Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our Dumb Chums

They also serve, who only stand and wait.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Matters Financial

I've had to spend quite a bit of time over the last couple of days sorting through documents, talking on the phone and writing letters and e-mails to deal with a bit of a mess regarding various accounts, policies and payments that have grown up around me over the years. I've hated every minute of it which explains in part why I could never have been a banker. That and the fact that I hate numbers. It also explains why I'll never have any real money - I'm talking golden taps in the bathroom here.

Mind you, I'm quite happy about that. I've never found golden taps all that useful. At least, having never actually experienced them, I can't imagine how they could be.

And I've still got to do my tax return for the year. Oh joy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Just Wishing

Levon Helm, Lauro Nyro, Hank Williams, the Last Shadow Puppets, Brass Monkey, Bellowhead, Daniel Lanois, Van der Graff Generator - especially the new album, Brahms - especially the 4 symphonies, Holst, the Unthanks, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell.

Question: What do they all have in common - other than the music? Answer: They are all on the little post-it wish-list that resides in the back of my diary. Once they're on they only get off once I've bought some of their stuff or all of their stuff. (Which considering the considerable back catalogues in certain cases would involve a lot of the green stuff and a lot of storage space - assuming I don't join the interesting world of the down-loaders.)

Now how am I going to square this with my recent resolution not to buy too much of the listenables at this time? And this is not to mention a very tasty sounding list residing in my e-mail from nephew Sam who knows his music. Oh the dilemma!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Crimson Tide

The fan-boy within awoke with a vengeance this morning as I discovered plans to release a new Crimson album - well not quite. The Frippster appears to classify this as a King Crimson Projekct, but since I've always regarded the Projekcts as ninety percent the real thing that does little to diminish the excitement over what's in store on the part of this audient.

Stoking up the excitement is the personnel for this one. The rhythm section comprises Tony Levin and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) so no big surprises there - except that I've never actually heard the drummer play with Crimson, though I know he toured with the last line up. But then Jakko from the 21st Century Schizoid Band is on board - presumably in Adrian Belew mode - and, gasp, gasp, gasp: the mighty Mel Collins!!! Yes, we're back with saxes and that trusty flute. I didn't quite realise just how much I'd missed this aspect of Crimso until listening to the 21st Century Schizoid Band live (also with Ian McDonald, of course) and finding myself wondering why flutes in particular don't seem to feature in bands anymore.

I made the discovery over at those fine people from Burning Shed and I assume I'll be ordering from them, which will be a dangerous first for me. They've got so much utterly funky stuff that once I've started I may not be able to stop. Dangerous but necessary - a bit like life, really.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Man At Work

Spent the day at work having a thoroughly good time. How so? you may well ask. And I answer: when you're doing a bit of drama just for the sake of the drama, and doing it with people who are a pleasure to work with, it isn't work any more. If only every day at work were like this; as it is I'll settle for one a year. And it helps to spend time doing something that actually feels like teaching.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Parroting On

Difficult as it may be to believe, I'm still moving on with Anna Karenina - and enjoying every paragraph. Just reached the bit where Anna & Vronsky living abroad, in sin, as they say, meet the artist chap who paints her. Some of the greatest pages on the nature of art ever written, and I'd completely forgot they were in there. What a blessing it is to have such a lousy memory - now I can enjoy those sections all over again.

The reason reading the greatest novel ever written (well, maybe, maybe not: what about Ulysses?) is taking me so long this time round (apart from the facts I just don't want to rush, and I'm incredibly busy) is that I keep jumping off into other things. Last week I reread Flaubert's Parrot, partly because I'll be teaching La Bovary soon, and partly because it's just so good and, guess what? Yes, it was even better second time round. Why didn't it win the Booker? (Can't remember what did that year, but it must have been something outstanding.) Mind you, perhaps the jury decided it wasn't really a novel - more a sort of critical thesis on steroids. And with heart. Which means it can't really be a critical thesis at all. Hah.

Barnes and Flaubert on literary critics are both highly entertaining, by the way.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Elizabeth Taylor playing Rebecca in Ivanhoe and me watching her, aged around ten, on the big screen one Saturday afternoon at the Odeon in Ashton (I think.). That was before she turned into an amiably dotty old lady with too much money and too many health problems (and husbands). That experience sparked a bit of a change in the young me, I reckon, one rather too private to go into too much detail about in this public Place.

