All posts by admin

Im Abendrot

At Sunset

by Joseph von Eichendorff

Through sorrow and joy
we have gone hand in hand;
we are both at rest from our wanderings
now above the quiet land.

Around us, the valleys bow,
the air already darkens.
Only two larks soar
musingly into the haze.

Come close, and let them flutter,
soon it will be time to sleep –
so that we don’t get lost
in this solitude.

O vast, tranquil peace,
so deep in the afterglow!
How weary we are of wandering–
Is this perhaps death?

Listen here to Jessye Norman  singing ‘Im Abendrot’, from Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs

To Brenda

Dearest, lovely, beautiful Brenda

I love you so much. I miss you so much. I am so lost without you.

My beloved Mrs Bradypus, three months ago today – April 11th 2018 – you  died after suffering a major brain haemorrhage. I remember so clearly when we met 56 years ago; our wedding day more than 54 years ago is as detailed in my mind as on the day it happened. But I remember you most when I think of our four so wonderful children, who love you dearly; and our 11  granddaughters and grandsons, who also love and miss you. We are shocked and numbed at your sudden death, and three months on the shock and numbness has not diminished in any way.

Brenda, aged about 14, in her Red Maids School, Bristol, best uniform

You know, I often told you that I love you, but that was never often enough. How I wish that you were here now, so that I could take you in my arms again, kiss you over and over and never stop saying “I love you!”

To my regret, I don’t think I ever told you that you were the total centre of my life. That you were the only thing that kept me going during the dark times. That you were my refuge when I was afraid, my protection when I was at my most self-destructive, and my sole raison d’être. With you, my life made sense. Sharing a life with you, raising our children together, gave my existence meaning, purpose and joy.

Brenda, about to enjoy a Tequila Sunrise, just a few days before she died.

Before you, I was nothing much to consider. With you I was at my best; with you I became a mensch; with you I drank of life fully and joyously. Now, without you again, I am nothing much to consider. Just older, and much less able to manage. Oh, how I miss you, how I want you back, how I would welcome you even if you were telling me off for some domestic forgetfulness or the other.

Also, were you here, I would apologise from the bottom of my heart that, when you became ill that last time, I was not more aware of how serious it was, how different it was from the times before, how in need of immediate action you were, how much your life was under threat. I delayed too long, expecting you to bounce back like earlier. For that neglect, and for not being able to save you, please forgive me.

Finally, Brenda dearest, in case you might forget, I remind you of the two most important promises I made you, promises I am so happy to have kept. The first, given when you made me propose to you, was that I would never leave you, no matter what. You know that I never left you – right up to your last breath, I was with you, holding your hand as you went away. The second, at the start of this year, was that you would go home to England in 2018. This promise too was kept, but, tragically, not in a way either of us would have chosen.

You are at peace now my love. I remain behind, lost, desolate, and with more than half of me amputated. But, I have this to cling to: the memory of the 56 amazing years I spend with you, the most wonderful and beloved person I have ever known or will ever know.

Dearest, I love you forever.

 

 

40 years or so, after

In 1975 we lived in a house in Gordon Town, Jamaica, and in the garden the owner kept two, 500+ year old Spanish jars. One day a photographer turned up to photograph the jars for a magazine – National Geographic, Jamaica Journal, History Today, I forget which. The kids were playing in the garden, and the photographer took a few shots with them in it, not for publication but for us. This one included Dominic.

Dominic, aged 10, leaning on a jar (a tinajón or aljibe) Gordon Town, Jamaica

In the last week of September this year, Dominic came with us to stay in lovely Mia and Guy’s apartment by the Med at Valras-Plage, in the Hérault, Languedoc. On a visit to the Oppidum d’Ensérune, near Béziers, we came across another large jar, this one 2000 years old and Gallo-Roman, not Spanish. Fortunately we had Dominic at hand for the photo.

Dominic, aged 51, leaning on a jar (dolium) at the Oppidum d’Ensérune, Languedoc

The Oppidum is an amazingly well preserved Gallic village  which was occupied without interruption between the 6th century BC and 1st century AD, its location being chosen probably because it was a hill with good views over the entire coastal plain and out to sea.

The view looking north-east from the Oppidum d’Ensérune

The dolia were buried in the ground on the lower floor of the houses and were used for long term  storage of food such as grain, pulses, nuts and dried fruit.

