Tuesday 27 September 2022

The Yachtsman's Ale

A little ditty I wrote to mark the return of the Monaco Yacht Show tomorrow. It's inspired by AA Milne's The King's Breakfast.
The Yachtsman told
the Captain, and
the Captain told
the Cabin-boy:
"Buy some ale and cheddar cheese
before we set to sea."
The Captain asked
the Cabin-boy,
the Cabin-boy
said, "Aye aye Skip.
I'll get it chop-chop from the shop,
that's just beyond the quay."

The Cabin-boy
he hurried off.
He went and asked
the Merchant,
"Are your shelves stocked up
with beer and cheese made in GB?"
The Merchant said
"Oh dear me no,
you're out of luck,
we're out of stock,
and since the Brexit vote
we're selling lager and French Brie."

The Cabin-boy
said, "Bollocks!" and
reported to
the Captain.
He cleared his throat, suggested,
"Skipper, wouldn't you agree,
that creamy cheese
and ice cold beer
would go down
much, much better
while we cruise from port to port
around the Mediterranean Sea?"

The Captain said
"Hmmm!" and he
went to see
the Yachtsman
"You know you wanted ale and cheese
before we set to sea?
I've heard it said
that soft french cheese
and continental
would be easier on the stomach
while we're sailing to Capri."

The Yachtsman said,
"You what?" and then
the Yachtsman yelled
"Don't give me that!"
The Yachtsman swore, "You f*cker!
Now I'm going to count to three.
Cheddar cheese and
ale I say,
here, I say
and now, okay?
Or find another job and
get no ref-er-ence from me!"

The Captain said,
"Right ho, Sir!"
and went to tell
the Cabin-boy
who hurried to the shop
and went down on bended knee.
The Merchant winked
"I know a man
who knows a man
who might have ale
that costs two-hundred euros
and some cheese for that times three."

A wad of notes
changed hands.
Goods were packed
and dispatched pronto.
The Yachstman said, "At last!" and then
he rubbed his hands with glee.
"Nothing," he said
as he levered off the bottle top,
"Nothing," he said
as he cut himself a chunk of cheese,
"Nothing," he repeated
to no-one in particular,
"Beats cheddar cheese and British ale
when setting out to sea."

More stuff

Monday 26 September 2022

Vimto, Gonks, and Wayfinders. I remember them

Mean Time I opened Mean Time, Carol Ann Duffy's 1993 collection of poetry, and poured myself a glass of wine. My cheeks started to glow, my head became lighter, my shoulders dropped, and everything in the world was fine. I began to feel sentimental at the thought of happy times past. Was it the wine or the poetry?

Nostalgia suffuses Mean Time, especially the first poem in the collection, The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team. It speaks directly to baby boomers, those who were at school in the 60s and 70s. The references tap on your heart with a hoppety beat; pop music, general knowledge, Vimto, Gonks, and Tuf Wayfinders shoes. What a great start to a great collection.

Friday 23 September 2022

Definitely, absolutely and without a doubt, 'my sort of book'

Small Things Like These Some of the books I read for Book Club are really not my sort of thing. I like to think I read them with good grace, and I really do try to find the best in them whilst admitting that I'm not the target readership for that sort of thing. Well, Claire Keegan's Small Things Like These is definitely, absolutely and without a doubt, my sort of book.

Thursday 22 September 2022

Massive prawns in Monaco?

It was Friday morning and I was texting an old friend in the UK I hadn't seen in ages.

"How's the expat life, Cabbie?"

"It's great, mon ami."

"Lots of massive prawns then, Cabbie?" (1)

And, it got me thinking. I can't remember the last time I had massive prawns in Monaco

Wednesday 21 September 2022

A historic record of xenophobia

Heart of Darkness I was drawn to Heart of Darkness by the praise of a few academic fans. The book often appears in the English literary canon and I can see why it continues to be set reading for literature courses; it doubtless provokes much discussion.

The story concerns Charles Marlow, who relates his experiences in the African Congo, where imperialist traders sent "manufactured goods, rubbishy cottons, beads, and brass-wire... into the depths of darkness, and in return came a precious trickle of ivory". The depths of darkness relate not only to the unknown, unexplored lands beyond the sea shore, but also to the inhumanity that late 19th century traders expected to find there, as well as that of the traders themselves.

As Marlow journeys upriver he hears of a Mr Kurtz, a trader who is both respected and despised, and about whom he says, "All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz". In order to reach this enigmatic man, Marlow suffers much misfortune, adventure and horror. For all the vivid descriptions of the journey, the most memorable scene takes place in England, near the end of the book, when Marlow visits Kurtz's fiancee.

Modern-day readers might find Conrad's language in relation to indigenous people shocking and problematic. The book plays on a stereotypical view of foreign cultures and races as primitive and barbaric, and while the author portrays white traders as savages too, they don't quite balance out. It stands as a historic record of the xenophobia that existed at the time of its writing.

The text is dense, and the language lush. Amazingly, Conrad was not a natural-born English speaker, and I dare say this is another reason his work continues to be read and analysed. TS Eliot was inspired by Heart of Darkness, and Francis Ford Coppola adapted it for his film Apocalypse Now. For myself, I was left with only my own thoughts and a few online critical reviews with which to compare them.

Thursday 8 September 2022

A book that starts with the ending

A House For Mr Biswas It's not often I read a book that starts at the end, tells the story, and then ends at the beginning, but this is exactly what VS Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas does. The opening reads, "Ten weeks before he died, Mr Mohun Biswas, a journalist of Sikkim Street, St James, Port of Spain, was sacked. He had been ill for some time". No need to worry about revealing any spoilers then.

Monday 5 September 2022

The Prince and the Painter

I nearly missed this year's summer exhibition in Salle Antoine 1er, and you will too if you don't hurry. Le prince et le peintre - Albert 1er et Louis Tinayre, une amitié a la découverte du monde (1904-1922) has been on since mid-July and ends 11 September. It contains several items normally on show in the Oceanographic Museum, as well as loans from the Palace Archives and various institutions around France.

Entry is free in the afternoons from 13:00 to 19:00.

The artist

Louis Tinayre's life (1861-1942) was one of upheaval and adventure.