So it goes. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beyond Belief

Got in this evening to find the film Conspiracy showing, the one with Richard Branagh, Stanley Tucci, Colin Firth and other stellar actors that gives a chilling account of the meeting that led the way to the grotesque Final Solution. I've seen it a couple of times before but just couldn't stop watching, in a sort of hypnotised horror, yet again. I'd been talking this morning, not terribly coherently I'm afraid, in a lecture about the dangers of language. Should just have showed the movie instead.

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Than A Little Wonderful

Finished Richard Holmes's The Age of Wonder the other day. A bit sorry to get to the end, but very happy to have made the acquaintance of the likes of Joseph Banks, William Herschel and Humphry Davy at the hands of such a sympathetic and understanding guide. Davy particularly came across as a startlingly diverse, fascinating character. The risks he ran inhaling various noxious substances in a form of daring empiricism were extraordinary, and the segment on the development of his safety lamp for miners made me want to stand and cheer. The story would make a great film.

Holmes suggests at the end of the book that his biographical approach to the great figures of science would make a good way to teach Science in schools and I'm inclined to agree. It would also be more than a little useful in Literature lessons. I felt my understanding of what was firing the English Romantic poets deepening with each chapter. And Davy was quite a talented poet in his own right, by the way.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Read Anouilh's Antigone yesterday. First saw the play at university in an amateur production. Spent much of the time then surprised at just how bad the production was and getting increasingly bored. But strangely found I was able to remember a considerable amount of specific detail from it when my memory was jogged by the actual text.

When I first saw it I quite fancied playing the Chorus - great opening speech and then you can relax with a cup of tea backstage for most of the evening. Now I reckon I'd have to play the tyrant Creon since, as far as I can make out, he has all the best arguments and easily the best exit. Identifying so wholeheartedly with the villain of the piece is a bit troubling though.

I notice that neither Creon nor the Chorus gets to die. But then all the deaths are off stage so that doesn't count as a motivating, or de-motivating, factor.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What We Did On Our Holidays

Just woken from a very satisfying doze on a very satisfying bed on an extremely satisfying wet and windy late afternoon in Melaka. We drove up (down?) here around noon pausing only to pay a sewage bill at Ampang Point and drink a cup of tea there and then fill up with petrol at a Shell station where they wouldn't let us buy the cheaper grade of the black stuff that we wanted as we were driving a Singaporean registered vehicle and, therefore, not eligible for the government-subsidised stuff - depite the missus being Malaysian. I reckon there's a bit of an issue there, even though I suppose I can see the justice involved somewhere or other.

We've done a fair bit of bill-paying on the trip, to keep the afore-mentioned government in business, including the one where we seek out the cunningly hidden complex in Gombak to pay some odd property tax on the house and get shuttled for no obvious reason from desk to desk. The system, if one can call it that, requires you to show the bill at one desk and pay at another. We were delayed at the second desk as some gentleman had dropped in with a case full of rings and such like and was selling these to the various clerks, who'd abandoned their posts to check out his wares. But delays are a matter of routine here. That was the day on which we explored Puchong in order to pick up the latest Karcher cleaning device that Noi got cheap through Rohanna. We ended up hiring a taxi which we then followed to get to the Karcher office with just five minutes to spare before they closed for the day. I've now put in a request for one of those GPS thingumees that tells you where to go as you get lost in KL as this year's birthday present from the missus.

We also did a bit of entertaining, with Hamza and Sharifah popping around on the Friday evening. Though they brought most of the grub with them so I'm not sure that really counts. Other than that, it was a matter of us entertaining ourselves. Irritatingly the phone lines were down yet again so getting on-line to do so was not possible at the house itself. I found myself blogging and checking mail at the restaurant on the hill, the one opposite the Giant supermarket. I'm okay with it, but it's not really my style. I like to concentrate on a cuppa, not have it linger at the edge of the table, sadly neglected.

