Those striped aerial domes…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s quotation is from Flann O”Brien’s very strange 1930s novel The Third Policeman:
MacCruiskeen had been at the dresser a second time and was back at the table with a little black article like a leprechaun’s piano with diminutive keys of white and black and brass pipes and circular revolving cogs like parts of a steam engine or the business end of a thrashing mill. His white hands were moving all over it and feeling it as if they were trying to discover some tiny lump on it…
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Here it is, dear reader, another of my lino prints.
If you looked at my post a few days ago this image will come as no surprise to you; you will have glimpsed the original drawing in the middle of a photograph of my scruffy workbench – if you need to be reminded of the scene you could click here. Click!

Lino Print. 2020. Oil-based ink on nice Japanese Kizuki 4 Monme paper, about A4 in size.

Better close the curtains I think.
The nights are drawing in, or are they drawing out, I’m always confused by that. Still, I don’t like the look of those clouds, they look like they’ve been hacked out, without much skill or care, from cheap thin plywood! I think I’d better phone the council tomorrow morning and complain, yet again! Did you order any domes, hemispheres, from Amazon by any chance? Well, look out the window, there are three just arriving – I suppose we can return them if we don’t get on with them. Look at them just hanging there; are they suspended by wires on delivery drones? I think we are going to need the large stepladder from the garage to get them pulled down. Oh look, I see they’ve sent striped ones – don’t we usually order ‘spotted’? Just go outside, put your coat on – the skies out there are monochrome – and tidy up our side-lit enigmatic cubes; shift them around a bit to make more space for the domes. By the way, have you seen my copy of The Third Policeman? I thought I saw you with it yesterday. Oh, I see… But do tell me if you come across it, I’m only up to page seventy-one – the bit with the leprechaun piano… Oh alright… Do you need a hand with the stepladder? Look! You’ve kicked one of the cubes right out of the picture!…

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How about some misheard snatches of classical singing?…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s architectural term is Quadriga – a sculptured group of a chariot drawn by four horses, often used to crown a monument or facade. I used to have a nice quadriga, but over time I got fed up with it and had it demolished.
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Yes, when I’m carefully slicing away at my lump of lino, working on a print design in my little workshop, I listen to either my recorded music or I have the radio on – sometimes if I resort to Radio 3, the BBC’s classical music station, and proper posh singing is being broadcast, I will try to pay attention and jot down what the hell it is that they might be singing about.
Those singers all have wonderful clear diction, they are known for it, but for me, it all sounds silly, exaggeratedly emotional, and just a bit ridiculous.
I smile as I jot and try to guess what these very talented people are trying to tell us:

‘Happy anyhenny, happy anehenny, happy anyhenny!’
‘Wuss this! Wuss this! Mindger a-hoo!’
‘A motor-bee, nigh-nigh, I do…’
‘Recliner, recliner, nowner – reb beb is a rainer!…’
‘Oh, this gussy gem!…’
‘A leery cloud, and now a misty satchel fades!…’
‘Your gown mouse! Ah!…’
‘I hide my beer – my my – t’was my curry counter fliff!’
‘Oh, sly sly, wappy why?’
‘My typesetter! My typesetter!…’
‘Ivy grounded! Dinky-doe! Armino minor!’
‘The ponderous sewer chord! Ah!… Ah!… Ah!…’
‘Hey hey – pay pay – ramble ramble – enough to hide a pram!’
‘Pigna pins! Wheeler peeper peeler!…’

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I didn’t answer your call, I was glued to a forensics show…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s lost plectrum is the one eventually found under a fluffy rug in Her Majesty’s sitting room.
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Dear reader, I hope you don’t find these TV forensics show posts annoying, but they are quite easy for me to do – they don’t require too much thinking or concentration – it’s just a matter of pausing for a second or two in between blues guitar riffs, reaching out for a pen and jotting down a couple of lines of voice-over, and then resuming the twanging.
Guitars, acoustic or electric, are excellent instruments to have as a faithful and undemanding pal to watch TV with – imagine trying to do that sitting there with a heavy noisy saxophone, or a bloody trumpet?
Hm… I keep playing this same Magic Sam riff over and over – it is so very catchy, and it is not too difficult to play – mind you, you have to make a good job of those hammered on trills before you go to the subdominant…
Hang on a minute, the cops have just spotted the perp driving the victim’s car!… See, look, they are pulling him over, and stepping out of their… I wonder if he’ll…?

It was now officially a crime scene – those prints on the rubbish bag – it looks like he was manually drug across the bathroom floor (note ‘drug’, the US version of ‘dragged’) – no prints – a search warrant – the perfect opportunity – in disarray – a renown forensic scientist – now searching the lake – on the upper surfaces of the metal – they now had to work backwards – it was almost ready to go to court – a dreary cold day – then it was the blood spatter expert – until he remarried – step by step – lost his temper – a cast of shady characters – this quiet suburban home – names have been changed – signs of a struggle – a fresh knife strike – no signs of remorse – he was very convincing with his answers – but thirty-five to life, in the end…

 

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It seemed like a normal day, until…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s carefully selected adjectives are: maungy, barycentric, sabulous, twinter, laniferous, omophagic, and boxy.
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Yes, today seemed like a normal day; it was rather warm for February and the sun was shining on my grass, the birds were fluttering and fighting over their feeder swinging in a gentle breeze…
I knew of course that yet another Windows 10 update had sneaked into my computer over the last day or two, and recently it had been squirming about like a worm in the works, messing with things, and moving the ornaments and crockery around.
I didn’t have much of an idea what I was going to say on my blog today.

