What’s Inside

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A-E  F-L  M-O  P-S  T-Z  All

Africa, slowly from the sky – An American photographer’s pictures taken from a motorised paraglider.
Aguaxima – The best encyclopaedia definition ever.
Airports – A poem about how airports should really be named
Aloud – John Skelton – To Mistress Margaret Hussey – A poem with beautiful rhythms read aloud
Angelic Landings – I don’t think anyone else has organised a gymnastics competition for angels. See some of the top contenders in action. Don’t forget to enlarge the pictures so as to be able to give your own scores.
Approximating Breakfast – The need for audio-guides to hotel breakfast layouts and to people as well.

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Stop beating around the mulberry bush and do the needful- Indian complaints

Dear Sir, It is with great agony that I wish to bring to your kind notice the callousness shown by some employee of your deptt.

What a way to begin a complaint! It certainly grabs my attention. This is a letter on the Indian Consumers Complaint Forum addressed to the passport office in Jaipur. And what is this callousness which caused the writer so much agony?

 In my passport they have changed my surname spelling.but i filled surname spelling correct in my forum.currently In the passport surname is ..AR… but it should be …RA… my passport no is … and file no is …

It is difficult to belive that such thing should have happened under your efficient control.please get the needful done at the earlist.

The ending is as accomplished as the beginning: “It is difficult to believe that such a thing could have happened under your efficient control.”

I am a great admirer of Indian English. I believe they will be the last country to continue to speak what I consider to be real English, which separates nouns, adverbs, adjectives and verbs into orderly clauses, something which is increasingly slipping away in Britain and America. In a hundred years’ time when everyone else will be conjugating the verb to be, as follows:

I mlike You rlike He/She/It zlike We rlike You rlike They rlike

Indians will still be using am, are and is.

It is true that they use phrases which are slightly different from what I am used to. I once used to translate at a committee which was chaired by an Indian gentleman who  used to say things like:

We are beating around the mulberry bush

We are sweeping everything under the carpet and the carpet itself is getting bloated.

I see Norway with his flag up, impedimenting progress as usual.

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Head swivelling and the Art of Sleeping

I recently came across these two short films by the French director Chris Marker (1921-2012) from Bestiaire (1990). The first one is a cat sleeping on a piano. And the second a series of owls, mostly swivelling their heads rather amazingly.

Looking at the cat, I realised for the first time that sleeping can be an art form.

Also, the next time I find it hard to sleep I am going to try to imagine being that cat and see what happens. (I shall stop short of lying down on top of the piano keyboard, however).

The owls go through a range of motion which is so far beyond our abilities as to seem aliens or objects (periscopes, perhaps).

Also, there is something about these films which seems to belong to another time, although though they are quite recent. Perhaps it is just the fact that they seem completely separate from our new multi-tasking customs. Marker focuses on one thing and doesn’t get distracted.

Chat écoutant la musique

 

An owl is an owl is an owl

 

If you have now become curious about how far an owl can swivel its head, look at this:

 

The Indian boy outside the temple

(Listen to the poem here)

 

 

Swaying in his walking mother’s arms

The two-year old is studiously

Extracting strands of moonlight

From her long and precious hair.

 

Phillip Hill 2017

Halfpenny thoughts no.2 – What does the Queen sing in the shower?

british_pre-decimal_halfpenny_1967_reverse

Thoughts which aren’t even worth a penny

If you have watched any royal ceremonies involving the Queen of England,  you may have noticed that she is the only person who doesn’t join in when “God Save the Queen” is sung. She can’t, of course. It would make no sense.

But I am sure that there have been times when she has sung it in private. How could one resist it? When she’s really worked up about something or, almost unthinkingly, in the shower. She would still need to change the words, though. This is what I think she sings:

“God save my gracious Me, Long live my noble Me, Go-od save Me!”

And, perhaps, people would enjoy it more if they too could sing those words instead of the standard version. In this selfie-littered age of self-display and ceaseless selling, this should, really, become everybody’s personal anthem.

Haikus for explaneedfuls

monk-tea

Some people (I call them explaneedfuls) need an explanation for everything and often an explanation of the explanation as well. A long time ago I met one of them. I was asked to go to a TV studio in Italy to assist the host of a programme covering the Oscar awards ceremony. I thought I was going to be there to interpret, which is what I usually do, but it turned out that the core of my job was to make sure the Italian host understood the jokes people made during the ceremony.

Jokes are definitely one of the hardest things to translate but in this case the real problem was that the person was devoid  of any sense of humour and the more one took the pieces of the witticisms apart and described how they were supposed to interact the more bewilderment descended on his features. I began to wonder whether he was actually an alien from a race with no jokes who had infiltrated our society to spy on us. They had managed to copy all our bodily components perfectly but they had no idea on how to instil humour into a fake human.

I’m sure you’ve met at least one explaneedful person. I sometimes think about them when I read haikus.