Dolia in situ at Ensérune

 

Travels with Mrs Bradypus in the Cévennes
… but without a donkey

We sit, Mrs Bradypus and I, in the early Autumn morning sunshine, drinking coffee, in the Cafe de l’Univers overlooking a small market place, the cinema and the Police Municipale. Starting early, we had driven up to St-Jean-du-Gard from the coast near Beziers, through vineyards and sorghum fields at first, then on through the more rugged foothills.

RLS & Modestine

RLS, in whose footsteps we are following, but backwards, ended rls6Travels with a Donkey through the Cévennes, the account of his journey, here. Here he parted with Modestine, who was too lame to go on without some days rest, for Stevenson was in a hurry to get to Alès, where his letters awaited him. As we sit I read to Mrs B. the last few paragraphs from my battered, heavily annotated 4th form copy of the ‘Travels‘ .

“I determined to sell my lady friend and be off by the diligence that afternoon. Our yesterday’s march, with the testimony of the driver who had pursued us up the long hill of St. Pierre, spread a favourable notion of my donkey’s capabilities. Intending purchasers were aware of an unrivalled opportunity. Before ten I had an offer of twenty-five francs; and before noon, after a desperate engagement, I sold her, saddle and all, for five-and-thirty. The pecuniary gain is not obvious, but I had bought freedom into the bargain. […]

It was not until I was fairly seated by the driver, and rattling through a rocky valley with dwarf olives, that I became aware of my bereavement. I had lost Modestine. Up to that moment I had thought I hated her; but now she was gone,

‘…… and oh!
The difference to me!’

For twelve days we had been fast companions; we had travelled upwards of a hundred and twenty miles, crossed several respectable ridges, and jogged along with our six legs by many a rocky and many a boggy by-road. After the first day, although sometimes I was hurt and distant in manner, I still kept my patience; and as for her, poor soul! she had come to regard me as a god. She loved to eat out of my hand. She was patient, elegant in form, the colour of an ideal mouse, and inimitably small. Her faults were those of her race and sex; her virtues were her own. Farewell, and if for ever–

Father Adam wept when he sold her to me; after I had sold her in my turn, I was tempted to follow his example; and being alone with a stage-driver and four or five agreeable young men, I did not hesitate to yield to my emotion.”

Maybe starting at the end – a rather sad end – may not be the best of ideas. But where we are coming from dictates that we go North, just as where Stevenson was coming from, Le Puy-en-Velay, dictated that he should go South.We thought however: set out sad, and as we progress our mood can only brighten.

I had known Stevenson as an infant, when I was often read to sleep with poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses.

All night long and every night,
When my mama puts out the light,
I see the people marching by,
As plain as day, before my eye.
Armies and emperors and kings,
All carrying different kinds of things,
And marching in so grand a way,
You never saw the like by day.
rls1
Robert Lewis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)

Like most boys of my generation, I read Kidnapped and Treasure Island around the age of 11 or 12; I only came across Travels as a set book in 4th form. To the twelve year old, Stevenson’s novels were just Ripping yarns, not literature! But it was studying Travels as an academic exercise that opened my eyes to just what a great writer RLS was, and how by studying and imitating the style of the authors that came before him, he honed his craft, to become the great writer and story-teller he was. In Travels he combines this craft with a restless curiosity about people and the places they live to produce a masterpiece of travel writing.

We set out

Our route is planned to follow as exactly as possible the roads and paths he took, avoiding the easy modern corniches built for motor cars, opting instead for the minor roads hacked from the sides of mountains.
rls2
Except that we do not realise how minor these roads, how narrow they will be, and how few barriers there are between the traveller and a deadly drop many tens of meters down the mountainside. All unaware we set out, Mrs Bradypus and I, mounted on our Peugeot Modestine.

We knew that we could not do the whole thing in a day, so our aim is to get at least halfway before heading home. Our first objective is lunch at Florac, in the Parc national des Cévennes, at the head of the Tarn Gorges. 53 kilometres, a little over an hours drive – should be a doddle.

The first stage goes well; the road from St-Jean-du-Gard up to the Col-de-Lamira lookout is a good one, with many straight bits. For a while after the col, we continue to make reasonable progress, as we run along the side of the deeply sloped valley of the river Gardon de Mialet. At first there is little traffic and we can keep up a good pace. But the further we go up into the mountains the narrower and more twisted the road becomes, and, the closer we get to lunchtime, the more white vans come toward us at speed, around totally blind bends, threatening to force us off the road, over the precipice, barrelling into assured death below.

