 2021

When I first came to Canada and lived for a while up in a motel room in Stewart, I had with me just two or three audio tapes. The “Chieftains 7” was one of them, and it was the one I played the most.

Paddy Moloney, founder and inspiration for the Chieftains, died yesterday at the age of 83. He was an incredible musician and producer, and in every interview and documentary I saw he came across as a wonderfully humble human being. He will be missed.


HandyDart Again

October 12, 2021

Having recently whined about the new HandyDart/Compass website, I want to bring some balance by noting that I went to the Compass Card Customer Support office at Stadium Station today and the woman there was marvelous.

It was obvious from her remarks that I was not the first old fart to have failed the website test but in just a few cheerful minutes she brought everything into line and I left with new activated cards for both myself and the Everloving. I could not have been more satisfied with the service I received.


HandyDart Changes: Good and Bad

October 6, 2021
Editorial: HandyDART handy, most of the time | The Local Weekly

I am a semi-frequent user of HandyDart. The service has its problems but overall does a good job of getting me to and from hospital appointments that would be difficult for me to get to otherwise. I have found the staff, drivers and telephone operators, invariably helpful and courteous. It is also a welcome relief to have the fares reduced under the program that began this month.

I also have a senior’s concessionary Compass Pass which allows me to travel anywhere on the Translink system for an incredibly reasonable $45 a year and I was glad to learn that one can now use Compass to access HandyDart. However, for reasons that I cannot figure, HandyDart users will be obliged to use a different orange Compass card for HandyDart service.

While not understanding the reasons for the additional complexity, I was willing to go to the website to apply for the extra card. That was when things became difficult.

Being a trained accountant and highly computer literate, I am used to filling in forms online but I am damned if I could figure this one out. I registered my original Compass card as requested and paid in $20 to my account. But then the system failed me as I could not work out — no matter how I tried — how to get them to send me the new orange card. I probably spent thirty minutes struggling with it.

Finally I gave up and wrote them an email explaining the difficult I was having. A few days later, today, I received a reply that laid out a complicated three-step process involving multiple websites that I am still trying to unravel.

I will get through this eventually but it occurs to me that for many seniors this will be a daunting experience and I suspect many will simply give up and will be reduced to scrabbling for the correct cash when their rides arrive.

If being able to swipe a Compass card on HandyDart is supposed to make things easier for us, so far it has failed before it even begins.


Beep Beep Beep

October 4, 2021

I was just a few weeks away from my 8th birthday when my father sat me on his knee specifically to listen to our old radio spit out some strange sounds — “Beep.  Beep.  Beep.”  Even through the static we knew we had never heard the like of it before.

On October 4th, 1957 — just sixty-four years ago — the space age began with the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.  I’m sure the surprise in the US was far greater than we felt in Europe.  We Europeans were already terrified of the power of the grey beasts just a few hundred miles to the east of our cozy nest in West London.  It seemed to many that Russian tanks could overrun Europe at any moment, and the technological genius of Sputnik simply confirmed our anxiety.

But again, there was always that secret spot inside that reveled in the fact that a European power had beaten the Americans into space.  And for my socialist grandfather and his cadre of friends, it was yet another sign that the Workers’ Paradise was superior in every respect to the Mickey Mouse- and Doris Day-loving capitalists.

In the end, I’m sure this had little to do with the ultimate end of the Cold War.  The costs of the space race were minuscule compared to the economy-shuddering trillions spent on the arms race by both sides.  But without Sputnik and all that followed, we would be a very different and more distanced world today.


Hanging Out at First & Commercial

October 1, 2021

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Twenty Years of Blogging

September 23, 2021

On this day in 2001, I wrote my first blog post.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, I had been running a few BBS systems, both for myself and for a couple of organizations I was involved with. Looking back on it, they sure were primitive compared to what we have today.

Later in the 1990s, I was heavily involved in some early online communities — Utne Café and Howard Rheingold’s Brainstorms in particular. They were great fun and of immense value in opening up channels of intelligent communication. I also met people there (including the Everloving) with whom I am still in touch.

Finally, in 2001, I discovered Blogger and jaksview v.1 was born. A couple of years later I switched to Typepad for v.2 in which my entries were heavily weighted toward international politics. Unfortunately, I ran into some heavy-duty far right SOBs who started threatening me and my family and in February 2008 I felt it was the better part of discretion to scrap version 2. I started again with WordPress for version 3 — and here we are today.

