Monthly Archives: May 2012

next, the asses’ milk….

We were down, Annie and I, in St Andrews recently, in the rarified atmospheres of an Art Historians’ conference. As it was held in honour of Professor Peter Humfrey, Annie’s one-time supervisor, who is supposedly retiring (which means he’ll be back at work next term – don’t ask me how that is, I don’t understand such things) and Peter is an ackowledged expert on renaissance Venice, Venetian art tended to be the theme of the two-day shindig. And very fascinating it all was, with lots of speakers giving short lectures on many arcane matters all within the general theme of renaissance Venice. A bit of a challenge for me, since I can’t sit down for five minutes without starting to fall asleep, and I seemed to be the more challenged the more interesting the talk was, but I strove manfully with my lower nature; and of course in a place like St Andrews a decent cup of invigorating coffee is never far away.

Welcoming and pleasant as everyone was, it was hard not to feel a bit of a fish out of water. I was just there as a tag-along with Annie, as we don’t really get out much. My badge (apparently an essential adjunct to every Conference of any merit) read Charlie Ashton, Independent, which I realised after a bit people found rather alarming. “So what do you actually do?” was fired at me more times than I found strictly comfortable. I – em – I (what do I do? well, I have to finish planting the potatoes; and the peas; have to put up the guinea-pig runs; running out of chopped firewood; the junipers and some oaks and hollies and fruit bushes to transplant still; identify another clay-pit for our next cob-job; turves on the caravan roof – oh God, there’s so much to do – and what was that other thing? oh yes – writing…..) “I’m a writer actually – nothing to do with Art History, I just came along with Annie….” – Oh, I see! Have I heard of you?….

Ah, that’s what they mean with that “what do you do?” thing. What are your credentials? What research have you been engaged in? What exhibitions have you organised? Where are you a professor of Something?

Alas, mumble mumble... (No, I’m not really modest, it’s just….)

Actually the main reason why Annie and I go anywhere like conferences is to stay in a B & B and get some (a)240 volt electric lighting and (b)television (yes, since we had a TV, quality has definitely finally slid over the edge into the abyss but who cares? TV is tops). And (c)a bath. Oh yes. – Unlimited hot water, stretching out, wallowing, and it stays warm and you feel so soaked and soft and well-wallowed. That’s what we call a holiday.

However, that’s all to change. For behold –

(picture the mexican tiles, the limewashed walls, the asses’ milk – and you can get a small taste of our Joy….)

– our own bath at Coldhome is ready to use, a little ahead of the little bathroom it’s situated in and where once the cattle mooed. The bath has officially been used: Will was the first guinea-pig, when he was staying with us the night before his interview; then Maddy, then Ellie before their recentest visit to their granny. I wanted to record the actual event on camera, but Annie says such pictures on this blog wouldn’t be Nice.

Don’t get me wrong, we were always fairly clean. But our old bath was a one-butt-and-two-feet affair, and strictly functional, apart from you could contemplate your knees close-up. Being more hard-core than Annie and I, Rachel and Charlie R are to get our butt-and-two-feet bath now and that’s an upgrade for them.

And so I suppose there’ll be no more conferences.

I found a poem about Venice I’d written a few years back. Now it has a dedicatee, as every poem should have, and is on a Venetian-themed card painted by Annie, celebrating Prof Humfrey’s “retirement”. It begins the second deciad on the “poems” page.

Annie was in a great rush to get us down to our (last?) conference in time (in time to have a hot bath first, that is), so she picked up a speeding ticket round about Dundee. When I posted off the form to the police this morning (that’s the one that said it warn’t me guv, it was my wicked Partner wot dunnit), I also posted a CD (yes, in an envelope, into the letterbox) which hopefully will mean Anna can get “The Eagle and the Egg” up and running.

Upcoming: the second Baddo and Nazir story “An Experiment with Vampires”. I have to set these things down in black and white or I’ll never get round to doing them.

The Eagle and the Egg

Leave a comment

Filed under Poems, Stories, Writing

The Devil’s Riding Crop.

Anna tells me that typically people who are reading a blog will have four other screens (or windows or whatever-you-call them, “doofers” most people around here would say) open at the same time, and that is why I should make my blogs shorter: because these people are to-ing and fro-ing all the time, reading a bit here, skimming a bit there, busy busy. So, wow: five Doofers at a time….. I remember seeing David Bowie doing that on The Man Who Fell To Earth, though wasn’t he a bit – well, alien?….

Nevertheless, whilever I can still Feel the Devil’s Riding Crop on my backside – and can still exult in the illusion of being able to outrun it – I shall seriously endeavour to mend my ways.

Another example of my dinosauritis has surfaced in my attempts to download (or upload, or crossload, or whatever it is) the audio file of “The Eagle and the Egg”, this being the second of the Vowel stories with which I tried to illuminate my illiterate youngsters. These attempts (the cross-loading, not the illuminating) have ended miserably so far but we think it’s more because of the imposing presence of the Aberdeenshire hills than anything else – ie. our Broadband is not as your Broadband is. My little laptop appears to lose concentration after the first forty-five minutes of grinding effort, despite my injunctions to shut down after NEVER minutes. We’ll keep trying. In the meantime I’m going to add some more poems from the now famous Scarlett edition, plus a couple of extras to make the number up to ten: ten poems makes a nice little group (or deciad as we call it in the trade), not too big to be intimidating, not too small to make me feel I haven’t done anything; and then if I decide to put in any more I can pop it somewhere into a little Doofer where it’s not in the way. This lot may go back even further than the first two, I can’t really remember, definitely 1980 though.

We were down in St Andrews last – no: I feel that whack, whack on my rump and I shall stop…..

PS. (not that easy to get me to shut up, is it): if you’re wondering where you heard that Devil’s Riding Crop thing before, it was Leonard Cohen. Rachel and Anna gave me a tape for my birthday nineteen years ago (remember tapes?), which I still have, of The Future, and that’s where it’s from. The Future, as you may recall, “is murder”.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poems, Writing