Thursday, 26 May 2011


Further to the last posting, I think there may be limits. Consider this:

A poet from Azerbaijan
Wrote limericks that just wouldn't scan.
When told it was so
He replied 'Yes I know,
But I try to get as many words into the last line as I can.'

Something beginning with 'N'

Today's limerick:

Said Jill, ‘Whatever’s the matter, Jack?’
As he dropped his pail with a clatter back
Down in the well:
‘There’s no need to yell,
Toads are harmless: it’s only a Natterjack.’

I may have said it before, but never mind: the Limerick is unusual in English verse forms in being almost entirely accentual; most forms are accentual-syllabic. That is to say, provided the 3-3-2-2-3 pattern of stress is kept to, it doesn't really matter how many syllables you squeeze in. However, the following really won't do:

There was an old man of Thermopylae
Whose limericks didn't scan properly.
When they said it was so
He replied 'Yes, I know;
I just go all to pieces with the last line.'

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A New Limerick

We have reached letter 'M':

The Latin American Marmoset
Is rare over here. To see far more, set
Sail for
Not counting the zoo
They don’t live in
Sussex or Somerset.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Who is Ozymandias?

The poet John Fuller’s new book of this title looks as if it is intended, by explaining the obscurities of some poems, to explain the obscurity of poetry in general to those who have perhaps exasperatedly given up reading the stuff. I found it so interesting and provocative I wrote to him about it, but can’t find an address for him, so I put it here where he will probably – fortunately or unfortunately – never see it:

I am enjoying your ‘Who is Ozymandias?’ I hope it might show the impatient – if they will only read it – why poems, because they do things with words that words are not supposed to be able to do, can’t help but be difficult.
            Browning and Hardy as precursors of Imagism is a startling notion.
            You talk of ‘Misreading’. Apart from sheer carelessness, such as the common and I think disastrous change to ‘Those’ in ‘These who die as cattle’, or the ignorance that assumes, say, that Dr Johnson meant what we should now mean when he found St Paul’s Cathedral ‘Amusing and awful’, I don’t think there can be a misreading of a poem. There might, as you say, be an ill-informed reading, and certainly my appreciation of Eliot’s poetry has changed now that I can catch at least some of his allusions, references, and quotations. It might be interesting – though it might also put blinkers on one – to know in reading ‘Dover Beach’ that Arnold shared contemporary fears about Darwin and Christianity,  but a poem has to grab one – as ‘Dover Beach’ did me – to begin with if one is ever to bother much with it, and there are many critics who say we shouldn’t bring any external knowledge to our reading. An impossible requirement; one’s mere ability to read at all is something learnt and so all one has read is brought to what one reads. Incidentally what I bring to ‘Dover Beach’, because I grew up there, is Arnold out on a balcony at the White Cliffs Hotel and his wife inside calling ‘Come in Matt; you’ll catch your death out there.’
            My point though is that poems contain multitudes, most of them unknown to the poet. If we accept the idea of ‘inspiration’ – that poems, albeit later worked on, start from somewhere strange, dictated by God or one of Rilke’s angels or, more fashionably now, the poet’s unconscious, of which by definition the poet himself ‘knows’ nothing, then it seems to me the poet might well be the very last person to know what his poem is ‘about’; haven’t you have noticed that in your own writing? You might say that what is now accepted as the ‘correct’ interpretation of an image or whole poem reveals depths and subtleties otherwise lost; I might say that an ‘incorrect’ one reveals other and just possibly greater ones. Your rival lecturer was half right: the opening of ‘Maud’ doesn’t have to be about menstruation as well, but it certainly can be, and so long as we don’t just take it on a lecturer’s authority we can let the idea enrich our reading. With respect, I think you take a more indulgent view of your own interpretations than of other people’s.
            So there are no misreadings: a poem can be and indeed really is about anything and everything each and every one of its readers thinks it is.
            Now I feel moved to apologise for my temerity: it’s clear both from this new book and from your own poetry that you know far more about it all than I do. Still…

P.S. I’m afraid your printers have, as they always do, mangled your Greek: ‘Sphinx’ is from σφιγγειν, not the unpronounceable σφιγγειυ. But you have corrected a life-long mistake: although I have spent half my life in Greece and even had a close friend from (Greek) Thebes, I always thought Oedipus’s Sphinx was the one in Egypt and must have had a suppressed idea of a quick cross-Mediterranean trip.