I have been a writer in one way or another for most of my life and having a blog has allowed me to inflict my views, my poems, my art on a much wider audience than I might have had in any other way. Thank you for reading and for continuing to visit jaksview.


Twenty Five Years and Counting

September 15, 2021

Yet another year without cigarettes. Twenty-five years today, wow.

It might seem tedious to keep harping on this year after year, but frankly I think giving up smoking after 35 years of two-pack-a-day slavery to the habit was the smartest and bravest thing I ever did. And I know for a dead certainty that I would not be here writing this today if I had continued smoking the way I did.

So I’ll keep celebrating my freedom, year after year!


Buying A Cheap Vote

September 10, 2021

I was waiting at the bus stop this morning with a few other people, most of whom were clearly pensioners. Along came two guys from the local seniors’ home who loudly proclaimed that they had just voted.

“We voted for the guy that’s giving us a $500 bonus pension,” said one of the new comers. “You’ll all be daft if you don’t vote for him, too,” said the other.

Most of the audience nodded.


And Then The Blitz Began

September 7, 2021

The German Luftwaffe attacks against London known as the Blitz began on the afternoon of September 7, 1940 — eighty-one years ago today.  They went on essentially uninterrupted for 79 days, and expanded across Great Britain.  Here can be found the Guardian‘s report of the first night’s bombing.

The German airmen apparently have orders to loose their bombs whenever they feel they are over the area called Metropolitan London.  Certainly 90% of all the damage done was to non-military objectives.

About 43,000 civilians died during the Blitz. Almost 140,000 more were injured, and more than a million homes damaged or destroyed. Even when the Blitz itself was over, the Germans continued to bomb London  for several years.  My parents spent much of their teen-aged years running to air shelters, sleeping in the Underground stations.  My mother went to the school which suffered the first V2 rocket attack.  Thousands of younger children were evacuated from London to “safer” country towns.  A dozen or more years later, when I was a kid in the early 50s in west London, all my “playgrounds” were bomb sites that still hadn’t been rebuilt.

Those of us who are lucky to live in North America have no conception of what this could be like. Imagine, perhaps, the events of 9/11 happening all over the country every day for two months and more. And all of this just one lifetime away from us.


Forty-Two Years On

September 1, 2021

In the late fall of 1978, I came to BC to work on a job in Stewart BC. The twin otter I flew in on was the last plane to land for about a week due to bad weather, and it snowed several feet every day.

The local mine up on Tide Lake had recently closed and the tiny town was populated mainly by hunters and trappers. For a city boy from London, it was all very strange.  For Christmas that year, we were sent down to Vancouver for a few days and over the next few months I grew to love both BC and its people.

When my job finished in the following February, I went back to London and then on to Israel where I was under contract for another job.  During that spring and summer of 1979, I decided to move permanently to Vancouver and it was forty-two years this week that I arrived and formally immigrated.  It was just before my 30th birthday and now, passed seventy, I don’t regret the move for one moment.

Thank you Canada and Vancouver for taking me in, making me very welcome, and making my life so much better than it might otherwise have been.


Memoir: Marrakech Express

August 22, 2021

It was 1971 and Ken and I took the ferry from Algeciras to Tangiers. We looked as if we had been on the road for months but, in truth, it had been only a couple of weeks — we had just let ourselves go on the easy road down through France and Spain. A man in his late twenties — which we considered to be very close to middle age and possibly wisdom  —  whom we had met near Barcelona, told us that the Moroccan authorities were targeting long-haired Europeans. This didn’t bother Ken who always kept his hair short.  But here I was on the windy deck of a Mediterranean ferry with half-way-down-my-back-length hair tied up in string and stuffed uncomfortably inside an oversized cowboy hat I had found near Valencia.

When we arrived, the customs officers barely looked at us, stamped our passports and waved us through. But our Barcelona sage had not warned us about the swarm of ragged boys who descend on arrivals, shouting their wares, begging for attention, pulling at sleeves. Most seemed to be about ten or twelve.  I cannot recall any other passengers on the ferry  — although there must have been — and the crowd of boys seemed to concentrate on Ken and I, circling us with their pleading hands and eyes, until we were brought to a stop on the quayside. Ken pointed to one boy indistinguishable from the rest. It seemed to break the spell and the others slowly dispersed.

“Francais?” he beamed through broken teeth.  We shook our heads.

“Am’rican?”

