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Mort à crédit

February 17, 2010



“Maybe I’d never see him again… maybe he’d gone for good… swallowed up, body and soul, in the kind of stories you hear about… Ah, it’s an awful thing… and being young doesn’t help any… when you notice for the first time… the way you lose people as you go along … the buddies you’ll never see again… never again… when you notice that they’ve disappeared like dreams… that it’s all over… finished… that you too will get lost someday… a long way off but inevitably… in the awful torrent of things and people… of the days and shapes… that pass… that never stop…”

— Louis-Ferdinand Céline (Mort à crédit)


About two years ago, I allowed the Dark Side to over-rule my normally sunny disposition. A neighbor of ours (let’s call him T.) succeeded in provoking me into an act of overt physical hostility. Now, I’ll admit that I was, in my younger days, far too quick to resort to the expedient of physical confrontation. With age came a measure of wisdom (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) and the understanding that, on the whole, violence is an admission of failure. I mellowed with age, parenthood and responsibility.

This T. was almost a caricature of the City wide-boy: the braying voice, the flash car, the expensive clothes in execrable taste, the laughably big and complicated gold watch that was reliable at 1000 meters underwater (query: if you find yourself 1000 meters underwater, is your first question going to be ‘I wonder what time it is?’ Let me give you a hint: are you familiar with the Death March from Handel’s Saul?). Obviously, I detested the man on principle. I’m a bit of a snob and he was a vulgarian.

What brought things to a head was T.’s driving. He was in the habit of speeding down our quiet street at well over the limit, with his dire music blasting, oblivious to children, cats, women with prams etc. I muttered darkly but under my wife’s stern eye, I didn’t act. Until one day, when I happened to be leaving the house and saw him screech to a halt, only just missing an elderly lady struggling across the road with her shopping. Even then, he might have avoided meeting me had he not had the unspeakable effrontery to blow his horn at the old dear. I snapped.

I stormed over to his car, dragged him out of it by his shirt-front and made it very plain that if I ever again saw him driving down our street at any speed greater than walking pace, he would bitterly regret it. My language was rather more intemperate and colourful than that.

Thereafter, he drove down our street as if on eggshells. Neighbours who had witnessed the event congratulated me and obviously spread the word. In our local pub, people came up to me and patted me on the back, etc.

I subsequently put the whole thing out of my mind until a week or so ago. I hadn’t seen T. about for some months and assumed he’d moved. Walking down our street last week, I saw a man approaching me. I say ‘man’ but it was someone so deathly ill, so wasted, hairless and skeletal as to have become androgynous. Looking without seeming to look, I noted marks to the face and neck that had the characteristic look of radiation burns. One eye was clearly dead–swollen and mishapen and pointing in entirely the wrong direction. This apparition shuffled slowly towards me on a pair of aluminium crutches, pausing every few steps to catch breath.

As I passed, the person gave me a hesitant nod and smile, to which I responded out of politeness. I had never, to the best of my knowledge, seen this person before. Of course, you’ve already guessed the dénouement .

Popping into my local pub for a drink that evening, I got to chatting with a neighbour who said, “Have you seen T. around? Poor bastard was in the hospital these last 4-5 months. Went in with a bad ear-ache that turned out to be an aggressive tumour. They did all they could for the poor sod and now they’ve sent him home to die.”

The odd thing is, I felt a powerful twinge of guilt or shame; I’m not sure which and I don’t know why. I’m not responsible for the man’s illness and I certainly never wished it on him. So why feel guilty? Do I imagine if I’d not treated him so harshly on that one occasion, he might not have become ill? Absurd. But there it is.

As my neighbour put it in the pub: ” Just goes to show you, though. One minute you’re stepping high, wide and handsome; the next minute, Lady Luck kicks you in the bollocks. That’s life, innit?”

Indeed it is. Let’s have poems on the great What: Death. Sonnets, I think.

  1. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 17, 2010 10:22 AM

    Fucking hell, I had earache last night.

  2. mishari permalink*
    February 17, 2010 12:20 PM

    I don’t wish to sound alarmist, but I’d say you’re done for. Don’t start any long novels…

  3. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 17, 2010 1:05 PM

    Chillax. It was just the jazz.

  4. February 17, 2010 1:20 PM

    A poem ’bout death? how long have you got?
    We live a bit, we die, we rot.
    In the act of death there is no glory
    Though some invent a hopeful story
    Once passed away you climb up stairs
    To a blissful place: ev’ryone cares,
    Wings to fly and robes in white
    If you ask me that’s a load of shite
    When you see an old body wrapped in shrouds
    There’s no way that’ll be hanging round clouds.
    So silence the pianos, stop all the clocks
    Put my poor dead body inside a box.
    That’s it, fini, the end of the show
    Unless I’m in a story by Edgar Allan Poe.

    Probably not a sonnet

  5. hic8ubique permalink
    February 17, 2010 3:09 PM

    Uh ooh. Mind-fork, mishari. I feel a bit woozy reading this after what I wrote to deadgod this morning. Excellent image as well. I’ll be pondering…

  6. February 17, 2010 3:24 PM

    Sadly, Mishari, you’ve caught my current mood….

    I never heard that he was sick, just dead
    As colleagues we would share the Sunday skive
    Part-time, like me; like me, by music fed
    Beneath the knowing humour, dwindling drive
    Seven floors up, home studio, Mile End
    Stacked reels and paperbacks of eastern lore
    A leashed pursuit, his path would always bend
    From commune, marriage, back to seventh floor
    Our last meet, seven years ago, is dim
    And now he’s silent music, abstract, near
    I used to fear a future self in him
    The Artist snipped the strings, dissolved the weir

    And Seneca was quoted at the pyre
    And Blackbird played him out, no angels’ choir

  7. hic8ubique permalink
    February 17, 2010 3:53 PM

    That’s a fine tribute, exitbarnadine. I love this line for its pure verity:
    “And now he’s silent music, abstract, near”
    I have felt that experience. Beautiful!

  8. February 17, 2010 4:10 PM

    Thanks, H8.

    I meant to include the Seneca quote that was read at the funeral:

    ‘There is this blessing, that while life has but one entrance, it has exits innumerable, and as I choose the house in which I live, the ship in which I will sail, so will I choose the time and manner of my death.’

  9. mishari permalink*
    February 17, 2010 4:14 PM

    Yes; lovely poem, XB. I remember reading a review of a TV program about McCartney. The reviewer (I think it was that twit Sam Wollaston) said something like:

    I didn’t grow up with The Beatles and I didn’t understand the reverence in which McCartney was held. Then he sat on a stool with a guitar and played ‘Blackbird’. OK, I thought; now I get it.

    Al, it’s sonnet-ish and that’s close enough for jazz…

    PS: someone commented on one of my videos:


    Babelfish is no help. Anyone?

  10. hic8ubique permalink
    February 17, 2010 4:56 PM

    It says: “Man, dig that rubato!” in Lipotesvexilliferese

  11. mishari permalink*
    February 17, 2010 5:20 PM

    See, I knew that…I was just testing.

  12. hic8ubique permalink
    February 17, 2010 5:59 PM

    Well, being deaf to language, I missed your ‘testing’ innuendo, and took it you really needed an authoritative answer.

    [Yes, I know you missed the Donegal Tweed thing, too, but you never sneered at Poster Poems; you never set yourself up as an authority; you never condescendingly ‘explained’ poetic language and how it should be approached and understood. Pugh did and fell into the pit which she hath dug-Ed.]

  13. mishari permalink*
    February 17, 2010 6:08 PM

    Ah…a little dig at my pugh-snark. Serves her right. What bollocks that woman talks. ‘I didn’t get it, it’s obviously some kind of in-crowd joke…’

    Yeah, that’s right; the ‘in-crowd’ of English-speaking human beings…be there or be square.

  14. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    February 17, 2010 6:14 PM

    accosted by a dark and dervish beast
    i shrank into the doorframe; acquiesced
    to stridently expressed last-but-not-least;
    and, sheepish, swore to honour his request.

    the beast turned -arrogant- upon its heel
    content at my enforced humility.
    dusting lapels, I slunk behind the wheel,
    resigned to simulate tranquility.

    but month by month, hunger for vengeance gnawed.
    when, two years on, a chance came to maraud,
    i shouldered forward-looking infrared
    and, before squeezing, half-intoned ‘you’re dead.’

    i woke -clean-handed- in intensive care
    relieved that life was mine, and mine to spare.

  15. pinkroom permalink
    February 17, 2010 6:47 PM

    “Once they’re outside those gates,” the headmaster
    blithely intoned, “I’m no longer in charge.”
    Daily the kids ran wilder and faster
    towards the the bus’s wheels, as tall and large
    as those nine to thirteen year old’s in hope
    of a treasured back-seat berth, or at least
    a window seat back home. “They can cope.
    Why should I, or my staff, have to police
    that rabble. It is what the company are paid for.”
    These words come back, as I walk by the wax
    outline of the fallen boy on the floor
    the head and arm in broad and jagged tracks,
    as a precise line was no longer allowed
    by what was left between bus and the crowd.

  16. pinkroom permalink
    February 17, 2010 7:36 PM

    I meant to say great poem eb. There is something about an old friend’s death that is very diminishing; you look at where your lives diverged and why. You really caught that whole silent music thing.

