Friday, December 31, 2010

Ron Mueck (1958- )

More information here. Happy New Year.

George Outram (1805-1856)

The Annuity

I gaed to spend a week in Fife -
An unco week it proved to be -
For there I met a waesome wife
Lamentin' her viduity.
Her grief brak out sae fierce and fell,
I thought her heart wad burst the shell;
And,--I was sae left to mysel', -
I sell't her an annuity.

The bargain lookit fair eneugh -
She just was turned o' saxty-three -
I couldna guessed she'd prove sae teugh,
By human ingenuity.
But years have come, and years have gane,
And there she's yet as stieve as stane -
The Limmer's growin' young again,
Since she got her annuity.

She's crined' awa' to bane and skin,
But that, it seems, is nought to me;
She's like to live - although she's in
The last stage o' tenuity.
She munches wi' her wizen'd gums,
An' stumps about on legs o' thrums;
But comes, as sure as Christmas comes,
To ca' for her annuity.

I read the tables drawn wi' care
For an insurance company;
Her chance o' life was stated there,
Wi' perfect perspicuity.
But tables here or tables there,
She's lived ten years beyond her share,
An' 's like to live a dozen mair,
To ca' for her annuity.

Last Yule she had a fearfu' host,
I thought a kink might set me free -
I led her out, 'mang snaw and frost,
Wi' constant assiduity.
But deil ma' care - the blast gaed by,
And miss'd the auld anatomy -
It just cost me a tooth, for bye
Discharging her annuity.

If there's a' sough o' cholera,
Or typhus, - wha sae gleg as she?
She buys up baths, an' drugs, an' a',
In siccan superfluity!
She doesna need - she's fever proof -
The pest walked o'er her very roof -
She tauld me sae - an' then her loof
Held out for her annuity.

Ae day she fell, her arm she brak -
A compound fracture as could be -
Nae leech the cure wad undertake,
Whate'er was the gratuity.
It's cured! She handles 't like a flail -
It does as weel in bits as hale -
But I'm a broken man mysel'
Wi' her and her annuity.

Her broozled flesh and broken banes
Are weel as flesh and banes can be.
She beats the taeds that live in stanes,
An' fatten in vacuity!
They die when they're exposed to air -
They canna thole the atmosphere;
But her! - expose her onywhere -
She lives for her annuity.

If mortal means could nick her thread,
Sma' crime it wad appear to me;
Ca't murder, or ca't homicide,
I'd justify 't - an' do it tae.
But how to fell a withered wife
That's carved out o' the tree o' life -
The timmer limmer daurs the knife
To settle her annuity.

I'd try a shot: but whar's the mark? -
Her vital parts are hid frae me;
Her backbane wanders through her sark
In an unkenn'd corkscrewity.
She's palsified - an shakes her head
Sae fast about, ye scarce can see;
It's past the power o' steel or lead
To settle her annuity.

She might be drowned - but go she'll not
Within a mile o' loch or sea;
Or hanged - if cord could grip a throat
O' siccan exiguity.
It's fitter far to hang the rope -
It draws out like a telescope;
'Twad tak a dreadfu' length o' drop
To settle her annuity.

Will puzion do't? - It has been tried;
But, be't in hash or fricassee,
That's just the dish she can't abide,
Whatever kind o' goût it hae.
It's needless to assail her doubts,
She gangs by instinct, like the brutes,
An' only eats an' drinks what suits
Hersel' and her annuity.

The Bible says the age o' man
Threescore and ten, perchance, may be;
She's ninety-four. Let them who can,
Explain the incongruity.
She should hae lived afore the flood -
She's come o' patriarchal blood,
She's some auld Pagan mummified
Alive for her annuity.

She's been embalmed inside and oot -
She's sauted to the last degree -
There's pickle in her very snoot
Sae caper-like an' cruety.
Lot's wife was fresh compared to her -
They've kyanized the useless knir,
She canna decompose - nae mair
Than her accursed annuity.