“English”

“Anglais good, very good!” We were following him down the quayside now, toward the intersection where the souk gate led off to the right, and a more ordinary seafront stretched to the left. And all the time he was listing off, in a musical melange of English and French, his perceptions of our wants and how available they might be.

“You want hotel, yes?”

“Yeah.  You know some?”

“Bien sur. Many hotel, many fine hotel for ‘ippy.”  I looked at Ken and Ken looked at me. We had no real idea why we were following this kid, but neither of us had any alternative suggestions.

tabgier-soukBy this point we had reached the entrance to the area of the Petit Socco. Following the child-guide now meant pursuing the unknown deeper and deeper into alleyways that we could never hope to find our way back from.  Not, at least, on this, our first day. But follow him we did, and it was not too far into the market when he pulled us into a building sporting a colourful sign in Arabic and French — “Pension d’Petit Socco”.

The kid did the deal for us. It was even cheaper than we had expected and within a few minutes we were in a room with two mattresses on the floor, no other furniture, and a window onto a rubbish-filled courtyard where a very young girl was struggling to put heavy laundry through an ancient hand-operated wringer.

“You want keef, yes?”  Not daring to voice the thought, we just nodded. He gave us a huge gappy smile.

“Vingt dirham. I return in quarter hour.” He thrust out his hand. Ken gave him the money and the kid ran out of the room. Ken looked at me, and I looked at Ken. What the hell had we done? Would the kid bring the police to bust us?  Would he just steal our money? Shit! What had we done?

The mattresses were dirtier than anything either of us had experienced before. We didn’t need to actually see the bugs moving to know they were there in force. So we didn’t sit down. We stood at the window watching the girl work, smoking the last few of our English cigarettes, thinking our own thoughts of what the inside of a Moroccan jail would be like.

The kid was back in ten minutes. Closing the door, he threw me a huge brown paper bag full of deep green leaves, and a pack of ZigZag papers. His smile, if anything, was broader than before.

“You want girl?  Young girl maybe?  We shook our heads.

“Not my sister.  Honest.  Virgin girl, very good!”

As he said this he looked so young, far too young to understand what he was offering. But he seemed clear enough.   We shooed him out of the room, but not before he had wheedled another 10 dirhams out of us for finding the hotel.  In the end he seemed pleased enough with his morning’s work.

We stacked Ken’s huge back pack against the door.  Then for another ten minutes we stood there, staring at the bag of kif, sure that this was when the police would actually arrive. But our resistance weakened with every passing minute. I took the ZigZags and created a three paper spliff into which I tipped the last English cigarette. In the meantime, Ken had cleaned a small pile of leaf and we added this to the mix. A good tight roll, a piece of the now-empty Player’s package as a filter band, and we were ready. We took turns toking, leaning against the back wall, watching the door, expecting the gendarmerie at every moment. But the kif was good — very good — and our fears gradually drifted away like the thick aromatic smoke.

We stayed in Tangiers for four days, becoming ever more confident in our trips along the steep alleyways and covered lanes that tumble over the hillsides. We explored the Grand Socco, a large square with a permanent market that attracts visiting tribesmen and tourists alike; we tramped the precincts of Moulay Ismail’s minaret which dominates the souk, reveling in the sight and feel of its cool polychrome earthenware tiling;  we even wandered south to the tourist beaches where we leaned on iron balustrades and fantasized about the buxom daughters of German burgher tourists who were obliged to sit on the sand in the wan January sun. But most of the time we sat around outside Café Maroc in the P’tit Socco, just a few steps from our hotel.

Café Maroc was a happening place. It was in the youth of its career as a meeting centre, social club, and bulletin board for the ever-increasing number of young travellers from all parts of the world making their way through Tangiers. At the Maroc you could find a lover, a good deal on dope, a ride on a Harley through Afghanistan, a tip on the best place to stay in Bombay or Katmandhu or St Louis, and, most important of all, friendship and company. You could also get the Hippy Breakfast (a huge omelette and an orange for a couple of dirhams), one of the best tajines in the whole of Morocco and a fine cup of hot sweet mint tea. It was, perhaps, the aroma of heated mint from a score of cafes and market burners that best defined the P’tit Socco.

It was at the Café Maroc on our third day that we heard about the train to Marrakech. I had spent the whole of the time it took to slowly eat my omelette listening to a Canadian fellow’s grand idea of hitching his way around the entire perimeter of Africa, south from Morocco, down around the Cape, up again through Egypt. It was a grand plan fueled by several chillums of calculation. When he left, Ken and I started thinking about what we were actually going to do, now that we had arrived in Africa. I was keen on reaching Kenya somehow, maybe working on a game farm; Ken had his eye on South Africa – he never did have any politics. Nothing seemed too hard to imagine, nothing seemed to difficult to try. Ken walked back to the hotel and returned with his map. Over more tea and another sweet kif spliff, we traced various routes on the map which was so small that sometimes our fingers covered whole countries.