  17. mishari permalink*
    February 17, 2010 11:38 PM

    Entertaining Mr. Slow

    Put wood on the fire, the room has turned chill;
    Pull up a chair for your unwelcome guest;
    The darkness has deepened, the air’s become still:
    The hot rat of fear scrabbles inside your chest.

    Offer refreshment: your guest is polite,
    Refuses and gazes at you with a smile:
    “Will that fire burn for the rest of the night?
    This darkness could last for a very long while.”

    It’s true, for the sun will come up again never
    There’ll be no more dawns, no more birdsong for you;
    The gloom of the room is your doom now forever;
    Farewell to the light of the world that you knew.

    Your guest settles back in his chair and starts snoring:
    Jesus, you think, is Death always this boring?

  18. February 18, 2010 2:42 AM


    An unsettling encounter for you certainly (with an even more unsettling aftermath).

    I had one of those myself recently.

    A close call (blood on my shoes, but a least it wasn’t mine). But definitely a shock to the nervous system.

    For a sonnet about death, it would be more a matter of a blow to the heart.

  19. February 18, 2010 9:49 AM

    Above the clouds where large birds soar
    The mountain crumbling beneath my feet
    The rocks are veined with mineral ore
    The scene is rich yet incomplete .

    The air is taut, membrane-thin
    The ledge brokers no uncertainty
    Cold fingers conspire to chill my skin
    Three paces take an eternity.

    The view leaves my senses in disarray
    Forests, fields, streams into rivers
    The detail takes my breath away
    Heart stops a beat, my body shivers.

    Is this heaven or is this hell?
    My brain stem’s gone so I can’t tell.

  20. February 18, 2010 10:07 AM

    Mishari, McCartney is often underrated; over-rated by himself alone, perhaps.

    Nice vision of afterlife as socially awkward.

    Thanks, PR. I hope yours is drawn from imagination; death is usually mundane, often preventable (or at least postpone-able).

    I realised, Mishari, that when you asked for sonnets last March I contributed something on a similar theme. Must be seasonal.

  21. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 18, 2010 10:08 AM

    Hi Mish

    I read your blog entry the other night, just a while after it was posted I think. A considered and extremely moving piece.

    Some great poems here from everyone. At first, personally, I wasn’t sure how to write anything for this, having looked at family deaths in earlier poems of mine and thus excised the pain with those. Anyways, while away last night at a poetry reading, and just before getting there, I remembered something I had witnessed/experienced just last week. The poem, which I wrote in the early hours of this morning before collapsing into bed, follows…

    Jack Brae

  22. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 18, 2010 10:09 AM

    Mother’s Hope

    On Wednesday morning / my black, / nameless cat
    hooked a frog / by its green / elastic / fat:
    whose heart / voided panic, / whose skin oozed pus;
    who aborted / its spawn / upon the grass.
    I got / the frog later, / minus / its head;
    a gift / from my cat / who was fully fed.
    Thus, / that glistening spawn / was its / mother’s hope,
    a future / of frogs / on the grassy slope.
    Then silver / moonlight lit / the night that came,
    till the green / finches plied / their morning game.
    One by one / they pecked out / each froglet speck,
    till all / that was left / was a limpid wreck.
    So, / that frog’s / full-stop / was its final at,
    under / finches’ beaks / and my nameless cat.

    Jack Brae Curtingstall

  23. February 18, 2010 10:34 AM

    Fantastic, Jack. Particularly unsettling to know that your cat has no name. Might I suggest Nemesis, or Cottontail.

  24. mishari permalink*
    February 18, 2010 10:48 AM

    Or (in keeping with the Irish scholarly tradition that I feel certain Jack is the inheritor of) Pangur Ban…

    I and Pangur Ban, my cat,
    ‘Tis a like task we are at;
    Hunting mice is his delight,
    Hunting words I sit all night.

    Better far than praise of men
    ‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
    Pangur bears me no ill will;
    He, too, plies his simple skill.

    ‘Tis a merry thing to see
    At our task how glad are we,
    When at home we sit and find
    Entertainment to our mind.

    Oftentimes a mouse will stray
    Into the hero Pangur’s way;
    Oftentimes my keen thought set
    Takes a meaning in its net.

    ‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
    Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
    ‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
    All my little wisdom try.

    When a mouse darts from its den.
    O how glad is Pangur then!
    O what gladness do I prove
    When I solve the doubts I love!

    So in peace our tasks we ply,
    Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
    In our arts we find our bliss,
    I have mine, and he has his.

    Practice every day has made
    Pangur perfect in his trade ;
    I get wisdom day and night,
    Turning Darkness into light.’

    –anonymous Irish monk, 9th century

  25. February 18, 2010 11:24 AM

    Anonymous Monk? we’re back in jazz territory again.

  26. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 18, 2010 3:05 PM

    Thankyou ExitB, I still need to look at the imposed pauses, (still an experimental system in my prosody), but otherwise I’m quite pleased with this one – so far, anyways).

    However, that plural possessive finches’ will have to go. My only alternative is a singular possessive, so, Mish, would you be kind enough to change that in the final line to read:

    finch’s beak

    On the naming of cats, I name none of my cats, never at anytime, on a matter of principal, for my cats know who they are and don’t need me to name them. Likewise, appreciating that I know who I am as well, they have no cat-name for me. Collectively or singular they are all cats, cat, scats, scat, puss or pussens, depending only on how far under my feet they get.

    Pangur Bán is one of my favourite poems. Indeed, my Dogg, under his nom de plume of Juan Bitumen, wrote a skit of it some weeks ago on POTW in reference to Cranston’s “Typo”. Pangur Bán is a masterly name for any cat.

    Unfortunately, even if I was to name my cats, no black cat could be called Pangur Bán, for Bán is the Irish for “white”. It’s a poem about a white cat.

    Jack Brae Curtingstall

  27. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 18, 2010 3:10 PM

    I meant not to say “a masterly name for any cat”, but: “a masterly name for a cat”.

    Jack Brae

  28. February 18, 2010 3:16 PM

    Some great poems here as usual, especially I’m moved by ExB’s poem. I understand those sentiments too.

    I’ve actually come to ask a competely irrelevant question (whilst ticking over how I can write a poem about death without making everyone suicidal, seeing as most of my poems not about death usually end up about death).

    Could any of you cultured chaps or chapesses point me to a favoured translation of Pushkin’s Onegin? I’ve got the “Rafe” Fiennes version of the film burning a hole in my Sky Plus box and I’d rather like to read the original before I watch it.

    • mishari permalink*
      February 18, 2010 9:22 PM

      I’ve never read it, I’m sorry to say, but HERE is a link to the wiki page on the various translations.

    • February 21, 2010 9:31 AM

      Thankyee kindly, I only just spotted this reply, thought you were ignoring me :-)

      I have my eye on a Nabakov version, which is supposed to be definitive for people who want a true translation and not a version that’s been messed with to re-poeticise into English.

      It’s an interesting question with translations of poetry as to how far you go away from the literal meaning to try to also reflect the poetic elements, the sounds and the rhythm etc.

  29. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 18, 2010 3:30 PM

    Sorry Mish, this will probably addle your brain, but could you actually not only keep the plural in the final line, but add another one?

    Could it now read, please:

    finches’ beaks [Done-Ed.]

    For some reason, which I can now no longer fathom (possibly lack of sleep) I have somehow been objecting all day (inside my head) to having a plural “beaks”, for I had convinced myself that it sounded “ugly”. Makes no sense to me now that I thought that. (Definitely, lack of sleep!)

    Jack Brae

  30. freep permalink
    February 18, 2010 4:18 PM

    Great stuff all, a vintage selection. Jack, I have a nameless cat too, but as it is red I call it Red. The dogg is white but is not called White. Suggest you call your cat Black. Could come in handy for rhyming.
    Nice vision of a realist’s heaven, Al. Hlm, I loved ‘dervish’ as an adjective ….and exitb, mint stuff – how do you dissolve a weir?

  31. February 18, 2010 5:12 PM

    ‘how do you dissolve a weir?’

    The same way one dissolves too, too sullied flesh.

    I noted too late that I’d used ‘weir’ in one of my recent efforts. The one where you called me on ‘endwarf’.

  32. mishari permalink*
    February 18, 2010 8:49 PM

    Funnily enough, Jack, I’m entirely of your way of thinking re: cats. I never named them, much to the irritation of various womenfolk. Like you, I reasoned that the cat knew who it was, I knew who it was: what the hell did it need a name for? It’s not as if it was expecting any mail.

    I didn’t actually name Pongo, that was my children.

    I guess, freep, it depends on what the weir is constructed of, no? Unless XB meant ‘wierds’ (fates)…which reminds me…

    I picked up a copy of Michael Alexander’s The Earliest English Poems recently and came across this beauty by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet.