Switch the thing on to warm up, and go and put the kettle on for the first cup of tea of the day.
Good… password… good… Open my Firefox browser…
What the hell is this?…
A big red banner across the window – We can’t show you any bookmarks or history as something else is busy faffing the files. Gosh, I wonder what that could be? Ha!…
An hour later, after optimistically shutting down and restarting the machine a few times, it was still there! Damn! No links across the top, no bookmarks at all!
In desperation, I had a look at Firefox’s advice on what to do about it – Step One, try restarting. Well that didn’t work, did it? Step Two looked a lot more scary – the instructions had plenty of jargon and acronyms sprinkled around the place.
They suggested clicking the icon that looks like some stacked slices of toast, but I stupidly clicked on the one that looked like a fence, or four books on a shelf. Bugger! Try again!
It’s always good to click on ‘help’ isn’t it dear reader?
Now what’s this ‘troubleshooting information’? See what happens if I…
Open your folder, and look down the rather large list of, to me, meaningless and difficult to pronounce words, it might as well be in Russian. It seems I’m looking for one called ‘favicons.sqlite’, oh thank God it alphabetically arranged! Ah, there it is, now all I have to do is right click on it and change its name to ‘favicon.sqite.old’… This is torture!… Right, done that! Now what? Ah, do the same with the file called ‘places.sqlite’ – right ho, right click, choose ‘rename’ – add ‘.old’ to the end of it… A quick gulp of cold tea I think…
At this point I was getting pretty nervous – I was probably buggering up Firefox for ever – my fingers were trembling over the keys…
Now what do I do?
Look for files in the list called; ‘favicon.sqlite-shm’ and ‘places.sqlite-shm’ – Firefox do admit though that these two might not be there at all… They are not there at all – good!
Now what do I do?
Oh, just close Firefox, and then open it again. Oh alright then…

At this point dear reader I require you to imagine a full symphony orchestra and a large choir belting into the Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus
Yes, Firefox was now restored, along with all my links and bookmarks – everything seems back to normal. I didn’t really expect that – I was more expecting a blue spark, a puff of grey smelly smoke, and then a black screen look at for a few weeks…
I reckon that all these incantations, like ‘favicon.sqlite.old’ and ‘places.sqlite’ are actually White Magic spells – and Windows 10 is of course, our adversary, the Devil…

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Mail Art Postcard. No. 4663…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s surprisingly unpleasant sounding word is nuptials.
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Goodness me, it’s been about three weeks since I showed you one of my mail art postcards!
Look, here’s one – a simple collage on bright card using clippings from some trashy magazine or other – did you know that I actually buy a trashy magazine every now and again just for its trashy words and trashy images to use for the great ongoing postcard project?
So, what shall we look at today?
Oh, how about this one?

What do you think I’m trying to say here, dear reader?
Actually, I don’t tink I’m trying to say anything…
Oops, I just made a typing error in that last sentence – I really should correct it – hm, but I don’t think I will – but why do I suddenly find myself thinking of a radio programme?
What?… Which?…
Oh, yes, it’s that one, round about teatime, on the BBC World Service, I often have it droning away whilst I’m pratting about in my workshop – the show is called ‘OS’ – what a funny name for a news programme! Oh, those journalists like their jargon, don’t they? They love their acronyms too, and for some obscure reason they really like the idea of their audience learning them too! ‘OS’ apparently stands for ‘Outside Source’ – which also doesn’t mean very much to me – it’s not the most memorable name for a radio show, is it? Have you noticed dear reader, that I’m now not talking about the postcard? I will mention it again in a minute or two though – it was that typing error that steered me away from the subject. It was ‘tink’ instead of ‘think’. One of the presenters of ‘OS’ has, shall we say, a ‘rich’, Irish accent, and she struggles valiantly with her ‘t’s and her ‘th’s.
She, Nuala, constantly says things like, ‘I tink it would be tousands of pounds’, and ‘But tis was the tird thime it happened!’…
Anyway, that’s what derailed me from my postcard chat – it was like I was temporarily sucked into the ‘OS’ studio with our Nuala…

Yes, this is another one of my ‘chronological’ cards – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. These clippings are obviously snipped from a copy of that awful UK TV listings magazine What’s On TV.
Do you think (after mentioning the above stuff I feel the urge to write ‘tink’!) I should say something about these three (tree) long-surviving ancient beasts that are featured?
Oh, I don’t think I need to now, do you? That last sentence explained it all…

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Floating striped sliced hemispheres, Dave?…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s carefully selected colours are: tennis turquoise, football fawn, rugby russet, cricket cream, baseball brown, yachting yellow, hurdling heliotrope, polo purple, and golfing green.
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Lino prints again:
Well, today’s photograph showing the preliminary work for the next one, actually lets you see, not just some scratty early-stage sketches, but what the final design, which, baring accidents and horrible repairs due to sloppy cutting, will look like when printed. But let’s cut short this unnecessary introduction and just have a look at the photo:


Yes, there is the ‘finished’, probably final version of the drawing, leaning nonchalantly against the Anglepoise. It’s a sheet from an A4 size sketch pad and is done mostly in black pencil, black Biro, and white correction fluid. It looks a bit like a moody evening sky and landscape, doesn’t it dear reader?
This drawing will be photocopied, and the copy image reversed using carbon paper, and that then transferred onto the lino block, again using good old carbon paper.
Oh, look! Leaning against the wall, the left-hand clipboard seems to have an early version of this design on it, one that hasn’t yet acquired its cheeky foreground cubes!
Hm, what else can we see here?
Across the top of the frame are some of my earlier prints, probably from a year or more ago; they are not ‘proper’ prints though, just test prints on ordinary copy paper to see that all is well with the cutting – it often isn’t, and a bit of sneaky correction and ‘cheating’ is then required. Rather than throwing these test prints away I got into the habit of taping them to the wall – perhaps to glance at and see if I was getting any better, or any worse, at this lino printing lark.
Oh, look, on the right, there is a block that has been, or is being, cut – it is the one for last week’s print, and above it the photocopy of its design. Click here to see how it turned out!
I generally work on two prints at once – as one block it being cut I like to break off and sketch a new design – adopting this rule means that you can never… ever… stop… never… ever… stop…

