Saturday, 17 February 2018


Teaching methods  were such, that I had difficulty in keeping myself awake in the classroom during my later schooldays.

I'd fall into reverie only to be suddenly brought back to reality by a red faced pedagog slamming down a desk lid or slapping the back of my head.

 Unable to face the role they themselves played in my lack of interest they often wrote on my school reports something akin to: He is always daydreaming in class. He must learn to pay attention.

The problem was I was bored.

Traditional teaching methods made me despair. I decided to teach myself and often spent hours in the public library where I accumulated dangerous knowledge and  presented challenges to my teachers; my discovery that theVikings were in America long before Columbus for example.

You can imagine they didn't know what to make of me. They often resorted to the cane. Why doesn't he shut up and get on learning these important dates and this useless information we are feeding him, they probably thought.

This morning from Focus I translated a scientific article on how to store tomatoes correctly.

The last time I was in a school was as a volunteer English teacher. It was bedlam. Children, who hadn't had breakfast, shared crisps in the classroom - and often during the lessons!  During the break period games of football went on in the corridors.  And sometimes went on up and down the stairs.

When I questioned a member of staff.  The reply was: The school field is too muddy!

If they don't go outside and burn off some energy I'm going home and not coming back,  I said.

They went outside.  A playtime outside was a thing most of them had never or only rarely experienced.

I couldn't believe the joy in their faces.

There's a lot more to education and school life than sitting in a class and taking it in like a sponge.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Hats off to Cro, Pita, Eddie, Monty and Co.

Aside from the Monty Python team and Cro's hat who or what should we celebrate?

When I see the Winter Olympics I think of Eddie the Eagle the British team's short-sighted ski-jumper.

Another unlikely hero has now appeared on the scene - Pita Taufatofua is  a cross-country skier from Tonga.

I've tried the sport and it's harder than it looks.

Respect to the man, whose country was hit by a devasting cyclone a few days ago.

May it go well for all Tongans.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

My Monument to America's Children

Morton Rhue (Todd Strasser) wrote a novel* Give a Boy a Gun following the Columbine High School bloodbath.

The bloodbath by now overflowing, continues to fill.

Witness yesterday's St. Valentine's Day massacre at a school in Florida.

        At the time of writing there are reports of 17 fatalities and 14 wounded.

Many millions of words have been spoken and written by so-called experts, lobbyists and others concerning the Great American Gun Problem.

And of course there are the platitudes.

I have nothing to add save that I think it's time for an appropriate monument, a bell tower,  to America's other front line soldiers -  their dead and wounded children - to be erected on the lawn of the White House in Washington D.C..

It should be positioned so that the incumbent in the oval office can see it and hear its sombre tones.

Mournful bells should sound  every time a school child or a student is killed in America by America's own gunfire.

And on the bell tower should be inscribed the names of all the victims.

The list can start with Morton Rhue's list which begins in 1974:

      3 killed and 9 wounded at high school in Olean, NY.

*The story . . .  is a work of fiction. Nothing - and everything - about it is real.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Italian with Pound

Looking for Stevens, I found my Pound.

He'll more than do, I thought.  And so it proved.

First a couple of epitaphs:


Fu-I loved the high cloud and the hill,
(Fu-I amava la nuvola alta e la collina)

Alas, he died of alcohol.
(Ahime, mori di alcool).

                Li Po

And Li Po also died drunk.
(E anche Li Po mori ubriaco).

He tried to embrace the moon
(Cercava di abbraciare la luna)

In the Yellow River.
(Nel Fiume Giallo).

     And possibly the most famous short poem by Pound:

A una fermata del Metro

L'apparizione di questi visi nella folla;
Petali sopra un umido ramo nero.

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet black bough.


Friday, 9 February 2018

Parallel Text and Numbers

My favourite story from the eight stories in this Penguin is the fifth, which is a story titled 'The Ash of Battles Past' - La Cenere Delle Battaglie - written by Carlo Emilio Gadda (1893-1973). 

The reason for mentioning the story here is that I recently read a a comment from blogger Magyar that had to do with numbers.  And, by coincidence if you like, a short time later I read the following passage on the final page of the above mentioned story a few minutes later:

    That evening Prosdocimo, against all his usual habits, spent two hundred and fifty-six lire on brandy. Then he locked himself in his pent-house: (a terrific clanging of bolts startled the other tenants). Then he patted his coral charm thirty-two times. Thirty-two is the fifth power of two, and two hundred and fifty-six is the eighth. Two is the genetic number: from the amoebae to the mammals and to homo sapiens. Five is a perfect number, and so is twelve, according to the gnosis of the Pythagoreans. Then he counted and re-counted the four one-thousand lire notes: as if they had been four hundred. Then he kissed them. He added ninety-six lire to make four thousand and ninety-six, which is the twelfth power of two, the generative number (of thousand-lire notes). Then he kissed the whole lot once more: and hid this capital sum in the Tractatus de lapide philosophico of Saint Thomas Aquinas: but changed his mind and put it instead in the Confessions of Jean-Jacques . . .

    Prosdocimo, quella sera, contro ogni abitudine, compero dugentocinquantasei lire di cognac. Poi si sprango in casa: (un tremendo colpo di catenaccio, i casigliani sussultarono). Poi palpo il corno: trentadue volte. Trentadue e la quinta potenza di due, dugentocinquantasei l'ottova. Due e il numero genetico: dalle amebe ai mammiferi, all'homo sapiens. Cinque e numero perfetto, e dodici altrettanto secondo la gnosi dei pitagorici. Poi conto e riconto quattro biglietti da mille: come fossero stati quattrocento. Poi il bacio. Vi aggiunse novantasei lire da far quattromila e novantasei, che e la dodicesima potenza di due, numero generativo (dei biglietti da mille). Poi ribacio il tutto: e nascose quel valsente nel <<Tractatus de lapide philosophico>> di San Tommaso d'Aquino: poi muto idea e lo mise invece nelle <<Confessioni>> di Gian Giacomo . . . 

Tuesday, 6 February 2018



Number of women and girls in the world with female genital mutilation.

Who performed these mutilations?

 And why?

And while we're at it,

Another why:

Why is nothing done to stop it?

Think about it.

Old Man Thinking

He sits at his desk

An inked pen in his bony fingers.

An old man, with his thoughts cramped by an old language. 

A language that has had its day.

A language that no longer serves its purpose. 

Wrongly ordered words and a requirement for complications mean that his thoughts need a long time to form. 

And when they are formed his cramped mind needs more time. 

Time to unravel them.  

Time to think them out. 

He is a ponderous pedant. 

Those who think they know him know him as a fixed and stubborn man.


See how he knits his brow.  

See how he waits for the verb.

The action word.