    It’s part of a poem called The Ruin, in which the poet describes the remains of a Roman city in 6th century England: possibly Augusta (London) or Acquae Sulis (modern Bath):

    Well-wrought this wall: Wierds broke it.
    The stronghold burst…
    Snapped rooftrees, towers fallen,
    the work of the Giants, the stonesmiths,
    Rime scoureth gatetowers
    rime on mortar.
    Shattered the showershields, roofs ruined,
    age under-ate them.
    And the wielders & wrights?
    Earthgrip holds them – gone, long gone
    fast in gravesgrasp while fifty fathers
    and sons have passed.
    Wall stood,
    grey lichen, red stone, kings fell often,
    stood under storms, high arch crashed –
    stands yet the wallstone, hacked by weapons,
    by files grim-ground…
    …shone the old skilled work
    …sank to loam-crust

    Mood quickened mind, and man of wit,
    cunning in rings, bound bravely the wallbase
    with iron, a wonder.

    Bright were the buildings, halls where springs ran,
    high, horngabled, much throng-noise;
    these many meadhalls men filled
    with loud cheerfulness: Weird changed that.

    Came days of pestilence, on all sides men fell dead,
    death fetched off the flower of the people;
    where they stood to fight, waste places
    and on the acropolis, ruins.
    Hosts who would build again
    shrank to the earth. Therefore are these courts dreary
    and that red arch twisteth tiles,
    wryeth from roof-ridge, reacheth groundwards…
    Broken blocks…

    There once many a man
    mood-glad, gold-bright, of gleams garnished,
    flushed with wine-pride, flashing war-gear,
    gazed on wrought gemstones, on gold, on silver,
    on wealth held and hoarded, on light-filled amber,
    on this bright burg of broad dominion.

    Stood stone houses; wide streams welled
    hot from source, and a wall all caught
    in its bright bosom, and the baths were
    hot at hall’s hearth; that was fitting…

    ………… Thence hot streams, loosed, ran over hoar stone
    unto the ring-tank…
    …It is a kingly thing

    Something about this work strikes me as astonishingly modern.

  33. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 18, 2010 9:26 PM

    In light of much of the rubbish that’s composed nowadays, it looks like a lot of poets have simply forgotten how to write poetry! Reading that was quite humbling. I think, though, that the poet had a vision of the future and was responding to this current blog. Could it really be pure coincidence that you stumbled upon this poem at this precise moment in time? Surely not. Pongo needs to be contacted through the oracle, only that cat could solve this mystery.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go over to POTW to see what visions of hell Desmond Swords is having. The man’s a pure genius, and we are all so dim.

    Jack Brae

  34. freep permalink
    February 18, 2010 11:25 PM

    It’s an interesting thought, mishari, that the first poem in Englisaxon may also be the best. The Ruin is a wonder. I’m bloody sure the last poem won’t be the best, babbled out as some security man removes the last light bulb.

  35. mishari permalink*
    February 18, 2010 11:41 PM

    Swords becomes more tedious by the week, Jack. He’s like some desperately needy child, screaming, shouting, capering lookatmelookatmelookatme. He’s like an infant with a record -player and one cracked LP that he plays interminably. I just scroll past him.

    The Ruin, which I’d never come across before, is an astonishing work. Bleak and powerful and lovely. I’m very happy to have discovered it . It would be just as powerful and clear-eyed were it to be written a thousand years hence over the radioactive rubble of London.

    If poets wrote like that nowadays, all talk of ‘poetry revivals’ etc, would be superfluous…

  36. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 19, 2010 12:01 AM

    Actually, this week proved to me quite conclusively that commenting on POTW is a deadly addiction. I had to tie my own hands to the lightbulb hanging from the ceiling in order to prevent myself from posting yet another bizarre comment. Seeing Parisa turn into the guardian granny of the blog has been truly scary. I think I’m just going to quietly leave. The dogg has already gone off, and despite my constantly calling his name just refuses to come back. He’s howling pathetically at the locked gates of Poster Poems and even his fleas are dying for want of the erel.

    Jack Brae

  37. mishari permalink*
    February 19, 2010 12:22 AM

    Yeah. I posted a comment yesterday, I think, and haven’t been back since. Reading Parisa’s middle-brow hippy-granny diatribes was too embarrassing. Anyway, I’d said all I could usefully say about the poem. Although citing Mowbray to support her case was hilarious.

    You wouldn’t know, of course, it being before your time, but the reliably off-colour MM posted a very funny poem that outraged Parisa, who accused him of being a pornographer. Priceless stuff. I’ve been teasing him about it ever since…Mowbray: The Larry Flynt of the Isle of Wight…

  38. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 19, 2010 12:33 AM

    Still struggling with my death sonnet and hoping I don’t pass on before I finish it. The Ruin is very good. Shows what you can do with alliteration if you have enough conviction ( and enough skill, of course ). I found the PP task very hard work.

    I meant to ask if you favoured the hijab-shaped steel arch around your way. Heavily featured in the ( paper ) G on Tuesday, though curiously no artist’s representation of what it might look like.

  39. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 19, 2010 12:37 AM

    Cross-posted there. Yes, I considered dropping in to disassociate myself from her remarks, but it hardly seemed worth the effort. Her latest epigram on Van Gogh is a stunner.

  40. mishari permalink*
    February 19, 2010 12:54 AM

    The first I’d heard of the thing was in the Graun. I imagine they think it’s a good idea to go the Chinatown route around here. I don’t really think anyone gives a shit one way or the other, frankly. I’ve yet to hear a local, Bengali or otherwise, mention it.

    BTW, I’ll have a root around but I’m pretty sure I have a copy of Tim Parks’ A Season With Verona around the house somewhere. I’ll pass it along. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  41. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 19, 2010 12:59 AM

    Yes, I’d like to read it. Thanks.

  42. mishari permalink*
    February 19, 2010 1:26 AM

    I found it, MM and I’ll pop that in the post tomorrow (well, today, actually).

    Just had a quick scan of POTW only to find that Parisa appears to think I’m some character called shavednun. Why on earth would she think that? What’s this shavednun person been doing? All their posts seem to have been deleted.

  43. mishari permalink*
    February 19, 2010 1:48 AM

    “Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)” is the debut single by Irish pop duo Jedward (also known as John & Edward). The single is a mashup of “Under Pressure”, originally recorded in 1981 by Queen and David Bowie, and “Ice Ice Baby”, recorded by Vanilla Ice in 1989. Vanilla Ice is featured on the new 2010 track almost 20 years after the release of the original track in 1990.

    I’m certain that Sean will want to know about this, this…what to call it? The Rosetta Stone of Cack? An artefact that will allow us to finally understand the weird, hitherto untranslated glyphs emanating from the world of pop culture. Will this, the almost frighteningly profound pairing of such inconsequential, vapid pop iconettes, mark the moment that we realised that culturally, all was up, jig-wise?

    Will future historians and semioticians point to this moment, this artefact and say: yes, this was the moment, the beginning of the end of Western civilisation? Time will tell.

    What will surely be known centuries hence as Vanilla Ice and Jedward: A Warning From History can be downloaded HERE.

    • February 19, 2010 12:16 PM

      Ha ha. Is this a sign of civilisation crumbling? Mind you this song probably was the first time around and we’re still here (sort of).

  44. hic8ubique permalink
    February 19, 2010 2:22 AM

    “I am the cat who walks by himself, and all creatures are alike to me.”
    my favourite story ~ aged 5yrs
    Not naming a cat is a squandered opportunity. Cats should be named whimsically and often, accumulating at least as many names as lives.

    No digs at your remarks, mishari, just chagrin at my own slow dawning.
    I’d never have guessed English isn’t your first language, though I often suspect that when perusing others’ blog posts. Perhaps sign language is one of yours?

    “The Ruin” is wonderful! Many thanks for that.Why do we still say “Anglo-Saxon” I wonder, when the “Saxon Shore” was obviously colonised by Vikings. Just because JuliusC didn’t know about them shouldn’t be cause for perpetuating his false designation. The newly found treasure hoarde is called Anglo-Saxon practically in the same breath the researchers speak of going to Denmark and Sweden to see related artifacts!
    The Vikings didn’t suddenly become a terrifying sea power in the 8th century.
    ok, nobody cares; this just seems like a good place to complain. ThanKx
    Maybe my friend Mowbray is warming up to kennings.

  45. mishari permalink*
    February 19, 2010 3:21 AM

    hic, I think they call it Anglo Saxon because the poem (first collected in The Exeter Book) was written in Old English, which was a development of Anglo Saxon (with some Norse influences).

    In the original, it’s:

    Wrætlic is þes wealstan, wyrde gebræcon;
    burgstede burston, brosnað enta geweorc.
    Hrofas sind gehrorene, hreorge torras,
    hrungeat berofen, hrim on lime,
    scearde scurbeorge scorene, gedrorene,
    ældo undereotone. Eorðgrap hafað
    waldend wyrhtan forweorone, geleorene,
    heardgripe hrusan, oþ hund cnea
    werþeoda gewitan. Oft þæs wag gebad
    ræghar ond readfah rice æfter oþrum,
    ofstonden under stormum; steap geap gedreas.

    The wiki page on The Ruin is interesting. I suspect freep is the man to enlighten us about this poem and Old English poetry in general.

  46. hic8ubique permalink
    February 19, 2010 3:46 AM

    This is much better than the Olympics. Lovely that you can type thorns and things.
    I can recite Caedmon’s hymn in OE by heart, just speaking of what we remember.
    I think the entire AS attribution is a bogus mislocation.
    You must not need much sleep. No wonder you’re so well read, and in multiple languages.