It could have been a useful, valuable, even (if like me you think poetry is vitally important) necessary book. If it is really intended for the general reader it fails, because, like the high court judge who smiles patronizingly as he peers over his half-moon spectacles to ask ‘Who is David Beckham?’ it or he is donnishly distant from his intended audience. It assumes a familiarity with many really rather difficult poems and takes for granted a knowledge of Greek and Roman history and mythology, and so will cause as much exasperation to the poetically perplexed as the very poems that have brought them to the book.
John Fuller is preaching to the converted.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Free Verse

Robert Frost – that most conventional and formal of late twentieth century poets, and that’s not a negative judgement – famously said that writing free verse was like playing tennis with the net down, by which he almost certainly meant that it was pointless; not worth doing. But one can imagine two really expert tennis players deciding to put the net down in order to play a freer, more imaginative game. True, the audience for such a game would probably be limited to connoisseurs.
Another analogy is the later paintings of Picasso, at which the philistine snorts and says ‘I could have done that’, to which the answer is ‘No you couldn’t, and anyway you didn’t’, the point being that to arrive at his later style Picasso passed a long apprenticeship of studying, copying, and producing more conventional pictures.
The really good writers of free verse – not those who imagine, like our present poet laureate, that they can splurge onto paper some untransformed and rather revolting effusion of emotion and call it a poem – have worked hard to reach the point where they can write as they do. If you look at their juvenilia you nearly always find a large body of poetry that uses rhyme and metre, and often such formal structures as the sonnet, the villanelle, and even the sestina.
It is in fact very difficult to write good free verse. It takes either great skill or great poetic energy (whatever that is); preferably both.
I am a very minor poet, and all the poetry I have published has been formal and structured. All but one poem, which made it into an anthology called ‘In the Company of Poets’. Here it is:

I’m After Leaving Monaghan
Your husband comes in, swings his leg over the arm of the chair.
He complains there is no food in the house.
Oh, you’ve made sure of tea-bags —
hundreds and hundreds of tea-bags, in a big green catering box —
sugar, milk in two-litre plastic jugs,
bread-butter-jam —
but no real food.
He seems to think you should have got some in.
I want to protest; he could surely do it himself.
After all, you are lying half-naked, half-in half-out of bed,
and hampered by me, lying half-on half-off the bed,
whereas he is up and fully dressed.
But it is not my place to come between man and wife.
So I say nothing. I let my eyelids fall closed.
Your left breast is crumpled under my arm, nipple half-hidden in a fold of flesh.
I want to release it, move my hand a little, make you more comfortable,
but I fear it might be taken, by you or by him, as a caress.
I think I hear your husband say ‘And what’s up with him?’
and am moved, nearly, to say ‘It is not my place to come between man and wife.’
But I may have misheard, or he might not have been addressing you.
After all, apart from us three, there are two other people in the room,
who just dropped in for tea.
I think I hear you whisper ‘Help me!’
But I may be mistaken; you may be whispering something else,
or you might be addressing someone else, and my eyes are still shut,
and besides, it is not my place to come between man and wife.
My face nests in the soft spun gold
at the crown of your dear, dear head.
Everyone feels at a disadvantage.
It is a tricky situation.
Simon Darragh

Thursday, 19 May 2011


Or did I mean 'Overestimate' in what I just said about art experts? Yes I think I did. It is often easy (or seldom difficult) to get confused with these multiple qualifications. Why didn't I just say 'Art experts often have bad taste'? Or 'Art experts rarely have good taste'? Oh I think I'll pour myself anothet G&T. (With I&L).


It is discouraging that, judging from the total absence of responses, no-one seems to be interested in this blog. Nevertheless here, at least, is the next limerick:

The woolly camelious Llama
is sometimes confused with the Lama.
Two ‘L’s for the beast,
one ‘L’ for the priest
Tibet, who knows all about karma.

By the way, the new picture at the top of the blog was for a long time thought to be by Botticelli. It seems incredible that such a piece of chocolate-box kitsch could have been so attributed, but one should never underestimate the critical faculties of art experts.

P.S. I really had to take that awful pseudo-Botticelli off the top of the blog, but here it is for anyone interested.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Another limerick. We have reached 'K'.

Of the Kite the poet now sings —
What, one of those things that has strings?
But that’s too absurd —
We’ve inferred that his word
Referred to a bird, that has wings.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Today's limerick

We have now reached 'J':

The Jabberwock said ‘I’m not real,
whatever Charles Dodgson might feel —
(I must say I think he
was just a bit kinky) —
but my portrait’s been done by Tenniel.’

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?