The water-drop wears out the rock,
As this eternal jaud wears me;
I could withstand the single shock,
But not the continuity.
It's pay me here, an' pay me there,
An' pay me, pay me, evermair -
I'll gang demented wi' despair -
I'm charged for her annuity.

C.S. Calverley (1831-1884)

Lovers, and a Reflection.

In moss-prankt dells which the sunbeams flatter
(And heaven it knoweth what that may mean:
Meaning, however, is no great matter)
Where woods are a-tremble, with rifts atween;

Thro’ God’s own heather we wonn’d together,
I and my Willie (O love my love):
I need hardly remark it was glorious weather,
And flitterbats waver’d alow, above:

Boats were curtseying, rising, bowing,
(Boats in that climate are so polite),
And sands were a ribbon of green endowing,
And O the sundazzle on bark and bight!

Thro’ the rare red heather we danced together,
(O love my Willie!) and smelt for flowers:
I must mention again it was gorgeous weather,
Rhymes are so scarce in this world of ours:-

By rises that flush’d with their purple favours,
Thro’ becks that brattled o’er grasses sheen,
We walked and waded, we two young shavers,
Thanking our stars we were both so green.

We journeyed in parallels, I and Willie,
In fortunate parallels! Butterflies,
Hid in weltering shadows of daffodilly
Or marjoram, kept making peacock eyes:

Songbirds darted about, some inky
As coal, some snowy (I ween) as curds;
Or rosy as pinks, or as roses pinky -
They reck of no eerie To-come, those birds!

But they skim over bents which the midstream washes,
Or hang in the lift ‘neath a white cloud’s hem;
They need no parasols, no goloshes;
And good Mrs. Trimmer she feedeth them.

Then we thrid God’s cowslips (as erst His heather)
That endowed the wan grass with their golden blooms;
And snapt - (it was perfectly charming weather) -
Our fingers at Fate and her goddess-glooms:

And Willie ‘gan sing (O, his notes were fluty;
Wafts fluttered them out to the white-wing’d sea) -
Something made up of rhymes that have done much duty,
Rhymes (better to put it) of “ancientry:”

Bowers of flowers encounter’d showers
In William’s carol - (O love my Willie!)
Then he bade sorrow borrow from blithe to-morrow
I quite forget what - say a daffodilly:

A nest in a hollow, “with buds to follow,”
I think occurred next in his nimble strain;
And clay that was “kneaden” of course in Eden -
A rhyme most novel, I do maintain:

Mists, bones, the singer himself, love-stories,
And all least furlable things got “furled;”
Not with any design to conceal their “glories,”
But simply and solely to rhyme with “world.”

* * *

O if billows and pillows and hours and flowers,
And all the brave rhymes of an elder day,
Could be furled together, this genial weather,
And carted, or carried on “wafts” away,
Nor ever again trotted out - ah me!
How much fewer volumes of verse there’d be!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adam Fuss (1961- )

More information about him here.

Mariel Wilhoite (c.1880-c.1950)

Well. let's raise the tone a little, shall we? The dates in the post title are estimates, because I can't find them anywhere on the internet.

Roy Krenkel (1918-1983)

More info here. He's normally less... racy.

Festive Echinoderm

It's true what everyone always says: Christmas cake really does taste better if eaten off a plate depicting a basket starfish. Thanks to my older brother Tom and his infallible sense of things that I might like.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Squid Brains

I wish I were clever. But as a substitute for being clever, I can spend time looking at and enjoying other people being clever. So here, for your pleasure, I attach a link to my new favourite blog, a cheery introduction to cephalopod neuroscience.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