  47. mishari permalink*
    February 19, 2010 4:00 AM

    I dunno, hic; Old Norse seems quite different to the Old English I quoted.

    Vilið Hrafnketill heyra,
    hvé hreingróit steini
    Þrúðar skalk ok þengil
    þjófs ilja blað leyfa.

    Nema svát góð ens gjalla
    gjǫld baugnafaðs vildi
    meyjar hjóls enn mæri
    mǫgr Sigurðar Hǫgna.

    Knátti eðr við illan
    Jǫrmunrekr at vakna
    með dreyrfáar dróttir
    draum í sverða flaumi;
    rósta varð í ranni
    Randvés hǫfuðniðja,
    þás hrafnbláir hefnðu
    harma Erps of barmar.

    -from Ragnarsdrápa

    Related but different.

  48. hic8ubique permalink
    February 19, 2010 4:33 AM

    Yes, they are different, and beautiful, but not really empirical sampling…?
    Your Norse example looks maybe the easterly Norse. These Germanic branches could be a bit tangled and centuries apart. I should see into it, since this has bothered me vaguely for years. I’ll save your links for tomorrow when I’m alert~ looking forward to it. Night night.

  49. mishari permalink*
    February 19, 2010 5:10 AM

    It’s not something I really know anything about, hic. I’m sure you’re much more knowledgeable on the subject. The Old Norse I quoted is apparently 9th century Icelandic.

    From what I read, the Icelanders preserved a much older version of Norse so that their 9th century language was actually what was spoken in mainland Scandinavia in the 5th and 6th centuries.

    Then again, you seem far more familiar with all this, so perhaps you’ll elaborate (or correct me) when you’re feeling fresher.

  50. February 19, 2010 12:53 PM

    The worst is not, so long as we can speak
    So speak, the isthmus narrows to a tine
    The reconciliation that we seek
    We’ll build upon the strand of your decline

    I’ll sift for Cavern memories, hold your eye
    Now you must sleep, where once I’d leave too soon
    Forget the time I saw, but passed you by
    Forget we changed the locks on your bad moon

    We’ll make our Christmas trudge across the heath
    Our steps a little slower every year
    Your illness is a luminous, grey wreath
    But your red mist’s dispersed, as has your fear

    We’ll always joke. We’re fond, as best we’re able
    Too soon there’ll be a third guest at the table

  51. February 19, 2010 1:13 PM

    The shavednun comment I read was like a Coles notes version of Des Swords in his “how crap are you” mood.

    The brevity, the use of italics and exclamation marks made it difficult to imagine it was him but whoever shavednun is they’d done their homework on who to wind up based on the attention they’ll get for doing the winding up i.e you’ll get 3 or 4 comments worth if you target Parisa.

  52. February 19, 2010 2:40 PM

    Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if the source of the enormous exploding magnetic legend of Des Swords is not, like the reputation of the Scarlet Pimpernel, composed almost entirely of the strange general willingness in the community (erm, is that the correct word, I wonder?) to attribute to his dark workings every annoying thing that happens on the internet.

    Of course this is farther out of my domain than what happens on the moons of Jupiter, but a relatively disinterested spectator can’t help asking.

    What think ye, Al?

    It’s curious. This is a blog that was born out of a ban. Many of its contributors have skindeep sock puppet identities which, when scratched, quickly and conveniently give way to real identities which everybody knows. In fact some of the contributors seem willing nay even eager to shed their pseudonyms at the drop of the merest hint of a publication offer.

    There are however other sock puppets who, it appears, nobody knows.

    At least Mishari is Mishari, in that knowledge it seems we may forever rest secure. Amen, & c.

    Lately a person who has been banned here showed up on my blog, stated he/she (one hesitates to jump to gender or racial or ethnic etc. identity judgments about anybody) had been banned here, and made a mischievous comment, more or less asking/daring to be banned.

    Of course this person operates under the guise of an impenetrable sock puppet identity.

    But I would never ban anybody, unless it was myself. And none too soon, were I to do so, but that’s another story.

    And curiously enough, the person of whom I speak has always seemed to me quite intelligent and articulate, however annoying at times. Which of us has never been annoying at times?

    There is always the insanity question. But of which of us can this question not be raised? Is anyone here so boring as never to have been considered a nutter by somebody?

    If Des or any other infamous eminence gris is actually cowardly and/or warped enough to go about for a number of years (years, mind you, not just mere months, a period in which such conduct might understandably be seen by the perpetrator to be at least mildly amusing) commenting annoyingly under fake sock puppet identities, constructing elaborate stylistic disguises & c., thus wasting his time without stint on the pathetic endeavour of getting under people’s skins, could he possibly be worth worrying about or banning or losing sleep over??

    When precisely does what is undeniably old and tiresome get old and tiresome? Is there a… well, I hate the balderdash term “tipping point”, but there it is. Is there one?

  53. February 19, 2010 3:16 PM

    Tom I think most people on here know my real name and what I do but seem to prefer to carry on using my user-name. So that adds another layer to the already confursing layers of identity here on the interweb. My alias is obviously more real than my real identity …. or quicker to type.

    Des is just a curiously interesting nuisance. He reminds me an awful lot of a performance artist Ian Hinchliffe who was self-destructive, generally destructive elsewhere too, alcoholic, abusive but also genuinely, liberatingly creative. I keep thinking if only, if only but it’s a pointless thing to think. People follow their own paths.

    I don’t bother to engage as …. what’s the point? I tried a civil approach on another blog but was met with silence so thought I’m only there to be target-practice rather than engaged with. So I think he has something which fascinates but as you correctly point out there comes a limit. But he functions well as a guideline by which to judge other forms of internet etiquette, hence the reference to him in my shavednun comment.

  54. mishari permalink*
    February 19, 2010 8:16 PM

    There has to be a line somewhere. I don’t mean on the internet but in what we deem our ‘personal’ spaces. On my own blog, I permit anyone to say anything. However, right from the start, I stated plainly that I wouldn’t tolerate racism, anti-semitism or misogyny. When a poster accused me of being a ‘vacuous toad’, amongst other ugly things, he was neither banned nor was his remark removed. His remarks are there for all to see to this day.

    I’ve only ever banned two people. One is a poster well-known for accusing anyone who disagrees with her of being racist. The other not only accused me of being a racist (for liking Kipling–go figure) but went onto another blog accusing me and other posters here of being white supremacists, racists and members of the BNP (i.e. fascists).

    I won’t tolerate racism here but nor will I tolerate accusations of racism, bizarre and unfounded as they are. I do this for pleasure and amusement. I’m not a paid therapist or a psychologist or a bomb-disposal expert. If someone wants to be a noxious, unstable prick, they’re free to do so: just not here. I don’t think I’m unreasonable.

    Tom, if a poster turned up on your blog under a new guise every week, solely for the purpose of insulting you, telling you how crap your work is, etc etc, I suspect you’d grow tired of it pretty damn quick and ban the fucker. Even our late friend Steve, the most mild-mannered and tolerant of men, banned Des after trying, without success, to reason with him.

    The man’s a pest, but like rats behind the wainscoting, an intrusive and noticeable pest and like the rats behind the w., provokes comment. How could it be otherwise? If some loon is standing in a room you’re in, screaming obscenities, you notice. You’ll also tire of it pretty damned fast.

    It’s one thing to view it all from a distance but I’d be interested to see what your response would be, Tom, should he turn up on your blog, posting 20 or more 5000-word screeds a day, solely devoted to how groovy he is and how crap you are. That’s the real test of your theoretical ‘tolerance limit’.

    Anyway, lovely poem XB. Death as an unwelcome guest again…

  55. hic8ubique permalink
    February 19, 2010 10:49 PM

    It’s frustrating to have so much to do and find all these enticing assignments. Must find MM’s off-colour poem. Must look at TClark’s blog. Ought to write a sonnet to appease Death and my host.
    ExitB, if that’s your personal experience, my heart goes out to you. Well portrayed either way.
    I really was half-asleep when I wrote that post last night, mishari. I did mean West Norse (Norwegian/Icelandic/Faroese)~ visualised west and somnolently wrote ‘easterly’. I only know enough to be bothered, not enough to say anything sensible, so that will be the first of my assignments.

    I may be a bit of a ‘racist’ in a benign sort of way. I hope it’s considered benign.
    I’m quite fascinated by distinctive racial characteristics. Has everyone heard the red-hair trait is expected to be extinct in 50 yrs time? Mowbray will celebrate this news, I expect. Cheers, MM; mine gets blonder by the day.
    I’m going to a benefit dance for Haitian relief tonight. Salsa dancing is the most racially diverse of my regular social experiences. Everyone seems to love it.
    I look at pictures of Haitians now who have a bit of cloth to sleep under, one pot to cook in and they’re dancing! I hope I could be like that.
    Here’s to ‘pleasure and amusement’ as we can find it.

  56. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 19, 2010 11:20 PM

    Oh, ffs! Now I’ll have to scrap my poem about black female Jew-haters.

  57. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 19, 2010 11:24 PM

    Maybe this one will do.