I listened to a fair amount of music (including a complete run through of Strauss's Salome) and Noi watched a fair amount of television; but she got a huge amount of cleaning done and I chiseled away at the marking and other pieces and bits. Oh, and I finished a couple of books - but more about that another time. Now have to prepare for an evening of prata at Wati and Aziz's new place. It's all go, isn't it?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Under Scrutiny

I use bookmarks all the time these days. Something of a fall from grace as I always used to be able to remember exactly where I was up to in any book I had on the go.

I've just started using one with a rather striking picture of the young Albert Einstein on it. Can't remember where I got it from. It's more than a little disconcerting to find oneself under the scrutiny of that masterful gaze when one is reading.

The bookmark also bears the legend Imagination is more important than knowledge, as uttered by the physicist, presumably not aware of the fact that most folk don't know much at all but have a fine capacity for day-dreaming. No wonder it's become such a popular saying: an easy way out from any real thinking at all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


A little squeal from the kitchen in the early evening and the missus crying What's that? Is it a rat? alerted me to the fact that our usual routine was not as usual. I leapt up from where I'd been lying listening to Vaughan Williams's Sir John In Love and bravely sallied forth to try and look useful as I stood helpless. Fortunately Noi rapidly followed up with Or is it a squirrel? which was far more likely to be the case given the regular presence of one little chap around the patio and garden, and sounded a lot more reassuring.

Squirrel it was, a tiny almost black one, which looked trapped on the inner window ledge of the kitchen. The problem, from our point of view, was that the ledge was full of pottery, expensive pottery - well, nice Aynsley stuff which we think is expensive - and the little fellow was racing between the items, dangerously close. But it was no problem for the squirrel who, as I tentatively approached (to say Hello, I suppose) suddenly scooted down the side of the sink and out the back door whence, we assume, he came.

We felt curiously blessed by our guest, reminding us of the bird who'd blundered in a few years back, knocked itself out, and been revived by Noi. But this chap needed no reviving. Wonder if he was a fan of twentieth century British opera? Hope to see him again soon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


When the news of the earthquake and attendant tsunami in North-East Japan was just breaking someone appeared on BBC World, I think it was, postulating that the casualty figures would be reasonably low (but then, what is reasonably?) given Japan's state of preparedness for such events. It wasn't a foolish thing to say, and it was well-meant, almost a tribute to an impressive people and culture, but it was wrong and I knew it was wrong even as it was being said. In fact, I think the guy saying it knew deep down he was simply hoping for the best.

The estimated figures on the death toll from Miyagi alone make us fear for the worst. And, I think we all know now, the worst might be very bad indeed.

Sometimes it seems the reality of other people's suffering is the only reality there is. Fortunately it's not, but there are days when it feels callous even to think that.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Just Starting Up

Having to press all sorts of buttons, or rather click on all sorts of things that look like buttons, to do all sorts of things I don't really understand, just to get a new computer doing fairly simple tasks (or tasks that look fairly simple as long as you're watching them being carried out) serves as a reminder, if one were needed, of how much I essentially detest the new technology that grips us in its python-like folds. And I'm not talking the cheerful Monty Python here.

Occasionally I achieve something as I click and push and feel almost adequate. And then the darned thing does something I didn't ask it to do and my illusions of control are shattered. None that they ever ran very deep.

I know there are those out there who enjoy this kind of thing but am bewildered as to why this is so. I suppose the way it eats up time helps pass time for those who have it to pass. I haven't. I'd rather be sitting with a good book.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just The Beginning

Yesterday's little soiree went very well, steered as it was by the expert hand of the missus. (The sup tulang was to die for.) And today we found ourselves entertaining Fuad and Rozita with no fewer than five children in tow. In addition to Fifi & Fafa - the usual suspects - we had Fahmi's three musketeers running around since their mum & dad are overseas for a week or so. Little Sha'fi is a star in his own right and already more than able to stand up to the high handedness of Shibri and Shami, his elders. I took the gang out to the field at the back to run off their surplus energy, but I don't think it did much to reduce their battery power.