Consider the following scenario, some of which has already been enacted:
A hotel chambermaid says a guest sexually assaulted her. The alleged perpetrator is arrested. He turns out to be the head of the IMF. Consequently he is unable to attend a meeting with Angela Merkell, which was to be followed by a meeting of the IMF to discuss the rescue of several European economies. The man is asked to resign, and is replaced by a less Euro-friendly person. Those economies are not rescued and collapse, bringing down the economies of the other European countries. World-wide economic crisis follows.
The (modern) Greeks have a saying, which I transliterate as I have not yet learnt how to type in Greek on this blog:
'Tricha mouniou travaei kai karavi.'
'The hair of a pussy can tow a ship.'

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Lost Childhood

I think that was the name of the story. By Graham Greene: it had the moral profundity of his more serious novels, but concentrated into the short story form, making it particularly brilliant and distressing. It had as epigraph a quotation which either he got wrong or I have remembered wrongly: In the lost childhood of Judas was Christ betrayed. Correctly it is ‘In the lost boyhood of Judas Christ was betrayed’ and it is from a poem by the Irish writer and nationalist George William Russell, who published under the pseudonym Æ.
The point of course is that those who are betrayed in their childhood grow up to be betrayers. I think the poem pre-dates Freud. It is an example of the way in which poetry, with its way of using language in a sideways or under- (or over-) hand way can say things that ‘normal’ language is not yet able to articulate. Æ was not an ‘advanced’ poet; like many people who are politically radically left, he was literarily conservative. Poets, including the most conventional, are the pioneers of language, and so of thought.

Today's limerick

We have reached the letter 'I':

The nocturnal Egyptian Ichneumon
eats crocodile’s eggs by the new moon
on the banks of the
a habit so vile
one could almost believe he were human.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Banana skins

Or 'peels' as the silly question in the 'profile' put it. The subject reminds me of early silent films; the funny sort known as 'slapstick', although an actual slapstick (how many people have seen or indeed heard one?) needs a soundtrack. A cliche (sorry about the lack of the acute accent on the 'e'; as remarked before this blog system is only semi-literate) of the silent comedy was the banana skin thrown into the street, on which someone subsequently slipped. This is an example of that thing so beloved of Hollywood, covert censorship: banana skins are not that commonly thrown on the streets, and are not in fact very slippery when walked on. What is, however, very common on the streets, and very slippery, is dogshit. But of course it would never do for American film viewers to be alerted to the existence of dogshit; that would be almost as bad as the revelation, by I think the sister of Michael Jackson, that even American women have nipples. So - the films use banana skins instead. (No not instead of nipples; instead of dogshit. But then again...)
But never mind. One can think of it as something really quite sophisticated: an extended metaphor; even a metaphysical conceit. Culture is where you find it.

'Adult' Content

As I browsed through the 'settings' and 'edit' facilities on this blogsite (is that a word? Well it is now) I was asked if I wished to show 'adult content' on my site. Of course I do; I am an adult and most of my readers (if any) are probably adults of some sort. Much that I write and quote would be beyond the understanding of, say, a seven year old. (Much, too, would probably only be understood by a seven year old, but that is another matter.) So I clicked 'Yes'. Now it seems my blog wil be headed with a 'warning', to ward off people who might be offended by 'adult' content.
Of course I do know what 'adult' is supposed to mean in such contexts. It is interesting how the word has been usurped (it means 'hijacked', you at the back of the class) to mean its opposite: 'Adult content' is a phrase used by the semi-literate to mean its opposite: infantile or immature content designed to arouse people whose sexual and emotional development got stuck very early on. Now I suppose there might be a little of that sort of thing in this blog, but unless you're polymorphously perverse you won't find much. Sorry to disappoint you. No, I really am sorry, so from time to time I'll drop in something that might appeal. Meanwhile you might like to check out the paintings of Balthus.

Today's limerick

‘Please don’t mock us,’ said the Giraffe t-
o someone who thought their necks daft;
‘a diet arboreal
needs six foot or more. We all
think it’s quite rotten you laughed.’

