Thursday, September 19, 2019

In Wonderland

It's easy to forget how astonishing it is that we live in a world in which it's so easy to find wonderful things just by going on-line. I was reminded of this today when I came across this version of Unsuk Chin's brilliant opera, transporting me to Wonderland.

As I say, astonishing on every level.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Loosening Up

Given the fact that I thoroughly enjoy his poetry, I'm a bit puzzled as to why I've been making such slow progress in James Wright's Above the River - The Complete Poems. I seem to have been reading it forever, yet I'm not even halfway through, just approaching the end of his 1963 collection The Branch Will Not Break. I suppose this is something to do with just how demanding the early poems in his first two books are, but wonderfully so. They are uniformly brilliant in terms of the command of the formalities of metre and rhyme, and as uniformly dense in terms of depth and complexity. Most of them demanded at least three concentrated, intense readings, and usually required further detached analysis of individual bits to figure out how they were meant to fit into the whole.

The big surprise after that is just how loose Wright's work becomes (or seems to become) in his third collection. There are a couple of formally structured pieces but other than those most of The Branch Will Not Break reads like the work of a different poet entirely, one with a healthy contempt for regularity in any form. What happened? I don't know, though I suppose someone somewhere does - but I'm glad it did happen. Not because I think the poems are better in any real sense, but because they open up new ground, almost a new sensibility.

In fact, the first poem of Wright's I ever came across is from this collection, and it's one of those rare poems that instantly tells you the writer is the real thing. I reckon it's a useful test case for any reader in terms of whether you're capable of genuinely responding to poetry at all. If A Blessing doesn't send shivers down your spine instantly, I'm afraid you've got no soul.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Spinning Even Faster

Today Noi managed to get a work diary for me for the year ahead (the type that gives a week to a view, which I just can't function without.) This is ten days earlier than I managed to get hold of one last year for this year. I suppose that goes some way to accounting for the fact that it just doesn't seem possible a whole year has gone by since acquiring the 2019 version. I distinctly remember making a bit of a mess last year regarding the headings I routinely put in for each week, linking the particular week to the point reached in the school term, since I didn't realise that the Ministry of Education here would decide to create a 'Week Zero' at the start of the school year. I briefly considered trying to find another diary but, fortunately, managed to cope with my odd obsessiveness over these things and just crossed out the errant headings. I still feel an odd impulse to try and keep any on-going diary reasonably neat and systematic, an impulse I overcome by reminding myself that it won't take long before the thing looks inevitably messy and it makes far more sense to embrace the mess.

I wonder if there'll come a day when I abandon the keeping of such a diary. Doesn't look like that'll be any time soon though. And if I did how would I ever remember birthdays?

Monday, September 16, 2019

Peak Experience

My prediction for the day turned out to be eerily accurate. There I was at 9.30 this morning enjoying the cup that cheers more than somewhat down in SAC. To add an extra layer of delight I was listening to Macca's very fine Egypt Station (which had made the playlist on yesterday's journey from Melaka) with a specific focus, aided by my ear-buds, or whatever they call them, on some surpassingly excellent basslines. Of course, the day could only go downhill thereafter, but what a peak, eh?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Usual Routine

We'll be making tracks along the highway to our usual Far Place in a little while. I've just been thinking through what needs to be done for the first day of work. The rather jolly answer is not too much. Having said that, my longer term to-do list is a bit scary, but I've learnt to not look too far ahead, just far enough to keep the wagon on the tracks. The result of my genius for burying my head in the sand is that these days I quite look forward to getting back in harness. It makes for a simple life, in its way.

The thing to do is keep focused on the good bits. Drinking tea down in SAC features quite heavily on the list of these. In fact, it's in first position. I reckon that by 9.30 am, Monday, that's just what I'll be doing - a most cheerful thought on which to sign off.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Fun Is A Serious Business

Now in Sungai Petai, Melaka and warm again after the chill of Genting Highlands. You may be wondering what took us up there, definitely out of my comfort zone, for one. Well it was Noi's idea and, despite the fact I was seriously cold all through breakfast at the hotel, it was a very good one. In case you're wondering why I was cold indoors I should explain that the hotels up there, at least the ones I know, cunningly avoid installing heating systems on the grounds, I suppose, that they are not necessary in the Malaysian climate. I suppose they also take into account that being cold is a sort of unusual holiday experience for most of their clientele, something that some folks actually look forward to (including The Missus, I'm afraid) so they actively seek to supply it at the same time as cutting costs. Now that's what I call a business plan!

In case you're wondering why Noi's idea can be considered a very good one, I should explain that the whole idea was to give a Zahira a break from a pretty dull routine of pawming around shopping malls with the two of us and provide her with a new experience (cold included.) I was a wee bit doubtful that she'd have a good time in the indoor theme park up there on her own, but I was happily very wrong indeed. She's the kind of kid who gives every sign of enjoying her own company and is remarkably self-sufficient - and wonderfully undemanding. On the Friday evening we arrived she tried out all the big rides there, some more than once, and wasn't in the slightest bit abashed at being on her own. I wondered if she might get a bit fed up when we went back for more today, but she continued to have a good time and somehow teamed up with a new friend, with whom she spent a good three hours recapping most of the rides of the previous day.

Genting Highlands, by the way, is more loud and brash than ever. When I first went up there it had a kind of ragged, run-down charm about it, but that's largely gone. I suppose huge injections of cash are responsible and I suppose the place is a huge money-spinner for those with huge amounts of money to spin. But it's difficult to be overly cynical about somewhere that so many kids in their small ways really do enjoy.

(Zahira's new friend was called Tammy, by the way. Her brothers are Tommy and Timmy. I was going to praise her for choosing parents with a keen sense of humour but, thankfully, decided to keep that comment to myself.)

Friday, September 13, 2019


Temporally resident in the Genting Highlands. All part of a cunning plan to enjoy the fog and feel chilled. The winds are not exactly howling outside our room, but neither are they soothing. Don't see much haze around, but then I don't see much of anything to be honest.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Stuck Indoors

We'd vaguely planned to take Zahira out and about in our time here in the Malaysian capital, but the poor quality of the air has put a massive kibosh on all such intentions. It's the haze season with a vengeance. Nothing is to be seen of the city in the valley below our hill and we've had the feeling several times of looking out on a typical late-November day in the UK when gazing out of the windows of the shopping malls we've taken shelter in. There's a bit of a row going on at the moment between Malaysia and Indonesia as to which nation is to blame for attempting to suffocate us all, but if the steps taken to do something about it in recent years are anything to go by, the chances of the situation improving any time soon are negligible.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Way Forward

Got away from FN long enough to enjoy the company of Matsuo Basho on The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and very glad I did. Why does Basho seem so contemporary? How is it I feel so much more at home in seventeenth century Japan than nineteenth century Europe? Come to think of it, than in twenty-first century Europe?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Parting Of The Ways

I'm now approaching the end of the Third Part of Zarathustra and have decided to part company with Herr Nietzsche for a short while. Probably just a day. His work is never less than fascinating and he makes for intense company - but a little bit too intense on occasions, if you know what I mean. He's like that friend who gets just that bit too demanding, who sees a bit too much significance in just about everything and is just a bit too angry for his own good too much of the time.

I keep thinking it would have done him good to read some P.G. Wodehouse. In fact, I've got a feeling he's name-checked by Bertie Wooster somewhere, probably in relation to one of Bertie's horrendous girlfriends. Possibly Honoria Glossop. Now I come to think of it, it would probably do me good to read a bit of Wodehouse as a sort of corrective.