Hardships on the way

We have been going now for over an hour and a half, covering  about 18 kilometres, when we reach Saint-Étienne-Vallee-Française. Here Mrs Bradypus calls a halt and demands a break at a café. For the last 8 kilometres she has become alarmed and terrified by the danger of the road. The more we move forward, the more terrified she becomes, the more distrustful of my driving. All my assurances that I grew up in the mountains of Jamaica, learned to drive on mountain roads worse than this, fall on deaf ears.

We take a break, following the signs to the Café Parasol, which turns out to be an empty, roofless, abandoned shack on the side of the mountain above Saint-Étienne. No respite here then, or anywhere else in the village. I get Mrs Bradypus to summon up all her courage, and if necessary close her eyes, and we set out again for our lunch at Florac. I do not tell her that Florac is over 30 kilometres away and the roads look just as twisted on the map.

For the next 20 kilometres or so things get no better: the road is narrow and dangerous, the distance to fall over the side even greater, the white vans still barrel around the corners oblivious to what’s coming the other way, Mrs Bradypus now white with fear. We approach little villages hopeful of finding a bistro or auberge where we can take a break from the terrors of the way, for it is now well into lunchtime, but with no success. An hour passes.

Parc National des Cévennes
Parc National des Cévennes

Then suddenly the road straightens out as we descend gently into a high valley, cross a small stream and climb up again through a long, sharp hairpin bend, straight onto a major National road, graced at the intersection, by a truck stop and a small Routier restaurant. We are the last in for lunch, all that is left is a Cévenne mutton stew, the perfect antidote to  mountain road terror. For the first time since we left Col-de-Lamira behind us Mrs Bradypus looks happy and satisfied.

Abandon Ship!

Over dessert, crème brulée,  Mrs B says she has had enough of travelling like RLS, from now on we must stick to big roads, wide enough for at least two white vans, and with a white line down the middle. Happily, the road we have just joined meets this requirement and goes all the way to Florac. After an afternoon in the town, we abandon Stevenson to other tourists and some walkers, and without a tear set off back to St-Jean-du-Gard on the Cévennes Corniche, a spectacularly beautiful road which meets Mrs Bradypus’ stipulation exactly.

Footnote: I plan someday to do the journey in its entirety; but then I will leave Mrs Bradypus behind. With her permission, I am sure!

Happy Birthday Uncle Bob!

Uncle Bob – Robert Verity – was born in Belize, British Honduras, now Belize City, Belize. When he was six, in 1917, he came with his family to Jamaica, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Were he still alive, today he would be 105.

As I typed the last sentence, I realised that it is a nonsense. The truth is that Uncle Bob is 105 years old today. Although he died physically, he lives on in the memory of the thousands of Jamaicans whose lives he touched and changed.

So: “Happy Birthday Uncle Bob!”

31 Years Ago today

Robert Godwin Beresford Verity (c. 1939)
Robert Godwin Beresford Verity (c. 1939)

Today, 31 years ago, Bob Verity died, in Kingston, Jamaica. He was a brilliant, creative, joyful man, who lived life to the full, had many careers, and left behind a legacy of solid achievement, great memories for all who knew him, and a mountain of love. We miss him so.

 

The following photos were all taken in August 1939, on a banana boat travelling home to Jamaica, a few days after his marriage to Jacqueline.

anitascans007 Solitaireanitascans009

Rotten to the core

So, Apple was in a joint enterprise with the corrupt politicians and tax authorities of the Republic of Ireland, to ensure that it had an advantage over its competitors – and coincidentally all other honest businesses in the EU, competitor or not – that allowed it to avoid paying practically all of the already very low corporate tax – 12.5% – that country uses to attract so-called “inward investment”. In one recent year the largest corporation on earth managed to pay only £50 on every £1,000,000 of sales on three continents. Now it, and its corrupt partners, have been rumbled.

The European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has been investigating Apple’s complex tax dealings for the last three years. Yesterday she blew the whistle on this tax scam. She told Apple and Ireland that what they were doing was illegal under EU law, a law Ireland willingly signed up to and which is binding on all EU states. “Member states cannot give tax benefits to selected companies – this is illegal under EU state aid rules.” she said, adding “The commission’s investigation concluded that Ireland granted illegal tax benefits to Apple, which enabled it to pay substantially less tax than other businesses over many years.”