    Friends, we have come together to inter
    the mortal remains of Melton Mowbray.
    He was a devoted husband and father,
    when he was skint and couldn’t get away,

    free with his time, of which he had plenty,
    and money, which was usually borrowed.
    No one could fault him for his loyalty
    to himself, or the sublime skill he showed

    in evading responsibility.
    Never short of the grape or stuff to eat
    thanks to his friends’ generosity,
    oh yes, for him it was all very sweet,

    for us his life was a fucking disaster.
    Christ! I think I hear knocking! Shovel faster!

  58. mishari permalink*
    February 19, 2010 11:30 PM

    Bravo, MM. As the man said, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’.

    I wanted to point hic in the direction of your poem that provoked Parisa’s ire, but I can’t find it. I have a feeling that it might have actually been on a POTW and not PPs. Do you remember?

  59. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 19, 2010 11:39 PM

    I hadn’t heard about the red-haired gene. There still seems to be a multitude round my way: the paper-boy has a particularly lurid thatch. Of course, the Island is the last stronghold of the red squirrel. In years to come, perhaps the persecuted ginger minority will also find their way here to form a sequestered minority, interbreeding with the squirrel to bring into existence a gigantic ferocious tree-dwelling rat which always gives you the Telegraph.

  60. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 19, 2010 11:43 PM

    Scrap the first version: accidentally submitted while reaching for my drink. I think it was a PP, on Autumn if I remember correctly.

  61. mishari permalink*
    February 20, 2010 12:02 AM

    OK, I found it and the subsequent comments from Parisa and myself (as artpepper):

    MeltonMowbray, 1 Sep 2008, 12:32AM

    Is this the autumn of our love?
    As you were always up to shove
    your cock in anything that moved
    I think I’d say the case is proved.

    Wood seems to me a good motif
    knowing your problem getting stiff
    unless you paid some filthy whore
    to beat your backside red and raw.

    No, forget your slag’s sweaty bed,
    it’s just an image of your head,
    square, quite dense and extremely thick.
    Your brain is packaged in your dick

    which is directional, like leaves:
    when some pissed-up typist weaves
    round the room at the Xmas do
    what’s in your pants is weaving too.

    Of course I know what kind of tree
    lurks in your grimy lingerie:
    a girl who offers you a poke
    finds out you’re not a mighty oak.

    Parisa, 1 Sep 2008, 6:19AM

    MM – I guess you call yours modern poetry? And you can say anything you like – well, yes, I guess you can say anything you like but I call it dirty ditties. Oh dear – couldn’t you have kept that for the playground? I liked a lot of your verse before – when it wasn’t porny. Sorry for that!

    artpepper, 1 Sep 2008, 6:52AM

    Yeah, Mowbray…keep it clean. Think of the kiddies, their innocent minds warped by your degraded filth. Why can’t you use nice words like ‘russet’?
    Nice, poet-y sort of word. Rhymes with…erm…gusset..alright, maybe not russet…’falls’, then…rhymes with…balls…(cough)…never mind…the point is, poetry doesn’t have to be a trip through a sewer in a glass-bottomed boat.

    So, more rueful contemplation of death and re-birth, less smut. Poetry should be pretty. Think puppies and kittens and rainbows and Satan…no, scratch that last one…leaves, sheaves, brown, down, wind, sinned, rain, pain, grey, day…carry on…

  62. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 20, 2010 12:21 AM

    Yes, I think that was the bit that got her going. I think she went on to describe me as a pervert, with full support from atf. How we suffer for art.

  63. February 20, 2010 12:25 AM

    That was one of my first visits to PP. I took it all very seriously and, I believe, wrote a poem in your support, MM.

  64. mishari permalink*
    February 20, 2010 12:32 AM

    Ah…your first steps on the slippery slope, XB. I noticed that freep, that calculating wizard (‘what’s 1+1, freep?’ freep strikes ground with hoof, once…twice…) has worked out that of 317 comments on POTW, 98 of them are from Parisa. She’s not so much a poster as an industry, God love her…

  65. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 20, 2010 1:01 AM

    Thanks, Exit, if I didn’t thank you then. She did start to piss me off a bit in the course of the subsequent exchanges. It wasn’t as though it was just a random bit of crudity: the two previous poems were supposed to lead up to it. The wounds to my artistic sensibility have nearly healed now, thank God.

  66. February 20, 2010 9:00 AM


    Re: rats in the wainscoting.

  67. February 20, 2010 1:02 PM


    First, you will note my gratitude for your remarkable links on my rat post.

    The first I found curiously moving.

    Yegads, the mind is still reeling from the potent effects of the second one.

    And, as to your earlier policy statement evoked by my perhaps hasty assertion of infinite tolerance when it comes to impolite blog visitors, you are spot on when you suggest that had I experienced such an invasion — thinking back here to that bacterial conquest link, impossible to dispel from the memory — I might well have had to summon a bit of backbone. From somewhere.

    The wiser (and of course more handsome) head in the household now pops up with “He’s right, you wouldn’t tolerate being abused over and over on your blog, he’s right, you wouldn’t,” & c. & c.

    (She also adds some skeptical comments about my rat sentimentality, but plainly that is not at issue here.)

  68. freep permalink
    February 20, 2010 1:19 PM

    Tom’s piece on rats is an excellent read. I think he may be gently accusing you of speciesism, mishari. But that’s not as bad as wainscotism, in which an innocuous piece of household joinery is baselessly accused of only existing to harbour vermin.

    Back to The Ruin: I don’t have any expertise on Anglo Saxon; read through the stuff at university and was flummoxed by it. Strange voices from an unknowable past. I still think The Ruin is a fine poem, but I suppose in the forty years since I first read it, the context has become a little clearer to me.

    The survival of the Exeter Book seems almost a miracle, containing as it does a whole range, if small, of different varieties of poetry. But when they were written down in that book, they were already centuries old, and their history as oral poetry is inevitably a complete blank. And for several hundred years after they were lodged in Exeter, down to the C16, nobody would have read or understood them. The fact that The Ruin was preserved at all is probably down to the taste of one or two eccentric individuals, perhaps more intent on hoarding than reading. What we end up with is something perhaps as powerful as Shelley’s Ozymandias, suggesting that in the 7th and 8th centuries there were writers and speakers using similar techniques of language to those of the modern period, to express emotions of loss and about mutability and so on.

    So there is this powerful elegiac poem, that someone composed or recited at some time, which others liked and scribbled down in their own versions, and of which a scrap (defaced, torn, damaged) survives with others, collected in a miscellany put together a century before the Norman invasion, that Bishop Leofric gave to his cathedral in the mid-11th century.

    And now in 2010 any person can, without a moment’s reflection, put their thoughts into writing and call it whatever they like – poem / brilliant idea / revolutionary novel – and anybody in the whole wide fucking world can read it instantly. And it is preserved for ever and ever, irrespective of whether it represents genius or banality.

    Hard to know how to think, sometimes, innit?

  69. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 20, 2010 7:25 PM

    That’s well put, freep, but I’m not sure how long material on the web survives. If the Guardian closed, what would happen to its archive? Or a blog such as this one? I’m not sure they remain for ever accessible.

    A Future Fair For All? What an idiotic phrase. Someone must have been looking at the alliteration PP. It’s almost as bad as Think Positive Act Positive Vote Labour, an illiterate slogan I was ashamed to campaign under in 1983.

  70. mishari permalink*
    February 20, 2010 7:36 PM

    A Future Fear For All. It is an idiotic phrase but what can one expect from such philistines? Unless, of course, their latest manifesto commitment is to provide every citizen with a fun-fair of their own? Can we really afford that? I mean, the cost of balloons and toffee apples alone will be stupendous…

  71. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 21, 2010 12:37 AM

    ‘Peace, Jobs, Freedom’ in the early 80s was probably the nadir, but New Lab have come close. ‘Britain Forward Not Back’ (2005) was another near-illiterate coinage. Really, they have no interest in language whatsoever.

  72. mishari permalink*
    February 21, 2010 12:59 AM

    Aside from being grammatically painful, Britain Forward Not Back makes no sense. If the country’s at a cliff’s edge, teetering over a precipice, then Back Not Forward is the answer. But I quibble…soundbites created by idiots to bamboozle morons.

    Do you remember that very funny political speech made by, I think, Peter Cook in Beyond The Fringe? Some nonsense about how ‘…we must get behind ourselves and push ourselves forward into the future with proper regard for our glorious past, etc etc…’

    Came across this gem in an amusing piece on the passing of Alexander McQueen:

    I had just flicked on the TV in my hotel room and there was some moist-eyed fashonista popsicle being asked about his legacy. “He changed the silhouette of trousers forever,” she replied earnestly, her voice almost breaking with emotion.

    No wonder the Grauniad was calling him ‘a genius’…

  73. hic8ubique permalink
    February 21, 2010 1:52 PM

    I’m much obliged for the foregoing lesson in the phototropic principle as observed in the silhouette of trousers. I wonder aloud whether a pronounced aversion to pleats corresponds in some strategic way.