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Oh, not more workshop daftness?…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s walrus is the one struggling to get out from behind the wheel of his brand-new silver BMW.
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Now, dear reader, you may recall that a few days ago I posted a rather convoluted piece about getting some music playing in my workshop. Click here.
Yes, I’d bought a speaker/amplifier thing to play my Sony MP3 player through, which because of its relatively small size turned out to be just a wee bit, er, ‘toppy’ – er, you know, ‘tinny’ – lacking bass and warmth. So, I spent a very pleasant and satisfying afternoon planning, designing, constructing, and finally painting, a ‘box’ to partially enclose the thing and make it sound much warmer. It worked quite well, it looked rather stylish, and also a bit mysterious.
Well, I am just about to chop it up, and throw the bits of it away.

Gosh! That sounds a bit drastic Dave! Whatever brought all this on?
Well, nothing really, it did work alright, but practically it was a little bit annoying and fiddly having to open the box and plug the MP3 lead/cord in every time I fancied some music (it doesn’t work if you leave the lead plugged in, you have to plug the input signal in after switching on, so that its busy little brain can ‘discover’ it) also the device needs to be kept charged up from one of those USB sockets I installed on the wall a week or two ago. Oh, and also you can’t play your music while it’s charging – which of course, was no great hardship, but…
But?
But… as I was writing yesterday’s blog on my desktop computer (‘desktop computer’, do they still call them that?), and doing a bit of heavy pondering and thinking, I found that I was staring at the pair of small black speakers sitting like moody cats to left and right of my screen…. Ha!…
Ha!?…
Yes, How silly I had been! Why, instead of that Bluetooth speaker/amplifier, why didn’t I just get another pair of computer speakers instead? I could have stereo sound! They don’t need charging, and the input socket is the same! Ha!… I grabbed my MP3 player, plugged it in to the computer speakers to try it, and… Whoa! Bob is your uncle!
I straightway went online and ordered another pair of speakers just like the ones in front of me!

And what about the little amplifier/speaker Dave?
Oh, I’ll probably give it to someone who might need that Bluetooth facility, sort of thing, for their phone? I know very little of such things…
I expect you are feeling really fed up – after all that experimenting, designing, constructing, and painting the ‘box’ thing? It was all a total waste of time!
Oh, not at all – I enjoyed that day of creativity, but it was a pity I didn’t think of getting a couple of computer speakers in the first place. It was similar to making a piece of art that ended up not working, that was, after a lot of work, ripped up or painted over – that’s the nature of art – it’s all a learning experience, your time is never wasted.
Have you chopped your plywood ‘box’ up yet Dave?
No, not yet…
Perhaps you could pass it on to the person you give the Bluetooth thing to?
Oh, that’s an idea… Oh, would you like it?
Me?… That’s very nice of you, but no, no thanks…
By the way, who are you? What are you doing here?…
Me? I’m Dave II of course…
Ah, right, Dave II… I see…

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Hm… we are looking down again…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s dance is the Hopak-Kolom.
Come on! Let’s Hopak-Kolom around the living room – oh, do watch out for that wobbly Swiss cheese plant in the big pot on the window sill!… Click here!
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Yes, I’m afraid it’s another one taken from above.
I suppose changing the viewing position, the point of view, creates, when photographed, a bit of a puzzle for the eventual viewer – so when I stroll over that nearby flyover, that overpass, I always glance over the thick concrete wall (which has been carefully placed there to stop people falling off) I always look down to get an aerial, an exalted, view of things. This one is taken from the south side of the great structure, just before it proceeds over the railway tracks.

This  picture was taken last October.
There’s nothing really remarkable in it, is there?
Some grass, a few wrinkled brown autumn leaves, some grey pavement, a bit of road with some double-yellow ‘no parking’ lines, and some white dotted ones indicating that this is a junction of some sort.
Look, some heavy double-wheeled vehicle has transgressed onto the grass and churned itself a couple of nicely curved brown ridged stripes – stripes that seem to go very well with the nearby double-yellows. That’s about all we have here, except perhaps we might notice that nicely abstract damp patch on the path, oh, and the warm rays of evening sunlight from the southwest, splashing across diagonally forming golden stripes, and picking out the sticking up edge of each of the fallen leaves.
But I suppose what convinced me to take the photograph was the serendipitous geometry.
‘Serendipitous geometry’ Dave
?’
Yes, the way the edge of the grassy area would be bang-on vertical in the frame – if it had been canted over a bit to left or right the picture wouldn’t have been half as good. That’s probably what made me decide to press the button and snap it.
Hm… unremarkable things, but nice picture…
Well, I like it!… It’s one of my better ones…

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A few short, but pithy items…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s quotation: the opening lines from Vladimir Nabokov’s first novel ‘Mary‘ (1926):
Lev Glevo. Lev Glebovich? A name like that’s enough to twist your tongue off, my dear fellow.’
‘Yes, it is,’ Ganin agreed somewhat coldly, trying to make out the face of his interlocutor in the unexpected darkness. He was annoyed by the absurd situation in which they both found themselves and by this enforced conversation with a stranger…
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Excuses for being late. No. 456:
I’m sorry I’m late, but I was being advised that I needed to address my outgoings.