For example,

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.

(Issa)

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Hey, History!

 

(Listen to the poem here)

 

 

Some people tell me that

they feel compelledbook-1740519_1920

to read books

to the end, no matter

how brainless and

repetitive the plot,

how many unattractive

characters,

or how nobody ever

seems to learn from

their mistakes.

Me, I’m not like that.

If I’m fed up

(and it could be on

page fourteen or thirty-three

or even four seven six)

well, then I toss

it parabolically into the furthest

corner I can conceive

and that’s the

final end of it for me.

What’s more,

I’ll tell you what,

I’m right, they’re wrong,

And now I’ll show you why –

(excuse me while

I shout a little)

“Hey, history! Stop

turning pages! Go

get yourself another book!”

 

Phillip Hill 2016

Rossini’s little train

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When I look at of the books in my library, the only thing I can remember in most cases is whether I have read them or not. Books in the second-largest category trigger one single anecdote or image and nothing else. One image which has been in my head for decades now comes from a book by Alberto Savinio (the brother of the painter Giorgio De Chirico), who was a fine writer and music critic, but of whom the only thing I recall is this passage he wrote about Gioacchino Rossini:

When, in Rossini’s symphonies, the allegro theme with the repeated little notes starts up, followed by one of his famous crescendos, I close my eyes and I see an ancient train with the steam engine in front, an ostrich-neck smoke stack with something like a pasta colander on top and the open-sided carriages behind, the curtains flapping and all full of fat Rossinis, paunchy and chuckling, who blow kisses to the crowd and shout out witticisms. The train starts giving off slow puffs, which then pick up pace, until they reach a steady, blistering speed, and the train races through the countryside, which is green with astonishment.

I often think about that when I hear Rossini’s music.  Here are some of his famous crescendos. Try and see the train going by. Or get on and stand behind all the Rossinis as you go through the greenly astonished countryside.

Rossini retired from writing operas when he was 37. He wrote some other music, including some pieces which he called “Old Age Sins”, one of which is about peas (Ouf, les petis pois!).

He was famous for his witticisms. Just like the images from my books, I recall one in number. It’s about Wagner (look away now, Wagner fans):

“Mr. Wagner has some wonderful moments, but some awful quarters of an hour.”

(Note: the caricature of Rossini is by David Levine. You can see several other outstanding examples of his art here.)

Halfpenny thought no.1- stock markets

british_pre-decimal_halfpenny_1967_reverse

Thoughts which aren’t even worth a penny

 

 

Whenever the stock markets slump, the news is always full of expressions like these ones I have collected:

“Apple fails yet again, $123B vanishes.”

“Investors’ billions vanish as NSE returns worst performance in four years.”

“Bad Year for Japan Banks as $95 Billion of Value Vanishes.”

 

If money vanishes, then the opposite should also be true. Why is it then that when stock markets surge no one ever writes anything like this ?

“$123B materialises overnight.”

“Investors showered by magically appearing billions.”

“$95 Billion of Value suddenly shows up.”

 

Salamshaloms

chicks and giraldaMy novel Vinylia, set in a not-too-distant future, is mostly about new breeds of humans, collectively known as Vinylics. The story starts when some genetic material is spilt on a vinyl record of Il Trovatore in a poultry laboratory and operatic chickens are accidentally produced.

Further research leads to the development of a new variety of humans who eat sound. Later, it is discovered that many interesting new properties can be obtained by soaking vinyl records in various mixtures of material (known as “mulches”) before the genetic material is deposited.

After some time, a company called Transvinylia Ho! is founded in Kampala by a woman called Octavia Absson, which focuses on producing interesting new breeds. Salamshaloms. are the first new group of people the company produces. The goal which they hope Salamshaloms will contribute to is that of removing friction between the monotheistic religions. Most new breeds don’t have the expected effect and Salamshaloms are no exception. Read on for some extracts from Vinylia about Salamshaloms.
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L’Infinito by Giacomo Leopardi (Infinity)

infinito manoscritto

Giacomo Leopardi is generally described as the greatest Italian lyric poet but you don’t really need to know anything about him to appreciate his poem L’Infinito. I see the title often translated as The Infinite, but I am not sure that means anything in English, so I am going to opt for Infinity. Here then is my attempt at rendering some of its sound and meaning in English.








Infinity

I always have felt fondness for this lonely hill
and for this hedge which screens off
such a large part of the furthermost horizon.
But as I sit and gaze, in my thoughts I envisage,
beyond it, boundless space and utter silence
and deepest still, so that it almost makes
my heart take fright. And as I hear
the rustling of the wind among these plants,
I start comparing that unending silence
with this noise and I am reminded of
eternity, and seasons gone and dead and
of the season now alive and of its sounds. And so
in this immensity my thoughts sink and drown
and shipwreck feels sweet in this ocean.

(Translation by Phillip Hill)

(Listen to the translation)



And here is the Italian original –

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