I suppose that after the ‘Panama Papers’ revelations, we should not be surprised that Apple is up to no good. I have always taken it as read that Apple is a company very much on the dark side. How could a company founded by, and modelled on, a sociopathic narcissistic bully, be otherwise? So it probably isn’t shocking for some people that Apple is little better than your neighbourhood money launderer, banana republic dictator, mafia don or Vladimir Putin. But it is, to me anyway, profoundly disturbing.

For here we have one of the leading technology companies in the world – makers of some of the most desired products on earth, whose profit margins are the envy of the business world, and whose skill at consumer packaging is unrivalled – being so greedy for profit that it is prepared to act like a common criminal. This is a company which, because of its exalted position and the love and loyalty it attracts from so many (misguided?) people worldwide, should be setting an example by paying its fair share of taxes. Instead, it funnels vast amount of its very real sales into an almost imaginary company that exists only on paper: it has no staff, no offices, is based nowhere, and is in no tax jurisdiction. It pays no tax what so ever. By comparison, Amazon and Starbucks and Google come up smelling of roses.

Meanwhile, in Ireland the country in which Apple really exists, in which those sales should be booked, and in which it should pay tax, its partners in illegality – some would say crime – make up the loss by passing Apple’s share to ordinary people and honest businesses to pay; or reduces their benefits; and, in the case of public servants, cuts their pay and pensions, because the tax take is not enough. You wonder, should Apple pay its fair share of tax, how many schools could be built, sick people treated, homeless housed in that Emerald Isle?

Is Apple abashed? Hell no. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, almost in the persona of his dead master, is crying foul, supported by a phalanx of neo-cons and Ayn Rand groupies. Even the American government is threatening to rain down fire and brimstone on the EU for its impertinence in challenging the God given and manifest destiny of any American corporation to cheat the rest of the world.

Is the Irish government jumping with joy at the prospect of a massive windfall? Apparently not. It too is crying foul. The Irish finance minister said yesterday that he would appeal. “The decision leaves me with no choice but to seek cabinet approval to appeal. This is necessary to defend the integrity of our tax system, to provide tax certainty to business and to challenge the encroachment of EU state aid rules into the sovereign member state competence of taxation.” Or in other words, to defend his state’s right to break the law when it sees fit.

Now, there is a phrase in the ministers statement that keeps cropping up and which brings me out in hives: it’s “…provide […] certainty to business.” It crops up in the Brexit debacle as well. Now, only a fool would look for certainty in anything in this universe, for it is a universe built of uncertainty. Like all human affairs, business is based on uncertainty. Businessmen are supposed to take risks to gain profit, and risk is just a measure of uncertainty. Business without risk is not enterprise, it is rent collection. So when a business expects a government to give it certainty, and a government attempts to do so, batten down the hatches and lock your daughters, for evil is abroad. And funnily enough, evil is often Apple shaped.

A Declaration of Interest

I have long held that, whenever the subject of the Apple Corporation and its products are discussed on radio and TV, or written about in the press, the commentators and journalists should be forced to declare an interest if they own or use Apple products. For Apple products have a weird capacity to turn sane men and women into drooling idiots; to reduce them to an infantile state; or to persuade them that a perfectly serviceable machine is now obsolete because the great Apple has released a minor revision. Just think that tedious fellow Stephen Fry. And I even know some techno-literate people who are not immune!

As you know, whenever I write of Apple, I usually add the tag #rottentothecore. That should tell you all. But because I believe in honest journalism, I must declare an interest: I have never owned an Apple product. Nor have I ever regularly used an Apple product, except for very brief periods of less than half a day, just long enough to decide that I can get an equivalent, usually better, product elsewhere, and usually cheaper. Furthermore the alternative product will probably not stop working the day after the minimum warranty expires and will probably be repairable if a fault develops.

But I will admit that I have once purchased an Apple product. Many years ago I gave my faithful life companion, Mrs Bradypus, an iPod Nano, thinking she would enjoy listening to her favourite ‘tunes’ (Vaughan Williams, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, etc.) as she wondered around doing whatever it is life companions do keeping sloths like me in good health and grooming. She was delighted. After some struggle she managed to persuade the thing to accept her ‘tunes’ collection from her (non-Apple) computer without Apple forcing her to buy them all over again from something called iTunes. She listened for an hour or so, and then put the Nano in a drawer, where it remains even now, hoping I guess to be liberated, probably by Stephen Fry.

Another year

Well, that time has rolled around again, so Bradypus wishes his reader A very Merry Christmas (so, it’s a bit late but there are still just over 10 days to go!) and every thing good you could wish for in 2016!