I went to Granada to a not-very-interesting conference on literary translation (well, not really a conference, and that's one of the reasons why it wasn't very interesting, but enough of my troubles...). I had a free morning and went tramping around. Granada has: architecture (although, you know, if you've seen one Alhambra you've seen them all);

the extremely evocative and pretty Manuel de Falla museum ( a sort of Kettle's Yard for Spanish hypochondriac musicians: the photos show MdF's hat, his bedside table, including his nasal douche [his friends saved absolutely everything when everyone's favourite gaditano MdF went to Argentina in the late 1930s, hoping that he would come back and move back into his house, which means that most surfaces are covered with a variety of patent remedies of the early twentieth century]), and the entrance to this entrancing cármen (which was, I was assured, the Grenadino name for what I would naturally call a patio);

some advanced graffiti;

a man carrying a mirror, whom I was tempted to follow for longer than I did;

some bright Virginia creeper (?) and other plants(?);

and views, lots of lovely views.

It also, although I didn't dare take photos there, has a very good organic vegan take-away, round the corner from the lute-maker's, in case you need to know of a good place to eat.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Arsenic and Old Lipids: or, Wouldn't It Be Nice...

They're arguing with it now, but this story was a cheering one to read on a cold December morning.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Current Favourite Sentence

I have never before seen something yucky on screen make an entire cinema audience suddenly hunch forward and bury their heads in their laps at the same time, as if in some secular mosque for wimps.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Compare and contrast...

The Polish poster for John Schlesinger's Far From the Madding Crowd (1967)

The Spanish poster for Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)

Monday, October 18, 2010

American Black Bears

The Guardian has some more amazing photos (and it's a pretty amazing story to accompany them) here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Current Favourite Sentences

"I guess if I could be beamed to India, spend a day there and then say, 'Thank you; I've done it now, get me back' I might, but ... nah. Not for no reason."

Baron Sugar of Clapton.

"I wouldn't mind seeing China if I could come back the same day."

Philip Larkin.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Friday, October 01, 2010

Incorrigible Meerkat

We went to the Madrid Zoo-Aquarium last week. A meerkat pleasuring himself in a hole in the ground was one of the many highlights.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wedding Anniversary

It was a few weeks ago, the fourth wedding anniversary. We were out walking through the Plaza Dos de Mayo that afternoon, and passed the itinerant postcard seller's stall, and this seemed appropriate. I hope for many more years of being as essentially happy as I am now.

Ibo Masquerades

My younger brother, who knows the kind of thing I like, has sent me some great postcards from the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology of Ibo Masquerades in Nigeria from 1931. Here are a few of them. (My older brother also knows the kind of thing I like, of course, but he's more on the pastiche Soviet science fiction side of things.) There's a bit more information here.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Current Favourite Sentences

Protester Pixie ni hEicht, from Dublin, criticised both the garda and the hundreds who had turned out for the book signing: "The police are west Brits who are protecting a British terrorist and the people queuing up over there should be ashamed of themselves. All these people buying the book are jackeens and traitors."

I particularly like the word 'jackeen'.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Technology: Isn't it wonderful?

I just got some photos of Russia developed. In addition to the physical copies, they give you the photos on a CD. I thought this might be a bit dull, but then I loaded them up and saw that what they do is to scan the negatives with a digital scanner and then (if necessary) sort out the colour with some form of magical colour programme.

All of which means that the digital versions have great vibrant colour (if necessary), all the grain of a real photo, and sometimes even a little nibbling at the edge where the edge of the negative comes. It's an effect I like a great deal.

The Great Lake at Gatchina

The Lazarus Cemetery

Private Gardens, Gatchina

Yelagin Island


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sleeping like Superman

He seems to have recovered from jumping out of our window fifteen feet down into the street last week (chipped a tooth, scratched his nose), but he's clearly still dreaming of glory.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Sometimes, to give a variety to our amusements, the girls sung to the guitar; and while they thus formed a little concert, my wife and I would stroll down the sloping field, that was embellished with blue bells and centaury, talk of our children with rapture, and enjoy the breze that wafted both health and harmony.