Since there were problems with the blog during the last two days, you get an extra limerick today:

The Hawk swoops on things from the air,
and carries them back to his lair.
I suppose it’s not nice
for the little field-mice,
but the hawk doesn’t care — so there.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

pdf files

Well well. It turns out that one can after all, whatever they say, simply copy and paste pdf files straight into the blog. The original line-breaks are lost, which is a pain, especially in the case of poetry, but still: here's one I made earlier:

Waiting for the Barbarians Costas Cavafy
 − What are we waiting for, gathered in the market place? The barbarians are due today.
− Why such inactivity in the Senate? Why are the senators sitting around, not passing laws?
Because the barbarians will arrive today. What more laws can the senators make? When the barbarians come they will make their own laws.
− Why does our emperor, up so early, sit at the city’s greatest gate, up on his throne, in pomp, wearing his crown?
Because the barbarians will arrive today. And the emperor waits to receive their leader. Of course, he has prepared a parchment to give him: on it are written lots of titles and names.
− Why did both our consuls, and the praetors, come out today in their red embroidered togas? Why are they wearing such amethyst-rich bracelets, and rings with bright shiny emeralds? Why are they carrying, today, expensive maces strangely inlaid with silver and gold?
Because the barbarians will arrive today, and such things dazzle barbarians.
− Why don’t the rhetoricians come as usual, to pour out their sentences, to make their speeches?
Because the barbarians will arrive today, and they’re bored by speeches and fine words.
− Why suddenly such uneasiness and confusion? (how serious their faces have become.) Why are the streets and squares emptying so quickly, with everybody going home so very puzzled?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians didn’t come. And some people came back from the borders, and they said there are no barbarians any more.
And now, what will become of us without barbarians? Those people were a sort of solution.

Translated rather quickly by Simon Darragh.

Overcoming formatting difficulties

Can anyone read this? It is an ingenious attempt to get a page of my wireless book onto the blog in the format I wanted.

Bloggers and other writers in Syria

As a member of PEN, I have just received the following message:

Dear Simon,

As a member of English PEN’s Rapid Action Network, we urge you to write immediately to the Syrian authorities on behalf of several writers that are currently detained. Further details and a sample letter follow.

Syria: Journalists, bloggers and writers detained, fears for safety

English PEN has strongly condemned the killing, mass arrests and disappearances of civilians including several journalists, bloggers, writers and activists in the crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests which has been taking place across Syrian cities since mid-March 2011. We are particularly concerned for the welfare of at least five journalists and bloggers arrested for writing about the protests. All are held incommunicado and considered to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment. There are mounting concerns for their safety. PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Syria for the peaceful exercise of their opinions, and urgently seeks guarantees of their safety. We remind the Syrian authorities of their obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory, and are alarmed at the apparent use of excessive force to suppress peaceful dissent.

According to our information, anti-government protests were sparked in mid- March 2011 and have since spread across the country. Mass arrests have been taking place and security officers have responded to the continuing protests with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and many more wounded. The following journalists are amongst those believed to be currently detained:

Dorothy Parvaz
: correspondent, arrested on 29 April 2011.
Mahmoud Issa: Journalist and writer, arrested on 19 April 2011.
Khaled Sid Mohand: Freelance journalist for a number of news outlets including  Le Monde, arrested on 12 April 2011.
Zaid Mastu: Al-Arabiya net correspondent, arrested on 12 April 2011.
Mohamed Dibo: Journalist and writer, arrested on 12 April 2011.

With the internet and media already severely curtailed in recent years, the Syrian authorities have imposed even greater restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in reaction to recent events. Foreign reporters and correspondents have been asked to leave the country and access to any independent media is denied.  

Useful links:

- Amnesty International statement (25 April 2011)

- Amnesty International Statement (22 April 2011)

- Latest BBC news report


Please send appeals immediately to the Syrian authorities:

- Condemning the widespread arrest of journalists and bloggers for reporting on the recent protests, which the WiPC believes is a clear violation of their right to freedom of expression;

- Calling on the Syrian authorities to investigate allegations of torture of detainees;

- Calling for the release of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Syria is a signatory.

Appeals to:

His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad
President of the Republic
Presidential Palace
Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street      
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: 963 11 332 3410

His Excellency Said Sammour
Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior
Merjeh Circle
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: 963 11 222 3428

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Syria in the UK:

His Excellency Dr. Sami Khiyami
Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic
8 Belgrave Square,
Fax: 020 7235 4621

Please do write a more personal letter if you have time – the following is just an example
His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad
President of the Republic
Presidential Palace
Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street       
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic


Your Excellency,

I am writing to you as a member of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to strongly condemn the killing, mass arrests and disappearances of civilians - including several journalists, bloggers, writers and activists - in the crackdown on recent peaceful anti-government protests in Syrian cities.

According to PEN’s information, anti-government protests were sparked in mid-March 2011 and have since spread across Syria. Mass arrests have been taking place and security officers have responded to the continuing protests with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and many more wounded.