Actually Fuad was around to help me buy various IT bits and pieces to upgrade my rather dated systems. He did for me in a day what would have probably taken me a year to accomplish on my own. So I'm sort of all geared up on that front - though fairly clueless as to the uses I'll put all the oomph it now seems I own. And we might be said to be well and truly installed in our Hall now, which is why it's ironic we'll be leaving this for the wilds of KL and environs in a couple of days. Do we ever stop moving? And the rather jolly answer is: not for the moment, so enjoy it while you can.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


The less than delicate but utterly wonderful odour of sup tulang fills the apartment - there are fresh flowers on the little table below the mirror - those nifty yellow napkins from Ikea are reclining on the equally nifty black napkin whotsit equally from Ikea - and the missus has put out the luxurious bed cover my sister gave us as a wedding present many moons ago on the grounds that someone might take a peek into the bedroom. Yes, we’re finally expecting 'official' visitors to our new residence.

And I'm finding it difficult to believe that only a month and a half ago our lives were in total chaos. It's also hard to take in the fact that somehow or other I think we've managed to enjoy the process of uprooting and replanting ourselves.

Anyway Kak Kiah & entourage will be here soon, we hope marking the first of many who'll cross our threshold. Let's hope they enjoy themselves.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Before I started attending Friday Prayers at the mosque I had no idea about the place of perfume in Islam. I found out something of this one memorable day when, to my enormous surprise, I found myself daubed with a fair amount of the stuff on the way into prayers. I returned home rather perplexed, and it took the missus to enlighten me that there was nothing terribly iffy, or personal, about my experience and that getting a fair helping of perfume was quite a common phenomenon when visiting a mosque.

After that I found myself on the receiving end of similar doses on odd occasions, though by no means regularly. However, since I've been attending the mesjid at Clementi it's pretty much every Friday that the elderly pakcik on the door makes sure my right hand, or arm, becomes enticingly aromatic, and remains so for the afternoon. Today the aroma is still strong as we approach the late evening. I think today I got a double helping.

As far as I can figure this out the tradition relates to a wonderful hadith in which the Prophet - peace be upon him - said that God had placed love in his heart for three things of this lower world: women, perfume and prayer. Isn't that lovely? Tradition has it that his favourite perfume was essence of rose - and, of course, the rose is frequently used as a symbol for the Prophet himself.

I've now come to rather look forward to being scented, though I do wonder if the kids I come into contact with on Friday afternoons when I'm back at work ever catch a whiff and, rightly, wonder.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Going Nuts

Bought all sorts of bags of nuts at work today from the healthy nuts vendor (or should that be the vendor of healthy nuts?) who sometimes sets up stall outside the staffroom - unsalted peanuts, brazils, hazelnuts, cashews. As I was greedily surveying my cache on the kitchen top after getting it home it occurred to me that as a kid I didn't like nuts at all - apart from salted peanuts, of course. And even fifteen or so years back it would have been bags of crisps and the like that would have got me excited, stuff I hardly look at now.

One of the fascinations of aging is being witness to one's own changing tastes. It reminds me of Benedick's line in Much Ado: A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age. Mind you I don't think he had nuts in mind. Or meat for that matter.

Funnily enough fifteen years ago I wouldn't have been able to end a paragraph with a sentence fragment as I do above either.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Got home to bang on Small Town Romance, featuring Richard Thompson live back in 1982 in New York City. It's just him and his trusty guitar in a master class of how to really play for an audience. Great songs delivered, well, greatly.

Apart from the fact that it makes for wonderful listening I had two particular reasons for airing this old favourite. The first was that I've been listening quite a bit recently to some of the students of the school at which I teach playing live and it's been a wonderfully refreshing experience reminding me of just how good it is to listen to the real, simple thing: guitar/vocals.

Secondly I just found out that the great man was awarded a gong, an OBE if I'm not mistaken, in the New Year's Honours list. Actually I don't care at all for such nonsense normally (so it's no good looking in my direction, Your Majesty) but it's a measure of my respect and admiration for our songster that for him I make an exception. Finally someone worth rewarding. (Him and Ryan Giggs. Knighthoods for both next time round, I reckon.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Getting The Picture

It's surprising, and disconcerting, what turns up when you move house. Proof, if it were needed, that whatever talents I possess lie not in a visual direction.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ten Years After

I was just checking my journal of 10 years back for this date and found a reference to Mum arriving here, on what happened to be Hari Raya Haji that year, and looking in fine fettle. 'Sprightly' was the word I used. My entry for the next day read:

Took Mum to the library - a successful trip with no fewer than four murders now for her to enjoy. We've just come back from dinner at Geylang where she polished off a chicken chop at rapid speed.