    Here’s a quirky piece of work from 1890… for mishari and freep but fair warning, MM, you will want to bend your steer-board away, or perhaps that happens naturally (autodix?)
    (haven’t learnt how to do those tidy embedded links)
    Google books: The Viking Age vol.1
    Paul Belloni Du Chaillu
    chapter 3 in particular re the sea-faring Danes

  74. February 21, 2010 2:18 PM


    Your brilliant links on my blog to the diverse activity in the wainscoting, on the petri dish and under the volcano cannot pass without reward.

    By way of thanks I have posted a poem in your honour.

    (And too I have responded to your Witter Bynner enquiry with some perhaps interesting bits of gossip on Blue Evening on Poetry Street.)

  75. February 21, 2010 2:20 PM

    The Bynner gossip is here.

  76. mishari permalink*
    February 21, 2010 3:42 PM

    Here are the book and chapter hic refers to:

    (all you have to do, hic, is copy the link from your browser’s address window and paste it into the comment box. BTW, the book can be freely downloaded in various formats as it’s out of copyright. I only knew Du Chaillu as ‘the gorilla guy’. Click HERE to download a .pdf of the book).

    Thanks, Tom. I’m honoured.

    And in my continuing (if perhaps futile) mission to civilise the notorious pornographer Mowbray, here’s some jazz he might like:

  77. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 21, 2010 7:48 PM


    It’s like the surface of the moon, they say,
    you can go for miles and never see
    a human face or animal all day,
    a pocket of grass or a single tree.

    The hillocks and plains have a khaki tint
    and the soil a hard unyielding crumb
    like hammered and granulated cement
    spread and dried in a thousand years of sun.

    Almost every day there’s a sudden thud
    and the sound of rending, and coils of dust
    boil instantly from that harsh dry place
    into a momentary deathly hush,
    and one small step is hanging there in space.
    Then it rains: dirt, stones and sand, bone and blood.

  78. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 21, 2010 8:01 PM

    Sorry if you found my PP poem offensive, Hic. No need to send Erik and Ragnor round: I have made a sacrifice to Odin as an apology. The cat was going to die anyway, but, as the Elder Edda says, it’s the thought that counts. You are quite right about Anglo-Saxon poetry. I prefer Norso-Swedo-Dano-Frieso-Franko-Anglo-Saxon verse. Euro-poetry is a handy portmanteau.

    I seem to have earache again.

  79. mishari permalink*
    February 21, 2010 9:10 PM

    Fine, grim stuff, MM. It does, however, remind me irresistibly of an interview I once heard with the Conservative shadow Defense twerp (was it Liam Fox? Possibly).

    This was during the first year or so after the invasion of Afghanistan and the government were accused of failing to supply British troops with properly armoured Land Rovers. This, said Fox (?) was leaving them vulnerable to roadside IDSs.

    Throughout the interview and to my intense amusement, Fox (?) kept referring to IDSs. British troops were being blown up by roadside Ian Duncan Smiths (for the uninitiated, Ian Duncan Smith was then the leader of the Conservative Party; he was commonly known as IDS).

  80. freep permalink
    February 21, 2010 10:07 PM

    That’s a really good poem, MM; masterly control of the monosyllable, nicely crafted half-rhymes, and that clever ‘they say’ in the first line that does a lot of work without appearing to. … I’m having trouble giving birth to a death poem, after a few false starts. Bloody sonnets. They ain’t natural, until you manage to pull one off, then they seem the most natural things in the world.

    So in the meantime, you might like this, from my seventh favourite book, Isaac D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature (1824); an essay on the Relics of Saints:

    …Stephens … says, ‘a monk of St Anthony having been at Jerusalem, saw there several relics, among which were a bit of the finger of the Holy Ghost, as sound and entire as it had ever been; the snout of the seraphim that appeared to St Francis; one of the nails of a cherubim; one of the ribs of the verbum caro factum (the Word made flesh); some rays of the star which appeared to the three Kings in the East; a phial of St Michael’s sweat when he was fighting against the devil; a hem of Joseph’s garment, which he wore when he cleaved wood, &c…’ all which things, observes our treasurer of relics, I have brought very devoutly with me home. Our Henry III, who was deeply tainted with the superstition of the age, summoned all the great of the kingdom to meet in London … the King then acquainted them that the great Master of the Knights Templars had sent him a phial containing a small portion of the precious blood of Christ which he had shed upon the Cross, and attested to be genuine by the seals of the patriarch of Jerusalem ….

    Nice anecdote on acronyms and abbreviations, mish. I’ve got no use for either of them. It’s too dangerously easy to confuse IntraUterine Devices with Unilateral Declarations of Independence and Unidentified Interpersonal Detonations put in place by the Ulster Defence Irregulars.

  81. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 21, 2010 11:37 PM

    Thanks. It was probably Liam Fox, judging by that ‘joke’ he’s alleged to have made. It’s hard to believe that people with brains as unengaged and mouths as unguarded can survive in politics. Journalists who don’t write the story until years after the event probably help.

    I tried to watch A Serious Man tonight, but a note appeared saying the audio track isn’t supported, so no sound. Is it just me? I’ve got another player somewhere, so I’ll give that a go tomorrow.

  82. pinkroom permalink
    February 21, 2010 11:47 PM

    Just got back to GG by way of an absolutely horrific detour on the A303 that almost took me to Bath, by through the much discussed (hereabouts) town of Frome. I saw none of the fabled cider drinking skinheads (if only) but I soon got heartily sick of all that up and down, winding round and round countryside thereabouts. If ever a corner of England needed a strong leader with an eye for a straight line…

    Fascinating thread here… more great stuff from Jack, EB and MM. First sonnet was only partly imagined I’m afraid.

    Rather disturbed about the demise of the redhead. Something must be done.

    The Death of the Next to Last Red-Head on Earth.

    On the “radio” today I learned that I am
    the very last red-headed human on this earth
    the next last, a Scot living in Durham,
    was born in 2060, their birth

    a couple of months after my own. We
    were all famous in our way. “The last reds”.
    Well the red hair that once belonged to me
    such as it is, is entirely dead;

    pure, wiry and white; even my freckled
    skin, that once blushed angry, purple gold,
    has toned down to an ash and brown speckled
    tone. Not fiery or sanguine. It’s just old.

    And so when I do die, little will trace
    my youth, when a flame rose / proud from my head.

  83. mishari permalink*
    February 21, 2010 11:49 PM

    There shouldn’t be a problem, MM. Mind you, if you’re using Windows Media Player, I can’t say I’m surprised. Download VLC Player. It’s small, fast, stable and it’ll play absolutely any sound or video file without the need to download additional codecs (unlike WMP).

    It’s also Open Source and therefore (again, unlike WMP) impervious to hacker attacks. I never use anything else. Download it HERE

    Great stuff, freep. ‘…one of the ribs of the verbum caro factum (the Word made flesh)…’ particularly enchanted me.

    Fine work, PR but are you sure that last couplet is the way you want it?

  84. hic8ubique permalink
    February 22, 2010 1:22 AM

    MM, no fear! for certain, nobody will come after you on the strength of your autumn poem.
    Though the cat’s relations may demand wergild.
    No offence, I assure you, your ribald humour is well compounded by the follow-up remarks of parisa and mishari~ (thanks for the re-run).
    Now, for the earache, do you know about oil of garlic and mullein? You buy it all prepared, warm it in a dropper, put a few drops in the painful ear whilst lying on the opposite side (a bit of cotton-wool is good) and you should have immediate relief if it’s otitis media. If not, you may have TMD [sorry freep] referring into your ear, related to your recent dental travails?

    The browser copy and paste seems to work now, mishari, it’s the link hidden in text that I don’t know how to do, such as your purple “HERE”s. Not essential, but I do admire them.

    Benny Goodman~ great fun! Here’s something less refined but also fun:

    More transit trouble, pinkroom! I’m planning to be here in 2060 to see whether my great-grandchildren carry the torch, if I can bear to look as you describe.

  85. mishari permalink*
    February 22, 2010 1:34 AM

    hic, the way to create a ‘hidden’ link is like this:

    (a href=”linkherelinkhere”)HERE(/a) –the link goes between the quotation marks and the bracket signs should actually be angled brackets…you know, these<<>>…the link appears as HERE or it can be whatever you choose to place between the brackets

    (a href=”linkherelinkhere” )this phrase can be a link(/a)

    See how it works? Once you get the hang of it, it becomes second-nature.

  86. hic8ubique permalink
    February 22, 2010 1:41 AM

    ok, thanks~That’s looks a dog’s breakfast to me, but I’ll take it away and practise someplace I won’t make a mess.

  87. pinkroom permalink
    February 22, 2010 6:49 AM

    That should of course resolve on face… I had been following the Mowbray method and working towards it; before typing it out h-e-a-d spells “face”.

    That detour took it out of me, or Frome cast some phillistine spell…

  88. February 22, 2010 8:57 AM

    Blame Frome PR I do.

  89. mishari permalink*
    February 22, 2010 10:58 AM

    KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO airstrike on Sunday against what the coalition believed to be a group of insurgents ended up killing 33 civilians, including women and children, in Uruzgan Province, Afghan officials said on Monday.

    “Yesterday a group of suspected insurgents, believed to be en route to attack a joint Afghan-ISAF unit, was engaged by an airborne weapons team resulting in a number of individuals killed and wounded,” the American-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. “After the joint ground force arrived at the scene and found women and children, they transported the wounded to medical treatment facilities.”