I am especially concerned for the safety of the following journalists who reported on the protests and who are amongst those believed to be detained at present: Dorothy Parvaz, correspondent, arrested 29 April 2011; Mahmoud Issa, journalist and writer, arrested 19 April 2011; Khaled Sid Mohand, freelance journalist for Le Monde, arrested 12 April 2011; Zaid Mastu, Al-Arabiya net correspondent, arrested 12 April 2011; and Mohamed Dibo, journalist and writer, arrested 12 April 2011. All are held incommunicado and there are widespread fears that they are at risk of torture and ill-treatment. I therefore respectfully call on the Syrian authorities to investigate these allegations of torture.

I would also like to take this opportunity to remind your government of its political and moral obligations. The recent crackdown on writers in Syria is yet another blow to freedom of expression in a country where the internet and media are already severely curtailed, foreign reporters and correspondents have been asked to leave the country, and access to any independent media is denied. Syria is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and is currently in violation of Article 19 of this Covenant. I urge your government to address this contravention as a matter of utmost importance.

I would welcome your comments on my appeal.

Yours sincerely,


*** Please let us know if you have sent an appeal, and certainly if you should receive any response from the Syrian authorities.***

(Of course, you don't have to be a member of PEN to send an appeal. Anyone can, and should.)

Experiment in pdf

I have posted in the 'help forum' an idea which should enable people to copy pdf files into their blog. I shall now try and see whether my own idea works; what follows should be (pretty much) the original, and my translation of, a poem by the Greek poet Yannis Varveris, which I had only in pdf.:

Yannis Varveris

Ebgala evna biblivo
kai to xevrw apevxw.
Esuv livga diabavzeiV
ligovtera katalabaivneiV.
Giv autov ki egwv to diabavzw ap thn archv
me ta dikav sou mualav.
«Wraivo biblivo» levw
«ki aV mhn to polukatalabaivnw
telikav kalav kavnw
kai ton agapw».

Complementary Readers
I published a book
and I know it by heart.
You read little
understand less.
So I read it right from the start
using your brains.
‘Nice book,’ I say;
‘Never mind if I don’t understand:
really, I’m right
to love him so much.’

Hmm. Yes. As I feared, the Greek has come out a touch garbled. A space has been inserted after every accented character; probably because the original font used had automatic back-spacing accents. However, for most purposes it should work. Anyone interested will find my explanation somewhere in the help forum.


I continue to wonder if anyone is reading any of this; there is little evidence of it. But anyway here's today's animal, starting of course with 'F'':

In the old days his life was a hard’un,
but now the Fox gets in the garden,
where he generally craps
after eating the scraps,
without saying ‘Thank you’ or ‘Pardon.’

A fine fox has been visiting my sister's garden here in a small town in England. He usually appears about
coffee-time, (in England that's around 11 a.m.), and patrols the garden warily but confidently, looking for any
scraps we may have left out for him. We sometimes do leave out a few left-overs, but never enough for
him to become dependent on them; just a snack. He has evidently decided that people - at least the people
around here - are not a threat. I say 'He' and 'Him', though I don't know enough about foxes to be sure of
that - I just have an impression of a lone young male, the equivalent in human terms of a teenager. He looks
healthy, with the traditional bushy tail; many urban foxes look mangy, probably because they have become
too used to eating from dustbins full of MacDonald's. If that's what it does to foxes, imagine what it does
to humans.

 Does anyone remember Basil Brush? Many years ago I worked with Basil Brush onstage at the New
Theatre Oxford.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Advice on farting in lifts

Or 'Elevators', if you insist on the American habit of using pretentious latinate words instead of good old Anglo-Saxon ones: if you feel the urge, try to hang on until immediately before leaving the lift. That way, the fart will be attributed by the next-but-one occupant to the next and overlapping occupant, to the embarrassment of next-and-overlapping occupant.

Allo allo?

If anyone is reading this I do wish they would respond. I feel like a teacher before a class of sullen teenagers, all determined to pretend to be bored no matter what pearls are cast.

Wireless Operator

This is a page (not very neatly scanned) from my book of translations of the poems of Nikos Kavvadias, which I mentioned in an earlier posting.

Limericks: we have reached 'E'

The devious runaway Elephant
cunningly covers his fell intent:
he slyly perpends
a tail at both ends,
so no-one can see where the hell he went.


Perhaps a question or two might evoke a response from the astute reader whose existence I begin to doubt.
What is wrong with the following sentences?