A single overheard remark:
‘I told Rebecca I was sure it was salad, Peter…’

‘So, what do you think of testing then?’
‘I think it’s a very good idea!’
‘I see… So, you are a pro-tester then?’
‘A what?… Well, I suppose I must be…’

No, I sort of feel sorry for them, poor things!
It must be awful being an art critic.
I mean, you know, when you feel obliged to stand in front of some obviously really crappy piece of work, by some awful, but well-connected upstart, in a prestigious gallery – and you feel that you have to stand and carefully examine it for several minutes, think about it, and consider possible meanings and references – and then go online and research the artist’s history and influences, and produce an even-handed carefully considered piece of…
Whereas, me – I’d glance at the thing in passing, and just say, ‘That’s shite!…’ and then I’d happily forget all about it…

Here’s a piece of fairly usual blues music I happened upon yesterday – it is by an artist I’d previously not heard very much about. Willie Nix. That’s a pretty good name, isn’t it?
There’s some very solid riffing and harmonica playing, and it is so lively and amusing. He slips a verse of that great song Catfish Blues in there too. You’ll be tapping your feet in seconds dear reader!
You wanna talk some trash?…
Click here.

And then God created Spam!…
Hm, yes, just landed in my comments box this morning, a nice fresh piece which seems to be from someone with the unlikely name of Solar-Tourist:
I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish
nonetheless, you command get bought an impatience over that you wish be delivering the following unwell unquestionably come more formally again as exactly the
same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this hike.
Well, my dear Solar-Tourist, first off, thank you for getting touch – I can take any amount of prose like yours, prose like yours, prose like yours. As for the shielding of my hike, I am still struggling with that aspect of my life, but I am glad that you brought it up and highlighted it for me. Do not hesitate to get in touch again, my dear chap/lady!

Yes, I’m thinking of changing my name to Fay Kair-Colour.

A single misheard remark:
‘That Lucy is ready to go off!…’

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So Dave, what else have you been up to?…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s carefully selected fish names are: the Grunion, the Horsefish, the Monkeyface-Prickleback, the Modoc Sucker, the Ratfish, and the Morwong. If you were required to sign an important official document, but your heart wasn’t really in it, which of these names would you scribble down instead? Me, I’d plump for Modoc Sucker. It sounds like the title of an M R James ghost story.
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Do you remember a week or two ago I was rambling on about fitting a new electric socket with USB charging points on my workshop wall? (click here)
The reason for this was that I had decided that I needed to play some of my MP3 music in there when BBC radio became too dull to listen too. I sent off for a small rechargeable (via USB) amplifier that I could plug my little Sony Walkman MP3 player into, instead of having to wear headphones.
Well, the device arrived, and it looked pretty stylish. It is really designed as a Bluetooth (which I don’t have) device, but you can plug other things into it too.
Good!
Well, maybe not so good.
The speakers in it, being only about two-inches, fifty-mm, in diameter, do sound a bit ‘tinny’. Well, being tiny speakers I suppose they would, wouldn’t they? I expect that the signal is pretty good quality right up to the point when it gets to them, then they make it a bit squeaky and harsh, but you can’t expect much of tiny speakers, can you?
So, Dave, what was your solution? I’m sure you came up with one.
Yes, I did.
I love pratting about in my workshop – I do like a nice ‘project’ to fill the afternoon!
I did a few preliminary experiments – putting the amplifier doing its stuff (it is quite small) inside a plastic container, a plastic pipe, surrounding it with old bits of plywood standing on edge, putting a towel over it (that was silly!) – and listening carefully to the changes in the quality of the sound.
The best one seemed to be using the plywood – it was almost like building a small traditional speaker cabinet around the device – the wood seemed to absorb and nullify the high frequencies, and the empty space between the wood resonated with, and brought out, the low frequencies which were missing in the mix. I did a little sketch of my proposed ‘box’ – my ‘amplifier hutch’.

There we are! There is the Walkman, the black oblong amplifier, a piece of sandpaper, the sketch, and the partially constructed ‘box’. The bit of ply leaning against it might, or might not be, a lid. A lid covering the whole thing would be far too muffling.
Far too ‘Muffling’ Dave?
Yes, but with the amplifier in its hutch without a lid, the speakers still sounded a bit, er, sharp and over crisp.
‘Over Crisp’ Dave?
Yes, and just as I was about to glue my ‘half lid’ in place, I had a good idea!
A good one Dave?
Yes, rather than glueing the thing in place, I could, using a couple of screws, have it hinged, so that it could open and close to suit the dynamics of the music playing – it would be a sort of ‘tone control’.
The construction was finished, the amp went inside, the Walkman was switched on, and…
It sounded remarkable good! Not as good as, say, a couple of hi-fi speakers of course, but a hell of a lot better than it was when it was outside the box. And the ‘tone-control’ worked nicely. The thing has a resonant ‘woody’ sort of tone to it.
‘Woody’ Dave?
Yes, and a quick sandpapering, and a couple of coats of water-based blackboard paint, and it looks quite smart! Look, you can see the amplifier’s little blue light shining away inside!…

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That lino print design, but with some surprise additions…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s walrus is the one lolling on a public bench outside the library, tucking into a very large cheese salad sandwich with dripping mayonnaise.
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Yes, the print was finally done, but as I hinted in my earlier post on the design of it (do click here), there is now a lot more going on – let’s have a look at it dear reader!