    “ We are extremely saddened by the tragic loss of innocent lives,” General McChrystal said. “I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people…

    –NYT, February 22, 2010

    And the tragic farce continues. The sinister nomenclature (‘…the American-led International Security Assistance Force…’), the dead civilians, the crocodile tears and claims that ‘…we are here to protect the Afghan people…’ (shades of Vietnam-era ‘we had to destroy the village to save it’). The sheer counter-productive, purblind stupidity of it all makes me want to weep.

  90. February 22, 2010 2:28 PM

    On a similar note, I was delighted to see that the Pope has spoken out against the planned full-body airport scanners as being invasive of privacy.

    This from a man who demands that all humanity surrender their most private and intimate thoughts, tastes and actions for moral audit according to garbled medieval precendent or face an eternity in perpetual suffering, (purgatory having been, I believe, closed down as too silly even for Rome), even in the face of epidemic disease.

  91. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 22, 2010 3:17 PM

    On your bike

    Over the summit and freewheeling down
    the hill of life towards the big red light,
    I often think of those with more renown,
    who took a short cut to eternal night.

    Nelson sprawled on the deck at Trafalgar,
    or Byron battling against the Turk,
    Jimmy Dean in the wreckage of his car,
    Bartleby refusing point-blank to work.

    They jacked a blade into the wheel of life,
    not what I would do, but I still admire
    anyone with the chops to use the knife.

    When I think of my own most likely fate
    then I’m reminded of bicycle tyres,
    how some burst, and others slowly deflate.

  92. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 22, 2010 3:33 PM

    I think we’re at cross-purposes here, Hic. I was referring to my quite poor skaldic poem on the alliteration PP. Weren’t you? My earache is only curable by the deletion of all jazz or jazz-influenced music from collections worldwide, something I shall be calling for at the next G8.

    I have some bad memories of the A303 too. That diversion at Marsh annoyed me for several years. Getting through it was like a Magical Mystery Tour, with Al’s straw-sucking cousins lurching out of hedges armed with chainsaws round every corner.

  93. hic8ubique permalink
    February 22, 2010 3:53 PM

    MM, so it’s just psychic pain? That’s better. Does that apply to all of your seemingly physical ailments? I thoroughly enjoyed your skaldic poem on PP. Hating all jazz and jazz-influence is painting with a very broad brush indeed.
    Have you ever heard Dave Van Ronk’s “If I Had to Do it All Over Again (babe I’d do it all over you)”?

  94. hic8ubique permalink
    February 22, 2010 4:09 PM

    I like On Your Bike very much as well. Here is a man with chops, starting at 3:43 for you MM…

    (still practising, mishari)

  95. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 22, 2010 9:45 PM

    Great stuff MM and Pinkroom.

    And Tom, I too love anything with not only rats, but the word “wainscoting”. On another note, it’s actually nice to jump from the formalism and High Doggs of PH and nip over to your blog for free verse and good literary memoir and snippets from your past work. I take the journey back and forth every day. It’s like a voyage in a lift that goes from the ocean’s floor to the face of the moon and all the way back down again. I love the two extremes; that’s what poetry should always do, move all across the spectrum.

    I’m currently back in Galway for two more days of teaching prose and poetry, then I’m off to Dublin for two more days of the same torture, all in secondary schools. The money’s nice but I’m far too old and cantankerous to be standing in front of anyone under the age of 40.

    Jack Brae Curtingstall

  96. mishari permalink*
    February 22, 2010 10:06 PM

    Chin up, Jack…just look at their dull, indifferent young faces and think ‘You’ll be dead one day and it’s much sooner that you think. If you don’t understand the possible consolation I’m offering, then fuck the lot of yez’.
    Anyway, count your blessings: it could be worse. You could, like our estimable friend freep, be nursing a viper to your bosom (I love that phrase):

    The excited pet dog of a German man on the run from the law led police to his master’s hiding place in a cupboard, police in the west of the country say.

    When officers called at his flat in Euskirchen, near Cologne, the door was opened by an acquaintance of the missing man who was holding the dog.

    The acquaintance said he did not know where the owner was.

    But when the dog was set down, it led police to the cupboard, where it stood expectantly with its tail wagging.

    Officers who opened the cupboard, which was just a metre (3ft 3in) high and 80cm (2ft 6in) wide, found the fugitive “hunched up inside”.

    A police spokesman did not say what offence the man was being sought in connection with but told AFP news agency it was “not a capital crime”.

    Neither the name of the suspect, 52, nor that of the pet was given but, according to AFP, the dog was a Jack Russell terrier. -BBC News website, today

  97. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 22, 2010 10:18 PM

    Well, that’s what happens if you fail to treat the dogg well. As for that scoundrel’s cupboard, it sounds not to dissimilar to the crack in the willow where I reside on the banks of the River Feale. Except, no peelers or rent-collectors or taxmen or hawkers or wandering prelates would dare to approach it. And not out of fear of the dogg, but on account of the carnivorous woodlice, each the size of an orange, that nestle under the step.

    Jack Brae

  98. freep permalink
    February 22, 2010 10:34 PM

    Never trust a Jack Russell. There’s one on a cushion next to me, hogging the fire. He has insisted on being put on the electoral register and says he intends to vote Tory. This even though I fill his life with intellectual treats and allow him to roll on the corpses of seals. I might put him in a cupboard with an archbishop and see which of them comes out alive.

  99. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 22, 2010 10:54 PM

    Thanks for reminding me that the saxophone can be an instrument of torture, Hic. Those Norse poem forms ( not my rough approximation of them ) are really difficult. I suppose they needed something to do during the long winter evenings in Scandinavia. Once you’ve cleaned your battle-axe and polished the horns on your helmet what could be more agreeable than the literary equivalent of the Guardian crossword?

  100. mishari permalink*
    February 22, 2010 10:58 PM

    And this is precisely why I insist that Pongo and Honey make the following pledge of allegiance every evening before walkies:

    I pledge allegiance to Mishari Al-Adwani and the Republic for which he stands, one family under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all but with rather more for him than for all. Amen.

  101. Captain Ned permalink
    February 22, 2010 11:15 PM

    I remember on Have I Got News for You years back there was a story about a man who threw a stick of dynamite into a river in order to bag a few fish, only to have his dog fetch it back for him. The guy chased the animal away, but only so that it lay beneath his expensive Landrover. Goodbye Landrover, and goodbye dog.

    Much enjoyed the spectacle of MoveAnyMountain making complete tit of himself on the Charlie Brooker thread. What a bunch of arses CiFers are to make that eejit Commenter of the Year – anyone so reliant on the dubious technique of Fisking ought to be ruled out of consideration, in my view.

  102. mishari permalink*
    February 22, 2010 11:28 PM

    Ah. I must pop in for a look. I gave up on Brooker a long time ago. I used to find him amusing but he began to seem a bit monotone. Still, always good to see that dogmatic idiot MaM get a kicking. Funny thing, though. Ever since his laughable election as Commentator of The Year, he doesn’t seem to appear much. Not that I miss his rebarbative views and otiose debating style…

    OK, just had a look at that Booker thread. What’s even more unusual than everyone piling in to give that idiot MaM a kicking is that his posts are getting 0 recommends. My theory? He’s off his usual turf, eg: Israel/Palestine, US politics, social affairs…threads that are infested by neo-con Zionists and Tory mouth-breathers to whom MaM’s dull, Hobbesian pronouncements sound like profundity; consequently, he gets lots of recommends and pats on the back. Off his patch, he’s exposed for the dim-bulb that he actually is.

    • Polly permalink
      February 23, 2010 8:26 AM

      They give out Commenter of the Year awards? Oh dear Lord, these people don’t need encouraging!

      I live with a real-life Charlie Brooker (not that he’s not a real person, but you know what I mean), so I’ve got to like him really. Didn’t know he was on CiF – I thought I might visit there sometime, but then fear that it might do awful things to the blood pressure and general wellbeing…

      Has anyone heard about this massive group of people who have received letters accusing them of downloading house music and sharing online, asking for £400 settlement and threatening legal action? My friend has had it, didn’t even have the software on the computer at the time of the alleged offence, and really does not listen to house music (I could vouch for that). The tone of the letter of claim is that they have proof because they got a writ from the ISP to reveal the identities behind IP addresses, which is a legal first pretty much (and a bit dodgy in my opinion). I’ve been trying to explain the old innocent until proven guilty adage, that all this is just circumstantial and that they are chucking out all this shit in the hope that some of it sticks, but she’s talking about lawyers and all sorts and getting stressed about it… I just wondered whether anyone knows anything about it all?

  103. hic8ubique permalink
    February 23, 2010 3:55 AM

    You do know those horns are a Wagnerian embellishment, don’t you MM?
    Do you suppose ‘mead-hall’ derived from the long evenings spent at crosswords?

  104. February 23, 2010 9:52 AM

    Who recommends comments on CiF? Does anyone here indulge in the sport?

    I posted a positive comment on a particularly good Marina Hyde blog which was, in retrospect a bit of a pointless thing to do ( no change there then ) and on returning to the debate later discovered about 30 people had recommended it.