'I don't embarrass easily.' (Boy who wore a skirt to school.)

'Mother Frisbee's pies: They throw better than they eat' (American students' saying.)

'The programme will resume after the break.' (Television announcement.)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

No? No-one like anything so far?

Well, let's try you with a poem:

Saxophone Schmaxophone.

Heaven’s ante-chamber: Eliot (Tom)
silently observes recursive time
defragment the past – now Webster (Ben)
plays his tenor sax for Webster (John).

‘Dead cold metal warms with breath’ says Ben
‘Hot flesh hides the icy bone’ says John
‘You two guys need wood’ says Johnny Dodds
Eliot in his corner smugly nods.

Adolphe (conic bore) says ‘Stuff’s a fetish:
wooden sax? It’s still a saxophone;
metal clarinets sound clarinettish:
what you hear is cylinder or cone.’

Let Ellington, more abstract still, construe it:
‘’Tain’t what you do,’ he says, ‘but how you do it.’

© Simon Darragh 2009.

Vitage Motorcycling Matters

Since few people seem interested in what I have posted so far, here is something completely different: a piece I wrote for the Deal and District Motorcycle Club:

Twelve-Volt Conversion

On my first encounter with the illustrious and knowledgeable Ladies and Gentlemen of the DDMCC at the Magnet, I heard some mutterings about the conversion of 6-volt electrics to 12-volt; I think I even remember (I’d had a couple of pints, and was dazzled by the array of fine machinery) someone mention ‘getting a 12-volt dynamo’. Conversion to 12 volts is not actually a big deal: all you need to change are the bulbs, the battery, and the regulator. If you have the usual sort of regulator, with two little bobbins in the box and terminals marked F,A,D, and E, (’Fade’ being what  British bike lights generally do), then you can simply find room to squeeze in one of the similar but larger boxes old cars used.
But what about the dynamo? Won’t it have to work harder to make 12 volts, and if it’s already ancient, might that not prove the last straw, causing burning smells followed by total black-out? Paradoxically, it’s the other way round. Power, used by the lights and put out by the dynamo, is measured in watts. Watts are the product of volts and amps. Amps are what make things like wires get hot. So if your total lighting load is, say, 60 watts, then on a 6-volt system the current is 10 amps, but if you change to twelve volts and replace the bulbs with 12 volt ones of the same wattage, there’ll only be 5 amps running through the wires, and that includes the windings in the dynamo. Your aged ‘6-volt’ dynamo will be cooler and happier and longer-lived.
But won’t the dynamo have to spin faster to make twice the voltage? Well, yes, but not twice as fast; the need to get the lights going will not count as an excuse for breakneck speed on the way home from the Magnet. The relation between dynamo revs and output volts is not linear; nothing much happens at a few hundred r.p.m., and then, just below normal idling revs, it jumps up enormously. In fact, if you disconnected the dynamo output wires from the system and put a voltmeter across instead, you’d probably get a good fifty or sixty volts. That’s what the regulator’s for.
What about the coil, in the case of those bikes having the curious combination of dynamo with coil ignition? Should it be changed for a 12-volt one? Yes, that probably would be as well. As with bulbs, the increased voltage will push more amps through it and it might burn out.
If your bike has an alternator rather than a dynamo, most of the above still applies, but it gets just a touch more complicated in the regulator department.
Still doubtful? Who is this guy who’s only just joined and has the nerve to tell us how to do things? Feel free to get in touch, preferably by e-mail.

Mon Semblable, mon Frère

You, hypocrite lecteur, will already have guessed the subject of today's limerick:

Two Dogs talked of Man in the park.
One of them chanced to remark
that their sounds, though inelegant,
seemed almost intelligent —
‘Do you think one could train them to bark?’

Monday, 9 May 2011

The 'C' Limerick.

The aforementioned astute reader (does he/she/it exist?) will have guessed that the next limerick of the series (incidentally the Limerick is unusual in English verse forms in being almost entirely accentual in its organization, rather than, as with most English verse forms, accentual/syllabic) will be about an animal whose generic name begins with 'C'. Obviously, the cat:

I never much cared for the Cat;
his life seemed so terribly flat:
when not chasing a mouse
he’d just hang round the house,
where he sat on the mat, and that’s that.

If I feel up to it I'll give you a 'D' tomorrow.
COMMENT, somebody, for heavens sake, or at least mine.

More about the books.

ISBN 1 899549 73 0 is 'First Dog'; my English translation of the Autobiographical novel by the Greek merchant sailor and poet Nikos Kavvadias. Published by Shoestring Press at £7.95.