It was at about this time that someone at another table mentioned the train to Marrakech. We waved him over and plugged him for information. He had just returned from the southern city, he told us, and taking the train back had been a trip: cheap and colourful, and a heck of a lot quicker than the trucks he had hitched to get down there.  He couldn’t tell us much more before he was drawn away into another conversation. Ken and I peered at the map.  Marrakech was a long way south of Tangiers.  That was a start.

 

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When I left England, I wrapped three T-shirts, three pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks and some washing gear in my bedroll. In the small Army pouch I’d purchased from a Surplus Store, I kept my money, my passport, and my copy of “Siddhartha”. Ken, on the other hand, had purchased the largest back pack I had ever seen. In it, he crammed enough clothes and camping gear to last him at least three years after any nuclear holocaust. It weighed 40, 50 pounds! By the time we had spent three days hiking through France, he must have realized he had brought too much gear. But, at every stop, he would unpack and re-pack the whole darned thing. I spent our last night in Tangiers lying on my bedroll on the floor — we had stacked the mattresses in the corner — smoking and dreamily watching Ken go through his ritualistic packing. It was if he thought that to pack it differently would somehow reduce the weight. I fell asleep laughing.

We arrived at the station early the next morning only to discover that the train didn’t leave until late afternoon. Ken didn’t want to carry his pack (which mysteriously had lost no weight through repacking) all the way back up to the souk, so we sat in the huge cool ticket area and watched the crowds milling around. At that time of day, everyone looked to be just like businessmen everywhere. It would have been really boring if we had been straight. Sometime around lunchtime we decided to buy tickets.

“E” class was  half the price of third class. In third class, you were able to fight for a seat:  in “E” class there were no seats. The carriage was definitely not a cattle car — it had a full complement of windows. Rather it appeared to be a regular train car with all the seats and fittings removed. We thought we had gotten on early but the carriage was already full. Tribesmen in white shirts and pants, their heads swarthed in dark cloths, carrying ancient long barrelled rifles, sat on wide wooden boxes. Dark robed women squatted amid goats, their eyes and their hands — both moving always — the only visible expression of their personality. And dark-eyed, ragged-kneed kids everywhere it seemed, their apparent malnourishment and bright white teeth a lasting memory. Ken and I stood in the doorway for a long minute, surprised and a little scared, until another group of women and their goats pushed us in from behind.  At the far end of the carriage we found a spot and sat down, trying to claim as much space as we could in the crowd.

It was dark when the train pulled out with a sudden shudder that threw me awake from a sitting doze. Ken looked down at me from his perch atop his backpack. The smell of too many close bodies and goats mixed with the coarse smoke of Casa Sport cigarettes assailed me first. I have always been sensitive to smells. It was not unpleasant on the whole, but there was a lot of it. I fished in my pouch and lit my own Casa, turned around to look down the length of the carriage. A dozen small lamps had been lit as soon as we were away from the station. They swayed in the hands of children or perched threateningly on boxes, throwing a warm, golden light. And as I watched the shadows play across the roof and along the creases of flowing garments, I slowly became aware of the low hum of voices, of muffled snores, of children playing quietly.  I closed my eyes and imagined I was in some transplanted hobo novel.

As the slow night moved on, family groups seemed to close up together, leaving a little more space on the floor.  I unrolled my bedroll and lay flat out on it, snoozing almost immediately with the gentle swaying of the train.  As I was drifting off, I vaguely noticed Ken lay his pack down flat, and rest his head on it.  And then I was asleep.

I’ll never know if it was the sound of Ken’s head hitting the floor that woke me, or whether the youth ran over me on his way to the door that separated our carriage from the next. Whatever it was, I was wide awake and watched as the kid struggled to get Ken’s pack through the narrow door. Ken was still rubbing his head as I swiftly rose and went after the boy. Passing through the now-swinging entrance and gingerly stepping over the gap, I pushed open the door into the next carriage and looked for the kid.  He wasn’t there;  and he had certainly not had time to run the full length to the other end. From the bleary looks I was getting, it seemed that I was the only disturbance the travellers had seen that night. I stepped back into the gap between the carriages and looked out into the dark.  We were travelling quite slowly and as my eyes accustomed to the dark, it looked like the passing ground was flat.  Ken joined me.

