The blog of the traveller, observer and writer, Woz.
Happiness is the man with rhythm. Copyright © 2003-2014, Woz

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A poem about travelling

For 'RS'

When they selected me for the
'random security check',
I thought of you.

As the security official ran
practised, calloused hands
across middle-aged
plains and contours of jelly,
I spied your expectant, smiling face,
seated on a chair -
the best vantage point from
which to view my
prostrated helplessness.

And I think of you,
As the hand of US foreign policy
disappears up my rear.

It isn't very nice,
you git.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Staying independent in old age

Pretty useful article from the NY Times.

Only nine more years to wait!

The transformation of 50 year olds.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

What were you smoking, Channel 4?

Oh dear, this was dumb.

Channel 4 - more Channel 5 than...errr...Channel 5.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

After Kharms

‘After Kharms I’

31st July 2011

Once upon a time, there was a beginning and an end.  Although they knew they were meant to be together, they thought they were missing something, so they created a middle.  And that was their story.

‘After Kharms II’ (for Professor Neil Postman, 1931-2003)

23rd February 2012

Repeatedly holed by a carnival of bullets, his life flashed before him; seeing the breakfast TV appearances and movie trailer of his ordeal, he decided to live.

A commentary on the state of things

Where are my cigarettes, whisky and LEGO?!

Moscow to Petushki Pt 4

Moscow to Petushki Pt 3

Moscow to Petushki Pt 2

Moscow to Petushki Pt 1

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Random photo

Once in a while, I chance upon a photograph that resonates with me.  The photo below, on first glance, isn't anything special.  But to me, it is.

It is a photo of John Gale of The Guardian and the poet Stevie Smith.  Last year, I read Gale's sweet, funny, sad and tragic autobiography from 1965, 'Clean Young Englishman', having been led there by Edward Behr's memoirs.  Here is an extract (that I have nicked from the blog post of another admirer):

"One night this year, on the walk home from the Underground in the falling snow, I had to lean against the wall of the crematorium where my father went up in smoke. I had had a few drinks. The wind pierced the short, old-fashioned black coat that had belonged to my grandfather. When I walked on a little unsteadily in the dark on the creaking snow, a girl passed on the other side of the road, her high black boots gleaming faintly. She looked across at me, and then went on in the bitter cold.

Our three children had measles; Jill was tired. The wind moaned beneath the doors ; we were keeping fires going day and night, and the insects cried in the blazing logs. Our house is small, virtually a cottage, among terraced houses built, originally, for artisans; the road is the appendix of the suburb, with wealthier houses not far off. I like our house: scarcely a piece of furniture, not a picture, carpet or curtain did we choose ourselves; all was given or passed on by relatives; all, or almost all, is incongruous, tasteless, but well used.

At times I feel the small house is the centre of the world. It seems a turning-point for aircraft coming in to land at London Airport. Their engines change pitch as they come in from east and west, booming and whining through the dusk, their navigation lights winking hope. When I lie in bed I distrust all aircraft: where are they going? People should stay at home. I prefer the sound of trains far off at night, the clink of a shunting in a cold siding."

Although I knew of Stevie Smith, I never read her poetry until I fell seriously ill in 2003.  It was then that I read 'In My Dreams'; ironic for a man who couldn't sleep:

In my dreams I am always saying goodbye and riding away,   
Whither and why I know not nor do I care.
And the parting is sweet and the parting over is sweeter,   
And sweetest of all is the night and the rushing air.

In my dreams they are always waving their hands and saying goodbye,
And they give me the stirrup cup and I smile as I drink,   
I am glad the journey is set, I am glad I am going,
I am glad, I am glad, that my friends don't know what I think.


Perception, path dependence and context play funny tricks on us. Looking at the Southbank - that much-loved marvel of Brutalism - and stripping away the art installations, one can see a scene reminiscent of Eastern Bloc architecture, i.e. the thousand variations of a shoebox.

But if we were to examine a building in the East, would we consider it a Brutalist gem, or something just plain ugly?

Anyway, I am reminded that I must do a London tour soon.  Londonist has some good suggestions.

A metaphor for the British economy

Books, books, glorious books!

Royal Festival Hall, August (?) 2012

I have finally managed to move all my books into the house.  The armchair is ready.  All that's missing are a decent reading lamp (a jaunt to jolly Ikea beckons) and the dictionaries and thesaurus I left behind (groan).

Spied on the Southbank last year...

Peter Redgrove

A very interesting piece in the London Review of Books.  To my shame, I wasn't aware of Redgrove's work, not until I delved into a back copy of the LRB on magic Friday.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

On moving house...

Poverty is expensive.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

'The Horses' by Edwin Muir

I was given a heads-up to this by Sarah. Thank you.

Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs; no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, heading north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter
Nothing. The radios dumb;
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms
All over the world. But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again.
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.
The tractors lie about our fields; at evening
They look like dank sea-monsters couched and waiting.
We leave them where they are and let them rust:
'They'll molder away and be like other loam.'
We make our oxen drag our rusty plows,
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our fathers' land.
And then, that evening
Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers' time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield.
Or illustrations in a book of knights.
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship.
In the first moment we had never a thought
That they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half a dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our plows and borne our loads
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.