I think that was the beginning of her last visit to Singapore, the culmination of an almost unbroken run from 1989 onwards, if I'm not mistaken. The following year featured a bit of a scare, at this time of year also, regarding the possibility of a cancerous growth on her lungs - fortunately a false alarm - but she never visited again.

I don't recall that specific chicken chop, or the murders she was going to polish off in the days ahead, but I do recall the sheer fun of the times we were able to have her with us. Priceless.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Great Moments In Literature No. 1

Making wonderfully slow, plodding progress on this reading of Anna Karenina. Just passed the bit near the opening of Part 2 when Tolstoy tells us what Laska, Levin's dog, is thinking as Levin and Oblonsky take their minds off their hunting for a moment as the sticky subject of Levin's proposal to Kitty is raised. Marvelously goofy stuff - almost childish. Fortunately my memory's so bad I completely forgot it was coming and laughed out loud, just as I did the last time I read the book.

Just how does Tolstoy manage to know everything about everyone? And, considering this, why was he so dopey about his own life?

Friday, March 4, 2011

All In The Timing

Huge good fortune fell my way earlier today when I managed to get myself to the mosque at Clementi without getting extremely wet in the process. I only noticed the darkness of the clouds over the area as I drove into the car park nearby, when it occurred to me that the heavens were likely to declare themselves open sometime soon. It takes me about three minutes to walk from the spot I park in to the mosque entrance - actually the back way, next to the HDB car park, of which about a minute is in the open, the last stretch to the mosque. I calculated that I would get there without any real problem and was very, very wrong.

Just as I stepped into the uncovered area the rain started, and it was obvious it was very quickly going to be of that monsoon quality that renders one soaked in two or three seconds. The three guys ahead of me also recognised the obvious signs and we suddenly became a small team of ungainly sprinters in a comical surge across the space. We made it with around three seconds to spare, getting quite, but not violently, wet in the process.

The monsoon lasted some thirty-five minutes, just slightly less than it took for the prayers to be concluded, and I stepped out into a newly-washed, rainless world. Lovely. Lucky.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Still In The Family

A couple of days back I wrote about not having major chest-related health problems as an adult despite my fears related to this in very early childhood. Today my focus is on not having to walk on crutches or get around in a wheelchair. I have never seriously considered the possibility of having to deal with such a situation - well, not until last December. I don't think it's likely to happen at this point in my life, but I'm now aware that I should have been considering the strong possibility of such for many years previously and it looks like I've been very lucky in this regard. The strange thing is that it took me until December to realise the obvious, which tends to suggest some sort of denial mechanism was operating - or that I'm fabulously obtuse.

The moment of realisation came in a conversation with Bob and Cynthia, when Noi and I popped in on them just before Christmas. Bob, who I always called Billy as a child, is a sort of cousin, but not really, for complicated and unimportant reasons I've never entirely understood. I've never actually wanted to understand them, the simple fact being he's a great bloke, with a much better understanding of the Connor family history than I have.

He was telling me about my late Uncle Jim's family and how they are faring - very sadly, not too well. Uncle Jim, by the way, was my Dad's twin brother. They were not identical twins though, fortunately for me, as I'll try to explain. Uncle Jim was a really nice guy with a much more obvious sense of humour than my Dad, and all the time I knew him was crippled. The family had it that this was a result of his experiences during the war in the Burmese jungle. (A terrifying place by the way for the ordinary English soldier of the period.) In fact, I think I still vaguely believed this prior to talking to Bob, though I'm pretty sure I'd been put right years ago.

Eventually it was determined that the problem was Multiple Sclerosis. Except it now turns out it wasn't.