“He jumped,” I said.

“Jesus God,” he whispered.

We must have stood watching the dark night pass by for an hour or more without speaking.

 

 


The Petticoat Lane Spieler & The Modern Novelist

August 19, 2021

When I was a lad in East London in the 1950s and early 1960s, one of my favourite experiences was to visit Petticoat Lane market on a Sunday. It was — maybe still is — a great open air market specializing in shmutter; thousands of cheap clothes on racks. But there were also stalls selling everything from jellied eels and junk, to carpets and suitcases. It was always packed.

The modern TV infomercial salesmen have nothing on the spielers down the Lane. My favourite was always the china seller; I could listen to his spiel for hours. He would be selling dinner services and tea sets, and he did it by adding each item one by one to a precarious pile on his stall or, most famously, on his arm. “You also get six side plates,” he’d yell, and somehow add them to the pile. “And wait, we’ll also thrown in ‘alf a dozen tea cups, and the saucers wot goes wiv ’em.”  Eventually, he would have dozens of dishes and cups and plates and soup tureens and sauce jugs in a miraculously balanced heap. And he would sell them all for a bargain price.

It was a great show and one of them is featured at the very beginning and very end of this nostalgic short about the Market:

The whole point of the spiel was to sell the dishes of course, but he did it by showing how clever he was piece by piece. Oddly, I was reminded of this as I read Alvaro Enrigue’s 2013 novel “Sudden Death“, which ranges in time between the conquest of Mexico and the Counter-Reformation period of Europe straddling the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

I enjoy erudition and learning new stuff but, in this case, at least through the first half of the book, I kept thinking that the author was trying too hard to show how clever and learned he was by piling one exotic fact on top of another, over and over again. The book is certainly more full of facts than it is of plot.

The link through the book is a pallacorda match between the Italian artist Caravaggio and the Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo, played with a ball stuffed with the hair of the beheaded Anne Boleyn.  Much of the artist’s early career is covered in episodes, as is the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, and Papal politics leading to and from the Council of Trent.  The book swings back and forth in time and location, and the author occasionally breaks through the fourth wall by directly engaging the reader with twenty-first century concerns.

It took me a while to get into this book. The style, while choppy in narrative, is lively and vulgar and delivered in short bursts. Many of the passages are lyrical and, it cannot be denied, an enormous erudition is brought to bear on questions of art especially. What stays with me most is the view of the Conquest from several Mexican points of view.

When I was in my teens, I always finished up my visits to the Lane with a drink at Dirty Dicks pub. It gave me the time to recover from the excitement of the crowds in the Lane and to contemplate what I did and didn’t buy. Similarly, I think it will take me some time to fully appreciate the quality of Enrigue’s work.


Double-Decker Memories

August 19, 2021

I grew up a Londoner and therefore, almost by definition, I am an admirer of the double-decker bus. My own nostalgia is greater than some, I guess, because for an 18-month period I was privileged to be a double-decker bus driver. One of my standard routes was from Uxbridge to Shepherd’s Bush and back. Interesting days, strong union, lots of brotherhood.

Anyway, I was reminded of all this when I came across this post from Londonist all about re-purposing the old double-deckers.

afternoon tea

buses 2

 

There are a range of city tour buses, of course, but there are also cafes, afternoon tea houses, wedding/drinks buses, a realtor’s office, an oyster bar, a puppet show theatre, and a pizza bar.

Good stuff. I am glad people are putting these wonderful machines to use.


To Be A Canadian

August 18, 2021

Thirty-five years ago today I became a Canadian citizen. perhaps the proudest and most satisfying day of my life.  In about two months from now, I will have lived in Canada, in Vancouver, for forty-two years — much more than half my life.

These lengths of time seem strangely enormous to me looking back because I had had a quite long and interesting life (with wives and children and a career) in England and Europe before I ever came here.  And that previous life — during the fascinating 1950s, 60s and 70s — now seems like a necessary and irreplaceable prologue to what my life became afterwards.

There were seriously important people and things that I left behind; but I don’t believe in regrets because they have no value. Even if I did, I cannot imagine that my life was anything but greatly enhanced by moving to Vancouver.  I am still a proud Brit, an unreconstructed Welsh Londoner, but I am prouder still of being — by choice — a Vancouverite, of being Canadian.