ISBN 1 871471 80 X is 'Foreign Correspondence'; a volume of my own poetry published by Peterloo Poets at £7.95.

'Wireless Operator', mentioned in my last posting, also costs £7.95 and is distributed by Enitharmon. It has no ISBN.

ISBN 978 1 904886 70 9 has the regrettable title 'Unscrewing the Inscrutable' and is a collection, in parallel text and with my commentary, of my translations into English of poems in various non-English languages, chosen partly for difficulty of translation but mainly because they're poems I like.


I have been asked to give the ISBNs of my books. They are:

1 899549 73 0
1 871471 80 X
978 1 904886 70 9

There is also one other, 'Wireless Operator', my translations of the poems and stories of Nikos Kavvadias, which does not have an ISBN as its original publisher couldn't be doing with such newfangleness. The book is available from the present publisher Enitharmon.

More later about what these books are; right now I have to dash off to see my - you guessed it - psychotherapist.

Letter B

The astute reader mentioned yesterday - and there might even be more than one of you - will have guessed that today's limerick is about an animal whose name begins with 'B'. Here it is:

‘Be kind to the Boa Constrictor.’
Few rules on the ark were much stricter.
A lady-like boa
tried to eat Mrs. Noah —
serves her right — she shouldn’t have kicked her.

Thank you, Adele, for your comment, posted yesterday.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


Unfortunately the way this blog system is set up does not allow the pasting in of documents that contain marginal notes. As these, along with the footnotes and footnotes-to-the-footnotes, are a vital part of my 'Faraday' book, I must now abandon hope of posting it here in its correct form, at least until I've discovered how to turn it into a pdf and put that on. However anyone who would like to see the whole thing should e-mail me:
Meanwhile here is something that even the programmers of Google should not find too intellectually challenging:

The Aardvark said ‘I should regret it if
they don’t put me first.’ (So competitive.)
His primitive ruse
was simply to use
two ‘a’s, then a third. (So repetitive.)

There will, as astute readers have guessed, be another twenty-five of these
in due course.

Somewhat Bowdlerized early pages from 'Faraday'.

Yes. I was afraid of this. The rather unimaginative, not to say near-illiterate, set-up of Google's blog-provider does not allow me to post the pages as I set them up, with marginal notes etc. I therefore offer a simplified 'text-only' version of a few pages; I fear even the footnotes have been lost this time. Clearly this system is not designed for people with any real interest in literature. Anyway, here it is:

Chapter I: From Faraday to Crippen
That he should need paperweights says something about a person, though now that so many people have computers and printers perhaps not as much as it did once. What he uses as a paperweight says more. No-one actually buys a paperweight as such. They use a Venetian or Lalique glass ornament; the worn-out piston from the old BSA Bantam; a pink stone from the beach; one of those water-filled globes that make a snowstorm.
Transformers – not the huge humming grey ones you’re not supposed to go near and that supply electricity to whole rows of houses, but the smaller ones you find in some kinds of old domestic electric equipment – make good paperweights, though that wasn’t what Michael Faraday had in mind when he invented them.
In the course of his electrical experiments Faraday noticed that a nearby compass needle would often flicker. It seemed to happen only when he made or broke the electric circuit; a steady current had no effect. Now a compass is a tiny magnet – could he get a converse effect? Placing a magnet near a wire didn’t do anything, but if he waved the magnet about an electric current was induced in the wire, and if he wound the wire into a coil and waved the magnet up and down in the space inside the coil the effect was greatly increased.
Conversely again, a coil of wire with a current flowing through it is one kind of magnet. Clearly, magnetism and electricity were closely related. But not very clearly. Putting a coil with a current flowing through it – an electromagnet – near another coil didn’t induce a current in the second coil. There was, however, a momentary burst of electric current in the second coil every time he connected or disconnected the supply to the first coil. Arranging for very rapid connection and disconnection – a kind of alternating current, like that in most present-day house wiring – could induce usable amounts of electricity (had there been any ‘uses’ for the stuff) in the second. And winding the two coils round opposite ends of a diameter of an iron ring made the thing work really well.
Faraday had invented the transformer, and incidentally refuted the adage that necessity is the mother of invention. Much later transformers became very useful indeed: electricity supplies all over the world are now almost always ‘Alternating current’ – in effect, being connected and disconnected a hundred times a second – because en route the electricity has been converted into magnetism, then back into electricity, in transformers. That’s why those big grey transformers hum, (The note is somewhere around A flat, 2½ octaves below Middle C) and the iron ring is why even the little one I use as a paperweight is heavy.