Lino Print. 2020. Oil-based ink on nice thin Japanese Kizuki 4 Monme paper, about A4 in size.

Yes, you see, the original design, there, sitting in the middle, is pretty much unchanged – the ellipses, complete with their stripes (oh, I do like my stripes!), and even the white dots and the cheeky little triangles at each side are still present. See how there are three triangles at one side and just two at the other – it’s those two bloody ellipses above, having slightly different sizes, they are upsetting the symmetry!
It looks a bit like a stack of postcards, doesn’t it?
Yes, Dave, but what about the rectangle of the original design having its integrity subverted by the border of one which seems to be underneath it?
Did you just say ‘subverted’?
Yes…
Good!… Do you like the way the stripes of the right-hand ellipse line up perfectly with the ones in the top right and bottom left of the composition? And how do you feel about the wayward border of that aforementioned ‘underneath’ one touching the border around the whole print? Do you think I should have left a little white gap between them? As it is, it looks like they are glued together!
The wide stripes top left and bottom right are getting wider as they descend, a hint of perspective there Dave?
Hm… Well spotted!…
Hey, the whole thing seems to be twisting round anti-clockwise now!…
Hm, yes, I know… Disconcerting, isn’t it?… Sometimes I look at one of these prints, and I think, ‘How the hell did I manage to do that?…’

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Some snatches of overheard and misheard café conversation…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s quotation is from Flann O’Brien’s wonderfully strange 1930s novel The Third Policeman:
‘But the spear, I insisted, ‘give me the gist of it like a good man and I will tell no one.’
‘I will tell you because you are a confidential man,’ he said, ‘and a man that said something about bicycles that I had never heard before. What you think is the point is not the point at all but only the beginning of the sharpness.’
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These overheards and misheards are of course from the days a while back when there used to be cafés we could go in.

‘That is very much a hard chair Maggie…’
‘It’s better off with hairlines standing in time…’
‘The BPI was in minutes, and a horrible bin!’
‘Ah… A individual!…’
‘A long-distance wack-a-tandem Paul?’
‘It was too padded – just a fancy do-much!’
‘Two men, a hard walk, and a third ball…’
‘They are all a sprain on the rhythm now, Jean.’
The nid-nipsey was becoming quite awkward again.’
‘It’s weird, but it’s not, but it is a dirty image Jerry!’
‘So, we now have orruful Kent brandy.’
‘Shegworth! He’s baad, he’s baad!…’
‘Loathsome travels? Like forever, but in two areas!’
‘A passionate tint?… A junior Fanny?…’
‘Daphne! Most interesting! Those opera nuds!…’

For some information on how these lines are compiled, you could click here.

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Stella and the ‘free-from’ Bourbons…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s dictionary words are: amildar, monticulus, squail, pelerine, hieromancy, and othergates. Please have these words looked up and placed in suitable sentences ready for Professor Mouldie’s online session first thing after breakfast tomorrow morning. The professor will conduct the lesson in a liturgical manner – you will be expected to respond by clearly and melodically singing your comments and answers when requested by the professor.
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Landscape No. 44. 1993. Pastel and pencil crayon on paper, probably about 24″ x 18″.

‘Who’s that, on my front step, why are you rattling my letterbox?’
‘It’s me!…’
‘”Me” – I hate it when people say that! It really does smack of arrogance…’
‘Oh, shut up David, you pompous ass!’
‘Ass?… You can’t come in Stella! It’s still Covid time you know!’
‘I know… why don’t you hold up one of your artworks at your front window for me to see, like you did the last time I visited?’
‘Oh god… I suppose you’ll be wanting tea too?’
‘Only if it’s in a sanitised mug, and the water has fully boiled – but I don’t need biscuits, I’ve brought some.’
‘You’ve brought some?… I’m not currently eating such things anyway, I’m working on the idea that I have a wheat intolerance…’
‘I know…’
‘Oh?… How did you know that?’
‘I’m not saying… But these are ‘free-from’ Bourbons David.’
“Free-from’ Bourbons? I didn’t know such things existed!’
‘Well they do! Go and grab some art for me to look at, and get the kettle on!’
                                                    .  .  .  .  .

‘How about this pastel drawing? It’s from 1993.’
‘That’s a long time ago – it’s a bit on the bright side, isn’t it?’
‘No, it’s not! It’s vivacious and effervescent!…’
‘Oh really?… Open the door and put my mug of tea on the step. I’ll pass you a few bourbons through the letterbox in a minute – I’m wearing gloves – you’d better catch ’em on a tissue or something. Is this a landscape, or would you call it an abstract piece?’
‘Well, seeing as its title is Landscape No 44 – I would say…’
‘These f-f bourbons are really quite nice!…’
‘I thought you were going to bung a few through the letterbox for me Stella?’
‘I will, in a minute – I suppose this is another of your gaudy ghastly neon-lit Metropolis-like crowded buzzing concrete cities, festering and heaving with mean specimens of human life eagerly selling each other gewgaws and trashy pleasing knick-knacks, as the planet heats up and dies before our stupid eyes…?’
‘Yes… I suppose… Now, about those biscuits…’
‘I see that above there might be a little blue sky with just a hint of sunlight, but at each side and at the bottom there is nothing, nothing but encroaching man-made darkness…’
‘If you like… Look, perhaps you could poke just one Bourbon through the door, I see you have eaten the whole packet of them, all but one…’
‘Oh, alright then… here, try to catch it…’

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It was about Mayo’s van…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s quotation is from John Steinbeck’s 1945 novel Cannery Row:
It is a time of great peace, a deserted time, a little era of rest. Cats drip over fences and slither like syrup over the ground to look for fish heads. Silent early morning dogs parade majestically picking and choosing judiciously where to pee. The sea gulls come flapping in to sit on the cannery roofs to await the day of refuse. They sit on the roof peaks shoulder to shoulder…
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Last night I was watching TV whilst playing slow blues riffs on my maroon Fender Stratocaster guitar; the programme was one about famous seafaring disasters, but I wasn’t really paying much attention – my mind was on Hubert Sumlin, his sparkling runs, and his pleasingly odd phrasing.
The phone rang:
‘Hello?’
‘What about the van Dave?’
‘Eh?…’
‘The van, the van, my van!’
‘You haven’t got a van, you can’t even drive – you are an idiot!’
I had quickly recognised the voice as being that of ne’er-do-well poet from the glory days of the Hull Surrealist League, Tony Mayonnaise. I tried playing a few bars of Smokestack Lightning using just my left hand (the phone was in my right), but being down at the ‘nut position’, it was rather tricky to get any sound at all.
‘No, but I’ll bet you can’t guess what’s in the Surrealist Van this time, Davey-Boy.’
Even holding the phone I managed to flick the third and second strings with my forefinger to make the riff a little more audible.
‘Go away! I’m not interested in your make-believe bloody van – you arrogant talentless oaf!’
‘It’s so full of great stuff, I could hardly get its back doors closed.’
‘Oh yes?’
I did a few one-handed hammer-ons and snap-offs up at the twelfth fret – they sounded alright.
‘What’s that tinkling noise in the background Davey?’
‘I have no idea… What do you want?’
‘If I read out the contents of the Surrealist Van, will you copy it down and put it on that crappy blog thing that you do?’
‘I might…’ I said.

The smell of success captured in a wet sponge.
A pink plastic toilet brush from the royal apartments at Buckingham Palace.
Two fifty-gallon drums of apprehension.
A small brown envelope containing some whiskers from Methuselah’s beard.
A tiny bottle of out-of-date holy water.
Ten thousand chocolate-coated neutrinos.
A 45 RPM vinyl record of bricks falling on and bursting colourful balloons.
One tonne of rose petals packed into a heavy steel safe.
A really bad copy of a Bob Ross sunset.
A hundred hardback novels with page 13-14 viciously ripped out.
A politician crouching in a small cupboard pretending to care.
Ten corkscrews that have been painstakingly straightened out.
A walnut half stuck in the middle of a three-metre clear plastic tube.

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So, what have you been up to?…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s faded and wrinkled old black and white snapshot is the one of me and Dr Watson sharing a couple of amusing anecdotes on the corner of Baker Street in 1908.
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‘So Dave, what have you been up to?’
‘Not much really – but yesterday I was drilling some holes in my workshop walls.’
‘Why were you doing that?’
‘Well, I suppose, really it was because of not travelling on buses and trains…’
‘I see… I think we’d better leave that there…’
‘Quite right…’
‘You’d have used a masonry bit I expect…’
‘Oh yes, I was going through the plaster into the brick…’
‘Dave…’
‘Yes?’
‘About those trains and buses…’
‘Do you really want to know about the trains and buses?… Would you like a cup of tea?’
‘Green tea?’
‘Yes.’
‘That would be nice… I don’t see how, the wall drilling…’
‘And the trains and buses, are connected?’
‘Yes.’
‘It’s a rather convoluted connection, are you sure that you want to…?’
‘Go on then, just while the kettle boils.’
‘I realised yesterday that I had stopped listening to my music; I hadn’t heard any of my music collection for months and months.’
‘So you decided to drill some holes in the wall?’
‘No, it was because I only really listened to music on my MP3 player via my headphones when travelling on buses, and sometimes…’
‘Trains?’
‘Yes. And with this virus thing, I’ve not been…’
‘Of course… So?’
‘Well, when I’m working, and creating, in my workshop I have the radio on, but when the radio is all politics, journalists interviewing each other, or sport…’
‘You could be listening to your music collection instead?’
‘That’s right! Here’s your tea.’
‘Thank you… So you could put your headphones on and…’
‘I did think of that, but their presence on my head would have impeded my working, and my drawing, and my lino chiselling, etc.’
‘Oh yes?’
‘So, I thought that I should buy a little amplifier for my MP3 player, so I could have my music playing in there as I work.’
‘Do you set it on random play, Dave?’
‘Of course…’
‘So, how does this relate to the noisy wall drilling?’
‘The amplifier, a relatively inexpensive one, is battery powered – you can charge it up from a USB socket – if there is one handy…’
‘Nice tea this!’
‘It’s Yunnan, from Manchester, you know.’
‘I know…’
‘So, I decided that a nice little project would be to take out one of the mains power sockets in the workshop and replace it with one that has a couple of USB charging sockets added – so that the amplifier could be…’
‘Charged up, in situ?’
‘In situ, indeed.’
‘How did the project go Dave?’
‘Oh, very badly…’
‘Really?’
‘It took bloody ages! All sodding afternoon!’
‘How so?’
‘I thought it would be a piece of cake to just take one of the double mains sockets off the wall and replace it with the new one with the USBs.’
‘It wasn’t straightforward then?’
‘No… The two existing sockets were at the end of a horizontal plastic cable conduit on the wall – I thought I’d just disconnect the end one, and put the new one in its place.’
‘And there was a problem?’
‘Yes, the terminals inside the new one were in a different position from the original one, and the sodding wires didn’t reach them!’
‘Oh dear… So what did you do?’
‘Well, you can’t really add bits of wire to make them longer, so I decided that I’d shorten the conduit and move the two sockets, the existing one, and the new one, to the left to gain extra wire… Hence, the wall drilling for the repositioning of the wall boxes, the pattresses.’
‘Pattresses?’
‘Yes.’
‘How did that go?’
‘Very badly…’
‘Very badly too… Again?’
‘Yes, I accidentally clipped one of the wires too short, and had to move the sockets yet again – the bloody things were slowly migrating across the wall!’
‘Did you swear much, Dave?’
‘Oh yes!’
‘But it all came right in the end?’
‘Finally, yes…’
‘So, where’s your new MP3 amplifier then?…’
‘It’s still in the post, it’s not due for four weeks.’
‘Four weeks!?’
‘Yes, I think it’s coming all the way from China…’
‘Good god!…’

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But Dave, we’ve already seen this one!…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s carefully selected colours are: robe red, trouser turquoise, pullover pink, tie tan, beret burgundy, vest violet, overcoat orange, and underpant ultramarine.
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Seen this one?
No you haven’t – this is a different snap altogether!
Well actually, dear and faithful reader, you have seen a photo a few days ago with that drawing on the clip board in it.
click here!

I must admit though, that this is a similar photograph, but you do get a better view of the sketch for the lino print that I’ll slide in front of your eager eyes in a day or two – it is the larger one towards the bottom of the sheet. The print will look a bit like that, but with quite a few extras and augmentations – just in case you are thinking that having seen the scruffy sketch you won’t have to bother looking at the finished piece.
Oh, don’t ellipses look good with a few stripes on them?
Ellipses are a boon (a boon Dave?) to the artist who needs to depict a circular object in perspective – just grab your handy plastic ellipse template, a flick or two of the pencil, and Bob is your uncle – you have a wonderful perspective view of your thing – put a few parallel stripes on it to make it eye-catching and phew! Looks like you could just reach out and pick it up. It’s so… so, three-dimensional!…
That’s why the one sitting the perspective rug in the foreground looks so solid, but the ellipses in the ‘sky’ are more reluctant to acquire three dimensions – and they remain as just a couple of hovering ovals (hovering ovals, Dave?) embarrassedly waiting, nudging and jostling each other.
I’ll bet you are eager to see the finished print dear reader – what you see above is only half the story!

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What’s that story called again, Dave?…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s cuttlefish is the one currently working on quantum tunnelling at Cambridge.
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An hour or so ago, I was lolling in my bed, half-heartedly considering getting up this icy Sunday morning, when the idea for today’s post came to me.
Last night before nodding off I had been re-reading a bit of a story from a fattish old Wordsworth Classics paperback of M R James, Collected Ghost Stories ;  upon waking a few minutes earlier I found that I had a couple of strange words, a phrase, a title, rattling around in my head ; it was The Tractate Middoth – strange words that seemed to be begging to be spoken out loud in a clipped tone emphasizing the sibilants.
As I was lolling I thought of writing something this morning about M R and his stories ;  I also thought that I might even take a quick photograph of the book itself – the book with a story entitled The Tractate Middoth in it…

M R, Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) was a heavy-duty scholar who spent all his days at some very posh top-notch universities, who, in what spare time he had, also wrote a big bundle of unsettling and spooky tales – he was very good at it, and they became quite popular. One of these tales was called The Tractate Middoth.
As they were mostly written in the early 20th c., around the time Conan Doyle was knocking out his lovely Sherlock Holmes stories, the writing is pretty rich and flows majestically down stream towards a reliably decent conclusion, but, it is not without wit. See, how I’m inadvertently slipping into that style myself ;  today, even my punctuation is affected ;  the semicolon with a space before it, and two spaces after it! I remember seeing it used like that in the Sherlock Holmes books ;  I suppose it was the fashion back then. I have just flicked through, dear reader, to see if the semicolons are used like that in The Tractate Middoth ;  reassuringly, they of course are!

How about a short sample of the writing? Here’s a piece from – no, no, not The Tractate Middoth, but from The Mezzotint – the tale of a small old dusty picture of a country house where the printed image inexplicably changes over several hours to depict the visit of a crawling unearthly entity, from the edge of the picture, across the front lawn, and into the premises, with obvious evil intent…
I don’t think that M R thought much of the sport of golf – hm, same here!…
He lighted the candles, for it was now dark, made the tea, and supplied the friend with whom he had been playing golf (for I believe the authorities of the University I write of indulge in that pursuit by way of relaxation) ;  and tea was taken to the accompaniment of a discussion which golfing persons can imagine for themselves, but which the conscientious writer has no need to inflict upon any non-golfing persons
Anyway, they have a look at the mezzotint after they’ve discussed their game and guzzled their tea and find that the image has changed yet again and that the awful creeping entity is now…
The Mezzotint  is a pretty good yarn, but the title isn’t as striking as The Tractate Middoth is it? Me, I know that a mezzotint is some kind of fine art print, but I’ve never done one, or even know how to do one. And speaking of things that I don’t know, I don’t know what a ‘tractate’ is, nor do I know what ‘Middoth’ means. Perhaps we should look these words up? That’s what you are supposed to do when  you are puzzled by something in a book ;  that’s what books are for!…
Hm… The Tractate Middoth
That would be a really good name for a loud metal band.

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Trying to think of a good name for a character…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s carefully selected adjectives are: fidgety, lixivious, proparoxytone, flanched, cotyledonary, voraginous, and bouncy.
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Yes, a good, solid, memorable, and unusual name for each of your characters really helps with the writing, and with the eventual reading of course. Good old Vladimir Nabokov always came up with great names for his characters; how about: Humbert Humbert, Aleksey Ivanovich Alfyorov, Hugh Person, Timofey Pnin, John Shade, and Clare Quilty?
Veronica Crush, writer from the glory days of the Hull Surrealist League (now living in New York with tall tree surgeon and heir to a multi-million dollar fortune, Monty Tick) thinks up so many nice names that she sends me batches of her spare ones to share on these pages with any budding writer who struggles to come up with decent ones to include in their work.
As usual Veronica has slipped one real person’s name into her list. See if you can guess which one it is.
The answer to V’s puzzle may be found via the link at the foot of the page.

Pamela Vent Moose
Charles Forbes Mandible
Sidney Soyle
Darren Dimney QC
Lord Ragdill of Roose
Nova Pilbeam
Benny ‘the duck’ Fignal
Sue-Jo deMelvis
Sir Henry Shopeth
Sir Francis Sifran-Finn
Barbara Dinkage
Detective Inspector Norm Toffee
Steve ‘Butterboy’ Tubes
Julian Callendar
Bernard Nard
Viscount Bismuth
The Reverend Goddle-Willitt
Countess Ingrid Van Sickle

For the solution to Veronica’s puzzle, please click here.

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Football for Surrealists. No. 11…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s elephant in the room is the one refusing to take off his giant headphones and talk to the other guests – he really does love his Schubert part songs.
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Hm, yes, another of my tatty old cheap junk shop books; today we are back with Football Parade from 1950.

Well, I think it’s from 1950, but there is no publishing date printed anywhere in it – I think it is deliberately undated because these books would be produced as Christmas presents for young sporty lads, and the publishers didn’t want to pin it down to a specific year, so that they could carry on flogging it for several Christmases – and they were worried that if the kid spotted the previous year’s date in his book he’d feel cheated in some way, and throw a couple of noisy tantrums.
I know this copy was from 1950 because of the message nicely written in blue ink by Josie or Barbara on the reverse of the front end paper.

But let’s have a look at a nice footballer. How about this picture on page 49? Actually, I have just noticed that all the pages printed in colour in the book are not numbered – perhaps this one could be said to be on page 48A?

This is Eddie Quigley; apparently he used to finish very strongly and pass accurately.
I love pictures like this, I hesitate to call them ‘photographs’ as most of what we see here is artwork – this is probably originally a black and white photograph that has been ‘Photoshopped’, half a century before Photoshop, the colour added manually by an ‘illustrator’.
And what about the strange environment Eddie Q is running about in? Those blurred blob-faced people in the crowd! Even the grass looks strange and decidedly misty!
I do like the concentration on Eddie’s face and of course his lovely shiny Brylcreemed hair, and what about the hand with splayed fingers and his immaculate pale nails, oh, and the way he’s momentarily hovering off the ground as he kicks the ball.
Super!… A great picture!… Well done, anonymous illustrator!

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I see you are sitting at your workbench Dave…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s novelty pencil sharpener is the one shaped like the cry of an owl in the night.
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Perhaps a tiny wayward spot of washing up liquid had somehow remained in this mug that I’m drinking my green tea from? That’s a pretty attention grabbing opening sentence, isn’t it?
I’m sitting at my workbench with my A6 spiral notebook, and its pal, the old Parker ballpoint pen, in front of me – a blank page stares up at me.
Yes, the tea does taste just a little bit ‘funny’ – potable, but a bit ‘funny’.
Why am I sitting here with an empty page, and a pen – and nothing in my head?
Well, I seem to be running out of pieces of actual writing for my blog – I used to write them in afternoon cafés under the influence of tea and high chocolate content buns, but all that went when the virus arrived. Why do I struggle to do at home what came so easily in the cafés? Perhaps the café people slip a creative something ‘extra’ into the tea which I don’t get in my Yunnan tea from Manchester?
Come on Dave, you useless bugger! Just start writing! Something will come, anything will do – that’s how you used to do it in the cafés!
You know, this tea does taste a bit ‘funny’…
Just get started! Look around the room for inspiration! Observe something! Just look an inch or two to your right – what do you see?
Hang on a minute!… Who are you?
Me?… I’m Dave II, of course…
Ah… alright then… Well, what do I see? I just see the paint-spattered surface of the bench, it has scratches and dents in it. Look at all those blobs of dried colour – they must go back years – you can’t see any of the original surface of the…
What is the original surface Dave?
Well, Dave II, it is sturdy 18 mm MDF board, a full eight-foot by four-foot sheet – I made it that size because that is the usual size that small-scale touring theatre set flats are made – from the days when I used to design and paint such depressingly transient things.
You see Dave, you have now started writing something!
Ah, but it’s not very interesting, is it? I wonder if I should pause, and go make another drink of tea – a nice one, in a well-washed mug?
What about those paint spatters – couldn’t you make something of those? A photo perhaps?
But this is supposed to be a post with writing, you know, just text – not another one with a photo!
Look, there’s your camera on the corner of the bench, why don’t you make some more tea, and include it in the picture? You could have that nice ancient vice in it too – that would be interesting to include!

There, I suppose that looks alright… I didn’t really want a photo in today’s post though… I was just thinking…
Oh yes?
See, if, I was a famous artist…
Oh yes?
I’d have the whole top of this bench sawn off complete with the two vices…
Two vices?
Yes, and it could be hung vertically on the wall of Tate Modern or some such prestigious place…
Dave…
Yes?
Just shut up, and drink your tea...
Didn’t you want any tea?
I don’t drink tea, I’m imaginary – you idiot!…

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