    There have been comments I’ve made which have allowed a brief sense of self-satisfaction to break through the general overall fug of self-loathing but these generally pass un-noticed by the LOLsters.

    A strange phenomenon.

  105. February 23, 2010 9:59 AM

    I only really recommended poems on PP. It was nice to show others that you’d enjoyed their work (and to see when they’d enjoyed yours). Although, as MM noted at the time, it probably triggered a few competitive streaks. I’m not speaking for myself, of course.

  106. February 23, 2010 10:47 AM

    I’ve usually favoured the old analogue methods ( “spot on” or “Great post” style comments ) rather than this new digital malarkey. But then I am from Somerset where clicking buttons is seen as devil worship and speaking to strangers is a punishable offence.

  107. February 23, 2010 11:31 AM

    Growing up in Norfolk, there were always a lot of jokes about the lah-di-dah Somerset folk, with their fancy-pants ‘roofs’ and ‘boiling’.

  108. February 23, 2010 12:31 PM


    Thanks very much, I’ve been reading and enjoying your work as well, from afar though indeed it often feels strangely near.

    Speaking of the ocean’s floor, I’ve just now been doing some historical beachcombing and taking soundings from the depths of time that underlie certain locales on this coast… though it must be confessed the images here come not from this part of the world where I have staged them, but from Brighton, where they were made by a poet friend whose work you may also know.

    (An ocean is an ocean is an ocean, I suppose.)

  109. February 23, 2010 1:17 PM


    I just took delivery of Blake’s Complete Illustrated books. I’ve been reading the Ackroyd biography (Great. But not, of course, the finest). I find his artwork nudges something submerged: totally alien yet eerily familiar, like remembering childhood dreams.

  110. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 23, 2010 1:21 PM

    I’m sure you know more about it than me, Hic. However, a quick look through the available literature finds ‘The horned helmet… was a styling adopted possibly in the 7thC… probably a fetish… its psychological impact on enemies must have been immense.’ Andersson, Daily Lives Of The Vikings ( 1927 ). A monograph in the Journals of the Swedish Archaeological Society ( Ulvaeus, 1952, no. 12 ) has ‘…usually made from cow horn, these helmet accessories were threaded for easy removal and we speculate that the interior space was used for the storage of small items such as needles and thread, containers of whale oil ( used for moisturising the face on long voyages ) and lice combs. Faltskog, ‘An Excavation On The Frisian Islands’ ( ed. Lyngstad, 1962 ) says ‘… the large number of horns cached here, along with a considerable quantity of helmets, suggest… this was a manufacturing centre. Many of the helmets are stamped with the word Lagerfeld. This is probably a place name… ‘

    I’ve noticed that you can’t recommend your own comments any more, which was frequently the only way I could get one.

  111. February 23, 2010 2:17 PM

    XB I did a project a few years back in the Whitworth gallery in Manchester. Part of it involved using pictures from the collection which includes a lot of Blakes.

    I did a lot of copying of Blake and what’s odd about him is that his drawing is absolutely no fun at all to work from. It’s all angles, stiff postures and huge amounts of tension. Other artists provide a bigger challenge in terms of technique but you can usually find some delight in trying ( however clumsily ) to do it like they did. But Blake remained stubborn and impervious to my efforts. I’ve always been undecided about his drawing but this put me right off. He is very much his own man.

  112. February 23, 2010 2:47 PM


    He’s of his time in that, I think. Fuseli’s figures are also (and more extremely) contorted, tense and unnatural. But both, for me, and Blake especially, seem to connect with something instinctual. I find the colours beautiful and the images are gnomic yet archetypal, like the tarot. Full of moons, dark suns, fearful figures.

  113. February 23, 2010 2:53 PM

    Tarot, very good way of putting it. Absolutely. I recommend your comment!

  114. mishari permalink*
    February 23, 2010 10:18 PM

    Yes, that’s well-spotted, XB. I’d never noticed the similarities between Blake and Tarot imagery but I think you’re right. They have that same look: familiar but strange, with the same slightly lurid colours.

  115. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 23, 2010 10:23 PM

    I received the book today, thanks. It’s a lot thicker than I thought it would be. I don’t suppose you’re interested in Matt Le Tissier’s autobiography ( Taking Le Tiss, for christ’s sake ) which I got for Xmas. Actually quite amusing from time to time. When Southampton played on the Island in the early 90s I took my son to the game ( he was a big fan ). It was a freezing night, and when the game ended Shearer and the rest of them sprinted off to the dressing-room. Matty stood in the centre of the pitch while about 2oo kids besieged him for an autograph. He was still signing when we left half-an-hour later. Nice bloke and great footballer.

  116. mishari permalink*
    February 23, 2010 10:54 PM

    Is it really called Taking The Tiss or are you making that up? Thanks anyway but like your brutish indifference to jazz, my lack of enthusiasm for football can only be measured on instruments of hitherto unimagined sensitivity.

    I found the book to be only tangentially about football. It was more about Italy, parochialism, obsession, hope, dreams and the passage from youth to middle-age. A wonderful read but not because of the football rather despite the football, in my opinion.

    BTW, if you tell me which Parks book about Italy you’ve read, I’ll send you the other one. They’re both a very enjoyable and illuminating read.

    PS: Actually, I just had a quick look and I find that they’re both published in one volume (Italian Neighbours and An Italian Education) so I’ll just shoot that down, if you like.

  117. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 23, 2010 11:19 PM

    Yes, it’s really called Taking Le Tiss. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. Nothing quite as tasteless as a footballer, I suppose.

    An Italian Education is the one I didn’t read, and thanks for the offer. You should write a book about the UK. That might be interesting.

  118. hic8ubique permalink
    February 24, 2010 12:06 AM

    for MM~

    Hjalmar, 603CE,
    struggled with technology,
    couldn’t get his horns to thread;
    they stuck out which-way from his head.
    Backward left horn, downward right,
    made him look a shocking sight.
    Hrothgar called him ‘a disgrace’,
    said ‘Hjal, go moisturise your face!’
    Whereupon the feckless Dane
    had to screw his horns again.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 25, 2010 3:38 PM


    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 25, 2010 3:39 PM

      I mean keratinous, of course.

  119. February 24, 2010 9:11 AM

    ‘Twould be shameful to be caught here agreeing with everyone, but I would concur with Exitb in being transfixed by Blake’s colours and general unearthliness, while also a concurring with Al about the terrific figural tension.

    All part of the package might one say.

    Once had the acquaintance of a soul even more pathetic than myself when it came to allegiances, this chap was actually a Spurs supporter. Probably a deficient gene somewhere. At any rate he was once buoyed by a rumour Le Grand Tiss was about to sign with the Whitehart lot. Matt’s wife however said, I shall never leave the Channel Isles, and so the deal was undone.

    The bone idle maverick genius latterly packed up his toothbrush and dumped his stay-at-home missus for Marilyn from Home and Away. Which should have cheered my Spurs following acquaintance, but by then of course it was well too late. (Tottenham in any case is always in too late on everything.)

  120. February 24, 2010 9:37 AM

    Matt Le Tissier would be my choice for one the best footballers I’ve seen. I saw him at Anfield when Liverpool were in their prime and he tore them to bits. Alan Hansen another great player and one of the coolest defenders under pressure was reduced to kicking lumps out of his shins.

    The fact he was never a footballer of the year surprised me. Some who got that accolade played in all-round good teams whereas Le Tissier played in a team that was okay at best and often rescued them with displays of his individual skills.

  121. February 24, 2010 10:02 AM


    Le God.

  122. February 24, 2010 11:21 AM


    I wonder what one of those Brazilian TV commentators who can make the pronunciation of the word “Goal” last many minutes would make of some of those goals. Sonic booms I shouldn’t wonder.

    btw after my comment on your blog those who regulate the postings of comments now won’t recognise my password so I fear my appearance over there may be as fleeting as the rat.

  123. February 24, 2010 12:28 PM


    Those perfectly weighted MLT chips that start out looking heavy and then seem to become weightless as they drop through the air — the Brazilians call that effect folha seca (dry leaf).

    I would be deeply mortified were the idiotbrain that is Google to deny you access to my humble comment box. Certainly no password should be necessary. Indeed you are now “formally” (ahem!) registered as a Blogger (da-DAH). You have a Blogger Profile, yet; in fact it has been viewed exactly once to date (by me). So if you simply sign in under “Google Account”, the idiotbrain should instantly recognize you as one of its own. Do persist, if you have the patience, I very much appreciated your comment.

  124. hic8ubique permalink
    February 26, 2010 2:02 AM

    It’s hard to love someone as old as you,
    when little strokes have drizzled in your brain,
    and temper shadow-boxes slowly through,
    and memory gone far exceeds what remains.

    When I ‘tap tap’ outside your yellow door,
    I listen for ‘Hello?’ and hold my breath,
    and find you sitting in your chair, once more,
    and boom out my ‘Good day!’, because you’re deaf.

    There’ll come a day soon I won’t find you here,
    set free from crepitus and aching curse,
    unless your lift-off happens as I fear,
    and I do find you here, which might be worse.

    That’s why I kiss you every time I go,
    to prime my heart against the coming blow.

Comments are closed.