Anyone who would like to see the book, or what I have of it so far, in its proper format may e-mail me, and I shall send it to them individually, complete, in word format.


Ah. 'Booth' (whom I strongly suspect of being my cousin-in-law) has just poted a positive comment. This is sufficient to prompt me to post the next page or two of my work in progress. Any reader who is interested in this should understand that they will have to read from the 'Bottom up'; that is to say, read earlier postings, which appear further down the page, first. It seems a silly way to read a long text, but that's the way they make you do it.
Sample of next page or two of 'Faraday' book to follow then.


When Abraham Lincoln was accused of being 'two-faced' he replied 'If I had another face, do you think I'd use this one'? Similarly I may change the photograph of myself I have posted, though it is I suppose typical.

My thanks to the person who gave me the elementary but omitted information of how people actually find my blog/Felicity. I think it is called an URL.


You do realize, I suppose, that in order to understand what's going on here, you have to read this blog from the 'First Posting' to the 'Latest Posting', i.e. from the bottom of the page upwards? This arrangement, bizarre as it seems to me, is forced on me by the system. I suppose it's something to do with the modern desire for novelty.


Good Heavens. Allah be praised. Or Jehovah if you prefer, or the World-Spirit if you are a Hegelian.
This time it seems to have worked. Now, I should like someone to comment. I'll give you a few days. If no-one comments, (even negative comments are fine), I shall put no more of this book here but give you instead an extract from another of my books.

Work in Progress.

Well, let us try yet again. Below should appear the preface from the book I'm writing; I just copied it and will now paste it in.
Cautionary Preface
I wrote this book entirely off the top of my head. A curious expression: I mean I wrote it entirely out of the contents of my mind.[1]I didn’t check any dates or facts,[2] I gaily ignored some things that might cause a reader to say ‘hold on a minute’, and I spent time nit-picking where the reader might say ‘Oh, do get on with it.’ Even so, I don’t think there’s anything so wildly wrong that it will seriously mislead. Besides, the readers I’m after are ones I hope to entertain at least as much as edify or inform and the wrong is notoriously more fun than the right.
This is a book about the history of Wireless in the sense that Moby-Dick is a book about fishing or Between the Acts one about a village fête. You will find in the main text what is I hope a straightforward account, all the way from Faraday’s experiments with magnets and coils in the mid nineteenth century to the arrival of transistors in the mid twentieth. Any readers who are interested only in that, and have no interest in, to name just a few things, metaphysics, vintage motorcycle clubs, music, Sod’s Law, Proust, and Greek etymology should ignore the footnotes and especially the footnotes to the footnotes.[3]The curious and perverse who have little interest in wireless but picked the book up anyway might like to skim the main text and concentrate on the footnotes.

[1] Even if we subscribe to the quaint notion that the mind and the brain are one and the sameα, the top of my head would hardly be the place: it would be somewhere inside the brain; the frontal lobes, I suppose.
α the Mind-Brain Identity Theory turned up in the mid twentieth century, the product of a group of philosophers. (They were Australian, which some might think a mitigating circumstance.) It looks easy to refute: the brain is a physical object inside the skull, white, (it seems it’s not grey), having a certain weight and volume and gloopy consistency. The mind is none of these things. To be fair, the theory has ways round these obvious objections, but why bother?
[2] But then of course if they’re facts they don’t need checking do they? A fact is a fact is a fact, as Gertrude Stein didn’t say. What need checking are statements, to see whether or not they are (in fact) statements of fact.
[3] Persuading Microsoft Word that one can have footnotes to footnotes wasted a lot of my time, as the essays of the excellent David Foster Wallace suggest it must have wasted a lot of his.


As I said in my first posting, what I was hoping to do with this blog was to put in it extracts from stuff, published and unpublished, I have written. However, when I paste in selections from previously composed 'word' documents, although they then appear in the window, when I click on 'Publish Post' and look at what I have just published, I find that the pasted in content has failed to appear. This remders, for my purposes, the whole thing useless.
Perhaps some thoughtful person could tell me how it's done, what I have done that I ought not to have done, what I have left undone that I ought to have done, why there is no health in me, etc.?

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Since almost no-one reads my books and fewer still buy them, I am starting this Felicity (the pseudo-word 'blog' is obviously too ugly for any intelligent person to countenance) on which I propose to put, if the system allows it, various extracts from my complete works. I shall now try to start with a page or two from work in progress: