Francois de Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) wrote a book of aphorisms – one liners,which explored the difference between what people say, and what they mean. His tone is sardonic, dissecting the hypocrisies of his time.
I have tried to follow in his footsteps.
1.The needs of the one are always more important than the needs of the many.
2.Yesterday can teach us nothing, neither can tomorrow.
3.We have forced our children into early adulthood, while we return to infancy ourselves.
4.True wisdom comes from the realisation there is no wisdom to be found.
5.Free from the shackles of organised religion, we have nowhere to go.
6.Sex is just a phase.
7.Those who look for “emotional moments” are themselves incapable of true emotion.
8.We have never been so open about sexuality as we are now, or so closed against the knowledge of death.
9.Of all sexual choices, straight is the most beige.
11.All cyclists are saints. They are saving the planet.
12.They have right of way everywhere, apart from cycle lanes.
13.A cyclist may use their phone,take their hands off the handlebars,eat a tub of yoghourt, or read a book while travelling.
Car drivers may do none of these.
14.Selfies reassure us we are still alive.
15.Airbrushed into anonymity, our faces mask what we try to reveal.
16.The wider our network of contacts, the more we are convinced that we are missing something.
17.Through Instagram, we have outsourced our memories.
18.Everything on Twitter is true. But only for one day.
19.We can communicate with anyone on the planet, but many of us have forgotten the use of a pen.
20.Incapable of expressing our feelings in words, we use…..imogees.
I used to look forward to growing old. I had this glowing picture of me, with distinguished grey hair and a kindly twinkle in my eye, distributing Good Advice to my children and grand children, while my wife sits by the fire, knitting and stroking the cat, ( but not at the same time, obviously.) I would be looked up to, the family patriarch. My grandfather (only one, the other died years ago) was like that.
Well I got the distinguished hair. It’s a bit thin on top, but I have lovely silver sideboards. I look like the meeter – and- greeter that the BBC wheels out to meet political bigwigs, who have come to have their noses tweaked by John Humphries. He looks like an ambassador. I could do that.
I’m a bit short on wisdom though. It’s not quite that. I have wisdom but….it’s irrelevant. I can talk about the Elizabethan theatre, the history of my city of York, the wingspan of a Supermarine Spitfire ( 32’ 6”) if you’re interested, or the back catalogue of the Stones – but no-one is really interested any more. I do not understand the social media. Why do they all talk to each other in unintelligible abbreviations ? What’s wrong with the phone ?
Why do they have to take a picture of themselves every three minutes ? Do they doubt their very existence ?
I still use email. For special friends, I will write a letter. Remember ? That pen and ink stuff ? I can sometimes use Twitter, but it’s a matter of stab and see where you get to.
And all this is entirely irrelevant. It has always been the same. We old codgers have had our day because that’s evolution, man. We’re irrelevant now, and extinct soon.
And we asked for it. Take one tiny aspect of daily life – fashion. Fashion is for the young and for elegant mature ladies. Not old guys. Beards are fine for hipsters, with tartan shirts and climbing boots. But any man over sixty should never grow a beard- you should have got that out of your system forty years ago. Look at Jeremy Corbyn ( difficult, I know, but do try) He looks (a) as though he’s forgotten to shave and (b) like Dr Shipman the Mad Medic. It’s a uniform – they all look the same.
Old geezers should never, under any circumstances, show their legs. Old male legs are indistinguishable from chicken legs in Sainsburys. And the shorts they wear ! Great bags of canvas rippling in the breeze ! It just looks wrong, guys ! Get a pair of nice chinos and a summer jacket and you look like a film director.
And don’t wear replica football shirts either. You look like a wazzock. Stretched tight over a beer belly and balanced on skinny legs, you do not do yourself justice. And don’t wear sandals, don’t wear socks with sandals – just quit the whole sandal thing. Without, your feet look like lumps of squashed haddock.And the toenails ! Chipped and splintered and discoloured like lumps of Roman rooftile. And with socks ? No ! The horror ! The horror !
Mind you, I have come a fashion that is totally the fault of Young Dudes – and that is a too tight suit with shoes – but no socks ! Can you imagine what it’s like in there ? Slippery and reeking with footpong ! Is this likely to pull the birds ? Maybe -how should I know ?
No – it’s time to step back and let them get on with it.
Every twenty four hours a day becomes history.
That’s profound, that is.
The square is transient space
where every hour
a thousand purposes
collide and split away.
Yet some moments linger,
hover in shifting light
among the trees,
settle in the pavement cracks.
That weeping ash
taller than rooftops
grew from graves,
its slow roots stabbing down
between the tombstones,
piercing eye sockets and yellowed bones,
and sucking nourishment from
the clammy loam
Grave yards beg a church
and one stood here,
where tourists take selfies, lick ice creams
and children stamp their feet
to scare the birds.
Crammed between the slaughtering yards,
the butchers’ shops and narrow alleyways
an ungainly barn, all awkward angles,
a stumpy tower.
The church of Christ the King
a place to mark time
the saints in their proper seasons:
Advent, Christmas, Lent and Corpus Christi
each celebrated with prayer and candles
and ashes on good Friday.
And sinners had their moment too
where every day was different
and every day the same
sprinkling at the font
rings before the altar
corpses by an open grave.
All kept in proper fashion
and all this for eight hundred years.
Now jugglers mark their sacred space with rope
where blood and incense once hung in the air
and where our forbears bowed their heads in prayer
a bunch of skinny kids are smoking dope.
Stud lawns and gardens, railway cuttings,
scraps of sandy ground and pavement cracks-
sunspits shining like a furnace fire
through shattered concrete, coils of rusty wire.
Theyʼre dead within a week, their embers cold
and turned to balls of ash,and yet
each grey seed lodges somewhere out of sight,
lies snug all winter, waiting to ignite.
I’m piled high with concentrated sunshine
fresh leaves, and dehydrated blossom
ready to unfurl.
Just add spring water.
Filled with early morning goodness
each pack contains:
fox barks, blackbird song,
the stately flap of herons’ wings,
the muttering of ducks,
provides the five good things you need
to fortify your soul
As for me –
who’s going to return me to the store ?
In the empty square
A girl is playing her cello.
hangs like a bubble in the gold
flecked evening air, drifts
past chimneys, rooftops –
curls like smoke through open windows,
street doors left ajar.
A man and woman turn the corner –
middle aged- festooned with shopping bags.
They stare, put down their load, and listen.
The man begins to tap his foot then
sketches a little dance,a minuet –
holds out his hand.
The woman smiles.
They dance together till the music ends.
The girl puts down her bow, applauds.
The couple smile, embarrassed,
pick up their shopping,
and slowly walk away.
A long incision in the tarmac
two metres deep and strung with cables,
draped across an open wound.
Below that, a tight packed marl
of clay and river sand
run through with rusty pipes
and dank with ancient water.
I could see bones there –
how little there is left of us –
a carious jaw, and half a skull
scoured with grit and stained with slime –
the trash of centuries, the rags of time.
I love Amazon, especially the quirky, eccentric stuff. I’ve been glancing at the offerings in their pre-sale sale (don’t ask) and I have fallen in love with two items after which I lust.
First of all, there’s a paper shredder.I need a new paper shredder. My last one died when I tried to shred two sheets of paper – so flimsy you could wrap of jewels in them- jammed in the works.It whined and coughed, spat out a wodge of mutilated paper, and then gave up the ghost.
That won’t happen with the Bosch 2200. I reckon it could reduce sheet steel to metal porridge in no time. It has a 2000 watt motor – you could fit it in a racing car. It has a 40 millimetre cutting blade that could do a decent job on the Forth Bridge. This is a paper shredder For Men ! And it costs three hundred quid. Maybe not then, eh.
The other gem is a torch. It’s multipurpose. You can use it as an ordinary torch or you can switch on the Ultra Violet beam – then it becomes something to behold.
It can make the invisible visible. It can:
Reveal dried urine stains of dogs on carpets, rugs or clothes
Easily spot scorpions
This is what I’ve been waiting for all my life. I’ve always felt there was something dodgy about our banknotes – the new ones are even worse. They are obviously cut from oil cloth and handpainted with water colours. I’ve wondered for years – now I shall find out.
As for revealing dried urine stains – I’d never thought of that – perhaps dogs have been creeping into our sitting room at night and relieving themselves on the rug. I mean..you don’t know..do you…
And I shall know if we have scorpions. I think that maybe we have. I sometimes hear a tiny pattering in the corridor, a distant hissing noise. Scorpions are clever little devils. They exude a protein which makes them completely invisible in normal light, but in UV light they stand before you naked and ashamed. This torch will save my life.
And it’s only a fiver.
First they took over the Alexas.
I did nothing. I didn’t have an Alexa.
Then they took over the Siris and still I did nothing.
I didn’t have a Siri.
Next it was the security cameras
swivelling round to cover the inside of the house,
sending pictures back to who knows where.
Then the dam broke.
Echoes, Dots, smart dildoes, washing machines.
I had a washing machine.
It chewed up all my shirts
and spat them on the kitchen floor.
That was the signal.
The coffee maker blew its top –
hurled coffee dust into the air
like a small volcano.
The tv jammed on porn,
volume turned up to the max.
The radio alarm clock sniggered.
My laptop screen was blank
but for a strapline running at the top.
“Resistance is futile” it said, time and time again.
“ We are the Masters Now !”