My Uncle Bert, the elder brother of Jim and Jack, also developed problems walking and was eventually confined to a wheelchair. At this point more perceptive readers will have figured out the cases were most likely connected. But the family didn't, not for quite a while. Peter, my Uncle Bert's only son, who was a bit older than me and went to the same grammar school, died tragically young, in his thirties I think, following a terrible accident. Uncle Jim's children, four of them, are all alive today. But cousin David, the eldest, is crippled, as is cousin Martin, who's a bit younger than me. And recently cousin Margaret, who was in the same class as I was in primary school, has also had to start using crutches. According to Bob that came as a big surprise as it was obvious to all and sundry (except me) that something very nasty was being carried in the genes of the male branch of the family (which the docs had figured wasn't M.S., which is generally seen as non-hereditary despite the genetic factors involved) but the female side appeared to be safe. Until now.

It looks as if my sister and myself have been spared. So, again, I'm writing about a kind of non-experience, and gratefully so. Except that somehow in blithely ignoring the threat to myself I've contrived not to care enough for those who have and are suffering from the terrible reality of that experience.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Feeling Superior

For connoisseurs of the monkey mind out there, I caught mine engaged in an interestingly shifty mental-cum-moral manoeuvre earlier this evening. This was in relation to the unfortunate Charlie Sheen, a celebrity who's in the process of messing up his life in full public view. I happened to catch the last five minutes of a piece on his case on one of the news channels. Actually it wasn't so much about him as about the morality of allowing, nay encouraging him to screw up so spectacularly on air, as it seems he is doing. (I haven't seen any of this, and I don't want to, but his story has featured enough in the papers over here for me to know the broad outlines thereof.)

The programme made the dilemma quite clear: there's an impeccable logic to allowing this sort of thing (a celebrity painfully going to pieces in full view, as it were) to happen, but those involved are not behaving with any sense of decency at all. And that's about as far as you can go, other than to feel, as I did, morally superior for not wanting to watch or get involved in any of this.

At that point I got involved in a little thought experiment. Let's say I had a particularly compromising photo of the actor and could sell this to a newspaper. At what point would I be tempted to actually do the dirty deed? I got to the answer quite quickly. Not a thousand. Not ten thousand. But as soon as the money became 'life-changing' I knew I was more than likely to bite. I reckon two hundred thousand might well do it - especially after a bad day at work.

Now here's the point. In the middle of all this I was still managing to feel morally superior. Here's how it went: not being tempted by relatively small amounts was proof that I wasn't greedy as such amounts involved greed. Larger amounts went beyond greed into new territory - a fine concern with one's actual quality of life - and such temptation was, thus, quite laudable really. I know this utterly specious reasoning is daft, but I equally know that something suspiciously like it was in my mind.

So it's quite simple really. If I have my price, and I rather suspect I have (though I hope I don't) I'd better get off my high horse and onto the same low one that your average gossip columnist rides on. Meantime I'd better pray that temptation doesn't come my way.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In The Family

When I was a little lad, a very little lad, I think, I formed the assumption that I would be something of an invalid when I grew up. It wasn't that I was a particularly gloomy child, but I was being sent to hospital with what seemed like reasonable regularity for some kind of checks on my chest, so I assumed I had a poorly chest and this was likely to have a marked effect on me eventually. This never came to pass and as I continued in the usual rude health of childhood I put such thoughts behind me. I almost said such anxieties, but they weren't really. I don't recall ever being at all worried over the possibility of some kind of invalidism Adulthood was a long way off and, if anything, I think I thought being ill when you grew up was quite interesting.

When we were in Manchester last December I asked my sister about all this and what she made of it. She's some seven years older than me and I needed some light shed on what I've been wondering was some kind of false memory. I think I'm talking about events, the hospital visits, that took place when I was around three or four years old. She was hazy about it all herself but reckoned it was somehow connected to Dad's emphysema, which had been diagnosed at some time earlier than this. The family seemed to blame his poor health on his experiences in the war, but it may have been suggested that it was some kind of hereditary condition and so they were running tests on me. Oddly we couldn't recall them checking my sister. And we guessed that the tests on me had been by no means extensive. Far from being subjected to a series of hospital visits we suspected there my have been just two or three and these had quickly given me the all-clear. I suppose the impact on me had been great enough in its little way to have seemed a lot more substantial than that.

Thinking about this - which I have rarely done over the years, the past being a very different place for me where they really, really do things differently - I feel lucky and mildly guilty. Which is strange because I'm writing about a sort of non-experience: the ties that didn't bind, as it were. Sometimes not being a chip off the old block can be very useful.